At lunch today, a friend and I were talking about this and that, about my abysmal math abilities and how we divvy up household chores with our husbands, when the topic of bedtimes came up. Her kids are older – 9 and 11 – and her husband is in charge of making sure they get to bed without any technology and before 10:30 pm.
“I don’t know how I am going to deal with later bedtimes”, I said, “because I really look forward to a little quiet before the end of the night.”
And I do. The kids go to bed, we pick up the rest of the mess, and settle in to read or watch tv or do some work. I feel like I am “off the clock”, without anyone clamoring for snacks or attention.
But then she went on to say that since they are older, they spend their time mostly in their rooms, working on homework or reading, and many times they want to be alone, not hang out with their parents.
We laughed about how kids change and moved on to another topic, but it stuck in my head all day. I know intellectually that as the kids get older, our relationship is going to change, but when I start to think about it practically, I get a little sick to my stomach. Will they really want to hide away? Will they start thinking of me as their “out of touch mother who doesn’t understand”?
I am not ready for that. I don’t know if I will ever be ready for that. How can you?
So instead of rushing the kids to bed tonight so I could collapse on the couch, I listened to Madi’s plans for her compound machine made out of foam and Popsicle sticks. I let Parker and Fiona jump on Ben, tickling and giggling, for a few extra minutes before calling it a night. I read Curious George Makes Pancakes to Fiona even though it was late, and snuggled up with her and her four blankies until she fell asleep.
This time is so short – where they want my help and they let me give them piles of kisses (as long as I’m not wearing lip gloss).
I need to remember that. Every day and twice on Thursdays.
We all sat in the cramped examining room, waiting for the pediatric neurologist to rap on the door. Madi was reading, Fiona was bouncing between Ben and I, and Parker lay in a fetal position in the elevated examining chair, cupping his right eye. He had come down with a migraine in the elevator and it was getting worse by the minute.
The doctor came in, a young guy, and ran us through the typical list of questions. Allergies, surgeries, sicknesses, asthma, frequency, symptoms, possible triggers, and we answered the best we could. He tried to ask Parker questions too, but he had started to shut down from the pain, and his answers were groggy at best. He aced his neurologic exam though, and avoided puking in the pink bedpan they brought in “just in case”.
By the end of the appointment, the doctor agreed with our pediatrician that they were almost certainly “just” migraines. We have the family history, he has all four of the symptoms that identify them as migraines, and everything else from a neurological standpoint checked out okay. It was good, a confirmation that nothing is seriously awry, and we left with concrete steps for helping him manage the frequency and the severity.
But as I held his limp body over a snowbank on the way home so he could puke up his dinner, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated. There’s no “solution”, no “cure all” for migraines. I’ve seen more than my share of “fixes”, growing up with a mom who still suffers from debilitating migraines. I know full well how to tuck comforters over the curtains to black out the room, fill trash cans with extra plastic bag liners, and set glasses of cool water on the nightstand. I recognize that helpless feeling when all you can do is gently brush their hair off their forehead and put another blanket on the bed.
It is incredibly difficult when it is your mom; it is gut-wrenching when it is your six year old son.
We made it home and I tucked him in with a trash can and a water bottle by his bed. I smoothed back his hair, and whispered that I loved him. He mumbled something back, and started to drift off to sleep. I sat there for a moment, wishing that I could rip the pain right out of his head and stuff it into mine. You try so hard as a parent to smooth the path in front of your kids, like an Olympian curler furiously sweeping the ice in front of the puck, but you can’t get rid of all the bumps in their way. They still might be bullied on the playground or struggle with reading or get dumped by their girlfriend or not make the team or get in an accident or suffer with chronic pain. You can’t protect them from everything, no matter how hard you try, and I have a hard time reconciling that as truth.
So we will document and we will try medications and we will track down triggers and I will hold his head over the toilet when he throws up…and I will be thankful that it isn’t any of the big, scary things that many kids have to suffer through…
But for tonight, all I could do was hold his hand until he fell asleep….and pray that tomorrow would be better.
About a week ago, I mentioned in passing to Ben that I was thinking about packing away the scale for the summer. “You know”, I said, gesturing to the kids as they splashed around in the bathtub and shower, “for their sake?”
“Okay”, he said, grabbing the scale and sliding it into the cabinet.
“Oooohhhh….”, my voice trailed into nothing. I didn’t expect him to agree with me so quickly, maybe giving me a chance to weigh myself one more time before it was packed away for good, but there it went. No turning back now, I thought, as I stood there staring at the empty corner of the bathroom.
And yes, it was for the kids’ sake, to make sure that they learned to focus on healthy habits instead of a number on a scale. But honestly, it was more for me.
Over the past year or so, I had fallen into the habit of weighing myself every morning. I used to not have space to keep my scale in plain sight, but a roomier bathroom made it easier to develop the routine. I used to not worry so much about my weight, because I was always just biding my time until I was pregnant again, but those days were over.
Cue the obsession.
Turn on the shower, strip down, step on the scale, jump in the shower. Commence a complete breakdown of why the number was either up or down. If it was down, I would think through what I did “right”…exercise, skipped dessert or snacks, or whatever else came to kind. If it was up, even a couple tenths, I would think through what I did “wrong”….a big meal, slept through my alarm and skipped exercise, or ate an extra salty snack before bed. Those mornings I would get out of the shower irritated, frustrated, and pretty disgusted with myself.
The thing is, I am in better shape now than I have been in a while, regardless of the six or seven pounds I have put on since last summer. But every time I stepped on the scale and saw a number that I didn’t like or looked in the mirror and saw the roll of belly fat that took up permanent residence after my three kids, I would feel pure disgust at myself for not being able to control my weight. Yep….definitely a control thing.
And I was terrified that my kids, especially Madi, would start to pick up on it and think it was normal. Because I don’t want it to be normal. I want my kids to be able to look in the mirror and see themselves as strong and brave and beautiful because they are….not because a scale told them they are. I want to pass on habits that are affirming, not ones that make you hate yourself. Habits like staying active, making healthy food choices, stopping when you are full, and respecting inner beauty first.
But it starts with me.
And for me….that meant agreeing to put away the scale for the summer, eliminating my morning self flagellation session, and focusing on making positive choices instead.
The first week was hard. Harder than I thought. This week I’m on vacation, and I’m already bracing myself for that pull to jump on the scale when I get home.
But I look at my Madi, and at her smile after we completed her very first Couch to 5k workout this morning, and I know it is worth it. I look at myself in the mirror, with a little less obsessive control resting on my shoulders, and I know it is a good thing. Frankly, I hope that I get to the end of the summer and decide to pitch the scale in the trash can.
As moms, we do whatever we can for our kids. But sometimes, the best thing we can do for them is to take care of ourselves. Overcoming an inner struggle, letting go of a destructive habit, or adopting a healthy behavior can all make us better equipped to do our jobs, especially as the challenges get tougher and the questions get harder. I’m willing to do the work. In today’s environment, I can’t afford not to.
Parker turned six earlier this week, and he celebrated in style.
Piling the sprinkles on his school treat cupcakes…
…eating his “special-request” dinner…
Opening his “special-request” present…
…and trying out his surprise gift!
I love the look of pure joy that was plastered on his face all day. Everything was about him, and he gobbled it up like a giant bowl of Lucky Charms. And really…there is just something really cool about watching a six year old boy enjoy life. He loves flipping the thick swath of blonde hair out of his eyes, jamming on his new guitar, dancing along to whatever music he hears, and loving on his mom without an inch of embarrassment.
In fact, we were in Spoonlickers today, celebrating Madi’s birthday with some fro yo, and he couldn’t stay in his seat with the music playing over the loudspeakers. He jumped up and started to dance, right in front of the yogurt machines.
This kid loves life. And I love him…with every inch of my heart.
The past month or so has blown by in a blur of holiday gatherings, final exams, cookie making, and plenty of “nose to the grindstone” stuff”. As I barrel through my days, I find myself ticking things off my list and striding forward with barely a backward glance, which always gives me a distinct sense of satisfaction. Check…check…and double check.
It’s the journey, and frequently I find myself somewhere in the thick of it, traveling along and grinding it out. In theory, this sense of immediacy is a good thing, but it can also hinder my view of the past or future. Focus? Yes. Perspective? Not always.
But as I look at my rumpled to-do list, it gives me pause. Each one of those scribbled-out tasks left an distinct mark on me this last few months, and it is good to stop and pay attention. Tasks like…
Submit Final Grades. I stood in front of my class at the end of the semester, and could barely choke back the tears as I thanked them for the opportunity to spend time with them for 14 weeks. When I agreed to teach the class, I wasn’t at all sure about my decision. I honestly didn’t think I would ever find myself back at Cornerstone, and here I was, trying to shake off the lingering feelings of burnout that had followed me since I took a break from teaching a few years ago. But I decided that I was going to pay attention to the “reason”, and I did. My “break” had freed me from the stress of perfectionism and had given me a renewed focus to paying attention to what my students needed…right then. They learned a few things from me, but I think I learned much more from them. Complete survey for The New Testament Challenge. I finished reading the New Testament from start to finish for the very first time this fall, thanks to an eight week program through our church. It was definitely “challenging”, but the impact of being in the Word every day was more powerful than I could have imagined. I usually read or study the Bible in small chunks, so I loved being able to see in broad strokes what it looks like to be a Christ-follower. Loving extravagantly, speaking Truth, giving generously, and using my gifts to serve the community of believers…all things that popped off the pages in very real ways this fall. I can only pray that I continue to water and weed the transformational change that began to take root in my heart this fall and allow it to produce life-affirming fruit. I want to be like Christ, and being in the Word is a big part of that. Buy beef tenderloin. After a personal cooking lesson in early December (which deserves its very own post), I found myself buying groceries to host the firm Christmas party at our home last weekend. I was trying to be nonchalant about it, but I was honestly pretty terrified. One of the “mantras” my instructor kept telling me was “Don’t be afraid, Rachel”, and I needed that tattooed on the inside of my eyelids it as I picked out meat, prepped dishes that were way out of my wheelhouse, and cooked up a huge pot of risotto while our dinner guests lounged around the kitchen. Just a tad bit intimidating, don’t you think? The party was a success, even with my slightly undercooked risotto (yes, it’s true), and as Ben and I cleaned up the kitchen, I was so thankful for all of the entertaining we have been able to do since we moved in. I love having our home full of laughter and conversation, and it felt good to share with others. Pre-register for the winter Hello Mornings Challenge: Earlier this summer, I jumped into an online accountability group that checks in on Facebook in the mornings to share what they are learning in their devotions. Honestly, I did it on a whim, but 12 weeks later, I felt such a kinship with these girls that live all over the Eastern Time Zone…from Panama to Alabama to Canada. When it ended, and we had to decide whether to continue, it was hardly a question. We were all in. Recently, one of the girls went through an incredibly difficult situation, and I sat in front of my computer crying for her, this girl I felt such a kinship with, even though we had never met. You can say what you want about technology, but there are so many amazing ways that it can be used for good…and this has been a Spirit-led movement in my life. Make sheep costume. Madi was asked to be a sheep in her Christmas program, which meant that I had to construct some semblance of a costume. I don’t sew…I’m not an especially astute crafter…which meant that we ended up wandering around Hobby Lobby with an image of a costume pulled up on my cell phone trying to find felt, polyfill, and fluffy pipe cleaners. Did it turn out? We managed. She did leave a trail of polyfill in her wake, and her ears were a bit precarious. But if anything, it certainly humbled me. I really didn’t know if her costume was going to stay together, and that was hard. Lesson learned…next time, I need to outsource. Train for a 10k. Notice it doesn’t say “run a 10k”. I trained with my neighbor, because she was planning on running a 10k at Thanksgiving. I, on the other hand, didn’t have a race lined up. Still don’t, in fact. But strangely enough, I still had a tremendous sense of accomplishment when we hit our six mile run length, and didn’t pass out afterwards. It helps to have a good running partner, one that will always get out of bed to run at 5:45 and will say, “Let’s run the four mile route this morning”, even when it’s raining. That’s the kind of running partner you need. Better than that, though, is the friendship that that has been forged during the miles running up and down the streets of our neighborhood. Talking about everything and nothing…kids and family and jobs and history…it’s something that I don’t want to give up, even though the mornings are getting a bit colder. Finish writing today’s post. This seems to make it on my list almost every day, to be either starting or finishing a post for Mom Colored Glasses or here. I love doing it, but there never seems to be enough time to write…keep up with emails…get our name to the right PR people…build our audience…all squeezed in-between the rest of my life. Some days it feels overwhelming, but then there are other days, when we are able to send a $100 gift card to someone that really needs it or write about something that is close to my heart or have a conversation with a friend about something I wrote…those moments continue to make it worth it. Writing is the quiet that centers me…the perspective that so often eludes me…and the connection that I so desperately need.
The last couple of months have been good for me. Not simple and not easy, but definitely a time of growth, discipline, and rediscovery. And truthfully, it is only as I look back that I can see how my path wove and intersected in just the perfect way.
I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store.
I remember when Parker stopped napping consistently. I was pregnant with Fiona…over three years ago. He never needed as much sleep as most kids his age, and he made that abundantly clear very early.
In one respect, it was a blessing, because the most common complaint for “middle” kids is that they get less one-on-one time with their parents. I feel like we sidestepped that trip to the psychologist’s office because we ended up having more than our share of “alone time”, Parker and I, with Madi in school and Fiona napping. Lots of time playing soccer in the yard, making interesting concoctions, reading, watching TV together, and sometimes just trying to stay out of each other’s way. It has not always been easy, as someone who really enjoys having a few minutes to myself…by myself (who doesn’t, I suppose), and there were some days where we both got on each other’s last nerve.
But I honestly loved my time with Parker, the kid who loves to snuggle and play with my hair, who has no concept of personal space, and who adores music so much that it spills out of every pore. He’s particular to a fault, would rather stay home than go…anywhere, and could watch movies all day long. He wants to be a producer someday…or a stay-at-home dad…or both.
And he left me this week.
I remember being so sad and anxious about Madi starting school full time for many different reasons, but Parker? It is pure selfishness on my part. He is so ready for school, he doesn’t even want me to come inside to pick him up. When I dropped him off on his first day, he dashed over to the Gathering Place for storytime faster than I could say “don’t forget to eat your lunch”. I know he will do great…
…it’s me I am worried about.
I know – we will all adjust sooner or later.
I know – I will have many more “good byes” in my future.
I know – it’s just part of being a parent.
I know all of these things, but it didn’t make this week any easier. You don’t get to “take back” that moment of sending your kids to school for the first time, and it felt a little like cutting off my right arm and shipping it to China. The wound is oozing loss, both physical and emotional, and it is going to take a little while for it to scab over.
He came home happy…talking about getting “sparkles” from his teacher and flying on the tire swing. I was happy for him, but I was even happier to have him home sitting in my lap, twirling my hair.