“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
― John Lubbock,
― John Lubbock,
It turns out I have completely lost the knack of resting.
I’ve traveled a bit lately and I have another long trip coming up. It’s amazing how different rhythms, different landscapes, and tastes of a different lifestyle shake up the mind!
On one long trip I traveled by myself, as an individual, not as a wife or mother. On one trip, a cruise, I traveled with family, but surrendered my chef’s hat, my housekeeping apron, and my dishwashing gloves. In both cases, I had a chance to let part of my brain take a break…and in both cases, I found I lacked skills.
It would probably be more accurate to say my skills are rusty. I KNOW I used to be expert at dropping out of the world back in the day. Even as recently as S.’s toddler years, I had to tell my husband to put Harry Potter new releases on a high shelf in the evening, so I could be totally present for dinner, bath, and bed. Otherwise, I would have been inhabiting Hogwarts, mind, body, and soul.
Somehow, in the intervening years, I’ve changed. I’ve become this person who constantly asks, What next? What else could I be doing?
I recently committed to get a full night’s sleep. It took some time to get my body back on an eight-hour schedule—and, boy, did I hate shutting down a mere hour after the kids went to bed!—but I did it. And it’s paying off. I feel so much more focused and capable during the day. So I know I can learn to mono-task again. I know I can learn to do “nothing” again. But, wow, it’s tough!
Yes, all the usual suspects try to trip me up. This crazy, information-stuffed world with lots of opportunities to compare our life to others’ lives feeds our FOMO. I was born with a fair share of that anyway—I routinely hid illnesses so I could go to school rather than miss out—so this is definitely a factor. I could blame a bunch of societal ills like that, but I always believe in looking closer to home first.
As unhip as it may be to admit, I have wanted to be a mom my whole life. I love loving on my kids, I love doing for them, I love teaching them, and I love watching their personalities unfold.
I’m also not a huge fan of conflict, which is, alas, a necessary tool in parenting. It’s pretty straightforward when they’re little. Can I have a seventh piece of cake? No. ß That’s conflict. But it’s just not optional. The child clearly needs to be stopped for his or her own good. They start it and I’m okay with finishing it.
Now we’re getting into more…gray areas. More areas where I feel like I’m starting it and they will never, ever finish it. Like, never.
Let me just say that I firmly believe in teaching responsibility. Our kids will NOT be those kids that get to college and try to tell a professor they missed the final exam because Mom didn’t call to wake them up so can they please have a make-up exam. Unh-unh. No way. Forget it.
Right now, they’re not asking for a whole cake to eat, but they’re not exactly being responsible either. S. does great with taking care of HER stuff—she does her homework, keeps track of her belongings, gets ready on time for her activities. And that’s great for someone going into seventh grade! Goodness only knows Little A. is working on learning all those things right now. She’s just terrible at integrating any of that with anyone else. When she’s ready to do what she needs to do, she charges ahead with no regard for the casualties.
I’m a giver, like I’ve said. I love taking care of my family. So I could just keep on going, reminding Little A. to practice piano, practice tae kwon do, practice guitar, do his homework, charge his electronics, turn off his light, brush his teeth… OR I could go through the conflict of saying, “It’s your responsibility” and then letting him mess up. ßThat right there. That’s what I’m not into. But I know it’s so necessary!
I could just stop what I’m doing every time S. can’t find a certain leotard she needs to pack or run to the store every time she needs a glue stick because she decides to work on a school project. I could do that. OR I could say, “Now’s not a good time. If you give me some advance notice, I can work it into my day.” I could even say, “You have a perfectly good bike in the garage. The store’s a mile away—go for it!” And there would be much whining and pouting and gnashing of teeth. ß That right there. That’s what I’m not into. But I know it’s so necessary!
But here’s the thing. If I follow through on those ORs, not only will I be giving our kids the opportunity to be confident, responsible, resilient people, I will get to rest. I’ll go back to carrying one person’s load of responsibilities, not three. If I can hold on through the whining and the messing up, I can rest.
So basically I am doing the parental equivalent of promising myself a cookie if I eat my vegetables. I can relax a little more every day if I set this responsibility train in motion.
Here I go. Eating those conflict veggies. Dreaming of that rest cookie.
I’m doing it. I swear.