With the Easter bunnies back in hibernation until next year, and the allergy season in full bloom, it seems that people are rolling up their cuffs and trading in their sweaters for sunglasses in eager pursuit of one thing: SPRING BREAK! This week (or last, or next) it feels like everyone is traveling somewhere exciting, taking time off, or hunkering down for a cozy stay-cation of some sort. Even the high school where my husband works has spring break this week, and while he doesn't get any extra time off (boo) the breezier ambiance does allow for him to enjoy a cup of coffee before hitting the traffic-filled freeway in the mornings - and hey, we'll take what we can get!
So, I decided to take my own initiative on the matter, and make use of my free morning and turn it into an indulgent outing for myself and my two young girls. I made a list, and decided to turn my weekly shopping trip into as much of a "spring break" for myself as I could muster. This might not seem like a big deal to many of you, but to those who feel the anchor of having very little "extra" money and have seen one-too-many toddler shows over the long weekend - you can attest to the importance one productive and happy outing can make to a mother's sanity. And, as someone who gave up Target for an entire year in 2012, it still comes as a treat to me to load up my girlies into the giant red caboose-cart and take our time shopping the bullseye bargains.
It started out fine. My goal was to hit up Target for a few necessities and then swing by Trader Joe's for some healthy-but-easily-prepared meals to accommodate my de-stressing week. I had fed the girls a little breakfast, but only enough so that they would still be delightfully distracted by the treat of getting a little something at the Starbuck's inside Target. I thought this plan was brilliant, topped off by the fact that I had been looking forward to a grande soy latte with sugar-free hazelnut since going to bed last night (it really is the little things, folks).
But, the girls were not exactly up for a calm little stroll around Target. Daphne (who had woken up at 2:30am with a bad dream and finally just snuggled in bed all night next-to/on-top-of me) was already off her proverbial rocker. She was cranky and absolutely determined to NOT be constrained by the harness in the red caboose-cart. She did not want to be held. She DID want to climb the shelves and re-stack the toys in the middle of the aisle. She DID want to throw her Starbucks cookie at her sister. And she DID want to let everyone within earshot know that her mother was torturing her by making sure she didn't wander off or ruin a display.
Has someone been feeding this girl steroid-covered-espresso-beans for breakfast?
I managed to (three times) wrestle her into the shopping cart so I could contain her long enough to keep her sister from pulling an entire 20-lb jug of cat litter on top of herself. I felt like I was trying to keep hold of two wild and angry boars who were squealing and kicking their way through the store and someone had just blindfolded me and buttered my hands when I wasn't looking. What!?! What is going ON here!? And WHERE did I put my latte down????
I bought a pair of ill-fitting neon yellow capris on impulse (already tied up with receipt-in-bag to return later after I tried them on at home, siiiigh) and convinced myself that going to Trader Joe's would surely redeem this trip. I know, I know, I know...rookie mistake. What was I thinking???
Fifteen minutes in, Daphne had already thrown my phone into the freezer bin and I found Matilda stacking bananas into her very own cart (they have child-size carts there - which is super cute, but makes for a rather traffic-jammed trip when you are steering one and keeping track of the other!) I managed to escape with both children still alive, my pocket book weary from spontaneous purchases to appease their greedy whines. I took a deep breath and found myself praying for extra grace on the way home as I literally threw handfuls of white cheddar popcorn at my children in the backseat as if I were feeding ducks that I visited on a regular basis. Here! Take it! Be QUIET! And once again I walked the line of proud-to-have-survived and ashamed-of-my-behavior.
At this very moment, my babies are asleep. They have finally crashed (in the same room, at the same time, no less!) and are napping, which is how I can complete a whole sentence without typing "get off of that" or "be careful" or "stop hitting her" mysteriously plopped in the middle of a thought. It's quiet, and calm, and I'm finally taking whole sips of coffee that is still hot and hashing out the tremendously impossible and taxing morning that just happened. (Can you hear that? It's the sound of me, catching my breath.)
There is no spring break for mothers. Maybe it was a fool's errand to think I could relax and turn a weekday chore into a pleasant escape. Or maybe I still like the part of me that is determined to hold on to some ideals that reality continues to sever. Nonetheless, I'm too tired to worry about it all that much. I spend too much energy on wavering between guilt and empowering myself and praying about it and then worrying some more about how it will all pan out. I let my kids watch tv and I worry they'll be idiots because of my lack of teaching-them-something-new-non-stop. I let my kids eat cookies for breakfast and I worry I've surely ruined their appeal for healthy options forever. I let my girls pick out their own outfits and I worry someone else will say something to make them feel bad about themselves (let alone assume I've lost all capacity for matching patterns).
And then, you know what, I sigh and pray and let it all go.
Therein lies my true spring break. I'm giving myself a freaking BREAK. Yup, my 3 year old leaves out 5, 6, 7 when she counts to ten. It's cool - she'll get it. My 20-month-old is becoming more and more attached to her pacifier. It's gonna be okay - I won't let her leave for college with it. My kids threw FITS in the middle of a public shopping trip and a neighbor of mine caught me yelling at my naughty child in a moment of utter frustration. Yup! It's gonna happen, people!
My spring break isn't going to include ski resorts or flip flops or even relaxing with a magazine on a sunny day. It's going to be about this moment right here - where I thank Jesus for reminding me that the best things in life are not free - they are just paid for by someone else.
Thank you, Jesus, for loving ridiculous, imperfect, yells-at-her-defiant-children, drinks-Diet-Coke-before-noon, has-three-day-old-clean-basket-of-laundry-yet-to-be-folded, should-be-doing-the-dishes-right-now, looking-at-popcorn-and-cereal-on-my-carpet-waiting-to-be-vacuumed, probably-needs-to-reapply-deodorant ME. The great big, hot mess that I am, trying to survive and make proper civilians out of these silly little spunky monkey girls that I've brought into this world. Lord, have mercy and sanity on us! Give us the grace and space that we need to keep some gratitude in our day.
Mother's don't get spring breaks. So, give yourself one. Jesus has already won the battle for the stupid things we will do. He's already forgiven me for how I will next frustratingly-snap at my daughter or my lack of focus when I choose my iPhone over engaging with whatever new dance move my daughter is trying to show me. I'm going to fail, again and again. And, it's all going to be okay. It doesn't mean I give up, or let down my guard, or even let go of those ideals. Far from it! Instead, I'm breaking away from the cycle of failure leading to discouragement leading to further disappointment and instead, prayerfully embracing the option of total forgiveness (constant and never ceasing) and forging ahead.
Spring break takes on a whole new meaning as a full-time mom. I wonder what spring cleaning will have in store?
How about YOU? What "BREAK" are you going to give yourself this week? How is God showing you balance in the chaos of your day?