This morning my daughter asked me to make pancakes for breakfast. I am tired but after a moment I get up. As I enter the kitchen I see she has set the table and made it beautiful. It’s perfect. I set out to do the same. Carefully, I measure each ingredient into the bowl, then put them away again. I am working very efficiently, or so I think. So I continue like this, even letting my kids help to make the pancakes. As they mix, I wash up any utensils or bowls that have already been used. I am excited to have everything clean and put away when the pancakes are ready, but as I try so hard to be perfect, I’m not paying attention to my measures, and use double the amount of milk than the recipe asks for.
I am so disappointed with myself and have a hard time letting this go, after all it’s only pancakes; or is it? My goal, I realized, was not to make great pancakes but to have everything perfect. I have to send my husband to the store for more eggs and then I restart, but I’m still flustered. I manage to get as far as making the mix but then have to walk away. I ask my husband to cook the pancakes. I go take a shower and hope that it will calm me down, but I can feel my impatience as I struggle to brush the dread lock tangles out of my curly hair. I try to stay present as I brush. As I finish showering, being present helps me to take the time to put some soothing coconut oil on my dry skin. I’m returning to a state of calm. As I get dressed I give myself 5 minutes to just sit and breath. I notice a tension in my chest and support myself by continuing to focus on my breath.
I get up and come back to my family. My plan today is to take the kids to the museum. About 90 minutes later, after 2 kid meltdowns and one by me, we are finally at the front door with our coats on, but then one kid doesn’t want to go see the butterfly exhibit. Arghhh! We flip a coin. Butterflies it is! But the other sister gets sad, so there will be no butterflies, we’ll go to the children’s museum. Fine, I just want to get out of here. I look for my keys… they’re gone! I am determined to make this happen. I am in control!!!! We are going to the museum! The door will lock on it’s own and if we can’t get back in, I don’t care!!!
When we get outside the bus comes right away. Ok, finally a break! Here we go! I get on the bus with 3 kids, 2 scooters and a stroller. I get them all seated and look for my bus card…Arghhh!!!!!! I forgot my bus card! A man notices my dilemma and offers me a swipe on his card. So kind! I sit back down, take out a sandwich and give it to the baby. Ok, I have water, food, we’re on the bus, no problem. We get off the bus and cross the street to the subway. I get all the kids and stuff down the stairs…What? NO TRAINS! ARGHHH! Ok, I give up. I am not in control!! I get it!
At this point I stop. The museum is not happening! I take a deep breath and give myself a minute to think. It’s cold out, one child wants to go home and the other wants to go to the library. I am not going home! After much discussion we decide to go to the library but I realize I have left my keys at home and so I have left my library card at home. Arghhh! I am not in control I remind myself. I just keep walking the streets of NYC. And as I surrender to life, one of the girls says, “Playground?” Yes! We all agree. In the cold as snow flakes are starting to fall we get to the playground and play the best game of tag ever. We laugh till our bellies hurt, and after an hour of this everyone’s hands are numb and we decide to get a hot chocolate.
On the way to the coffee shop I’m feeling in control again. I check my list; we had fun, everyone is happy, and the coffee shop which is normally packed, is not! I even spot seating for all of us, but just after I order and pay, it suddenly all goes awry. The seat I saw has been taken and I need to pee. I’ve got 3 kids, the baby wants to get out of the stroller, I have nowhere to leave them and there is a line for the bathroom. I ask my 6-year-old to stand in line for me as I try to get seats for everyone else. As I look for a seat, she screams to me across the room, ‘I’m not waiting here anymore!’. It’s all spinning out of control again and I can’t hold on. I tell her she can go wait with her siblings and then a woman in line says, “I’ll hold a spot for you.” I say thank you but still stand in the line until I realize the woman is trying to give me a gift, why am I saying no? Because I am in control! I don’t need anyone, I can do it all myself! And then I realize how crazy that sounds and I let go. I accept her gift and go back to my kids and suddenly a table opens up. I sit the kids down, get them situated and as I get back to the bathroom, someone is just exiting the bathroom and it’s my turn. When I return to my children they are happy and someone even offers me a chair for myself. I sit in the moment with gratitude to everyone who brought me gifts today; My husband who got eggs and finished the pancakes, the man who paid my bus fare, the woman who saved me a place in the bathroom line, my children for all the laughter and for putting up with my need to make it happen against all odds, and myself for finally letting go and allowing others to help me.
When we left I didn’t push to go to the library. We crossed the street and the bus pulled right up. This time I didn’t check my list to see how I was doing. I just said thank you to the driver, paid my fare, went home and accepted everything that happened.