Sometimes you win. And sometimes you lose. And sometimes you win the battle but lose the war. Or something profound like that. With spring weather kind of sort of here, I’m feeling a bit philosophical i guess. I’m just realizing (an epiphany for me – probably old news for most) that life is a lot like gardening. Emily, whose birthday is in the spring, already knows this. And she’s been trying for years to teach it to me through her love of nature and all things horticultural. Like gardening… parenting, partnership, any of life’s other important components, isn’t completed or accomplished in a day’s work.
It has taken me a very long time, my entire life in fact, to grasp this concept. And I’m not at all sure I’m willing or able to embrace it, even with my budding understanding. I want to go out in the glory of the spring sunshine, work in the yard pulling up weeds, mowing, mulching and edging the walkway, and after a solid amount of time and with gratifyingly sore muscles and sweaty body I want to have a perfectly manicured lovely green weedless yard (I have an eerily similar wishful ideology about exercise). But it just doesn’t work like that, and the sooner I accept that fact the happier I’ll likely be. No matter how long I work in the yard there will still be more to do, more weeds popping up, more dandelions multiplying, and more lilies to dead-head. It feels so relentless and ceaselessness (not unlike children’s whining) and at the pinnacle of this frustration I want to throw in the towel, asking myself, “Why bother?”
Because sometimes you lose the battle but end up winning the war. At least I hope that is legit because that is my new philosophy going forward. Plus, it puts failure into a whole new perspective. And look, I’m already good at it. And lucky for me I’ve adopted this wisdom-system just in time. Emily’s birthday was last month. This was a big one (50) and I put a lot of thought and planning into it. In the end, I both won and lost. Our financial situation is one of desolation (true story). Emily hasn’t worked since her contract ran out last June. So I knew I was going to have to get creative. But hey, creative is my middle name. Sort of. I decided to line up dear friends of Emily’s to fete her with nightly dinners and celebrations throughout the week of her birthday. I thought this was both a fantastic and inexpensive (for us) idea. I’d gotten halfway through the planning when I shared my idea with Emily. She didn’t love it. 50 was hitting her hard and she wasn’t up for being celebrated and fed night after night, having to explain that there were no job prospects to a new cast of characters night after night. My great idea was only making her more sad. This was the point where I was reaching for the towel. Fuck it then, let’s do nothing. I’d clearly forgotten about my new ratiocination. This was but a single weed in an otherwise lovely garden of ideas. And so, with my new mindset, I forced myself to let go of stubbornness and disappointment. I came up with other great inexpensive ways to celebrate. I took the day off and spent time with Emily in our own yard gardening. We also went to a local botanical garden together. And it was lovely. And, because of that loveliness, she was open to having a few special dinners with friends that week. Yay me.
The evening of Emily’s birthday she had a wedding run-through. I felt bad that she was going to be taking care of others on her birthday, but that’s how things got scheduled. I also felt bad (for me) because this left me with the 3 kids all afternoon and through dinner. Nina had an afternoon piano lesson and asked if Joita would come to watch. So instead of being able to leave Ruby home with Joita, we all got in the car to go to the lesson. Nina has a love/hate relationship with piano. Like any kid taking lessons, the practicing is wearying and the progress slow. Ruby didn’t nap (as I’d hoped she would) in the car on the way, so she was sort of a donkey on the edge spinning around aimlessly and whining during the lesson. Nina was more distracted (and who could blame her) than usual and was making a zillion mistakes on songs that we have all heard a gazillion times. The peacefulness of my day with Emily in nature was slipping away at a rapid clip. Ruby was falling apart. Joita was embarrassed by both Ruby’s falling apart and Nina’s increasing frustration with her lesson and my inability to effectively parent. This is not a new theme. Nina was attempting to distract her teacher by asking questions: Why is music written like it is? Why dots on lines? Why 5 lines and not 4 or 10? Why use black for the notes? Why not just use colors and shapes? When can she *graduate* from piano book 1? Can she have a cake at her graduation? How many times must she play this song? Is there another way to play it? Has anyone ever played it backwards? And so on.
I was wondering if Nina’s teacher was contemplating intentionally spontaneously combusting in some dramatic fashion to put an end to our misery (his and mine) when I noticed Ruby squatting purposefully. It was deja vu. My head snapped up and my eyes darted around the room looking for her diaper bag. At least I had it this time. And it was a good news/bad news scenario. Was the diaper bag half full or half empty? Depends on how you looked at it I guess. The piano lesson came to a God-be-thanked end and I hustled my brood out the door before either the contents or the bouquet of Ruby’s diaper could be appreciated. I got everyone buckled into the car as quickly as possible, wondering if there has ever been a diaper rash fatality, and screeched out of the piano teacher’s driveway.
But hell if I was going to go straight home because of one loaded diaper. I drove right to the nearest fro-yo place and found a spot. We all deserved it. I changed Ruby in the parking lot (in the back of the car folks… not on the actual parking lot… I’m not that bad) and in we went. And I only needed the one wipe I had. So there! And even though she was still soggy, I didn’t care. She could dry out in the yogurt store cool air. Ruby got her very first very own frozen yogurt. And a good time was had by all. Until we got back in the hot car. I forgot to mention we use cloth diapers. So while we were cooling off and enjoying our frozen treat, the dirty soaking cloth diaper was simmering and effervescing in the sealed car. We drove home sated and mostly happy, windows wide open and breathing through our mouths.