My work schedule was slammed with students. As a writing coach, I meet with students one on one to help them improve their writing skills while empowering them to understand the rhetorical situation and make their own smart choices. It becomes mentally and physically draining when I'm logging almost 6.5 hours of back to back contact time with students four days a week. I usually have Fridays off, but instead, I went in to work for a few hours to meet the needs of my students.
Thursday my husband came down with the cold/sinus/blah junk that I had a few weeks ago.
On Friday night while attending a play that a friend of mine was directing, I got word that my great-grandma passed away. I have beautiful memories of her from when I was a child. She lived a long, full life, but death has a way of dredging up unexpected emotions.
Saturday my husband and I spent much of our day trying to diffuse tantrums.The bedroom walls endured their usual beating from our kids' unspoken emotions--likely frustration with our boundaries, sadness at all the loss they've endured, confusion about who to be mad at. A sense of helplessness reverberated throughout our house. The last tantrum stretched on until 10:30 PM, and my husband and I collapsed soon after, our conversation about solutions always cut short by sleep.
On Sunday morning I picked my son up from Sunday school and the volunteer teacher reported, "We had some problems with him today. He wasn't listening and the other kids were saying that he said bad words. You might want to fix it." I know she has no context of our situation, but her words were just another reason to call myself a failure as a parent.
Yesterday I ran away.
I put lunch on the table for my family, changed into my favorite sweatpants and hoodie, and drove west down Highway 2. I turned my phone off and just drove aimlessly not knowing where I would end up. The tips of my ears burned red as they always do when I'm frustrated. My breathing was heavy and irregular as if I were running a long distance, and my heart beat fast and heavy in my chest.
|Not my view but a nice view, nonetheless.|
I crossed into a new county and was greeted with a mixture of rolling, empty fields to the south and bluffs and hills to my north. I turned onto a gravel road long closed off with barbed wire and considered hopping the makeshift fence to see what I could find in those bluffs edged with sandy soil. Not wanting to be charged with trespassing, I opted to sit inside my car and stare at the beauty in front of me. My heart-rate--normally slow, had not slowed down all weekend, but as I stared into the hills, it returned to normal. My breathing regulated, suddenly my eyes felt heavy and all I wanted was sleep.
I carefully backed out onto the highway my car pointed towards home. I turned my phone back on and ignored the eight new text messages. Nate and the kids were out running errands. I worried about my husband who tries to be the rock for our family all of the time. Once home, I crawled into bed ignoring the ringing doorbell. I closed my eyes.
Soon, I heard the back door open and the kids trudge to their rooms to play-their feet heavy. My husband laid down next to me. We didn't talk for a long time; we just laid their listening to each other breathing. Eventually, one of us spoke. We talked a little--the words heavy and sad and dripping with defeat. And then we stood up, smoothed our crumpled clothes, and moved on. Nate took J for a drive to talk with him. K and I made cupcakes. An hour later, the four of us stood in the kitchen hugging like the end of some cliche movie. We each apologized for different things, we reminded one another of how much love we all felt, made plans for how we could all do better, and we moved on.
Parenting kids from tough places is the hardest thing I've ever done. It's a self-discipline, a labor of love, and I'm learning that it's okay to step away from time to time. However long I drove and slept was enough time for me to regain my composure. The rest of the night was not perfect, but I was better equipped to deal. Whatever your parenting situation looks like, know that it's okay to step away. Give yourself permission to amble through the aisles at Target, to run, to drive, to do whatever it is that will truly center you and bring peace. Your family will be better off when you allow yourself space and time to reset.