I’m writing this on Thursday morning because I had an unexpected clearing of my schedule due to a kid with gastro. Poor Frank had been throwing up every 20 minutes since 3am this morning and is finally asleep. Gastro has been doing the rounds and totally sucks and now that he’s old enough to articulate himself, he can tell me how much it sucks. He gets upset because when you're actually spewing you can’t breathe - we all know that horrible retching feeling. It's a full body convolution that you have no control over. As adults we understand you just have to ride it out, for a kid, it's scary.

As a parent, you can’t help but feel useless. There is absolutely nothing I can do to ease his distress. I just have to sit next to him and hold back his beautiful golden hair as it heaves into the chuck-it bucket. As his parent, I’ve also done 5 loads of washing already today including one with a pillow and the electric blanket which is the worst load combo ever - future note to self.

As Frank quietly rests in the nest I’ve made him out of old waterproof mattress protectors and towels (there are no more clean sheets), I now have an unexpected day at home. When I first realised this at 4.15am this morning, I was really cross. Not at Frank of course, but at the situation because yesterday I finally felt like I was on a roll. Having had a forced two, nearly three week break from paid work to move and set up the new offices for HUCX, I’d spent all day Monday and Tuesday putting out fires and making sure I hadn’t blown up too many deadlines and Wednesday, yesterday, I finally got to tick off a few things on my to-do list. 

I find a huge amount of calm in having a handle on my to-do list. At the end of each day, I write my to-do list for the following day. The very act of writing it down (not even completing the tasks) brings me great comfort. To lose another day after having the sweet treat of a truly productive day yesterday seems unfair. The universe is teasing me with some structure and normality only to whip it away again and replace it with spew-covered sheets and a kid that can barely lift his little head.

I’m reminded of this great TED talk by Dr Lucy Hone that I had as the ‘video of the week’ a few weeks ago called The three secrets of resilient people. Dr Lucy opens the talk by asking people to stand up if they’d suffered a particular type of adversity - Have you lost a loved one? Stand up. Have you ever had a miscarriage? Stand up. Have you ever gone through a divorce? Stand up. After a few questions most of the room is standing which thoroughly  proves her first point that adversity doesn’t discriminate.

Understanding that no one is immune to adversity is the first step in becoming more resilient. Shit happens… to everyone, all the time. Suffering is part of life and once we fully understand and appreciate that then we can stop feeling discriminated against. Stop playing the victim. 

By repositioning ourselves in the story we give ourselves more ways to react. While Frank's gastro isn’t the worst thing to happen in the world today, it is for him and if I chose to play the victim and get upset that I have lost another day at work after giving up so many over the last month, this day would be a complete write off, for us both. Resentment and stress make me grumpy and Frank needs a Mum right now who is happy to just sit with him, make him toast, fluff his pillows and empty the chuck-it bucket.

Being resilient is how I'm able to pivot on a dime and change the day with grace (I hope) and turn a shitty situation (especially for Frank) into a day where I can win ‘best mum ever’ and make sure he’s as comfortable as possible. The ability to tune into the good in a situation is also what makes people resilient. This is Dr Lucy’s second point. In this case I looked at it as an opportunity to watch lots of Godzilla movies snuggled up with Frank on the couch.  

Dr Lucy’s third point and probably one of the most profound is asking yourself the simple question, is what I’m doing helping or harming me? Getting stressed about another lost day of work, is that helping or harming me. It's absolutely harming me. We’re already swimming in pools of cortisol as a consequence of being a start up. Adding to it when I don’t have to is a choice I can make by asking that simple question.

Is it helping or harming me?

Unfortunately Frank doesn’t have that choice today. His little body is going to heave until it's done heaving but even being able to explain to him that being sick is his body's way of ridding itself of some gross bug has encouraged his resilience. Once he understood that it’s his body working its guts out (quite literally) to make him better, he has been less upset about the act of spewing. He knows it will pass and he just has to endure it for as long as his body needs it. Already he’s managed to keep a handful of grapes down so he's making progress. 

Resilience is the byproduct of suffering and yet it is one of the most important virtues I want my kids to learn from us as parents. We are a resilient household. This means that we have to let the kids suffer to show them that they’re capable of overcoming adversities themselves. I obviously would never wish unnecessary suffering upon anyone but the reality is that if you’re alive, shit’s going to go wrong. 

Building resilient kids, in my opinion, is probably one of the most important things I can do as a parent. If the kids understand that no one is immune from adversity, they’ll know to look for the good in it. Find the silver lining. And if all else fails then simply ask, is it this helping or harming me? If I can instil this in the kids then life will be nothing but opportunities for them. 

Today’s lesson in resilience involved a chuck-it bucket, Godzilla movies and a handful of grapes. Instead of the day being ‘lost’ to sickness and loads of washing, it was a lovely day that we got to spend together.

Video of the week
How to protect your brain from stress | Niki Korteweg | TEDxAmsterdamWomen
Podcast of the week
The Cryptid Factor: The Illusive Exclusive Issue
Font of the week
Yumex Script: Font of the week by OHNO Type

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