Since the arrival of my two children, I’ve given them all of my love, put clothes on their backs, put a roof over their heads and provided food for their bellies — whether they liked it or not. (I’m talking about you, vegetables.)
The other thing that has consumed a good portion of my waking hours since Declan and Mara were born is explaining.
Before they could speak, I would read to them and explain all manner of things they would see.
“Look, that’s a cat. Cats say ‘meow.’ ”
“This is an apple. Apples are a fruit and they are red.”
It was easy to share some basics that they might enjoy.
As the kids have grown and changed, so has the nature of what requires explaining.
They both know what an apple is. Now, it’s a matter of getting them to eat it with mouths closed while seated at the dinner table without burping — especially if it’s burping the words “excuse me” as an apology for burping.
I suppose having to explain table manners is something I expected, but having to explain to my daughter what I do when I spend time out of the house has caught me by surprise.
My kids have never been clingy. They weren’t the babies who could only be held by me. They weren’t the kids who shed tears when a babysitter showed up at the house or when it was time for that first drop-off at school. It wasn’t that they were indifferent to my presence, but they seemed blissfully comfortable with their surroundings, even if they weren’t surrounded by Mom or Dad. For years, this was the situation — me leaving or staying with nary a raised eyebrow or pouting lip.
Lately, that arrangement has changed.
Mara has started taking a keen accounting of my comings and goings. Not knowing my whereabouts has become of intense interest to my youngest. It started out gradually, and then, all of a sudden, I can’t so much as rustle my purse or graze the keychain without Mara materializing by my side, wanting to know if I’m leaving, where I’m going and what time I expect to be back.
On one of my recent trips out of the house, Mara kept asking my husband when I’d be back. When he asked her why she was so antsy, she said, “Everything’s better when Mom’s home.”
When he shared this with me later that day, I was stunned.
If I’d been asked my impression of what the kids thought of me not being home, it would be a “while the cat’s away, the mice can play” take. I’m usually the one saying “no” to device time, television and bottomless snacks, so it would stand to reason that having me gone would make way for the uninterrupted intake of fruit bites, Sun Chips and “Mario Kart.”
Parents have warned me about the years that lie ahead — the preteen years when my daughter will think nothing is better if Mom’s anywhere nearby. So if this is some artful play by my daughter to guilt me into staying home — job well done. Leaving the house is overrated anyway.
Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s “Big Party Show” in Omaha is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for Momaha.com.