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Just say NO

August 1st, 2003 · 1 Comment

I’ve had to do it this week: just say NO to myself. It’s been hard but very good. On Monday I was taking the boat into town to have dinner with my half-sister and her mother. Going to Seattle costs time and money – especially at summer season rates – and it is tempting to milk it for all I can. That seems efficient and practical, even wise. But I need more wisdom.

Abigail had swim lessons in the morning, and I planned to go to the boat right from the pool: shower in the locker room and head to the dock. Take the wet towels and suit in the van. After all, I needed as much time in Seattle as possible, to make the most of my trip, to be responsible and efficient, to get some shopping done. Stores on the island and even in the county here are not what they are in Seattle – not the variety and economy that can be found in the bigger cities.

But as the morning unfolded I realized it was too much to do. If I left Abigail alone at her first lesson, and went back home to load up the van, we could do it, but it wasn’t worth it to me. I wanted to be there for her big day. So we all watched Abigail splash at her lesson then we brought her home for a shower and change. The girls ate a quick lunch of crackers and cheese at the dining room table – rather than at the ferry parking lot – and then we left. I lost an hour I could have spent in Seattle – but after all, how much shopping do I need to do? And what is the price I am paying – really? How can I count the cost?

Today I made a similiar decision. I had planned to go to my high school reunion this evening in Seattle. Fifteen years have passed and I have not gone to one event yet. I was looking forward to seeing my classmates again. But Ted and I the other night realized what a crazy week it has been for our family. Ted is busy with work so he is tired and not able to pour a lot into the girls right now and I’ve been distracted by the deck. So I realized that I needed to spend some good time with them tonight, instead of leaving them with a sitter. It was just one night – and there would be five more years before another reunion – but even one night, little as it is, can become a lot.

It was a great night. Perhaps because I knew I had made a sacrifice to stay home, I was intentional about the time. I knew I had made a conscious choice about how to invest the night, and I wanted to invest it well. In the five hours I would have spent going to the reunion – including transportation – the girls and I talked, tidied up the house, played with Playdough, colored with chalk on the sidewalk and ate dinner. For me I felt a lot of joy and freedom, unlike the heaviness that has been in the house the past two weeks of deck-duty. We even “got something done” – the girls and I added new photos to their albums, and they always like looking and laughing at the memories. Abigail and Michaela had fun wearing their new shoes while coloring on the sidewalk. Elisabeth crawled and smiled a lot. I thought about how fun it is to hold babies in the summer – all that soft skin to snuggle. We all hugged and kissed each other.

I realized sometimes parenting becomes something I endure, rather than something I enjoy. It becomes something I am doing by default rather than a conscious choice. And Love doesn’t come on a calendar. Love isn’t something on my shopping list. It can’t – won’t – be scheduled. It’s not a duty to do. It’s me making a choice. Love is making birds out of playdough and admiring kitty cats scribbled on the sidewalk. Love is sharing photos of the past and making more memories, night by night, moment by moment, in every ordinary day.

After all, when your five year old asks, “Do we have a day that is free without anything on it?” you have to wonder: does she think she is ordering a burger from McDonalds (without anything on it?) or making a request to a corporate calendar (do we have a day…)? Hard to tell from her language what she thinks in her heart…but I think I need to say No more often in order to say Yes to Love.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Katherine // Aug 10, 2003 at 6:18 pm

    My, oh my. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you, Julie.