On the way back from church, we listened to the devil’s music on spotify. Anytime I feel guilty about spending $9.99 a month for premium, I remember how much premium beer I would swill in just one night. By the devil’s music, I mean Halloween playlists. My girls and I are big fans of such classics as Nightmare on My Street and the theme from Ghostbusters. I imagine the devil is probably more into zydeco or Mannheim Steamroller.
My older daughter and I couldn’t wait for Ray Parker Jr. to belt out Bustin’ makes me feel good because it had been a year since we’d heard it last. I was explaining how my second favorite part is when Parker whispers let me tell you something so quiet you could almost miss it, when from the backseat my youngest said “I don’t get why mustard makes him feel good.”
Can I just tell you how much I love kids? I don’t just mean my own, though they’re super swell and I am not at all partial. When I decided to start taking mine to church, I envisioned listening to moving sermons on loving thy neighbor and lip synching hymns because I’m no Ray Parker Jr, while my kids had their own experience downstairs. What happened instead is I volunteered to co-lead my older daughter’s Sunday school class and I’m enjoying this immensely.
My prior group experience dates back to 1995, when this guy Tony and I sat around a circle of folding chairs with “at risk” teens from a Lutheran school down the road from my grandparent’s house. What I mostly remember is this kid, Christopher, talking about building a potato gun to shoot seagulls. I suspect his stories weren’t entirely true since we were hours from the sea, but I myself felt unmoored, adrift. I had no idea what we were supposed to be doing, saying, and I left each week feeling like I let everyone down.
My undergraduate degree was in psychology, though I work in insurance now. How did I wind up here? An old boss said once that he fell sideways into insurance, and I pictured myself doing the same, like a directed freefall. I unconsciously moved away from listening to and helping people, especially young people. Yet here I am in Sunday school, and it feels exactly like where I need to be. These kids, they have so much to say and they are bright and thoughtful and articulate and they have great passion for life and snacks. I feel a deep affection for them.
This brings me to parenting, which is harder to write about without digging into the ugly past when I know I was not the best mom. When I drank, my mind and energy became progressively redirected and preoccupied so that parenting felt tedious, like a distraction. I never was good at multitasking.
I still feel deep regret for this slapdash attention towards my own girls, but mostly I feel grateful I don’t feel it anymore. Over time in sobriety – and this didn’t happen all at once or even in the first year or two for me – I found more patience and genuine interest in listening rather than directing. I learned, I guess, not to make parenting all about me.
After church yesterday, my husband took the kids outside to make our front yard look like a graveyard. It’s a family tradition to dangle plastic skeletons from trees so that we have small heart attacks every time we walk past a front window.
While they hauled out boxes to decorate, I changed in running clothes. I’m training for a 10K next month, and my husband was sort of complainy about me not helping string up demons. I said “I’ll only be gone an hour. You’re getting off easy.” He said “did you ever think you’re the one who’s got it easy?” Touché.
I am super lucky. I have two healthy kids, a husband who loves me, two sweet cats who don’t sit on laps yet but maybe they’ll come around when it gets cold again. We share a cozy old home and not everything works right and we don’t have much money to fix the things that don’t, but there’s food in the pantry and the roof doesn’t leak and ghouls dangle from trees out front. Life is simple and good, and in moments like this and many others, I feel deeply grateful for all that changed since I got sober. On the surface, life looks remarkably the same as it did before, but the way it feels is wholly, entirely richer.