July is gone. So are my Fridays off during the summer months - May, June and July. I was glad to see them go and return to a normal work schedule, but another reality has set in for me - HOW WILL I MOW THE GRASS? Those Fridays off were my lifesavers for yard work, but now, no more.
Let me set the stage for you. I have a two-and-a-half-year old son who wants to do everything that I do. He wants to use whatever tool I am using. Nothing seems dangerous to him.
I am a single parent who cannot afford to pay someone to mow my grass. Thanks to the lack of rain, I haven't had to mow it in over a month, but thanks to recent downpours, part of my yard looks like a jungle. I can't mow it when he is napping since I can't hear the monitor. I worried about how to mow it with him being at home and awake. Will he try to get in my path? Would he even let me?
So, I asked my Dad to come over and watch him while I take 45 minutes to mow my grass. At 9am, my Dad was not here, so my son and I attacked the garden. My son did great. 45 minutes later, we are done, it's time to mow and my Dad was not there. So, I pulled out my mower and asked my son to get his mower. As I filled my mower with gas, he copied me with his mower.
Off to the front yard with both mowers! Now is the moment of truth. I warned him that my mower was loud and that he had to stay a certain distance from me to be safe. I pulled the chain and took off.
The next 45 minutes were completely shocking. My son followed either behind me or beside me at a distance for the front, side and back yards. I shouted every now and then how well he was doing. He shouted every now and then how well I was doing. When we finished a section, I turned off my mower, we exchanged high fives and decided which section was next.
I literally jumped for joy when we were done. I could not believe that my toddler son let me mow the grass. I pushed my mower under the house and went to lock it up. Nope! My son shouted that he too had to put up his mower. He walked this toy mower right behind mine under the house chest full of pride.
One day, I will have to beg my teenage son to mow the grass. One day, he will refuse to hang around me and do things with his mommy. Today was not that day. Thank goodness.
I work at a college. Translation, August is a brutal month full of long hours and stress. I literally work everyday every hour my son and body will allow. I sneak on my computer as early as 4:30am and as late as midnight trying to gear up for the fall semester. The evil truth is that with all of this work, I am still always behind. Things are left undone and it's not just me, it's happening to everyone at the college. We are all putting our heads down, working furiously hoping for Labor Day.
It's also the end of the summer. Kids are going back to school. Even my 2-year-old son senses the change in the air. We are trying to squeeze every fun minute out of our weekends as possible with music festivals, Science Center visits, baseball games, etc. I let his energy level dictate how long we can stay at most places. Some days, he outlasts me.
I run in the mornings on the treadmill before work. It's my only me time and my way to train for this upcoming half marathon. On the first day of school, my mind was racing as I ran trying to prepare myself for the stress of work. At that moment, I made a decision. It's going to be impossible for me to keep all people happy during this brutal, honest month. Crisis situations will get routed to my voicemail, help tickets will digitally pile up and too many people will walk into my office asking for an instantaneous solution. I can't do it all, I can do two things - keep my son happy and my fitness app stats on track (aka look after myself).
Believe it or not, it's working. After ten years of starting a fall semester at a college, this one by far is has been the easiest. Sure, there are heaps of problems to solve, but I have never slept better or felt more physically able to do my job. My son is happy - full of life and hitting another growth spurt as I type.
When my outside life gets stressful, my tendency is to aim everything I have at it and hope it works so that we don't experience any problems. Believe me, it never works. Problems find you. There are cracks everywhere. Instead, focus on what matters - your loved ones and your health. Fall semesters will come and go. Your time with your loved ones and your health deserve your full attention.
As a parent about to go away on a trip, I was looking forward to a temporary, new routine where my sole focus was on myself. It was fun, but I was amazed how much I missed the old routine. If you are a parent of a toddler, you know this routine.
The routine in a nutshell is this - you do what you have to do every morning and night while making the care of your toddler the number one priority. Thanks to the training given to me by my toddler, I can wake early, run a few miles on the treadmill, shower, and be almost ready to go before he desires my company. Some mornings he lies awake listening to me go through these steps to cry out just as I turn off the shower, Other mornings, he wakes as I am sprinting that last few hundred yards to my imagined finished line. That means that getting ready involves going into his room every few minutes begging for more time or releasing him to become an audience member to the remaining routine.
Dear parents of toddlers, let me confess something to you right now. It's worth whatever you need to spend or beg for to have at least 24-48 hours free of this routine. Imagine waking up, not when you are trying to be free of your toddler, but based on your own needs, Imagine getting into the shower and taking your time without audience commentary. Dare I say, imagine leaving your room and getting to your destination on-time without having to chase a toddler in heels in your front yard. It's heavenly. This is the life of non-parents. It's worth experiencing this life at least once a year.
BUT, there is a warning. The toddler routine is so ingrained in you that it's hard for your brain and body to remember. For example, the first night away, every sound that I heard woke me up since I thought it was my son. If found myself looking for the baby monitor to go to the gym in the morning. I deliberately left extra early since I have been trained to give myself extra time in case "something toddler" happens.
And yeah, one more thing, taking a break from the routine actually makes you miss it and love it upon your return. So see, it's worth it.