Today, I was planning to be super mom. The kids had asked for a trip into the woods to have tea by the fire. They could have asked for a movie or for candy, but they asked for the very things I’ve tried to encourage in their lives, a love of fresh air, adventure, and water infused with nourishing herbs, so I said yes!
I packed up a bag of tricks– firewood, kindling, dry newspaper. I dug out matches which never seem to be in the same place in our house. I even made the hot tea and brought along four mugs. After dressing our toddler in layers of outerwear, tucking in 6 mittens and boots, and pulling on my winter-onesie (and then leaning over to tuck in my own boots while still breathing), we headed outdoors, only to be greeted by a mound of snow, blocking our usual way to the woods.
This hill has served as a great joy to the kids these past few days, but I cursed it as I tried to move around the pile with a small child on a sled, who, I might add, was wailing for fear of tipping over. As I stepped into the knee-deep snow, dog leash in one hand, sleigh rope in other, and sack of tricks over shoulder, I began to feel the anger rise in my belly.
I knew then, that if I proceeded with AWESOME MOM PLAN, I’d just be miserable, trying to create the picture in my head, trying to please everyone, but ultimately pleasing no one.
And then I felt guilty. Guilty for saying yes and then going back on my word. Guilty for not being determined enough. Guilty for needing help to accomplish this plan. Until I realized that all of these negative emotions were bubbling to the surface in the form of guilt so that I could avoid taking responsibility for their messages, so that I didn’t have to ask myself why I was being so hard on myself. It’s much easier to think I’m being selfless.
Here’s what I’ve learned…guilt holds us back by disguising our own sadness as sadness for someone else, sneakily avoiding our own unhealed pain. Then it allows us to stay hurt, to be complacent in our own healing. With this realization, I’ve started following up the flood of guilt with the question, ‘well what am I going to do about it?’.
That’s when I turned to the kids, and said, “Guys, I’m not going to lie. I really wanted to go to the woods today with you, but I think I’m just going to be grumpy. This is a trip that requires another grownup for help. Maybe we could try again another time. Could we go for a walk and have tea on the porch instead?” There was some small talk that followed. They offered to help, to carry more things, but then, they too, saw what I did…a long path, a lot of snow, and of course, there was the screaming toddler.
And so we walked. Quietly, pleasantly, guilt-free, down our clean laneway.
The tea was nice too.
If you’re reading this from Ontario, there’s no need for me to let you know about the epic, freezing cold, snow storm that’s laid itself all over the land.
Needless to say, we’ve spent the last couple of days indoors, and Im grateful for last week that we spent away from our daily grind. It means that these frozen days can easily be spent together indoors.
I find many lessons in January and throughout the winter. Currently, I’m working on the art of relaxing. Time to play with toys old and new, movies to watch with a snack in hand, or books being read curled up on the couch—busy kids leave time for Mama to work on other projects. It’s rejuvenating to get some writing work accomplished, work on my online course, edit some photos, or even catch an episode of something on Netflix….though it’s only good for the soul when there is no guilt attached.
How many times have I let guilt hold me back from experiencing something to the fullest?
I’ve making a conscious effort to let guilt go this month. After all, we tend to find motivation with the sun, and as it returns to us, so will our energy for doing and learning and exploring, and then I’ll find myself longing for the forgiveness of winter.
For now, you’ll find me by the fire…
Our house is quiet now, with the kiddos off to bed. It’s peaceful, and I can hear the purr of the wood stove’s fan….a most comforting sound in the winter. It reminds me that I’m warm and safe.
I’m left to reflect on the bits of energy and thought left swirling in my mind after a chat with a lovely friend. Here’s what I’ve discovered…I remember when I was new at this game and the whole world warned me to soak it all up because it would go by so quickly. This phrase, although well-intended, felt as though it was on repeat in my life, and I lived in fear of missing a moment. It suffocated me. I had truly given into the fear that if I was not there for the little things, if I didn’t hear all of the things the kids said all of the time, they would shut me out. I would have lost the parenting game….
I am relieved to see that I took these ideas too literally. There is room for ebb and flow in everything. As long as I am connected to our children, there is room for me to be imperfect; in fact, it’s a valuable lesson.
Packing away my egotistical perspective of being the perfect parent creates room for being a purposeful parent, and I’m so thankful to have reached this phase in the game. And you know what? I was there for all of the moments….but they still passed. Time slipped through my fingers despite my tightened grasp.Children grow. They develop their own ideas and eventually, they flee the nest. It’s inevitable…It’s beautiful.
I may as well let go and enjoy the ride, after all, I’m still growing too……..
When Wildflower was small, we showed her every opportunity to believe in magic.
We crept through wooded areas and dreamed of tiny faeries who lived amongst the cedar grove. We told her elaborate tales of dragons and little mouse families and of Santa’s elves, with hopes that these stories, would help her to weave belief and depth into her world, to save her from slipping into cynicism and sadness as she awoke from her childhood.
These stories always included her own insights and imagination.
As she grows older, we’ve begun to notice that she is simply transitioning into playing along with our game, and helping us share the tales with her younger siblings. These stories connect us.
We’ve never felt that this was considered lying to our children.
For as long as people have been able to communicate, story has been the singular most valuable way to teach children about life. Indigenous people are famous for their beautiful legends while fables and folklore colour the history of the Celts. Even the oldest books are filled with stories for the purpose of teaching.
We, all people, learn best when we are connected with the purpose of the teaching, when it paints a vivid picture for us, and as a body of relatively educated humans, we eventually can choose for ourselves what is tangible and what is for the purpose of entertainment (hence why you can’t remember much about quadratic equations, unless you were passionate about that stuff).
Now, as my baby girl is no longer such, I’ve begun to realize that she brought back the magic to my own eyes. A world that once felt dreary, as though there could be no more Christmases, were coloured a new hue as we shared in this journey together.
Though I’m fortunate enough to have two more souls to share stories of elves and dragons and magical flowers with, I know that this, too, shall pass.
Someday, I’ll take a walk in the woods, and I’ll spy a special knothole where a tiny faerie resides. I’ll turn to share the story with my smaller companion only to realize that the dog isn’t interested. And then I’ll remind myself that magic doesn’t just exist through the eyes of children.
Words of wisdom shared with me this summer have been echoing through my mind reminding me to keep ahold of my own sense of wonder, and I hope to do just that.
January’s bleak and cold days are upon us. We’ve found a gentle daily rhythm, while we’ve allowed the holiday routines to slip into the past along with the tree which performed its final disappearing act last night, thanks to Big Brother. These days have been great days, but we’re ready to let go of very full bellies and too much tv. Even the kids can feel it.
Our deep-winter learning typically involves immersing ourselves in a couple of novels read aloud together with warm drinks in hand. Often we’ll use an online platform for some math studies, and we’ll attempt to get outside daily. These are the predictable factors, while there’s plenty of space for ebb and flow, for endeavours undertaken by small humans with big ideas.
In the past, we’ve stayed home for much of January, but this year, I aspire to get out a couple of times each week, to remind us of how lucky we are to have this coziness to return to, rather than feeling as though our home is a place where we feel stuck because of the cold. After all, we are Canadian, and we choose to continue living where the cold hurts our face, so we may as well make the best of it.
After all of this is said and done, winter is made for open play and for quiet snuggles.
What I’ve learned over the years is that our free time develops a premium, if we have some kind of framework to our days. When we have a rhythm to follow rather than a strict schedule and a loose plan rather than entirely open schedules…beauty ensues
Until next time
There was a time when I believed it was my job to do everything, and I probably don’t need to tell you that I failed miserably at it.
Most mornings I awoke with a fresh attitude, ready to slay the day’s to-do list. By night fall, I’d likely have accomplished a couple of things on the list, not including the day’s work, meals from scratch, caring for myself, and providing connected learning time with the kids, and as ridiculous as it sounds to me now, I’d feel like a failure.
I failed again…I’d tell my masochistic self…. and then I’d write an impossible list for tomorrow, hop into bed way too late, and do it all again the next day.
Obviously, I wouldn’t be writing this piece, in this tone, if I were still spending the majority of my time stuck in the same trap. So what have I done to accomplish more and feel more …peace-full?
I gave up the unreasonable goal. Yep. That’s it. I let my ego take a hike, and I asked for (explained why) and accepted help, and I let things go.
I love to nurture and care for my family, which somewhere, got lost in translation and turned into, let me pick up your smelly socks everyday, and sure I’ll scrub the toilet. But also, my partner goes to work and then works when he comes home on a growing list of to-dos and our kids are kids, so shouldn’t this be my job? To some degree, yes, I believe this is true, but somewhere around the decision to take this homeschool thing seriously, and when the third kid was born, I began to think maybe I was ripping myself off.
It wasn’t until I believed that making time for meaningful connection / learning with our children was the single most important part of our day, that I could close the door on the rest of the to-do list and simply let it be.
This is my work.
It wasn’t until I believed that this is meaningful-enough work for a woman in today’s world, that I could stop trying to rock at everything else. And then I asked for help with the other things. Now don’t get me wrong, I still prepare healthy meals and fold laundry and wash dishes, but on Sunday nights, we clean the house together, as a family….toilets, floors, kitchen, everything. It’s so much easier to care for during the week, and everyone feels a sense of responsibility because they know that sock won’t be just cleaned up by someone else.
… and then, we eat a yummy, comfort-food supper while watching a movie. It’s about balance, right?
xo Hay Mama