That oh so familiar voice greets me with a reminder to leave a message after the beep but instead I hang up. He’ll see that I’ve called and there is no time for wasting as I rush to plait one child’s hair while helping the other into her school shoes. We’ve been playing a whole lot of telephone tag all week as he is interstate for work and the time difference means he’s already in meetings when I’m nagging the girls to finish their Weetbix, he’s dining with colleagues while I’m wresting still damp legs into pyjama pants and searching for lost reading books.
I rush to the phone in the other room when I hear it ring, hurriedly turning off taps before tripping over scooters and Barbies only to miss it again. I hit the call return button less then a breath after he has hung up to be greeted by that damn recorded message again. Though I shouldn’t be surprised. Everything in our world seems to be moving at a ridiculous pace and there is always one more call to return, one more email to answer, one more load of washing to hang, one more sink of dishes to wash. It feels like the whole world is pushing us to move onto the next thing before we’ve had time to even cross the last off the list.
And it’s not just on the phone. Most days it feels like our parenting has become a whole lot like a game of tag. I am the ‘on’ parent during the craziness of the school day, passing the baton to him as he walks in the door to manage the run up to bedtime while I squeeze in a few precious moments of work. Weekends are much the same as we take turns running kids between dance classes and birthday parties, as we rush around to get grocery shopping and washing done. Even in the middle of the night we negotiate whose turn it is to stumble down the dark corridor to resettle the restless preschooler or comfort the school girl woken by a bad dream.
The daily baton change is a rush of words, updating each other on where each child is at, how their day has been, what they need right now, and in the moments to come. We communicate in the language of a constantly busy household – talking in rushed, abrupt sentences about singing lessons and garbage days and overdue bills.
You expect it to get easier as they get older but right now we are in a crazy phase where finding regular time when we are all together in the same space, on the same page, doing something together is tricky. Even rarer, time for just him and I to really talk and make plans.
Somehow this game of parenting tag has become a constant in our lives. And the problem with tag – there really is no winner. Everyone just runs around and around, taking turns to be the tagger until everyone ends up in an exhausted heap.
Or, in the case of parenting tag, exhausted AND disconnected.
As partners and parents we know that it is important to stay connected. To be on the same page. To make the important decisions together. We need to make time or the game will be over for good.
And so the next time that oh s0 familiar voice greets me with a reminder to leave a message after the beep, I do. Because I want him to know that I am thinking of him. Even when life is crazy busy. Even when he is not so far away.
Because as partners and parents, if we are to win this game of tag, every moment of connection needs to matter.