For the first time in over seven years, I missed a day of work today due the flu. We're six weeks into the semester, and even before this illness hit, I've been tired. I often feel as if I'm being pulled in too many directions and treading hard to keep my head above water -- even though I try to make it appear effortless.
To quote a line from from The Lord of the Rings, "I feel thin. Sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread. I need a holiday. A very long holiday."
A holiday sounds nice.
When you have children, holidays are few and far between. Kids are still there when you're tired. They're still there when you're sick. Kids are little syringes, sucking your attention and time. There's nothing wrong with this, of course; it's inherent in their nature. Like stocking shelves in retail or sorting mail in the post office, kids are constant. They keep coming at you. It's what they do.
This is why holidays are essential. Although I didn't know it when we were making our weekend plans, going roller skating as a family on Friday night was a holiday for me. It was an entire evening when parenting was pure fun, not work.
On Sunday when the two little girls napped, I took Reese on a date. Just the two of us. We sipped hot cocoa at a local cafe. We drove to her school and walked the perimeter, hand in hand. She told me about the school's library and how she likes getting bookmarks. We peered into her classroom's window and she pointed out her seat at Table 4.
A simple statement: "Show me what you do at recess," led to nearly an hour's worth of play for the two of us. In our boots, we walked across the snow-covered playground and field. We swung on the swings, feeling the cold air against our faces. We climbed the jungle gym, dangling our feet beneath us before we slid down the center pole into the slush below. We tossed and kicked the partially deflated soccer ball we found abandoned on the sidewalk. She showed me the hill -- undoubtedly large in her perception, but tiny in mine -- where she and her classmates sled ride. We raced. She told stories, her cheeks flushed pink from the cold and exertion.
We walked across the field where large balls of snow had been rolled. There they sat, singular and oddly placed Stonehenge-like testimonies to recesses past.
"Are these the snowmen that you've told me about?" I asked.
"Did they get knocked over?"
"No, we just don't know how to get one ball on top of another."
I nodded my understanding. That would be a hard task for a group of kindergartners.
When I tucked her into bed that night, she thanked me for our special date. We had created a little holiday, one right in our own snowy neighborhood.
Like I've written in the past, I want to parent intentionally. Perhaps part of this is learning to change my mindset when parenting frequently falls into an unhealthy pattern of feeling like work to be done, rather than a pleasure to embrace. My kids aren't little hurdles to overcome, and although some days it feels like it, their bedtime isn't the finish line where I can finally tune into "my" life.
These kids, these little people God has entrusted me with, are my life, and during this particular stage when they're so young -- when they can't cut their own meat and fold their own laundry and wipe their own bottoms -- that life is going to be tiring at times.
It's the perfect reason to search for and seize holidays in whatever form I can find them.
Image compliments of Tanjila (Flickr.com)