After I pushed the girls out the door and they made the bus by the skin of their teeth yet again, I went upstairs to get dressed and found both their lights on, one bed unmade, clothes on the floor and…the list could go on. You get the idea. I’ve told them a million times and yet…still a mess.
I got dressed and went to my desk mildly fuming and….found picture frames still not hung up. A computer still running Windows 7. A fish tank that could be cleaned. Plants slowly dying on the bookshelf. How many times had I been told or told myself to do these things and they still weren’t done?
That was my Dad epiphany this week. Like most weeks, it wasn’t all that profound but jeez kids spend a lot of their days getting commands, demands and requests thrown at them. Maybe cut them a little slack. Or at least a little understanding. Maybe finally hanging up those pictures will show them it’s hard for me too but I’m trying. Worst case, Michelle will have one less thing to do on a Saturday.
I have a lot of concrete goals and tactical things I want to accomplish for 2020 but I didn’t really think up a personal resolution until this week. The girls love to put on shows. There are at least one or two performances per week. You probably think this sounds cute, creative and adorable. And it should be.
But in the last year or so, I’ve become increasingly impatient and annoyed as I watch. The shows are too long. The shows are boring. The shows are repetitive. The shows lack any real dramatic tension. I was becoming an ugly jackass. For my kid’s performances. I was essentially making it all about me. Not my most pleasing personality trait.
Ego is the enemy. Of everything, but especially of the things that really matter in life. In some respects, it is all about me. I helped create these two wonderful, dancing, musical loving girls now I just have to surrender and let them keep making me better. I know I can at least be a better audience. So that is my resolution: relax and enjoy the show.
There was a moment driving down after Christmas, somewhere around exit 9 on the turnpike, when we were snarled in another traffic jam, that I felt the frustration of being stuck almost boil over. I just wanted to get out of the car and get there as fast as possible. Then I stopped. Maybe it was the time of year. Maybe it was the stream of seemingly endless bad news even during Christmas. Maybe it was just the north Jersey fumes.
But I wondered why? What am I rushing to? What am I rushing from? Chances are it’s not as good as right now. At best, it’s uncertain. We are almost through the Santa magic years. Heck, we only have less than ten summers now where we are guaranteed to be together. What’s the rush?
So that has become my goal this week in the hinterlands between Christmas and New Years. Just slow down. Don’t rush through everything. Savor it. Whether it’s a traffic jam, a cookie, family drama, or the crankiness of kids staying up too late. Some day, someday soon probably, I’ll want it all back.
Only one more year until middle school. I might be okay with rushing through that.
We are at an interesting point in the homework journey. No, this isn’t about new math. Cecilia has run that gauntlet and we are back on the safer footing of long division and I’m hoping the second time through it makes more sense with Allison. I’m referring to how to help them find answers. Ally is still at the point where if she hits a roadblock we just need to tell her. There’s no easy way for her to discover how to spell ‘vegetarian’ short of asking me or Alexa.
Cecilia is on the opposite end of that spectrum. When she hits a roadblock we’ve been working on asking the right questions and then helping her find the answer. This often leads to slumping, sighing and eye rolls. I’m trying to teach her to love the process. To really get excited about it. Learning new things is something I love almost as much as carbs and reading. I want to pass that on.
In this on-demand society learning things the slow way is…an adjustment for a ten year old but I’m hoping it eventually leads to her helping herself figure things out. I really do love learning new things but I can’t go through trigonometry again.
I’m slowly learning to accept that selective ignorance is a necessary parenting skill. Not all the time, of course, but sometimes it becomes very necessary to retain your sanity and enjoy being a parent without needing medicinal Merlot.
It was an up and down week as the holiday spirit drove some roller coaster emotions. As they grow up and life gets more complicated, I’m finding it more and more necessary to let go and accept that I cannot control or answer everything. One of the worst possible parenting instincts is probably to latch on and never let go. The worst, and also the hardest to break.
If I’m constantly worried about every vocab word, every assignment, every social drama, every potential catastrophe then I am going to miss out on the joy and fun of being with my kids. If you are always trying to manage the future you are missing the present. There are some problems we’ll just have to figure out on the fly. And I’m okay with that. Most days.
There’s no way you’ll get the big decisions right if you’re sweating every tiny decision.
So it’s parent-teacher conference time. Both kids are doing fine but it’s a good reminder for me to never minimize their accomplishments. It’s something that I find challenging at times. It can be easier for me to point out what else they could have done than to praise what they have done.
By this point, it’s very obvious that while Cecilia and I share many traits, how we learn is vastly different. How someone with my genes can hate flash cards? I still have flash cards I made in college! (At some point, on some Saturday, Michelle will discover them in the basement and take them to the transfer station.) It’s not my job to change her or make her see it my way (unless it’s about Boston sports). It’s my job to be on team Ce, to root for her and encourage her. To make sure she understands that I’m proud of her regardless not because she is perfect or smart. That I’m most proud of her high marks in effort and how she has the confidence to keep trying new things.