Shifting Gears to Fully Appreciate the Gift

IMG_3184Smack in the middle of editing a piece that’s due to a client by noon tomorrow, I get the school district robocall to my cell phone telling me my boys are being released early from school due to the snow storm that is becoming heavier than expected.

Drat. Just as I was getting into my writing groove.

I begin the mental shifting of gears that every part-time work-from-home mom knows so well. Did I seriously expect to finish what I’d started? Time to put my “Mom” hat back on.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it sometimes makes me angry and irritable to have to shift gears from work to family. It’s frustrating to have my progress interrupted and to reset my expectations about how the rest of my day will be spent.

This is how I shift those gears:

I sit for a few minutes before they walk in the door from their buses, I close my eyes, and I focus. I focus on the way their little faces looked when they were just two and five years old. I focus on how my younger son’s lisp used to sound and how he replaced the phrase “what happens if” with his own unique “whunsif”. I remember how my older son used to sing the chorus to “Leaving on a Jetplane” whenever we were headed on a trip to visit his grandfather in Florida.

I think about my younger boy’s classmate, now in 5th grade, still courageously fighting an inoperable brain cancer she’s had since she was just five years old. I think about a former coworker who lost her son when he was just 21, two weeks before his college graduation, when he was in the back seat of a car that was struck by a drunk driver.

In just four short years, my older son will leave for college. Four years?! That’s the blink of an eye. My younger son still snuggles with his two favorite blankets (his “cozies”) when we watch TV. I tell myself, “Momma, stop being such an idiot. These days are numbered, and your babies are leaving you.”

Gear shifting now fully completed, I hear my boys clambering in through the front door, dropping their backpacks on the floor, shaking the snow off their jackets, kicking their wet boots off and laughing about something someone said to one of them on the bus ride home.

I walk to them, grinning from ear to ear at their bemused faces, and I tell them we need to grab a quick bite and then head out to the nearby golf course to go sledding. They agree it’s an excellent idea.

The goal of parenthood is to raise independent humans. Simple, really. Tweet: The goal of parenthood is to raise independent humans. Simple, really. http://ctt.ec/fmBaf+

Teach them how to negotiate their paths through life, how to make good decisions and be kind to others. And to pick up after themselves and make their own food.

You’re teaching them how to leave you. That’s why I find parenting so difficult. You’re teaching these little creatures that you love more than life itself how to be so independent, they will not only be able to leave you, they will want to leave you. Pure and utter heartbreak, isn’t it?

As the years pass, if things go as planned (I know, they sometimes don’t), you watch your kids make these astounding leaps forward. They’re growing. They’re maturing. They’re getting it right. They’re cutting the strings loose, one by one. And it’s happening much, much too fast.

I’m now fully able to recognize that this unexpected shortened school day and interruption of my work progress is nothing less than a sparkling, glorious gift from the universe. I’m determined to gratefully soak up every single second of it.


Originally published by Parent.co: http://www.parent.co/shifting-gears-to-fully-appreciate-the-gift/

Trying Harder to Embrace My Mess

5942e74e5312d286c5f215328d1d3fa2My good friend and neighbor (I’ll call her “Suzanne” to protect her anonymity) invited me over yesterday to catch up over coffee. Our kids are school aged so we manage to do this every few weeks, at one of our houses or at our favorite coffee hangout in town.

I walked through her front after shoving the kids off to school and she immediately said, as she hugged me, “I am so sorry about the state of my house. Please just ignore it and pretend you don’t see it.”

I walked through her foyer and saw kids’ boots piled by the front door and two pairs of snowpants hanging over the adjacent dining room chairs to dry. As I entered her kitchen I saw on her island a few scattered piles: a six-inch stack of mail and catalogs, a few kids’ books, her dog’s leash and a few poop bags. Also a box of goldfish crackers and two cereal boxes from the morning’s activities. There were juice glasses and a few bowls next to the sink from breakfast.

My eyes moved next to the collection of papers on Suzanne’s kitchen table – remnants of one of her kids’ art projects, with some scissors, a roll of tape and scraps of colored construction paper. A box of magic markers was next to that pile, with a bottle of glue.

From where I sat at the kitchen table, I could see the family room looked,… well… like the Tasmanian devil had torn through it. There was a carnival-prize sized stuffed elephant on the coffee table, a “Star Wars” blanket thrown in a pile on the sofa, a “Frozen” sleeping bag and a pillow on the other sofa, and a half assembled Lego set on the floor in front of the television.

This clutter is one of the many reasons I adore this woman. Although she always apologizes profusely about the state of her household when I walk in her front door, she regularly invites me in ANYWAY.

Who do we think we’re kidding when we make our homes a semblance of perfection before we let our friends walk in the door?

At my house, I’m running around like a lunatic 30 minutes before friends arrive. I’m stuffing papers into random desk drawers, stashing the kids’ school planners and homework binders into the mudroom closet, and carrying 15 pairs of shoes and boots from the foyer upstairs into my bedroom. I’ve been known to put dirty cereal bowls and mugs into a dishwasher full of unemptied clean dishes just to hide the evidence.

My house is clean, mind you (I have an OCD tendency that causes me to run out of toilet bowl cleaner more often than is reasonable, even by Merry Maids standards), but many of my home’s surfaces are cluttered with “life” byproducts. Sometimes it’s hard to see the floors of my kids’ rooms. My solution is to just close their doors.

Why do most women I know insist on hiding that we’re real people leading real, messy, busy lives? Why do we fear the judgment of people we consider our friends when we invite them into our homes and cars? The “perfect household” illusion perpetuates status competition among women who should be letting that stuff go and supporting each other in every way possible.

I love the fact that Suzanne won’t let her fear of judgment hold her back from welcoming me and her other friends into her space. She’s decided to be real and to not care who sees it. And if I’m the kind of person who judges her based on superficial and esoteric criteria, maybe I then self-select myself right out of her friendship circle. Because why would she want a friend like that?

Being in Suzanne’s home, with all of its evidences of a busy and thriving family life, makes me feel happier about my own reality. My house looks just like hers does almost every single day (unless I’m having dinner guests – I can’t help myself; I clean and de-clutter like a madwoman). Many days, I look at the plane crash disaster that is my kitchen and feel woefully inadequate. How can I be a full time stay-at-home parent and not have time to keep my house looking “orderly”? And when I go to a friend’s house and see that it almost looks as if it’s been staged for a real estate showing, I feel oh so much worse.

Suzanne’s house makes me feel less anxious and more confident that I’m focusing on the right things in my life and in my family household. I’d rather spend time helping my kids organize their homework, further their artistic experimentation, and encourage them to pick up that book again and read it by having it constantly within eyeshot.

This illusion of household maintenance perfection is one we are too often compelled to admire and perpetuate. Suzanne decided not to play the game. I admire her for it. She’s a great inspiration to me.

I’m still working on my own compulsions and fear of judgment, and I have a long way to go. But just this morning, inspired by my time with Suzanne yesterday, I left the Time magazine I was reading last night out on the kitchen table and my used coffee mug out on the counter.

It’s a start.


 

Sharing is caring! If you liked this, can you spread it around to your friends? Facebook, Twitter, walkie talkies, whatever! It’ll help me out, and I’ll love you more. If that’s even possible. You can follow this blog, too (click the “follow” button on the right). I promise it’ll be good. And you can follow on Facebook, of course, at https://www.facebook.com/LaughingOrCursing/. XOXO