@$$hole Bedtime Parent Award

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Dim the lights. Cue the obnoxious music. Hurry! Grab the TV show host guy with a long, skinny microphone, a cheap suit, totally annoying voice, but kind of good man hair. And a knock on the front door. And….3….2….1….

“We’re live from the suburbs of Overland Park, Kansas to announce that tonight’s “Asshole Bedtime Parent Award” goes to….(drum roll)…..Amelia Ryan. You had some pretty fun and memorable moments with your children throughout the day, right? Right? But, as you approached the bedtime hour, with the brushing of the teeth, and you trying to fold a basket of laundry as they played in it(cue generic crowd laugh track…ha! Ha! Ha!)and all the “nobody’s listening to you” shenanigans, you started to crack. Didn’t you? I mean really crumble. And you just completely broke down in true “Asshole Bedtime Parent” fashion. You lost your patience over some missing library books. Because it’s been a few weeks of Christmas break and they’re due back tomorrow. (Drum roll)Your fuse was short. You took your tiredness out on your poor child who most likely inherited the “lose stuff” gene from YOU. That’s right. You.

You sent your kids to bed. With no reading of books. With no hugs. With no “I love you’s.” You’re a real asshole. And you know it. Congratulations. Sort of.

So, your reward for winning this most non-coveted award is that you get to feel like a complete asshole. For the rest of the quiet night. While your sweet and innocent young children sleep, you get to marinate in the bitter juices of guilt, impatience and your rude tone of voice. Wait, wait. Don’t forget the irrational last things you said right before bed. To your precious children.

You still do have the option of sneaking into their bedrooms to hug them and tell them that you love them and that you’re sorry but, unfortunately, they will most likely not hear you. Because they were tired too. They’re sleeping. So you will need to somewhat relive this feeling in the morning and apologize and hug them before you send them off to school for the day. Another form of punishment, their absence. A daytime marinade of sorts. For you.

BUT, you should be good and ready to NOT be an asshole when they get home from school. Thank goodness that they’re so damn forgiving, and that their enormous little hearts love you so incredibly much. And thankfully, you recognize that you were an asshole. You practically answered the door before I even knocked. But hey, you know what? There’s tomorrow after school and tomorrow night too. You will do better tomorrow, right?

Good night. And oh yeah, you better get to looking for those library books. Remember.”

Finding My Laugh

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I prayed a short prayer on my drive into work today.

“Please. Let nobody die today.”

I knew it wasn’t a good sign that I was already crying. On my way in. Sun shining, morning crying as opposed to dark sky, moon glowing crying. On my drive home. Ackk. I had already put my eye make-up on. It’s too early. I haven’t started my shift. I need to walk into work strong, ready, happy. Not fragile and sad.

I am supposed to arrive secretly clad in some form of protective armor hidden beneath my clothes. The kind of armor that is hard to get on. It’s tight, it grips my chest. I should feel it somehow and know it’s there even if nobody else does. Right up close to my heart. Always ready, or waiting. On guard, to help protect and defend me from the unpredictable and seemingly inescapable sadness that may seep in.

I keep driving. Hoping that maybe a happy song will come on my favorite radio station. Surely that will help. They usually seem to know when I’m in my car driving to or home from work.

Maybe if I could give a dollar and a Quiktrip gift card to the homeless man that stands and sings off of my exit on Hiway 71, that may be a good sign. A sign that it will be a day where there’s more smiling. And less dying.

Yesterday, I sat in a room playing with a child who laughed easily. Literally, on the ground, genuinely laughing at the silliest things. Like me popping bubbles with a plastic frying pan. He said, “I like laughing.” And I replied, “Me too.” He had no idea how tightly I would hold onto his innocent and spontaneous words.

Spoken freely, out loud.

Later, he didn’t want to go back with his parent because he wanted to hang out and walk around the halls with me. He told his mom, “I want to go back to that room with her. Because we both like laughing.” I wish I could have hung out with him and his sweet giggling self all day long.

But I couldn’t.

The day got hard. Really hard.

And I lost my laugh.

I kept reminding myself throughout my shift, in my head, “I like laughing.” Remember. If a little boy notices, it must be true. Because I do.

Hard. Belly hurting. Silly, big teeth, open-mouthed loud, almost obnoxious laughing. Near snorting, breath catching. That kind of laughing. It feels good. So good. It feels like the world still has a lot of happy left in it.

That boy reminded me that I’ve got to step outside from underneath the dark cloud of sadness some days. I’ve got to make a conscious effort. To find the light. I can’t let the small sliver of gloom consume me. Even though it’s impossibly hard sometimes.

I like laughing. I really love laughing. I told myself this. Over and over again. All day long.

But somehow I still managed to be in my car crying on the way home. Again. Sadness can be sneaky, yet strong and overpowering at times. Overwhelming. And tricky too. You can’t suppress it for too long or it will explode or change you. It will affect how you treat those who matter the most. It might make you forgetful or short-fused. Or unmotivated to get out of bed.

I laugh when something is funny. Even sometimes, when it may not be appropriate. Nervous coping mechanism. In church or meetings or all-too-serious of not-so-serious times. And I think I function best when I give myself the freedom to cry when something is sad. I have to find the right time and the right place. And just cry. Let. It. ALL. Out. It’s damn near impossible to hold back a dam of tears for long. I tell kids all the time, “it’s okay to cry.” I believe it. And it’s okay for adults to cry, too.

I didn’t need to cry today. And that made me so happy. So happy actually that I almost cried. The happy tear kind of crying. The grateful, humbled, overwhelmed smiling kind of short-lived crying. I got to leave work talking with a coworker about how I couldn’t remember where I parked. I got to notice gorgeous Christmas lights. I even noticed Pope Francis was trying to give me a high five from the catholic radio billboard. Or it may have been knuckles. I left work on time after talking and laughing with some of my favorite green zone girls. I feel honored, privileged and just giddy to leave work happy.

I love that place tonight. I really do. Somehow.

I drove up our driveway and saw our sweet little tree barely strong enough to hold its brightly colored lights. And I just could have cried. Again. But I didn’t need to. Not tonight. That tree looked so little, yet so beautiful and happy.

I will always remember that boy saying, “we both like laughing.” He reminds me of a tiny brightly lit tree that can barely hold the weight of the lights, yet somehow unknowingly offers perfectly timed hope and joy.

I like laughing. I really do.

Napping Boy

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I hear you breathe. Deeply. In. And out. You told me you didn’t need to take a nap, you silly boy. I saw your head bobbing and your eyelids getting too heavy for you to hold open. Your fingers held onto the tiny toy in your hand. I made eye contact with you through my rear view mirror. Holidays can be exhausting. For kids and grown-ups alike. I carried you into the house. I may regret the decision to let you late-afternoon/early evening nap later on tonight.

But in this moment, I’m happy for your stillness. I’m grateful for your inability to defeat the nap monster. I’m perfectly peaceful resting with my eyes open. Right next to you. In moments like these, I’m overcome with love for you, my beautiful growing boy. No longer a baby. You’ve barely tiptoed past the toddler years. My preschool boy. Yet, still innocent and little enough that you fell asleep gently gripping the toy you played with right before your eyelids succumbed to the pillow.

You play hard. It’s nonstop. Going. Doing. Running. Hiding. Wrestling. Pretending. Building. Arguing. Crying. Giggling. You have the greatest dimples when you smile. And you ask a million questions a day. You want to know why residents at your great Grandma’s like to say “hi” to you or touch your hair. You want to know why elephants have such big ears. You even ask hard questions about God and Jesus that I don’t know the answers to. Like why did God make rats. You’re curious. And smart. And alive. So alive.

I’m constantly amused, perplexed and grateful for the thoughts that readily exit out of your tiny mouth. I miss your sweet voice when you sleep. I miss you saying things like, “when my eyes get hot, they cry.”

I love you when you’re sleeping. Because I can stop and think on all of the beautiful reasons why I love you So incredibly much when you’re awake. It’s easy to forget sometimes or get short-fused and distracted by the busy monster and your endless energy. But it’s really what I miss the most when you’re gone or I’m gone or while you dream.

Wake up soon, my long eyelashed, perfectly beautiful sleeping boy. There’s a toy in your hand, ready to be played with the moment you awaken. And there’s a mama, a daddy and two brothers that have missed you. While you were napping.