I think some of the best lessons in life come from our children. I was reminded of this yet again tonight by my five year old daughter Luca.
I had a bad weekend. I had a cold. I wasn’t so sick that I felt I could lay in bed all day with no guilt, but my head hurt and my body ached and I didn’t feel like doing anything. The kids were fighting a lot more than normal and when I would try to rest they would run in the room to tell about how naughty someone else was being so I never really got the sleeping kind of rest I was hoping for.
On Saturday evening I got the devastating news that my uncle had very unexpectedly passed away. He was only 65 years old and had just had a physical and had been told he was perfectly healthy. It turned out he had a heart defect that is undetectable with normal testing and he had a massive heart attack. The family was stunned and it still feels very surreal. I don’t feel like going into any detail, since happened so recently and I still feel like if I don’t talk about maybe it is a big awful mistake.
I have talked to my Mom off and on and I know how much pain she and everyone else is in. This is the first death we have had in the family that wasn’t somewhat expected. It has made living so far away very hard as I wanted to be there so badly for my Mom and others. I briefly looked online to see what a flight would cost and how open they were and got discouraged as I realized it probably wasn’t very realistic to go down for the funeral. Aside from the cost I didn’t know what I would do with my three little kids while Brett worked, and as a mother I worry about all the little things like “would Anna be okay in underwear all day if I am not there? (she is newly potty trained)” and “how would Luca get to and from school without me?” I kind of resigned myself to the fact that I would not be there. I didn’t sleep well at all the next two nights and my mood slowly became grouchier and more depressed. On Sunday I got by since Brett was here to referee the kids and let me rest and recover from my cold, but I woke up today with a black cloud over my head and not an ounce of “let’s play!” in me. I was snappy with the kids and got on them for things that were just the result of being 2, 4, and 5 and not of being the devils spawn. I wanted to be by myself so I encouraged them to play in their rooms or the family room or watch a movie while I let myself sink deeper into my deep dark hole. I felt guilty as I put Luca on the bus at 12:45pm and I was still in my sweat pants that I had slept in and Lincoln still had his pajamas on under his jacket and I realized that I had hardly had any “real” time with Luca before she left. I went home and fought Anna to go down for a nap, which she refused, so I confined her to the couch with the Disney Channel and a bag of fruit snacks. Three hours later when it was time to pick Luca up I was STILL in my sweat pants and Lincoln still had his pajama top under his jacket that had never been taken off when we got home. We were running late so I grabbed a blanket and threw it in the wagon and took the kids barefoot to catch the bus. (The bus driver saw us running down the road and kindly waited a minute to let Luca off)
Luca was a bundle of happy energy when she got off the bus. I couldn’t help but smile as she excitedly told me about a birthday invitation in her backpack and how she was only one of two kids in the class that got invited to this particular party. We started walking home when I stopped and thought about the dark neglected house and said, “Do you want to go for a walk before we go home?” All the kids yelled “YAHH!” so we turned around and started down the sidewalk. I truly looked like something the cat dragged in. I had a black fleece hat over my hair that I had barely brushed, no makeup, black sweat pants (that I had slept in the night before), an oversized University of Utah sweatshirt, short white athletic socks, and bright red slip on suede leather mules (which of these things is different than the other?), but I decided we needed to go for a walk. We ended up walking about two miles or so…and of course all three kids ended up in the wagon so I was huffing and puffing by the time we got home. The kids were chatty and excited the entire time and although my black cloud was slowly lifting, I was still quiet and mostly just listened to their chatter. When we got home and walked in the house Luca said, “Mmmmmm, it smells like Grandma’s house in here!” (I had pulled my head out enough to put beef stew in the crock-pot after lunch). It made me smile as I realized that beef stew does remind me of Mom and Dad’s house and it was a comforting smell to come home to.
The night continued to get a bit better. I sat and played through some Hymns on the piano and that always comforts me and lightens my spirit. I made sure to hold each of the kids on my lap and talk and bond with them at different times during the evening. We read together like usual before bed and the kids made me laugh with their funny comments about “King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub”.
When the kids were down (or SUPPOSED to be down…the night didn’t end perfectly with kids going right down like angels) Brett and I somehow started talking about the possibility of me flying down on standby. I had already looked up flights and knew they were quite full so I didn’t have much hope. After Brett spent some time looking around he confirmed what I already suspected that it would be very risky for me to go down without a solid ticket. I had already told myself I wasn’t going so I wasn’t any more upset about it than I had been. I told him it was probably better I didn’t go because I would miss the kids and they would think I had abandoned them and “WHO WOULD MAKE SURE THAT WE HAD A TEN DAY SUPPLY OF CHOCOLATE MILK IN THE FRIDGE IF I WAS GONE?!?!”….you know, the important stuff. After putting the girls back to bed for the 80th time I came back downstairs and Brett told me that he could get me a ticket with his Amex points. Apparently they have seats already reserved that don’t show up on the regular flights and there was a direct flight and it would only cost $10 (and 19,000 Amex points!). All the sudden I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go! I WANTED to go, but I would be leaving my house and my husband and my kids and my dog and my slipper socks (what? There’s not a ban on slipper socks on airplanes? Phew) for an entire FOUR DAYS. I realized how ridiculous I was being and told Brett to go ahead and book the flight. Of course, he already had (what a man!) and I was scheduled to leave my family for the weekend. I felt an immediate sense of relief and a huge weight off my shoulders and the remaining part of the little black cloud that was still slightly drizzling on my head left.
I went upstairs to get a t-shirt to work out in (I didn’t have to get anything else…I was still in my sweat pants and my athletic socks and my hair was still in the same raggy ponytail) and ran into Luca who was coming out of the bathroom. She had tears in her eyes and she quietly said, “Are you going away on an airplane”. Apparently she can hear really well through the vent in her room (note to self…buy an extra pillow to cover vent in room) and had heard us talking about the flight plans. I took her back to bed and lay by her and Anna and explained what had happened and why I needed to go back and that I wouldn’t be very long. Of course Lincoln had been soundly asleep since I laid him on his pillow three hours prior to this. Brett slipped in while we were talking and said the magic words, “Chucky Cheese” and that made them smile. I told Luca how fun it would be to see them at the airport next Tuesday morning when they picked me up in their pajamas at 12:30 in the morning. Anna yelled, “And you will give us lots of kisses and lots of hugs?!?!”
So I got way off the subject of what I had initially planned on writing about, but the thing I was thinking about tonight was how dark my mood was the first part of the day and how really I felt like the world’s worst mother and still at the end of the night Luca just wanted to wrap her arms around me and hug me and cry a little and tell me how much she would miss me. She will be fine, but it is nice to know that I am loved and I will be missed. Also, Brett is gone 11–12 hours a day with his commute and work and today he came home to an ugly, smelly, gloomy wife, but he still hugged me and gave me a kiss all the same and didn’t comment about the outfit I was in that I also had been wearing as I slept in bed when he left early this morning. Then he spends over an hour and a half finding a way for me to go back to be with my family, even though it means a missed day of work for him and being a single Dad for the weekend so that I can go.
I also thought about the story that a teacher told me about in grade school about how our moods affect other people. The story went something like, “A dad came home after a bad day at work and snapped at his wife, who yelled at her son, who pinched his sister, who kicked the dog”. I had always thought of it in terms of not taking our bad moods out on other people. When Luca got off the bus with an excited smile on her face, even after a rough morning with a grouchy mom, I remembered that we can also share our good moods with others and she did that for me and started the change of what I thought was a day that I just wanted end. When she hugged me and kissed me tonight she showed me that we can forgive others for their bad moods instead of handing it right back to them with an extra serving like I find myself doing at times.