I preach it to other parents all the time: let your kids fail. Let them make mistakes. Help them learn from the stumbling and they will be more steady on their feet and stronger for it. I preach it all day long. If the parents promised not to call the PsychWard, I'd get it tatooed on my forehead and make them read it at every encounter.
And 2020 hit. Boy did it hit. I was trying to journey back in my mind to recall how this year began (yes, I was in the photo app on my phone....no way my brain would ever remember all of THAT!) and it kind of hit me...this year was like my view on failing magnified by alien zombies who are clearly experimenting with torture using my own darn sermon topic (with some additional random BS thrown in for good measure.)
A quick review of my year includes:
January: The septic system clogging up and backing all the way into our basement (which subsequently took about 10 hours of cleaning and throwing away $h!t, metaphorically and otherwise, and 6 months of psychological recovery....I mean, how can that smell just stay on you and permeate your entire being when drenched in that much bleach!!!!) (I am not including the actual pictures....you're welcome!) But, I learned so much about the septic system....and my kids were given a treatise on what you can AND CANNOT put in toilets.....so much learning.....and THAT is why Sloth made his way into our home....to offer stability and humor.
February: A carbon monoxide leak that was on the verge of killing our whole family ("you would not have woken up tomorrow" was a common statement by the fire department, the EMTs and air/heat/plumbing guys as they miraculously discovered the problem, evacuated a very confused us out of our own home, turned off the gas, capped the hole and made sure our blood oxygen levels were ok enough to not require further care.) We now own carbon monoxide detectors that actually work and I thank God often for the incredible timing of that random Air/Heat appointment.
March: Oooooh, when those March winds blew....while it started with this tiny little GLOBAL PANDEMIC, we took a splendid trip down to FL where everything was ok, so long as you were on the beach, breathing in the salt air, soaking in the salt water and around absolutely no salty people. The trip ended quite abruptly, right after I secured a quick little concussion, when we found out school would be starting back up again, but this time, at home. ALL FIVE KIDS TOGETHER.... USING THE SAME INTERNET!!! But, not to be outdone by January or February, March threw in a tree almost falling on Liam and me while we went for our daily run. And again, we thanked God for the impeccable timing.
April: I can honest to God say....April would, maybe, have been our best month (if it weren't for the lights and noise and screens all continually hurting my head)....and oh, the anxiety. So, here's the thing, I have experience limited episodes of anxiety in my adult life. For the most part, I am fairly resilient and soldier through random stresses and fears and don't get too anxious about random life stuff. But then I had a concussion, during Covid, and the insomnia at night was unbearable and I got to the place that I was scared I had hurt my brain badly enough that, this time, I was actually going to die. And that is when I realized anxiety had crept in while I was unawares, and I needed to go to the doctor about this silly head problem. By the time they got me in, I was on my way out of it, I had broken down and had a mini-midlife crisis in which I finally surrendered to whatever might be because I felt like my life had had purpose and meaning and so, it was okay if I died. (Seriously, that was a conclusion I drew in order to keep myself going.) Luckily, the anxiety started to lessen as the concussion healed and I was given the go ahead to get back to my normal life.....which of course, by that point, was nothing even close to resembling normal.
May: By May, we had things better figured out. We were using most of our time wisely, spending solid hours connecting with each other at home, had learned how to zoom and google chat and group facetime, were not sitting in the car for thirty minutes every time we went to the grocery store because of the anxiety over having to wear a mask (a true story....it took me weeks to bravely wear a mask into a store, and still, I rush through most shopping experiences as quickly as possible because it gets me into the fresh air sooner.) My girls made my birthday one of the most special ever and I can honestly say, May was a saving grace to this year in many ways for me. Really, the only big negatives were those raccoon attacks in the coop but even there, we just threw up our hands to the universe and then started catching all those babies, (and then their parents...and cousins....) and finding them new homes that don't involve my chicken coops. It was like our own little Mini-Raccoon Rescue. Kind of.
June: Oh sweet Jesus....things were looking better....things were opening up! There was hope. We saw beautiful sunsets, gorgeous days outside, Liam even played baseball. Sure, we were still catching the rest of the raccoon's extended family (man they are prolific breeders), but all in all, June was almost amazing.
July: We were still coming off our June high, living summer life to the fullest, lake trips, fluffy clouds and rainbows, so when I cut my finger deeply trying to cut a late night snack, Lily and I just patched it up by ourselves because, shoot, is THAT all you got 2020? (Never, ever test fate like that y'all....it just isn't worth it!)
August: I never thought I would say this but I LOVED Middle School Soccer tryouts this year. It meant we were on the field, together, and yes, it meant coming up with all sorts of crazy activities due to the covid protocols we had to follow and yes, it took me a few days to stop being harsh underneath the mask (did I mention masks are not my favorite things ever?) but generally speaking, it was fantastic. And when the time came to make cuts, I was very honest with the girls: I don't know any coach with half a heart that actually likes making cuts. Cutting kids is hard. But it is not the hardest thing I have ever had to do and I knew those girls who did not make it this year would face it bravely and go on to do great things. And then, Solomon played football! Like, real tackle football! And Liam tried out for a travel baseball team and honestly, it may have been one of the proudest moments in my life. He was a little nervous the day before....I'll admit, I was nervous for him. My instincts were to talk him out of it, protect him from failure, but then I heard my own sermon play through my head and I knew he needed to do it.
"What if I don't make the team?" he asked.
"Is that any different than now?" I asked back. ("No.) "Will you die?" I asked. ("No.") "Then there is no reason not to try. If you don't try, you will never know. If you do try, you will either be on a team or be right where you are but better because now you know what you need to work on."
He gave it his best. He fielded the balls. He caught the pop flies. He even pitched! And I was completely shocked at how far he had come. For a split second, I thought he might actually have a chance. But then he had to bat. And he needs a lot more work on that. But, now he knows exactly what he needs to do. And the smile on his face when it was all over, well, that was worth every bit of it. And then, in 2020 fashion, he found out he didn't make the team from kids at school. But, no worries because he was already off running cross country and he never really looked back!
September: Oh, September.....2020 decided to rear its ugly head again....multiple hospital visits and that doozie run in with one of my players that had me in a brace for what felt like eternity. While fully tearing both my MCL and ACL, was never on my bucket list, the experience has been chalk full of real life moments. I learned how to navigate the insurance system and workers comp, I'm fairly familiar now with the internal structure of the knee, the strengthening and injury prevention methods to better help my players, and I learned what a wonderful community I have supporting me. I am so thankful for the generous outreach of unfettered help from so many people. I was injured, without a doubt but I was also blessed in so many ways.
October: October was spent relearning how to use my leg, through injury and pain, while also strengthening it to prep for surgery. I was unable to drive for almost the entire month. Try that sometime, with 5 kids....so much fun.
November: Surgery.....for anyone who has had surgery you know what I am talking about....I am glad that is behind me. I am so thankful my brother was able to be here but pretty much the rest of it was just icky. But, Madeline also turned 16 and bravely faced some new life experiences herself and oh, we got a new puppy! Not all was lost!
December: Outside of that random dog fight between Storm and the neighbor's Doberman, you know the one in which my 16 year old thought to tackle the doberman in order to save our dog.....it was a pretty smooth month all things considered. But I will admit, as we enter 2021, we are so thankful to start anew.
And before you think I am delusional enough to believe that 2021 is going to turn everything around (Madeline did jinx the entire year within the first few minutes by jokingly saying: Ah, 2021, what's the worst that could happen?!....Why Maddie why??), I will just say this: I am grateful for the opportunity to believe in fresh starts and for the turn of the year to offer just that. I also believe 2020 has prepared a lot of us for the unknown in ways no other year ever has. And that is something. Maybe the January addition of Sloth to our household was just a sign of things to come....of days spent together, enjoying each other's company. And for me, of a time when slow was the new norm and smiling for no good reason was really the best way to be. (I have started to think of that smile as the smile of survival. Thanks, Sloth!)
Happy New Year Everyone....or at least, Yay! A New Year.....at last!
Much love. -K
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