Chris had a work conference in California this week—all week, seven days. Meaning it was just the kids and me…all week. I’ll be honest; at the start of the week I was in a bit of panic mode. I started making lists. I was teaching at both Rock Bridge and MU and had to present at a research symposium, James had two track practices, before school tutoring, an orthodontist appointment and a science fair on Saturday. The week started and I proverbially held my breath.
Through Wednesday, the kids and I leaned on each other. At night James made my coffee for the next morning. And at 5:15AM each morning when I sleep stumbled into the kitchen to already brewed coffee it made my heart melt.
We were doing okay. But every night I was exhausted. Crazy tired. And the first three nights it thunder stormed which terrified my golden retriever who jumped into bed with me, hid under the covers and velcroed herself to me all night.
True to my character, I had efficiency plans in place to make this work. My plans afforded us ten minute windows here and there between picking up one kid and dropping the second at another activity. Of course ten minutes windows don’t work in the fields of education or parenting. Although I allowed an hour after school to help my students with their homework and questions, students still had questions after 4:00PM, James’ bottle rocket wasn’t finished by our pre-planned bedtime, and I couldn’t take the jogging stroller out in the rain.
Then on Thursday, I got a call from Lilah’s school. She was sick. We are blessed with very healthy children, so such calls are unusual. I left work to pick her up, missing two meetings after school. I scooped her into my arms and asked her what she needed. “Momma cuddles.” She said, nuzzling my neck.
So we went home and cuddled. She fell asleep holding my hand. All afternoon and evening she was sick. I had to do emergency laundry because went through all her pajamas and clean sheets. I was worried. She couldn’t keep anything down. She told me her head hurt and all she wanted was to cuddle. She clung to me, looked up at me through sleepy eyes as I pulled the quilt around her shoulders and rubbed her back until she fell back to sleep.
The next morning I figured out how to use the new sub system and called in to stay home with my daughter. After a long night of cuddling, cleaning her up and changing her pajamas yet again, she woke up with some sunshine in her cheeks. I took her in to the doctor. She swung her legs off the table and told the doctor she felt “Much better. Thank you, Doctor.” (Yes, really.) It turns out it was just a nasty virus. By the time I took her in, it had already passed. Thank goodness.
We drove home together singing. And on that drive my perspective on the week changed. Yes, I missed a couple meetings. No, I didn’t get my paper turned in before the weekend. Yes, I responded to emails at night rather than right as they came in. No, my efficiency plan didn’t work and yes, it was kind of silly to begin with. Listening to my daughter sing her mash ups of “row row row your boat” and “ABC” reminded me to focus not on the time I’d lost, but on the time we made:
Time to nap together. To fall asleep holding hands.
Time to walk around the garden and watch things bloom.
Time to perfect that bottle rocket, which did fly, and earned fourth at the science fair.
Time for breakfast together.
Time to read an extra book at bedtime and six extra books after work.
Time to shoot hoops.
Time to smell the flowers.
Time to drive over to my parents’ house and hang out.
Time for my daughter to style my hair.
Time to invent monkey dancing.
Time to explore.
Time for a glass of wine with my sister.
Time for longer conversations with my son over milkshakes.
Time to run.
Time for another walk through the park.
I did not solve any of the eternal questions of balancing family, and work, and school. It’s probably not a coincidence that my lesson in perspective came while I was away from work on a sick day with my daughter. And I was lucky to have the help of my parents and sister to drive the kids around. Instead, I write this to highlight a lesson my almost two year-old reminded me of: the importance of shifting our focus away from quantity and back to quality. As I take stock of our week, I won’t remember the emails I didn’t send, but the conversations I had with young people (I have amazing students). I won’t remember the laundry I didn’t get put away, but all those sweet moments I had with my own kids (I have amazing kids).
I’m still learning. You only get so much time each day and so you want to fill that time with the things that matter, things like: cheerio dates, bottle rockets, and family dance parties in the living room.
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