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Picking up the Pieces

January 31, 2011
by

A machine that would make motherhood easier?

There is one motion down to which you can distill motherhood. I wish it were reading–my best time of the day is when I’m sandwiched between my kids reading about an armadillo’s birthday party–but it’s not. It’s not nurturing or guiding either. Parenting is too general, and disciplining? Too harsh.

Nope, the one thing we do more than anything as mothers is pick it up and put it away. (Two things, I realize, but go with me here.)

The “it” can apply to nearly everything. To wit:

A child: Pick the kid up out of bed at the beginning of the day, put it away in bed at the end of the day.

A mother: Reluctantly pick yourself out of bed in the a.m., gratefully put yourself away in the p.m.

The tiny Lego sword among the dustballs under the couch: Pick up the sword, be ridiculously excited you found it, tell the child who has asked about the sword for days about your find, listen to him tell you he doesn’t need it anymore, feel sadder than you anticipated. Put it away with all the other tiny bits of Legos that drive you crazy.

Groceries: Pick off shelf, put in cart, pick out of car, put on shelf. All the while, wonder why it feels like you spend half your life pushing a cart, listening to “Living on a Prayer” in the grocery store’s attempt to be hip. (Then pick up the thought, Hey, I need to put that on my playlist, and put it away in the overstuffed filing cabinet of your brain. Which means, Jon Bon J. will never be heard from again.)

Your daughter, when you go to fetch her from a sleepover at 8 p.m. because you think she’s too young to survive on the 5 hours of sleep she’ll get there: Pick her, sobbing, up off the floor, put her in the car. Try to pick up a trace of understanding from her as you go over, again, why she can’t stay yet everybody else can. Fail. Put away any attempt of trying to get through to her right now. Pick her up, carry her upstairs, put her in her own bed.

Laundry: Pick it up off the floor, put it in basket. Pick it out of basket, put it washing machine. Pick it out of washing machine, extract the sports bras, capris, and anything else that can.not.shrink, put the rest in dryer. Pick it out of dryer, put it back in basket. Pick it out of basket, fold it, put it back in basket. Pick it out of basket, put it away. (Holy cow: Now that I spell that out, it’s no wonder I hate laundry.)

Frustration: Pick up a sad, tired, or disappointed kid, dust him off, love on him, talk about it and put away the lesson to help make the next time less explosive.

Dishes, dog poop, wet towels, Candy Land, winter boots for the umpteenth time: You name it, it never ends. Up, away. Up, away. Next time you’re in the middle of any parenting-related action, think about it: bet you can somehow frame it in pick up/put away terms.

[NOTE: This is the part where I transition to something tangible about a workout. I realize I stood in the rain last week, and probably shouldn’t go all Tony Robbins on you again this week. But as I say below, I’m battling myself right now as I train, and I figure if it gets me through, maybe it will help you too.]

Which is what I did on Saturday morning. My training feels as stale as two-day-old French bread right now. Extremely hard to rally for the long (mandatory) workouts on the weekends. Saturday, I headed back to Deer Creek Canyon to once again climb a mountain on my bike. Driving over, I began to fantasize about getting a flat tire a few minutes into the ride. (Which speaks volumes: After writing this article about learning to change a flat, my mechanical skills are still terribly unimpressive.) I snooped around on Facebook for a while and put on my shoes extra slow before pulling my bike out of the back of the minivan. I started the climb.

Ten or so minutes in, I got into a rhythm, and started thinking about how I was using my legs. I tend to mash the pedals: push down with my quadzillas, but not think about using my hamstrings to pull them back up. So I visualized round, balanced circles, and when that got boring, appreciated the amazing 55-degree day and generally tried to keep my mind out of the self-defeating gutter. But there are some mean switchbacks on Deer Creek, and when I hit the 2-mile stretch of them, I lost my cadence and my interest in going farther and, quite frankly, in the race.

So I went back to the motion I know best: pick it up, put it away. Pick up the pedal with my hamstrings, put it away with my quads. Up, away, up, away. I didn’t think about the hill or how much farther I had to go. Just up, away. Pick, put.

I just did my best to stay in the motion–and moment. I’m happy to say I picked up the whole climb and all those stupid switchbacks, and then I put the whole thing far, far away, next to the Lego hats, tiny barrettes, and all the other things I don’t need to see again for at least a few months.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. January 31, 2011 5:30 am

    Pick it up, put it away … you’re absolutely right. It works for everything. I, too, hate laundry. Today is laundry day at my house. Well, every day is laundry day because there are five of us, but today is catch up day from not doing any on the weekend. I have to think about pulling up on my peddle as well. Making those deliberate circles, getting it done, picking it up and putting it away.

  2. January 31, 2011 6:04 am

    Great analogy!!! I feel like when I get up in the morning, headed downstairs, I am a pinball, picking up, putting away, until I forget where I was headed in the first place!!

    • January 31, 2011 8:38 pm

      love the pinball comparison. and I honestly can’t remember half the time whether I’m picking or putting and which way is up. 🙂

  3. January 31, 2011 6:12 am

    Standing in the rain picking up and putting away—let me say I think you can go Tony Robbins all day every day and I still wouldn’t get enough. It’s time for another book!!! I want full size not just sample size!! These images stick with me and certainly help get me through!! Great post!!

  4. Heidi permalink
    January 31, 2011 6:13 am

    “…I lost my cadence and my interest in going farther and, quite frankly, in the race…”

    Thank you for sharing that sentiment, as it is one I have had so many times during the tough workouts that I don’t have the energy for. The urge to give up on all of it, quit and walk away – is so powerful, and yet when we push through that and finish it anyways – I think that’s why we keep coming back for more: The empowerment that comes from doing what we don’t want to do.

    Great post!

    • January 31, 2011 8:38 pm

      Thanks, Heidi. Yep, it’s the pushing through that makes it all worth it. That, and the downhills. 🙂

  5. January 31, 2011 6:13 am

    If you’re riding Deer Creek every weekend, you’ll be in great shape for your race. Tony Robbins, Joan Rivers…just get your motivation. It doesn’t matter from where it comes. Stick with it. The payoff with be great.

  6. January 31, 2011 6:46 am

    WOW as a stay at home, homeschooling mom to 5 children this is SPOT ON! I’m constantly picking up stuff!! That was awesome, thank you, GREAT POST!!!

  7. January 31, 2011 6:57 am

    This post is perfect. Perfect.

    (btw, loved your pics and piece in RW! I’ve been thinking about trying one of those fun obstacly races – muddy buddy or warrior dash or something similar…)

  8. Robin permalink
    January 31, 2011 7:56 am

    I can relate to this! Last night was pick-up night — though I have gotten to the point where a lot of Legos go in the garbage and the folded laundry never makes it back out of the basket (until it is pulled for wearing). I do, however, have Livin’ on a Prayer on my playlist and it is super duper to run to! There are the things that we don’t get put away and the things we do.

  9. Kristen F permalink
    January 31, 2011 10:58 am

    lego. tiny little plastic torture. It’s everywhere. I think I could pick up and put away just lego for the rest of my life. I so related to that tiny plastic sword scenario.

  10. January 31, 2011 12:53 pm

    You hit the nail on the head! Pick it up, put it away…that cycle repeats in so many ways! I spent most of one day this week doing just that around the house literally, but it applies to everything. And I have “Livin’ on a Prayer” in the playlist too…is it bad that I try to time it for the halfway point in my run?

    • January 31, 2011 8:39 pm

      Love that you try to time it for half-way, Christy. I *am* putting JBJ on my next playlist. I went to the concert in high school and he still looms large in my head.

  11. January 31, 2011 3:40 pm

    I just got done picking up some Lego’s. Luckily we’re still in the jumbo Lego phase. I already know I’m going to hate the little ones.

  12. January 31, 2011 4:53 pm

    What a great analogy (again!) And how awesome that even though you lost interest with going further you found a way to get through it and the result of that has got be a great feeling-maybe not in your legs! But your mind, for sure.
    I am now a firm believer in allowing for there to be a natural consequence with not picking up and putting away crap–the boys are old enough where they can pick up and put away there own stuff for the most part. So, last night I opted to not pick up the 20 or so nerf bullets that were left behind after a serious nerf war. And the dog ate probably half of them. I wonder what the natural consequence of THAT will be? And who’ll be cleaning that up?
    Great ride, Dimity, the quad is almost here!

    • February 1, 2011 3:42 am

      HA! I totally cracked up w. the part about the dog and who’d be cleaning up that mess later! This is so true for me… most of the time when I decide NOT to do what I usually , instinctively do – clean up after everyone – because I think I will teach them some lesson by leaving it there for them. Well – it never works out for them to learn any lesson b.c usually there is some twist in there where I learn the lesson instead! URGH!

  13. January 31, 2011 6:47 pm

    awesome. so very true…

  14. Amber permalink
    January 31, 2011 7:21 pm

    I laughed at this so hard this!I spent the morning picking up Playmobil pieces!!! Ah, little swords and shoes and heads! I used to panic when I’d suck them up with the vacuum but today I actually smiled and thought “that’s the last time I’m picking up that sword!”.

  15. Alison Price permalink
    January 31, 2011 7:34 pm

    Can I just say that this came at an absolutely perfect time for me? After complaining about “all I do all day is clean up” last night, I was completely discouraged today about not fitting in my speed work, and thinking that I’ll probably not sign up for that 1/2 at the end of March after all.

    Now that I know that I am not the only one going through this…..I am feeling better, not about the endless cleaning, but about the race.

    (And I believe strongly in the power of the vacuum to solve the lego problem.)

    • January 31, 2011 8:40 pm

      Have not considered the vacuum, Alison, but I like how you think. I’ll pull it out if you sign up for the 1/2. 🙂

  16. Lisa permalink
    January 31, 2011 7:34 pm

    A timely post for me as I just attempted to ‘pick up’ my daughter’s negative behavior and put it somewhere far away! We are definitley in a low stage but I know there are highs to be had somewhere, hopefully soon! I don’t know how I’d survive it if I wasn’t a runner! Thanks for the post! BTW, I also loved the RW article and am doing a ‘Go Commando’ race this summer! Should be a blast!!

  17. Jennifer permalink
    January 31, 2011 9:14 pm

    Love it and it is so true!!! As for the legos, a friend of mine has her boys play with their legos on a blanket. When they are done you just grab the four corners of the blanket pick them all up at once and set into a large basket. We have barely gotten into the tiny legos and my 4 year plays with them on the table to protect her creations from her sister so we haven’t tried the technique yet but it seems to work for them. At least it is one big pick up instead of millions of tiny ones.

  18. February 1, 2011 3:39 am

    I never really thought about how easily my days can really be compartmentalized into these two groups! I really enjoyed your ending of putting the bike ride far away… I’m in my 4th week of training and sometimes wish I could just switch it on (pick it up) but most of the time it feels like it’s been moved to permanent storage!! And then I get past the warm-up and am raring to go!

  19. February 1, 2011 6:37 am

    As a new “runner”, I find it very encouraging that someone with your history has the same feeling of “I don’t wanna do this” that I do. Thanks for this post.

  20. Freedom permalink
    February 1, 2011 8:55 am

    Great post! You nailed it! As a mother of 5, this is my daily life. You made me laugh & everyone made me feel like ok….it’s not just our house that is going through all of this crazy Lego, Polly pocket, little pet shop, puzzles, swimming in school paperwork of a life. Thank you all. My favorite mommy line I use weekly is…..I should be a size ” 0 ” with all the running up & down 4 sets of stairs we have to pick up / put away. Anyone else fantasize about throwing it all away in a trash bag when no one is looking? 🙂 Thank you for the laugh.

  21. Rebecca permalink
    February 1, 2011 10:40 am

    So true, so true and love the idea of using a vacuum or a dog to clean up the mess, too!

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