Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sick Days

Before I had Weezie I was always a bit jealous of colleagues with kids. They'd phone in on a random Thursday saying Junior had fever an they wouldn't be able to come into work. It sounded so nice, a day at home with your child and away from the office. I imagined long mornings in pajamas with the Price Is Right in the background as parent and kid lazily put together puzzles. Perhaps there would be a grilled cheese for lunch, followed by a nap and, undoubtedly, orange sherbet.

Today is my first sick day as a parent. Weezie woke with a fever, grumpy and lethargic. I immediately decided to stay home because, 1. It is school policy that no child with fever can come on campus until 24 hours after a fever breaks, and 2. I have realized of late that I'm a bit of a workaholic.

Just last week I put more than 700 miles on my mother's new Prius in an attempt to be everywhere at all times. I spent nearly four hours in a conference room in Alabama, realizing halfway through that the meeting was not a collaborative session as described, but an extended sales pitch disguised as a working committee. As I fired up the Prius and made tracks on the Natchez Trace back home to Mississippi, I was angry with myself for overextending and hyper-focused on all the things I should have accomplished with the day. As a result, I stress ate chocolate and Cheese-Its all the way to Tupelo. This, friends, is not a healthy way to cope. But I must say, Alabama Public Radio has excellent afternoon programming and my sanity was restored by their symphonic segment.

By the time I reached Enid Lake, where my mother, Weezie and our friend Mrs. Ford were stationed as my support unit, Weezie had been put to bed and I didn't get to see her at all that day.  Mama and Mrs. Ford (age 84) were worn out from chasing the baby, but full of stories about Weezie's adventures around the cabin. Mrs. Ford, whose hearing aid had died the day before, was incredibly tickled by Weezie's perpetual dancing, not realizing the baby was bumping along to the tunes created by her little toy scooter. I was grateful for the conversations, as well as the wine, broiled pork chops and freshly sliced tomatoes, the first of the season.

A year ago I would have never cancelled work with three meetings on the books. Just the sound of my work cell pinging from email would send my blood pressure to the moon. Even on days off, I checked email on the sly, knowing it bothered Barry, and became easily distracted by work matters, an unresolved project or conflict with a coworker. To use Raney-Mills terminology (my best friend and licensed therapist), I am "doing some work" to better understand why I put so much energy into my job when other aspects of my life are so much more fulfilling.

Today, I assigned a meeting to each of my incredibly talented teammates and put my work cell on silent. Barry hit the door around 8 a.m. and Weezie slept in my arms until 10 a.m. And it was just like I'd always imagined. I sat down in the big chair with a cup of coffee in reach, as well as a remote and a snuggly baby to boot. I don't even recall what was on TV (it was only 5 hours ago) but I won't soon forget how great it felt to be in the sunlit living room, no lamps on, just shadows dancing from the budding leaves outside. Weezie's feverish head stuck to my chest and a sense of calm about the house.

I once heard the comedian Chris Rock say in an interview that there was no sweeter sound than that of a quiet house once the kids have been put to bed. He didn't mean it in the "thank God the chaos has subdued" sort of way, he was describing that full-heart joy of having a safe and happy home where kids can grow and play. It is so cliche to say, but children really do change your life. I know that Weezie has nearly saved mine, as I have been able to open my eyes to what matters most in a way I couldn't before she arrived.

And, let's be honest, it is pretty great to pen this blog on a random Thursday afternoon while Weezie naps and it rains outside.  

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