If you live up here long enough you end up with a story or a connection to the marathon. A little over ten years ago, we were nearing Michelle’s due date and had one last wellness appointment with the doctor. As we were checking out, a nurse handed me a photocopied sheet of paper with hieroglyphics on it. It might have generously been called a map. It was mostly boxes, arrows and a few squiggles.
“They close the roads.”
“If you need to get to hospital during the marathon you’ll have to use the fire road.”
Thankfully, Cecilia missed the marathon by a couple days. Her birth was stressful enough without adding an off-road adventure. The map wasn’t needed but every time marathon monday approaches I think of all the parents nervously sweating out the start time for reasons that have nothing to do with running.
So Chelle-bration week has wrapped up. Cake has been eaten. Presents opened. Friends have stopped by. It wasn’t the original planned karaoke blowout, and while I did re-learn all the lyrics to ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire,’ I’m not complaining! Food, friends, and dominoes worked out just fine.
It might be all the champagne this week but we’ve both turned a bit reflective now that we are in the 40 club.
What exactly have we learned? A couple things, I hope. This is for the girls. Maybe they’ll read it one day. Or maybe Alexa will project it directly onto their brain. Too bad flash cards don’t work like that, huh, Ce!
We had a good set of report cards this quarter. Cecilia especially showed measurable improvements since Christmas. This gave me the perfect opportunity to give all the credit to flash cards. Cecilia was a bit more skeptical. I was only half kidding.
One my biggest learnings in the past fews years is the best performers, whether it’s sports, school, or career have the basics down cold. How? By constantly doing reps. If you don’t repeat the simple foundations of whatever you are trying to achieve you’ll never reach your full potential. End of story.
This is what I told Cecilia. To stay great, to keep improving, you need to keep that curious beginner’s mind. If you ever find yourself floundering, go back to the basics. Ask the simple questions. Do the reps.
“So I have to keep doing the flash cards?”
I kept the answer simple. “Yes.”
There are some conversations you are just never ready to have as a parent. It all might seem easy or straightforward when you are reading those child advice books, but actually having the conversation on a Wednesday night when your six year old is crying? Not so simple. You just muddle through, try to tell the truth, and do the best you can.
A family friend passed away suddenly this week and, while the girls have had a few family members and pets die before, this was the first time that Ally was old enough to have a framework to better understand and ask the tough questions. Like I said, we muddled through. We finally were able to get her to stop crying and go to sleep by agreeing to a verbal contract to take care of her two “lovies” if anything ever happened to her.
It’s been on my mind, maybe with my own birthday clicking off another year soon, for the rest of the week. If she’d sent me an Outlook invite that she’d start asking life’s ultimate questions on Wednesday night at 8, here’s what I might have said with a little forethought:
We always live with death by our side so don’t take anything for granted and try to appreciate each moment. Life is always changing. So often we live our lives like we’ll live forever but as soon as we remember that life is fleeting we find ourselves letting go of the distractions and being more present for one another. Try to find peace with the impermanence. If we can remember this and carry it with us, it won’t be morbid or sad, it will bring a lightness and ease and comfort.
Or the 6 year old version of that. Maybe the stuffed animal contract was the right way to go…
We are very lucky to have a lot of people in our lives that are very generous with the girls. We are also very lucky to be in a position where we can give the girls plenty of gifts ourselves. This does create one of those always enjoyable Chinese finger traps puzzles that seem to pop up in parenting every other hour. You love your kids and want to give them presents or the things you didn’t have, but you also don’t want to create raging, entitled brats.
If you’re a parent, you most likely encounter this yin-yang most in the form of the thank you note. If you want a threat with some teeth that will put the fear of God in your kids, just work thank you note into the consequence then watch them writhe in agony as they lose control of their limbs and slip from the chair.
Quick and easy might also describe how fast this cake disappeared in my house!
Yesterday was Michelle’s birthday and after the excess of Easter, including a decadent three-layer carrot cake, she claimed she didn’t want any cake on her birthday. There was no way I was going to let that stand. Life is too short not to eat cake on your birthday.
But I could see her point, too. I definitely like my desserts, almost as much as the kids, but sometimes a little can go a long way. Thank you, Dessert for Two for introducing me to the world of mini cakes last year.
For a family of four, a mini cake is the perfect thing for a mid-week celebration where prep time might be short or for keeping that celebratory pomp and circumstance but without being left with an entire cake to eat.
Allison, as the second born, leads a different life to that of Cecilia. No matter what we do as parents, much of her life revolves around Cecilia. Allison has gotten used to tagging along to Ce’s schedule and activities. Unlike Cecilia, who often likes to defend her position as first-born and remind us that she already knows how the world operates, Allison is easier going and her flexibility is a key piece of her personality.
This flexibility has made Ally more resilient than Ce, I just hope it hasn’t taught her to expect a little less out of life. It was with this in mind that I was happy to see Allison grab the mic and demand the spotlight during her birthday week. Rather than let her big sister lead, she had clear ideas about what she wanted and how she wanted it done.
Sure, she became a bit of a birthday terrorist by the end, but she had also freed herself from the second child handcuffs. At least for a week.