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?