Last week was tough. Tougher than tough.
I was working on the road in four states in as many days. When I travel, even during Billy’s weeks with our kids, we have to find a spot for the kids to go before and after school (Gabe leaves for work before they do), and cover carpool, etc. The dog doesn’t get walked, and we run out of milk. Things are bumpy at home when the person who is here most isn’t.
On Friday, my grandmother died. I am so grateful to have been able to be in the room with her and my mother as she passed away. But, as you can imagine, adding grief and a complicated sense of loss to my week wasn’t high on my list of super awesome fun things to do.
Gabe had a tough week too, with work travel, thorny extended family interactions (it’s time to start planning Thanksgiving and Christmas, people!), and a particularly tough father/teenage daughter exchange with Sara.
Add to that the usual family excitement, which this week included a fungus growing in the fireplace, a forgotten Spanish quiz, an urgent, last-minute costume switch, and a birthday party, and last week was nearly impossible.
I arrived home Friday night exhausted and worn through. It was after midnight, I’d had a bag of Fritos and two bags of peanuts for lunch and dinner. I climbed in bed next to Gabe, who was equally tired. On top of his week, he’d managed all six on his own that night, through two pick up and drop offs, a fairly serious hand-shutting-in-the-car-door incident, and three of them learning that their great-grandmother had died and that Mama’s plane was delayed. That’s not how we’d like to start a weekend with all six of our little people.
Saturday morning, it was all I could do to emerge from our bedroom before noon. The time difference was a factor, sure, but I was also hiding. Hiding from my three who are used to seeing me daily but hadn’t seen me all week. Hiding from Gabe’s three who missed their one on one time with me earlier in the week and had things to share. Hiding from six kids who were worried about me, and wanted to stay close and connected. It felt like too much need and noise.
But, we belong to each other, and so we took things slowly. We didn’t get dressed until nearly lunchtime, lolling around in the family room talking about my trip and my grandmother. We went out to eat for lunch. We allowed nearly an hour to get ready for Lottie and Amy’s separate Nutcracker rehearsals, when we usually given them a scant 20 minutes to pull on their tights. We did nothing else that afternoon.
That evening, Gabe took most of the crew to dinner with his parents and a play at the school. He’d invited me earlier, but it felt too public. I was too exhausted to be with anyone but our people. Caden and I watched a movie together. I said yes to everything – candy and popcorn and movie choice and took comfort in snuggling with my happy boy in the dark theater.
Sunday Gabe’s crew is typically busy with church activities, and so we had more time in small family groups. I started a long-delayed garden project by paying Simon, short on cash and long on dreams, to do it. Win-win: Simon gets paid and I get the job done without lifting a shovel. Lottie and I took an extra-long trip to Target, under the auspices of getting Billy’s birthday present, but actually getting happily distracted by lots of shiny nothingness.
When everyone was home for lunch and the house was shaking from the noise and laughter and general mayhem our crew create, I retreated to my bedroom for quiet time. Kids came and went, but I was out of the whirling center of activity.
When we were a more manageable smaller group again, I came out to snuggle on the couch and catch up on family tv shows. The kids were amazed when I said yes, we could watch another, and yes, they could pick which one.
The weekend ended quietly, with an easy, favorite dinner eaten in shifts partly because our schedules didn’t mesh but mostly because eight of us around the dinner table felt like too much focus and attention for me to fake my way through. I was exhausted and sad and not the best version of myself. Putting that me under further scrutiny has never ended well.
This weekend was the last weekend before Halloween. We didn’t take the kids to one of the fall festivals that are seemingly everywhere. We didn’t carve pumpkins. Our giant inflatables are not ready to greet trick-or-treaters this year. No precious memories made no highlight reel updates to social media.
We didn’t make progress anywhere this weekend either. The bills aren’t paid, the pumpkin plants are wilting and I haven’t unpacked. Supper tonight is wildly TBD, the election signs ordered months ago in support of our candidate are still waiting to be assembled on the dining room table, and the trash and recycling are overflowing. We accomplished nothing.
Except. I kept myself together this weekend. Didn’t snap at anyone and regret it later. Didn’t allow those grumpy thoughts about what my life might be like had Gabe and I never married (quieter, I am pretty sure my life would be quieter) to surface angrily and hurt that man I love so deeply. I didn’t retreat so far into my room that little ones worried something was wrong, tiptoed around me, asked if I was okay. I didn’t allow the exhaustion and sadness to shape the tone and tenor of my time with our tribe. I’ve made that mistake before, and it takes time to undo. Given how empty and spent I was at the start of the weekend, ending it quietly, with all my people connected and happy, is a win.