Last weekend we road-tripped it to Brad’s alma mater to see my school play his school in football. We got trounced (as expected), but it was a wonderful excuse for a fun-filled family weekend. Greta and Maren were bombarded from both sides of relatives: “Go Miami!” and “Go Wisconsin!”. Our family does a really exceptional job of being close despite the miles between us. We are so well-loved.
Given that it was my rough post-chemo weekend, I was delicately balancing energy and fun for the weekend. In the moment, it’s not hard: when I appear to be having fun, I am having fun. It’s more that I take inventory in a pause or a quiet moment to remind myself to step back and check my pace. I was in bed before Maren and Greta on Sunday night when we got home, and I’m still regrouping on quiet day number two. Regrouping means I’m being selfish and doing what brings me joy, and I’ve learned plenty of strategies to breed goodness. Brad is at work, Maren is off to school, Greta spent yesterday with our beloved sitter Phenom, and today she’s play-dating with a good friend.
This past summer I used as little childcare as possible and did my best to be super-present for my kids. It was a great summer: mission accomplished. As I took inventory as school started, however, I realized I need more time to be Jen so I can continue with my mission: Do Today Well. Maren is rocking third grade: she loves her teacher and her experience so far is fantastic. Sending Greta to preschool, playdates and to the sitter is perfectly wonderful: she benefits greatly from these experiences.
In the weak moments of not-wanting-to-miss-a-thing of their precious childhoods, I am reluctant to send them off to school, to friends, to anywhere other than by my side. As other mothers take the first-day-of-school photos and wipe the tears of time gone by, I do too. I love my children so much it hurts. I too ache for their squashy baby limbs and the reset button of nap time every day, of long days and short years.
As the back-to-school kerfuffle happens though, I have another emotion–this one one less common. I have a sense of relief of another milestone reached, a moment measured, a box on the checklist of life ticked off. I simultaneously ache for their baby days and for them to be done and grown and off and certain of who they are and what they are about. Other mothers–I think–wallow in the memory rather than will on the future. As I resolve with logic rather than succumb to emotion, I know I cannot actually will on the future. I must parent them today as 4-and-8-year-olds; I cannot parent them as tweens, teens and young adults “just in case”. The fragility of my prognosis anchors me to fiercely enjoy this moment. I’ve learned not to linger in the what-ifs of either the past or the future. The present is where my influence lies. That mission–thankfully–is measurable, doable, worthy and within my grasp.
Having time to myself is good for my soul. I become the best version of myself when I’ve rested, prayed, and centered in on who I am. Last night I calculated I did not have the capacity to run Maren’s volleyball practice, but I could pick up a few things from the store with Greta in tow. I’d had the day to myself, so I was in decent shape, but I’d also done a fair amount of restoring order to our home. I considered letting Greta “screen” her way through the grocery store, but instead I chose that — the grocery store and all it’s glamour — as my present moment. She wanted to stop and smell the roses — literally — so we bought some to give away. She wanted donuts for breakfast, but we compromised with a box of muffin mix. She was (mostly) well-behaved, (sort of) patient, and did not whine (very much). It was the grocery store, after all, and she’s four.
My investment yesterday was rewarded though because she climbed into my bed this morning, snuggled into me, and said, “Mom! Can we make those cupcakes we bought yesterday?”
“Cupcakes? We didn’t get cupcakes Greta.”
She launches into her sell-it mode where she can talk anyone into anything and won’t believe for a minute that she won’t achieve whatever mission she has in mind: “Well Mom, you can definitely put the muffin, and then frosting, and then sprinkles.” She finished gesturing about the layers, and crosses her arms in front of her, “Yep. That works Mom. Cupcakes.” She sits there in my bed, nodding and smirking at me.
I get out of bed and agree, “Okay Greta, lets go make the muffins. But no frosting kiddo–just the muffins.”
“Well Mom,” she says in a semi-huff, but still cheerful because she loves muffins, “Lets call them muffcakes then, ‘kay?”
“Okay G. Sounds like a plan. Muffcakes it is.”
And herein this story lies the truth about how small moments and investments pay out such big rewards. Holding myself back, fueling my own tank, inhaling gifts and treasures of my own allow me to create good things. We had thirty super-present moments yesterday, and thirty more this morning. She’s thrilled. I’m thrilled. As I rally alone today, I know that my girl had a muffcake moment with her mama, her tank is full, and she is delightful. The present-ness is the reward. I’m investing in moments, balancing it all the best I can, forgiving my failures, and I’m Doing Today Well.
Muffcakes for all!
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. — Philippians 4:9,12-13
**Locals: Lakota West’s Volley For the Cure is this Thursday night (September 17) at Lakota West High School. This event is masterminded by my high school volleyball coach-turned-friend, supported by countless generous volunteers, raises money for breast cancer, and is a very family-friendly event. It’s a great opportunity to see some great volleyball and have a fun easy night-out with food from local vendors. There will also be games with prizes, split the pot, silent auctions, raffles, mystery boxes, and give-aways. If you’re willing, please come (bring the family) and spend/donate a little or a lot to support us. It’s is my favorite event to teach young children about charitable causes because it is hands-on and kid-friendly. Here is a link with more details: http://westfirebirds.com/2015/08/18/lakota-west-volley-for-the-cure-thursday-september-17th/ (Please let me know if you are coming!) Thank you for your consideration!