Covering parenting and child development issues
"You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." (Buddha)
Today, I declared myself off-limits. No assisting with the summer English project. No conversations about finances, landscaping or household dilemmas. I would gladly assist with the project, cope with the stop-start of interruptions and discuss these things again -- in great detail, if necessary -- just not today.
The actual declaration was made last night at dinner, when we did our Friday night review of the week ahead. The last month has been lovely -- punctuated by a vacation at the beach and a long weekend in DC -- both of which were wonderful. But, the time spent away, along with the preparation for and recovery from these trips has thrown me off-kilter. My to-do list is growing at an alarming rate, with little compensatory shrinkage in the form of completed tasks. The laundry that was to be tamed yesterday continued to accumulate, courtesy of a hot water heater that failed to comprehend the word "hot," necessitating a service call and a new element. It was time to take action.
Before I continue, I must include a disclaimer. My family consists of two adults and one teenager. Everyone in my house is fully capable of taking of himself or herself. No infants, toddlers or small children would be harmed in this day of to-do list reckoning, so this was no irresponsible action. This was a righting of the ship.
Both my husband and daughter had noticed (and commented) on my off-kilter status, and so there were no arguments. I think both of them were glad that I'd be out of their hair, caught up enough in my own stuff that I'd require little of them. It was a win-win.
By mid-afternoon, I'd made a dent in both the laundry and the to-do list, taken a (warm) shower and gained some perspective. The big things and the small things had made themselves clear, and had shifted into their respective positions on my list, creating space in my now-uncluttered mind for this (overdue) blog to take shape. Suddenly, I saw the little things for what they were -- tiny bits of matter screaming for an inordinate amount of attention, unworthy of the angst they were inspiring.
For better or for worse, I'm wired for accomplishment. As wonderful as breaks and vacations may be, going too long without doing something of value eats away at me. I know that part of that comes from having the luxury of spending my working hours doing what I love -- writing, teaching and parenting. I know this because when I've been employed in positions that I did not love, I couldn't get enough time off. I loved nothing more than a succession of lazy days, unencumbered by to-do lists and responsibilities.
When I worked as a school counselor, I had the quote at the top of this entry sitting -- framed -- on a shelf in my office, a reminder to kids and staff members alike that self-respect is the foundation of respect for others. If we don't take care of ourselves, we're ill-prepared to take care of anyone else, and sometimes that means being a little selfish and declaring a day off from the things that wear us down. For those with small children, those days off require a level of planning that is exhausting in and of itself, but when we can swing it, time spent pursuing the things that matter to us allows us to re-charge and put things into perspective.
Though it's hard to believe that a day spent doing laundry and tackling tasks in my own time frame could have such a remarkable pay-off, the difference between the way I feel now and the way I felt 24 hours ago is palpable. Maybe it's just the hot shower, but I'm feeling motivated to leave my cranky, scary self behind and re-direct my attention to the little bits of matter that clamor for my attention. My to-do list is still somewhat daunting, but a day tackling the things I put at the top of the list has put the rest of it in perspective.
Okay. Bring on the English project and the financial discussions.