I was at the doctors a few weeks ago, discussing a headache that just wouldn't go away. After doing an assessment and determining that I wasn't going to keel over and die on the spot, the doctor asked me if I was stressed out.
I have 3 kids, a full time job, a not-so-simple co-parenting situation, football and baseball, speech sessions, forever waking toddlers in the middle of the night, and a basket of laundry that is like some magically filling pit of despair.
Na, I'm not stressed.
Despite the slight sarcasm that I couldn't cover up in my answer, the doctor went on like she didn't notice.
Do you meditate?
Well, doc, I run.
She looked at me. I looked at her.
She half smiled, as if I had told a joke.
No, I mean do you meditate... like do yoga to help relieve stress? Running isn't meditation.
I’ve been a runner for a long time. It started with my mom telling my sister and I, as elementary school kids, to run laps around the house in an attempt to cure our nighttime restless legs. I started running middle school track in seventh grade, varsity cross country and track as a freshman in high school, and then on to Division I at one of the colleges that recruited me. I’ve been privy to some crazy-hard training programs and insanely tough workouts. There is nothing easy about running.
But that doesn't mean it always falls short of meditation.
Back in my prime training days, there were workouts so tough that it wasn't possible to even think about anything other than the pain. The burn in your legs, the gasp of your breath. It took every corner of your thoughts to keep putting one leg in front of the other. And while I can easily say that back then I didn't have nearly as much stress as I do now, there is something to say about an action that forces you to offer up every little part of your mind.
The day my parents dropped me off at college, I laced up my shoes the minute they left. It was either that or allow myself to be overtaken by the fear that comes with knowing life had completely changed. By the time I stepped back into my dorm room, sweaty and out-of-breath, I was ready for the challenge.
I worked through my divorce with my feet pounding on the sidewalk. I mourned the death of my grandparents while sweating out tears. I've mapped out future conversations with a million different people to the white noise of my feet hitting the pavement.
I’ve questioned how much I’m screwing up as a parent and reassured myself that maybe I’m not doing that bad all over the course of some miles.
And then there are those runs that just happen. When your mind is blank and your body syncs with the road. The feel of a cool day with the smell of leaves in the air. The feel of your muscles working together, reminding you how very alive your body is. The miles pass by, erasing worries and concerns with each one. You suddenly reach the end and realize that you had not had a thought in miles.
And although your legs may be heavy, you feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders.
I don't run competitively anymore. I do 5k's because I love that my 8-year-old will do them with me. I look for fun races that involve costumes or glow sticks or powdered paint blasted at your face. I register for them, not thinking twice about what our splits will be.
And when my son glances over at me with a grin on his face and takes off in a sprint for the last 100 yards, I laugh and chase after him; wondering why it's so damn hard for my legs to move that fast.
Yet after all these years... after a million injuries, after 3 babies and hernia surgery, after many pairs of orthotics and shoes, knees that sometimes hurt and sciatica pain that often flairs up... I'm still meditating.
Just not in the form my doctor expected.
And a hell of a lot slower.
It tends to come in all shapes and sizes.
That frozen peanut butter and jelly that gets thrown in the lunch box instead of a beautifully made sandwich. Choosing to go to the gym for an hour after work instead of heading straight home. Turning on the TV so that you actually have two minutes to do something, literally anything, without tripping over little bodies as they follow you around, constantly chattering about God knows what.
This week, it came in the shape of an invitation to join my son's class on Friday for American Education Week.
Having just taken off to go with him on a field trip and already planning on taking off to see him play in a flag football turkey bowl with his aftercare program next week, I knew there was no way I was going to be able to swing it. Not to mention an IEP meeting scheduled for the same time, a due date for progress notes and a week of days that had me swearing it was a full moon. Oh, and my need to actually keep my job... there was just no way.
The week blew by with work, school, daycare, meals, baths, grocery shopping that never happened over the weekend, laundry that looked like it never happened over the weekend, stubborn toddlers, whiny three year olds, and never ending games of football in my living room that always, always end in someone getting hurt.
Friday morning comes, I sit down at my desk after the rat race of the morning and I suddenly realize that I had not once talked to my son about not being able to make it.
Cue the mom guilt.
I immediately pictured him sitting in class, wondering why I wasn't there. I had an image of all the other kids in his class with their parents there and the lonely silhouette of my baby sitting at his little desk, the only one without a parent.
As much as I forgot to tell him I wouldn’t be able to be there, I also didn’t tell him I would be there- so of course he wouldn’t be expecting me. And there was likely many other parents who were in the exact same boat as me and couldn’t take off work in the middle of the day, the Friday before Thanksgiving week.
Yet despite my sensible side screaming these things to me, that damn Mom guilt took over. I spent the day with an unsettled worry in the back of my mind.
With my son being at his dads for the weekend, I immediately picked up my phone and called him when I left work. His chipper voice answered the phone with “hi Mom” and immediately launched into a story about a football move he created while practicing for the turkey bowl. When he paused for a second, I cautiously asked about the American Education Week event and apologized for not being able to make it.
It’s okay, Mom. But that football move was a good one, right?
And just like that, the guilt went away.
Because reality is, us moms do more than what is humanly possible on a daily basis. We take care of a million needs that are not our own from the second we wake to the minute the last little eyes close. We multi-task by making food with babies on our hips, doing laundry while playing baby dolls and packing lunches while helping with homework. We kiss boo boos, give baths, make snacks and nurse babies while doing all of the above. We wake sleepy, grumpy kids who mysteriously can’t sleep past 5am on weekends, wrestle them into clothes and deliver them to various locations, often at the crack of dawn.
We care so much that we want to be at everything. So much that we’ve looked up “cloning” on Google and when that didn’t sound promising, we’ve manipulated schedules and lost sleep and eaten on the run, just to try to make it all work. We care so much that we have visions of our baby crying in class at American Education Week because his mama wasn’t there.
When really, it was no big deal. Now that newly discovered sweet football move... that was a big deal.
So take it easy on yourselves, mamas.
They know you love them, even if you couldn’t make it to American Education Week.
See this peaceful little thing? You want to know what was different about her last night than any of the 1,305 nights before last night?
If you rolled her over, you would see chubby little cheeks and long dark lashes resting on those cheeks…or more likely, a massive amount of dark, knotted hair obscuring your view of any of this because her Mama forgot to tie it back before bed. You know what you wouldn’t see anymore? A pacifier.
Yup, she's 3 1/2 and yup she still had a pacifier… until last night.
See, sometimes you just gotta go with things the way your kids show you they need you to.
Like how I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that between my two boys, the likelihood of being woken every night by one of them or sometimes both of them, is quite high.
For the toddler, usually it's in the form of a high-pitched "MAAAMAA I UP," in the middle of the night. His squeaky voice will progressively get louder and higher pitched, until ultimately it wakes up the entire house. The only way it will stop is if I drag my ass out of bed, go into his room and assure him that it is, in fact, still the middle of the night and NOT time to get up.
For the big kid, it usually means being startled awake in the middle of a deep slumber to find him standing by my bed, staring at me. Just standing there. Staring at me. Like something out of a freaky-ass horror movie. After shitting myself, I'll say "what's wrong buddy," to which his usual response is, "I can't sleep." Can't sleep as in you've instead been standing there for an hour, just staring at me? I hate horror movies for good reason.
So when this little girl came into our lives and slept through the night from only a couple months old, it was like a dream that I never ever thought I'd be privy to. She's a play-hard, sleep-hard type of chick. Her feet and her mouth are always going a million miles a minute; but when she's out, she's out.
And although she is a drastically different sleeper than her brothers, she has shared the same love of a pacifier. As she’s gotten older, the “paci” became a “ninny,” (easier to say) and the ninny doubled to one in her mouth and a second smooshed up against her nose. Somehow, the feel of cold, hard plastic against her nostrils has provided a weird comfort to her.
And while she hasn’t used it during the day in a very long time, come bedtime it has been the first thing she's asked for. Over the past few months, we’ve increasingly talked with her about giving it up. And while the thought of being a “big kid” like her older brother has been enticing, it hasn’t been enough for her to want to take the plunge.
So we haven’t pushed it. We kept telling each other, she’ll do it when she’s ready, right? She started peeing on the potty only when she was ready, so why push the ninny?
And let’s be honest- what kind of crazy-ass parent would willingly push their only great sleeper over the edge into a possible sleepless meltdown?
Yesterday afternoon, when my kids saw their beloved Ms. T pull into her driveway and get out of her car, they banged on the glass storm door, jumping up and down in excitement like they hadn't seen her in years. Only a cold-hearted person would ignore that kind of cuteness, so of course Ms. T walked over to come in and say hello.
My girl, in her sweet little voice, promptly told Ms. T that “I big now, I not need my ninny.” When my husband suggested, as he’s done many times before, that if she really doesn’t need them, she should give them to Ms. T, she disappeared into her room for a second, marched back out with said ninnies in hand and gave them to Ms. T with NO HESITATION and a sly little smile on her face.
Come bed time, there was no fuss, no tears, no fighting. I could see a passing look of worry on her face, but I could also see that the desire to be a “big girl” was overpowering the worry. We watched on the monitor as she tossed and turned a few times, spurted off a few random and unintelligible things, sat up once and then laid back down and passed out. When she emerged from her room this morning, she had a huge smile on her face and immediately made sure to tell me that her little brother was a baby, but she was surely not one anymore. Cue this mama fighting back tears and swallowing the lump in my throat.
Now, of course, it’s only been one night. Who knows what we are in for tonight, as I’m sure that not having a nap and the random chance that it was daylight savings time ensured that she was especially sleepy at bedtime. There will likely still be some future asking for it; maybe even some tears and regret that she handed them off (for both of us).
But she did it and she did it in her own time.
...of course, the “prize” she was promised in return for giving up her ninnies probably helped some too. A big win for bribery over here.
Time to take a trip to Target!