Your father called me one day at work last week to tell me that there was a story on NPR regarding a study that had been conducted to gauge the happiness of people. As it turns out, several years ago, people without children were on average, less happy than people with children. These days however, the stats have purportedly flipped and studies show that people without children are, on average, happier than those with children.
The stats must be wrong. Maybe someone forgot to carry a one, or excluded an entire column of numbers in to their calculations because parenting has been the best thing to happen to me and your father and a lot of other people we know who are still functioning members of society.
(Cartoon courtesy of my in-laws after they spent several days with us at our home. It hangs proudly above my desk.)
But this morning as I was driving to work, I was thinking about this past weekend and I was feeling really awful because I had some less than positive moments with the four of you during our two-days home, together. As an example, when I took you to swim team practice on Sunday night and you told me you needed to use the bathroom, I know I shouldn't have been frustrated. Even though I'd asked you to use the bathroom BEFORE we left the house and you said NO and I said please and you said you definitely didn't have to go and it was only a 10-minute drive, you are little people with little bladders. A reasonable, sane person knows that it's no big deal that a seven-year-old would need to use the bathroom an hour after eating. The fact that you're going IN the toilet as opposed to IN the pool is grounds for celebration.
Sane person says this is good.
However, by the time we arrive at the pool, we're running late. Our lateness may or may not have to do with me asking you twelve times to put on your shoes before we left in between asking that you use the bathroom at the house. Regardless, you each enter a bathroom stall and I can see your feet and they look like they might be situated appropriately for toilet sitting. But then they're facing a different way. And then they're facing the wrong way. And then I see your hands AND your feet and then there's only one foot on the ground and then there are no feet on the ground and .... are you climbing the wall?
Pray tell - what are you doing in there?!
So I ask you, kindly at first, to open the door but you don't respond and I don't know if you're still in there or if you've found a secret portal and have escaped the building. So I ask you several times to OPEN THE DOOR, more and more loudly each time, and by the time you finally do, you're smugly smiling like you just walked out of the world's most awesome circus and my blood pressure is through the roof. At that moment, I'm so frustrated I could strangle a kitten and yet somewhere in my head there's a tiny little voice that is inaudible because of my fury.
Several minutes later, once the moment has diffused, I'll understand that the tiny little voice was saying, "Stop. Look around. Is anyone's life in danger, here? Or - are you running five minutes late to a swim team practice that you've signed your children up for because it's supposed to be good for them and they're supposed to have fun?"
Oh children. I want so badly to have that kind and reasonable voice be the only voice I hear, but the fact is, sometimes you are like fertilizer for the angry voice. It's a funny thing. When I'm not IN THE MOMENT, I know exactly how to relax. I'm a PhD of relax and could write volumes of books on the subject. Like right now, as the four of you are in bed asleep and I'm sipping a cup of warm tea and the house is peacefully quiet?
I'm Jen the Zen.
Alas, as much as you challenge us and stomp on our last nerves, we honestly couldn't imagine our lives without you. Someone that drives us so crazy and yet we love so unconditionally?
It's the darnedest thing ever.
(Card courtesy of my friend Lorie. She sent it to me for my birthday years ago. It hangs proudly above my desk.)
This morning your father was telling me that he believes it's critical for our emotional health that we spend some quiet time, every day - with our eyes closed just breathing in and out. Feeling our breath and grounding ourselves spiritually, mentally and physically. So children, if you ever wonder why it is that we lock ourselves in the bathroom to meditate, it's not because we're trying to hide from you...
It's so we can be better FOR you.
(OK fine. Maybe sometimes we're hiding a little, too.)