When you become a parent, your relationship with time changes.
We can’t wait for them to start walking, to start school, to make their first flash card, eat their first slice of pizza, to jump into life with both feet. But this also means that they’ll never again be what they are right now. Blink, get distracted, pick up your phone, take it for granted? It’s gone. You’ve missed it.
I did my best to remember that at 5 a.m. yesterday when the wrapping paper was flying, the tinsel was underfoot, and the caffeine hadn’t kicked in.
Someone asked Ally this week what she wanted to be when she grew up. An innocent question to engage a child and far better than telling a little girl she looks pretty. But I quietly bit my tongue and shuddered. I think it would be a special kind of hell if a child knew what they wanted to be when they were nine. We are verbs, not nouns. If you think of yourself solely as a noun, you are putting yourself in a corner. And no one puts Baby in a corner!
I want to be, and I want my kids to be, people that do things and if they don’t know exactly what they are going to do next that is quite okay. Too many people think they need to know who they are and what they are before they act. Please, no. Writing, religion, life, art, creativity. None of it has to do with doctrine or belief. It’s about action. It’s about practice. Do the thing and then figure it out.
The writer Mary Karr was once asked to make a case for religion. Her response? “Why don’t you just pray for 30 days and see if your life gets better?”
I love that. And it applies to far more than just faith. It’s about the practice, the discovery, the action.
Halfway through Christmas Day’s Zoom extravaganza, I had a (fleeting) moment of empathy for our outgoing president. He appears to constantly inflict self-harm on himself by believing there is something lacking despite being given everything. This insecurity, beyond being exhausting, must be far worse than any actual deprivation. The worry is always worse than the reality.
It seemed like an important lesson to try to teach them while they were young. Help them understand that they are good enough without a day filled with gifts. What they have is enough. What they are is enough.
Even though I didn’t step foot outside of the house yesterday, I was still exhausted and asleep by nine. It somehow managed to be both lazy and busy, stressful and sleepy. And we didn’t even hit the Jersey Turnpike. Continue Reading
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.
It’s on. I flipped the switch at lunchtime on Friday. Time for some holiday parenting. A little less stern Dad and more friendly Uncle. A little more relaxed. A little less math review, a little less structure.
We won’t be abandoning all structure. Things tend to go smoother when Dad has at least a pencil sketch of a plan. So, they’ll still need to sleep occasionally and brush their teeth after their 37th cookie. There will be some organization and expectations. I won’t be throwing out the rules completely, but…it’s supposed to be happy holidays and I can’t drink wine and scotch from sunrise to sunset without at least a three hour nap in the middle of the day and that’s not really fair to Michelle.
Hopefully this will all lead to a little less stress and a little more happiness.
Worst case, it leads to Michelle and I eating more Christmas cookies with red wine at lunch.Continue Reading