The lesson often left out of the lesson book.

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Thursdays are my day. The day that both girls are in classes outside of the house while my husband is at work. It is the day I reserve for me. No interruptions. No coffee dates with friends. No animal appointments or other errands. It’s my day to do with as I please, be it writing this blog or in my journal, watching a movie or strolling the mall, reading or walking along a creekside trail. Thursdays are my day, or at least they were supposed to be.

Today marks the 9th Thursday since A started her “one day a week” classes this year. Out of the previous 8, I’ve enjoyed exactly one half of a one of those Thursdays writing as planned. There has been no mall strolling, reading, movies or creekside trails. But, there has been bills, cleaning, babysitting, and phone calls. Last Sunday, I decided I would reclaim and guard my Thursdays to use as I had planned before before the school year began. Today would mark the relaunch of my “self-care Thursdays”, or at least it was supposed to.

Two days ago, A presented herself to me with alien eyes. Her face was so puffy, I barely recognized my little girl. She didn’t complain, but she wondered if her eyes looked a little swollen. (“No,” I thought, “not if you’re trying out for a role on Star Trek.”) I softly tapped my fingers along the sinus cavities beneath her eyes. I gently pressed along her forehead.  “Is the cat sleeping on your pillow again?” I asked before directing her to strip her bed and bring the linens downstairs. The answer was obvious before her reply.

Yesterday morning, she again presented herself with puffiness so marked she appeared to be developing a black eye under her right eye. “Does it hurt?” I worried. “Either way, I’m taking you in to the doctor this morning. I want to rule out a sinus infection.” The doctor also assumed allergies and instructed me to give her some standard allergy meds when we got home. “If her symptoms increase tomorrow, however…”

“Bite your tongue!” raced through my thoughts. “Tomorrow is MY Thursday, my day of peace and the day I’ve reserved as my mental reset button! No, no, she’ll be fine after I dose her up with some meds.” Or, at least she was supposed to be.

Though better, her eyes were still puffy this morning. (“She can still go to school,” I justified.) Unlike yesterday, there was no mistaking the familiar congestion sound in her voice and the occasional cough belied her “I’m OK, but I’ve got a bad headache and I’m hot.” In rare Mama-form, I told her to stand outside in the crisp Colorado air at 6 in the morning. If it didn’t cool her down, it would certainly wake her up. My Thursday was at stake.

I took her temperature and prepared some toast so she could take ibuprofen. A little banana and down went the decongestant. 45 minutes later I could see my day of solitude slipping away. I was going to write today. It’s the start of NaBloPoMo and I planned to kick-start this blog (again) and reply to the comments on my last post that I neglected and read each of the 4 books on my nightstand for at least an hour and get caught up (again) on others’ blogs and finalize my November goals and work on my vision board and finish the Christmas budget and send emails I’ve neglected and maybe give myself a mani-pedi and solve world hunger all before 2:30 this afternoon.

I was at a crossroads: I could push my child to go, or I could teach her a lesson one rarely finds in life’s lesson book.

I sat down and stroked the sweaty bangs off her forehead, but before I could open my mouth she said, “Mom, how about if I go for a half a day, and if I’m feeling really bad at lunch you could come get me?” (“Oooh, I could still have at least half a day to myself….”)

I looked into her eyes, those puffy, alien eyes and told her the decision was hers. “I’m going to walk away so my energy isn’t in your space,” I told her “and I want you to listen to your body, really listen, and make the decision that is best for you and what your body needs today.”

It’s a novel concept. At least for me it is. The idea of self-care is one that was poorly demonstrated by my mother. I grew up hearing the story of my mother hosting a dinner party the same day she had delivered my younger sister, her 10th child. I watched as she would continue to care for her family though less healthy than a zombie. I watched, and I learned well. When I was younger, I pushed myself to attend school or work when  standing upright felt like an Olympic event. As a mother, I’ve repeatedly pushed myself to “bounce back” after illnesses or even surgeries far faster than advised, and though I’ve told my girls that there are no awards for being a martyr, I’ve regrettably demonstrated self-neglect more often than self-care.

I kept my word and walked away as A made her decision this morning. I encouraged her to make the decision her body needed, not the one she thought I wanted to hear. “Just listen,” I encouraged, “Your body knows what it needs.”

“Sleep,” she told me, “My body said it needs sleep.”

In the solitude of her room, buried under the weight of 5 blankets, she is giving her body what it both asked for and needs. And in return, I’ve both taught and learned a valuable lesson on this Thursday; in both sickness and in health, our bodies always tell us what it needs and we honor ourselves and those around us when we listen and act accordingly.

Are you practicing what you hope your children will emulate?

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14 thoughts on “The lesson often left out of the lesson book.”

  1. This one gave me some guilt pangs. We live right by the schools, and it was always so easy for the kids to come home, stay home, and skip class. But I have always needed time to myself. For years now I have attempted to keep Thursdays holy, as my appointment-free day.
    When my older son was small, that was the day I kept him home from preschool, and went with a friend and her daughter to a park, or to Sea World, or the San Diego Zoo. Her daughter napped for hours after these outings. My son never did. Over the years I grew fierce about time to myself–a school district with 1pm Wednesdays, and one schedule for elementary school, and another for junior and senior high school, didn’t help matters. The current school district also has abbreviated Wednesdays, and rather random “pep rallies” and assorted other events which no child of mine, athletic or not, has ever attended. Sigh.
    So I have been less sensitive to pleas to stay home. Bleeding? Vomiting? No? Well then! Could I both have been more gentle and have had my time to work, or simply to be alone, respected? The long holidays approach and will give me another chance, maybe my last chance. I am back in a home office with a door to close behind me. Wish me luck. Maybe it’s never too late to become a better parent?
    Do I miss the door bursting open and large teenagers bumbling through unannounced as many as three or four times a day? Desperately at times!

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    1. It is hard when we struggle with guilt over needing/wanting time to ourselves. There isn’t a perfect mother, child, or scenario out there; we’re all just doing our best. So, like you, I believe it is never too late to become a better parent.

      Thanks for reading and sharing!

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  2. This is a really important lesson to learn and to be shown, more specifically. I have the same exact feelings when something comes up to scrap my “free” Saturdays with Maycee at her dad’s-I get two days off a month as a “break”, as me-time. Two weekends ago her dad took very ill and was unable to get her for his visitation. At first, my whole brain seemed to shut down as I tried to figure out how to still maintain my “free” day whilst the little one was now part of my plans unexpectedly. But, it all worked out, and I made sure that Maycee knew she was wanted and loved and that I (mommy) would be so happy to have her an extra weekend! Other times, when she tries to push herself to attend school sick because she knows how hard it is for me to take a day off work financially, I’ve also been able to say, “No, you’re staying home today because being well and healthy is more important than mommy working.” We always have “the next time”, and our time will for sure come…right now it’s about raising our kids the best way possible. This is was great parents do, and you are one of them! XOXO-SWM

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    1. Oh my goodness, I so understand. I think we often hold ourselves so tightly together anticipating our time off from our mama that when plans change it can feel like a huge disappointment.
      Your little Maycee is such a lucky girl to have you as her mama. It is no easy balancing act to make a child feel loved and secure and like they are not a burden when they get sick, and that balancing act is even tougher when you’re a single parent/income. My hat goes off to you!!
      You’re right, this time is about raising our kids, and this time is fleeting. When I find myself becoming impatient, I remind myself that if I don’t care for my kids in the way I know they both need and want, there will come a day I regret it–and so will they. XOXO back!

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  3. Hi Mary! Nice post. I was looking for your email address (still can’t find it) and then got this from you! We need to plan our coffee . . . but not on Thursdays! What is your availability in the next couple of weeks? – Cindy

    Cindy Skerjanec

    Marketing Director

    Impact Marketing Communications

    720.470.7077

    Let’s get LinkedIn! http://www.linkedin.com/in/cindyskerjanec

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  4. This is a question I’m asking myself a lot more these days, as Li’l D asks questions and responds to my questions in full sentences and paragraphs. I want him to hear me, and for him to know that I hear him. And I want him to hear himself, and to be an example for his doing so. Lots of good stuff to ponder here, although I’m barely awake enough to do so now. ♥

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    1. It is such a challenge to teach and demonstrate. So much of our society does not value self-care, in particular in the professional world, and teaching our children that they should stay home from school or the play-date or the birthday party when they don’t feel well is wasted breath if we don’t lead by example. ♥

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  5. A few years ago, I reached the age my mother was when she had her FIRST open heart surgery. I remembered what it was like to be a 17-yo girl facing the possibility of losing my mother. I looked at my 17-yo son and realized if I didn’t put myself on the same priority level I had placed them on, history would repeat itself. So I’m working on it.

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    1. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be there at 17 with enough awareness of the possible outcome as your mother was taken into the operating room!
      I think it is so important we teach our children that when we take care of ourselves, we are caring for them, too. I’d say jetting off to Paris is a great example of what to do right!

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  6. I got an unsuspecting tear in my eye when I read this post, dear friend. I guard my time just as jealously and I too have hoped, oh how I’ve hoped, they’d go into school so that I can work, or attend my own doctor’s or therapist’s appointment. And I too have backed down and asked the child what they wanted. What made me so happy was to see that your little girl chose to take care of herself!! Good on her, and good on you for giving her the space she needed to choose self-care. Miss you!!!! xoxo

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