I almost forgot that it was a holiday.
It was cloudy when we woke up. We went out for muffins and cappuccinos because it was a holiday but then we came home. Did the obligatory Saturday morning cartoon thing during which I make grocery lists and to-do lists and eavesdrop on Sophia and Curious George so that I can jump in with pointed questions that my children never hear on the first round and answer reluctantly only after I repeat myself (Me: “Should Sophia have lied to her Mommy about letting the wee sprites in or was it good that she told the truth?” Her: “I knew you were going to ask that!”). We then darted through the raindrops for our new routine: Saturday morning grocery shopping.
And then I remembered. It was just any holiday. It was the holiday when we usually decorate bikes and parade around the park with neighbors and friends.
I checked in as we drove to the store and saw that the outlook for the parade was hazy. I checked in again on the way home, in a downpour, to find out it was on. The rain was expected to pass. The parade would be delayed but it would happen.
Now typically, such a thing would ignite a fire in me. A parade in the rain! Grab the rain boots and sneakers and raincoats and should we wear swim suits because there will be puddles to jump in?! Rain unites people, it makes memories this is going to be fun, we’ll remember it forever! Can’t you just see us looking back!? Remember that time we paraded in the rain and the ribbons and streamers on the bikes got all soggy and the stickers wouldn’t stick and we came home a complete mess but we still had a great time! Typically this would feel like an experience my kids needed to have and I’d run forth full of holiday-fueled gusto to make it happen.
But there was no such fire on Saturday morning.
There was, instead, the absolute certainty that we should skip the parade.
I’m starting to see that there is a reality that comes from not only knowing my children but accepting them. It’s not a bad reality. It’s actually quite helpful. In a split second of considering going to the parade I foresaw whining over pulling on boots and being forced to wear sneakers instead of flip flops. I saw complaints of “I’m hot” and “This is wet.” and “I want to go home.” that would ruin the peaceful morning we had already settled into. I saw frazzled nerves and uncomfortable kids and an experience that we just weren’t going to make sparkle. And I saw two kids (and two adults) who were just as happy to stay home.
After five years of trying to make my dreams a reality I am beginning to see that, more often than not, my reality is often the dream if I just lean into the curve.
So we stayed home. The boys baked a chocolate cake. My girl and I made fireworks with paint using straws and glitter glue. We decorated our playroom with festive construction paper and ate chocolate cake for dessert after lunch. Both kids were engaged, excited, smiling. They were happy. And both adults were engaged, calm, and smiling. Happy.
And I feel a little strange saying it but I didn’t feel badly about this. I didn’t feel as though I had denied my children an opportunity for fun or that I had interrupted a multi-year tradition of 4th of July bike parading, even though, technically, those things are true. I didn’t worry that I had made the wrong decision or waffle right up to the point when we should have departed. I didn’t blame myself later for raining out the holiday or not giving us the chance to be festive. I felt absolute certainty that I had made the right call. I didn’t feel guilty. I felt proud.
It can be hard enough to figure out what, of the world of possibilities, is right for our family on a grand scale and in the race of the everyday. Letting ourselves be consumed by guilt when we follow our instincts and do what we know is right is something we just don’t have time to indulge in. I’m starting to appreciate that. Doing what everyone else is doing, or even what we’ve always done, is not the way to make my family happy or help us thrive. If I’m honest with myself and if I give myself the small bit of quiet time to think it through, I know what makes us happy, makes us thrive. It comes to me simply and easily and without question.
And in this world of parenting, in which I question every other step every single day, that feels pretty good.