Parenting is probably the most difficult job ever. Everyone is an expert in all things parenting BK (before kids), but no one is the expert in anything at all after their little one takes her or his first breath. Sometimes, it surprises me that the human race is still in existence. It can be complete mayhem
sometimes all. the. dang. time.
With every new sunrise, parents become managers of the mundane, logistics experts, mediators, financial advisors, chefs, fight-breaker-uppers, psychologists, nurses, boo-boo kissers, discipline enforcers, character builders, taxi drivers, school project helpers, toilet uncloggers and so on and so on, in finitum.
Sometimes, a girl just needs to get away and remember that her identity is not completely and totally consumed by the parenting parade. Personally, because our DNA has produced a special species of super intense and hyper offspring and adoption gifted us some extra special circumstances, taking time away from the madness is not only healthy, it is necessary.
So, my awesome friend Susan and I had the chance to scoot off to Austin for an extended weekend of renewal and rest, with some writing projects thrown in the mix for good measure. Between us, we have eight kiddos, five of whom lived together in Ethiopia. It’s kinda how we became friends, but our friendship has taken on a life of its own over the years. We are complete opposites and yet kindred spirits. Life is fun when we are together and even though we only live a stone’s throw away from one another, supreme busyness keeps us from getting together as much as we’d like. It sucks and we vow to find another way to make time. We fail. And vow again. You can probably relate, right? Why are we so flippin’ busy that it feels like we are often missing the important things? To guarantee success, we booked a flight to Texas and giddily anticipated a hiatus from ministry, life and the crazy.
But crazy followed us.
On the first leg of our flight, our pilot decided to nonchalantly come over the radio and simply say, “Well, it seems our flight is deteriorating at 32,000 feet” before abruptly clicking off the mic and going silent. No other words of assurance. No mention of finding another altitude. Just silence. And glances from passengers to one another looking for assurance. The man across the aisle from me just shrugged. Umm. OK? Susan and I looked at each other, confused, and then started laughing. Who does that? Who uses the word “deteriorating” to describe what is happening mid-flight?
And so began four days of freedom! Four days of exploring quirky, fun, amazing Austin. Such a charming and odd city. At first take, Austin is an interesting mix of hippie meets cowboy meets vegan meets artist meets picnic bench and food trucks with stringed-up outdoor lighting. Lots of stringed-up lighting. But, they pull it off and it’s all so charming and tasty and friendly. It’s a weird city and apparently they like it that way, because this logo is plastered throughout the entire town:
Anyway, we spent our time laughing, chatting, dreaming, eating good food, drinking good drinks, BUYING COWBOY BOOTS, YES! and making concrete plans for a writing project that has been in our hearts and minds for some time. We spent hours at coffee shops, cafes, wandering through town, walking, circling the same Whataburger too many times by mistake, “Look kids, Big Ben!” and nearly died half a dozen times from the embedded and almost invisible hot pepper bombs in our food.
Of course, we both were also parenting a teeny tiny bit from afar too, not because our husbands aren’t fully equipped to hold down the fort, but because it is nearly impossible for many mamas to completely disconnect from their babies, big or small, for extended periods. I can’t speak for y’all, but at each day’s end, I just like to have the assurance that my babies are safe and secure.
From the first day of our trip until the last, as our husbands and their village battled the gremlins and made the thousands of tasks each day happen, we heard bits and pieces about the tornados that blew through our homes. Personally, I was made privy to several scenarios; scenarios that reminded me why I needed the trip in the first place.
Take this fun email I received from one child’s teacher for example:
Worse, while we were Facetiming that night, the child in question zoomed the book in and out on the nude pictures found in Where Do Babies Come From and through his giggles announced that he figured it out. “The daddy has to pee on the mommy and that is how we get babies, right?” Awesome!
I received a phone call the next night, when my youngest daughter sneaked into a room all by herself to whisper to me on the other end of the line, “Mama! Boo Bear called the emergency number on the phone today. He was trying to call you, but he called an ambulance by accident. Daddy was NOT happy.” Wow, that sounds fun! Just another day in the life at crazy town.
One other night, my mother-in-law kept telling me Lucy was at our house watching the little kids while she and my husband attended our oldest’s soccer game. I was really confused and more than a bit concerned because (1) I don’t know anyone named Lucy and (2) I don’t know anyone named Lucy. You see the problem here, right? Turns out she meant, Cathy, our neighbor and good friend, but whatever, I’m in Texas?! Another Dos Equis with lime and salt, please. And one for Lucy, too.
Yet, by day four, I was ready to get home and see the sweet faces of my husband and children. The morning started off with lots of hugs and big smiles. It was wonderful to be back home, with the ones I am called to do life with, and to jump back into the mundane: packing lunches, walking to school, hitting the grocery store, etc.
And while I was checking out at Trader Joes, happy about my uneventful day and thankful to still be on vacation, my phone rang. I glanced down to see the words many parents dread: the name of their child’s school. I picked up the phone.
Her: This is nurse Amy calling from the the school clinic.
Me: Is everything OK?
Her: I have your youngest in the clinic. She just threw up…
Me: Really? Wow, she was totally fine this morning. And come to think of it, I don’t remember her ever throwing up.
Her: Well, she had an eating contest in the cafeteria today. She and two friends had a contest to see who could eat the most and the fastest. And then…she ran to the bathroom and threw up.
Me: What? An eating contest? Really? An eating contest? Well, that’s a first.
Her: She is ok. She is just saying that her belly hurts.
Me: I imagine it does.
Her: I’ll keep her here until recess is over and then send her back to class.
Me: Awesome. Well, I’m glad we could keep your day as eventful as possible. Sorry bout that?!
And so, the crazy train continues. Sometimes I don’t think I am going to make it until they all become adults. Yet, other times I stop to grasp the moments. Moments that are passing by so slow and at lightening speed all at once. A British soccer coach we once hosted jokingly declared our home “mayhem manor!” And it is. A house full of trauma and healing, intensity and simplicity, grief and joy, busyness beyond human capacity, great wins and great losses. Just regular people, eyeballs deep in the messiness of life, trying to hang on and even enjoy it once in a while.
I might make it and I might not, at least not with all my sanity in check, BUT I do now have these awesome, fun, RED cowboy boots and dreams of another trip, at some point in the future. A trip to remember and to forget, but mostly to remember that though our flavors may differ, we are all on this crazy train together.