24 Hours

For my birthday this year, I asked for a day. And a night. Twenty four hours to myself to do what I wanted. Most women I told about this idea got it right away.  I wasn’t looking to do anything in particular but just to have the luxury of doing whatever I wanted , even of doing nothing. I’m very much an introvert and I really need and value time alone. H. is more of an extrovert and I think when I first told him about this idea he thought it was a bit odd. But he loves me and was willing to give me the time. Which is a great example of how it’s not really as important to marry someone like you as it is to marry someone who gets you and wants you to be happy (even if what makes you happy is weird to them). In addition to a great husband, I’m lucky enough to have generous parents who agreed to give me a night in a hotel as a gift. The getaway was planned for this weekend.

So you can imagine that I was more than a little disappointed when David woke up Saturday morning vomiting. I could have still gone out, and  H. actually encouraged me to do that. But John had a basketball game mid-day and it would have been painful for everyone to make David go. I didn’t feel right about leaving him alone with a vomiting child for purely selfish reasons.

I strongly believe that one of the most important things we can teach our kids is resiliency and flexibility. The older I get the more I think that the ability to deal with disappointment and roll with the punches is probably more important than just about any other trait.I have one child who seems to really struggle with disappointment. I’ve wondered lately how to help him with this but I realized Saturday that probably the best way is to model these traits myself. Not in a Pollyanna-ish way of dismissing the disappointment but in a a way that acknowledges it and then moves on. I admit there was a part of me that was thinking things along the lines of “Why today? It’s not fair! I only wanted ONE DAY!” But I also realized that being upset wasn’t really going to change anything.

Act 2.

By lunchtime, I had put David to bed and H.’s brother had come over as planned to spend the day with him and the kids. H. suggested that I go ahead and go out and check back in later. His brother could take John to his basketball game and H. could stay home with David and Ruth. I could call later to see how they were all doing. My first reaction was to say No. I still felt guilty about leaving H. with a sick child. Also part of what I wanted was to have a day where I didn’t have to worry. I didn’t want to check in. I didn’t want to wonder if I had to come back later. I wanted the luxury of all those hours stretching out in front of me empty.

Then I realized I was being silly.  So the day wasn’t exactly like I had planned, it could still be great. (Flexibility). And I realized that H. is perfectly capable of taking care of three kids even if one is sick. As a mom, it’s hard sometimes to get away and have time alone. And sometimes this is circumstances getting in the way. But sometimes it’s ourselves in the way. I hear a lot of moms say they are afraid to leave their kids alone with their husbands. They are sure something will go wrong. Some of these men may be inept and uninvolved fathers. But most are perfectly capable. Yes, they might not do everything the same. Clothes might not match. Meals might be different. The truth in our house is that I do some things better and H. does some things better. The truth is also that sometimes it’s hard for me to get away because I don’t want to admit that I’m not essential. I’m loved and valued and I’m sure H. feels I’m very necessary. But really, he can comfort and care for a sick child as well as me. (In fact,often as the non medical spouse he’s more sympathetic.) Going away elicits a lot of mommy guilt but I think that’s a cover sometimes for having to admit that most of the things we moms do can be done by someone else.

So I went. I called later and all was well and I checked in again after dinner and all was still well. David slept all day and woke up feeling fine. John was invited spontaneously to a friend’s house to play. Ruth played happily at home. My brother-in-law stayed for the day and helped out with dinner and a movie. Everyone slept through the night. It was a good day for them.

It was also a good day for me. I went out to lunch alone. I went to the American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery. I read a lot. I watched a little TV. I read some blogs. I browsed in a bookstore.I slept in a ginormous king size bed.  I took a bath and had breakfast in bed.

At some point in the day I thought about all the things I could have done with my 24 hours. Go to a play. Write on my blog. Go to one of the many other museums in our city. Go for a swim or a hike. Go out to lunch with friends. Read and read some more. There are a lot of things I don’t get to do a lot or as much as I want that I could think of to fill the gift of time. I also thought about what I’d do if I knew somehow that it was my last 24 hours. Those things would be very different. I’d snuggle my kids. I’d read to them. I’d make them laugh as much as I could just to hear the sound. I’d listen to H. tell me about his day. I’d tell them all how much I love them. And I’d read some. I was struck that the things I’d do if it was my last 24 hours are what I do every day.

It was really wonderful to have the gift of special time. I am a blessed woman. But I realize I am even more blessed that my ordinary days are filled with the things that are most important to me.

5 thoughts on “24 Hours

  1. “Which is a great example of how it’s not really as important to marry someone like you as it is to marry someone who gets you and wants you to be happy (even if what makes you happy is weird to them).”

    This is so, so true! My husband and I are exact opposites on the Meyers-Brigg, but we each want each other’s good, and so it all works very well! 🙂

  2. It had to have been a good break, because after Alice met us at church, and after the 5th Sunday potluck that we were in charge of was basically over, she encouraged me to go golfing! We had 2 cars; we’d just switch. Isn’t it true that you tend to give the present that you also love?

  3. Oh my goodness, that is the BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT in the entire history of the world 🙂 I’m sooooooooooooooooo impressed by your maturity in coping with the disappointment of not having it work out as you had planned! A gigantic temper-tantrum would have been the response I’d have been prone to. 🙂

    I’m glad you got many nice hours out of the present in the end, and I hope the profound wisdom you managed to draw out of the whole experience will more than make up for the last-minute adjustment in birthday present! (I don’t know, though… it would take a whole lot of profound wisdom to match the joy of 24 truly free hours… 🙂

  4. What a wonderful gift, Alice! My birthday is coming up in about three weeks, so I’ll keep this in mind. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Scenes from a Birthday | Supratentorial

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