Sometimes I find myself full of advice. I have these sparks of wisdom, though it’s rare that I share them for fear of looking like a know-it-all. I SO don’t know it all. Occasionally, though, words fly out of my mouth before I’m able to hit the pause button and self-edit…and it’s a good thing.
The words flow and it seems as though I said just the thing that needed to be said.
This happened today.
I need to remember these moments.
As I’ve shared in recent posts, life has felt overwhelming lately – more so than usual. October seems to be that month for me — that time where as a mother I’m required to amp up everything and accomplish more when I already feel at capacity.
The pumpkins are out. People are posting their fall decor and wardrobe changes on every social media platform…and it does not make me feel inspired or excited.
It makes me tired.
I’m also feeling broke. We had some unplanned expenses pop up and I gotta hustle to bring in more money.
In other words, I feel rushed and frantic.
My kids are sensitive to this shift. They know when their parents feel the pressure. They might not be able to name it right off. They don’t necessarily know why our patience is shorter or why we seem less present — there physically but not really there in mind and spirit.
But they know. Kids are perceptive little creatures.
In our family, when Piers picks up on changes…he acts out. When things feel more frenetic at home or school (and they ALWAYS do in October), I can guarantee he will have some sort of freak out. And in his defense, everything feels crazy busy right now. He’s ten and there is a lot going on in terms of schoolwork and sports and clubs, and everything seems urgent.
Wallace, being a little younger isn’t quite as bombarded yet, but he also seems to take pressure and busyness more in stride. Maybe it’s a youngest child thing. They’ve always had to be more roll-with-it.
This morning felt especially hectic the instant my alarm went off.
There was carry-over hectic-ness from last night.
Gil had dropped Piers off at home after soccer practice and had to go back to work (this warrants an entire blog post but no time for that at the moment.) This meant that dinner, baths, bedtime, etc., was all me.
Now…one might think (I once thought this) that by the time kiddos are ten and nearly nine that getting them to bed would be easy…and it IS easier, but it still involves monitoring. That shit can be taxing after a long day.
Once it was all done, I was spent.
I didn’t tidy up.
I didn’t check the blue folders (there are SO many things in the blue folders on Tuesday. Sweet. Tiny. Dancer.) Anyway…
I simply had nothing left.
I did take a quick bath and brushed my teeth, then climbed into bed ready to read my blogging friend Dyane’s new book that showed up in my mailbox today. OMG. Such an important book AND it pulled me in from the get-go. (More on this to come…)
But alas…I crashed.
Gil rolled in around 2am and I never got back into a deep sleep.
When the alarm went off at 6am, I snoozed through a few cycles. (I KNOW — horrible sleep hygiene. I KNOW.)
When the boys and I were finally up, it all felt frantic. Piers had to finish homework. Lunches had to be packed. All the signing and creating accounts for the Boostethon and field trip permission slips. So many things.
How the hell are any of us getting adequate sleep?! Ya know? I mean…I prioritize some sleep but I feel like I live in a sleep-when-we’re-dead world. Who can I talk to about all this? Because I need my eight hours. OKAY?
Piers was beyond frantic this morning. The poor kid was attempting to do his homework, put his belt on, eat his breakfast, tie his shoes. It was like his mind couldn’t prioritize anything in the moment and he was running around tripping over himself.
And…then it happened.
I saw it coming but was too wrapped up in the signing of ALL THE DAMN THINGS that I couldn’t help until the snapping actually happened.
Wallace asked him an innocent question like where’s your lunch box? and low and behold Pier just lost it.
“I DON’T KNOW. I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. CAN EVERYBODY STOP TALKING TO ME ABOUT STUFF!!!!!!!!!”
Wallace and I were silent. We made eye contact as if to say – He really can’t take one more thing.
So I was calm. (Let’s pause and thank the heavens that I actually have calm moments.)
I stepped in and helped Piers do one thing at a time.
Homework folder in backpack.
Walked him to the bathroom to brush teeth.
This is life with ADHD and anxiety. Yes, it’s a label. Maybe it’s limiting, but I don’t really give a damn at this moment. I KNOW this feeling. The easy things seem impossible in these moments.
I remained calm.
I rubbed his back and reminded him to breathe.
Wallace took his backpack to the car.
We all got very quiet.
The goal was seemingly simple.
Get into the car.
Once we were inside the vehicle it seemed we were going to be okay. Life was feeling more manageable.
“How ya feeling, Piers?”
“Fine.” — it’s like the breakdown never happened. It was over for him. I know this feeling. I’ve been there a million times. We have moments and then we’re over them. The hard part is when the people around you do not get it. It’s easy to see why they wouldn’t. In the moment it looks unhinged, rude, deranged. (I know these are all the politically incorrect words…but if you’ve been there or witnessed these sorts of outbursts, you KNOW what I’m talking about.)
“Piers…do you feel like everything is urgent?”
“That’s a hard feeling, isn’t it?”
“It’s so hard, Mom. I hate fourth grade. No matter what I do I have to do more. There’s so much to keep up with and I can’t keep up with anything and I’m supposed to be grown up and not lose things and I lose everything. It makes me want to do nothing.”
He articulated THAT perfectly.
Damn our brains.
As we pulled out of the driveway, I recognized that we ALL need to take it down a notch.
Everybody is rushing.
The world is rushing.
It’s like that holiday season when everyone was trying to get their darlings a Cabbage Patch Kid. Collective panic. Insanity.
It’s like the four Christmas seasons I spent selling and wrapping gifts at the local Hallmark shop. People were frantic. Everything had to be done NOW. Hard to be joyful and in the spirit when you feel wedged in a pressure cooker with too many others who are freaking the heck out about this year’s snow baby collection.
When we allow ourselves to get caught up in that mad rush, we end up stressed out and feeling like everything we’re doing is never enough.
How do we break the stress cycle?
Take some breaths.
Do tasks more slowly and intentionally.
Savor the pause.
Hang out there a minute before rushing to check off the next task.
It will get done.
If it doesn’t, maybe that’s a sign that it wasn’t quite as urgent as we were deluded into thinking.
For once, the words came out of my mouth in a way my children seemed to understand.
Wallace (ever the sage) said, “That’s why I like to go outside in the morning and put on my shoes. It calms me. Especially when inside our house feels like too much…and it ALWAYS feels like too much when we’re trying to get to school in the morning.” (ugh…he is SO right!)
I caught a glimpse of Piers in the rear-view mirror. He was perplexed.
“But HOW? How do you actually stop your brain, Mom?”
Again, maybe it was the lack of coffee along with the fact that I was still half-asleep. I was able to speak truth from that honest place deep inside that ‘s unfiltered, raw…and nine times out of ten CORRECT.
“You tune in to what matters, Piers. You breathe in a very deliberate way. You exaggerate the inhales and exhales and as they expand and grow longer, it calms you. THEN, you pay attention to all your senses…but not all at once. I play a game and ask myself – what do I SEE? And right now, for instance, I see beautiful oak trees lining the street. I see moss hanging from the trees. I see blue sky peeking over a few clouds. What do I SMELL? Right now I smell turkey sandwiches and I’m reminded that I have food to feed my children and I’m grateful…for the food…for Dad who thought to make these to have on hand Sunday night – they’re coming in handy on this hectic morning. What do I HEAR? Conversation, life, coming from you guys – my kids – in the backseat. These sounds feel hopeful – a reminder of youth. A reminder that my third and fourth grade children have a wonderful school to attend where teachers care. I’m thankful. What am I TOUCHING? My car. The steering wheel if we’re getting specific. I have a running vehicle that allows me to drive you guys to school. I FEEL the sun warming me through the windshield and the cool air blowing through the vents. What can I TASTE? My water with a splash of lemon that I grabbed just as we were heading out the door. It’s hydrating my body, and I’m reminded that where I live it’s plentiful and that I don’t have to think much about whether or not it’s clean…because it is. And…I’m thankful.”
“That makes total sense, Mom!” – Wallace, of course.
“Um…Mom…that kinda feels like a lot of work just to calm yourself down.” — Piers, the skeptic child.
“It IS a lot, Piers, but it gets easier over time which is why chill, zen-like people refer to this kind of thing as a practice. You continue to do it even when it feels hard. It’s especially important to make sure you do it when things feel hardest.
At the same time, if you do it even when it feels easy or perhaps unnecessary, it becomes a habit and then it’s easier to do when you really really need it…like today.”
We were quiet for the last few minutes until we turned into the carpool line, a place that typically brings an element of angst for me. Today, though, I felt calmer. Serene even.
The boys unfastened their seat-belts, cleared the floor (’cause it ALWAYS needs clearing) and prepared to exit quickly.
“Mom, I love you! I hope you have the best day.”
“Thanks, Wallace! You, too, Bud…” (MY HEART, YOU GUYS!!!!!)
Piers was calm, but still very much my intense, first-born mini-me.
“Bye Mom. Love you.”
I love you, too, Piers. You don’t have to do everything right this second. Breathe. Go slower when you want to rush. Pay attention and lemme know how it works for you. You know this isn’t the last time we’re gonna chat about this.”
He grinned…and rolled his huge brown eyes…the ones that get me every time.
And like that…they were gone. Into their world. Wallace waved until I was out of sight. He always does that. Piers gave a quick wave and charged ahead. He always does THAT.
And as I go about this busy season, I’ll do my best to take my own advice.
Tune in to what matters.
Be grateful. Always be grateful.
Forgive yourself when you forget. Nobody’s perfect. That’s why it’s called a practice.