Lucky Seven

sevenfinal

I cleaned out the basement because we’re getting ready to remodel the space and finally put all of the kids’ endless piles of crappity-crap underground. I’m really excited about the renovation, and it’s not just because of the below-sea level relocation of said crappity-crap. It’s also because in addition to the extra family room and home office, I’m going to get a proper laundry room and storage area out of the makeover, which, let’s face it, is exactly the kind of improvement project a mom of ten plus years needs and wants.

While sorting through plastic bins filled with Christmas decorations, Halloween costumes, and birthday supplies, I stumbled upon a candle in the shape of the number seven. I bought it for Riley’s birthday party last year, but I ended up using classic, vertical candles instead. Riley’s going to be eight in a few months, which means I missed the chance to use the seven.

It gave me pause. I felt something.

It wasn’t that the seven was a big investment or that I forgot Riley’s 7th birthday (or Dylan’s a few years earlier). Hardly. Despite my pre-parenthood beliefs in small birthday celebrations (and limited screen time among other things), we’d done birthdays (and screen time among other things) big – huge! – year after year. Maybe it was that my kids’ seventh birthdays had come and gone.

I’m not nostalgic by nature. I tend to look ahead instead of back. Of course, I missed my squishy boys when they were little, but I didn’t yearn to go back in time to sleep deprivation, poop explosions, and mommy & me classes. Still, with the kids on the edge of adolescence and me on the brink of middle age, I wasn’t exactly pining for the future either.

I could’ve saved the candle for the kids’ 17th (gulp) birthdays or Gertie’s 7th birthday, Mike’s 47th birthday, my 47th birthday, our 17th wedding anniversary, or my parents’ 70th birthdays, which were mere days and weeks away, but I put it in the donation pile instead.

I didn’t want to accept the future any more than I wanted to acknowledge the past. I didn’t want to dream too big or too small. I wanted to have gratitude when the future brought me the things I hoped for and grace when it didn’t, but I wasn’t ready.

I didn’t want to plan anything beyond the snowy morning I spent in my suburban New Jersey basement in pajamas sorting through holiday paraphernalia, listening to my kids play with (and fight about) Legos, daydreaming about the domestic satisfaction of a front loading washing machine, and reflecting on a candle in the shape of the number seven.

What I felt was…lucky.

10 Comments

Filed under motherhood

How Big is Your Fear?

boxfeara

It was a big day. It was Dylan’s first day of early morning band practice at school, and it was my first day of work.

Did I mention I got a job? After a brief twenty-year hiatus, I’m putting my M.F.A. in Modern Dance and Choreography to good use as a part-time creative movement and beginning ballet teacher at my local YMCA. I’ve kept a low profile about it because I’m so freaking excited and happy to have the opportunity to do what I love (and get paid!), and I don’t want anything to jinx it.

“My stomach hurts.” Dylan’s first words upon waking up were ominous, but they didn’t scare me. When you have a kid with anxiety, unexplained stomachaches are a common occurrence. I know because I get them, too.

My gut told me he was worried about the band. Truth be told, I was a bit on edge, too. After eight years as a stay-at-home mom, it was scary to be accountable to anyone other than my kids. I had deadlines and responsibilities as a writer, but for the most part, I worked when, where, and how I wanted. Now, I’d be clocking in and out on a weekly basis.

I made breakfast and sent Dylan upstairs to get dressed. He slogged through all of it. He barely touched his food. “Are you afraid of going to band practice?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “A little bit.”

“I know you’re nervous, but I want you to go because you’re a talented drum player and I’m pretty sure you’re going to have a great time. If you’re tummy still hurts after the practice, go to the nurse and I’ll come get you, but I have a feeling you’ll feel much better once you get there and get settled. Trying new things is scary. I get it. I really do.”

He agreed but continued to trudge.

I went to my bedroom and into my closet to fetch a small, round, hand-painted wooden box that I used to hold hair pins. It was a gift from a choreographer back when I was in college. She gave a different box to each dancer backstage before our first performance. Mine was red with raised streaks and waves of black, white, and gray across the top. My name was painted on the inside of the lid.

It was the first time I performed at a venue that wasn’t on campus. Instead of the audience being filled with teachers, friends, and family, it was filled with teachers, friends, family, and complete strangers who paid actual money to see the show. It was exhilarating and terrifying all at once, and receiving that precious gift eased my nerves.

I told Dylan about the performance and the box and how scared I was to perform that night. Then I asked him, “How big is your fear?”

“Big,” he said.

“Show me with your hands.” He spread his hands wide like he held a beach ball in front of his chest.

“Put it in the box. Squish it so it will fit.” He looked at me like I was nuts, but he followed my directions.

Once his fear was safely in the box, I closed the lid. “It’s mine now. I’ll hold your fear so you can let it go. Go get your socks and shoes on.”

Still, he lumbered. We were going to be late if we didn’t get in the car in the next two minutes. I bent down to help him with his socks and that’s when he projectile vomited all over himself, the kitchen counter, the bar stools, the floor, and me. It even landed on the lenses of my glasses.

He was definitely nervous about band practice…and he also had the dreaded stomach bug. My big fear of vomit and even bigger fear of my kids getting sick on my first day of work came true. It was a good thing I unearthed that special little box. Hopefully there was enough room in it to hold my fears, too.

4 Comments

Filed under anxiety, fear, motherhood, Uncategorized

The Stay-at-Home Mom’s Must-Do List For 2017

post-it-notesb

Stay-at-home motherhood is relentless. It’s always moving. It’s never still. But it’s also static, unchanging, and monotonous. It’s “Groundhog Day” with occasional location changes.

I’m grateful for every minute I’ve spent with my kids over the last decade, but I’m wistful for the version of me that performed on stage, planned press conferences, helped launch a non-profit organization, and lobbied for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

I’m a person who likes to take risks, surprise people, and get s**t done, but I’m also the default parent who runs the dishwasher twice a day but never seems to empty the sink of dishes.

I take great pride in the little people I’m raising to be happy, healthy, and caring adults, but I sometimes feel the weight of an elephant on my chest. I love where I am, except when I don’t. In other words, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, but I sometimes want to run away…just so long as I’m back in time for the afternoon school pick-up.

If there’s a stay-at-home mom equivalent to a midlife crisis or the seven-year itch of marriage, I’m waist deep in it. It’s not necessarily a bad place. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m on the cusp of doing something great. I’m bursting at the seams to take risks, surprise people, and get s**t done again, which has resulted in me doing some unexpected, inspiring, and empowering things.

If you identify as a stay-at-home mom, default parent, or any person feeling stuck in the daily grind of parenthood (or life), I highly recommend you tackle these must dos in 2017. They’re not resolutions. They’re simple and bold actions that will remind you of your value, power, freedom, and potential.

Update your resume. I know you think there’s a huge gap since you last held a “real” job. You’re wrong. Did you plan a successful silent auction or bingo night at your kid’s school? Did you create a meme about poop that was shared on social media a quarter of a million times? Did you learn how to code to connect with your kid? Are you a leader for your daughter’s Girl Scouts troop or a coach for your kid’s Lego League or soccer team? Did you collect a billion Box Tops for Education? Your resume is ripe with relevant skills and qualifications, professional development, and community involvement, and discovering that the rift isn’t as wide as you imagined is an instant confidence and happiness booster.

Declare bankruptcy. The electronic kind. You know that nagging sensation you sometimes often always feel that something is preventing you from achieving your dreams? It’s your inbox. Get rid of it. Sort through as many recent emails as you can. Deal with or save what’s important and then screw the rest of the seven (or seventy) thousand of them. Choose “select all” and “delete” and I promise you’ll feel like anything is possible.

Time travel. I sucked at making baby books and I’m a firm believer that less is more, but I did save a few babyhood relics, namely my favorite board books. They have bite marks in the corners and some of the pages are warped from milk stains, but they’re intact.  Recently, I read I Love You, Stinky Face to my seven- and 10-year old boys. They thought I was bonkers, but a sweet look of peace and relaxation emerged on their faces after a few pages and I knew their hearts recognized the words and the sound of my voice as I read, “Mama, what if I were a big scary ape? Would you still love me then?” They remembered – we remembered – and I was reassured that this journey is worth the anguish, chaos, and sleep deprivation. Read your favorite baby books to your big kids. You’ll be glad you did.

Pick A Hill To Die On. It’s hard to feel a sense of accomplishment when every load of laundry I fold and clogged toilet I clear is followed immediately by another one. Whoever said a messy house is a happy house didn’t have kids. There isn’t a single surface in my house that isn’t marred by my children. Until now. The coffee table may have succumbed to Lego/Stickbot Village and the dining room table will be swathed in Christmas clutter until, well, probably next Christmas, but the kitchen table is all mine. No one leaves the house or goes to sleep unless my kitchen table is cleared and wiped down. It’s glorious to wake up to her clean, smooth surface every morning, and, yes, it’s the battle I’ve chosen and the hill on which I will proudly die. Pick your hill and don’t look back.

The force is strong in you, Mamas. Take on 2017 like The Boss you are. Happy New Year!

10 Comments

Filed under advice, motherhood, New Year's resolutions, New Years, Stay-at-Home Mama, Uncategorized