Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Of Mountains and Molehills

Part of the language arts curriculum at NPA is the sub-subject "Sayings and Phrases."  Each week, the students study an idiom, colloquialism, or cliche whose figurative meaning doesn't necessarily match its literal.  5th grade's list includes things like "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence," and "birthday suit."  This week's phrase was "Don't make a mountain out of a molehill."

Have you ever been mid-mountain-making and known it, but still been unable to put down the shovel?  You recognize how un-worth-it the Thing you're upset about is, and everyone else is totally ready to move on, but there you stand, adding pebbles and soil and sometimes even planting pine trees for shade, if you plan to be there long enough.

I was surprised to find myself making mountains on Valentine's Day because it's such a small-deal holiday at our house that I would have classified any potential snafus as pre-molehill material.  Ant hills at best.  But I'm still getting used to the emotional response to the added pressure of being a full time working mom and being constantly at war with myself over not being with the family more.  Plus, this year we had decided to scale back our traditional "Old Spaghetti Factory and Bowling" date with the kids to a budget friendly "Make Spaghetti and Wii Bowling" since we're working hard to meet the financial requirements of closing on the new house.  I was anticipating a bit of disappointment from the kids, so in my mind, the cheaper substitution needed to be great.

So I had a few ideas of how to make the simple feel epic.  And since the root of our tradition is to teach the boys about dating, I wanted to turn it into a lesson.  Not every date needs to be expensive.  Just spending time together can be awesome.  I hadn't run my ideas by Kirk yet because I knew he had worked for my dad that day and wouldn't have been home long by the time I got home from work (around 5:30).  I figured I would get home, we could decide if we were too tired and needed to postpone until Saturday, and then we could discuss my ideas.

First, I wanted to make dinner together.  Spaghetti is pretty no-nonsense, and Alex has been mentioning lately that he would like to learn to cook something.  Second, I wanted everyone to dress up, just like we would have if we were going out to the restaurant.  I wanted to talk to them about the level of respect you should show on a date and remind them that how we dress affects that level of respect.  Finally, I wanted to talk to Kirk about the possibility of sneaking over to the new house with our spaghetti and a blanket.  I think it helps the kids when they feel like they're missing out because of The New House to give them concrete reminders of what we're sacrificing for.  Plus it would have been fun and special.

I was thinking about these options and weighing them against my level of tired as I drove home from work.  Kirk called to let me know our Wii wasn't working (which I had known) and to see if I wanted him to arrange for us to go to his parents to bowl.  I agreed with that plan, but Kirk sensed a bit of hesitancy in my voice.  "Are you alright?" he asked.  I responded that I was just tired, which was true.  By the end of Friday, I am generally pretty drained.

He then went on to let me know that Michelle had our spaghetti dinner ready and waiting for when we got there.  She had asked him if it was something I was going to want to make or if it was okay for her to make it, and since I hadn't told him my plans, he told her to go ahead.

And I got my shovel.

I calmly expressed my regret to Kirk and ended the phone conversation, not fully committed to the mountain yet.  I wanted to build it out of his sight and then choose to either show it to him in all its glory or kick it down and pretend it never existed.  So I texted a friend:
"Am I allowed to be bugged that my spaghetti and bowling night has somehow happened without my involvement or input, or do I just have to be grateful for a well-meaning sister and husband who thought they were saving me work?"
I wanted her to pick up a shovel and dig with me.  She didn't.

"Probably grateful.  You can complain to me, though."

I went on to explain how wronged I had been.

"I just wanted to make dinner with the boys.  But it is already made.  Also I am super tired and probably would not have done our celebration today.  I could have done it tomorrow when I was home more and not exhausted.  But they already made the spaghetti.  It's a dumb thing but I feel like what's the point of even celebrating now."

Yep.  Adding a bit of a tantrum to the mountain-making.  But I decided, at Amy's advice, to just be grateful.  I put down my shovel right where it was and put on a smile.  Oh well, it was just one Valentine's Day - a holiday I really don't care that much about.  I went home, greeted a sweet and cuddly Dylan, sat by my loving husband, and prepared to have Valentine's Day atop my self-made mound.

I considered asking the boys to at least dress up.  Kirk was still in his dirty work clothes from a day on a CASSCO site.  Dylan had chosen to wear sweat pants.  Adam and Alex looked nice enough in their uniforms, but not necessarily date-ready.  But atop the mound, it didn't really seem to matter.  I did notice, though, that Michelle had set the table with a tablecloth and some cute napkins, and it was clear she was trying to make our night special.  I tried to force myself to disassemble the mountain, but the dirt wouldn't budge, and I let my family take their seats in their everyday attire.

I was surprised to find that Michelle wouldn't let us dish our own food.  She intended to serve us.  As she filled our glasses, sprinkled cheese on our spaghetti, and refused even to allow us to scoop our own seconds, I immediately regretted everything I'd said or felt over the last 15 minutes.  Michelle knew our family might be a bit disappointed by our scaled back tradition, and she had done everything she could to give us the restaurant experience we were giving up.  And I'd been upset about that.

I am such a spoiled brat.

I climbed down my mountain, embarrassed to stand in its shadow, and enjoyed a meal I didn't have to cook, serve, or clean up after.  Michelle wouldn't even allow the boys to do their own dishes.  And I felt particularly ridiculous when I asked Michelle what she and Skye were doing for the holiday.

"I don't believe in Valentine's Day," she responded.  Which as I thought about it seemed completely true.  The pink.  The outpouring of emotion.  The expectations.  The non-Halloween-ness.  Michelle doesn't hate Valentine's Day.  She simply doesn't recognize its existence.

And she had spent the day making certain that my family got to enjoy a holiday she normally doesn't even acknowledge.

Spoiled.  Brat.

I thanked Michelle.  I fessed up to my earlier annoyance (knowing at this point that I would want to blog about my emotional epiphany and she would find out sooner or later that I had initially been annoyed).  I recalled that a student had given me a Valentine's cake mix and frosting which could replace the spaghetti as a means to cook something with the kids.  And I decided to enjoy the rest of the night with my family.

We made our cupcakes.  (Adam got egg on his finger and made his traditional pumpkin-guts face.)  We bowled.  (Alex schooled everybody but his mama.)  We talked about cheap dates, and I shared stories of a few of my favorites.  (When asked to share his stories, Kirk said, "I didn't really date.")  And we all had a great holiday.  I'm glad I stopped building mountain long enough to enjoy a great night with my family.


Sarah said...

LOVED THIS! Good job stepping back and putting down the shovel.
I dig far too often. Matt's very familiar with "steam coming out of my ears" when things don't match my expectations. Expectations I had never explained. Your original plan of a blanket dinner at the new place sounded perfect. Yet, in the night of humbling lessons did prove memorable and meaningful. :)