I had planned to write the birthday blog posts for our two April 4 babies BEFORE their birthdays.
A fanatical list maker and obsessive planner, I marked my calendar one week before to begin drafting the posts, since I had two boys to write about on one day, and I can only fit in so many words at 4 a.m. before cute little feet come pounding down the hallway.
There’s this self-induced pressure that comes with writing about something as big as one full trip around the sun for the children you love and raise and want to document every detail about so that you never forget what happened in each season. Especially when you are supposed to be a “writer.” (I clearly use that term loosely.)
Maybe event planners feel this same pressure to make their children’s color-coded, Pinterest-detailed, creatively-executed birthday parties the very best.
Maybe bakers feel the crunch in the “wow-me” birthday cupcake decorating department, too.
Writers do, too.
And so capturing the gifts and personalities and strengths and we’re-working-on-that-because-clearly-we’ve-failed-there areas of each child in a way that does these superheroes justice is not something I take lightly. And not something I feel like I can rush.
I wanted to write about these superheroes who are some of my greatest adventures.
I even set aside the space and time to do so. It was the No. 1 thing on my alphabetized, color-coded, made-500-years-in-advance list.
But then immigration finally approved our 1-800A application for Superhero 4’s citizenship, and I had to prepare mailers and paperwork during my early morning hours so the boys could see my eyes come 6 a.m. instead.
Superhero 1’s Odyssey of the Mind team made it to the State Finals, and this girl had to learn to hitch and tow a trailer so she could play Prop Mom for Friday pick-up (and score Cool Mom points with the superhero who couldn't believe she didn't wreck).
Team Cuthrell left for the State Finals with three superheroes and one trailer in tow at 6 a.m. Saturday … and, after a shocking win that is now sending Superhero 1 and his four teammates to the World Finals next month (and all their parents into turbo fundraising mode to raise $6,000 in six weeks), returned the trailer and the props that night, 15 hours later.
Sunday, our family participated in the launch of a new church, where Superhero 1 got to both serve and sit with us in the big service for the first time in his church-going life.
That afternoon, our niece and nephew graciously drove more than eight hours with our favorite 2-year-old girl in tow so we could meet and play over spring break.
And an hour later, Superhero 2 hosted an Olympics-themed birthday party (that he planned, organized and decorated for) for his entire class and their siblings … which led to the torch relay racing and Americana body bumper-ing of 45 Olympians and 20 adults. (Thank you, Grandma, for catering this party and saving my personal sanity.)
Which then led to Superhero 1, the introvert who wanted an iPod with his birthday money instead of a party, breaking his body-bumping nose. Literally.
That was, of course, before Superhero 3’s doctor changed his daily dosage of medicine, which led to extra care and extra hours of bathroom visits for our resilient superhero who lets nothing stand in his way.
Before Superhero 2, now 8, got to start the martial arts class at his studio he has been begging to take for years but wasn’t quite old enough to attend. Until now.
Before my bestie came to town for a 12-hour visit.
Before Supersoldier went TDY.
And before I received the notice from the boys’ school yesterday that an exterminator had confirmed an infestation of bed bugs, and the kids were not to bring backpacks to school for the rest of the week.
Which sent this paranoid girl into a full if-it’s-been-anywhere-near-the-school-this-week-it-goes-on-sanitary-cycle clothing-, jacket- and bookbag-washing frenzy.
And thus, one week later, there’s still no birthday blog to celebrate the beauty of our big kids.
And for the first time in my life, I consider that something to celebrate. Because for one of the first times ever, when life circumstances spun out of control, the boys, not my bullet points, won.
The old Michelle, the still-recovering perfectionist Michelle who struggles to fight for present but sadly defaults to productive, would have pulled all-nighters to ensure that the blog about the boys appeared on the anniversary of the day they were born, probably to the minute, no matter her life circumstances, no matter what sacrifices she had to make to ensure it appeared there.
She would have abandoned the boy Nerf gun wars and trampoline parties that happened between broken noses and bathroom stake-outs this week to write blog posts, watching from office windows while her boys lived life without her.
Even if she was PHYSICALLY present for exciting events like Odyssey of the Mind competitions and 8-year-old birthday parties, with a task still remaining on her do-or-die list, she would have been mentally distracted and totally un-fun for both of those days, and she probably would have been so exhausted by staying up late attempting to WRITE those blogs that she would have been Grump No. 1 during both of those events.
Frankly, she would have sacrificed her PEOPLE on the altar of PRODUCTIVITY in order to complete a task that she would have convinced herself best honored them … even if it was something they cared nothing about. (Let’s be real — these boys don’t appreciate blogs.)
Don’t get me wrong — I have failed almost daily over the past two weeks to prioritize my lovies over my lists. There were many nights, because of life logistics, I got only four hours of sleep, and there were many days where the things on my list — like paying bills and finishing my work for my publishing company — had to get done, even if it meant I had to use homework time to complete them.
But for possibly the first time in my life, by the grace of God alone, I haven’t added to the whirlwind of my circumstances by allowing my LIST to totally dictate my LIFE.
And truly, it feels like FREEDOM.
God has been overhauling this girl’s heart over the past couple of years, and as He’s shown me what’s REALLY important, He’s helped me to place my priority where He places His — on PEOPLE, not PROJECTS.
On LOVE, not lists.
On my TEAM, not my to-dos.
Even though we have only taken a baby step in this journey toward crushing the blood-sucking giant of productivity, the fact that there’s no birthday blog a week following the boys’ birthdays is a sign that we are finally making progress, God and I, as we tackle this mess of a heart that is learning to put LOVE before LISTS.
That more easily DOCUMENTS life than fully PARTICIPATES in it.
That sometimes neglects the MOST BEAUTIFUL things for the ones the world tells me are more BENEFICIAL.
That too often finds itself PRODUCTIVE over PRESENT.
A birthday blog one-plus week late and still in the making?
Although it means I failed in the blogger department, it also means that I, like author Shauna Niequist says, have "disappointed the people in my INNERMOST circle the LEAST."
THAT, not a timely blog, is the birthday gift I get the privilege of giving my boys this year.