It was 9 pm and the baby had spiked a fever. Low grade, but still worrisome because she’s only 2 months old. Even more worrisome was how lethargic she had become since the fever started.
“I don’t know if we’re going to make it tomorrow, ” I told my husband.
“I was thinking the same thing. But she’ll be so disappointed.”
“I know… But if this fever doesn’t break I might end up taking this little one to the ER tonight.”
“You’re right…I’ll go talk to her, just to prepare her in case we have to cancel”.
My husband & I had signed up to volunteer in Eowyn’s (our oldest daughter) kindergarten class the following day. Valentine’s Day. The kids were having a little “friendship party” and we were supposed to man a station, doing a minute to win it Valentine’s day game. We had signed up for this specific day before the school year even started. We specifically picked a day in February, because we wanted to be sure to give ourselves enough time after new baby (now known as Oswyn) was born.
Eowyn had been looking forward to this day all school year. Literally. Once a month (twice, when they went on field trips), she would come home making some passive remark about so-and-so’s mommy who came to class, and oh I wish you and daddy could come to my class. We are going to come sweetie, I would say. We’re coming in February. The kid has the memory of an elephant and never forgets anything. So when February rolled around, she was so excited because it was finally time for mom and dad to come to her class.
But there we were the night before the big day, having to break her little 6 year old heart because the shit had hit the fan again for our family.
It has been the worst winter for us. Everyone warned us about kindergarten germs, but wow did we underestimate those little buggers. Oswyn is only 2 months old, but this was cold number 3 for her. You better believe that the other 3 kids have also been on the never-ending sickness carousel too. Eowyn had bronchitis for the entire month of December. The.ENTIRE.Month. So it’s been bad news bears over here for 2 months straight. Birthday party invitations had to be declined, dance class was missed numerous times, and Awana as well. And now we were maybe not even going to make it to her class party.
I normally do special little things for the girls on Valentine’s Day. I’ll pull some Disney magic and put up a few little decorations while they’re sleeping the night before, so they’re surprised in the morning. Nothing fancy; usually just some red streamers and cut out hearts. I’ll do heart shaped food all day. We decorate mini cakes together. I dress them up and take pictures of them.
But this year they were all sick with colds for the hundredth time this winter. Between the baby’s stuffy nose that prevented her from breathing and her fever, there was no way I could put up any decorations. Plus there wouldn’t be any point in the decorations if I couldn’t clean first; the house was a wreck. Again. I already knew that most likely any and all Valentine’s day activities were going to be thrown out the window.
I felt really defeated. I felt like a failure of a mom. I knew I was disappointing my kids and it sucked.
Eowyn went to bed that night saying through her tears, “Maybe Oswyn will feel better in the morning. And if she does, then maybe you guys can still come”. Yes my love, maybe.
I slept with Oswyn and Laurelyn (my 2 year old shadow who sleeps like crap) on the couch that night because Oswyn needed to be propped up so she could breathe. It was a very long night; I slept in 1-2 hour spurts, waking to suction her nose, nurse her, and give her more Tylenol at 2 am.
The next morning I was exhausted. I didn’t want to do anything that involved me getting out of my pajamas, let alone go out of the house. I hadn’t showered in X amount of days; my hair was greasy and I had baby snot and spit up on my shirt. But Oswyn’s fever had broken, thank God. She was still under the weather, but much perkier than the night before.
When I went to wake Eowyn up that morning, she opened her eyes and immediately held the question in them: “Can you go?” In that moment nothing mattered except making that little girl–my very first baby–happy. So I pushed my fatigue aside, smiled and nodded my head. The biggest of smiles erupted out of her and she jumped out of bed and gave me a giant bear hug. “I’m so excited!!!!” she exclaimed.
My husband has chronic pain issues and struggles with severe anxiety. At this point he had been going through a rough time because he had a disc protrusion in his lower back and his anxiety had been particularly high due to the increase in his physical pain. During these high anxiety spells, he withdraws; social situations make him even more stressed. In short: he was in a period when he was struggling and didn’t want to leave the house or be around anybody. He is also an insomniac, and consequently not a morning person.
But at 10:30 am, we were both dressed in real clothes and walking out the door to go volunteer in our kid’s class. I was tired, unshowered, and felt completely insecure because I am so far from having my shit together. He was tired, hurting, and stressed out. Neither one of us felt particularly qualified to lead a station in a class full of hyperactive kindergartners jacked up on sugar.
But we showed up anyways.
And you know what? Eowyn didn’t care about our faults. She wasn’t embarrassed by the hat I wore to hide my greasy hair. She didn’t mind that I had no makeup on. She wasn’t embarrassed when her daddy flinched in pain or when I nursed her sister in front of her whole class (with my nursing cover on, of course). All she cared about was that we showed up. We were there for her, flaws and all. And that’s all that mattered to her, which was evidenced by the ginormous smile she wore on her face the moment we walked through the door.
After we went home, I was still preoccupied 90% of the day just taking care of the sick baby. We were not able to do our traditional mini cake decorating or take our Valentine’s day pictures. I had picked up around the house a bit, but there was still crap on the counters, because there’s always crap on the counters. I was grumpy, but I still made heart shaped sandwiches for Arya and Laurelyn for lunch. They didn’t mind that we had to push some papers out of the way before we could make the sandwiches. They were just happy to be doing something “special” (read: out of the ordinary) with mom, even though it was as simple as using a heart shaped cookie cutter on bread.
After they took 2 bites out of their sandwiches and declared that they were full, I let them mix up some shaving cream paint. This was an instant hit because it involved food coloring.
Then I threw them in the tub with their paint and let them have at it.
Two stupid simple activities to try to make the day feel special. It was a far cry from what I would normally do. But you know what Arya said to me after their super fun painting bath time?
“You are the best mom ever.”
You see friends, our kids don’t crave perfection. They just want us to show up. They don’t care what form we show up in, so long as we are there for them. So show up when you are picture perfect and when you are covered in baby snot and haven’t showered. Show up when you are Mr. Personality and also when you are Mr. Anxious.
Because in the end, our kids won’t remember if we were perfect, only that we were there.
So don’t miss a minute of this wonderful journey out of insecurity. Kick your insecurity to the curb and
Just show up.