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Challenge: Life Changes

Adapting When Plans and Expectations Change

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I’m a creature of habit and routine. I take my coffee the same way every morning. I visit the same country diner with the kids during the middle of the week for my beloved chicken and dumplings lunch special. I shop at the same places, usually for the same styles, and haven’t changed my basic haircut in years. Now don’t get me wrong - I’d love to be more adventurous. I’m married to a spontaneous, fun-loving man who would love to throw a dart on a map, load down the caravan, and take off for a week-long family adventure.

I get these ingrained habits from my mama. She’s never been west of Tennessee and loves nothing more than to hunker down at home and spend time with her family. Sunday lunch is always the same meal and she’s rocked her favorite white Keds long enough to see them come back into style. All of this to say, I don’t handle change well. I don’t adapt and overcome, as our species is designed to do. Instead, I retreat and resist. Is that a thing? I try to grip tightly onto what’s known and familiar, especially when it’s at risk of becoming compromised.

This past week, we were supposed to do everything on our routine to-do list. We had school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We had library storytime planned for Tuesday morning, and the children’s museum scheduled for Thursday. We were supposed to go to our favorite bakery early Saturday morning for Moravian sugar bread.

Instead, my daughter became warm early Sunday evening. I gave her some medicine, said a prayer over her, and sent her to bed fully expecting that we’d pick back up as usual in the morning. Instead, I woke in the middle of the night to her calling out for me from her dark bedroom. “Mama,” she cried with her hair matted and eyes puffy. “I need you!”

By this time, she wasn’t just warm, she was blazing hot. I gave her more medicine, a water cup, and some cheese crackers. My mama heart wouldn’t let me retreat back downstairs to my own warm bed. Instead, I pulled out the blankets from the linen closet, and my old down comforter. I brought up my pillow and laid down on the hard floor beside her bed. For hours, I listened to her heavy breathing. I found myself up once every few minutes to check her forehead, or to lay a cool washcloth on her.

When the morning finally came, we were both exhausted. It became quickly evident that none of our well-laid plans were going to happen that day, and probably not even that entire week. Instead, we were looking at a full day of lying around on the couch, drinking cupfulls of juice and watching way too many cartoons. It made for a really lond day, to be honest, and an even longer week. Instead of our expected daytime playdates and routines, we spent hours at the doctor’s office waiting room and shuffling back and forth to pharmacies. Was it fun? Nope. Was it interesting? Absolutely not. Yet, it was what we needed to do, so we did it. Sometimes, when situations change, plans change with them and that’s perfectly OK. As a mom, I’m learning that even our greatest intentions might go awry when nature conspires to adjust them. We can drive ourselves batty trying to control it all, only to find that it’s absolutely impossible to.

This giving up of control is one of the greatest parenting lessons I’m learning, and it’s been an incredibly valuable one. Sure, last week wasn’t filled with excitement. But it was filled with couch snuggles by the fire, a sleepy head on my shoulder during bedtime storytime, and plenty of mama hugs that I think are better than any medicine.

It wasn’t what we expected, but it was far and away what we needed. I’m learning every day that unpredictability is a given, especially when you’re raising two silly, strong-willed toddlers who love to get into messes, stir up tiny trouble, and shake things up just a little. So I’m embracing the chaos and the inconstancy, and I’m starting each day with a clean slate, ready to see what kind of new, unexpected, and different experiences it will bring. The one routine I’m not quite willing to give up? Those decadent chicken and dumplings. Mix things up any other day of the week, but that’s one regular appointment I’m not planning to miss any time soon.

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