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Goats in the Airport and Vomit in the Backseat - What's in your Toolbox?

"That's quite the skill set you have."

I heard the comment but ignored it, assuming it was directed towards someone else in the airport waiting area near me.

We had arrived at the airport at 5:00 a.m., that meant leaving the house at 4:00 a.m. and that meant no sleep for mom and potentially half of the kids who were going to just "sleep on the plane" to Hawaii. However, our flight had been delayed an hour. Back then you were still served in-flight meals as a part of your ticket price, but now the wait for the flight was too long and with our early departure time the kids were starving. My husband left to try to find food for the kids. I felt like I was wrangling a herd of those cute little goats you see at the local fairs. So it was no surprise that we may have drawn the attention of those seated around us.

When I would simply take all six of them to the grocery store total strangers would feel the compulsion to comment..."You actually take all of them shopping with you?!" Like I was completely out of my mind. (I may have been) So I can only imagine what people would think when we were traveling with all of them.

Again a few moments later, "That's quite the skill set you have."

This time I looked up from the child's backpack I was rummaging through. A middle-aged man sat across from me, apparently watching my interactions with the kids. I smiled and managed to say something nice in return I'm sure. But that wasn't the end of it.

"Seriously - what did you do before this?" he said nodding towards the children. As if simply being a parent didn't provide every opportunity to develop such skills. "I have managers working for me now I wish had your capabilities." He made several other very nice comments. I'm sure he meant every one of them as a compliment. I took them as such, even though I found them slightly offensive. Then I told him, "I was in medical group management for a good number of years." That seemed to satisfy him. I knew it would. (I was actually rolling my eyes in my mind) He nodded his head (better than shaking it I guess) and returned to his newspaper. I returned to the backpack rummaging.

I reflected upon that interaction at the airport during my flight and in the coming days while vacationing with my family and many more times over the ensuing years. I am certain that what that man really was asking was "What prepared you for this?" His inquiry of course referred to mothering six children. But there are many "this" substitutions throughout life that we face. A new job, the death of someone we love, leaving home for college (or kindergarten), marriage, divorce, addiction, parenthood, natural disasters, road trips, acceptance letters, rejection letters, an unexpected opportunity, the list is endless because each day something is added to it.

I did not have an answer to that question at the time. In fact, had he asked the question out right, I'm sure I would have responded, "Absolutely Nothing". It was the term skill set that kept going over and over in my mind. What was my skill set now that I was "only a mom"? I knew I had one and I knew that on some subconscious level I was utilizing it. Rather than continue to be irritated by his comment I began to be enlightened by it. Maybe there was a different answer. What would happen if I consciously began to take inventory and utilize not only the skill set I had from my work world life, but also my every day life, my experiences as a kid, my own family, my spiritual experiences and even those I had borrowed over the years from others I admired as well? There on the beach I began to lay out for examination my personal skill set.

There in front of me lay the answer to the question "What prepared you for this?"

Absolutely Everything.

So what's in your tool box? Do you ever open it up and sort through it?

Do it. Take an inventory. Write it down. It is easy to forget the older items laying on the bottom covered with years of neglect. And we don't always recognize the new ones as anything beneficial. The tools you let your friends borrow on a regular basis are likely the ones you consider most common place when actually they may be your most valuable. I know I am being annoyingly vague here. But each skill set is so varied that I hate to put labels on anything specific that may be found there. One thing I know for sure is that as you begin to lay out your skill set in front of you Peace will be found there. You will remember having utilized its calm strength on other life projects you felt inadequately equipped for. Look for it.

Now that you have laid out everything in front of you place the tools you need today in a separate box labeled "current project". You most likely won't have everything you need. My husband had to make no less that three trips to Home Depot one day last week to finish his repair work on our pool pump. My point being that he made the trips. Our pool pump is running smoothly. Once you know what you have chances are you will know what you need. Don't fear a trip to the "Home Depots" of life. There are many ways to find what you need in it's isles. Maybe all you need is the duct tape of life...Perseverance.

Finally, a tool left on the shelf does you no good. Use them. The right tool can give you the confidence to tackle the task at hand. To quote my mother - "Everything's easy...once you know how."

Take my experience a couple of weeks ago as an unexpected example.

My son and I were driving home from his Middle School Honors night when we heard a gurgle/gag arise from the back seat. Looking back over my shoulder I could see the flow of light brown chunky goo erupting from my three year old grand daughter. "Hold on honey...Grandma has to drive to the top of the hill to pull over!" Three more eruptions and we are finally over to the side of the road. Believe it or not the vomit (not a small amount) somehow all managed to land in her lap. As I quickly assessed the situation (something a mother of six becomes an expert at) I determined that is was quite possible I may be able to lift my grand daughter out in one movement avoiding spill over if I could accomplish two things

1. Convince my grand daughter to hold completely still while covered in vomit.

2. Convince my 13 year old son to hold the vomit covered seatbelt extended to avoid it sliding back in and splattering the residue.

I must employ two very different command styles to accomplish this end.

1. Soft and loving.

"Don't move honey, Grandma is going to lift you out of the car seat and take off your yucky clothes"

2. Firm and commanding.

"Don't you dare let go of that seatbelt!" I don't care how bad it stinks!!"

From there things went smoothly. Never mind the trio of skateboarders who decided to go "through" and not "around" the event and thanks to the friends who pulled over on their way home from the same school activity to offer aid. Soon we were back on the road home marveling at our technique for removal and clean up, and laughing at our circumstance. Then quietly from the backseat came a small voice, "Grandma, I threw up in the car and it was way gross." "It sure was" "Grandma...I love you. "

Ahh yes. The benefits of the skill set.

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