As I finished up my work last Sunday, I lamented the thought of gathering up my kids and schlepping them to the car, knowing that would probably entail some degree of whining. We’d be looking for a misplaced jacket; or one of my two children would inevitably announce their need to pee just as we were pulling out of the church parking lot. Oh how I wished we could just teleport ourselves 20 minutes ahead and skip that whole transition, the one where I’m too tired and hungry to manage the moods that mirrored mine as we transitioned from church to car to home. The transition was necessary, though, if were to be able to reach a resting point.
I made my way to the upstairs of the old, historic barn where my babysitter for the morning was hanging out with my two children. Neither one was wearing their shoes, and any parent knows how laboriously long it can take a child to put their shoes on, particularly when you are standing right there. My son’s voice was whiney, accusing his longsuffering babysitter of being rude. Yes, they learned that word from me. Now everything is rude when it is unfavorable. Thankfully I had mentally prepared myself for the 10 minutes it would take to collect my kids and head home. So often it’s those moments, when we’re moving from one thing to the next–or trying desperately hard to–that I tend to lose the most patience. I deflate quickly like a tired balloon.
I decided they didn’t need shoes to ride home, and I scooped my too-big-to-carry-anymore-five-year-old up on my hip and transported him down to the car. I figured my daughter would follow, even if I had to wait a moment while she made her way down to the car behind me. Between her propensity to dawdle and my expectation that she move like the speed of lightning, my patience is usually completely gone by this point in the transition. The mental check-in with myself, before picking them up allowed me to gather my senses after a busy morning at work enough to counter the exhaustion that so easily robs those moments of any order. I wish I could say more days were like that.
Finally, we were home, where I happily plugged each of us in to our own televisions, with our own choice of movie in separate rooms where we could unwind from the morning and previous day’s road trip to the beach and back. I was tired. So were they. This felt like a luxury too good not to milk on a sleepy, Sunday afternoon.
After that brief moment when I’d wished we could teleport ourselves past the transition and just be where we wanted to get without hassle, a few more things came to mind. For one, we couldn’t be where we wanted to be without movement; even if it was uncomfortable, it was necessary. Yet, going into it with an awareness of myself and my children’s dispositions by this point in the day helped diffuse the tension of that tired interchange. So often I’m derailed by transitions, regardless of whether they are brought about by something good or bad because I easily forget that it might feel awkward, maybe downright uncomfortable. Still, it’s a necessary affliction if I’m to get to wherever it is that I’m going.
Recovery programs use the acronym H.A.L.T., encouraging participants to consider the triggers that often precipitate a downward spiral into addiction by identifying whether they were hungry, angry, lonely, or tired before their descent. This idea suggests to me that maybe our reactions to transitions are impacted by underlying feelings like fear, sadness, hopelessness, uncertainty, and even positives like excitement, joy, or anticipation. Our state of mind as we approach a transition, no matter how big or how small, has much to do with how we “transist,” how we actually make the transition. Even when facing a positive transition like a new job, a move, or getting ready to go to college, if we are not conscious of ourselves in the process, negative feelings can rob the moment of its joy. We’re left wondering, “This is a really good thing; why am I not more excited?”
A little laughter and a light snack later, I was ready to face the next thing–or at least ready enough not to meltdown in the process. In order to get where I was going without descending into chaos, I had to take stock of where I was at and address, first, my hunger. So often in the rush I forget to pay attention to where my own head is at and then find myself sidelined by the push that it takes to get between Point A and Point B. I don’t always have it in me to get through it because I neglect myself in the process.
I could wax philosophical about a few more things, but my secret weapon that day was simply this. I refueled before I faced the transition. Feeling hungry, I remembered that it was our once-a-month welcome lunch for new people at church, I stopped by to see who had shown up. My hidden agenda was skirting my hunger just a wee bit before picking up my kids. As in that familiar line from those Snickers commercials, “you’re not you when you’re hungry,” I hoped there would be some leftovers to curb my low blood sugar and the potential appearance of the woman I call “mean mommy.” Not only was I invited to help myself to the leftover chickpea salad and fruit, I was also invited to sit down and join the conversation with a lively group of women who lingered around the table.
I asked my son the other day about whether he was excited to go to kindergarten in a few weeks, to which he responded by saying he is scared. I hadn’t expected that to be his response, but I can certainly understand why. New school. New friends. There are lots of unknowns in his young mind. Knowing, though, that he’s a little fearful will hopefully help me to help him face the uncertainties of that transition.
What transitions throw you off? What things can you do to refuel and ease the tension of those moments? What’s your secret weapon?