Max asks this frequently at bedtime, after I've tucked him in and started for the door. My kids have always become pensive, philosophical, and talkative in the minutes before going to sleep. It's mostly sincere, but also a delay tactic. I'm no dummy.
Last night we talked about the four presidents on Mount Rushmore, the Civil War, racism, and the system of checks and balances in our government. You know, regular nine-year-old stuff. Speaking of, try explaining racism to a kid sometime. It's embarrassing to explain such a concept to an innocent child. It makes no sense to kids because it makes no sense, period.
Mornings are the opposite of bedtime with Max. He is sluggish and slow. Nearly every morning for weeks, he has asked if there's a possibility of a snow delay. Or a chance he might be able to stay home. Please, oh please? I'm nice, but not sympathetic. When he says he doesn't want to go to school, I tell him that part of life is doing things we don't necessarily want to do but should. Welcome to growing up.
Monday, however, I had a change of heart. I spent a couple minutes prodding him out of bed, and then stopped. I told him that he gets one day a school year to stay home and he could choose today if he wanted. But (and it's a big but) that meant no more complaining on future mornings. He thought about it for a few minutes, considering the pros and cons, and finally decided that, yes, today he would cash in. I met him in the kitchen later when he began explaining that it was good that he stayed home because he had a bit of a stuffy nose and sore throat and maybe a cough too.
"No, no, no," I said, "we're not going to pretend that you're sick and need to stay home. Sometimes you just need a day off. We all do. It's called a Mental Health Day."
He was a little skeptical, but seemed to understand.
He spent his Mental Health Day eating crepes for breakfast, lounging around with the iPad, reading a little, lunching at McDonald's and learning how to play solitaire. Not too different from an adult day off, actually. Tuesday morning he got out of bed without question. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday too. My plan worked.
Although, this week Max has referenced his Mental Health Day a few times, as in, "I wrote those valentines for you guys on my Mental Health Day." Or, "I think I watched that show on my Mental Health Day." Is he talking about Mental Health Day a lot? At school? With his friends?
Hey, did you hear about Max? He had a "Mental Health Day." I heard he was on the verge of a breakdown.
I hope this doesn't come back to bite me in the butt. Perhaps one of our bedtime chats will be about how people misunderstand mental health.
Over the summer, I took up running. (Please don't roll your eyes and close your laptop. I'm not going to become an obnoxious running blogger.) It was during the summer Olympics and something inside of both Ryan and myself nudged us to attempt more than our daily walk. The human body can do amazing things, as evidenced by the high-flying gymnasts and torpedo-like swimmers we watched dutifully from the couch each night. There was a lot of evidence to suggest that our 35 year-old bodies could do more than we'd been asking of them.
First, we considered learning a series of back-flipping, triple-twisting acrobatics in our backyard, but found that our health insurance does not cover mid-life gymnastics injuries.
So we started running for 30 seconds.
And we pretty much thought we would die.
But we didn't.
We worked our way up to 3 miles, and while we were quite proud of ourselves, we pretty much thought we would die the few times we attempted 3.2 or even 3.5 miles. We stuck at 3 difficult miles every day, figuring we had met our limit. Every run was hard, but ultimately fulfilling in that I-guess-this-is-an-accomplishment-considering-where-we-started way.
Months later our friend Marianne asked us to do a half marathon with her in March, and we trepidatiously agreed to try it and begin training. When I looked at the training schedule climbing slowly up to 8, 9, 10 miles and beyond, I felt panic down in my toes. I couldn't imagine this future version of myself who would be able to do this. I questioned her existence as much as I had once questioned Santa's.
Here's the crazy thing: I really love the long runs. And though it makes very little sense, the 3-mile runs are still tougher for me than the 8's, 9's, and even the 10-mile run I had on Saturday. Here's another crazy thing: it's possible that I could have stuck at 3 miserable miles forever, if I hadn't taken that scary leap into something bigger.
Of course, all of this running has made me think about writing. My writing. For many, many reasons (some consciously explored, some probably unconsciously hidden), I sort of shut down my writing shop. Here on the blog. In the novel I started many moons ago. Pretty much everywhere except for the paid work I do copywriting.
I tried to explore the possibility that maybe I don't need to constantly feel the push to accomplish something bigger. Maybe I should just be content with my little copywriting jobs and the life around me. Maybe I'm not good enough or smart enough to do anything bigger than that, and maybe that's perfectly okay.
I've tried to adopt that way of thinking, but could never really get past temporary foster status. It might be time to let that idea go to another home. I can't get over this nagging suspicion that I'd been stuck at 3 miserable miles without realizing it.
"No promises," I'd said to Marianne when I agreed to start training. Let's see what I can do. She told me I would surprise myself.