There are times when I feel like I’ve got this all under control, and then there are times when I don’t know which way is up.
Sometimes things flow beautifully. Kids are happily working on projects of their own choosing, and they just so happen to involve reading, writing and numeracy. The counter tops are clean, I’ve showered and put on mascara, and the beds have clean sheets.
Then the following week, two children are digging through baskets of unfolded laundry for unmatched socks and underwear, there are tiny legos on the carpet, dog hair on my pants, and for lunch it’s peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Oh wait, there’s no peanut butter…
There could be any number of reasons that things aren’t working optimally, but most of them revolve around one main concept, connection. Sometimes what’s missing is time to connect with my partner, and sometimes time to connect to my own needs and dreams, BUT when there is disconnect between the kids and I, they’ll be grumpier, more defiant, and mopey, and everything kind of crumbles. After all , we are also co-workers, teacher and students, friends…
Sometimes connection looks like working together on a craft of their choosing, not something that will make me feel like a great parent (sooo hard!)
Sometimes connection looks like snuggling and actually watching a movie together (no scrolling!).
Sometimes connection looks like talking and laughing together.
Connection is involved.
It means getting up and joining in on their project clean-up, or brushing our teeth together rather than sending them to tackle the job, only to find myself anxiously waiting while they got lost along the way (YOU’VE GOT FIVE SECONDS…it really doesn’t work).
It means sliding the clothes on the hangers while Wildflower sorts her laundry, or involving Moonchild in dinner prep even though I’d rather do it alone. It means a pause in writing this post to hear out Big Brother as he shares what is on his mind. Not all of the time, but enough of the time.
Sometimes connecting is hard because I’d just.like.five.minutes.to.my.self!
But it almost always solves our problems. The effort is a valuable investment.
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.
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……..