Sunday, July 21, 2013

Oxygen mask

My Guy called and from the background noise, I could tell he was on his way home: “Get the girls and come downstairs in ten minutes.”


“I have something to show you.”

“What? Did you get a puppy?” I was only half joking. After losing our dog last year, he knew I wasn’t ready to commit to another so soon.

“No, it’s better than a puppy,” was all he said. He sure knew how to pique my interest.

I gathered the girls and told them about the surprise, which motivated them to speed up on getting their shoes on when it would normally take two minutes per shoe from all the shiny objects with which they would distract themselves.

We went downstairs and waited. And waited. Then I saw it.



Nope. It wasn’t a puppy.

My Guy pulled up in a shiny silver convertible. A six-speed manual roadster, to be exact, and I was a little confused. Did he borrow it from his friend (who also had the same car)?

“No, I bought it.”

My jaw dropped. That is, after he finally convinced me that it was ours. His, really, because where the heck would the girls fit in that thing? They were no less enthusiastic about it though, even if they could never ride in it. Kids are easy like that.

Once I got over my initial shock (because who comes home with a second car for funsies??!), I was relieved it wasn’t a puppy.

And then it all started to make sense.

Since we sold our last car that did double duty as a useful family car and a fun track car, My Guy, a.k.a. the Car Guy, has yet to find his groove on the road with our new family SUV. I love that he made that sacrifice for his family, but now with his own I-do-what-I-want car, his pep is back. And I love that even more.

It’s amazing what passion does for a person. Whether it’s work or life, My Guy has always been about living passionately, finding that thing that gets his heart racing and being uncompromising (in a good way) about the things that make him who he is. I respect and admire him greatly for that.

In fact, he was back at the tracks this weekend - the one we used to go to every year when we had our last car - nurturing that passion that’s been in his blood ever since I’ve known him, loving every moment his foot hit the pedal and the wind roaring past him, with the sun on his face. The mom in me reminded him about the sunscreen, of course, but the rest of the details were all his to sweat.

I was home with the girls, and with a project deadline looming, I had plenty in my hands. We didn’t make track weekend a family thing this time only because with the amount I had on my plate (two kids at home, summer activities, freelance work, housekeeping, vacation planning), I couldn’t even fathom looking for a hotel and packing everyone up just for three days. Besides, I really wanted him to have a guys’ weekend with his best friend.

After waking well before me and going to bed long after me just to keep his clients happy for the past couple of weeks, he deserved this commitment-free weekend so he could fully focus on himself. We are big on the oxygen mask theory of parenting - we take care of ourselves so we are better able to take care of others.

And this weekend was a delirious breath of fresh air for him. Seeing him happy made me happy.

As for his girls, we had the kind of weekend that made us crawl into bed and fall asleep the moment our head touched our pillow. In three days, we had two beach dates with friends, one brunch and play date, a mamas’ night in, a trip to the farmers’ market and several to neighborhood parks. 

Janina with our beloved cleaning lady, who’s been with us since Little Miss was 11 months old,
and who loves the girls like her own grand kids

We would come into the house drenched in the essence of summer, with sand coating the bottom of our feet, the vague scent of BBQ from neighboring grills in our hair, and a fresh new hue of golden-brownness on our skin. With daddy away, we also watched “The Sound of Music”, because, apparently, it’s the Estrogen Tradition.

In between activities, however, the two-year-old would pout, hang her head low, and declare sadly, “I miss my daddy...” but that was the only “glitch” to an otherwise busy but enjoyable time apart as a family.

As sweet as that sounds, I’ll admit it wasn’t an apple pie weekend - the girls did drive me crazy at certain points (“Mommy, she poked my eye!” “No I didn’t!” “Yes you did” “No!” “Owwwww!”), but thanks to my lovely neighbor, I was able to get in an evening run while they slept, and that was the balm I needed to make it through the next 20 hours of solo parenting.

No, it wasn’t bad at all, but for an introvert who craves solitude, keeping the weekend filled with social activities and being bombarded with questions and needless noise were a little much for me. I desperately needed some me time.

photo 2 (32)

As I ran, I watched the evening glow fade into darkness and the people playing beach volleyball or huddling together to watch “Life of Pi” as Movies at the Park reached our part of the city this past weekend. An hour of that, and I felt centered again, but I was also soaked in perspiration, so when the rain began to fall on my last few steps home, I lingered for the cleansing. A perfect end to a much needed run.

Once I had dinner, showered, and picked up around the house, I finally felt like I was ready to tackle my work at almost 11PM on Saturday night. But I was energized, and the quiet of the night helped me focus. It wasn’t ideal that it was late, but we do what we have to do.

I needed my oxygen mask too.

When My Guy came home the next day in a new shade of tan, we sat down to a lively dinner that I threw together after our beach date with friends. We went through pictures from My Guy’s trip and ate plums from our jaunt to the market.

There were tales from both sides of the table, well, all three sides actually since Pickle, who sat at the head of the table, had her own stories to share: “Me went to the beach with Grady and Dyson (not their real names). Me went to the market. Me picked blueberries!”

I exchanged looks with My Guy, “Err...we didn’t pick blueberries.”

Not sure how that one got in, considering she has never done that before in her life, but she got props for her imagination.

After dinner, as per our usual bed time ritual, their daddy read them stories and sang them their favorite lullabies while I put away the dishes. We both had a few minutes to unwind before going back to the same project that has been keeping us busy this past month. In different corners of the house, we tapped away at our computer into the wee hours of the night.

Breaking from routine felt nice. But it was also necessary, because it made coming back to the familiar even better.

Lungs filled. Hearts full.