If you have not read, “Parenting on Empty” it is the post that drove the post below. Click here: Parenting on Empty
A month ago, on a whim, I packed up the mini-van with my boys and headed to the New Hampshire Mountains and the Massachusetts coast. I had been parenting, well living really, on empty for weeks and I knew I just needed to go to my two sanctuaries to fill up. I so very much hoped that the fresh mountain air would fill me with a fresh perspective; that the quietness of the lake would quiet my mind and fill me with peace and that the lack of Internet connection would fill me with greater connections with my kids. And I so very much hoped that the calming breeze off the ocean would fill me with a sense of inner calm; that the soothing sound of the crashing waves would soothe my anxiety; that the time spent at my favorite childhood spots with my boys would fill me up with so many new favorite memories with my kids that I couldn’t help but to overflow with joy and personal fulfillment.
And it did. Oh did it.
After two great days in my childhood hometown building Legos together and eating at all of mommy’s favorite spots, we packed into the mini-van again and headed towards the New Hampshire lake where I basically spent all my childhood. As we pulled into the state park and I rolled the window down, I couldn’t help but to stop and breathe in the fresh pine tree air. It smelled exactly how it did over twenty-five years ago; I felt as I did twenty-five years ago. I felt invigorated, carefree and relaxed. Just one breath of fresh air and I already felt a wee bit more full.
We pulled into the parking lot and I just stared at the lake, a smile creeping onto my face. My mind flooded with memories of swimming until sunset, finding the perfect stick for roasting marshmallows, and eating ice cream as fast as possible so it didn’t melt down my bathing suit and into the pine needles. I couldn’t wait to get out and do the same exact things with my boys! Oh did they ever have an absolute blast splashing in the lake and building in the sand just as my brother and I had done years before. The only difference in our day was that the lake now had boats to rent, so rent we did! We went canoeing, kayaking and paddle boating, a first for all my boys. At one moment I stopped in the middle of the lake just to take in the peace and to gaze at my four beautiful sons. My boys urged me to keep paddling. I urged them to enjoy the silence and the beauty. I felt even more full.
The sun started to set and we headed towards the cabin. I knew that a night of sleep didn’t await any of my boys so I had let them linger at the lake to enjoy some last moments in their inner tubes. This of course meant that they were beyond hyper when we did roll into the cabin. The lake had relaxed me though so I went with the flow and embraced my two year old figuring out how to put underwear on his head and then inspiring his brothers to do the same. I have never seen them all laugh so hard TOGETHER. They ran about with underwear on their heads and joy in their hearts. It was totally awesome. But it was also totally late. I couldn’t calm down the underwear party because the ringleader wouldn’t stop. He just kept putting more and more underwear on his head. So I picked him up, informed my mom that a night time drive was needed, and confidently headed to the door, so proud that I had found a solution to calm the night down.
I of course was so proud, confident and gun-ho with my plan that I forgot to look before I walked out the door. I am not sure what transpired next except that somehow I ended up with my face down in the dirt, #4 cradled safely in my arms, and my two feet still in the cabin. I tried to stand up but couldn’t put any weight on my feet. I thought I had broken both ankles and immediately feared that I had no way to drive 6 hours home. I hobbled into the cabin, #4 saying,“Mommy boo boo” as my dad raced out to get ice. And a beer. I really felt that I needed a beer too at that moment!
The pain subsided and when we woke the next day, I confidently put my sneakers on and walked to breakfast with the boys. There was no way I was missing breakfast at Rosie’s! And then I ignored my mother’s orders (never a good plan) to spend the day resting with my feet up and we took to boys to an amusement park where I had to walk around all day. It seemed fine. The pain literally had subsided, or perhaps all the joy from going on roller coasters and eating fried dough with my boys just masked it.
There was no swelling or bruising the next morning so I again assumed my feet were fine and we piled into the mini-van again, this time headed to Rockport, my favorite Massachusetts coastal town.
My foot might have hurt but the joy of my boys dressing up as fisherman and sailors and taking the most adorable, perfect picture EVER at the same studio where I took pictures dressed up in fancy dresses as a thirteen year old most certainly continued to mask the pain. So did having a pizza party with my boys on a hotel floor that night and then watching the sunset over the ocean and the moon rise up as my boys snuggled in bed next to me.
Oh how my tank floweth over!
Yes, injury aside, it was an amazing week with my boys, everything I hoped for and more. Was the week go-go-go, chaotic, and exhausting? Absolutely. Did the boys hardly sleep because we were on vacation? Absolutely. Did their exhaustion lead to some questionable behavior? Absolutely. Would I do it all over again? ABSOLUTELY.
Because as tough as it was at times, it was nothing short of magical to share experiences with my boys that I had as a little girl. Those experiences, those moments where I just really focused on enjoying and connecting with my boys, well they more than helped to re-fill my tank. Combined those with nature, natural beauty like sunrises and sunsets, and fresh air and yes, my tank floweth over by the end of the trip.
You know, I often times forget how getting outside, how getting fresh air really helps me to “fill-up.” Oh, how I am grateful that I re-learned this and hope that I remember this when I sense I am headed towards empty. The good news, it’s easy to get fresh air!
And you know, I often times, far, far too often, forget that playing and enjoying my kids, like REALLY enjoying them, laughing with them and creating memories with them is one of the best remedies for an over-tired, over-cranky, over-whelmed mommy, also known as me! I am so grateful as well to have re-learned this and I really, really hope that I can hold on to this insight and use it keep me from feeling empty. I know this will be harder than just walking outside to get fresh air, but oh, I hope I remember it. The upside to this remedy to parenting on empty? I am fairly certain it fills my kids hearts with such joy that they too feel a little more full! Oh the other upside, the obvious one? I am less likely to want to yell when I am filling up by enjoying my kids. Their hugs, kisses, snuggles, laughter, and smiles of awe and wonder and love not only calm me and fill my heart helping me parent on “fuller,” but they also fill my heart with more determination to keep on not yelling so that I when I want their love and affection, they want to give it to me.