The process of accepting and acknowledging the end of a chapter, life, or even a moment helps build the resilience necessary to navigate our lives and all those entangled feelings. But man, it’s hard.
I had big plans for this post back on April 28th when I began writing…it was going to be all about the month of May — and how every year it bulldozes in, knocking April flat on its face, seemingly declaring itself the boss of all the other months.
And then I blinked. May began. Playoff games, PTSA meetings, traveling to colleges to help pack up our kids for the summer — all good things (thank God), but nonstop. So I wrote a bit here and there yet to click “Publish”. Nevertheless, I am going to press on and let all of you know —you are not alone. Once May hits, things become real. Only twelve days in and I’m emotionally exhausted, and as I glance around the room – faces are tired, bodies a bit slumped, thoughts and feelings swarming like mosquitos in the summer. Stupid May.
The days of this extraordinary fifth month are packed — mind you, not the regular busy— groceries to buy, laundry to fold, and lawns to mow—but milestone moments —graduations, last days of school, finals, new jobs —greetings and goodbyes —multiple transitions steeped with growth and oozing with emotions – all of them. Some days it feels like all of it is just too much, and guess what? It is. It’s a lot. But that’s life’s prescription – a nasty rainstorm then a double rainbow, rush hour then empty roads, yin and yang…we can only control so much. Or rather so little. But all moments, even the hardest ones that make you want to scream —matter in a true and remarkable way.
Here’s one of my May moments…
The other day I cleaned the kid’s bathroom – the room I purposely avoid. A better mom would say “Yup, my son scours the bathroom from top to bottom!” But I’m not, and he doesn’t. Once, after asking about 34 times he made an effort, but somehow, forgot to look in the mirror (shocking at 17)! So, he did not see that Clorox wipes smudge the mirror making the reflection appear like a fuzzy photo. Anyway, I cleaned it, grumbling along the way about two – two! toothpaste tubes being open, both squeezed from the middle, tips crusty with what looked like spackling for drywall, and lids nowhere to be seen. The towels and washcloths were bleached with the acne soap no one tells you has peroxide in it, and seven bottles of various body and hair products lined the tub, each nearly empty, toppling over. I’ll spare you the toilet trauma.
As I cleaned and complained my mind wandered in a “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” kind of way from: What’s for dinner -to what time is the game to- uh oh I have a PTSA meeting. It settled there. PTA. My mom calvary — a group of moms who lean on each other and are crazy enough to volunteer for the PTA. I immediately thought about one amazing friend – I’ll call her Mary here. Mary was one of those business-minded, tenacious moms who not only toted around important law documents for work in her bag, but everything any kid needed from Band-aids to Benadryl as well. The kind of mom who could manage an office, PTSA, home, and bustling kids with grace. She once told me she and her husband stayed up and stitched (needle and thread stitched) memory books together for their daughter’s first-grade class, 25 of them. She was that mom.
So one morning back in 2017 after a PTSA meeting – we all sat, chatted, and compared notes on our latest parental screwups, worries, and wonders. Mary jumped right in, “Yup, only 104 Fridays left with my daughter before she graduates.” Whoa! Back then I was daunted by the thought, 104 didn’t seem like much…eight dozen eggs, or the number of pages in the thin spiral notebook I used for taking notes and doodling. But it was just like her, carefully quantifying this thing called parenting, ensuring each day was special, and calculating the remainder. She went on to tell us she counted them because the days slip by so quickly, she had the oldest child in our group. Her kids are what she valued the most. Not work. Not volunteering. Not managing. Parenting. I remember going home and flipping through our family calendar. I jotted on a pink post it:156 more pizza nights with Cora.
As my dear friend said time does fly. Then it did.
One blustery Tuesday in January, a friend called to tell me Mary had died. Just like that. Entirely too soon and way too young. Not only were the Friday nights but every night she had with all of her kids was gone. Just gone.
As I finished scrubbing the floors, I thought about what Mary would give to be here, to pick up her son’s socks, to see her reflection in a fuzzy Clorox-wiped mirror, help with homework, or witness her daughter graduate. I placed the Windex under the sink, turned off the bathroom light, counted my blessings and thanked God for letting me see another day and another month of May.
What I’ve learned:
Next year Justin and I will plan our last high school graduation party for our brood. We’ll watch each of them drive off the driveway in the used cars we pray are safe. God willing, all three of our kids will be headed down the road they chose, not afraid to take some detours along the way. Now we give them space, let them find their groove. The access to their lives will be limited to a phone call on Friday afternoon or a text from wherever they are at that moment they think of us.
The logistics can dominate our emotions and time if we let them. I think John Lennon said life happens when you’re busy making plans. So stop for a minute and look around, plant a reliable perennial like a hydrangea, or sit down and chat with your kids. I’ll leave May alone for now and be grateful I’m here.
Thanks for joining me.
Happy Mother’s Day to all!