Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Picture Perfect Christmas

It happens this time every year; my annual holiday let down. Each and every December I find myself longing for the way I imagine Christmas should be against the way it actually is. Why do I do this?

Perhaps my mind longs for the days of The Saturday Evening Post and Norman Rockwell's portraits of family life. I imagine my life on his canvas and expect my turkey to be perfectly roasted and my children praying angelically on their knees while carolers merrily stroll across my lawn.

Instead the picture at my house is quite the opposite; the dog eats the garland, the prelit tree is half dark, the ornaments are shattered in their box, the cookies are burnt and I scream and pound my head every time Bing Crosby wishes me "Mele Kalikimaka" from my Midwest bleak winter landscape. 

No, my laundry is backed up, my kids are snooping in every closet and the in-laws are on their way to my house and it's not even close to clean. I've ruined two batches of fudge, the family heirloom sugar cookie recipe is lost, I'm hiding my credit card bill from my husband and I've run out of wrapping paper, tape and time. 

It's the most wonderful time of the year? 

I would much rather be the subject of a Rockwell painting. I long to be cuddled up on the couch with a book and hot chocolate. I want all my gifts wrapped and under the tree. I want a roaring fireplace and my kids to sit admiringly around my feet as they are extremely grateful for the presents they'll receive. 

But the more I dwell on how I wish it was the more I miss out on what I actually have now. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Minding My Own Glamorous Life

Usually I keep my head down and focus on what needs to be done in my world. That is, I take care of my house, my kids and, until they invent a washing machine that washes, dries and folds clothes, I also do all their laundry. All day. Every day.

However, this week everywhere I turned moms were weighing in on the latest mommy war.

Recently, the reportedly highest paid super model, Gisele Bundchen, posted a photo of herself nursing her one year old baby while a team of individuals worked to prep her hair and makeup for a photography shoot. She captioned it saying, "What would I do without this beauty squad after the 15 hours flying and only three hours of sleep #multitasking #gettingready". Thanks to the internet, mothers everywhere began a virtual war of words both supporting and tearing down the model's post.

We are less than two weeks away from Christmas, people and this is how we want to spend our time and energy? Fighting over Tom Brady's wife's picture? That's right; the most beautiful woman in the world is married to the New England Patriots' star.

Now, it would be easy for me to look at my little life, in my little town with my little house and join the ranks of snarky women who are angry with Bundchen's portrayal of a day in her life but I won’t.
You see, I don’t get all the fuss. I don't know this woman and she has no influence in my life. What and how she chooses to feed her child bears no relevance to me. I'm a little busy over here managing my own life. Weighing in on how she manages hers only detracts from what I need to do. And folks, I don't have the time to get distracted. I got work to do.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Throwback Thursday, Virtue of Time

It has been said, since 410 AD that "Patience is a Virtue".

I wonder if Aurelies Clemens Prudentius, the Christian governor who authored a poem which contains that famous phrase was a parent. Because if he had kids, he might have worded that phrase differently.

I looked up virtue in an online dictionary and amid the various definitions offered I most liked that virtue was defined as a beneficial quality or commendable trait.

True right? I would add, however, that while it is commendable, virtue is also fleeting.

At least for modern day mothers.

I mean I'm all thankful for the liberation of women. No longer do we have to spend our days at home in high heels, vacuuming the floors and basting roasts.

But in our quest for domestic freedom have we gone in the opposite direction?
I mean we're not just parents and home keepers anymore.
We work.
We volunteer.
We shuffle.
We drive.
And plan. And cook.
We are bloggers, computer pros, technology nerds and queens of the laundry pile.
We may balance the household budget and bathe the kids.
We can do it all.
Heck, I do it all.
I'm pretty flippin awesome.
But so what?
Can I be honest for a second? I'm wearing thin over here and I am losing my virteous patience.

I bite off my kids' head. I snap at their behavior.
My busyness keeps me from engaging my kids
and I think I say, "I don't have time for this!" more than I tell them "I love them"!

What the heck??

When my children are all grown up I doubt they'll celebrate all the things I've done or how well I multi-tasked. I want them to remember the time we spent together. I want my kids to have memories of dominoes and Candyland. I want my daughter to tell her daughter she learned to make the family recipe for sugar cookies with me. I want my sons to know that when I went to their soccer games I was watching without the cell phone between us. I want to live a life where I'm not too busy or impatient for my own kids.

I'm speaking from my heart here, folks.

We are all so busy these days that it is easy to get caught up in all the important stuff we do. But when that stuff, comes before our children, I think it's time we take a stop back and reevaluate.

Our children want less of our guilt-gifts and more of our time. They want time with us. At least my kids do. I know because my daughter wrote about it in her second grade journal. She was prompted to write about her favorite time with a family member. She wrote about a day that she and I went window shopping.
She didn't write about an expensive vacation.
Or her birthday present.
She wrote about a day that we did nothing but wander around together.
It was a day I didn't rush her. We didn't have anywhere else to go. It was just time we spent. Together.

We all crave connection. Even our children.

If the thought of carving out more time in your life when you're already busier than you care to be sounds impossible I have a suggestion. Instead of rushing into the kitchen and starting dinner, jumping on the computer, or answering phone calls upon arriving home try pausing just a moment.

I know things need to be done. I do. But pause. Don't fill the space so quickly with what needs to be done. Wait just a second and allow space for connection.

Try having a conversation, not for information gathering but to connect, or for wee ones have a cuddle on the couch.

Or consider doing tasks together. Will dinner take longer? Could you get more done better? Of course, but just think about what you communicate to your child if instead of plopping them in front of the iPad or TV, you invite them to share your space as you move about your tasks.

Holdiay breaks are on the horizon for so many families, I hope we don't dread the time home with our kids. Instead let us embrace the endless possibilities for time well spend with the people we love the most.

(While updated, this article originally appeared in my Practical Parenting series for The Review Atlas in 2003).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Weighing the Chair Down

I'm harder on myself than I need to be. Are you too?

Recently, when my girlfriend was feeling low I had no difficulty whatsoever reminding her how awesome and incredible she is. It's easy for me to tell her how brave she is and point out what an incredible over-comer she's been while naming all the blessings in her life.

It's so easy for me to see those things in her life.

And when the roles are reversed, she is quick to point out all the wonderful things I have going on in my life when I'm needing that gentle reminder.

It's why were friends.

When I'm alone though, with my thoughts, and they begin to go downhill...
when I feel as if my adequacy is a reflection of my performance
or my size is my value
or I'm spinning my wheels never moving forward

I'm so quick to think and feel and believe I'm not good enough.
And I turn that idea over and over
and around and around
in my head.
I nurse it, think about it, take it apart and look at it from every different angle.

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