The COD team hopes that you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog, you already know we subscribe to the goal of simple and meaningful for all of our holidays, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. You’re probably wondering why the word “risks” is in the title. Read on to find out!
A SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY
I’ve been typing up thoughts here and there for weeks, thinking of a neat and tidy way to sum up my past year for you. You see, today is an important anniversary for Mr. and Mrs. COD. No, it’s not that we had our first date or got engaged or married on Valentine’s Day. It’s this milestone: one year ago was the first date in my journal that I voiced on paper the desire to stay home with my kids. During this second half of February, Mr. COD and I conducted a few serious discussions about that possibility, and on March 1st I gave notice to my boss, the principal of my school. It was a pretty quick decision!
Leaving a relatively secure job to become totally financially dependent on my husband and to devote virtually all my time to my children took a lot of courage. It wasn’t exactly a leap of faith, I guess, since we knew we had Mr. COD’s income and could pay our bills comfortably from that. But the quitting required a definitive letting go. It involved risk: I had to let go of security, a regular paycheck, and the idea of myself as a teacher.
What I gained from this letting go was more time to spend with my children during their especially formative years. No longer am I stuck dropping them off with a babysitter for eight-plus hours a day while I teach other kids. We have tons more time for reading, cooking, dance parties, exploring nature, playing school, you name it. At times, the days feel extremely long, but overall, it’s a precious experience.
I feel as if I now take these opportunities for granted, in a way. Since I see the boys every day, I don’t get that rush of joy each day the way I used to on weekends and holidays. Unfortunately, in the quotidian routine, it can all feel a bit repetitive, and I know I’m guilty of not appreciating it fully. That’s why it’s so important to me to stay in touch with who I was as a working mom; it helps me to grasp onto the joys of day-to-day mothering in a very real way. When I recall those long days in the classroom, missing my babies, I can more easily tolerate Junior and Mini COD’s arguing and yelling and running around everywhere and getting into absolutely everything. Those are a part of the joyful chaos that is parenting.
ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY…NINE YEARS LATER
This date holds a particular weight of significance for us for other reasons. Our current abode in DeKalb, Illinois, is the home of Northern Illinois University. You may or may not remember that on February 14, 2008, a gunman entered a NIU classroom and opened fire, killing five students and injuring another 17 people.
I didn’t know any of the victims of this mass shooting, but the fear and sorrow of the event surrounded our community long afterward. My husband was asked along with other area counselors to participate in the memorial proceedings on the first anniversary of the shooting, in 2009. It was our first Valentine’s Day together, but he spent the majority of it counseling people affected by the tragedy.
A few weeks ago, when we had a babysitter for the kids, Mr. COD and I took a long walk on the NIU campus. The morning was gorgeous. Crystal-clear azure skies, brilliant sunshine, mild temperatures. After strolling past the lagoon and his old building, we came upon the memorial that now stands across from Cole Hall, the site of the shooting. “FORWARD TOGETHER FORWARD TOGETHER FORWARD” is etched firmly on five granite walls in the memorial garden. Borrowed from the university’s fight song, it now invokes the emotions and healing of that time in the school’s history.
We stood in silence for several minutes, squinting to take in the names of each of the victims, imagining the pain and sorrow of each one’s families. We hadn’t known any of them personally. But each one was a life. A living, breathing human being with goals and plans and hopes that never were achieved. All of their visions, the degrees they planned to earn, the people they wanted to impact, all of it was cut short. The weight of unrealized hopes wrapped up in those five individuals who died at one troubled man’s hand…it’s a crushing weight. We just stood there, thinking of these five young people and all they lost, and I knew we were thinking the same thing.
LIFE IS SHORT
I know we may say that a lot here, but it bears repeating. Life is short. We are such a brief flicker on the earth, and then we’re gone. How are we going to utilize the time we are given? Because it’s truly a gift. We did nothing to earn our place here. We did nothing to deserve our lives one bit more than these people who died in yet another mass campus shooting.
I love my family. My husband is a compassionate, thoughtful, generous man who gives of himself every day for me, for our boys, for the people in our community. My children are healthy and curious, energetic and tenderhearted, and I am so fortunate to spend my days with them. I don’t appreciate them as much as I should, but today, I pause for remembrance and gratitude.
Today I remind myself how I felt one year ago, when I made this decision to stay home. The thought of my baby about to celebrate his first birthday and of all the moments I was missing with the two of them in daycare? It broke my heart. Not every mom desires to be home with her kids all the time, nor does every dad. Some days I’m not entirely sure I’m “cut out for it” either. I screw up constantly. But I do know this: I’m so happy to have the chance to try. Every day I get these precious opportunities to teach and love and learn from my kids, without the added pressures of a full-time outside career. If I hadn’t chosen to quit and stay home with my boys, I would have always wondered what I was missing.
FEAR AND RISK
I was afraid to quit my job. Even when my income wasn’t such a huge factor in the decision, I was filled with fear. The fear of never getting hired by another school. The fear of losing a big part of my identity. The fear that Mr. COD might resent my staying home or our lower savings rate. The fear of discovering I was a terrible parent. I didn’t know if I could take the chance of making such a huge change.
I don’t have a neat and tidy answer for all of this, except to say that life surely means taking chances, taking risks. Remember the old quote, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for”? How true that is! I’m so grateful that I was able to take this chance. Who knows what kinds of big, risky endeavors we might tackle next? I hope they’ll be the kinds of risks that make us feel truly alive.
What big risks or chances are you considering these days? Let’s encourage one another as our way of honoring those who left this earth too soon. Let’s not leave our hopes unrealized and waste this gift of life.