Patty just left a minute ago for the Women’s Retreat for our church. She’s on her way to Forest Home where it is supposed to snow later tonight. So fun! I know it’s going to be a good one. Hopefully she’ll make it up there without needing to put on chains!
Back here at home, it will be a different sort of retreat. More like an exercise in survival. The kids look at me with a sort of wide-eyed panic…like, what do we do now? Because mom runs this joint. She’s the glue. She’s the one who handles the schedule.
Pasted to the fridge is a long list of check boxes for me. Laguna Tots for Lila is tonight at 5:30, which means not only a specific outfit, but a braid or ponytail, and makeup (Lord, have mercy). Mia is at a friend’s house until later and will need to be picked up in between. Gabe has a drum lesson somewhere in there as well. And now it isn’t just the kids that look panicked. I’m in way over my head.
Parenting is tough enough as it is. Single parenting, I can’t imagine. All of you who do it are superheroes. It will be hard for me just to make it until Sunday. Thank God for Domino’s Pizza. I even have a special order preselected called Mom’s Gone. Somehow, we’ll survive this.
Of course, I’m kidding a bit. We’ve done this plenty of times…although this might be the busiest schedule of all. But these weekends are always good for me. In fact, some of the richest times of joy with my kids happen when parenting is all on my shoulders.
Because any sort of hope of free time or independence is tossed aside. It isn’t going to happen. And when I know that from the start, there is a freedom that comes. My time is not my own. This weekend is theirs.
And the effect of this realization is settling for me. I’m no longer competing for my time versus their time. I’m in full servant mode. Any moments of quiet in the day are spent just trying to keep the mess at bay, the dishwasher running, and the kid’s belly’s fed.
And something in me is able to find a deeper relaxation and enjoyment when my ego concedes defeat. I am much more present in our times of conversation. I’m not juggling my hidden agenda with theirs. They have my whole attention.
I have no idea if this strategy of mine would be a sustainable for much longer than a weekend. Certainly, our diet isn’t. We can’t live on pizza and cinnamon twists indefinitely. But there is a nugget of truth that I want to carry with me after this is over. That often I am happiest when my time and attention is given completely to the needs of my family. When “Jeff time” is completely sacrificed.
Now I’m not recommending a total lack of self-care. I’m just suggesting that, for me, too much of my attention goes to protecting my personal time and space. Because that is what feels like life. When, in fact, the opposite is true. Meaning is found in connection, not isolation, and the joy of life is in generosity. It is in emptying where we find blessing, not in possessing or protecting.
Tonight will still be frenetic, but it doesn’t have to be frustrating. When I’ve laid aside my own desires, I don’t mind so much watching Coco or Jumanji for the 80th time. In fact, I might just settle in and enjoy it. And popcorn always helps.
So here is to the rest of the dads at home bracing for the weekend alone with the kids while the moms are away. You’ve got this. Don’t just survive it. Give it everything you’ve got. And enjoy the ride. And remind yourself…it is Friday, but Sundays coming. Hurry home, Patty. We miss you already.