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Monday, September 15, 2014

It's Ok To Breathe

I'm becoming Me again. After 12 years of living solely for the small people in my life, after living for them and with them and through them and because of them, I have 6 hours to myself every weekday. I have 6 hours every day where I don't have to lift anyone. Don't have to buckle carseats. Don't have to cajole a little one into wearing underwear AND shoes at the same time. Don't have to wipe a butt. Don't have to pour milk. Or wipe up spilled milk. Or convince a little one that it is a good thing to flush a toilet. Or make three different lunches because the first two weren't satisfactory for my little sensory child. Don't have to keep track of anyone except me. 

I feel time differently now. I have to refamiliarize myself with my frame of reference for time. It takes a whole lot less time to do anything when you're alone. I can't believe how easy it is to pop in the car and run to the store for milk. Just milk! No stress, no arguing about whether we need fruit snacks or ice cream, just me and my milk. I can breathe. 

Breathing can be uncomfortable too. I like to lose myself in the tide of my children. I like the chaos of my kids and all their friends chattering and running and dressing up and finding the makeup I've hidden in my closet so it wouldn't be found. I love it when one of my babies needs a hug because my arms can make the stress of the day evaporate, just for a little while. I love taking care of them. I love spending time with them. I love hearing their laughter and the funny things they say. So when I have time to breathe, or get milk, all by myself, it's still a little uncomfortable.

Last week, on Monday, I had an uncomfortable day. I didn't see any friends to brighten my hours. I didn't have a project. I only had physical therapy for my silly knee caps that don't move the right way. It was a little depressing and a lot uncomfortable. I started to feel panic. What if this is how it's going to be forever? What if it's always uncomfortable and boring and depressing to be without my kiddos? What if this is as good as it gets?

But on Tuesday my parents came for an overnight visit. And even though they were privy to some wicked hot tantrums that night, they reminded us how much they love us all unconditionally. They took me out for breakfast after all the kids went to school on Wednesday morning. At first I thought "30 minutes for breakfast with them! That's not enough time for anything!" But then I remembered that I wouldn't have kids along, and you can do a whole lot in 30 minutes when you're a grownup without kiddos. 

I know I am incredibly lucky and blessed. Seeing Mom and Dad always boosts my spirit, gives me courage to continue this journey of crazy life. I hope I am for my kids what my parents have always been for me. They are strength, wisdom, unconditional love, and when I talk they hear me. They don't just listen, they really hear me. They are a safe place for me to land. No matter what I'm dealing with. I hope I am that for my kids. I hope I've learned enough from my parents about being a parent to pass it on to my kids. I am lucky and blessed to have the parents I have. They are rare and beautiful souls; they make the world a better place by being in it. They are a shining example of what every parent should strive to be. Just there. Parents should just be there for their kids. Always. No matter what. 

So my day started off great, because not only did I get to have a special breakfast, but I got to share it with my Mom and Dad. Then I went to the grocery store and bumped into three friends! I got to have a chat with a "bff," as Ella calls all good friends, as she searched for ginger. The sun in my day kept getting brighter.

A friend texted me to see if we could get together for lunch and talk about our special kids. I haven't seen this friend for a while, and to know that she was thinking about me was a gift.

Through some interesting circumstances, I've been put in touch with a woman who I'm sure is another one of my soul mates. Alex fondly says I have about a million soulmates, everyone is my "soul mate." Because I love (almost) everyone and am so exuberant about my friendships. But he's wrong, I'll have you know. There are only a very few people in this world who I feel a connection with that constitutes "soul mate." Well, maybe more than a few, but still not millions, as my husband insists. It's really funny to me because in the last few months, it's happened twice where I met someone for the first time and just instantly knew they 'get' me, they 'get' my kids and my life, and they're one of my soul mates. That hasn't ever happened to me before, when just meeting someone. 

Anyway. The conversation I had with this particular woman this week was incredible. I have a tendency to forget that I am not alone in my unique life with my special kids. There are other families out there experiencing the same exact things. This woman has an older son who has Tourette Syndrome. She was talking, and finally I told her "Listen. You're going to make me cry. I'm going to cry right now, because you 'get' this and me and my kiddos in a way that no one gets us. Unless you've lived it." It was incredible. 

Every Thursday, I get to be a helper in the cafeteria for the Kindergarten classes. I am the Milk Helper. I make sure each little Kindergartner gets either white or chocolate milk. Love it. Ella's class lunch overlaps with Aidan's, so every Thursday I get to hug both of my littles while they eat and socialize with their buddies. It's a little hard for both of them to have me leave. They linger and hug tightly and there's a little sadness in their eyes as they follow the line to recess.

I love watching kids at school. Especially the little ones. Everything about them is precious and fleeting. I can't count how many zippers I get to zip every Thursday during my half hour of helping. 
Or milk cartons I have to open. Or kiddos I take to the bathroom so we make sure they get back to the lunchroom ok. Or sweet faces that light up as they see me and wave like crazy because there's a MOM that they know at SCHOOL! Soon they'll know how to zip their own zippers and open their own chocolate milk. Soon they'll hide a little of their excitement in seeing their friend's mom in the lunchroom because they're too cool to jump and wave at me from down the hallway. I love being witness to these little things in all these kids lives. I silently, mentally, give each one of them a hug from the mommy or daddy or grandparent who sent them to school that day. I rub a back now and then and reassure a tearful 5 year old that he'll get to see Mommy soon. I love Thursdays.

I got to have lunch with my mother-in-law after volunteering at school. Again, without kids! It's so strange not having to multi-task in 50 directions while I eat my lunch. I just eat my lunch. So weird. We chatted, we caught up, we laughed. It was lovely as usual. It lifted my spirits on such a gloomy, Novemberish September day.

I realized after all these things happened that lifted my spirits, that breathing into this new life of mine- a life without constant kids- will be uncomfortable at times but I'll be ok. I have to remember I am not alone. I'm not alone. I have to remember I can reach out too, I don't have to wait for people to find me. I have to remember it's ok to breathe even when it feels weird and different and unsteady. 

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