I believe the Universe works very hard to maintain balance. This past week was my family’s turn to be in the wringer. We’ve been sick, never healthy for more than a few days, since Thanksgiving. The past week though, wow! We ended up in the ER for stridor, followed by vomiting, croup, ear infections, ruptured ear drums and a flat tire. A new special something for each day of the week!
It all started with a hard task for mommy on Saturday. I spent the day cleaning out my old office in preparation for turning it into the new nursery for Baby #3. There is a reason these things have laid in there so long, unattended. Ghosts of my past. I broke down in tears no less than three times. I came across a goodbye letter I wrote to my friend who was murdered. Some 25 years later, I finally found the strength to throw it away. All the journals from our fertility treatments, a chronicle of the roller coaster of hope and despair. All the sonograms and sympathy cards from our baby Noah. My old school papers and planning documents from the center I had set-up and directed. —Keeping a few things but just donating or throwing most things representative of my old life away and feeling like my kids will never know I used to do very important things.
After an emotionally exhausting day, I was ready for bed. I joked with my husband, since I could hear that tell tale croupy cough over the baby monitor, “Maybe I ought to just sleep in my clothes since Emerson sounds so bad.” Prophetic words. Less than ten minutes later, I am cleaning up vomit, alternating steam and cold air, walking that tight rope of not panicking and then realizing I should have left ten minutes ago, rushing to the ER and waiting to see what works to stop that horrible gasping for air as your precious child tries in vain to breathe.
I had just that day been celebrating the fact that Silas seemed to have gotten through his first bout of croup without having stridor. I had been celebrating that maybe, just maybe, we were done with this torturous routine of trying at home measures and then heading to the ER anyway. We came home from the ER, put Emerson back to bed and realized we probably have another three years of this with him, every time he gets a cold if he ends up like his big brother. Who knows if baby #3 will have the same issues?!?! We were desperate to get some sleep and then Silas was up all night coughing and throwing up. Yes, these things are common to raising young children. Centuries of mothers have survived them but that does not mean it is easy. I know these days are short but while you are stuck in them, especially where it concerns your children’s health, they are so unbelievably long. Absolutely daunting at times.
And then it happened. My Umbrellas showed up. Literally. Uninvited. Unannounced. Not even knocking. They know I am not going to ask for help. They know I am likely to turn down their offers of help when made. So, problem solvers that they are, they just walked into my house. A welcome sight. They came bearing chocolate, balloons, lemon juice, honey and hugs. They let me cry. They made me smile and laugh. They watched my kids so I could clean the house a bit. We baked cookies together for another mom who was having a hard time… because there is always a need for an umbrella! And, perhaps most importantly, they spoke to me of important things.
“Kerry, you do the very most important things every single day – by loving your husband, your kids, and all of your friends too. And Silas and EJ, they see THAT and it is what matters. You can tell them about everything you did in the past and the person you were before they came along, and they will listen and they will appreciate all of it someday. But you, being who you are right now – that is what is important. To ALL of us. Because you are amazing.”
This is not to say that working mothers or fathers don’t do important things every day. We all make decisions based on our individual situations and your decisions are right for you and your family, regardless of what they are. A stay-at-home mom is not something I had ever envisioned for myself but it ended up being right for us. This is exactly where I want to be. My reasons for walking away from a very successful career are the same as they were the day I resigned. Yes, what I did before children was important. It came with impressive titles and decent paychecks, even good benefits. Yet, I believe there is nothing more valuable than pouring my heart and soul into each of my boys. The time I have with them will be so very short. I do not want to miss a minute of it. I am so very fortunate to have a choice in the matter.
Yes, I am tired. Yes, I am frustrated. Yes, I would love to be able to get one child dressed and the other STAY dressed so we can get out the door on time. Yes, I would like to have a night off every now and then. Oh, and sleeping in seems like some sort of wild forbidden fantasy. But, I also have the chance to mold their character. I delight in the fact that my 18-month old has already mastered how and when to say, “please” and “thank you” via sign language. My heart overflows when I see my 4-year old inviting his younger brother to help put ice cubes into his cup and offering him encouragement for doing a good job. Manners, compassion and love. If there were a report card for them, these areas would read, “Exceeds Expectations.” I can’t imagine anything more important than working to offer the world three humans full of these gifts.
The remainder of this week brought even more unpleasantness. It brought more sickness, tears, tantrums, early bedtimes, refused naps and restless nights. But I was able to meet those detours with humor and strength. No longer defeated. My perspective rectified. Thankfully, my umbrellas had revived my spirit.
I have learned a few lessons this week. (1) No matter what, through the good and the bad, we are here for each other. This makes the good stuff awesome and the bad stuff so much better than it would be alone. (2) I have been reminded of what the truly important stuff is. It is love and giving of ourselves to each other. (3) I have some other parents, who are now grandparents, to thank for the time and energy, the sleepless nights and days of frustration they put into loving and molding their children. If I am ever in doubt about the value my job as a mom holds, I can look to my Umbrellas and know how much their parents’ work has impacted my own life.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Kerry Stephen, Director of Important Things