Many people may not understand why what I’m about to talk about has anything to do with food or dieting or weight.

But anyone who’s been in the rooms of Overeaters Anonymous will understand.

See if you can spot the moment:

(Background: my daughter is 7 years old – almost 8 – and she started a new school this fall. She’s making new friends and I’m meeting their parents as play dates start happening.)

At 11:15 this morning the mother of one of my daughter’s new friends texted to ask me if she’d like to have a play date after school. The mom offered to pick her up from school and drop her off at my house around 5:30 pm.

I stared at the text for a minute, expecting to feel the usual feeling of utter paralysis, but instead I kept breathing and my fingers were typing, “sure, she’d love that” into the phone.

When they arrived at our house, shortly before 6 pm, my daughter and her friend were begging me to allow her to go to a volleyball group the friend goes to on Friday nights at 6 o’clock.

I said, “not tonight” and my daughter countered with the expected, “why not?”

Me: You have to eat dinner —

Daughter: I ate dinner already!

Other Mom: Actually, yes, I fed them. Pizza and carrots.

Daughter: Can I go? Please, please, please, please, please…

Other Mom: She’s welcome to come, they are very lax about allowing other kids to join in.

Daughter & Friend: Please, please, please, please, please…

Other Mom: Maybe another night. Girls, we sprung this on mommy today, we’ll do it another time.

Me: Would she have to change? I wouldn’t want to make you late.

Other Mom: We’re already late, it’s no big deal. We’re always late.

Me: Go change.

That’s right, I let her go.

I didn’t say “no” to anything.

I was adaptable.

I was flexible.

I was spontaneous.

Yes, it took me a beat longer to get there than it would have most people, but I got there.

These are words that I am not often able to use to describe myself. For some reason, when I am first presented with anything unexpected my initial response is always, “no”. My dad is the same way. I must have gotten it from him.

What I got from my maternal grandmother (which added to my dad’s knee-jerk “no” is a recipe for disaster) is anxiety. Anything unexpected, anything I haven’t been able to plan for in advance, is perceived as a threat. If I can’t forestall it, if I can’t make it not happen, then I am anxiety ridden the whole time, until it’s over, past, and distinctly behind me. Then, I can usually look back and say, “that wasn’t so bad”. But that hindsight does nothing to alter how I behave the next time life throws me a curve ball.

Tonight, it was the other mom’s simple words, “girls, we sprung this on mommy” woke me up. I realized that it was ok. There wasn’t anything wrong and I could just go with it. Suddenly, inside my brain I heard a voice that said, “why not?” It wasn’t the pleading voice of a 7 year old, it was the sound of my own voice being utterly reasonable.

This could not have happened six months ago. Not a chance. I wouldn’t have been able to hear that reasonable voice inside my head that was telling me that there wasn’t anything wrong with something unexpected. It would have been obscured by the food. Thoughts of the food, and the food itself, would have clouded my brain and taken away rational thought and replaced it with anxiety. Tonight, I didn’t have any of that.

After they had left I went back to getting my son to eat his dinner and I began wrapping up my daughter’s dinner to put away. I found that I was smiling. I knew what had happened to me. I knew that I had done something that was valuable and meaningful to me. I tell you, it felt great.

I’m being a better mother on this food plan. I listen more. I have more patience. I’m able to actually sit down and enjoy the moment. That doesn’t happen to me a lot. I’m often lost in what’s coming next, preparing, getting myself ready. But when my daughter got home tonight (and my son was already asleep) instead of marching her off to bed I sat in the bathroom with her while she brushed her teeth and read jokes out of her joke book with her. We laughed and smiled and bedtime was a pleasure of chatting and being together.

Now, here’s the real kicker: I did all of that with her while my dinner waited for me downstairs. Six months ago I would have been rushing to get to my meal and irritated that bedtime was taking me away from my food. I confess, I still feel that way some nights when I’m hungry, tired, or frustrated. But tonight, that was lifted.

Tonight I got to enjoy being a mom.

Tonight I felt free from the anxiety and the negativity.

Tonight I felt free of the food that brings those things to me.

Yes, it felt good.

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