Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fleeting Moments

I started this blog entry at the beginning of February, but never made the time to finish it.  I specifically use the words "made the time" because I do believe that we always have enough time to do the things we want to.  So, although I didn't make the time to sit and write (and haven't in eons), I still have thoughts swirling around in my head that need to be dealt with.  I figure I'll get this one out and hopefully the rest will follow and stop keeping me up at night. So...

As I mentioned, it was early February.  After I had struggled with getting the kids out of the car and into their classrooms (some days, the begging, bribing, coaxing, etc just doesn't work), I stood in the misty, winter weather in the parking lot chatting with one of my girlfriends (another parent, but I don't like the term "mom friend").  I was feeling worn out and slightly panicked and I couldn't really put my finger on why. I mentioned that the time of year always got to me.  Christmas was over, we were into the New Year, my birthday had come and gone, and everything was wet and gray (depressing just writing this out).  What was ahead of us now? More wet and gray. No significant holidays or breaks.
 
My friend brought up an article she had read about our attachment to "fleeting moments" that we, probably Americans, cling to.  What's next? What's next? Holidays, birthdays, vacations.  We put all of our energy into preparing for that "thing."  Then it comes and goes and we're left with a sense of let-down.  And we start looking for the next moment to put energy into. For me, I am realizing, when that thing/ moment/ event isn't on the horizon, I start to panic a little. Where is my energy supposed to go now? Yes, I have a family of five.  Yes, I work full-time.  Yes, I have so many pets, we look like we're running a suburban farm. Yes, I over-extend myself with volunteer work.  But what is my next big THING??

The fact is these moments are, indeed, fleeting. That fourth birthday party, the big Easter dinner, the spring vacation. It makes me think of wedding planning. Months of organizing and energy go into this big (once-in-a-lifetime, we hope) event, then within a matter if hours, the wedding is over and the life-part has to pick up. And sometimes I think it's hard to just sit in the moments that are not fleeting.

How do we relax into the very moment we're in without putting our focus on the "what's next?" I'm not actually sure.  I've spent so much of my life moving on to the next thing, sitting still is a challenge.  But I want to figure it out. For my kids, and for myself.  Unfortunately, I think that many of us are onto that next thing all the time because we think it will be better than where we currently are. In doing so, we're missing beauty in the nothing-special moments.  

I really do love dinner when we're all just there because it's Tuesday and where else would we be? And I revel in the weekends when we have no plans, so we float around playing, or relaxing or running to the beach on a whim. In actuality, when I look at my life, the time between the fleeting moments is what has meaning. How we exist with our friends and family when we're not revolving around some big moment that will come and go.  This is a process for me.  I actually have to consciously choose to simplify my focus and not leave where I am now to anticipate the next "exciting" moment.  Passing this along to my kids is worth the effort.

If we can all find happiness and balance in where we are now and all we have to look forward to, we will live more joy-filled lives. I've enjoyed sitting down for a bit to write.  I'm happy to have a few things to look forward to.  I'll still make plans, but I'm going to work at knowing that right here, right now will always be the best place.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Spider-Man is Dead

"Spider-Man is dead.  What should I do?" That was the exact text to my husband.

My four-year-old's fish, Spider-Man, had laid on his side on the bottom of the tank gasping (or whatever things that don't breathe air do).  Since I work from home, I could step out of my office every so often to check in on Spidey.  Tap the tank.  Speak words of encouragement.  I'm pretty sure I even said "breathe, damn you!" out loud.  Maybe he was just resting.

We had given our son the heads up (for a few days really) that Spider-Man's days were numbered.  And finally his number came up and I panicked.  Over a fish.  That we'd had for six months, if even.  My need to protect my son from the pain of loss was filling me with a peculiar dread.  It was his first death.

My heart actually ached as I paced in the kitchen around the sunk Spider-Man (weren't they supposed to float?).  And my overactive imagination immediately went to all of the losses and pain that my kids will endure over their lifetimes.  The loss of actual human family members.  The death of furry pets that they've known their whole lives. The heartbreak of being dumped by their 8th grade soul-mate.  The overwhelming disappointment of not making the 2023 Olympic Gymnastics team. Dreams that don't pan out.  People who let them down.  It's all going to happen.  And isn't it my job to protect their little hearts from breaking?

No.  I suppose it's not.  My youthful heart broke.  I experienced loss and grief as a kid and managed my way to adulthood without crumbling.  And looking back on it all now...the heartbreaks, the losses, the deaths...how we get through them shapes how we receive joy and the big wins.  At least a little bit.  When my father died, I learned to welcome the grief and sit with it.  Allowing myself to grieve and really feel the loss opened me up to let more life in as I moved forward.  This is all to say that I suppose my job is not to protect my kids from the difficulties that their lives deal out.  My job is to let it happen, allow them to sit with it, comfort as needed and remind them that joy is waiting.

Now back to Spider-Man.  On the drive home from daycare, I told my son that his fish had died.
(Insert sweet, slow music here to set the scene...)

He asked if he could hold the fish.  So I dipped my hand down into the fish tank and pinch up the lifeless body of Spider-Man, dried him on a paper towel and placed it in the palm of my little boy's hand.  He stared at it for a long bunch of seconds, then looked up at me and whispered....."can I touch its eye?"  (Stop the music.)  Oh...um, yes you may touch its eye.  And with that, my son poked his finger in his dead fish's eye, and said (ever so quietly) "ew." And we walked down the hallway, tossed Spidey into toilet and gave him a flush.

So some losses, perhaps down the road, will be harder than others.  At least, I got through this one with a lesson learned.  Loss happens.  We sit with it.  Then poke it in the eye and flush it. Thank you, Spider-Man.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Kid Commitment

It's only taken me about 12 years, but I think I'm finally ready to commit to my kids.   All three of them, even.

I always wanted kids.  Always knew it'd be a mom.  It was no problem for me to get pregnant and I had three "easy" and wonderful birth experiences.  Then all of sudden I had three kids.  And I fought it.  Most parents I admire have a real understanding of surrendering to parenthood.   And at times I felt fully engaged and happy to jump feet first into my mother role.  I kicked ass at throwing birthday parties and making Halloween costumes and any sort of event that required my creativity.  But for the last 10+ years,  I can say that I fought fully committing to parenting.

Of course, I kept my kids safe and healthy.  Would I throw myself in front of train to save one of my kids?  Without question.  Would I catch the flu because they cough all over me while I'm tending to them?  Always.  Will I skip the newly-released Oscar-contending movie because we don't have a sitter?  Um....yes, but I will feel annoyed.  Will I miss out on dozens of party invitations?  Yes and I will feel resentful.  Will I go years without vacations because we have to afford daycare and school? You bet I will, and it will be a constant source of irritation.  Will I wake up on Sunday mornings and lament the fact that I have to entertain my own kids all day?  Yes...and my anger will probably ruin everyone else's Sunday.  And has.

I'm not sure why I started fighting committing to parenting.  My kids are pretty great and definitely fill my world with more life than I could have imagined.  But I started to agonize over all of the demands and sacrifices that come with choosing to have children.  I want to go to happy hour on a sunny afternoon with friends and not worry about picking anyone up.  I want to take a weekend trip with my husband without a thought about who we could even call to watch the kids overnight.  I want excess money in my bank account so we can take some vacations or buy a new car.   I want to check Facebook on my iPhone and not read Spiderman vs Dr Octopus for the 17th time.  I want a clean house with a guest bedroom that's not filled with Elmo and stickers on the ceiling.  I want...I want...I want....  This was becoming exhausting.

Finally, and mercifully, my heart adjusted to what I really want (I can't define exactly what happened other than the universe tapped me on the shoulder - or maybe hit me with a frying pan - and I realized my job and responsibilities were way beyond my selfishness).  I want a happy home with a ton of laughter (I know everyone says this, but most things are clich├ęs for a reason).  I want these people I chose to have and raise to feel confident and that they always matter.  I want them to know what
Way cooler than any happy hour.
unconditional love feels like so that they know how to give it.  I want my youngest son to know how to blow bubbles.  I want my middle son to feel awesome because he can spell his name.  I want my daughter to feel especially cool because she won the spelling B.  I want them to always feel that we are listening.  I want my kids to be raised by a mother who 100% wants to be their mom.  So...I commit to these three kids (and to their dad), and I surrender to the responsibility I signed up for over these last several years.  And I accept, with great love & pride, my role in these lives.  Without fighting it.  I'm exactly where I need to be and the payoff will be a thousand times greater than sleeping in on a Sunday. 

I still want a vacation and will get one soon enough when these kids grow into their  lives and away from us.  Until then...I am committed to loading them up in the old mini-van and taking them wherever we go on this crazy ride.