The Fork of Least Resistance
My sister calls and is ready to cash in on her birthday present~ 24 hours of full time babysitting so she can get away with her hubby. In the spirit of my last blog Make the F**ing Chicken Soup, I swiftly carve out the time.
Justine is 8, Jackson is almost 4 and Jordan is just 2 years old.
I pack an overnight bag and head to my sister’s home. She lives with our parents in the home that we grew up in. 25 years ago, I was the teenager who couldn’t get out of that house fast enough. College was my way out and I jumped on that train with both feet.
That was a long time ago and I am happy to say that I just needed a little time away to truly appreciate my parents……..ok….I needed A LOT of time away…….
………And somewhere deep down inside, I still have mixed and unresolved feelings that, right now, translate into a small nagging resistance in my belly. I am imagining the inevitable regression that happens as the 40-year-old-walls of my childhood home remember me and call out my young rebel who needed to leave…………..”She’s baaaaaaaaaaack”……
……………….”no I’m n.o.t!”……..”OK maybe I am…. but only for a few hours………….. right?”
I drive up the long steep hill that leads to the house ….. my house…..
I let out a heavy sigh. Readying myself for whatever is next.
I am greeted with smiles and hugs from Jackson and Jordan. My heart melts and I feel all warm and gooey inside.
My sister Michelle is excited to be getting away. She chatters about where they are going and what she has packed. It is fun to be around her joy. Together we fold the pile of laundry that is on her bed. I am shocked at how long it takes for both of us to fold the pile. There are 100 socks of all sizes and colors…….. 27 pairs of underwear- also of all sizes and colors……. 15 pairs of PJ’s…… little shorts, big shorts, shorty shorts. OMG! I haven’t seen this much laundry in years!
Now it is time for my marching orders. I receive a detailed itinerary, a list of food allergies, including the one’s that induce anaphylactic shock in little Jackson……
………and then the Epi-Pen training. I am to find the “fatty part” of the leg on a child who has zero fat, jam this needle in and hold it there for 10 seconds. Sure…….no problem.
“Please God- do not let anyone die on my watch.”
The prayer is short and sweet and I mean every word.
Eventually, Michelle leaves kissing her babies goodbye. We play a game to ease into the temporary hierarchy. Justine pulls out “Hello Kitty Pop Up”. Back in the day, we called it Trouble. It’s the perfect game for all ages and we set up on Justine’s bed all comfy and cozy.
Every time Jackson’s turn comes around, he scoots closer and closer, until his feet are actually on the game board and he is hovering over the dice-pop-up-bubble thingy in the middle. No one can even see the board and pegs are being displaced. I ask him to move back.
One would think that this is a reasonable and clear request…….but Jackson has his own interpretation of how exactly he will create space between himself and the game board.
Quicker than my jaw can drop, he launches himself backward……air-born in half a second and then disappears over the side of the bed head first. I hear the sound of his body hitting the hard wood floor followed by a scream of shock and pain. My eyes lock with Justine’s…….”Oh Shit”……..
I scoop my little nephew off the floor and he hugs me tight. Justine gets his favorite blanket and Eli the elephant. We wrap him in as much comfort as we can. Jackson folds into my body like a koala bear…. his head nuzzles into the side of my neck. We settle into one of grandmas comfy chairs and I rub his back speaking softly into his ear.
It’s been a very long time since I have been this kind of comfort to a child, and though I would have preferred to spare Jackson the pain, I am cherishing this tender moment between us. It is sweet and pure……. and usually reserved for moms and dads.
Over the next several hours…..diapers are changed, dinner is prepared, Grandpa (my dad) lends a hand, baths are given, Jackson refuses to eat anything, dishes are washed, Grandma (my mom) finally comes home and makes Jackson eat 3 green beans, stories are read, everyone plays musical beds, Jordan refuses to go to sleep~he would rather harass his sister……..
and………….by…………9:00………… all little people are finally asleep.
As she has done every single night of my life, my mom makes a giant bowl of popcorn and smothers it with butter and salt. This time it is accompanied by a very generous glass of red wine for each of us. This is exactly what I need. Soul food. We sit together and watch The Voice. Mom has been spending time on Ancestry.com and she fills me in on the many details she has uncovered about our family history.
I am listening, but not really. Right now I am just feeling good…..and tired. All of the resistance to “coming home” has left and for now…My inner 18-year-old rebel is quiet and peaceful…………I am just a 45 year old daughter sitting with my mother in the home I grew up in……..eating the same popcorn I was raised on…..
Everything is delicious.
Tomorrow feels far away
The sleep angels do NOT grace me with rest and restoration. I have forgotten about the coyotes that howel in the ravine……doing whatever nocturnal animals do…….. all night and into the wee hours of the morning.
……….the raccoons that climb the tree next to the bay window….. the sound of the wind racing through the leaves……I had forgotten what it is like to “sleep” in my house high up on the hill, far away from track houses and “master planned communities”.
and there is something else that I have forgotten……. my way of BEing that started the day my son Johnny was born over 20 years ago. Sleep stopped being sleep. We shouldn’t even call what occurs for mothers~ “sleep”. It is the space between an all night vigil and actual sleep. Sure, we do it lying down…..most of the time…….but there is a wakefulness…..that cliche about “sleeping with one eye open” ~ that shit is true! AND both ears are open too, scanning for any sign of movement….. including breathing ~checking off the list in an endless loop
movement = bad √
breathing = good √
Because Day Light Savings had occurred a few days ago, Jordan was up extra early and decided to begin the day exactly as he had ended it…….tormenting Justine as she tries to sleep. Before I can see straight….. and before 6:15 am……all three kidlings are in bed with me. It is actually very sweet, but I am no longer the contented and grounded 45 year-old aunty who can really feel the sweetness. I am not my rebel 18-year-old either. For now, my inner 27-year-old get-it-done-mommy is running the show.
My list includes diapers, breakfast, lunches, dishes, shoes, Starbucks, naps, carpool and homework. I hit the ground running.
Later in the morning, once the taste of Jordan’s morning diaper has left my mouth and I realize that I am actually hungry…..
……….I look at the delicious and healthy scramble I made more than an hour before. It is still in the pan…..a little cold and slightly shriveled. I don’t care. I grab the plate that Justine ate her breakfast on. It’s fine. I look around and grab a dirty fork that happens to be close to the pan…..this will work.
……….a used plate and the fork of least resistance have become “good enough” for me…………
………..and just like that, I realize that I have put myself LAST on a very long list.
I know all too well that this is one of my biggest mistakes in life……..a mistake that I made over and over for my entire marriage……..that’s almost 2 decades!!!!!!…..and if I am honest, I was doing it even before that………
I am shocked that in a few short hours, under the slightest bit of duress……I snap right back into a very old and very painful pattern that I KNOW does not work for me.
In that moment, I stop……turn on the stove….. and heat up my eggs…….I evaluate Justine’s plate and deem it “clean enough”……I get a clean fork and eat my breakfast……standing up. It’s a start 😳
Eating off of the dirty “fork of least resistance” may seem like no big deal in the moment…after all, it’s just a fork and you have bigger fish to fry……….but consider that one dirty fork leads to another and to another…..and one day you might realize that you have forgotten how important and precious you really are.
Today……I am reminding you……..
You are precious….you are loved……………………….Now go get a clean fork!
LIVING ON PURPOSE
One Daily Shift at a time.
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All my love and gratitude,