A friend is having a fabulous 40th birthday getaway in a few months. It involves a short flight and a drive and some fabulous scenery and an overnight stay at a great house. Guests are making their plans for flying in from all over the place and it looks like a really good time.
I started doing the mental gymnastics needed to figure out how to pay for the plane ticket, and checking my husband's schedule for whether he's in town that weekend, and scheming who would watch my kids if he's not and then I stopped. I'll be sending my regrets.
It's not the money, or the schedule, or even childcare, really, that is keeping me away. Those things can be worked out.
It's this person right here.
He has spent every night of his short 20 months firmly tucked in against my side and nursing when he wakes before drifting off to sleep again. There was a time when his Beema could get him to sleep the first time, but even then, I was the one he wanted when he woke again.
I don't expect he will be weaned by August, and even then I doubt he will be able to sleep through a night without needing me.
I'm not going to make him do that just so I can go have a great time with some friends.
He's way too much of a toddler to bring along though. He would ruin everyone's good time. So I will stay home, and put him to bed like I always do, and be there when he wakes.
I find it difficult to explain to people sometimes that I want to be with my children. I'm not in a rush to get away from them and I don't roll my eyes at how obnoxious they are or at the thought of having to take them along with me.
They are my kids. They need me, not someone else, to be there for them. I really don't have that much time left before they are the ones who want to leave, and then I won't have the option of laying down beside them, downy head snuggled on my shoulder, to feel the soft rise and fall of a little chest as they sleep. I will never wish I had spent less time with my children. Never.
A new friend asked me at my birthday party a couple of months ago when was the last time I had celebrated a birthday without my children in attendance. I understood what she was asking, but it gave me pause because of the apparent assumption that I would want such a thing.
Personally, I don't want to spend my birthday in a way that excludes my children. I want them with me. I like them to be part of the celebration. I find an invitation to hang out with a friend minus the kids a bit of a conundrum because, as much as I like friends and fun activities I feel pulled away from where my heart really lies, which is at my messy house, with my loud, rowdy, often dirty and far from perfectly behaved progeny. It never feels good to be away for too long.
Which isn't to say that I don't need, or crave a break on occasion, when I'm really weary, and sleep deprived and under stress. It doesn't mean I'm supermom, or always patient, or never find my children irritating. (I'll give you 10 minutes in a car with the Boy making one of his shrill mouth noises and I challenge you to not feel like duct taping his mouth shut before the end of it. It can't be done.)
But it is to say that I feel like I'm a minority sometimes. I see a lot of moms who, it seems, can't wait to get away from their kids. I feel like they expect me to feel the same.
It seems everything in our culture is geared to tell moms they should want to go places without their children. "Moms should prefer expensive dinners in fancy restaurants to homemade cakes and potluck buffets with all the kids joining in on the fun. Moms should prefer immaculate living rooms with carefully arranged decorator trays to threadbare couches, and finger printed walls, and always a tiny Lego that escaped the broom nestled in some corner. Moms should long for adult conversation and intellectual stimulation rather than that whole body tingling moment when you watch a 16 month old put the puzzle piece in the right place for the first time ever, or see a proud 2 year old put everything away in the right place because they've been watching, so carefully, to learn where it goes. Moms should want to go out with the girls for cocktails instead of staying home and kissing freshly bathed chubby feet and tucking everyone in for the night."
Maybe some women who are moms do want those things. I can honestly tell you I don't, not if it means losing time with my kids. Oh, I may dream out loud on occasion, or say that sounds nice. I may make jokes that give the impression I'm just like everyone else. But with the actual choice in front of me, all that, or being here for my kids, I choose my kids. Every time. (Now, if I can work it out that they are hanging out with an elusive daddy who is often out of town and he is getting time to just be there for them then sure, I'm up for a few hours of me time. But that's pretty rare around here, and they still don't go to sleep until I get home to give them kisses, even if they are all in bed. But even then, I will probably hesitate and mentally weigh time at home with husband I miss and kids I love with against whatever it is I'm thinking of doing.)
I remember when the Boy was still a baby and my 2 best/oldest/practically sisters friends came for a visit. They wanted to take a night to get away, just the 3 of us for a while and I just couldn't wrap my head around it. "Sure we can go out. Let me just get the diaper bag and the car seat and the baby sling all packed up first and get him dressed", which is what I did, and he came along. It's caused a lot of awkward moments over the years this thing I feel, this choice I make. But I don't really know how to do it differently.
I know my friend who is having the birthday party will understand, because I know she gets that about me. She is very much the same.
I may come off as very weird to some of you, and that's ok. I'm not going to tell you how to be a mom. But maybe it will give some the courage to choose staying home with their kids when that is what they really want to do, even though others are urging them to just go away for the weekend. Because it's ok to choose to put your kids first, it really is. And I can't be the only one who feels this way. Am I?
I've been thinking about habits lately, and the power they have in our lives.
There's a woman I know who has suffered a lot in her life, and is not in an ideal place, for her, right now. She doesn't understand why her life is at the point it is and yet her default mode of existence is to see only the bad in her life, never the good. She's practiced finding the bad for such a long time now that she's very good at it. She doesn't know how to do anything else. She has researched, to find out just how bad her family history really is. She tells stories, of things that happened, and what she sees in them is all negative. It's like she is truly blind to the places where good entered in. She sees none of the blessings and only the trials.
Now, I dearly love her and I'm still figuring out how I could possibly explain this all to her, in a way that she would be able to receive. I know that the bad things that happened to her were truly bad, and that she did really suffer.
What she seems to be unaware of is the fact that she's not the only one. I want to sit her down and say, "We all suffer. We've all gone through things we would rather not have. The difference between you and the people around you is not that you have suffered more than they, it is that you choose so often to focus on your suffering that you've forgotten how to do anything else. They focus on the blessings they have, you focus instead on what you don't have. Stop believing the lie that you deserve better than what you have been dealt and refusing to be happy until your life looks like it was 'supposed to look' and realize that you are blessed, even now, even here, you are not alone, and you are blessed. Only then will you be free."
It's hard to figure out how to be heard by someone who is so well practiced at only taking the bad out of what you say though. I'm not sure it would work. I try to make sure that she knows I love her instead. That might get through eventually. I hope.
You see, memories don't go back into the mental filing cabinet unaltered. Every time we take them out, examine them, and retell the story we alter them slightly, color them over with filters of our own making. That's how counselors are able to help trauma patients, taking that memory out and examining it over and over again and changing the nuances of it enough that their memory of an event can be healed.
When you tell yourself the same awful story over and over and over again it makes it even stronger. You give it more power over your life with every telling.
Changing your habits and patterns of thought can change your life. Not because positive thinking is magic, but because the story you believe you live in affects everything you do, and how you do it.
It's not good enough to try and get rid of a damaging behavior, to stop doing something you ought not to do. You need a positive alternative.
That's where the practice of gratitude comes in. Gratitude isn't a feeling, it's a discipline. You choose to notice the praiseworthy things in your life. You choose to focus on those things and you force yourself to, once a day, or once every hour, find at least one, two, three things that are good to say thank-you for.
You choose to give thanks so your life doesn't become thankless. You choose to see the good so that you don't one day end up completely blind to it.
Every choice, every day, is strengthening something. You can choose to strengthen your ability to see what is bad, sad and frightening in your life, or you can choose to strengthen your ability to see what is good, to find what is joyful and praise worthy, and to find contentment where you are. Rather than waiting to enjoy life until it reaches some impossible standard that you hold over it, constantly comparing what you have, to what you don't have, you can have joy right now.
It really is your choice. What will you choose?
But I make headway. And I have lots of awful before shots.
I have a box full of clothes that don't fit right now that is going up in the closet shelf. (I have hopes of fitting into those ones yet you see.)
|before they went into the box|
I have a big laundry basket full of clothes I'm not keeping, and most importantly, I can shut all of the drawers in my dresser, even though they are small. I have more than 7 shirts though. It's more like 10-12 plus tank tops to wear under a lot of them.
I am liking not having as many choices. I know that anything I reach for in my drawer is going to fit and I'm going to like it. What a change that is from having a dresser full of things I only like sometimes or used to like and don't anymore, or really like but it doesn't fit right now.
I would show them to you but they really aren't anything special. Jeans, nicely cut t-shirts, tank tops, sweaters. But they all fit and I like them! And I have way less personal laundry to do.
My children, on the other hand.... We'll get there. It's coming, trust me.
I'm still working on that business wardrobe. I am totally gonna need your help with that part. I should get a full length mirror so I can take pictures of myself to show you the clothes because asking my kids to take a shot for me isn't working out so well. The straight up at the underside of your chin angle is a particularly unflattering one.
I had 2 big bags of clothes taken away today. Aaron has a whole trash bag himself that he, with far less agonizing or intense feeling, pulled out of his side of the closet and got rid if in about 15 minutes total.
Nice hon, way to make this taking a whole year to de-clutter things seem downright silly. Thanks.
So I have got the winter wardrobe sorted, jut in time to put it away and pull out the summer clothes. I'll sort those in a couple of months.
But the next project is going to be the kids closets.
Because their closet and drawers are still full when their laundry basket looks like this. You tell me. How many clothes do children really need?