Monday, October 10, 2011

Hard but Good

Jasper and I took a quick trip to Chicago this weekend because my cousin Ross was getting married! While the rest of the family drove with our luggage, Jasper and I flew with just a diaper bag. Our trip there was so slick and he impressed all kinds of people with his travel savvy on Saturday morning.

Unfortunately, he was also developing a low grade fever and got passed around a lot. My Aunt Kris was going to babysit during the wedding, but we changed our plans when she had a last minute family emergency. My whole family was so flexible and accommodating - I was still able to enjoy most of the festivities and Jasper got plenty of sleep all day.

But Sunday was a different story. The poor guy was burning up and uncomfortable all night. I stumbled into the airport on 3 hours of sleep with a fussy boy in the front carrier. I loaded a plane and found my seat surrounded by people avoiding eye contact and leaning away from me and my crabby baby. I got the hairy eyeball from a woman reading a book about the beauty of Catholicism. She, ironically, rolled her eyes at me while reading a page that said, "God comes to us in the most unexpected times and places". I prayed for her mercy to no avail.

This was Jasper's sixth airplane ride and until this moment he'd been a total trooper. I think I'd become a little self-righteous about this fact and melted sheepishly as his wails filled the plane. I was alone and miserable on a precious Sunday "off". I wanted to cry, too.

When we got home, Matt joined us for a family trip to the Urgent Care. He was ready to see a doctor for the same crap. So we loaded the car with a tired mom and her two sick guys. As each hour passed and we moved from waiting room to waiting room, Matt and I exchanged shrugs, bad jokes and empathetic eyes. We had been looking forward to the afternoon for weeks - the rare blank space on our calendars this fall freed for football and relaxing. Oh well. It was good to have the band back together, even if we were spending that time with every sick kid in St. Paul.

While Jasper was sent home with an expensive and prescription-free "let's wait and see", Matt got some drugs and we were home by five thirty. I got Pete and Repeat set up with a bottle and clean diaper before getting back in the car and heading to my goddaughter's house. Time with Liv has fallen through the cracks a lot lately, so I wasn't about to call and back out. I needed time with a family I admire - a family who knows Urgent Care well and always lives to tell the tale.

I fell in love with the Enstads long before I got married and started my own family. I've watched the way Carrie and Chris compromise and find humor in the hard stuff, show the girls love even when they're exhausted and I adore their fierce commitment to juggling it all with honesty and grace.

I arrived to find delicious chili and homemade cake. The girls had painted fall leaves and made cards for me, Matt and Jasper. We decorated the house for Carrie's birthday. Berit brushed my hair and they both danced and had meltdowns during the evening. It was perfect.

It always helps to watch Carrie with her kids. I have such love for her perspective and faith as a working mom. I channel her often when this parenthood thing gets tricky, calling on the strength and grace she's shown me. Toward the end of the night, Liv invited me to watch her play her violin, something I've been eager to hear for months.

But there was a catch. I could not act excited about it. She would not face me while she played and I could not clap when she finished. I remembered my own shyness about success and praise at that age and understood. We headed to the basement where Carrie could accompany her on the piano and I learned a great lesson.

Carrie, too, pretended it was no big deal. She gave Liv all of her attention without pushing any of the buttons that would shut Liv down or make her blush. As Carrie played the piano and guided her gently, something in my own heart clicked. I needed this scene of accompaniment to help me rise out of the day's ashes.

When Liv finished playing, I clapped twice. I'd forgotten the rules and my excitement slipped out for a moment. She's really, really good. And I was really, really proud. But then she shot me a look and I packed it away. No big deal. I'm not excited, but thanks for showing me. And we moved on.

Driving home I thought about Carrie's posture next to Liv. She was coming alongside her, not taking control of too much and letting Liv define her role. That's what the Spirit does with m e and that's what I needed to do with Jasper. I didn't need to fix the fact that he felt like crap. I wasn't a bad parent because his head was hot and he felt crummy. I'm not a doctor or a magician - I'm a mom. And that means I come alongside him, snuggling and kissing and helping him drift off to sleep until things get better. Watching Carrie do that, remembering that God was beside me and believing I could do it for Jasper redeemed my day off, my precious Sabbath day I thought had gone to waste.

When I came home, I crept quietly into Jasper's room and marked his forehead with the sign of the cross. Jasper, I love you very much and so does Jesus. His brow was warm and his light snoring filled the room with peace. I sat down in the rocking chair and closed my heavy eyes for a moment, basking in his breath and the darkness. It was a good place for a tired prayer, simple words and lots of gratitude. Gracious God, today was hard but good. You were there and looking back I can see all the kindness and hope, not just the heavy stuff. Thank you for the dancing and the meltdowns. See you tomorrow. Amen.

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