On Sunday I got my hair cut for the first time since August. I hadn't meant to go so long, but I just never got around to making an appointment. When I was working, I don't think I ever went longer than 10 weeks between cuts...and though returning literally to my roots a few years ago meant I no longer had to run back to the salon (or face overgrown highlights) it didn't mean I never needed another haircut.
Once I was at the salon, I couldn't believe I'd waited so long...a cup of hot tea while I waited and read the book I picked up for myself at the library since I arrived earlier than I'd meant to. A scalp massage with scented oil. Another scalp massage as my hair was shampooed. A quiet hour with nothing to do but sit in a chair and let someone else take care of me. A cup of coffee for the road, one that I drank while it was still hot. Why had I put this relaxing afternoon off for so long?
Time for myself feels like an indulgence I shouldn't need. I'm at home all day - isn't that enough of an indulgence? If I need a break from my children, isn't that a sign that I'm either doing this wrong or not cut out to be at home with them?
Tiny's preschool teacher started a yoga and meditation class for parents a few weeks ago, and I made it to my first session today. The kids had lunch and played in the school's sibling nursery while six of us gathered in a classroom (all lined up neatly around the circle on the rug, the teacher noted with a smile - we are dutiful co-opers even in relaxation) and enjoyed an hour of quiet. After a few minutes of yoga to warm up and get into the mindset for relaxing, Tiny's teacher played a guided meditation from her own meditation teacher. I haven't taken a yoga class since college, and I've never meditated before, but I was immediately struck by how peaceful and indulgent it was to take time to be purposefully quiet in the middle of the day. Working or not, parent or not, how many people do that? Usually the moments of quiet I steal during the day involve trips to the bathroom, and the biggest indulgence there is that I sometimes strategically choose a bathroom on another floor so that the likelihood of one or both children deciding to join me is slightly lower. ("That's why you have kids, mama," Tiny told me the other day after barging into the bathroom to join me. "So you don't have to be alone in here.")
Though our instruction was to guide our thoughts back to simply being present if they wandered, one line in the meditation stood out to me so much that I couldn't immediately go back to simply being in the moment:
"...feeling how much comes to life when you relax a little."
I'm not a natural relaxer by any stretch of the imagination. I certainly strive to be a more relaxed person in general, and in the months that I've been at home I've tried hard to be a more relaxed parent. But I'm human, and little frustrations build up, sleep deprivation makes everything worse, and relaxation doesn't always happen. But listening to that line (and replaying it over and over this evening) reminds me that I am missing the point: getting caught up in the noise (and sometimes that's literal noise, with one child screeching and the other banging on the sliding glass door) means I'm missing out on a lot of the life going on around me. And indulging in time for myself makes it easier to relax, which makes it easier to enjoy life rather than trying to iron it into sumbission.
This afternoon I let the toys lay scattered on the floor instead of grumbling about picking them up. I left our coats piled up in the kitchen and our shoes scattered across the floor. I let Tiny choose what we did until the husband came home, and we danced and acted out various scenes from Tangled and danced again and I can't remember what else. I didn't leave Tiny and Peanut on their own in the living room to start a load of laundry and check my email again, or snap when little voices reached the shrieking point. I had fun, and more importantly Tiny and Peanut had fun.
And when my husband came home a little earlier than normal, I asked to disappear for an hour and went out to an early dinner by myself. I ate alone and in silence, and I finished that library book I picked up on Sunday as I ate. No one screeched to demand bites from my plate, and I did not recount the tale of Rapunzel a single time. I listened to music unfit for children's ears coming and going. I came home relaxed and fed my baby boy his dinner while Tiny went out for a special daddy-daughter dinner, and then we played until our buddies came home.
Relaxing may never come easy to me, but today my eyes were opened to the notion that relaxing is key to not missing out on the little moments in life, the little moments I meant to be savoring while I'm at home. I may never be a naturally relaxed person, but I think I can get better at it enough to keep myself from missing what comes to life every day.