One day last week, while my husband was working late and after I picked up the kids after school and work and got us home and ate dinner, my seven-year-old daughter approached me.
"Mommy, can I go play with Mac?"
"Can I go play with Jon?" my son chimed in.
"Yeah, sure," I responded, watching them trot down the stairs and then the street to our neighbors. I sat down on the couch, totally prepared to put off housework and daily life. About thirty seconds in, I had a realization.
My house was quiet.
I've waited years for that moment of silence. Craved it. A house to myself, even if for a short time. I could watch anything I wanted on television. I could craft. I could write. I could read.
So what did I do?
I thought about how many times over the years I've said to one of them that I couldn't read them a story or color with them at that moment because I had something to do. I thought about how many conversations I haven't had because I'm too busy; how many walks I haven't taken with them because I just had to do something else.
It doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen. We've done plenty together and we spend lots of time making good memories, but there are obviously times where we haven't, too. We're parents and spouses and friends and family and chauffeurs and coaches... and sometimes we fall short on moments that matter the most. At least I do.
And here I sat, alone on a couch, realizing that their days of waiting for me to spend time with them or begging me for just one more minute are quickly dwindling, because they have lots of sweet friends and blossoming social lives. They want that freedom to go out around the neighborhood and be kids, playing kickball in the street and hide and seek in everyone's yards.
My daughter is getting old enough now to not need me to escort her to someone's house if she wants to play. She has neighbor kids her age now, ready and willing to play games or draw with chalk or ride bikes. She's excited about this new stage in her life, and wants to take advantage of it as often as she can.
Now I'm the one sitting on a couch, begging them to stay with me and read a book for one more minute. Or color with me for just a little longer. Or sitting alone and wondering how much longer they'll actually want to do all that stuff with me, even for just a little while.
And their innocent words echo in my ears and remind me of the irony of life: "Mom, we'll have lots of time to do that this weekend. I'm going to go play with my friends for a little while."
Someday they'll understand what I sometimes forget: all the time in the world is never enough time.