I am 100% understanding that I do this all to myself. Every time I don’t say no, when I already had a million things planned that week, but I make space for it, when I’m stressed out to the max, but I think about how that other person needs me to help, so I do. I know I do this.
I get the comments, “How do you do it with all those kids?” or “When do you find the time?” And to be quite frank, I don’t know. But I do know that it keeps me up at night thinking, well, if I don’t do it, who will?
Lately, I’ve needed some fresh air from all of the awfulness that has been 2016. Aside from the crushing world events, and the refugees, and amazing people dying, and this god awful election season – I lost my dog. And to some, that may seem really trivial, but I really miss her, so to fill that hole, I’ve just plugged along, filling in any moment I have to dwell on it, with giving back to some degree.
I had only planned on doing the winter coat and boot drive at my kids’ school. As awful as it sounds, I hadn’t planned on helping a family this winter. It’s not as easy as one would think. Aside from being patient (which is not a strong suit of mine) awaiting information on the family to get the wishlist rolling, I have to coordinate with a lot of people to get a fundraiser started. Then solicit people to come and keep a running tally. To worry endlessly that no one will show. Then worry that I won’t be able to get all of the items needed for the family. To take hours to create the wishlist and hope that the sizes match the kids, or that the style is similar to their own. To hope that my decisions don’t further remind them that this is a charity. To believe that this will go as smoothly has it has the past few years. Then to hope I don’t fail.
I don’t care about the minor inconvenience of coming home to dozens of boxes dropped off by the UPS guy. Or the dozens of boxes that take up major space in my house. In the past, I’ve walked past the growing tower of items and smile, knowing that I’m really lucky to have surrounded myself with friends who care. Every time I take on one of these projects, it’s a great reminder that I’m doing okay in life. I know good people.
So I took on a family this year anyhow. I have a fundraising event scheduled at Club One on November 13th, and it’s smaller in scale than the past. Four hours of spinning upstairs, four hours of different classes downstairs, no 7 hour marathon. I’m taking a big chance by having it at the other gym I teach at, versus the one I’ve always held events at. As much as I love Club One and the people there, Alexander’s has always been family, and they always turn out to help a family member.
The family this year is a single mom with three kids. Two girls, 10 and 9, a boy, 6. Their gift wishlist is very standard, except for the fact that they’re also all asking for bikes since their previous ones have been stolen. I had my bike stolen as a kid. I remember that being the first time I ever felt real anger and sadness at the same time. So I put that on the list, and some bike locks.
The story takes a really sad turn, when I read further down the email that the mother’s best friend had been recently murdered. She left behind a four year old boy. The mother took that boy in, and asked if she was allowed to add him to the list.
He wants all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I think about how I’m overwhelmed in life and then I think that life is just too damn short to not help. To skip this year would leave me with regret, and I don’t ever want to live my life that way. I can’t stop reading the news, and feeling all the feels, and even sometimes funny cat videos aren’t enough to take away that feeling. But I have the full power within me to change even the smallest thing.
When I was a kid, I used to think I could change the world. That’s a really ambitious thing, I was told. So instead, I look to my neighbors. I may not be able to fix the world, but I can at least assist someone near me. And like ripples in a pond, it always grows bigger than just me. I’m the first ripple, you are the many that follow, and by the time it hits the family we’re helping, and they tell their friends, it’s beyond to the other side of the shore. That’s what keeps me going.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, too, by the news all over social media, or are disgusted by the way things are going as of late, let me help you feel better. On days when I bite my tongue so many times as I scroll past vitriol and blatant hate and ignorance, I look to my next big project. Here it is. Here is a chance to have a mental breath of fresh air. We have the chance of changing five lives. Please tell me we can do this.
I remember the day you got the worst bruise of your life. To this day, it’s still the worst facial bruise you’ve ever experienced. It was pretty impressive. You were running down the front sidewalk to the car, and you tripped and I can still hear it – that awful crunch, as your face hit the pavement. You formed the most perfect, round, red bruise above your eye and of course it was right before nap time. So I sat on the floor the entire time you slept making sure you didn’t die from a major brain injury. If I’m remembering correctly, I was 9 months pregnant with Luca, so sitting there for an hour wasn’t the most pleasant, but in that time I got to enjoy the last few moments that it was just you and me.
Two weeks ago you had your tonsils and adenoids removed. We made it a big deal, but not big in a scary way, but big in how it was going to change your life, way. We talked about how cool it’ll be to be able to smell things again, and breathe through your nose, and not have to chew with your mouth open, because your nose will work.
Weeks and even days before, you kept saying to me, “This is going to be great! I can’t wait for my surgery!” And even on the drive to the surgery center, you were pretty stoked. But when we got there and we were rushed by nurse after nurse, doctor after doctor, talking scary talk, using big words, you got really quiet. When you had to get into your patient gown and pants and I put on my Stay Puft marshmallow suit, you started to fidget with your hands and wouldn’t look up.
I anticipated this happening, dad too, so when we did the quick walk down the hallway to the OR, and you were absolutely silent, I started talking about all the brave people I know. Rey from Star Wars, Wonder Woman, Mulan….you. I told the doctors that you are only a belt away from being a black belt, and that you are one of the strongest kids that I know, and it seemed to help. And when you lay down on the OR table, you were scared, I know, but you put on that brave face I love so much.
You are the kid that does the right thing when no one is looking. You don’t let another kid be left out at recess. You don’t discriminate. When I ask you to do something, even if you put up a little resistance, you do it. I can count on you; you’re reliable.
When I was pregnant with you, I envisioned what my future kids would be like. They’d be polite, kind, smart, helpful, patient, strong. I wanted them to stand up for themselves, and be brave. To ask a lot of questions and not feel like they know it all. To welcome change and to grow. To be a person that others can rely on, and seek help from when in need.
Claire, I don’t care if you’re the most popular, or the prettiest or the best at a sport. Those are all things that won’t carry you through life. I want you to be kind to everyone you meet, even if they’re not a friend. I want you to try your best at whatever sport you play, and be okay with not being a superstar, but don’t ever stop practicing and working hard. Hard work and dedication go a long way. I want you to never stop reading and learning. Your imagination is one of your greatest assets. Remember to love yourself. Always. Don’t get down on yourself when something doesn’t go your way. Rise above.
To be all of those things, that’s what makes a person beautiful. Not your face, not your body – but who is inside all of that, and how they treat people and animals – that’s what makes someone gorgeous.
Already you’re one of the most beautiful people I know, and I can’t believe I made you from scratch.
Today you’re nine.
Thanks for making me a mom. You’re a kid that I can absolutely brag about and be ridiculously proud of. You’re just that awesome.
I love you.
Last year, when I did the fundraiser for the families, there was some confusion on the Amazon wishlist and I ended up with duplicates of winter coats. I didn’t want to return them because a.) I didn’t know who they belonged to and b.) the person who purchased it, obviously wanted it to go to someone in need.
So I contacted the school my kids go to and asked if they knew of kids there that could use a brand new coat.
They could, so I dropped them off.
This year I decided to make it a mini-fundraiser and make sure all of the kids there got a warm coat and boots. I asked the guidance counselor if she could get a list of kids that are in need. She sent home in each kids backpacks, a flyer asking if anyone is in need of coats and boots this winter – parents included.
The need wasn’t huge, but still there.
Yesterday I posted the link and my amazing friends gobbled up the items very quickly. 24 hours later, I was left with only one pair of shoes and some gloves.
Today I got another email from the guidance counselor with a few more requests. Three more kids, a girl and two boys.
She said, “Is this doable? Or is this too much? Please let me know.”
So. Let me know. Is this doable? Or is this too much?
Thanks for all the times you’ve helped me spread kindness.
Matt’s out of town, but I’ve got a pretty decent routine down. You wouldn’t think so based on the fact that yesterday I texted a friend saying that I have a building anxiety attack and I haven’t had one of those in years and OMG WHY IS THIS HAPPENING WHEN MATT’S OUT OF TOWN?
It happened about 10 minutes before the kids got off the bus, and Audrey was still sleeping, I had to walk around the house and try to eat something because I knew it was mostly because I hadn’t eaten enough for how much I had worked out that day. (Trust me, I know I need to eat more, I just forget to, or don’t feel hungry, and I’ve been lectured so many times before that it’s all white noise at this point. But I promise you, I ate all of my peanut butter toast with bananas.)
I was always told to write it out, so here I go. My routine and why it’s not as crazy as I think it is in my head.
At night, on days when I use a pre-workout during the day, I take my delicious strawberry flavored melatonin about 20 minutes before I want to sleep. I answer last minute emails, watch some cat videos, set Pandora on my sleepy station for 60 minutes, and then drift off to sleep at a solid 9 pm. I have my alarm set for 6:15, in a sad attempt to wake up before the kids, but who knew I birthed morning people? Maelie, whom I’ve dubbed Pop Tart, wakes up all happy and chatty, and I can’t even at that point, but I get out of bed, and wash my face, brush my teeth, put on a bra and shlep downstairs where 3/4 of my kids are already out of bed and getting their breakfast ready. Cereal, cottage cheese, yogurt, a gallon of milk, all splayed out on the counter, I take their lunchboxes out from the freezer and start assembling their lunches. (I got them these really neat ones that have ice packs built into the lining of the lunchbox.) Kiwi, cheese sticks, peanuts, hummus, pretzels, hard boiled eggs, all go into their own compartment in the bento box. The kids unload the dishwasher while I load up their backpacks. Luca gets Alfred ready to run while I braid the girls’ hair.
By this time it’s 7:15, and they ask to play outside, which yay, go! And I clean up the kitchen and make my breakfast – a green smoothie, because the thought of eating solid food in the morning is a no go for me. We walk up the street to the bus stop where all the kids are full of this insane amount of energy, and play a game of tag while I drink my smoothie and BS with the other parents. The bus comes, the kids get on, and all of a sudden I’m left with this odd sense of relief, yet the quiet is unsettling. Audrey stands there, sucking her thumb and doesn’t say much.
We walk back to the house and Audrey gets in the jogging stroller as I get the dogs on their leashes so we can go out for a walk.
It’s amazing to me how fast people think is okay to drive in a housing plan. I stare the drivers down, making sure to make eye contact, so they know that I see what they’re doing, while silently judging them for nearly running over my dog – again.
If it’s a Thursday, we have the mornings to ourselves. If it’s any other morning, we pack up and head off to a gym so I can teach. On Tuesdays we stop at the library to pick up whatever book is on hold for me, and to grab the latest graphic novels they got in for Luca and the girls. Lately it’s been Adventure Time and LoudBoy.
After lunch, and nap time comes, I think about all the things I could be doing in that time, but my brain is done, so instead I either take a bath or watch a movie on Netflix, or take a bath while watching Netflix and then rush around before the kids get off the bus to make sure I won’t freak out when the house suddenly becomes incredibly chaotic.
Tonight for example, I need to make sure that the kids eat dinner before we go to the gym. Usually on Thursdays, Matt picks the kids up from the gym daycare, but he’s out of town, so they will have to stay until 7:30, when I’m done teaching. Typically they’re in bed at 7:30, so unless I plan ahead, it turns into a terrible time. Eat dinner, pack a snack, go to the gym, get home, push them off to bed so I can do it all over again in the morning.
There are times, like yesterday, when I feel so overwhelmed. No matter how much I can plan and prepare, it all catches up, and I realize that I’m basically in the middle of the ocean without a life jacket. Then there are times where I have a minute to myself and I think, yah man, you’ve got a really good thing going on. I guess it’s all about taking the highs with the lows.
I mean, four kids create a ridiculous amount of stress, but they unload the dishwasher for me and get their own breakfasts. Two dogs chasing me around the house wondering why they’re not priority one is super annoying, especially when they’re constantly underfoot, but after the walk, they’re happy and immediately into lazy mode and crash on the couch. Well, that’s after they get their morning supplements – fish oil and turmeric with peanut butter or cheese – and sometimes Lucy likes to stare at me and whimper because I didn’t pet her long enough, but she usually takes the hint and lays down. On my feet. And yes, I could probably not teach a class that runs so late, or only teach one and not two, but I absolutely love what I do, love where I teach, and love the people who take the classes. I deserve to be happy, too. So the kids will have to deal for a day.
We all have to learn to adapt.
I also need to relax.
Which I will, after Matt gets home.
A million years ago when I started this blog, I wrote mostly short bits about my day. At the time, I had just one kid and she was up to her normal shenanigans and it wasn’t a big deal.
But now I’m entering into the world of older kids. I now have to ask myself, often, would I want someone to post that about me?
You know how sometimes you’re out and there’s a group photo and you think you look awful, and it gets posted on facebook and so you quickly go online and untag yourself from the photo, because OMG no, but it’s still out there?
That’s how I feel about my kids anymore.
If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been posting as much here, or even as much on social media. Not like I used to.
Just today I posted a photo of Luca with his eye all swollen up from being stung by a wasp, but before I did, I asked him if it was okay. He said, “Yah mom, I want people to see how tough I am.”
But had he said no? I wouldn’t have.
I have to remind myself that at some point they’re going to be adults and just like when you were 14 sitting on your couch with your new boyfriend and your mom pulls out the baby book and shows them pictures of you and your sister in the bathtub and all you want to do is curl up in a corner and die, someday someone could look up those photos of my kids and hold it against them.
It all changed when I posted a photo of Claire and she saw, when looking over my shoulder, and politely asked me to take it down. So I did. And that’s when it hit me. It’s not like 10 years ago when you’d walk around with photos in your wallet and show it to people. It was the same portrait, professionally taken, or at least flattering, but it was the same photo, in a wallet, not all over the internet.
In general, I’m torn. I mean, the internet isn’t going anywhere. You can google me. You can find my address, some old high school news stories (if you know my maiden name) and also any time I’ve written letters to the editor. It’s all out there for the world to see, if they so choose to find it. Does it freak me out? Sometimes. But I’m not going to live my life scared or sheltered.
But my kids aren’t me, and they get to make their own decisions, with my help. Now, when Luca wanted me to post a picture of him dancing around in his underwear, I did tell him that, no, not gonna happen. He’ll thank me later for that.
So, I guess, like all things, this blog will evolve back to more about me and the things I do, and less about my kids unless it’s relatively benign. I feel as though, in the past, when I’ve written about my kids’ struggles, it’s been beneficial to reach out and hear from other peoples’ experience, but at the same time, some little asshole could read about it (or worse, their parent) and use it against them. I don’t want to create fodder for bullies. My neighbor had given me sound advice when she said, “Don’t ever put your kid’s struggles out there in a public format for the world to see, because you don’t know what jerk is sitting back waiting to use it.”
Or college recruiters.
Trust me, I’ve got enough stuff going on to take up plenty of space, but for now I’ll just say that it’s so hard figuring out what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to navigating the internets. I want to share parenting struggles, but I want to protect my kids’ privacy, so what can you post and what shouldn’t you post?
But hey, I’m a 31 year old mother of four kids. I do the best that I can, when I can, how I can, and drink wine as needed along the way. The rest will just have to figure itself out.
Audrey has been officially diagnosed with asthma, which came at the price of three ER visits that included three one hour long breathing treatments, causing her to throw up all over herself and not getting home until 2 am, where on the drive home, she was wide awake and while looking up at the sky said, “MAMA. LOOK AT ALL THOSE AIRPLANES!” They were stars, and yes, she always talks in capital letters. Little girl, loud voice. Also to the tune of a specialist, several PCP visits, and a summer cold that should have been done in a day or two, and we’re going on day 8. Her lungs just can’t recover quite like a normal 3 year old’s and it’s frustrating. So she takes her inhalers, usually without issue, (though I think it works better when she’s crying), and takes her “mmmmm mama it tastes like strawberries!” singulair at night.
Maelie required some stitches and of course, when Matt took her, he let a resident do them. Now, look. I’m a nurse, and I’m all about the advancement of the future doctors of America, but not on my kid’s face. Just no. He texted me when they got there, stating that the staff was going to page the on-call plastic surgeon, and so I calmed down and waited for them to come home. When they got home, Matt said, “Oh, so plastics didn’t do it. It was just the ER doctor.”
Like, no. And it wasn’t just an ER doctor, but it was an intern. You know, the doctors who a few months ago were med students? I’m all for them suturing up my kids in any other place but their face. She is now left with another unnecessary scar on her forehead, the other being from the time I let them glue her forehead shut, when really, it should have been sutured. Lessons learned on Mae’s face.
Claire finally made it to her ENT appointment. I made it three months ago with the same doc who took out Luca’s tonsils. He’s pretty much the best in the city. (He fixes the noses of four pound babies, people. He’s an angel.) So, when they say, “Oh…the next appointment available isn’t until August…” and it’s May, you smile and wait.
She’s had issues with breathing out of her nose since she was probably 4, but the more pressing issue at the time was her vision, so breathing took a backseat. It wasn’t until the past year or so that she started to complain of her awful sleeping habits that I finally took it more seriously. We got her a fitbit, which tracks sleep, and after watching her sleeping habits for about a month, I realized that she wasn’t being dramatic; she was waking every hour. I would go in and listen to her, and the snoring – oh that was awful. But what the worst part was was her startling herself awake when she’d stop breathing.
We had taken her to my PCP and a specialist thinking that it was psych related, her nightmares and poor sleeping. And sure, part of it was, but when I physically saw what was in front of me, I knew that we needed to take action.
Plus, the constant stuffed nose has to be so annoying for her.
So we went, and even before he did a physical exam, he looked at me and said, “Wow, you can hear it in her voice.”
Her exam revealed exactly what I expected to hear, and then some. She needs her adenoids out (figured) and she needs turbinate surgery* (what the crap?) and oh, hey look at those giant tonsils! Those need to go, too. (Dammit.)
He spent a good chunk of time with us in the exam room, mulling over the tonsils. He could see them and that they were enlarged but not so much he thought they’d have to go. But when he looked one more time, Claire was able to drop her tongue down and he went, “WOAH, yup, those are going to have to go, too.”
*Turbinate reduction (also known as turbinoplasty or turbinectomy) is a surgical procedure that reduces the overall size of the turbinatesallowing for airflow which results in symptommatic relief of nasal obstruction and congestion.
So joy of joys, I get to go through another kid’s surgery at the end of next month. Luca is a laid back kid. He handled his surgery fantastically. Claire is a whole other animal. She spent the next morning making herself feel sick with worry to the point where she left taekwondo early. When she got home, and told me why she was home early, we talked it out and I suggested she try to go back. I explained how you can physically manipulate your emotions into making you feel awful or better. Taekwondo would have made her feel better, if she let it. So reluctantly she agreed, and when I picked her up a few hours later she was happy and back to normal.
Last night, while I was making dinner, Matt got the kids ready to take them for a bike ride. He usually runs and they bike along side of him. I was straining the pasta when I heard the door open and Luca screaming, his shirt bloodied and Matt looking frantic. He managed to jam a gear on his bike and super-manned it over the handlebars and took a chunk off of his jawline. If the skin had still been there, I would have bandaided it up and called it a day, but something that large missing was best to be looked at, and Matt was insistent on taking him to the ER. Off they went and I made sure to make my needs known.
Because of the location, no sutures were able to be used and he got steri-strips instead and a giant bandaid. He’s loving all the extra attention and retelling his tale over and over, each time getting a little more heroic.
And I’m back to thinking, Should I or should I not construct a giant bubble for my kids to live in, just until I build the funds back up in the HSA?
Where’s the wine?
I’m out of wine?
I’ve scheduled your death and I feel just awful. I’m listening to you sleep, which isn’t hard to do because your snoring is much louder than before, and I already miss you.
I’ve watched you slip away from me for about six months, and every passing week it got harder and harder to look you in the eye. You looked tired and sad and even though you tried over and over to make us happy, we could see that you were getting ready to go.
I hate that tumor. I’ve watched it slowly choke you and take the life right out of you. Seen it take away the dog I loved so much for so long. I look at you and I see the same face I’ve looked at for eleven years and I hate that tumor.
You licked my hand the other night when I cried at your paws. I know that you’re telling me to let go but I don’t want to.
I don’t want to.
You have been my constant companion. When Matt first got his job, and travelled three out of the four weeks in a month, you were there for me. Kept me safe. Kept me sane. When kids came, you were surprisingly patient with them. I know you weren’t a fan, and probably would have preferred it if I never had any, but you took it in stride. They put capes on you, Mardi Gras beads, built you forts – and you sat there with your irritated face, while giving me a look that would say, “Seriously, lady? Seriously?”
But every day now, it’s a little worse. Going up stairs leaves you gasping and panting. You sleep more. You’re constantly yawning and licking your lips, giving the universal signs of stress and anxiety. You lay on the floor sometimes, instead of your bed because nothing is comfortable anymore.
But last week you ran like a puppy and while it left you gasping for air, you were so happy to have that ball and chase it, and for a split second I thought maybe we can keep you around, but who would that benefit? I can’t be selfish anymore. I love you too much to keep you suffering.
So on Thursday at 9:30, we will say our final goodbyes. I’ve loved you for eleven years. Eleven. You were the least adoptable dog at the shelter. You were scared of men, scared of cars, scared of yourself. You were covered in cigarette burns and had been starved. You didn’t know how to walk on a leash or sit, but you spoke to us. And you loved us. For eleven years you loved us.
And because you loved us, we will let you go out on your terms. At home, with Matt and me, and your power puff girls blanket. And we will tell you how much we love you and feed you all of the peanut butter and we will let you go.
Because we love you.
We love you.
While in the middle of teaching a class, it dawned on me – I didn’t do your birthday post. But before you think that I forgot about you, I want you to realize that you have been on my mind basically every waking moment for the past 6 months. Since I got that email from your teacher, telling us that you were struggling in ways that the school wasn’t as capable to help fully, you have been my sole focus.
I have taken you from specialist to specialist, on a mission to help you. The thing about it, was that we found that you were struggling with were things that we couldn’t see. We needed to see through your eyes, the daily life issues that you were facing. Why was it that, when at the beginning of the year, 9+3 was simple, but by the end, it caused errors and tantrums and these freak outs that had me wondering what was really going on.
You said to me, one night before bed, that you were angry. And when you weren’t angry, you were scared. Why?
With the help of vision therapy, we’ve nearly fixed the convergence issues. That’s helping you do daily tasks and being able to do things like mental math, for example. We had you tested for learning disabilities, and found that even though you struggle with simple math, you’re actually very smart and have no learning delays. They found that the fact that you do struggle with timed math tests is the timed part. Not the math.
So now we’re working on the sads. And the angry days. And those pesky overwhelming feelings. With the help of our trusty Dr. Dan, we can overcome this.
I’ve told you a million times that there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Your feelings are valid. If you were to ask every kid you go to school with, I bet the most of them would say they feel the same way. Everyone reacts differently, you’re just a sensitive kid, and that’s okay.
You have worked so incredibly hard, and while you may or may not realize it, you’ve grown immensely. Just the other day, you were playing at the playground while Claire and Mae had their softball game, and you ran over to me, super excited, and exclaimed, “I made a new friend!”
For my quiet, needs his big sister a lot kid, this is huge. I said to dad, “He made a friend!” and dad smiled big. We’ve been waiting for you to find yourself, and just in usual Luca fashion, it was on your time.
We don’t want you to think that we need you to be outgoing like Mae, or super caring like Claire, or sing-songy like Audrey. We want you to be you. Now you’re no longer as afraid to be who you want to be, and I couldn’t be more proud of you.
This birthday was a big deal for me, little dude. You turned 7. Seven! You’re not a little kid anymore. At seven you can ride your bike a little further, you can do more things without my help and you can read chapter books.
And here’s the thing. A lot of people have said to me that the problems you’ve been having are because you’re young and immature, and I’ll agree with that to a point; You are one of the youngest kids in your grade. That said, you are a lot more wise than given credit for. You had the foresight to tell me your feelings. You knew that something wasn’t right and you told me in a way that transcends a seven year old. I don’t know if most kids would have been insightful enough to realize that what you were going through wasn’t normal.
You, good sir, are an amazing kid. I know that most people are amazed by Claire and her kindness and Mae and her candidness and sass, and Audrey’s the baby, but you are my unsung hero. The kid who, despite the fact that it was scary, spoke up for yourself. My quiet, not so chatty kid.
So, to my lego building, book devouring, not so patient – but usually helpful, super imaginative, and the best snuggler in the world kid, happy (belated) birthday. You’re my favorite little dude and nothing will ever change that.
(Plus we always have the best snaps together.)
Last week, an old blog post popped up about how hard it is being a parent to small children. I still stand by that, it was challenging. However, as life tends to go, it evolves, and I find myself longing for the days where I had leaky boobs, sleepless nights, and all the kids at home with me.
Childhood is hard. Raising kids to be good, honest people is hard.
Teaching them how to fly, and shoving them out of the nest to make sure they can, has probably been the hardest thing so far.
I remember the days when I felt so overwhelmed by lack of sleep and taking all four to the doctors for one kid to get a check up, and thinking that that was the absolute worst thing ever. But then they grew up, and one day my kid came home crying because another kid was a jerk to them.
I’ll take those long days where I had nary an adult to interact with, over my kid learning that growing up sometimes sucks. For them to feel what it feels like to be rejected or ignored. To not understand why the walls sometimes feel like they’re closing in when it comes time to take a timed test. Why the person sitting next to you zips through their work and you don’t, so you don’t get to play a computer game as a reward.
I’d take the crying over a nonexistent boo-boo and subsequent tantrums over having to take my kid from appointment after appointment to learn how to deal with growing up with visual and convergence issues and the anxiety that accompanies it.
Learning about which of your kids’ friends are true friends, which friends aren’t really friends and which friends need to just go away is hard. Dealing with the parents at any given function can be fun, but sometimes you can feel so out of your league and purposely pushed out. Wondering if you should have signed your kid up for this sport instead of that sport to keep up with the rest of the kids is never ending. Trying like hell to keep your kids from feeling left out, but at the same time teaching them about how life works leaves me second guessing everything. Trying to stay on the good side of the principal and guidance counselor while also pushing for what’s best for your kid without being ‘that mom,’ is exhausting. Reminding your kids that you love them, even when they’re sassing you and giving you so many eye rolls you hope there isn’t any permanent damage. Knowing when to push and when to back off. Asking yourself if you should save for future therapy sessions or college for them.
The Why did I say that? Are you serious? That’s awful. You probably just broke them. They’re going to remember this awful exchange for the rest of their lives. Good job.
Then going to bed and hoping that tomorrow will be better.
Yes. Gone are the days of baby talk and spit up. Screaming fits at Target and freaking out over getting an arm stuck in a shirt. Now are the days of hoping what you say is helpful and not hurtful, having to remember everything you ever say because it’ll come back and bite you in the butt, and eye rolls.
But with it also comes funny conversations, inside jokes, and solid relationships. I’m no longer just the person who keeps them alive. I’m also the person who helps make them be a person – one that I hope doesn’t suck.
Pass the wine.
Yesterday I had to be in two places nearly at once. It was only by proper planning (dinner before we left and snacks for the second gym) and the kids not being assholes (they all got into the car without yelling at each other!) that I was able to even accomplish it. (Shout out to MC Hammer for being on the radio so we could dance in our seats.) At 6 I finished teaching my regular class and by 6:30 I was ready to teach another class at a gym in another town, with the kids in tow. Usually I ask Matt to grab the kids when I fill in, but daycare was open until 8 at the second gym, and one late night wouldn’t break them. And, frankly, Matt needed a break.
Later he thanked me for going with the flow and taking the kids along with me instead of asking him to help.
And that’s what love is.
We’ll be celebrating 10 years in August. I can say with 100% certainty that when I first got married at the age of 21, I thought I knew what love was. I thought it was flowers and romance and date nights and deep conversations. But when Valentine’s Day would come and it wasn’t some extravagant gesture and I didn’t get flowers thrown at me for no good reason, I got upset and frustrated. I’d look at other peoples’ marriages and wonder what I was doing wrong. What was wrong with our marriage?
But then, finally, somewhere after Luca was born, and I wasn’t handling motherhood that well, I saw it.
Love was watching Matt take the kids to the park so I could have some alone time. Love was coming home to a cooked meal after a long 12 hour shift. Love was sleeping in on a Tuesday just because.
The moment I stopped comparing myself to what I was told I had to believe to be true about love, I realized that Matt and I have our shit together. Matt is who he is, and one thing he is not is a guy who is a romantic. He’s the guy who plans things a day in advance. The guy who sends me youtube clips to cheesy country songs that remind him of me. He’s the one who keeps me from imploding.
Do I like getting flowers just because? Sure. But they die. And Matt knows that that makes me sad. So instead he brings me home donuts.
Do I like date nights? Heck yes! But sometimes it’s just easier waiting until the kids go to bed and have an in home date night. I like to reserve my babysitting needs for things like Luca’s vision therapy, doctor’s appointments and that one time we’re invited to go to a party.
And it’s not all about me. I show Matt I love him by mowing the lawn so it’s one less thing he has to do and more time he can spend with the kids. I even overcame my fear of the attic and stopped nagging at him to get stuff down from there, when I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself. But I still stand by the fact that I swear that’s where all the stink bugs live.
I started taking my car to the shop for maintenance instead of making him waste a day to get it done. I keep the house clean and somewhat organized and I even do the laundry now. (True story, he did all the laundry until we moved it to the second floor about 5 years ago.)
I guess what I’m trying to say is, is that love doesn’t have to be so difficult. Once I stopped trying so hard and took a good look around, I realized that I’m most definitely loved and it shows. I have two dogs and three cats and he’s an asthmatic who is allergic. He just takes his meds, and grumbles at me every now and again, but my roomba Alfred keeps it pretty clean around here so he can’t really complain that much.
Plus, when he comes home and we have a foster kitty or six in the house, he is only mildly irritated. Especially since the cats always love him the best.
And every morning he wakes up before me and gets the kids lunches made and feeds them breakfast and doesn’t laugh at me when I dance around the kitchen to really bad pop music.
Sometimes he even joins in.