Eight years ago, I gave myself a birthday gift. I started this blog, the one I’d been dreaming about as the next phase of my writing career. This would be a place to capture meaningful parenthood moments — from the hilariously embarrassing ones to the saccharine-y sweet ones.
The past few years though, I’ve spent a whole lot less time at the keyboard and a whole lot more time in the driver’s seat. As those of you with older kids know, there comes a time when less and less of our parenting is done at home, and more and more of our time is spent out and about. We no longer busy our days waiting for little ones to go down for — or wake up from — naps. Instead we play the clock and race to find our big ones coming off of a court or field, or out of a classroom or pool.
So yesterday, on the eighth anniversary of my blog — which also happens to be my birthday — people kept asking me what my plans were for the big day. And, well, the truth was nothing too different from every other day, really.
Ok, walking out my bedroom through disco streamers and down to a breakfast table filled with balloons and delicious treats wasn’t the norm. But the conversation at the table about the day ahead was. The fun that would be had at camp. The things that everyone needed to do to get out the door in time. The texts from moms around town coordinating who would be where when, and picking up which kids. There was the mad dash of sunscreen and water bottles and figuring out who would sit where before we started to make our way across town.
As we hit the road, a glance back in the rearview mirror revealed the wide blue-green eyes that automatically wink back at mine. Over my other shoulder I saw my freckles, but a facial expression that was much more mischievous than mine. And, of course, out of that clever mouth came a ridiculous joke that had us all in stitches. Next to me was my dependable co-pilot. He has a coach who jokes that he’s lazy because it takes fewer muscles to smile than frown. And I can always count on his laziness — now laced with metal and rubber bands — along with his bizarre ability to know every word to every song that comes on as we’re driving.
Like all drop offs are these day, it was easy. Not a single kid looked back with the slightest bit of hesitancy. They each knew there was fun to be had, and that I’d return in no time to hear all about it on the way to their next great adventure.
Once the car was empty, it was anything but silent. There was the sound of the baseball Big had been using to stretch his pitching grip left rolling around, banging off the door and center console every time I turned a corner. There was the sound of empty water bottles shrinking and expanding in the cup holders throughout our well-traveled minivan. The clang of seatbelts that never made it quite back into taut position when kids rushed to get out of the car and on with life.
The morning’s real race happened to be getting me to my “camp” — a birthday Soul Cycle ride, courtesy of a friend who keeps encouraging me to show up for myself, too. Even if it would be a whole lot easier to blow off exercise and tell myself I “should” be doing other, more important things. Though the music pumped through the speakers at an offensive volume for a woman of my age, and I could barely see in the darkened room (though, let’s be honest, that’s one of the greatest assets of Soul Cycle for someone like me), I did my best to move. To keep up.
And when the instructor told us to tighten our core, I quickly realized that no amount of sucking in was going to tighten what’s happening around my middle at the moment. The celebratory one-more-glass-of-Chardonnay lunch dates with dear friends, snack shack dinners at Little League games on the days my kids weren’t even on the field, and twenty one years dedicated to pizza-and-wine-Friday dates with my husband have made me who I am. Even if that is a bit softer than the ladies on the bikes around me.
After the usual parking lot pow-wow with friends, I came home to a familiar voice booming from the office in the house we built together. The voice that’s grounded me, cheered me, and laughed with me for half my life now. Just hearing it in the background calms me.
Before I knew it, I was off to refill my car with kids and listen in as they spent every moment possible recapping their sports highlight reels (and a few noteworthy lows for good measure). There was the well check for my little girl where her pediatrician and I marveled that a kid who started life struggling is now jazzing it up in red sequins on stage in front of an adoring crowd, swimming lap after lap after lap, and feeling oh-so strong and confident in her own skin.
Come evening, four of us hopped into Lenny’s car to meet up with our fifth. We arrived to find Big and some of his closest friends since kindergarten — along with some more recent buddies — being introduced at their All-Star game. I teared up as the team stood proud for the Star Spangled Banner and Little League pledge. I sat surrounded by good-to-the-core people as we cheered on this talented team, from frustrated strike outs to a victory-sealing grand slam. I ate yet another greasy, delicious snack shack cheeseburger and I watched my younger kids huddled up with their friends — Pink working her rainbow loom magic, and Little with his kindred spirit predicting each batter’s fate as he stepped up to the plate.
After some post-game hoopla, we headed home to enjoy the cupcakes my always-thoughtful friend had brought me earlier in the day. The younger kids gave me creative homemade cards, and handed me the gifts their dad helped them pick out, knowing me so well — hardly able to wait for the wrapping to come off before excitedly explaining the awesomeness of each one. The older kid played it cool, but insisted I blow out a candle as he took pictures. (He had just aced his photography elective, after all.)
Then Lenny and I tucked in three happily exhausted children. And enjoyed the silence that washed over the house. Except, of course, the bling of new voicemails and texts coming in from people who made me feel loved — in spite of my crumby kitchen floors, all-too-bare walls, and yet-to-be-written-or-even-thought-through-bestseller. But just for being plain old, squishy me.
In my world, #thisis42. And this full life, even if it is full of chaos? Well, that something to celebrate.