The New Normal…

Whew! Finally! It seems like it took forever but after several weeks we finally seemed to have hit our stride as a family of four with two working parents and two kids in school. Lots of changes in our life…Audrey started Pre K which meant all things new. New school,  new routine, new uniforms, new friends, and so on. William started at a new daycare which meant new teachers, new friends, new routine, and so on. By early October I found myself breathing a faint sigh of relief as though we had ‘made it.’ We were in a routine rhythm that was working, everyone seemed happy, and I (thankfully) found myself thinking deeply about other, non-kid related things such as work, leisure reading, and episodes of Modern Family. I relished the fact that I was no longer stopped mid morning by a panicked feeling of ‘where are my kids?’ When your routine is not settled and you aren’t on auto pilot, as a mother, you are often taken over by the sinking feeling that there is a slight possibility that one of your dearest dependents is tearfully waiting for you after school because you forgot her.  Of course that won’t ever happen but until you are settled, the thought strikes you.

We were happily strolling along until…

I am a believer that all things happen for a reason. There is a real, sometimes inexplicable reason why things happen to us. Now, sometimes bad things happen to us purely because of stupid, alcohol related, dumber-than-possible choices. However, with that being said, for the most part, things that happen in our lives really do have a purpose. I recently read a book aptly titled Everything Happens for a Reason. The book chronicled several people’s stories of how their lives changed after an often tragic event. I specifically remember the story of a young woman who lost her leg after a car accident. She described how she felt such relief as she was lying in the hospital bed after being told the fate of her leg. She said she felt a sense of freedom and excitement about her future. “Now I can finally go to medical school,” she thought. She had been living a life that she really wasn’t happy with and despite the terrible loss of her leg, she saw this as her opportunity to make real, lasting changes in her life. It was her opportunity to make her life better. No one wants to lose a limb, of course, but for her there was a very good reason that it happened. She did go one to become a doctor, by the way. Despite the unsettled nature of our life currently, I am steadfast in my belief that everything really does happen for a reason.

As I  mentioned, both kids had started new schools this year. Audrey was just flourishing. She was making wonderful new friends, adored her teacher, and was learning new things each day. Her Catholic education was prompting especially wonderful conversations about whether or not God made Icees, if God has a birthday, and wondering if God ever gets tired. William, on the other hand was having a less stellar time. He was having trouble adjusting to the new classroom, new teachers, and new friends. He was the youngest in the class and, in some ways, that was not to his benefit. He clearly loved his main teacher but had yet to develop strong bonds with any other adults in the room. He was having trouble when she was not able to be with him, which is reasonable when you are one-year-old. I hated picking him up in the afternoons to find him in tears because his teacher had left for the day. Nothing is worse than seeing your baby upset when you are not there to comfort him. It’s going to be better, I kept telling myself. He’s got to learn how to deal with it, I tried to assure myself. But he’s just a baby, I agonized. This is our life. This is the way we are structured so there aren’t any other options. This is the way things are supposed to be. Something in me, I’m not sure exactly where – my gut, my heart, the base of my brain, wherever, something was talking to me, telling me something but I wasn’t sure exactly what. I tried to listen carefully but I still couldn’t hear exactly what I was supposed to do. Then we were called in for a meeting…

I was struggling with the idea of maybe moving William to another class. I thought maybe he needed to be with a younger group. Brian and I talked about it and we agreed that maybe that is the direction we needed to go in. We were presented, however with a very different perspective. We were presented with the recommendation that we have William evaluated. Hmmm…evaluated? For crying? Now Brian and I are pretty wise people and most thankfully for him I realize, too that most of the time the solution to any problem is really very simple. Most problems can be solved with the most obvious answer: William was scared. He wasn’t feeling safe in his environment. It’s doubtful that he needed an evaluation, he needed to be nurtured.

We walked out of the school and of course I began to cry. I was hurt, scared, and felt overwhelmingly guilty that my precious, sweet boy had been having such a hard time in the life that I was unwilling to change. I wanted things to be back to normal. In the car ride home, though I suddenly felt a quite wave of relief. I didn’t realize it just then but I had been given permission to restructure our life. The school that rejected us, that rejected my son, had actually freed us and gave us the chance to make our life better. Now if I could just figure out how…

Let me be clear, here. What happened to us was certainly not tragic, and nowhere near loosing one’s leg. It was certainly an emotional upheaval and it absolutely turned our life on its head. We really didn’t have a plan and wasn’t sure of what steps to take next, only sure of one – we were not going back. We had to move forward in a new direction.

I did what any mother would do and started right away networking. I called friends, posted to Facebook, and reconnected with the director of the center where William went as an infant when I returned to work. She met us on a Monday morning. She invited William and me into her office, we all sat on the floor and she offered me coffee and him blocks. We talked and she offered to make arrangements for him to start the following day. “It’s funny, ” she told me, “there is this great girl that I have been wanting to hire but haven’t really had the need. If William starts then I will need her. Melanie, this is all going to work out.” Feeling so welcomed and wanted was a gift. I couldn’t have asked for more…well, that’s not entirely true. I need more days of care. I asked the director if she knew of anyone who might be interested in working as a part-time nanny for us. It’s funny what happens when you ask for what you need….you usually get it. The great girl she hired as a result of William starting there was interested in keeping him at our home. And she turned out to be just that – great. Wether she is in our lives for a season or a lifetime, she is now part of our family.

While the change has been an upheaval, it truly has turned out to be a good thing for us. The best thing. We are saving money which is always a great thing and my precious child is happy. He is all smiles all day every day. Of course he isn’t thrilled about being dropped off in the morning – he wants to stay with his momma, and rightly so. He is playing and making friends, sleeping well, and eating all of his lunch. He is the happy, well-adjusted baby boy that we have known all along. The fact that I sometimes lately feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, well, it’s worth it to see him smile.

I never thought I would say this but I am now making Audrey’s lunch, too. For whatever reason I was adamant that once she started school I would not be making lunches every night. For William, I don’t have a choice. Either I pack his lunch or he doesn’t eat. It’s that simple. A dear friend of mine suggested to me that I consider making Audrey’s lunch, too since I’m already having to pack for William. This would also save us a few dollars not having to pay for the hot lunch that she doesn’t eat anyway. What a wonderful change this has brought! Three nights a week we pack lunches. I make William’s lunch and Audrey and I make hers together. It’s been the best part of our evenings thus far. She is super excited about her heart-shaped turkey and ketchup sandwich. Who knew there was such joy in that? Tomorrow, it’s going to be a gingerbread man shaped PB&J. We have cut our lunch budget in half, too and the best part is that she is actually eating her lunch! Why was I ever opposed to this? As a mother, isn’t feeding my children one of my most basic responsibilities? I feel really good about sending her to school with what we have packed. I would have never done this if it hadn’t been for that meeting.

Everything really does happen for a reason. Currently, we are still unsettled. We take each day, day-by-day. Brian and I have to talk more and check in often. I feel the most secure at 8:30 in the evening when both kids are asleep in their beds. It’s really only then that I am certain everyone is accounted for. What’s going to happen tomorrow? What does all of this mean for me personally? Professionally? There are certainly way more questions than there are answers but I am okay with that. I know that everything has happened to us for a reason and it’s possible that I don’t yet know why.

It’s strange for me to feel such peace because I have never been good with ambiguity. I need life to make sense. I like balance, a sense of control. I’m a list maker and nothing gives me greater pleasure than to check items off my list. I can’t do that now. I’m on this roller coaster of life and my best bet right now is to throw my hands in the air and enjoy the ride. My children will be grown up all too quickly and I want to enjoy every minute I have right now. Besides, I have to listen to what life is telling me. All of the signs are there to give me peace: William is happy. We found a great nanny. Audrey is eating and loving her lunch at school and we are having a great time together making it. Brian and I are talking more – checking in often. We are finding our way to a new normal. There are still so many unknowns but I am holding steadfast that none of this happened by accident. We are on a new path, clearly the one we are supposed to be on. So, with all that I have and with all that I am, I embrace this new path and find peace and comfort knowing that we are being guided every step of the way.

Happy Mothering!

Melanie

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