Ruth Ayres hosts a weekly celebration at her blog. I appreciate this weekly reminder to reflect on the positives and find reasons to celebrate. March is also the Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers. I’m participating in the challenge only as a commenter, but I have been inspired by all the slices I’ve read this week and have decided to make each of my Saturday Celebration posts a Slice this month.
I did something today that I haven’t done in months: I took a break. I left the house before my son could wake up and demand my attention–for better or worse–for the rest of the day.
I thought long and hard about taking a break before I actually took it, because I knew there might be hell to pay later. It’s traumatizing for my son when he wakes up, calls out for his mom, and gets no answer.
But I also thought about how much better of a mom I could be to him for the rest of the weekend–for next week, for next month–if I had a few hours to myself first.
I thought about the break I was going to take last weekend–a trip to one of my favorite areas of the country, the Pacific Northwest, to attend a children’s literature conference featuring a couple of my favorite writers and–most and best of all–to meet Carrie Gelson. Canceled at the last minute due to my son’s need to have me at home.
I thought about the break I was going to take on Monday when he was at school–just a trip to Rapid City to spend the morning at a favorite coffee shop and browse the picture books at the independent bookstore. Canceled when my son decided he was too stressed to go to school and needed to spend the day with me instead.
That turned out to be a wonderful day. But it wasn’t a break.
As I stood in the kitchen this morning trying to decide whether I should follow through and leave for the morning, my husband asked me whose need was greater today. My son’s for me to be present or mine for some respite.
I felt guilty. I felt selfish.
Then I grabbed my writer’s notebook and a book on writing and headed out the door.
It’s an hour’s drive to Rapid City, across some of the most beautiful landscape in the country. The hills are on one side of the highway, the rolling prairie on the other. It’s a stark, elemental landscape that takes some getting used to. I saw deer, antelope, buffalo, many birds of prey, even a bald eagle. I love living in a place where I can see bald eagles. I listened to old episodes of my new favorite podcast, Books on the Nightstand, and plotted my morning. Bookstore first or library? Or coffee? Would it be wrong to have coffee twice?
At the bookstore, I read a dozen new picture books, bought the next Rick Riordan novel in the series my son and I are currently reading, and bought myself a novel for grown-ups that I’ve been wanting to read for awhile, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I sat at the coffee shop and made book lists and started my new novel and drank very strong coffee and ate a very fattening sweet. I spent an hour browsing the shelves at the library, discovering a volume of poetry by Sarah Kay, a collection of essays by Donald Hall, the most recent Anne Lamott on audio, and several fanciful cookbooks that I won’t make anything from.
I came home mid-afternoon with Shakespeare in my head. Once more unto the breach. But I was saying it at least partly in jest. There is a reason parents of kids from hard places need respite. Last night I felt empty, all used up. This afternoon, I felt refreshed, ready to enter the fray, ready to be the mom my son needs.
My angry and hostile child met me at the door–only he wasn’t angry or hostile at all.
“I was so mad at you this morning,” he said. “But now I’m just glad to see you. I missed you so much.”