I was a formation skydiver in my pre-kid life, a hobby that in many ways prepared me for the exhilarating, dodgy and sometimes treacherous days of parenting.
My coach, Fred, used to say that if a malfunction occurred, it was important not to waste precious time arguing with yourself about the astonishment and injustice of it all, but to cope. His mantra was, “Believe it’s happening, and deal with it.”
Recently, one of my children needed me desperately and it altered the trajectory of my intended circus-like, non-stop slumber party schedule of some time off. The details aren’t important, but suffice it to say, her needs were dire, immediate and required my full attention, physical space and emotional commitment in a way never before tested, and believe you me, these kids have tested me.
After a one-day pity party, I believed it was happening and I began to deal. I mentally prepared. I discarded fantasies of what a perfect block of time with my children should look like and instead focused on what I absolutely must do, what I should do, and what I might need to give up.
Taking care of myself became a priority in a way I’ve never previously managed. Like the flight attendants say, I put on my oxygen mask first and then put one on for each of my kids. I ate regularly (something I haven’t done since 2001), carved out 10 minutes a day to engage in something I enjoyed, just for myself, drank copious amounts of water and actually hit the hay at a reasonable time more often than not.
I cooked less, planned less, did less. I learned to say, “I’d love to but I can’t” (without the endless apologies). I tackled only the most crucial of chores.
I hugged more, listened more, engaged more, was mindful of my words and actions and demonstrated patience and kindness whenever I could.
I made a ton of mistakes, but tried harder the next time around. I learned that taking care of myself wasn’t selfish, but instrumental to taking care of my family.
We never made our planned trip to New York City, didn’t bake epic treats, pick seasonal fruit or binge-watch ANYTHING. Yet, despite the list of crossed-out activities, I’m confident my kids felt loved. I met needs, did less and was able to give more.
Who would have thought that jumping out of a perfectly good plane would prove to be so useful?