He is screaming and I am coloring. I’m not sure what else to do. It’s not nap time. He has had a snack. He isn’t too hot or too cold. He is well medicated and surrounded by favorite toys.
But he is still screaming. And so I am coloring. I write the words in the fancy hand script the way I use to practice on the notes I passed to friends. The ends curly with dots highlighting the edges. I use all of the colors, evenly of course. Life is better in an even rainbow of color.
What a lovely sentiment. What empowering message. I want to think on this, take it in, soak it up. Words of affirmation presented artistically are often healing for me. But not today. He is still screaming. I can’t even enjoy the messages of Emerson. That frustrates me.
We make it to naptime. It’s quiet now. Let’s make a cobbler I say, because I’m frustrated and tired and negative and maybe I need some culinary healing. Or a sugar rush.
The recipe calls for 4.5 pounds of peaches. I try to balance them all on my tiny scale but even with my incredible secret skills in great engineering feats, I cannot seem to get them to rest on top of one another. So I take a large heavy bowl, I place it on top of my little scale, and with the touch of a button, I am back to zero. Like the bowl doesn’t exist. It holds it all together but it doesn’t take up space.
That’s it. It suddenly hit me, as many of my great life lessons seem to do in the midst of my every day.
I need to recalibrate my life, I thought. I need to zero out this day.
Seems like a jump from a simple math/cooking lesson. But maybe I need to zoom out to a larger picture of my day. It’s a solo parent day, which on a good day I look forward to, not because I like to be without my co-parent but because I sometimes appreciate the challenge, the chance to prove I can do it, and also the chance to watch my girly shows after hours. But day two of solo parenting starts to weigh heavy. Today there will be no break from the teething toddler and the child with a fever and a cold. I won’t bore you with the typical woes of our day, I’m sure you can fill in those blanks for me. Crying inconsolably. Sibling spats. Spilled food. General grossness. I don’t remember all the details. It’s not really the important part. What requires attention is just this was a day that challenged the inner rock star parent in me and led me to doubt my every move and thought.
I don’t like negativity and I especially despise it when it makes its way into the front of my brain. But negativity was making camp in my heart today and I needed something to stop it.
I need to recalibrate. This was my today. Today may be harder than yesterday. Tomorrow might be harder than today. But the crying and the neediness might be my new normal. Not forever. But for this time when my children are small and the days feel long. I don’t see it as giving in and giving up. I see it as accepting the now for today and not seeing it as the now for tomorrow. Some days I might have more in me. Some days I may be more rested. Some days I may hold more patience or greater emotional balance or clearer eyes. All the peaches of life will balance as they should. Some days the kids just might be happier. Because they are human much like myself. Small things with good days and bad days like every other living breathing being and this is a very important element in the community of them and me and us.
But the other days call for a different method. Zero out the scale. Recalibrate.
Recently I recalibrated 11,000 miles above sea level in a tiny humble cabin nestled between two mountains surrounded by the first people I ever truly loved, my family. There was no internet to fill my head with more things to do or not to do, to worry about or to learn from, to covet or to confess. Just the sun rising and setting each day. The fire to keep us warm and only the food we packed for the journey. In this simple abode, recalibration is part of the journey. You are brought back to zero as soon as you cross into these mountains and further from your day to day. (PS stay tuned for an epic recap of that trip.)
I felt lucky enough to have this retreat to escape to with my family each year. But you don’t need a cabin in the woods to set your scale back to zero.
Sometimes that looks like going for a run, a walk, a yoga class late at night, a pilates video early in the morning. Sometimes it means doing what you love in the midst of their chaos, like coloring while they build/destroy block towers (or cry) or listen to your favorite new artist while they pull every book off the shelf. Sometimes that means doing what they want to do for once, building the fort, reading that book for the fifth time today, wrestling on the floor. Sometimes that means doing what seems like the easy way out but just might be what we need today. Like an extra show, PBJ for dinner, leaving the messy kitchen for another day. Sometimes it means asking for help. Sometimes it means keeping to yourself.
And sometimes it just means holding them through their tears, and maybe through your own. Sometimes it means seeing this bad day/week/phase as just that.
Teething baby? Zero it out.
Fevers and fussiness? Zero it out.
He’s more challenging than she was? Zero it out.
Alone and weak today? Zero it out.
Zero out the scale. Recalibrate. This is today. Not yesterday. Not last week. Not 2 years ago when it was just me with her. This is our today, his and hers and mine. Ours.
Add another line to Emerson’s poem.
Because everyone goes to bed eventually, the sun always sets. And then it rises again. You can shine again tomorrow.