No, I wasn’t hallucinating. The French fries just wouldn’t shut up . . .
Last week was a stressful week for me.
I know, I know; my life leaves little room for complaining. No one in my family needed a heart transplant. The bank didn’t call to say my identity had been stolen. I didn’t have to buy a pregnancy test and then peel my husband off the floor. There were no fires, no flooded bathrooms, no broken bones.
But my dog DID chew through an important cable cord. And laundry WAS piled to the ceiling. And I HAD promised my son that I would go on a field trip to discover that my work schedule did not want to cooperate. And my job HAD been a little crazy. And we DID have a very busy weekend ahead that included soccer games (Mom, my uniform is dirty!) and a wedding (Ack! I forgot to pick up the gift!) and a road trip (Are we taking the dogs? Will everything fit in the car? Did everyone pack enough clean underwear?).
It was an ordinary I-have-entirely-too-much-to-do-and-I’m-not-doing-a-good-job-at-any-of-it kind of stress. The kind of stress that tightens every muscle in your body except the ones that make a smile. The kind of stress that releases “scary mommy” from her cage way too soon. The kind of stress that I continued to press down and compact, like the garbage under the kitchen sink that might wait one more day if I can smash it just enough.
So back to the French fries.
It was a stressful week, and by Friday night, the boys and I had no choice but to run some errands, a task that ranks somewhere between scooping dog poop and eating asparagus on their list of things to avoid. Fast food offered a viable solution to a couple of problems; we needed to eat, I had no time to cook, and the prospect of a burger and fries made running errands more palatable for my kids (don’t EVEN judge me). We slid into the booth, and all was well.
Until the French fries started talking.
Eating out AGAIN this week? REALLY? Are you going for a record here?
This wouldn’t have happened if you had thought ahead.
You know you could have planned better.
You like your kids, right? Do you see any vegetables on this table?
And I think you exercised once this week. Yep. Just once. Failed again! Ha!
And you knew this weekend would be busy. Why didn’t you do more to prepare?
And why can’t you be more organized?
And why can’t you keep up with everything?
What’s wrong with you, anyway?
How do the OTHER MOMS handle all of this so much more efficiently than YOU?
I swear the French fries started it, but then I jumped in with the ole’ one-two punch. Beating myself up is a skill I have honed with years of extensive practice. So there I sat, with a self-inflicted black eye, staring at a heap of French fries, each one representing another flaw, another failure. My stress had overflowed into a cardboard container full of mistakes.
“Mom, can you help me open this ketchup?” The request snapped me out of my greasy haze.
Why SHOULD I waste a rare sliver of uninterrupted time with my boys reveling in my own self-destruction, not enjoying the moment, completely oblivious to their presence? In reality, after a stressful week, this date with them was exactly what I needed, even if it did include a grossly unhealthy meal. And it hit me:
Some weeks you deserve a gold star JUST for surviving.
No matter how many French fries you fed your children. No matter how much you wish you had handled things differently. No matter how many promises you made to do better next week.
You survived that week? Well done, my friend. Well done.
Fist bump with fireworks.
Those fries were actually quite delicious, maybe because each bite was tinged with sweet revenge. The boys and I enjoyed some funny conversations about our week, and I gave myself permission to soak up the joys of the chaotic weekend ahead . . . to savor every bite of wedding cake without remorse . . . to relish my favorite hometown pizza . . . to accept that sometimes exercise doesn’t fit into my agenda, and that’s okay . . . to laugh and relax with family and friends despite the list of things I needed to do at home and at work.
No, responsible people can’t write off bad choices EVERY week, but life is stressful, and sometimes survival is an accomplishment in itself.
Sometimes it’s okay to break the rules.
Sometimes it is necessary to give yourself a break.
Sometimes it’s enough to feed your family by running through the drive-thru.
Just remember to eat the French fries first – before they have a chance to start talking.
photo credit: French Fries Burger King Food Macro February 12, 20111 via photopin (license)