Play typically comes naturally to me. I have always loved climbing trees, goofing off, and making up games. Spinning in circles. Rolling down hills. Riding my bike. As a kid, I played nonstop until I HAD to eat dinner or until it got dark. Then, I ran home as fast as I could past the scary enormous weeping willow into our backyard. I still play until it gets dark as an adult, as a mother. I’m still pretty horrible about dinner. I walk, run, chase, and hide with my children and oftentimes, other children, on the playground. Last spring, a sweet inquisitive classmate of my son’s asked me, “Why are you a grown up and you’re playing?” My response, “Because I like to and my kids asked me to be the dog monster.”
Children fascinate me, mesmerize me and inspire me with their perspectives, curiosity, their creativity, their resilience and determination to keep playing. Two weeks ago, my youngest son fractured his fibula and had to get a cast. My grown-up self proceeded to over think his future weeks and the difficulties he may face with starting school. He, on the other hand, walked right out of the office and has not complained once except when he had an itch underneath his cast. “Can I use a stick to itch my leg?” He has altered and adapted his play, yet he has not stopped. He has not asked for a pinata for his pity party and he has not begged for trouble and uncertainty from the future.
He lives perfectly and rather magically in the present moment. That’s one of the most beautiful things about kids. But yet, we, adults, often push, elbow and encourage them to change. Hurry up. Grow up. Too fast. We take away play opportunities because we think they need to be more serious, more adult-like. Meh. They have so long to be grown ups and such a very short time to be children.
Every day, children and grown-ups need to play. Life can be so serious and sad and downright bumpy, twisty and scary to navigate through sometimes. We desperately need our imaginations to help us find our way through this life. We need laughter, silliness, fun and learning through challenging ourselves. Come on, walk up the slide sometime. Remember when you would swing so high your belly would “get scared” as my son says?
After I took a few pictures of my boys, I put on the snorkel mask this afternoon. I pretended I was a shark. When I jumped into the water, a million bubbles raced to the top of the water. The water was clear and the sun’s rays burst through and danced on the bright blue bottom of the pool. I watched my boys’ long legs kick below the surface. I usually swim with my eyes closed. And I miss so much. Not today. I wore the equivalent of a bike helmet under water: goggles with a nose piece. I loved playing and watching my boys work together to save a water unicorn from me, a mom shark. They devised a plan while I went under water. They outsmart me. No surprise there. We played. We laughed. And we happily escaped to the glorious land of imagination.
Lately, my guts have been grumbling and achy. I’ve tried eating this or not eating that. Ugh. I’ve been annoyed, frustrated and uncertain. But today, I told my husband that I will not let my Crohn’s tell me how I should feel mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. I will treat myself kindly but I will still play. Because I need to. I will smile or make goofy faces at myself for 30 seconds in the mirror. I will tell myself that I’m doing really great today. And it won’t be a lie. I will play. In my house. Outside. In church. And everywhere else that I go because that’s what I do. I will blow bubbles in my van with my air conditioner on high. I will use angel hair pasta for light saber fights. And I will watch in awe as the hummingbirds whiz by.
I will try my best to live in the present moment. And strive to act more like a child. My children.
I have a difficult time preparing for temporary separations, like hospitalizations, between myself and my children. I typically have plenty of time to prepare: do laundry, help with schedules and school projects. I tend to stay busy so I don’t panic and drift away on the river of worries. I want to stay present with my boys. I want to savor good night rituals, hugs, and giggles. I want to gently trap the sounds of their voices echoing and competing with one another to love me to the most distant place and back, “I love you, Mom. To Saturn and back…..”
Oh, how my heart aches when I peek down on their precious sleeping faces one last time before I go. I watch their chests rise and fall. I am mesmerized yet, again, by their beautiful eyelashes. I kiss them on their soft cheeks. I draw a heart on their wrists. It feels close to impossible to say my temporary goodbyes. Yet, I know that I will be back home with them soon. Just a few days, I whisper this to myself. I hope with all the strength in my heart that I will be back home soon. Soon. Yes. Very soon.
When I’m away, my boys are taken care of ever so lovingly, patiently and gently by their father. Their grandparents. Their aunts. Their teachers. Their friends. My friends. But, still, I worry. Because I am their mother. And I know that no one can replace me. My presence. Our relationships. No one else loves them quite like I do.
I worked for nearly nine years in a pediatric emergency department. If you’ve ever had to witness one child being unexpectedly separated from their mother, father, or caregiver then you understand the agony, the pain, and the unfairness. Torture. I’ve held sobbing children until their exhausted bodies could cry no more. I’ve sat for hours in hospital rooms holding babies, blowing bubbles for toddlers, playing games with children and listening to teens because of some awful circumstance that required them to be separated from their family. I worked with some of the most enormous hearted, unconditionally loving, and self sacrificing people that would stay hours past their already-long shifts to fight for innocent children.
I know how resilient children can be. I have seen them struggle and overcome horrific, unfair, cruel and unimaginable situations. I just wish they didn’t have to be so damn resilient. Doesn’t every child deserve a chance to laugh and play and be a kid?
I wish the kids in the detention centers could play in creeks and run and laugh and feel safe and loved. Here. Like my children get to do. I wish they didn’t have to be introduced to overwhelming fears at such young ages. I wish I could be there to hold them since their mamas can’t.
But I am not their mother.
My heart breaks reading the stories. Seeing the photos. I have to catch my breath between sobs. My head aches thinking on all of the wounds. So much pain. Those grieving mothers who want desperately to hold their children. All of the precious scared babies, toddlers, children and teens. They couldn’t choose where they were born.
Neither could I.
I catch my breath. And I know my long distance sympathy is not enough. My prayers churn in my head and push the blood more quickly through my beating heart. I will not be paralyzed by the atrocity and the great big beast of an issue. I have to do something. Some thing. One thing.
Sign a petition.
They need us all. They need our help. We have to use our strength to fight for them. Like we would want other human beings to fight for us. We have to do our small part, whatever that may be, because this is not right. It’s so very wrong and we have to change this.
It’s a privilege to be born in a country where we don’t have to flee violence. It’s a damn privilege that we get to play in creeks and driveways and bake cookies and kiss our babies goodnight tonight.
How will you use your privilege to help those struggling to survive? Those dying not to give up, fighting against the pain and the hurt of this world. The hurt we often cause each other. Please tell me how you’re using your wounded heart in some small big way to help heal this broken world.
I need to hear it.
I think we all do.
What We Know: Family Separation And ‘Zero Tolerance’ At The Border – NPR
I may not recognize the constellations in tonight’s sky but I’ve seen the Little Dipper on your cheeks. As you tell me things like, “I really want a rhino to lick my face,” I trace an imaginary line back and forth between each freckle on your nose. I can’t help but soak in the beauty of your eyelashes, your freckles, your oversized grown-up teeth, a sweet new addition to your innocent six-and-a-half year old face. You may not remember these moments forever but I will hold onto them tight enough for the both of us.
I snapped a picture when you weren’t looking. While our brightly colored toenails dried. I’m so grateful and proud to be your mom. I will attempt the monkey bars, see saw, and superman swing with you on any beautiful spring day of the week. I love you a million, bazillion, beyond Pluto and back. I will dot to dot all the stars tonight and think of how grateful I am for your sun-kissed face. Your curious brain. Your welcoming, friendly, kind and inclusive heart. Your inquisitive and complimentary soul. Your strong monkey arms and your “supa fast” legs. Oh, and today, your perfectly mismatched pink, blue and purple toenails. I love every little beautiful thing that makes you special and unique and 100% pure therapeutic grade-Colby. I loved all of today. Every single drop.
Thank you for making me stronger. Thank you for helping me. Thank you for dropping pine cone bases for me so I wouldn’t touch the mulch. Thank you for waiting on me. Thank you for stopping and noticing so many gifts of new people, flowers, trees and the great outdoors. Thank you for loving the simple, wild and free things in life. Thank you for going to school in the morning and unknowingly becoming one of my wisest teachers in the afternoon.
I laid my head down on the rug of my bathroom floor. Only because I had just washed it. It had not gotten all smushed down from repeated post-shower use. Yet. It was still fluffy and clean. And that worked out well because I was exhausted. Sad. Confused. Emotional. Beyond repair. Boggled thoughts. Unable to articulate what exact thought or event had triggered my current “distant” and sensitive state.
“What’s wrong with me?” I thought.
I emotionally scanned myself. It’s always difficult to determine what may be the exact reason for a sudden onset of the blues. Parenting exhaustion. Disease fatigue. A wave of grief. The grumps. A negative outlook. A sour face to go along with a curdled disposition.
My husband knows me well. It’s as if he immediately saw my thoughts escape somewhere else, away from the rowdy dinner table. I couldn’t tell another boy to sit down and eat. So I sat there apathetically. I knew that a glass of milk would soon surely spill but I was prepared to not react. My husband asked what was wrong.
“It’s complicated,” is what I thought.
So, I said nothing. One of my boys waved his hand across my eyes because I stared out the window. Apparently, I had not blinked or changed my facial expression in long enough for him to notice.
Occasionally, I get a bit overwhelmed. Maybe we all do. By life, in general. Or every little and big thing from the laundry to a busy next week to aching kidneys. And all the changes. The big adjustments. And the little ones, too. The future. The unknowns.
I can overthink. Overfeel. I can beat myself up but that doesn’t ever help. There are so many days. Juggling life’s moments scattered with a lot of relationships can be tricky, especially if you’re not so graceful like me. Balls drop. I sometimes bend over to pick them up quickly. Quick! Nobody saw that! Other times, I can’t get to them before my little people hand them to me. Then nights like tonight, I just plop myself down on the ground. I take a break from all of the juggling because I’m tired. And sad. It feels like one of them nailed me smack dab on my face, right on that sensitive part of my nose. Ouch.
Shhh. Be very quiet.
There is a hidden great grandma introvert rocking away inside of me. There are times when my extroverted self needs a break. I need to retreat to a serene, distraction-free place. All by myself. It doesn’t matter the place. A bathroom floor or a secluded overly full closet will do. I just want to curl up like a baby or a tired long-legged child. I don’t want to answer any questions. I don’t want to be touched. I don’t want to worry about the present or the future. I need to release a swarm of tears. Alone. I don’t want anyone to worry about me because I will be okay. I really will.
I will get up off of the clean rug. I will say goodnight to my big boys and cuddle my six and a half year old baby boy. I will wake up to a new day full of life, hope and endless possibilities. I know that the same three energetic boys who hugged me as tight as they possibly could when they said “goodnight” will wake me, tickle me, wrestle me and laugh me out of bed when the sun rises again.
Tonight, I told myself that it’s okay to be sad, grieving the past and overwhelmed at the future from time to time. Here you go self, sadness permission granted. I think I do a pretty damn good job of being genuinely happy and grateful most of the days. Some moments or days are just harder for whatever reason. However big or small.
I’m not giving up, just taking a moment to recover. I try my hardest to cherish most of the days, even the challenging ones. I typically push myself to find the good. The sparks of light or the gigantic sunset in front of my face. I try to recognize and embrace the fleeting moments.
But there are some moments that come at me like a fall off the monkey bars. They knock the breath out of me. They arrive quickly and unexpectedly. Wind escapes and it’s just so hard to breathe. I try not to panic, or overreact, so I can just get through them. Wait. Don’t try to breathe yet. Oh, dear Lord, see me, hear me and help me. All the time but especially during these hard overwhelming moments. And help others like me.
Breathe in, and breathe out.
There. I did it.
I step out of the bathroom and think,
“Goodnight, tonight. Welcome, tomorrow. It will be so nice to see you.”
“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” We used to say this during arguments as kids. Blah, blah, blah. It’s a total lie and/or I’ve grown a much thinner, more sensitive skin as I age because words will hurt. Especially when they tumble out of the mouths of those I love the most and bend over backwards for all day. Every day.
My six year has not felt well or slept well this week. He has a stinky fever and cough virus. I know this. I’ve dosed his Motrin and kept a running med time log on a post-it note. Nurse Fancy, I know. I’ve laid next to him in the middle of many nights to help prop up his head to alleviate his 2 am coughing fits. I’ve seen him shiver and watched him eat only a bite of his food and be “done.” Yet, still, in the midst of him whining or unintentionally ordering me around or not allowing his brothers to look in his general direction or touch him, I begin to get tired and then I drop my patience. Big surprise, it’s hard to find it on my dirty floor. There’s a fine line between kid-sick grouchiness and rudeness and downright meanness.
Today, I talked to my son after one of his spells where the virus took over, transforming him into a not nice boy. He hurt me with his words. Badly. I told him that he didn’t get to say mean things to me. I told him that he used his words like a weapon. They hurt my tired and sensitive heart. I then showed him a burn on my arm(the other night I flung the chicken into the hot, oil coated pan a bit too hard) I talked to him about how ouchies on your skin can heal and often go away but ouchies from someone’s words can take a longer time to heal. Heart wounds. Later on, he asked, “will you ever forget what I said?” And he also asked me if “your heart actually breaks when someone says something mean.”
I’m not happy that he’s been sick and tired. Or that I get to be one of the targets for his overly exhausted behaviors, but I will gladly accept the opportunity for teaching my typically kind-hearted boy about the misuse and the power of his words.
I knew that grease burn would come in handy.
I forgave him. As I always will a million times. I will probably soon forget his frustrated words like I hope, on my grouchy days, he forgets mine too. However, I hope I will not ever forget the restorative magic of him pointing to the moon tonight and quickly saying, “I love you to the moon and back!” There’s something undeniably peaceful and beautiful and gratifying about making it to the gorgeous time of day when the sun is slipping down and the moon has risen high.
Whew. If only I could give jump up and give the moon a hug..because I did it! Another gloriously long day in the books.
A twisting, turning,
super high and then
kind of day. All in a mother’s day.