Time to talk: The chance to discuss life's wonders in the tub

A mom learns that the way her sons communicate and when they choose to open up is not always predictable, but always a perfect reason to set aside the to-do list. 

Rebecca Swiller/Staff

I have one minute to put away clean clothes in children's cupboards. It's in that minute that 8-year-old Joah calls out from the bath, "What are you reading at night, Mom?" 

I experience a mild sense of panic. If this is my last day on planet earth, I'd rather spend it discussing literature with my son; if it isn't, I'd rather wake with tidy cupboards. My minute is up.  

"A Reason for God," I reply.

"Oh," Joah raises his eyebrows. He has all the time and all the interest in the world.  "What's that about?"

I'm not used to discussing books, just to ticking them off like one more job. "Well, its basic claim," I begin, "is that you can't prove God exists, but there are clues that he does." 

"Oh," Joah says again. He has been conducting an experiment with a bottle, bubbles and a stray stream of water. He stops to listen.

"So, one clue is that there are conditions in the universe that were just right for life to develop - almost as though the universe was expecting us." I am warming to my subject. I am forgetting I have jobs. 

So is Joah: "That's interesting, because I often think, what if God didn't exist? There'd be nothing. And before the world was made, what was there?" When Joah sits in the bath, he thinks deep thoughts. When I sit in the bath I see grubby toe marks.

"That's another one of the clues." I am no longer seeing dirt, but a boy who likes to talk. "Why would the universe have made itself?"

It is ten minutes before I return to my clean clothes, and my unending mental to-do-list.

My children have a way of derailing me into unexpected sidings. They are not impressed by busyness. Everything must slow down into a good conversation.

My second son now asks me to sit before talking. He knows that standing is just my way of preparing to go. And he won't accept a “hmm or “oh really” for an answer.

My third son lets me stand, but he won't speak to me until my face is firmly in his grip - forehead to forehead, eyeball to eyeball, he mouths his words slowly, knowing my dullness of heart.

"My nose is broken," he explains one sniffly morning. I am still waking; I am still sorting the teetering tower of today's jobs into serviceable piles. But this is a conversation he will not let me miss.

"My nose is not working," he stares into my open eyeball.

"What do you think is wrong?" I return his eyeball gaze.

"I think my nose's batteries need charging."

"Would some warm milk and toast help?"

He releases my face and follows me into the kitchen.

Dusting and emailing, texting, and sweeping are little scraps of jobs, to my children – ones I can scratch around in the dirt for. But when the big juicy worm of talking with them comes along, I need to snap it up before time does.

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