I couldn’t sleep one night a couple of weeks ago because I felt guilty that I hadn’t done enough for Garrett’s tenth birthday. We had a cake and dinner, but he didn’t want a party – he isn’t a very social kid – and his one gift was expensive and on back order. I even forgot candles. I let it slide beneath the tide of a million other small day-to-day responsibilities. I wanted Matt to disagree, I think, to say that birthdays aren’t what matter, but he didn’t. He said (or I heard) that he thought I was too busy and my priorities swerve off course when I’m overwhelmed. It cut deep. True things do.
The very next day, as if a higher power taunted me, saying of course you can do more, a social worker I know fairly well called and asked if we might be willing to take a newborn baby girl. We had a past relationship with the young momma and had worked well together. We agonized, both Matt and I care about the momma and wanted to help, but finally said no for a lot of reasons – most importantly we aren’t a permanent option for a baby any more. No, we can’t. It’s only a boundary and an honest one, but sometimes that little word feels like disappointing the entire universe.
One half of my brain reminds me that we need less not more of everything. Less demands on our time. Less running around. Less stuff. Less scheduling. I already lie awake and worry about birthdays and rushed evenings and missed family dinners. The other half says really? What’s more important your schedule or a safe home for newborn baby? Convenience or sharing what we have? What do you want to teach your children? Is it too much or do you just like where you are now? A few days to myself a week, time to write, think, and plan classes. Time for book club and dinner with friends.
I do like where I am – angst and all. I also like being involved and busy, so I know cutting the activities I love to sit home with a newborn is not a good idea for me and keeping this pace with a newborn is not going to work. That’s okay. I mean that. I’m not looking for permission. We’ve sat with it and we feel sad to say no, sad to have to turn away from this struggling momma, but it’s okay. There are other incredible people out there who said yes this time.
A few nights later, a virus in the house kept me up all night bouncing between a puking Nate and a crying Xavier. In between cursing the evolution of vomiting – there has to be a better way – I had a moment of profound gratefulness NOT to have a newborn baby girl. It’s funny what you learn about yourself at 3:00 a.m.
It’s important to us to build a longer table and let our family’s plenty and stable routine be a part of these little lives, so it’s hard to teach our kids that there are limits to what we can do, but of course there are. Of course. Knowing your limits might, in the end, be the more important side of the lesson.
Nate brought me his “All About Me” sheet for his class the other day. He answered the whole thing all by himself and he just needed pictures.
Obviously there’s some bias, but I think he’s a special kid for a million reasons. His reason made me a little teary. I still suck at birthdays. And cooking dinner. And any kind of request for baked goods of any kind. Mopping isn’t a strength either if you want the truth. In one sentence, though, he reminded me that some things around here are all right.