Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. -Albert Einstein
image via Calvin, age 5
I have three little boys. I ask for a lot of favors.
I ask for help with rides to and from school, practices and parties.
When friends go to the grocery store and call to see if I need anything, I say yes.
I quietly refrain from offering to host festivities or dinners or really anything at my house anytime, ever.
When I go out with more than one friend, I don’t volunteer to drive because I’m unwilling to wrestle and ratchet the car seats in and out of my car to make room.
Going places with any combination of my kids is tough and generally involves crying, darting and grabbing anything within arms’ length. And I’m crying, darting and grabbing too. Not so lovely. Not so fun.
And having people over at my house with any combination of my kids at home (and where else would they be?) is tough and generally involves crying, darting and grabbing anything within arms’ length. And I’m crying, darting and gabbing too. Not so lovely. Not so fun.
Maybe if I had a guesthouse or a tree house or even a tent where we could hide from the kids, I could host a holiday party. But I don’t, so I don’t.
And please don’t even get me started on the car seats. I’ve lost more than a fair share of blood, sweat, tears and fingernails over them. They are locked, loaded and not going anywhere until I know they are gone for good.
I have three little boys. I ask for a lot of favors.
But fortunately, for me, I have wonderful, generous and loving people in my life willing to do those favors. I have the friends who host the parties, carpool my kids and offer to drive to sushi. I have the friends who babysit and buy me groceries.
In fact, after our twins were born, I have a friend who, on several occasions, picked up my big kid after preschool, fed, bathed, pajama-ed, and returned him home five minutes before bedtime.
I have a friend who baby-proofed my house.
I have a friend who took my big kid out to lunch with her sons.
I have a friend who handed me up her kids’ clothes, gear and toys and saved our Christmas a few times over.
I have friends who loan me everything from Band-Aids to oregano so that I can avoid another trip to the store.
And these lovely favor givers never ask, nor expect me to settle up. They don’t count the marbles in their jars or the tallies on their sheets. They just do it out of the kindness of their hearts—those wonderful, generous and loving hearts.
So to my friends, my offerors, my heavy lifters, and the genies in my lamp, I say thanks.
Thank you for stepping in and stepping up and for never, ever keeping score. Thank you for all that you do and for not asking for anything in return.
Thank you for understanding that I might not ever be able to pay you back.
But I do promise you one thing.
I will return the favor someday to someone else.
One day I’ll be on the other side of this frenzy. My kids won’t be so unmanageable, my house will have some space and calm, and the car seats will be gone. And then the hosting and the rides and the grocery runs won’t seem so ill-fated.
When that time comes, when it’s my turn, I promise I will be a genie too. I will make the offers and I will give the rides. I will do the favors and I won’t keep score or expect anything in return.
When my time comes, surely there will be another frazzled mom who needs a helping hand. And I will be the one to step up.
But I won’t do it for her.
I’ll do it for you.
Someone asked me recently what was my biggest regret in life.
Being in a hurry, I said.
Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all that rushing.
Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.
-Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Your Sabbath
image via Herman Brinkman
Today is my 38th birthday.
Today I count my blessings and thank this wonderful, crazy and beautiful life for all that it has given me.
My five-year-old son wears Spider-Man shoes that light up when he runs.
He also wears Angry Bird socks pulled up to his knees.
He hides a Peyton Manning jersey two sizes too small in the corner of his closet every night so that I don’t wash it and he can wear it again the next day. I’ve tried buying him other jerseys but he prefers that tight-fitting, stained and smelly one to anything else. He says it helps him run fast.
He has three different varieties of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pajamas in orange, blue and red as to represent Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael. Sorry Donatello, but purple is a girl color.
He has a Spidey hooded sweatshirt and the hood hangs down over his eyes like a Spidey mask. He stays warm while also preventing his identity from being revealed. Genius.
Years ago I met a woman who told me she never let her boys wear clothes with characters or words on them.
I think of her every time I fold the laundry.
When my son started Kindergarten this year, we had almost daily wardrobe wrangles. I’d choose a plaid button-down shirt. He’d want a Superman t-shirt with holes in it because it has a cape. I’d pick skinny jeans. He’d choose soccer shorts. I’d suggest a striped Izod shirt. He’d beg for a shirt depicting various kinds of poop at the zoo. (I’m not kidding, it’s literally a shirt with pictures of poop at the zoo.)
Some days we compromise, which generally results in a “business up top, party down below” (or vice versa) ensemble. And some days it’s just a cute little hot mess. In very bright colors.
For all of you amazing moms who somehow manage to get your boys in cardigans, berets and bow ties, I truly tip my hat to you.
Your kids look adorable. Your kids are what my MiniBoden and Crewcuts dreams are made of. Your kids are the kids in the posters in the windows at the mall.
My kids are the kids in capes running around in those windows.
Sometimes I look at my darling little ragamuffin at the bus stop and I can’t help but cringe.
And then I pray that it’s not picture day or assembly day or a day in which the national news just might be spotlighting our school.
But then I smile.
And remind myself that he’s five years old.
There’s only so long in a life that you can get away with wearing a mask or a cape or shoes that light up when you run. And there’s only so long that in a life that you want to wear a mask or a cape or shoes that light up when you run.
So I say, let him be five.
Let him be a superhero every day. Let him think he looks like the coolest kid on the block. Let him make some little choices about his life, the kind of choices that really don’t matter at the end of the day.
Because soon enough he won’t want to look like a superhero anymore. Soon enough he’ll exchange his role models for ones that aren’t so super and aren’t so heroic. Soon enough he’ll just want to fit in and wear what everyone else wears and do what everyone else does. And soon enough he’ll have to make some big choices about his life, the kind of choices that do matter at the end of the day. So he better start getting some practice.
Of all the battles with my kids, this is one in which I sometimes just have to wave the white flag. Honestly, I’d rather he eat the carrots than wear the button-down.
So if you ever wonder what kind of mother would let her kid out of the house in soccer shorts and a dirty jersey, with shoes that light up, a cape flying behind him and a mask over his eyes, I’ll tell you.
It’s a superhero’s mom.
I only wish I were brave enough to wear the shoes.
I wanna make you smile,
Whenever you’re sad.
Carry you around when your arthritis is bad.
All I wanna do,
Is grow old with you.
I’ll get you medicine,
When your tummy aches.
Build you a fire if the furnace breaks.
Oh it could be so nice,
Growin’ old with you.
I’ll miss you, kiss you,
Give you my coat when you are cold.
Need you, feed you.
Even let you hold the remote control.
So let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink.
Put you to bed when you’ve had too much to drink.
Oh I could be the man,
Who grows old with you.
I wanna grow old with you.
(Reading from our wedding on October 6th, 2007)
Happy Anniversary, Ted. Love you. And still want to grow old with you.