There’s a song John Lennon wrote for his son called ‘Beautiful Boy’. I often play it for the boys during our morning ‘play-list’ (featuring an almost exclusive selection of 70s and 80s hits for their auditory pleasure). The point is, Lennon throws a line in there that always makes me smile: “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans”. As I sit at the children’s hospital, on a day that happens to be my birthday, I have to chuckle. The guy was right.
Exhibit A: my week.
A series of unfortunate incidents (for which I’m entirely responsible), resulted in the loss of my license a few months ago. Consequently, everything is a little harder than usual at the moment. We depend on my parents for help, friends and the Uber community for lifts and buses as a last resort.
It was Monday night when the boys and I found ourselves on one such adventure. Long story short, we needed to get home after sports but I had somehow managed to leave both my phone and credit card in my father’s car.
We had planned to catch an Uber home- but we could not order one without a phone. So we thought about catching a bus, but realised we had no cash. We went to the bank to draw money out, but remembered we had no card. I thought about transferring money to a different card… then remembered I had no phone!
And so begun a two and a half hour creative journey home that included using the McDonald’s free wifi on my laptop, a bus trip, a pit stop for dinner and a 2km walk home in the dark. Under normal circumstances, the whole thing would have been a boring 10 minute drive home, but because ‘life happened’, it became an adventure.
With the focus of a family of McGyvers, we problem-solved together, shared lots of laughs, mused about life before mobile phones and even had a philosophical discussion on our walk about the plot of ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’. Who knew that was even possible.
As I tucked my tired boys into bed that night, one of them turned to me sleepily and said, “Mum, can we do that again?”. It made me smile. How easy it is to make memories. I wondered how many times I have missed similar opportunities because I’ve been too busy being frustrated or annoyed.
Had I focused on the two and a half hours of hassle, instead of the two and a half hours of connection, the evening would have been quite different. My mood would have spread like a feral virus to the kids, and we would have arrived home exhausted and cranky.
Same experience, different experience.
As a parent, I often forget that I am the thermostat. I set the temperature in my home. My actions, my mood and the very energy with which I tackle each day has a direct effect on my family. When I am reactive, I become a victim of the circumstances, giving away my position of influence and my duty of protection over my sons.
As it turns out, this was not to be our only adventure this week. On Friday, on a day that I had planned to take off work to sip birthday drinks with friends by a hotel pool, my eldest son woke up with extreme abdominal pain. A few hours later I found myself in a leopard print sarong at the children’s hospital, sipping nervously on instant coffee instead of champagne, as we waited for surgeons to take out his infected appendix.
It wasn’t the birthday I had planned. But as I sit here with three boys watching over their big brother as he sleeps off the anesthetic, I also think of how perfect things are tonight. My boy is well. Our family is strong. Our best plans might often come undone, but it’s always possible to find that there is so much ‘right’, even when things go wrong.
Thanks for the tip, John.