My oldest kid is about to turn eleven years old. While I still feel like I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing as a parent most days, I do figure eleven years is enough time to consider myself an “experienced” parent. And my “experience” thus far can be summed up with the following analogy:
Parenting is a never ending, chaotic game of ping pong where one paddle is the incredible, heart exploding sense of love and pride, and the other paddle is the overwhelming, lung crushing feeling of drowning. You sporadically and unpredictably get slapped by each paddle, back and forth, over and over and over again, at unexpected speeds and intervals. Sometimes a thousand times a day. If you’re lucky, you get hit so hard by the “love” paddle that you bounce off the table for quite a long time, relishing the high before the “drowning” paddle can find you and pull you out from under the game room couch. Other days your sweet cherubs get into a punching match over a video game, the cat pukes all over the carpet, and you clumsily drop a glass on the kitchen floor all at the exact same time. You are utterly convinced the universe hates you, and wonder if 2:30 pm is too early to start drinking red wine.
This week, one paddle chose to hit harder than the other. On Tuesday one kid got sent home from school with a fever, and subsequently missed another day of school after that. The other one spent the better part of the week battling new found emotions, worries, and identity struggles that come with a new grade, and entering new pre-teenager territory. For the last week, the entire city has been on high alert (and rumor has it, sheer panic in the bottled water aisle and at the gas pumps) for the potential landfall of a massive hurricane. The uncertainty of potentially having to evacuate two adults, two children, two cats, and two rabbits (sorry goldfish, you’re on your own) to who the hell knows where in my tiny also eleven year old car left me making a mental note to potentially buy a new car, and never adopt another pet again without considering hurricane evacuation plans. Do rabbits even like car rides? Speaking of car rides, I still haven’t adapted to the “back to school” schedule myself; the 5:00 am wake up calls and constant shuttling of humans to school, to work, back to school, back to work, and back home again has gotten the best of me. And to top it all off, I had estrogen fueled tears over ridiculous, likely unsubstantiated things that led my husband to message me the following meme:
I needed nothing more than to run my heart out this week, but guess what? I didn’t get to. Between scheduling work, school, and childcare, it just didn’t happen.
There was a time in my life when this in and of itself would have left me feeling like I was being sucked further out into life’s riptide, fighting to catch a breath before another wave crashed over me. I won’t lie, running is one of my main coping mechanisms, and I’m not ashamed of it one bit. There was also a time when I’d fear one week of missed workouts would ruin all of the hard work I had put in towards my training goals.
But not anymore.
Maybe it’s because I’m “older and wiser” (does that really ever happen?). Maybe it’s because I’m putting in more miles and training more consistently than ever before, so I’m able to see the big picture a little more clearly. Maybe it’s because I’m a coach myself and see this unnecessary stress in my own runners. Maybe it’s because I’ve finally grasped the concept that while running is one of the most important things in my life, it’s not the ONLY thing in my life, and somewhere in there I need to juggle wife/mom/coach/employee duties as well. Do I hate that I missed my workouts. Yes. Is it the end of the world? No. It’s just what had to happen this week.
So let me be probably not the first, but another voice to tell you: sometimes life happens. It’s not “weakness”, and it’s not “making excuses”. It doesn’t mean that you don’t “want it bad enough” or you aren’t “dedicated”. It’s none of those things that have been plastered over a picture of some chick with a 6 pack in a sports bra and tiny shorts that was meant to either inspire or shame you into working out.
It just means that sometimes your kids get sick and mother nature gets pissed. Sometimes you forgot about a mandatory parent/teacher meeting and you realize you absolutely cannot put off grocery shopping for another day. Sometimes schedules change, favors are asked, and you roll with it not because you want to but because it’s the right thing to do.
It means that you are a living, breathing, mortal human being subjected to all of the ping pong paddles life can possibly slap you with. The best part of all of all of this though?
It means you are alive.