Friday, January 31, 2020

Turn it off!

There are days when I drive home from running an errand, picking up the kids, or coming home from teaching and I park the car — but I can't get out. I look at the bags, papers and backpacks and can't seem to figure out what to grab first. When I go grocery shopping, I take so many trips up and down, emptying the car and then putting away groceries only to find I left my purse in the car. The idea of coming home after being out should offer me a sense of calm but often it is anything but. I take a moment before planning my tactics for getting out of the vehicle with as many items as possible. Once I finally get in the door of the house I have the even bigger challenge of putting away everything and then actually dealing with the people in the house who live with me.

School days often feel like I am a contestant on "Amazing Race." I wake up and immediately the clock is ticking in my head. Breakfast, teeth brushed, 5 minutes of mindfulness (HA!) ten minutes of yoga, directing traffic in and out of the bathroom between a tween and a seven year old boy, bed making, sock finding, homework finding and if I am lucky, I will be fully dressed and have time to read a two minute news summary of what is happening in the world. It is truly an adventure and one never knows when an obstacle like a meltdown might occur. It keeps it all so exciting!

It's quiets once I drop my kids off at school. I can actually hear my heart beating back into it's normal rhythm. It all seems so peaceful...until a text comes in asking me if I can please compose an email immediately to help find volunteer coverage for the next day's art class at my son's school. Or I might turn around and find the puppy has chewed the couch cushion I had out to dry from when she peed on it the night before. I might even notice that there is a hamper full of clean laundry that I must drop everything for to start folding at that exact second. I can't seem to stop myself, and the race is on because pick up is at 3!

This past weekend we went away for three nights. The first day away I was having withdrawal symptoms. I couldn't turn my head off. I kept worrying that I should check my phone in case I missed an urgent email or text. I was sure that being away would make my workload bigger when I returned. What was I forgetting? Who forgot a project was due, a bill paid, what lunch did I forget? Then finally with a bright sky reflecting off of beautiful white snow — I relaxed. I managed to let it all fade away. I had nothing that needed to be done in that moment but to breath in and out. It took me almost a full day to get to a relaxed place. When we finally went home, it took me this whole week to get back into my normal pace. This is a good thing. Life is not a race. Yes, we have to get to school and work on time, but you only get points deducted if you are late. You don't win anything in real life for being first.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

It Hurts When Your Kids Hurt

When my daughter was a few months old, I was nursing her as I took a bite of a sandwich. A piece of the roll fell into her hair and I felt I had let her down. Here was this tiny helpless newborn just trying to nurse when this foreign crusty thing falls on her head. She suddenly looked so vulnerable to me and in a haze of hormones and sleep deprivation, I began to cry. I was responsible for letting a messy piece of bread tangle in her downy locks. Of course, this is the most harmless thing I could have done, but the weight of my responsibility dawned on me in that moment. By the time I had my second child, I was a lot less precious and actually once had to throw up over his head when I got sick. Oh how time changes you, but being a parent can weigh heavier on your heart than I ever thought it could.

When I was pregnant, I tried to prepare myself for the reality that parenting would not always be easy. I thought of all the scary things that my husband had as a child. He poked at a wasp's nest and got stung all over his arms. He surfed into huge rocks and emerged bloody. He fell ending up face first down a hill on his skateboard resulting in a bright red racing stripe of a cut down the middle of his face. Then I thought of his three sisters. One stepped on hot beach coals as a child, badly burning her foot. Another suffered from scoliosis. The youngest ran back crying from climbing a tree with her arm dangling out of its socket. My sister and brother had their own slew of incidents and accidents. A sweatshirt zipper scraped my sister's eye, her leg broke in several places after a three story fall, my brother needed surgery after a martial arts injury and he once needed to be airlifted off the side of a mountain when he couldn't hold on anymore due to altitude sickness. Both my in-laws and my own parents had to survive not just one of these incidents but all of them.

When I was nine, my parents had a scare from me. I had a lump by my neck -- it was discovered by a teacher. I remember resenting the call she made home alarming my parents. My father took me in to the doctor the very next day. After getting examined, the doctor left me in the room to go talk to my father in his office. He left the door opened just wide enough for me to see my dad cry for the first time. Upon arriving home, my mother, who usually is pretty even, seemed rattled as she handed me a bag packed for the hospital. My parents were told my symptoms pointed to Leukemia and I stayed in the hospital a few days until an x-ray pointed to an extra cervical rib. We were all relieved to go home (I'll never hear "spare ribs" the same way again).

The past few months have been trying for my daughter. She had a tough time adjusting to middle school, she experienced anxiety in new and unwelcome ways, and she kept getting sick. She missed one day in the beginning of the school year, then another, then three here and two there, and each time it was for the same exact symptoms. In between she feels herself and has even grown to like middle school. She just seems to last a few weeks before her system runs out of steam again. In the midst of this, she auditioned for her school musical. There were eighty kids trying out and sixty got called back to dance. She got a call back and had to learn, what she described as a complicated routine. Dancing is not her strong suit and she came home feeling like she probably didn't do so well. She also came home and fell asleep. She got sick again and missed the next day of school. I knew in my gut that something was not right and brought her back in to the doctor again. Much to my chagrin, in order to get tests done, I have to wait to have an additional phone consult with a specialist. I have spent hours on the phone on hold. I learned I have new skills though, so all wasn't lost. I can take a whole shower, shave and wash my hair all while the phone sits on the side of the tub dangerously close to falling in and still be on hold when I am done.

Yesterday we learned that she did not get into the play. When we found out, it was if someone took a rope to my waist and pulled me in half. I wanted her to have this positive experience. I stayed stoic and wanted to let her have her own reaction. I know all about helicopter parents, snowplow parents and all of those clear the path type vehicles. I am guilty of jumping in too soon and trying to make my kids feel better, when sometimes they need to just feel. It is hard to watch your kids on shaky ground and not know if I should lend a hand, or let them fall.

She took the news okay. She said she kind of figured since there were sixty kids at the call back and they could only take less than half of that. She also knew she didn't dance that well. She got a bit weepy when she realized a few of her friends got in together and she was sad not to be in it with them. We don't have any answers on why she is getting sick so often, not yet anyway. My hope is that it is just something like she is low in iron, or vitamin B, or that she needs to eat more or less of a certain food and boom, problem solved. I don't love this wait and the combination of anxiety mixed with a very active imagination, results in loud negative concerns. As I try my best to quiet my mind, I also have to put on my best "its all good" mask for my sweet girl. She is on a bit of a roller coaster these days. Some days she is exhausted and emotional, and others she is strong and spunky. I can share with her how painful it is to see her hurt, but I can't show her how much it stops me in my tracks. One of us has to show the other the path to moving forward. One little step at a time.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Monday Morning!

Last night, as I went to say goodnight to my boy, my husband asked me to turn the space heater off in his room when I walk out. It's been cold lately and we put a little heater in his room just to warm it up. My husband set it to high and then I went in to cuddle before saying goodnight. Well, I fell asleep with him for a little bit and when I left an hour later in my groggy state, I forgot to turn it off. At 3am, my son calls out to me. When I walk in his room, he is shirtless, blanket less and asking why his room is so hot. Fortunately, these machines are safe and work well; unfortunately, my son was sleeping in a sauna-like room. I apologized and when he asked if he could sleep in my bed with me, my guilty conscience said yes.

My husband has been at home with us lately, which is great, but after over a year of my son taking his place in my bed when he has been gone, we have gotten used to cuddling nights. Last night he crawled between the two of us and we all went back to sleep. My husband got up early and when my son woke up, he turned to me for a hug. For the next hour, we talked, sang songs and played silly games all while we stayed in bed. This is rare! We are off our schedule due to winter break and luckily we have no where we have to be most days this week. Monday mornings are typically the most difficult day to motivate us up and out of the house. Today, I happily took my time. I thought about little tasks I had to do today. I wondered about the timing of getting groceries and a running a few other errands. I wanted to make some plans for fun activities for the kids so I didn't want to linger in bed too long, but there was no way I was going to cut short this one on one time with my boy.

He talked about school and confided in me how scared he gets when he has to explain his work out loud. He talked about his teachers and why he loves them. He explained how great Fridays are because they get extra recess time. He sang the song they are learning in school and taught me all the words and hand motions. He asked what "Watermelon Sugar" by Harry Styles was about and I confessed that I had no idea. We then wrote our own lyrics that made more sense. At one point, we were talking about so many different topics that he turned to me and asked "What were we just discussing?" I couldn't help but giggle at his use of the word "discussing." In that moment, staring into his brown eyes, I took a mental picture of the moment. His cheeks still round, and his mouth a mash up of mostly baby teeth with a few adult ones sprinkled in front. His hair soft and tousled from sleep, his skin still baby soft. This little boy still wants to hug me and still wants to be hugged. He still asks to sit on my lap and when he needs to will cry in the crook of my neck. Almost without warning, he hopped out of bed to start his day. I stayed behind a few minutes more just to saver how full I felt. With a smile on my face I slowly got out of bed.

I don't know how many more mornings I will get like this one. Mondays are my least favorite day of the week, but this one was wonderful. When we are off from school, I feel like we all get closer. We let ourselves truly slow down. My kids have more time to spend with each other and I see them bond during vacations in a way they don't during the regular school year. We make plans as a family and the four of us spend concentrated amounts of time together. We have a whole week more off and I am looking forward to every second we have. Next Monday certainly will be more challenging when we have to get up and go to school again. I hear in some other countries, in addition to sick days, children are allowed a few free days to travel or just be together with family. I would love to start a movement to have that here. I might get a few more mornings like today, and that would be worth it.