Tuesday, March 19, 2013

When you can't "enjoy the moment"

A few months ago I wrote about how I want to savor each stage of HP's childhood.  And it's true--I do.  He changes every single day, whether I am watching or not.  He flies through stages--both good and bad--leaving me little time to reorient myself to his newest accomplishments, likes, and dislikes before they are old news.  Children do not wait for their parents to stop being busy before changing, so taking the time to soak in who they are right now is a worthy goal.

That said.

This morning Katie at Loves of Life posted a link to the article To Parents of Small Children: Let me be the one who says it out loud.  My favorite part?  Where the author talks about wanting to hold people under water who tell him to "Enjoy every moment now!  They grow up so fast!"  He doesn't want to hold them under until they drown, of course, "Just for a minute or so.  Just until they panic a little."


If you were to look in my house yesterday afternoon you would not have found me "savoring the stage," "enjoying the moment," or "soaking it all in."  Nope.  You would have found me exhausted from lack of sleep, curled up on the chair in the corner of the room, eating brownies with abandon, praying HP would be content to entertain himself for the next two hours until Henry got home, because in that moment, I could not find it within myself to be an engaged parent.

I wish I could say that the scene I just described was an anomaly, but that would be a lie.  Parenting is hard, exhausting work, that in my case, is often done on little to no sleep.  I am not going to enjoy every minute of my child's life, no matter how fast it is speeding by.

And that's okay.

*Update* Please go read this post that Abby mentioned in the comments.  Glennon beautifully (and humorously) speaks of the frustration she feel when told to "carpe diem" by well-meaning strangers.

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Happiness Project: Words

My resolutions for last month--to make better use of my time--were a flop.  What can I say?  February was filled with sleepless nights so most days just making it to dinner without completely melting down felt like success.  Did surfing Facebook multiple times a day make me feel better about my life?  Well, not really.  But it happened.  Moving on to March.

So here we are in the middle of the month.  I started implementing these resolutions when the calendar page turned two weeks ago, but failed to write about them.  Ironic, since this month's focus is words--reading them, writing them, and using them precisely.  Here's the plan:

(1) Reading every day.  I normally do this anyhow since I love to read, but now I am making sure to carve out time each day instead of waiting until I have "free time."  I am currently reading The Fault in Our Stars (fiction), You Are Your Child's First Teacher (non-fiction), and Time (I am weeks behind on my subscription but the lure of reading "The Bitter Pill" keeps me plowing through the older issues).  If anyone has any suggestions, please pass them on!  I am always in search of new books, especially good fiction.

(2) Writing every day.  This resolution has been much harder for me to keep.  I realize it is stating the obvious, but if I want to improve my writing, then I need to write.  Daily.

When writing here I often feel inhibited knowing that other people will be reading and judging what I post.  This week, in an attempt to face that fear head-on, I shared my blog on Facebook.  While I know most people will click over once and then forget about it, putting it out there was still scary.  A good friend said that sharing her blog made her feel both vulnerable and empowered.  Agreed.

There are often little opportunities throughout the day to write that I avoid because it "takes too much time."  For example, when I finish reading a book and update on Goodreads, I rarely take the time to write a review.  Not because I have nothing to say about the book, but because it feel arduous to compose a thoughtful analysis of what I read.  This month I am resolving to take the extra few moments to put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard) when those situations present themselves.

(3) Thinking about what I say and how I say it.  I am quick to resort to slang (like, you know...).  Reading Endangered Minds last month renewed my desire to use language precisely.  HP's little mind is soaking up everything we say and as one of his primary language models, and I want to be conscious about the kind of language environment I am creating for him.

March, you are already halfway over, which leaves two more weeks to immerse myself in words--an enjoyable proposition indeed!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Over the Christmas holidays I finished reading Simplicity Parenting.  In my case, the author was preaching to the choir; I already agreed with many of the central tenets like eliminating (or limiting) screen time in your home, reducing the number of toys, and creating rhythms for children.  The book was geared toward older children, but it helped me visualize the kind of childhood I would like to create for HP.  Obviously his childhood is not something I can (or should!) completely control, but I can lay the foundation that will allow him to create his own rich experiences.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the idea of appreciating the ordinary in our children.  In all likelihood, HP will not become an Olympic athlete, famous musician, or President of the United States.  He will be ordinary.  Extraordinary to me as his mother, of course, but ordinary to the world.  When we are able to appreciate the ordinary, we free our children from undue expectations and allow them to simply be who they are.

I know I will turn to my parents' example when trying to live out this concept.  Growing up, my parents were the most sane parents I knew.  They never tried to live vicariously through my accomplishment, which more than I can say for many of my peers.  My mother went to every diving meet of my career, save one.  I remember one meet in particular where I failed a dive, which is just what it sounds like: I preformed the dive so terribly that I did not receive a score.  When I talked to my mom in the stands after the dive, she said, "But you looked so beautiful in the air!"  And she meant it.  She genuinely did not care about where I placed or what scores I received, only that I was happy.  In contrast, my teammates often received "advice" from their parents on how they could do better.  Even at the time I recognized how special it was that my value was in no way connected to my performance.  My parents knew that I did not need them to be my coach--I already had one of those; I needed them to be my parents.  They let me be ordinary.

I want to do the same for HP.  He may excel in sports, music, or academics, or he may not.  I want him to know that the joy is not in becoming "the best", but simply in doing what he loves.  I hope he enjoys playing a sport or an instrument because it is challenging, rewarding, and--wait for it--fun!, not just because he has a talent for it.

In a culture where parents often blur the lines between their child's success and their own, I want HP to know that his value and worth are in who he is, not what he does.  I want him to be comfortable being just who he is, the ordinary and all.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

On being content

It was this time last year that I decided to commit to Austin.  A few months after I made that decision, we bought a house.  At the moment, it looks like we will be here for the foreseeable future.  I still long to move closer to my family, but for now, we are here.  Instead of feeling frustrated and suffocated by this fact, I am focusing on being content.

It is easy to slip into the habit of thinking, "If only X, then I will be happy."  When I step back and look at my life, it is clear that I have little to complain about and much to be thankful for.  I have a husband who makes me laugh out loud (at him, at myself, at life) on a regular basis, a curious little boy who has brought more joy to my life than I could have imagined, a front yard where I can grow food, a back yard filled with trees that backs up to a bicycle trail, an extended family who supports us without being overbearing, friends who encourage me to pursue my dreams, and more love than any one person deserves.

Would I like to be more centrally located in Austin?  Sure.  Do I miss living in the same town as my family?  Certainly.  Could there be a more perfect balance between my home life and my career (or lack there of)?  Of course.  But in the big picture, I am happy.

I have to acknowledge that contentment comes naturally to me this time of year in Texas, as my happiness here seems to be largely dependent on the weather.  The beautiful mild days of late winter and early spring make it easy to see our family staying put.  I am writing this post now, so when the heat of the summer descends upon us I can look back and remember that it is just a season (both literally and figuratively), and it will pass.

Perspective is a powerful thing.

Friday, March 8, 2013


 I read once that the ancient Egyptians had fifty words for sand and the Eskimos had a hundred words for snow.  I wish I had a thousand words for love, but all that comes to mind is the way you move against me while you sleep, and there are no words for that."  

Today I was hanging out with HP in his room after his afternoon nap.  Out of nowhere, I felt tears welling up in my eyes.  

I was having the moment.  

The moment where my love for my son was so strong, so present, so forceful, that my emotions had to find a physical release through my tears.

Prior to giving birth, people told me that I would feel that kind of over-the-top, indescribable love the moment he came into the world.

I didn't.

Please don't misunderstand.  It's not that I did not love him from the start.  From the moment he was born he was a part of our family and I have loved him every day of his little life.  

But today was different.

I felt the love that people describe mothers having for their children.  The "I would face Lord Voldemort to protect you" kind of love.  

I was overwhelmed.  With gratitude.  With joy.  With love.

Sometimes, there are no words.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Setting boundaries

Last night at dinner Henry and I discussed setting boundaries with HP.  In theory, it sounds simple--decide what you will and will not allow, then utilizing our endless reserve of patience to consistently enforce said boundaries.  In practice, my reserve of patience is anything but endless and I make exceptions when it is more convenient than following the rule.

After our discussion, I was going through my reader and saw Janet Lansbury's most recent post on discipline, which reinforced my desire to be consistent with Harvey starting now, not when he's older. (The "when he's older" excuse is the one I use most often when I feel like letting things slide: "He's only eight months... I'll work on that later...")

The most obvious area where I need to set a firm boundary is the shoes in the entryway.  HP is fascinated by shoes, particularly their laces.  In general, I am relaxed about what he puts in his mouth.  I do not wipe off spoons when they fall on the floor, I let him lick playground equipment, and we regularly ride public transportation.  But shoes?  I have to draw the line somewhere, and for me, sticking my nasty Chacos into his mouth crosses it.

Until now he had mercifully avoided the front entryway where we keep all of our shoes.  Last week he found it, and now regularly crawls over to pull the shoes off and stick them in his mouth or play with the laces.

I'll admit, I have let him go over and grab a shoe (more than once) when I know it will entertain him for the next ten minutes so I can finish the dishes, complete a task I have been wanting to do, or let's be honest, check my email one more time.

At this age, I think it might be easiest (and the least stress-inducing) to just move the shoes into the hall closet to take away the temptation and the accompanying need to physically remove him from the situation multiple times each day.

In the long run, I know consistency will pay off and like Janet Lansbury says, children want boundaries and thrive on consistency.  I know that I should create a firm boundary so he can learn that our shoes in the entryway are not toys for him to play with.  It is just so much easier not to.

But I suppose no one said parenting would be easy.