I'm not really a resolution gal, and especially since I am pregnant again, my usual fitness and eating healthy goals (cheese danish for breakfast and lunch? Why not!) are sort of out the window for the time being. Instead, I've decided to focus on making improvements as a parent in ways that will hopefully improve myself as a person, and teach my kids how to grow up to be good people and to be good to other people as well.
One on one time used to be way easier, then I had four kids. Now it truly is something that I need to schedule and make a priority in my life. When all four kids are in my minivan at once, the opportunities for one on one conversation are pretty slim. Since they're at school most of the day during the week and we are all together on the weekends, the older two kids especially get the shaft when it comes to one on one time, and I have been working on changing that. Even if it's just bringing someone to the bookstore for an hour and chatting in the car, or letting them stay up a little later than usual to watch a movie with me, that time counts. I tend to shy away from making the one on one time a big to do ("Let's go on an adventure!!") because that can lead to disappointment and can lead the child to think that one on one time with you needs to be some cool idea you dreamed up rather than simply spending time together somewhere, even just in your own house, to be important and meaningful. Simply taking the time to listen to them, whether they want to talk about Minecraft for thirty five minutes or need to share a story of what happened to them at school, can be all it takes to deepen a relationship, especially as the kids get older.
"Maybe next week", "When we have more time", "Not right now but maybe later"... these are all things we say to put something off or give a soft no without having to get into a big battle, and I honestly can remember my parents giving me the "Maybes" and knowing it was a no, and wondering why they didn't just come out and say NO in the first place. For me, I am going to try to just say yes, and follow through on little promises I have made rather than put them off. Okay I told you I would help build that new Lego set you just got? Fine, let's do it. You want to paint? Okay, grab the paint set and just get started. Every time I have started doing this I realize it was so much easier to say yes and just do it rather than say maybe and have to answer 25 million questions about when and why can't we just do it now? And usually, I have actually enjoyed taking the break to do something, or enjoyed the fact that I did what I told them I was going to do. It also helped me be more conscious of not making those "little white lie" promises I started to make. I have no intention of going to the jumpy castle this week, this month...so I'm not even going to engage in it. And saying a firm NO happens too. Life goes on.
I have to admit, I really suck at this one. Especially now that I've gotten hooked at reading books on my phone with the Kindle app, I'm sort of always on it, or always have it nearby. I justify by saying "But I'm reading!" or "I'm just checking the weather", or truthfully, "I'm working", which does need to happen once in a while. But it has turned into a habit, and the kids really don't know that I'm reading, they just know that I'm staring at my phone again. This is not something I want to model for them, and all I really need to do is put down the stupid phone and walk away from it.
Stuff like managing their money, managing their time, it's never too early to start teaching them these things, and the first one I am focusing on this year is being a good friend. Yes, that is a life skill, and one that sadly we aren't all born knowing how to do. Because of my own personal experiences, 2015 will always be remembered by me as the Year of the Crappy Friend, the year I wondered how adults could make it to adulthood treating people in terrible ways. What I realized was, no one ever taught them or showed them how to be decent to their friends. We all sort of hope and assume our kids will turn out to be good people, but the truth is, some of these things need to be taught, and modeled to them by us as parents, otherwise they might not learn these things on their own, especially if they happen to fall in with some crappy friends as children. The other thing I want my kids to recognize is when they aren't being treated nicely by their own friends, and what to do about it. I hate the idea of them, as children, internalizing those things, we all know the feeling of being hurt by someone you thought was your friend. Teaching them the importance of being good to each other, and standing up for themselves when they aren't treated the right way is a life skill they will always be working on. And I think we can all agree, life is too short for crappy friends, am I right?!
Speaking of life is too short, I will forever be grateful for the realization that life is WAY TOO SHORT for dwelling on the unimportant stuff. Cancer has shoved it's ugly hand into the lives of too many people in our extended family in the past couple of years, in frightening and swift ways, making it sadly possible to recount the last times we were all together. Did it matter what I wore that time we were all together? Did it matter what car I drove to where we were all together? Did it matter how much or how little I had in my bank account that time we were all together? Absolutely not. I want to teach my kids the importance of experiences, not things. The importance of maintaining relationships with loved ones, not caring about what someone might have said at school about their sweatshirt or their backpack or their hair or their sneakers. I want to teach them the importance of letting go of the silly stuff, the freedom they have to choose their friends and who they spend their time with. I also want them to make the best out of situations, but to learn that giving up on bad situations isn't a failure, it can be a win.
Does having four kids and one on the way make me a parenting expert? HAHAHAHAHAHA no. It does not. Does it give me a whole lot of experience as a parent to these particular children? Yes. But even with that valuable experience under my belt I have to always be learning, there's always a chance to improve, to change, to adapt. Parenting is not something that you do once with one child and boom you know what you're doing now for the duration of your life as a parent. These kids, they literally are changing ALL THE TIME. It's crazy. Just when you think you've got it all figured out, you don't. This year I want to continue to be open and on the lookout for learning new things, open to changing my mind, open to the idea that maybe I could be doing things in a different way, even though I've been doing this parenting thing for almost ten years. Ten years is NOTHIN' in the parenting game my friends. Ten months, ten years, ten grandchildren, you're always learning as a parent.
No one likes thinking those dark thoughts we all have in the back of our minds, the ones that pop up, creep around the edges, when we see a story about a child battling cancer or a parent who has lost a baby. We read those stories, our hearts break for those parents, but we all have that little tiny part of ourselves that say, "I am so glad that isn't my child". But the truth is, all of parenting is a process of letting them go, making them go, teaching them how to go away from you, on their own, regardless of how much time you will get to spend with each other. Between the day your child is born, and the time he or she turns 18, you get 940 Saturdays. That's it. THAT'S ALL FOLKS. And that is if you are lucky enough to have all of them.
Reading those stories about loss can help you snap back into the mindset that none of us have guaranteed time, but is it sustainable to picture it being your last day on earth every single day? Maybe not. For some of us, myself included, that would throw us into a rather scary and unproductive loop of anxiety that would do more harm than good. But reminding myself how lucky I am helps me get through the more "annoying" parenting moments. That hour before bedtime when you just wish they could just GO TO SLEEP NOW OMG BE QUIET or when they all decide to turn into sugar craving mutants who can't control their personal volume, I remind myself, "Wait, who wanted to have all these kids?" That's right, I DID. I chose this, I wanted this more than anything, so maybe I should just shut up and deal with the hard moments that really aren't that hard as well as the super cute and sweet moments without complaining so much, because there are parents out there who would give everything they have to get even an hour of the "crappy" moments back. Basically, sometimes we all just need to shut it and realize we have it pretty good, because parenting is and can be one of the most interesting, rewarding, fascinating and enriching experiences in life, even if that includes cleaning up vomit at 3am once in a while and stepping on the ol' Legos once in a whi- okay all the time.
I hope you all have a healthy new year, and I want to say thank you to everyone that has read my blog in 2015. I love you guys. xoxo