There was the frothy Preschooler, who had quickly become accustomed to the unending supply of frozen yogurt and fruit roll-ups. He was now emotionally distraught, lamenting the abrupt change to such vile dietary substitutes as blueberries and oatmeal, but I had seen enough emotional distress for one week. “Eat it or wear it,” I threatened. I didn’t actually mean it. I meant “eat it or I’m going to.” But my unstable condition the week before had somehow paid me the dividend of unpredictability, so the Preschooler watched me out of the corner of his eye and reluctantly choked it down.
Then there was the HAIR of Sweet Pea, which was not so sweet. By Friday it resembled the Barbie I had as a kid, the one whose hair never recovered when I dunked her in the bathtub and left her there, her hair drying half way down the drain and remaining in a permanent “swirl.” I was unimpressed when Sweet Pea attempted to tame it all with a headband. She mashed it straight down on her head, which only matted the top and held back none of her bangs. It took hours of brushing, but by Saturday morning we had finally wrangled the most offensive of the locks with an allegedly “pain-free detangler” brush. Sweet Pea would object to that marketing claim.
And then, there was the house. Don’t get me started on the house.
At this point I was planning to assuage my guilt by buying and entertaining my way back into the hearts of my children (and my cleaning lady). Good old-fashioned bribery would work. It must. It had to. There would be redemption and forgiveness, and eventually there would be forgetfulness. It would require everyone to forget.
We made our way at the speed of heat from lunch to the germ infested jungle gym, then to the movies and stopping off at a soccer game prior to orchestrating an impromptu sleepover. I had very few moments to myself, and even fewer moments to form a significant thought. But in one miniature snippet I realized something. Because, you know, there are these tiny little moments when things make sense for me. They are epiphanies that arrive when I’m on the toilet or when I sneeze or when I smell my own sweaty armpits. Epiphanies always seem to come that way for me.
What I saw in this particular snippet was a swirl of things in the back seat of my car: jackets strewn across the car floor with one sleeve hanging out the side passenger door; a previously hot chocolate dangling from a cup-holder endangering the floor mats; cold wind blasting and twirling the newly combed hair of Sweet Pea; crumbs trailing from the seat to the floor. And there were my two children, popping each others’ bubble gum, laughing hysterically.
We had been all over our little town, meeting up with all of our friends, indulging in every juvenile-centric activity imaginable. There were video games and sugary treats. There was good, hard physical play. I had spent money, spent time, and spent energy focusing on them. And yet, here they were, completely unhinged and absolutely delighted by a little cold wind and a stick of bubble gum.
So, that’s when I realize: this is where my life gets written. Not in the immaculate house with the obedient son and the perfectly coiffed daughter. It’s written here, in the dirty car. Sure, this is the kind of play that will inevitably lead to a fat lip and some accusatory shrieking. But right then and there, it was in the laughter. I think I finally realized – I’m the one that has been absent. I’ve been lurking in the preventative, the perfect, and the possible.
So, this is the Important Work. Not in making priceless moments, but in living with the ones that come along anyway.
Huh. This epiphany smelled a little better than the last three.
Okay, so I admit, I’m not going to remember this tomorrow. I’m going to fret and stew about the laundry and the motion for summary judgment and refinancing the house (which is probably good because it won’t get done otherwise). But I really am going to try to stop to enjoy it all. I’ll try to watch for the steam rising from my freshly brewed coffee. I really am going to remember making blanket forts with my brother instead of complaining about the misuse of grandma’s afghan and the mess of couch cushions. I really am going to work harder at realizing and remembering moments instead of trying so hard to make them perfect. I am. And then I’m going to teach it to my kids.
Now that is the Important Work.