Parenting, for me, includes more situations resembling contract negotiations than I’d like to admit. Some days my head hurts too much to be all “my way or the highway” with my kids, so I attempt to negotiate rather than beg. Perhaps the key word is “attempt”. Yesterday was a negotiation day. Because I had to run to the grocery store with Littlest. I attempted to sweeten the deal.
Me: “All we need are four things. Just four. Carrots, cabbage, a birthday card, and half-and-half. Easy-peasy, lemon squeezey.”
Littlest: “You’re sure?”
Me: “Of course I’m sure. Just those four things! Come on, it’ll be fun. Like a scavenger hunt!”
Me: “Please, can we please just run to the store and get this over.”
Littlest: “Well, I suppose so.”
Halfway home I clutch my head and moan. “Littlest, what were the four things we were supposed to get?!?!”
Littlest scrunched up his face and tapped his lower lip with a dirty index finger. “Let’s see. Huh. All I can remember is a birthday card and cabbage.”
I hold back a sob and say, “We forgot the half-and-half.”
Littlest may have gasped a bit. “Oh no. Because the half-and-half is for your coffee and without it, you can’t have any coffee. This is really bad Mom. Because coffee helps you calm down and feel happy.”
Now before anyone panics, I acquired more half-and-half and have sufficiently coffee-ed myself into happiness. Mister Soandso and I got a giggle over how well Littlest knows his mama and ha, ha, we all went on with our days.
And then, this morning, I read Aiden Donnelley Rowley’s blog. As I read through her blog, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling along on my iPhone while standing in front of my Keurig waiting for it to finish dripping, I read faster and faster. Is she going to tell us she’s pregnant again? Another book sold? Moving? What???
I wasn’t expecting it to be about wine. So go ahead and read her post and come back here. I’ll wait for you. And I’ll drink another cup of coffee while I’m waiting. Go on. I’ll wait for you so we can all be on the same page, so to speak.
See this cup of coffee sitting on my desk? It is as much a part of my life as a writer as the keyboard, mouse, and scarred desk. I didn’t always drink coffee just like I didn’t always write. But both are firmly a part of who I am today.
Now that Biggest is a middle schooler and sarcasm is his number one social skill, he regularly tells me when I have coffee breath. And I have to admit to thinking about that. I have become a person whose children attach certain sights and smells to and I’m not sure how I feel about coffee breath being a primary one.
Who I am today.
Because this coffee? This coffee which seems so banal and of no import is a very important part of who I am today.
Littlest knows that coffee helps calm me down and feel happy.
In other words, coffee has become something that I use to make it through my day. A cup in the morning to wake up, a cup mid-morning to keep focused, a cup in those late afternoon hours when I need a nap and instead have hours of parenting and writing ahead of me. Rinse and repeat.
If I were to substitute the name of a drug for coffee, all those in reader-land would assume I have an addiction and wonder about making a phone call.
But since its coffee, no harm, no foul. Right?
It occurs to me that to live this thing called life is to need something to get us through it. When that thing we “need” is seen as socially acceptable, no one bats an eye. But when that little something we turn to in order to calm down and feel happy is seen as sordid or distasteful, then all bets are off.
All around us are bits and pieces of people’s coping skills in action. I drive past the meth-heads with their scratched up arms and hollowed cheeks. I flip through tabloid articles touting the benefits of cleanses and enemas. I listen to the weekly banter counting down the days until Friday happy hours. I tuck my “baby” into bed with his “lovey” and blanket.
We all need something to get through this. Some are destructive and some only soothing. But we all need that one thing.
For me, it may be coffee (even decaf works to some extent).
But even more than coffee, what gets me through this thing called life are the people who hug me in spite of my coffee breath. The people who notice I need calming, that I need some happiness.
Its when those people are missing from our lives that we must find something else.
Some are missing because they left us too soon. Some are missing because they never found us to start with. And some are missing because we must travel alone at least for this small stretch.
May each of us find ways of calming ourselves, of finding some small bit of happiness. And if anyone wants to get coffee, I’m up for it.