Worth the co-pay

My first visit to the therapist this weekend resulted in this bit of wisdom:

All parents find that to be good—really good—at raising a child, some part of them needs to go underground. Some people let their hobbies go, some let their careers go, some let their marriages go. But something needs to give. Just be careful what you sacrifice because the stuff that gets pushed underground may never come back up.

Damn. That was totally worth the $20.

Because for the first three years of Peanut’s life, I thought that I had closed all the doors to my future. Instead of choosing what went subterranean while I made the sacrifice to parent full time, I shovelled everything under. I was not willing to choose a few thing to die so the other bits could thrive. I just jammed it all in a box labeled: Do Not Open until 2011.

But framing the choice I’ve made in terms of pushing a few priorities to the back burner and shoving some effectively off the stove and into the trash is enlightening. I knew I wanted to fill each hole that arose as my family grew less and less needy with bits of me that I had stuffed in that box. But I didn’t (and don’t yet) have a plan for what comes out when. Just bringing dribbles of *everything* whenever there’s a spare moment will not work. I need to make room in the fridge and bring myself back a gallon at a time.

So I’m going to spend the next few weeks thinking about what I’m willing to toss, what I want to keep on hold, and what could slip back into my life, in one gulp not tiny sips, so I’m more of a person than I’ve been for a while.

What are you letting go underground while you do your most important work, and what are you carefully guarding and tending so it won’t get buried as you do your “have to” and “should”s?

One step back, now two steps forward

I have to say, while Peanut is in his room noisily refusing to sleep whilst concocting an elaborate triage center for his stuffed friends and the various wheeled vehicles that will rush them, surprisingly free of gore (for he is three and lives a sheltered life by design), to the doctor’s kit wherein they will be asked to give a urine sample and listen to Peanut’s heart; that he’s turning into an interesting creature.

It’s not true that things that don’t kill you make you stronger. For parents, that which does not kill you makes your kids stronger and more compelling humans. We’re still whittled down to nubs, but they blossom in the compost of our selfhood.

[pause while I go to the now open door and remind him that during quiet time he has to stay in his room. “Why?”  “Because the whole rest of the day is about what you want, and right now is about mommy wanting your body and brain to rest and grow.” “Why?” Because I’ll die right here if you don’t give me an hour of peace. “Because that’s the rule in this house.”]

Ahem. Where was I? Oh, yes, offering organic flesh ripped from my sanity as fodder for Peanut’s growth. Reread the Giving Tree when you have a chance. It’s about sacrifice and shriveling up into relative uselessness. Together.

That Shel Silverstein is another San Franciscan who knew his left from his right, eh?

The smiling fun of past two days are more than just my joy at being healthy, off crutches, in the bright light of spring, surrounded by flowering plum and cherry trees, and finally home again. Nope. This is about the trough in the parenting roller coaster that follows a week or two or three of every-cell-fraying individuation. This is the afterglow of personality development. This is the necessary calm in the storm that is growing up, the respite that allows moms to breathe, just for a moment, and to smile at the beautiful creatures they are lucky enough to have met.

Oh, I love you, little character.