I’m a lazy parent, and also an introvert. As such, I’m inclined to let my kids watch tv all weekend just so I can have time to myself doing things that recharge me.
(By the way, what’s your tv policy? The Zuglets don’t get any tv time on school nights unless we watch something together as a family. After homework is done, of course.)
Also related to being lazy, I don’t like to clean my house. But when I do clean the house, I do it with great bitterness because all my kids do is watch tv and make a mess and they never lift a finger to do anything around here.
This is what we call a conundrum.
I’ve been quite convinced lately that in prioritizing myself as the Most Important Thing, I could possibly be turning my children into the sort of people who live in my basement and eat the Frosted Flakes I buy until they’re well into their 30’s.
At this thought, I decided to start weaning myself off the kids’ weekend tv time by first setting some ground rules about what needs to get done before they watch.
These are not unrealistic expectations, as you can see. And what I like about it, is that it removes any drama from the situation, which I tend to invite because I hate strict boundaries.
(When you have a child who tests the limits of every boundary to see what will happen, setting squishy boundaries invites LOADS of drama.)
Now I am no longer the gatekeeper to the kids’ tv time. They are their own gatekeeper.
A few months ago I bought a Groupon for two nights at the Earthbox Motel on San Juan Island. The islands are a favorite summer destination for us so I’m excited to visit in the off season. Earthbox boasts the only indoor pool on the island, which is really what sold me on it since we may get rained out of everything else to do on the island.
(Ruthie just asked me if we could go swimming RIGHT WHEN WE GET THERE, so this pool may be the best $150 I spent in a long time.)
My goal for this weekend is to enjoy playing with my family and to be present in the moment. I’ve noticed that my comfort and contentment tend to hinge mostly on whether my own expectations are met (peace and quiet! solitude! let me read my book!), at the expense of everyone else’s enjoyment (rrraawwwrrrrr!).
If that sounds like the description of a teenager, I accept your rebuke.
This weekend I desire to play and be silly and explore and snuggle and say Yes more than I say No. I don’t do any of that often enough, which is probably why Bryan is such a rock star in this house. He does it all with his eyes closed and standing on one foot.
For inspiration, I looked to a favorite vacation post from February 2007. If you overlook the fact I’m STILL the same control freak I was five years ago (STAY IN MY HAPPY PLACE! DON’T OVERTHINK IT!), you’ll see I had a magical time being free with my kids.
This is my hope for the weekend. Also, I’d love to find my sense of humor again.
Our trip to the San Jose area couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve spent the last couple months reorganizing and reprioritizing my focus as a mother and household manager, trying to correct the part of my brain that sometimes finds it easier to focus on the latter and see the former as a distraction. I want to be present with my children. I want to enjoy them. My goal in spending ten days apart from the household duties of cleaning, laundry, and other such necessities was to develop good habits in spending time with my children.
I believe I did well in accomplishing what I set out to do. We played hide and seek. The tickle monster attacked. We went to parks and visited attractions. We left the hotel every day. We talked. And we didn’t watch t.v. Even in the midst of being away from the comforts of home, I only used the morning PBS programs to occupy Ruthie while I showered. We kept busy, and I remained focused on them until they were sleeping.
For me the pinnacle came on Monday when we visited Santa Cruz, about an hour from our hotel. We were nearly alone on a wide open beach, running around and digging in the sand with nothing but our fingers and some empty coffee cups. I stretched myself, and offered Ruthie some freedom from my control, and I watched her revel in a world with few boundaries. The beach was so empty, so expansive, and the ocean before us was so never-ending, that my need to control every situation, every moment, every move seemed insignificant. I realized how rigid I had become, how inflexible. But that morning I was able to let my children run, and I practiced trusting them, and I patiently corrected them when they wandered too far, and I became their biggest fan once again.
It was the silence, and the time, and the space provided by this trip that allowed me to grow as a parent in this way – to remember that my job is much more than just keeping them fed and clothed, but to also disciple and teach and model, and to sometimes play with them. I developed a taste for getting out, for exploring, for inspiring my children and giving them opportunities to run and jump and play – not that it couldn’t have happened in the absence of a vacation, amidst the everyday life I live, but it seems a trip to San Jose is how God chose to get through to me.
As we left the beach in Santa Cruz my kids immediately crashed into a coma, and I listened to the Garden State soundtrack. I love it for its mix. Many soundtracks have a schizophrenic feel to it, accommodating for love scenes and fight scenes and war scenes all within the same album. But the Garden State soundtrack has a vibe, and it’s a good vibe for a quiet ride home from the beach. When the song, Let Go, by Frou Frou began playing I immediately knew it was the soundtrack for the day at least, and maybe even for my overall struggle through anger and control.
You’ll know why when you hear it.
So, the video you are about to see is more than just a video scrapbook of a fun day. I had a vision for this project the moment I heard the song. It is a stone for me to carry, like the ones Much Afraid carried. It is a rock cairn to remember the path I have taken to get where I am now. It is an alter built to God, in praise of who he is, like the ones built by my spiritual forefathers in the desert.
I’m pretty sure this was the best Mother’s Day EVER.
Breakfast at my favorite spot, church, sun, a nap, and time in the garden. It’s how we spend most Mother’s Days, but this year I felt like the party drunk hugging everyone and crying, “I LOVE YOU, MAN!”
Everything about this day felt perfect before it even started, and I didn’t even care what happened. I just knew it was going to be GREAT.
I attribute a huge part of this to the fact I really like Bryan these days. And when I say I really like him, I mean I REALLY like him. A lot. In fact, I like him so much right now I barely leave the house because I can’t imagine doing anything else besides snuggling up next to him.
This generally makes life bearable for a married couple, so I highly recommend doing whatever you can to really like your husband.
(Hint: attempts to change him will NOT make life bearable).
Really liking my husband has a trickle down effect because even though my kids are making me grate my teeth, I actually wanted to be with them today – a far cry from the Mother’s Day Escape Plans I tried to get away with the last couple years.
I also attribute the general success of today to the fact I totally forgot it was Mother’s Day weekend until late last week. This left no time for me to build up expectations, which gave me no reason to bitterly seethe when my expectations weren’t met.
Maybe I should only speak for myself, but I’m convinced marriages break down from a fatal cocktail of equal parts selfishness and unmet expectations. I know I’ve spent a lot of the last eight and a half years wanting what I want, expecting Bryan to give it to me, and growing bitter when I don’t get it.
Personally, I’ve never been happier than when I simply decided to like my husband again, for better or for worse.
Thanks for a great day, Babe. And kids? GET IN BED!