Hey, they’re still alive, aren’t they?

When the kids were little, I learned it was okay for me to take time for myself. It was necessary to maintaining my sanity – those once-a-month bunco nights, book club, the occasional GNO….When they were older, I started to take weekends – scrapbooking retreats and girls’ getaways. Every time I came home though, I felt I was being punished for having had the nerve to go out/away. The house would be a total disaster – kitchen covered in food and dishes, cups everywhere, everything anyone had worn while I was gone tossed wherever, shoes and blankets all over the floor. I’d cry and yell in frustration. I’d bang things around, making sure everyone was aware I was unhappy with the state of our home. It didn’t make anyone feel any better.

Years passed. I continue to do book club, Girls’ Night Out, weekends away. Sometimes when I come home, they’ve taken the time to clean up, knowing it will ease re-entry for everyone involved.  Sometimes it’s a total disaster. I never really know what I’m going to get, but even if it’s relatively clean, it’s not how I would do it. Counters aren’t wiped down. Blankets aren’t folded on the back of the couch. Shoes aren’t in their baskets. There are likely towels hanging over the chairs in the backyard. The dishwasher isn’t loaded the way I load it (and everyone knows the moms load dishwashers the most effective, efficient way possible to make the most of every inch, right?).  The trash and recycling bins are probably overflowing. Floors likely aren’t swept. I’ve learned to let it go.

Hey, the kids (and pets) are still alive, right? They’ve probably been off-schedule, the boys likely haven’t taken their meds every day. But they’ve been fed. They’ve probably done some fun stuff with dad. They got a break from the way mom does everything. No, it isn’t the way I do things, but everyone is still intact, and the house can be put back to order.

I got home from my weekend in Chicago yesterday. I’d been gone for five days. The house was a DISASTER of the first order. I was so tired, and my luggage had been put on another, much-later plane than mine, so I was dealing with that too. I walked in the door, happy to be home and see my babies. I saw the mess, and sighed. I gave the boys a hug, greeted the fur herd, dropped my bag, and set about putting things in order, my order. But I wasn’t mad. It is what it is. I had an amazing weekend away. My kids had a great time at home (well except for the part both Big Man and the Princess’ phones took a dunking and had to be replaced). And hey, they were still alive, right?

Find your Squad

I got back Monday night from a weekend with my squad….well, most of my squad….well, most of one of my squads. This crew I met through the March of Dimes. We spread across the nation with two on the East Coast, two in the relative Midwest, and me on the West Coast. We talk/text pretty much every day. They know me better than most – we’ve shared our worst stories, heartbreaks, fears, mom-moments. We’ve all suffered the fate of the NICU either through prematurity or birth defect. When I talk about things from the NICU, they know exactly what I mean. Ditto when one of them shares something. We all have similar battle scars. We all come from different backgrounds, but our shared experiences have brought us amazingly close. We tell each other we love each other all the time. There are always long, awkward hugs when we get together.

I spent the weekend laughing those laughs that make your abs sore. We have our shared inside jokes. We have our shared story. Conversations pick up right where they left off the last time. Even though most of us haven’t seen each other in over a year, it’s as if not a day  has passed. We laugh together, we laugh at ourselves, we laugh at each other. We know each other’s faults and fears. We celebrate our own and our children’s’ triumphs. Our kids know us as their Share Aunties. When one of us falls, we’re all there. When one of us needs to cry, we usually cry together, then we pick ourselves us, dust ourselves off, and move onward. When one struggles with a child, with life, even with death, we come together.

My point behind all of this is that we all need to find our squad(s). I’m lucky to have a local squad, and my Share squad. I foundered for quite awhile after we moved to Southern California. I’d left my squad behind. Without the confidence of knowing you have your friends’ support and encouragement, that they’ll be there when you need them, it’s easy to lose confidence. I had nothing and no one to fall back on, outside of my family and my in-laws. I mean I knew my family was there if I needed them, but they were all far away, and we didn’t have the social media base and texting as we do now.

I found my initial squad in middle school. They carried me all the way through high school. I don’t know what I would have done without them. They gave me courage to step outside my comfort zone. They gave me confidence, just knowing someone who wasn’t family, who didn’t have to, cared about me as a person. Being able to trust in my group, know they would be there when I needed them, enabled me to step up and out beyond what I would have done on my own.

The Princess is just finding her squad. Every  year since second or third grade, her bestie would move away, or move on. It’s not been easy for her. In the last few months, though, she seems to have found her group. She’s learning to trust they’ll be there, but she hasn’t reached the point of having enough trust in that relationship to step out. That takes time, and building a shared history. She will know when she’s ready.

We all need to find our people….the people with whom we can truly be our whole selves, our true selves, and find comfort knowing they won’t leave, even when they see the dark parts of us. We need the people who will love us, laugh with us, cry with us, pick us up, give us courage and confidence, encourage us to stretch outside our comfort zones and grow. Find your squad.