Wednesday Words: Something and NothingPosted: December 18, 2013
Lately I’ve had everything going on, and nothing going on. I pledged to take a break from my personal Facebook page until the holidays were over, thinking that it would mean I’d have more time on my hands. I did have more time. Until I didn’t.
I got addicted to the Song of Ice and Fire books (the ones that HBO’s Game of Thrones is based on). I started a bazillion holiday knitting projects. I’ve done more day trips with the kids. I’ve tried to cook more. Sleep more. It is all good stuff, I don’t have much extra time, that’s all. My visions of clearing my inbox, organizing the basement, and hatching some advocacy projects just haven’t happened. I’ve felt a little guilty about it, truth be told. I’ve wondered if I’m not “doing enough”.
LP and I have had a stomach bug the past couple days. I had the pleasure of laying on the couch draped in a towel while LP alternately puked and slept on me. The girls watched endless hours of cartoons on the computer while eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches. When they weren’t doing that, they were tearing the house apart. Nightmare for me and LP. Heaven for the girls.
I kept thinking about all the things I have failed to do over the past few weeks. I’ve had the same to-do list written up on our message board for months. I never did holiday cards this year. I noticed all the dirt and dust on the hardwood floors. We haven’t written thank-you notes for LP’s birthday and it has been a month already.
I thought, here we are, Doing Nothing. In addition to my longer term guilt-inducing things I’d failed to do, I thought about all the things I’d planned on doing only this week. Ferry boat ride, back to the San Francisco Exploratorium, playdough, craft time at the library, more winter decorating. Instead I had a towel covered in vomit, a queasy stomach, messy house, and peanut butter smears on the floor.
As a stay-at-home mother who has decided to homeschool, I feel a lot of pressure to do Things every day. You know, to let the kids reach their full potential in life (y’all know I dislike this term but use it here because it is so ubiquitous in parenting-speak), stretch their little growing minds. Despite that LP is the baby, I feel this most keenly for him because of his Down syndrome. Pressure to do more therapy, more supplements, more intervention. Honestly, I’m feeling more and more that all this pressure is a bunch of rubbish.
Look, I figure raising kids is sort of like making bread. If you’ve ever made bread, you know that dough doesn’t stretch unless you let it rest. You have to knead the dough to develop the protein that makes it strong and gives bread its structure. Bake that ball of just-kneaded bread though, and all you get is a dry, hard, hockey puck.
Why? The bread needs to rest. When it rests, the proteins relax, and only then will it rise, puff up and turn into the chewy yet airy loaf desired. This resting idea isn’t just for loaves of bread. Without resting, all dough is wound too tight; it’ll never be what it could. Pizza dough won’t stretch into that thin crispy crust unless you let it rest after kneading it. Crepe dough won’t spread into that thin light shell unless you let it rest in the refrigerator. With most bread, there is a period of activity followed by inactivity. Both phases are necessary. (I conveniently am throwing out scones, biscuits, and pancakes in this analogy, I know. Just work with me here.)
So on the outside, it looks like we are Doing Nothing. The bread dough sits on the counter, no one tending it. My girls run around the house with no structure for a couple days and LP is sick rather than crawling around and exploring.
Look at it a different way, however, and all that nothing is looks like something after all. The girls had some sweet sister time and rediscovered toys that had been long neglected. They both got a little bit better at having quiet down time, which is an important skill for kids to have if they can do it. LP learned a few new variations on peek-a-boo, worked on his adaptive immune system, and discovered jello.
Dragging the kids around to every play date, every class, and every possible therapy appointment might be a lot like making hockey puck bread. There’s so much activity, but no time to relax and let it all unfold. In the meantime, we all run ourselves ragged and wonder why we are so stressed out. It’s like waking and sleeping. Neglect one and the other suffers; we all need balance.
Not that I’d choose getting the stomach flu again, but it’s been a good reminder in a hectic holiday season. There’s a lot of something to be said for doing nothing.