"Can I play the Elmo game?" Eliana handed me the Nintendo DSI and the game cartridge and waited patiently for me to insert the game. "Thank you, Mama."
She settled onto her belly and crossed her feet in the air behind her.
"Do you need anything else?" I took a quick glance around her room. Water bottle: check. Snack cup with pretzels: check. Baby monitor on: check. "Mama is going to my room now to do my yoga. I'll be right across the hall."
"OK, Mama," she said, sweetly.
I should have known better. Three-year-olds can’t really be trusted for this kind of thing. But I settled onto the yoga mat anyway, and was just about to get to work owning my Mountain pose when the first domino fell.
"Mama! I have to go potty!" Her voice echoed back onto itself through the baby monitor. "Mama! I can't get my pants!"
I'm wasn’t even two breaths into my ohm yet.
Dammit. I sighed, paused the DVD, tripped over the puppy and stepped on a squeaky toy in my rush to get Eliana on the potty in time. Breathless, I hurried into her room with the intention of scooping her up and running like hell for the bathroom just a few feet away. But instead of the scene I expected to find — my child with her legs crossed doing the pee-pee dance — I found her in the bathroom, already wiggling out of her cotton play pants.
"Oh hi, Mama!," she said in her best fancy-seeing-you-here voice. ”Look! I can do it myself!" She set her potty seat on the toilet, climbed up onto her stool and sat herself down. "I couldn't before! But now that you are here, I can! Isn't that silly?"
I folded my arms across my chest. Little stinker. Out loud, I simply congratulated her on her efforts and reminded her that we would play together after I finished my yoga DVD. Without looking to see if she could stick the landing and get her pants back on after climbing off the potty stool, because we all know she could, I headed back to my mat.
“I love you, Mama,” she called out to me, her voice sweet and full of promise. I didn’t reply. My eyes closed, I tried to clear my mind to focus on my breathing, push the puppy away once more and adjust my feet and stance for proper alignment. Mountain pose. Triangle pose. Warrior. Mount…
”Mama! I need you!"
Mother of... I shook myself from my yoga haze, asking what she needed without stepping off the mat. Her 3-year-old patience had run out. She wanted me to play with her and she wanted it now.
"Can I finish my exercise first so I can be healthy and strong?" I prayed for a yes. I needed yoga to relax myself and my ADHD mind. I needed yoga to strengthen my core and fight the muffin top hormonal issues and multiple autoimmune conditions had supplied me with too easily. And I needed five consecutive minutes to get through one freaking pose.
"Mama!" Eliana was crying now and I was off the mat and in her bedroom in a few short seconds. My sweet angel of a con artist stopped her act cold and broke into an immediate smile, the last fat tear backtracking as if caught in its own lie as soon as I came into her line of sight.
I made a mental note to sign her up for acting lessons as soon as possible.
"Oh, Mama!" she says, sounding believably surprised. I imagined the agents tripping over themselves to represent my future Broadway star. "What are you doing here?"
I swore under my breath and reminded myself that she is 3. An evil little genius, but 3, nonetheless. “Baby, Mama needs this. I gave you time this morning and I will give you more time after I do yoga, but I need this time for me. Can you please play by yourself for just a little bit longer?" The DVD was 40 minutes long, but I was willing to settle for just 10 more. Just to squelch the urge to drink before lunchtime.
"Can I go with you? I want to be healthy and strong too." Her eyes were wide and hopeful. She even hiccupped for good measure.
Knowing full well having her in the room with me was going to do no more for my concentration than stopping every five minutes to see what she needed, I said yes.
And that’s when it happened. Just like love shows up when you realize you're happy by yourself and your car keys suddenly appear when you have given up hope of ever seeing them again, I found my inner peace while trying to do yoga with a 3-year-old who refused to give me alone time. It was absolutely Zen-like. Eliana hugged me as we stepped onto my yoga mat together. We sat down and she copied my movements as I settled into Cobbler's pose.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe...
"Mama! Look! I am doing it just like you!"
She plopped down on her butt, and with little effort, folded herself over until her forehead was resting on her toes. Her voice was happiness and the laughter that came right after was beautiful.
"Yes, Baby. You are." My eyes were closed. The puppy licked my foot.
I opened my eyes and watched her, savoring the moment, which was already turning itself into a memory. Each pose I moved, she copied to the best of her ability. We got onto our feet for Tadasana — Mountain pose.
We ended our impromptu joint yoga session with my favorite one of all — Warrior pose. She looked so serious as she copied the way I held my body, trying to match the way I positioned my feet and held my arms, straight and true. She looked so grown up. Arms outstretched, side by side, we became twin energies of inner strength and focus.
Until the puppy licked my toes again.