This week has been surreal, as I’m sure it has been for many of you. I struggled to fit my home-office job, my kids mounting online homework, and the extra housework their constant presence brought into my once balanced day life. By the end of the first day, I had clenched my hands in frustration so much they hurt. How would I survive another fourteen days like this, when I felt driven to the brink on day one?
That night it struck me, I had spent the day trying to keep with the status quo, but this wasn’t like business as usual. And I would never get through this if I kept trying to act like it was.
The next day, I stopped stressing that I wasn’t working in my office during my normal hours. Instead, I focused on the positives this quarantine had brought. My teenage children were now a literally captive audience. Beyond homework, we started a puzzle, played board games, even had a bonfire where my youngest ate so much junk food he gave himself a tummy ache.
Yep, I haven’t been nearly as efficient with my office work–most of it doesn’t happen until the evenings now. This won’t last forever, so I’m taking the opportunity to strengthen my relationships with them. Work will always be there.
I realized a long time ago that if I wanted things from life, I needed live with intention. What I mean by that, is everything I do should be for a purpose to help me grow into a better person. Though the purpose will vary depending on the situation, I don’t think “having fun” should ever be anyone’s actual reason for doing anything.
“Fun” is by product of our attitude toward a situation. With the right attitude, anything can be fun. But fun isn’t where we find growth so it shouldn’t be our focus.
For this reason I’ve stopped asking my kids “Did you have fun?” whenever they come home from school or an event. “What did you learn? What did you dislike or like? What would you do differently?” are common questions I ask my kids.
Most of the time they roll their eyes as they answer, but they answer. Even with the one word responses I sometimes get out of them, I hope that over time this conditioning will help them focus on finding greater purposes than having fun.
In my basement, for the last five years, has lurked a cedar chest that I’m grateful I was given but wished I didn’t have. It belong to my mother, and the fact that I had it meant she was no longer here. The last time I saw my mother alive, she asked that I take the cedar chest she was given as a young girl and give it to my daughter when she came of age.
“You’ll have to refinish it,” she said with the sweet smile she always wore. “You kids were hard on all my things.”
It wasn’t a lie. After the abuse of more than forty years and six kids, the cedar chest was in need of some tender lovin’ care. I walked past it often and smile at the broken, bronze feature on the front, reminiscing about my mom and this cedar chest that always occupied a space in her bedroom. I had a lot of fond and funny memories of hanging out with my mom in her room, and refurbishing the cedar chest felt like wiping those memories away, so it sat for another five years.
This week, my daughter’s upcoming sixteenth birthday forced me to finally honor my mom’s wishes. Power sander in hand, I scrubbed the marred finish away. I’m sure my husband kept wondering why I took so many breaks. But when I couldn’t keep the tears at bay, I walked away. I didn’t want my blurry sight to cause an accident, like nicking the wood.
The original finish is all gone now and I have many coats of new stain to apply, but I know my mother is grateful that her cedar chest is going to another young girl full of hope and dreams–another reminder that although she is gone her influence never will be.
As any girl will tell you, the teenage years are hard and sometimes downright suck. The past year has been especially difficult for my daughter. Her knees required one more surgery to remove the appliances repressing her growth plates for almost two years. We were able to do the surgery in the summer before school started, but opening up the old scars made them even more puckered and noticeable. Embarrassed, she wears pants, a lot. But being a swimmer, she has to trade in those pants for a leg revealing swimsuit at least five times a week, if not more.
This past week a group of high school boys at the pool noticed her knees and decided to pounce. Over and over they brought up the scars on the inside of her knees, calling them grotesque and hideous. Some of them even accused her of cutting her body for attention.
It was a quiet car ride home that day from the pool. When she finally came clean and told me what happened, part of me thought about driving back and punching every single one of those boys in the face. But I’ve learned over the years that running around demanding every wrong be met with justice is exhausting and seldom changes anyone’s behavior.
Instead, I pointed to her knees. “To me, those scars are a miracle. We were able to fix your knees without many, many surgeries. You can walk, and even run now without hardly any pain. I promise if you focus on the good things those scars brought, the taunts of others will fade, just like these scars will fade over time.”
I don’t show many pictures of my children, but, just help the reader understand, I’ve attached the before and after surgery pictures of my daughter’s legs.
The concept of “free” is thrown around a lot now days. I personally teach my children to be wary of anybody touting “free” anything. As my mother always said, “Nothing in life is ever truly free.”
This week my oldest son got his first W-2 ever. To say he was shocked at what the government had taken out of his paycheck in the six months he worked last year is an understatement.
“Why did they take out so much?”
Welcome to reality I thought, doing my best not to crack a smile. “Where do you think the government gets the money they give to other people and countries?”
Just like every teenager I’ve ever met, he made it all about himself. “Me.”
“Not just you, but all of us.”
“Man, this sucks.” He stomped down into his room.
Yes it does, and I hope he always remembers that. Maybe he won’t be so inclined to jump on the “free” train I see all around me. Because, eventually, any expanded “free” government programs will be coming out of his paycheck.
My careful and under control personality doesn’t do fly by the seat of my pants very well. Though I like to write that way, in life, not having a plan makes me uncomfortable. This week I met the ultimate just-winging-it kid.
I’m standing between starting blocks at the swimming pool as a stroke/turn judge for a swim competition. A young man, decked in a speedo, taps me on the shoulder. I’m in the middle of judging a race so I only slightly turn toward him to let him know I’m listening.
“What’s the stroke order for this race?”
I stood there blinking. “Well…it’s the IM.” Nobody had every asked me what they needed to swim right before a race before. The race finished and I turned to him and listed the order slowly. “Butterfly, back, breast, free.”
“Oh, yeah. Thanks.” The whistle from the referee had called the next race. He hopped up on the block next to me and bent down for his start. In a matter of seconds, he was flinging himself off the block and into the water.
I honestly didn’t think it would end well for him, but he did just fine. I saw no infractions on his part to disqualify him, and his time wasn’t too shabby, ta boot. But man was I stressed out the whole time watching him, and he wasn’t even from my high school.