I never thought my kids would motivate me to take care of myself. Over the past three years, when it came time for self-care, they didn’t exactly turn into my personal coach. Instead, in all of their cuteness, they would distract me (on a good day) and sap the living daylights out of me (on a not so good day.)
But over the weekend, after wrestling my almost three-year-old into his Shabbat clothes (who wants to wear a button down dress shirt when its 80 degrees out?) and pulling a muscle that rendered my lower back non-functioning, I had never been so motivated to heal, both physically and spiritually.
When it first happened, the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with the Angel came racing into my mind (I was on the way to synagogue, so a biblical story would be appropriate.) Jacob wrestled with an Angel (aka God) and his hip was dislocated as a result. Wrestling with kids is nothing new for a mom. Many a bedtime has ended in tears wrestling the little guy into his pjs. But wrestling to the point of personal injury? Really?
This game of nerves (who can yell the loudest, Tamir? I don’t want to get dressed, or Imma? We are getting dressed now!) came on the heels of a little vacation that he had with his dad down in Florida to visit grandma. While he was away (and I only had my infant daughter in my charge) I reveled at how much free time I had and how much less work I had on my plate. When they returned, while I was glad to see them, I was a bit resentful that all the work returned too.
But last week, when I was injured and my mobility severely curtailed (think healthy woman in her late 30s turned centenarian), I was crushed when I was incapable of doing even the slightest bit of caretaking. While I wasn’t exactly able to reframe all of the physical pain as a blessing there were some things that reminded me of the kind of person and mom I want to be.
Slow down – I am always doing 10 things at once (sound familiar?) Because that simply was not an option, it was a thrill to realize that if the dishes didn’t get done, that e-mail didn’t get answered, or the laundry didn’t get folded, the world would not collapse. Once I was situated on the floor to play with them, I stayed there and delighted in whatever game was on hand.
Have compassion – Whenever I encountered someone in emotional or physical pain (pre-injury) I listened to them and offered help when I could. But the long list of other things I needed to do would sometimes distract me from giving them my full attention. While my day would continue, pain-free, theirs wouldn’t. I am developing more patience and capacity to be fully present for those who need me.
Have Courage – While I try to cultivate this quality in my children, it’s certainly easier said than done. When my chiropracter told me that the only way to heal was to “keep moving” (the most counter-intuitive thing when each step hurts!) I did. After being my own little cheering team (“you can do it” muttered with each step.) I found that my 3 year old was happily joining in “you can do it imma!”).
Being temporarily incapacitated did not only have an impact on me, but effected them too. My son, with his own hands clutched on his back, identified with me, “my back hurts too”, and gave me a lot more hugs. Little did he know that when he pulled out his plastic doctor’s case and gave me a few firm pats on the back declaring, “there, I fixed your back” how right he was.