Someone asks, “So will you celebrate today when the boys come home?” I paused as the dueling thoughts wrestled in my head. While I traveled and attended two conferences, they stayed with their dad. In reality, because of the Halloween weekend, they would have been with their father all of this stretch except last Wednesday night and Thursday night. So, in essence, I lost two nights. And while the length of time is LONG and it can physically hurt to be away from them, it is our reality. I went over Sunday, when I got back from the trip, and saw them briefly. I took them a few of their silly gifts: socks bought at the Japanese Tea Garden that can be worn with flip flops, the big toe segregated from the lesser toes. Today, I pick them up from school and they are with me until Monday. A normal “five” days in our 5:2 split custody arrangement.
While everyday we wake is a cause for celebration, everyday is not meant to be a party. The pragmatist won the duel.
The boys come back on the top of the week, Hump Day. They will have homework to do. They have chores. While I could have spit polished this house and their rooms, they need to be held accountable for their spaces. So, they come home to unmade beds and unvacuumed floors. I can’t vacuum their floors if their floors are not picked up. And I get to add another stanza to my blues classic, I am not your maid and this is not a hotel. Culture today sets this notion that we should all be headed to a party. We hoot the Hump Day. We YES! the Friday. Don’t cry when you get your shots and we buy Happy Meals. Get straight A’s and you get money rewards. It seems we seek every excuse to make hay, reward and celebrate.
I think it is too much.
If every moment for our children is special and acknowledgment-worthy, we set a precedence of making “reality” one huge awards ceremony and honor roll. And it just ain’t so. Life….real life….doesn’t come with grades, gold stars, prize boxes, Dean’s lists or glittery crowns. Life, real life, is…..well, it is ORDINARY. And ordinary is truly perfect. Ordinary is just fine. And think about that. What is JUST FINE? The real meaning of words erodes over time, we become desensitized to their true meaning. To be FINE is to be superior, admirable, excellent. Plus, I believe in the trite phrase, live in the present because everyday is a gift. It is a fine gift.
But, com on folks…..we do not get rewarded for doing our normal everyday jobs. No one throws confetti just because I show up to my job or complete an assigned task. When I complete my last chart of the day, no one stamps a smiley face on the back of my hand or sends a note home saying I had an extra special good day BECAUSE I DID THE JOB FOR WHICH I WAS HIRED. You don’t get rewards for doing the baseline.
And this is the lesson I want to teach my sons.
And this is why today is like any other ORDINARY DAY. Yes, I have missed them. Yes, I ache to be physically closer to them, the hear their voices and smell their boy funk and feed their bellies. But it is not cause for celebration. They haven’t been to war. I haven’t been trapped in a mine for 180 days. I went to a medical conference for work…for a week. And their dad managed things perfectly well. And they don’t get Oscars for doing their jobs. And their jobs are pretty clear. In my mind…pretty damn easy. SCHOOL and CHORES. And we don’t live on a 200 acre farm with dairy cows. These are suburbanite children, shuttled to and fro. And so, today, they may be expecting a party and they will be sorely mistaken. Today, they get their quarterly review, a job performance evaluation. Tough brake! And their reviews aren’t gonna be so hot. And I have left the evidence of their poor performances as example.
They will get some treats, but these are not things I wouldn’t otherwise do. I have planned a dinner they really love: Naan pizzas. I baked a Sock-it-to-Me cake. I have more presents to give from my trip. But all that will wait until all homework is completed and chores are done properly. Because while today is a fine day and a true gift….it is not a party. And they must take their current jobs seriously and do quality work. You get rewarded for extraordinary accomplishments. You don’t get a prize for making your bed or completing your homework. You will get a slice of cake, though. Maybe two. With a big, ice cold glass of milk.