I was excited with anticipation. My car sped down the Garden State Parkway focused on reaching my brother’s home quickly. My great nieces had asked that I spend some time with them while they stayed with my brother and sister-in-law for the week and this was the night I could get there. It had been a long time since a niece or nephew requested that I spend time with them, and I was thrilled.
I am sure just like your own kids, at a certain point you as a parent, or aunt, are not really that exciting or important to a kid. Friends are important. Boyfriends/Girlfriends become a priority and the way they show their love to you changes. It’s normal, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother you just a bit. But they wanted me to spend time with them and I wasn’t going to let them down.
My stress level has been very high lately driven much by my work, partially by life. I know I need to find a way to better manage my stress, which manifests itself in a few ways. The first is always food. I find when I am stressed I mindlessly eat and look for anything salty. That has been happening over the last few weeks. The second is my temper. I will react harshly to things that I should not, whether that is being abrupt with people or screaming at myself (or the person in the next car) for something silly and mundane. Lastly it is the jittery feeling I have where I want to jump out of my skin, my blood pressure goes up and I can actually feel my heart begin to beat harder, my breath shallow.
My excitement as I was driving was beginning to reduce some of the “jump out of my own skin” feeling I was having during the day. I was going to spend time with a group of people who I know love me, unconditionally. Especially my nieces who are young enough to still run and hug me and yell my name over and over…Aunt Suzy, Aunt Suzy, Aunt Suzy! I haven’t heard that in a while since my nieces and nephews are generally adults now. I used to live to hear that over and over again, and now with the little ones, I get to hear it again.
I walked into the backyard and the shrieks began. They all ran to me with hugs and love. So much love. In between the wine flowing and the food being prepared for dinner, we played catch, and then hide the rock. They were in competition with each other on who would throw something to me, who I watched doing a handstand and who wanted to have a conversation with me. I felt the breathing get less shallow.
Our evening was well planned as they knew they wanted ice cream on the boardwalk and then watch the fireworks on the beach. I started to feel my shoulders relax when we were ordering our ice cream. Chocolate chip mint and rainbow sprinkles in a cup, something I eat rarely, real ice cream! We each got our cup and sat at a table on the boardwalk together. We laughed, and we enjoyed a summer evening treat together.
The girls, being sisters and close in age, are each other’s best friend and biggest competitor. They love each other and get on each other’s nerves. Whenever the tension started to rise, I would look at them and say, “only love here, we are all about the love.” My youngest, Gianna, agreed. She is an old soul. Her comments in the car when her sister talked about not always believing in herself were wiser than her years. “You have to love yourself” or “Be Brave.” What 6 year old gives that advice to their 8 year old sister, yet she did. I found myself realizing that these kids and I battle all of the same little demons. Not feeling good enough, not being brave enough, not being confident enough.
We ran to the water and jumped up and down in the waves as we waited for the fireworks. Again I could feel stress leaving my body. I was standing stronger, I was smiling and laughing more. I was happy.
The fireworks began with the typical oohs and aahs that you would hear. Then we were just mesmerized. They were shooting them off about 30 feet away from us right from the beach. They were beautiful and fun and reminded me of my childhood. I could hear the little ones on the blanket excited by each firework, the wonder of it, the beauty of them. I felt peaceful as I listened to them and watched the explosions of color in the sky.
The sound of the fireworks, the sound of the ocean and the love of these little girls all made the day perfect. Stress? What stress? I was relaxed and happy and peaceful.
As we walked off the beach together, hand in hand, I realized that the best therapy for me is love therapy. Being surrounded by people who truly love me, and who I love, washes all that stress away for me.
The ice cream helps too!