If I had to name one thing that I have learned since becoming a parent it is that “plans” are really flexible aspirations; that everyone’s happiness increases exponentially with how bendy the whole approach is. Like a choose-your-own-adventure book. I might think it would be fabulous to head north but a giant herd of elk sighting in the middle on the path forces the journey east. From that point, the view, purpose and joy look different. But feel the same.
My girl turned four yesterday.
We had plans: skiing in the morning, party-readying in the afternoon, a small gathering of loved ones in the evening. By 10am it all changed and a three-hour surprise, unfun, stressful detour later we had a bunch to do without much time. At that moment it felt awful, cutting important stuff that I wanted to do. I fought it for a bit, hustling like a crazy person, thinking I could still make the six-tiered rainbow cake with orange frosting, finish sewing Margot’s birthday gift, map out the all-over-the-hood scavenger hunt, decorate, make dinner, clean toilets, shower…
And then I thought about it, like really got groovy with myself. And two things popped up. One, I had recently identified with a piece by Amanda Soule where she said, in the midst of holiday hubbub, she decided that the most important thing is for her kids to have a present and calm mama. Two, Andy reminded me that our focus was family and fun and it would be awesome if we read books and ate stale marshmallows.
I didn’t have time to deliberate. I removed items from my list. And asked for help. I generally don’t think I have a hard time asking for help. I mean I am not a perfectionist, I am receptive and appreciative. But, turns out when the shit hits the fan, it is kind of hard for me to reach out and say YES PLEASE.
Thankfully my friends know this about me and connect at the most opportune times. And so it panned out that way today with our friends chopping fruit, icing cupcakes, stapling paper chain and kneading dough.
I didn’t finish Margot’s gift, I didn’t take her skiing, I didn’t make the tiered rainbow cake, I didn’t sweep my kitchen, I didn’t make icing or apply lipstick or find my ladle or have everything (anything) ready when people showed up. But I’d rather focus on what was there because that is what stuck to my ribs. We had cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles and store-bought icing, a steady stream of homemade pizza, balloons suspended from the ceiling with last-minute found rick rack, friends washing dishes and wiping counters, open windows because of all that heat and love, kids running in total joy, spiked eggnog, laughter, warmth and today. We had a four year-old, blissed-out daughter.
The day my girl turned four was a day of concentrated, varying emotion. We tumbled through frustration and discouragement, we tumbled out of it and landed in our simple, real, grand life. It was a great day. A Happy Birthday.