BY ELIZABETH WESTERHAUS
I waited until about 1p.m. on Wednesday, one of my “me” days.
When all three kids are in school at the same time and it’s just me.
The first of three days in the week when my youngest is at preschool.
If you can’t tell from my tone, it’s one of my favorite days.
I waited as long as I could for the temps to at least get close to double digits above zero and the wind to die down so I could ski. (I’ve taken up cross-country skiing instead of another gym membership.)
So on another fine and freezing Wednesday, I nearly SHOVED the kids out of the car, waved good-bye as I peeled out of the school parking lot, (and maybe blasted Pharell’s song, “Happy!”).
I bundled myself up. The only skin showing was the tops of my cheeks and the tip of my brow, but a grin stretched from ear to ear underneath.
I swiped cheap wax down the length of my skis and hit the trail.
Any signs of morning grooming washed away with the high winds that had been blowing since the night before.
Whatever. I don’t care. I’m a hearty, Norwegian, Minnesota mother.
Eight degrees and whipping winds I laugh at. Even this frigid landscape is no match for me right now. I am a mother of three. Alone at last. In the woods. Aahhhh …
And nothing can keep me from it. Except, well, mothering.
Once my toes click into the bindings, and my face warmer has been yanked up just enough so I can see where I’m going, I take off sprinting.
Imagine Mel Gibson in Braveheart.
Only rather than topless astride a heaving stallion, cut like an Olympian, I’m a moderately fit 30-something in a snowmobile suit.
But if I could move my fingers, I’d pound my chest.
As I face the trail head on, all my winter woes skate to the surface.
“Screw you, subzero temps! Suck it 45 days off of school! Eat that, muffin top!” Wait. No. Don’t eat that.
You get what I’m saying. All the frustration and anger and resentment and self-doubt of womanhood being called to the stand as I stride from one leg to the other and let it all go.
And my phone rings 57 seconds into my unstoppable pace.
“Hello, Mrs. Westerhaus? This is blankety-blank school. We have your daughter in the nurse’s office.
She just vomited everywhere.”
I pull the phone away from my mouth and hold it behind my back so sweet, school nurse woman can’t hear me roar.
I curse into the wind.
“I’ll be there in 20 minutes,” I reply in a “calm” voice.
I shot out some more choice words at the trees as I maneuver my skis around back in the direction from which I came.
Are you kidding me right now?
For the love, there’s always something, isn’t there?
Being a mother has taught me this day in day out: Abandon all expectations and set the bar low. Like, really low.
I clicked off my skis with an angry force and tossed my poles in the back of my minivan.
Some days I handle change and stress and chaos as beautifully as I imagine the Dalai Lama himself would.
Today I’m angry, pissy mom who just wants to get a ski in for the love of God.
Another freezing cold day.
Another kid sick at home.
Another day I have to set aside my plans for someone else’s.
But this is motherhood.
We’ve been pummeled with snow and cold and sick kids and more days off of school and icy roads and gusting winds,
But it doesn’t matter.
Life and the weather and our children don’t care.
I hate to break it to you (I say this to myself as much as you), life doesn’t care. It keeps moving. And shifting. And changing. And altering the course you think you’re on, right below your own feet.
We have to learn to go with it. As the years go by, we learn quickly “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
They sure do.
The hardest part of parenting is by no means an interrupted workout or having to miss that girls’ weekend away because your son has the flu or any other “minor” inconvenience you can think of.
It’s accepting that the life we envision for ourselves and our families, most importantly, our children, often has its OWN plan.
All we can do is fold into it.
No matter how strong our stride, know when to stop, to let go and — the hardest part — to accept.
But we must always keep moving forward, no matter where we find ourselves.