Dear Boss, Sorry, Not Sorry…I’m Taking A Sick Day

Dear Boss (AKA The Me Who Doesn’t Really Lounge Much and Forgets to Play With Her Kids):

I took a sick day today. In addition to the migraine that is trying to infiltrate my body—I just needed a day. If you want the truth, I think you did too. You can be really rigid with those to-do lists and schedules. Always rush. rush. rushing. You really did used to be a lot more fun before those tiny humans came along. Speaking of tiny people, you know who might have needed this day the most? Your youngest kid. (Sorry oldest kid, but you missed out, since you were off at school taking your responsibilities seriously. Clearly not a trait you get from me, as evident by the day your brother and I had.)

I got to spend a lot of time with Little-man today, just being. I didn’t feel 100%, but it wasn’t quite a sick-in-bed-and-can’t-move day, more like sick-enough-to-ignore-responsibilities-day, so we had some quality time to kick it together, completely guilt-free.

I didn’t want to do anything. The weather was gray and windy, perfect for shunting responsibility. There is A LOT I should have done today. I know you’ll get all anxious and edgy just thinking about this, but sometimes it’s best to face things head on; so here goes…

There are two full baskets of laundry that need folding, and another one in the dryer that may or may not be fully dry. (In fact, it’s quite possible that the whole load will need to be re-washed to avoid smelling like a car full of spilt milk on a hot day.)

I’ve also left you a sink-load of dishes that remain untouched…as in Not.Even.Rinsed.Off.

And you have a half-dozen emails and phone calls that need to be returned (some are actually time sensitive and important).

Instead of any of that, I did a lot of stuff I should probably do more of; that you should probably do more of.

Sorry, not sorry.

The day started with an extra long cuddle in bed after Little-man climbed in delighted that I wasn’t in a hurry to be anywhere else. He wasted no time getting in some “tummy touches”. (When he presses his belly into mine as much as he can while saying, Mommy, your belly is just. so. squooooshhhy! as though I’ve finally reached a long sought after and hard to achieve flabby-belly-status.)There were fuzzy covers and dogs everywhere. At one point there was a cat, but he took one look at us, flipped his tail and got on with his day; leaving us to our sloth-ing.

When we were ready, we moved our cuddle-fest to the couch. At this point your child was treated to a breakfast of champions: two cereal bars and a packet of fruit gummies. Hey, it’s not like I didn’t do anything. I had to retrieve a new box of bars from the pantry and open the d – – – things! Sometime during the “breakfast portion” of our day, I even heated up milk and put it in a “special cup” for your little cherub. And before you go all Judgy McJudgerson on me, he did not seem any worse for the wear.

Next, we parked ourselves on the couch for a good 90 minutes and watched a movie…yep, that’s right, an actual movie. Sure, it was animated, but it was also 90 minutes of nothing-doing. I know your almost-four-year-old is almost-never-still and has never actually watched a movie. (God knows you’ve tried.) Maybe his developmental readiness for cinema finally peaked, or…it could be that he was waiting for you to do what I did today:

Lie still (for more than 5 minutes), let him wrap his little legs around you under a cozy blanket (both of you in jammies) and watch…actually watch, the movie with him.

And that is what you did—no phone, no laptop, no getting up a million times to wash dishes, organize toys, or “check something”. Thanks to no caffeine and a dull headache that persuaded you to stay put, you just curled up on the couch with him, for the whole movie.

Today you were utterly free from distractions, and full of hugs.

After the movie, it was upstairs for a super-warm, extra-full bubble bath. (And I don’t mean to brag, but I was told it felt Juuust like a Hot Tub!) Instead of folding laundry, reading on your phone, or cleaning the toilet during said bath, like you usually do, I provided entertainment. There were intense submarine voyages where little knees and tiny toes were spotted underwater and tickled by “passengers” on the vessel. Giant whales in need of teeth brushing beached themselves on the edge of the tub and we both got to work scrubbing and singing along to Raffi…did I mention there was music? Yep, I pulled out all the stops on this one. And for the grand finale, not one…but two, hoodie towels were used, to keep in the warm.

Once he was in his coziest sweats, I read him his favorite book (the one he always wants you to read, that you have read a zillion times and usually hide under a pile of stuffed animals so you don’t have to ever read it again). Then, for old times’ sake, but mostly because I was too lazy to make the trek downstairs, I let him fall asleep on me in the rocking chair; all snug under a blanket. Since I had proclaimed myself task-free, I watched him for a while before laying him in his bed. I studied his little face as he breathed and watched his eyes twitch as he dreamed. I soaked him in and let the moments of our day sit with me, instead of rushing off to be somewhere else, do do something else…that can almost always wait.

Today I noticed that Little-man is not so little anymore. Did you know that in the bathtub, his long body stretches from end to end? And when he is wrapped in his superhero towel (the one that used to drag on the floor when he had the hood on), it barely hangs below his knees? And where the soft, pudgy, baby fat used to be, there are bony arms and legs everywhere? Did you know that his eyelashes are out of control? While we were drawing today, I noticed that when he looks down, they practically touch his cheek. Seriously, where did they come from, and can I have some?!

And since we are on the subject of faces; I discovered that lying nose to nose with a 3-year-old who is giggling is as restorative as soul-food, good music, and yoga combined.

I’ll just wrap up by saying, good for you, for giving me (us) this day to chill. You didn’t actually put up much of a fight, which makes me think there will likely be a lot more “sick days” in our future. I know it set us back a bit and we might all be wearing dirty clothes (or at least smelly) for a few days. But even if we are eating off of paper plates and playing catch up tomorrow, it was worth it. Little-man and I thank you for the time to reconnect and remember how lucky we are to be here, in this house, in this life…together; piles of laundry and all.

Oh, and tomorrow, when Little-man asks you to sit down and do a puzzle, or draw a picture, or hide under a blanket…from the dogs—do it. Not in a little bit, or later, or after you finish… Whatever it is; it can wait. (It waited today, and as far as I can tell, the world is still on its axis.) He is growing and changing so much, and you’ve already been missing it. When he asks you to play, say yes, enjoy him, be still with him. You’ll thank me later.

Sincerely,

Your On-the-Mend and Grateful Self

P.S. A few other things…Pajamas can totally double as day wear if you go with neutral tones; proving that “getting dressed” is both overrated and unnecessary. As proof, Little-man told me on more than one occasion (referring to my robe) that he loooved my beauuuutiful dress! Oh, and the dogs are pretty restless and in need of a walk. And don’t bother turning on the front porch lights tonight, the bulbs still need replacing. And if it rains before I get around to reprogramming the drip system, the neighbors…and the environment—are your problem.

Thoughts on Phantom, Snape, and Sad Endings

dreamstime_s_20542150I took my 9 year-old to see The Phantom of the Opera, and I’m still recovering…in the good way. It was my 3rd time seeing it. Once, through the eyes of a teenager full of angst. Once as a young adult falling in love with her future husband. And now, as a mother, watching her child experience something for the first time. Each time, I am moved by the story, affected by the music, and saddened by the ending. I wasn’t sure my son would understand it enough to love it, or even like it, but I figured the experience couldn’t hurt. Besides, fancy drinks and concession stand goodies, late on a school night, are the stuff memories are made of.

He was engaged from the start, never taking his eyes off the stage. I’d done some pre-loading to prepare him for the jarring sounds and visuals, which he got through emotionally intact. No surprise, he connected with the music. His love for all things instrumental has been present pretty much since birth. (This is the same kid who asked for a harp from Santa on his 3rd Christmas!)  At intermission, he was full of words. He could barely get them out fast enough. And OMG the fire! The gunshots! The chandelier!!  As soon as the lights flickered telling us to take our seats, he was off. Down the corridor, warm chocolate chip cookie in hand, C’mon Mom!

From the first verse of Masquerade, he was transfixed. As the second half of the story unfolded, I realized I had not remembered the intensity. He seemed ok, but whispered a few questions to me as we saw the Phantom’s backstory explained through shadowy images, projected on a wall. The shadows revealed that some characters had met their demise at the hands of the Phantom’s anger. In the last scenes, the Phantom’s face is revealed to be disfigured— a startling visual for a 9 year-old. I could see my son’s expression turn to concern. I wasn’t sure if he was reacting to the stage make-up, the change in mood when Christine Daae is being held captive, the intensity of the music, or just the overall tension that filled the auditorium.

As the curtain came down for the last time, he clapped enthusiastically, glancing sideways to check it was really the end (I think hopeful, that maybe it wasn’t). As soon as the applause ended and we could talk, he said, I didn’t like the ending. Not expecting this, I wanted to know why. I don’t like that the Phantom couldn’t be happy. Out of the mouths of babes. I understood wholeheartedly how he felt. We are conditioned to want a happy ending.

Our discussion continued in the car… and as he was getting his pajamas on…long after bedtime. Why couldn’t they make it so he was at least a little bit happy? Why did he have to be so alone?  And the clincher, with tears in his eyes, Are there really people who have that sad of a life?  Boy, this parenting stuff sure can deliver a sucker punch. My motto is to be honest if I can, and yes, people do have that sad of a life. But, maybe we don’t need to go there, at 10:30 on a school night?

My son is a major reader, so I grasped for characters to use as examples for explanation; hoping to insert a fictional buffer into our conversation. Real life hardships faced by kids all over the world: abuse, neglect, poverty, bullying, would have to wait for an earlier time of day, preferably on a weekend, or when my husband wasn’t out of town.

He’s obsessed with all things Harry Potter, so I tried Voldemort.

No Mom, Voldemort had a hard childhood, but he was bad from the beginning, he didn’t even try to be good. The Phantom was born with a different face and was put in a circus and put in a cage…anyone would have turned bad who was treated like that! 

Ok, good point. And man this kid really paid attention to the plot!

Are people really treated like that in real life?

(Ok, hello 11:00 PM, we are having this conversation now, school night or not.) 

Enter brutal truth. Yes. There are children who never get a fair start; who are born into much different environments than you and your brother. There are kids who are bullied their whole lives, and it changes them, and sometimes they make really bad choices out of anger or fear. And we can’t do much about it. The only thing we can control is how we treat others. We have to remember that everyone has a backstory, even those who act in ways we don’t understand.

Yes, mom, like Snape! Everyone thought he was bad, but he was so good.

Ok, we’re back to fiction, phew! Yes, like Snape.

He is actually the hero. He loved Lilly the most. And James isn’t what Harry thought, I bet Harry is ashamed of James. 

Oh boy, we are digging deep here, and it’s not getting any earlier. Well, yes, in some ways. But people aren’t perfect, even those we love the most. But we have to accept all of them, even the parts we don’t like. And yes, even the ‘good guys’ can be complicated.

Mom, James is a bully! And Snape loves Lilly so much that he protects Harry, even though he reminds him of James, who bullied him. And when his patronus is a doe, it’s sooo saaad!

And Mom, The Phantom was bullied too and treated terribly and the only way he could escape was to fight and to hurt the people hurting him. And no one ever loved him. It’s just. sooo. saaad. 

Why couldn’t I have just taken him to see Storks?! I had to get us out of this somehow.  He hates mushy stuff and kissing, but we had to go there. Because school. We needed to put a period on this conversation and go to bed! It was time to talk about the ending that started this conversation…so.long.ago. So we talked about the kissingewww!

Our discussion in a nutshell: Christine Daae kisses the Phantom at the end to show him he was worth loving, he was worth something, and not a monster. And in turn, he lets her go, because he loved her. To my surprise, there was no cringing. No, Gross, Mom! Just a question.

Mom, Do you think he ever found a friend or anyone who was nice to him, or was he alone forever?

Continuing with the truth telling thing we had going I said, I don’t know.

And finally…quiet. That was enough, for now.

He climbed into bed (taking a dog with him to cuddle) and said more to himself than to me— But it was just a story

Yes, a sad story. And he will learn as he goes, what I already know.

The sad ones stick. The sad ones move you. The sad ones are often the stories of the underdog. Sometimes they are the most important to tell because they are the voice for those who were never going to get a happy ending; but who’s story is still worth telling.

I’m glad my kid is sensitive. (But we never use the S word since I have heard it enough for both of us.) I tell him he feels things deeply. He does, he always has, which makes him complicated. I know how he feels, because he gets it from me. It’s a blessing and a curse. And just like James Potter, and Snape, and The Phantom, it’s what makes us imperfect and vulnerable, and sometimes taxing on the ones who love us. But it’s part of our story, and it’s the only one we know how to tell.