Ten years ago, I was a fitness maniac.
I’m being serious. I ran three miles every day, and then I spent another half hour lifting weights until I cried. And afterward? I would drink a spinach protein shake for lunch. I know, I know. Nobody believes me when I tell that story now. Everything jiggles when I walk nowadays, and not in a good way. So I understand their suspicion. Plus, everyone knows I won’t eat spinach anymore unless it has a glob of fried cheese on it. But trust me, I’m much more tolerable this way.
It’s just that the local gym offered childcare. The care included doing crafts with the kids– the kind of crafts from a woman’s magazine with glitter and glue and finger paint. A smiling staff equipped with a plastic knife to scrape the Play-doh out of the carpet? Sold!
Going to the gym was a perfect arrangement for our family during the preschool years. My husband worked long hours and traveled a lot. Exercising gave me the air I needed before spending the rest of the day breathing life back into three very small, needy children. This is what pulled me out of a deep postpartum depression, and as a bonus, my homeschooled children got to carry a fruity snack in a real lunchbox. It was a win-win.
I don’t think I ever saw that situation as a “problem” with a need for a smart, handy solution. When you’re in the middle of a crisis, you don’t always realize what’s going on. It’s easier to diagnose other people’s situations; solving your own problems is trickier and not nearly as entertaining as listening to the Dr. Laura program on xm in the afternoons. (Sue me.)
Sometimes I think back on those early days with nostolgia. It’s not just because I could walk up a flight of stairs without holding onto the handrails and getting winded. It’s because I saw myself as I was – tired and barely hanging on – and then I did something about it, something other than my usual complaining and excuse making. Making the decision to change my life was actually a pretty smart thing to do, even if it was a road I followed only because there was a dangling carrot disguised as preschool crafts.
I’m cognizant of these problem /solution scenerios because my oldest is a teenager, and my second oldest is about to take over the world if Goldman Sachs will let her. Now, I don’t see the teenage years as a problem, per se. I just mean that I foresee many more situations that need solving, paths that need choosing, and decisions that need praying over. I want the “Dora promotes witchcraft” mommy wars to please come baaaaack.
I want to know: What is the perfect time limit on movies and video games? How much work will grow my sons into men but not break their spirits? How can I know when to hold a hard line and when to back off and give them space? Are teenage males biologically incapable of putting a trash liner in the trash can? I just want to know.
I’ve noticed there’s not a secret, magic formula for getting it right. Sometimes we make decisions, and by surprise or sheer genius, we get it right. And then other times, we forge ahead in another direction, and egads, we realize that was not the right thing to do at all. (God, please bless all the firstborn children.) Praise Heaven for U-turns and forgiveness from the people you hurt along the way. Because I’m counting on it.
But, man, oh man. Someone please. Just give me a child who doesn’t need expensive therapy when it’s all over. Just one.