“Ah!” I screeched, surprised by four-year-old Abigail’s chubby cheeks and big brown eyes peering at me inches from my face. I’d just awoken from a nap on the couch. Before my bleary eyes could focus, she (unfazed by my squeal) slinked under the afghan and snuggled next to me.
Later, in the kitchen, I yelped again when I turned around and she was lurking next to the backs of my legs. I almost stomped on her little piggies. “Hi, Mama! Ha ha ha!” Her sugary voice giggled at her funny (to her) joke of startling me. Then every time I started getting back to making dinner, she’d trick me again. Finally, a tad (maybe a bit more) frustrated by the constant distractions, I shooed her from the kitchen.
“Just sit at the table, Sweetie. I’ll still be right here.” But it wasn’t enough. She needed to be close to me — super close! Tears and whining commenced, along with stomping feet and an angry face.
Believe me, I adore my sweet girl. I love her giggle, her yummy hugs, the way she takes care of her “daughters” (her family of dolls—all girls, of course). But the thing is, people, I have a lot to do! I must plan dinner, clean the house, do the never-ending, insurmountable pile of laundry … you know the list.
I’m also a work-at-home mom, so there are phone calls, emails, writing books, blogs and articles, planning to teach classes and MOPS meetings. These are very important, don’t you think? I can’t just stop and snuggle.
So after I put dinner in the oven, I stealthily snuck upstairs to finish a bit of work. I just needed a few minutes to write and transmit an email. Just a few minutes. But, locating my whereabouts, she soon appeared next to my desk. After sending her out at least five times, I finally snapped. “Abigail! Go downstairs. I have to get this done!”
Her eyes showed surprise that her dear mama would be mean to her. In a soft, sad voice she said, “I just wanted to be with you.” Her chunky cheeks fell and a frown overtook her normally smiling lips as she slouched out.
I really had to get that done, I told myself, seeking to justify my harshness. But then later, in a more compassionate moment, I thought about her words.
“I just wanted to be with you.”
A few months ago, I had a cardiac arrest. My heart stopped beating—twice actually—and my husband gave me CPR. He and the EMTs brought me back to life. When I was in the hospital, no one was sure I’d survive. And my precious Abigail didn’t know if she’d have her dear mama anymore. Thinking about it I realized, that’s when the clinginess started. So I understand why she wants to be with me, near me. And I can give my little stalker a pass, and a smile, and a hug, and more hugs.
So yes, I created a sign to hang on my doorknob. It says, “Mama’s Working—I love you!” because I do need to protect those productive hours. But any chance I can, I also welcome her interruptions—even when she startles me awake from a nap. I’d miss too much if I didn’t.
Ocieanna Fleiss is an amazing mommy of four and serves in her MOPS Group in Auburn, Washington. She is the co-author of Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington.