Defining Word(s): Sweet Spot
Noun; informal — an optimum point or combination of factors or qualities
The boys venture off on their own—first to the waterslides, then the ping pong table, back to the waterslides. Presley isn’t swim-trained yet but is perfectly content playing in the pool for hours in her puddle-jumper, bobbing in the water like a cheery little apple. The last time my parents brought us to Hawaii, Presley was two—still breastfeeding, still in diapers, unable to sit still for more than seven minutes at a time. I recap the shift to a friend over Voxer, telling her how many afternoons I spent reading a novel by the pool with a mai tai in hand. I tell her, almost in disbelief, Even with the kids in tow, it still felt like a *real* vacation, you know?
We are in the living room interviewing a new babysitter. She sits across from us in all her youthful glory as we complete a quick Q+A back and forth. We tell her that the last babysitter in our rolodex is moving to San Diego, and we need a new standby sitter for occasional date nights. She tells us about college, what she’s studying, how she works part-time at the gym and can always use extra gigs. We take her on a tour around the house, show her where the snacks are. The boys mostly play legos and jump on the trampoline. Presley loves to do art. They’re pretty chill kids. They all get along. They know the house rules. The interview is so brief, it’s almost laughable. Not sure how to conclude the conversation, I say something about leaving emergency numbers on the fridge, like a mom in a 90’s sitcom. What I don’t say: these kids could practically take care of themselves.
I am waiting for a friend at the park when another mom strikes up a conversation with me. She’s got three kids of her own, all younger than mine but in the same pattern: boy, boy, girl. Looking at her is like traveling through a time machine. The two little boys chasing each other around the playground; the baby girl in the stroller with crystal blue eyes, a stretchy headband pulled across her wispy hair. I practice self control and do not touch the baby, even though I want to. A familiar pang hits my body, an ache I know too well, the palpable reminder that I will never have this again. I let myself feel the grief, the longing coursing through my veins. But then I catch a glimpse of Presley running across the playground—all four and a half years of her—fierce, independent, making friends left and right. Talking to everyone. Hi, I’m Presley! What’s your name? I smile at her. I love who she is becoming. The ache leaves just as quickly as it arrives.
My insomnia is back. After a whopping three hours of sleep, I trek through the first half of the day running on coffee, but by 1pm my head is throbbing. I am taking a nap! I call out to the kids. They are all enjoying their daily video game time and barely look up from their screens. I feel no guilt, only gratitude. I shut my door, turn on the oscillating fan, climb into bed, and promptly fall asleep. When I wake up an hour later, the kids are exactly where I left them. I laugh out loud, astounded. I don’t normally sleep in the middle of the day, but what a miracle to know I could if I needed to.
My current Southwest queue finally prompted me to get TSA pre-check1. Astoria, Oregon. Chicago, Illinois. Wichita, Kansas. I will be out of state—traveling solo—for a collective 14 days over the next three months. There was a time when this kind of travel was not possible for me—the childcare alone too big of a conundrum to figure out, too much of a burden to leave behind. When each of these opportunities arose: a film photography workshop, gathering with dozens of Exhale members in real life, speaking at a small creative retreat—Brett didn’t bat an eye. Go. Have fun. We’ll be fine.
Everett is the one who fills me in on the popularity of Crocs, giving me the full scoop on jibbitz, which I keep referring to as gizmos (Moooom, it’s JIBBITZ, *eyeroll*). In Hawaii, my mom generously offers to buy each kid a pair, decking them out with charms galore. After all the hubbub, a funny thing happens: I start seeing Crocs everywhere. On kids. On adults. On trendy teenagers ordering frappuccinos in the Starbucks line. The stylist who cuts my hair confesses she got some already. They’re great for gardening, she tells me. I confess I’ve been wearing Everett’s around the backyard. I finally order my own.2 Now you just need some jibbitz, my mom jokes. I tell her that’s where I draw the line. (But okay, maybe this one.) The day my Crocs arrive, Everett smiles with a nod of approval. I think of how many years I spent meticulously choosing his clothes and shoes, how the tables have suddenly turned. Another surprise I didn’t see coming: the delight of being influenced by your own kid.
Our children are four, eight, and eleven—officially attending three different schools as of this year. Even so, I do not feel stressed. Preschool. Third grade. Sixth grade. What a magical combo. The other mothers told me this was coming: the sweet middle place where you do not wish to go back, nor do you wish for time to speed up. A time where all the kids are potty-trained, but none of them have phones. A time where you can leave town with zero guilt, and actually feel excited to come back. A time where you can wear the same shoes as your middle-schooler, and you both still think it’s cool. A blip on the motherhood trail where—seemingly out of nowhere—you realize you’ve hit a flat road. You’re coasting. You’re breathing a bit easier. Surely there will be more bumps and hills ahead. You know this season won’t last forever. But for now, for today, you’re letting yourself enjoy the pace, the sun on your skin, the view from right here. You made it this far, and the motherhood sweet spot is exactly that—sweet.
I’ve already used it once and you can file this under: worth every penny / why didn’t I do this sooner? Enthusiastically recommend.
We just got back from San Diego, where we clocked something like 10k+ steps at the zoo, and 12k+ steps at Legoland. Let me tell you: I wore Everlane sneakers for half the zoo day; Steve Madden sandals for the second half. My feet were killing me by 5pm. The following day I wore Crocs for all 10+ hours and 12k steps at Legoland, and could have kept going. They’re not the cutest shoes I own, but if comfort is king, these get a 10/10.
P.s. if you liked this post, you might also like Defining Word: Confidence. Both posts were inspired by Textbook by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.
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