I Choose Me

We spend a lot of our in-between time in cars. From home to school. School to practice. Home to events. Over the Pali to Papa’s house. School to the library. For short bursts of time, after all, we live within a 14-minute commute to most of our usual haunts, the Shortstack and I often have the most entertaining and insightful conversations as I battle traffic and he reminds me that I don’t need to yell at other drivers. {Sidenote: I’d stop yelling at other drivers if and when they learn how to drive well.}

Escaping the relentless icky-sticky heat and humidity, Shortstack and I were headed to yet another library so we could get through his homework while simultaneously cooling down before soccer practice. As I wove my way around the parked cars down hill on the narrow 1.5-lane street, Shortstack walked me through his awesome day and we debriefed about the family schedule for the week.

“Mama, you have class this week, right?” {I recently returned to school to pursue my teaching certificate}

“Yep, baby. I do.” {2 weeknight evenings – usually after dinner is prepped and a significant dent in the homework is made}

“Mama, do you wish that you could never have to leave me?”

“What do you mean, baby?”

“Well, if you could choose, would you choose to go to class or stay home with me?”

Whoa. Huh? Since when did I raise a needy child? Since when had our love been dependent upon the amount of time spent holding hands? Since when was this ever a realistic conversation to have with my child?

“Oh, baby. I love being with you. And with Mama. You two are my favorites but …”

Okay – how was I going to answer this without sounding like a selfish bitch? How would I talk our sweet boy – the one who usually wants nothing more than to hang out with his people and have fun, hold hands and give kisses, curl into his mamas and be together – yes, that sweet boy – how was I going to tell him that right now, yes. I choose to go to school and I DO NOT regret it one bit. In fact, this Mama not only needs to go to school, she WANTS to go to school. Yes, of course. to learn. To change her career. To become more of what I want to be. But also, this Mama wants to go to school to have a little bit of time in her day when she feels a bit more than just Mama and wife. When she feels like the time spent on herself is not selfishly-taken or needs to be accounted for to someone else as justification. When she has conversations with people who don’t know her but want to and who see her in different ways and roles. She wants to step out into a space where having dinner ready and doing 4th grade homework isn’t the only tasks on her calendar because what happens in her brain is as valued as whether or not the Costco shopping has been done and IXL has been conquered.

How was this Mama going to answer this question, say all of these things and still reiterate that there is no way that I’d rather be doing anything in this life more than being Mama and Wife – being nurturer and home chef – being PTA and soccer parent, cheerleader and open ear? How to answer this question so that he understands that I am so crazy-blessed to have this life and to be loved so completely by my little family and I know it. And still, be selfish enough to want more. To need to be a bit of just me. To have those few hours a week that I’m not Mama and Wife and I can become better? And that little bit of selfishness is NOT A BAD THING.

“Baby, you know what’s pretty cool about love? When we love someone, we don’t have to ask our people to choose. We don’t have to tell them, ‘you need to choose to be with me or go do what you want to do.’ When we love someone,  we say, ‘we love you – and we know you love us, so go do what you want and be a better you because that’s all I want since I love you. To be happy.'” 

Not the most eloquent of answers, for sure. But he seemed to get the gist.

“Oh, so because I love you, it’s okay that you want both?”

“Yeah, baby.” 

Because I love you baby, I want you to do what you need to do – make the choices you want and need to make, explore the paths that open up to you, take the chances that you think are right, go the ways that you feel pulled all so that you can become the best version of you that you wish to be. I want you to be with or away from me as much as you need to so that you can figure out how to become the person that you wish to be. That, my baby, is how much I love you. I love you so damn much, I’m going to fight the bone-deep inclination to hold you tight to me forever so that you can come and go as you need to and I can get to know the soul of the man that you choose to become.

Now, if only these deep conversations could happen when I’m not driving so that I can continue to employ the highly-critical  grumpy-ass driver persona that I have refined over the years. And you can love me for that as well.

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