If parenting were high school, I’d be stuck in the same rut: I’d be the Good Student Mom. I do my work, mostly well and on time, I do lots of resume-building activities, I try to be nice to everyone—generally have full, “good” days. Not the class/PTA president, but an all-around solid student and volunteer.
I’m not sure how I ended up there. Perhaps I’ve never really thought much about what I want. I’ve always done what I felt like I should do. In high school, college, and into my twenties, I didn’t mind that. I had p-lent-y of leisure time for things I liked. And my thirties were all about kids. (‘My thirties were’—wow! I’m forty.) I’ve wanted to have children as long as I can remember, so the joyful work of their years of total dependence drowned out any thoughts about my life.
The nature of things demands that children become more independent all the time. And ours are, slowly but surely. As they get older, I can’t seem to get excited about what I should do—even if I can do it well, like a “good” girl does.
An otherwise uninspiring therapist once told me that I should disconnect “can” from “should.” Just because I can go full speed eighteen hours a day parenting, working, and volunteering, doesn’t mean I should. Obviously, I never got to the session about what I want, because there’s the rub.
Life keeps showing me that time is our most precious commodity. So I am choosing to figure out what I want to spend that time on. I’m letting my mind off the leash; I’m starting to dream. What do I want to do with that irreplaceable time?
I want to be Poet Mom. I want to do odd projects, like school plays or fantastic decorations for a special event, not run committees or meetings. Meetings are my kryptonite. I can organize anything pretty well, but I don’t want to. I want to read storybooks in dramatic voices to skeptical children and make them laugh. I want to keep my house neat just because I enjoy the way it looks.
I want to bake outrageously delicate recipes—especially with my little chefs—and sew fantastic things—especially costumes for my kids. I want to go to coffee shops and beaches. I want to read books that dazzle me and make me think and laugh and cry. I want to run and kickbox and then wear hippie skirts so no one expects me to be able to lift a whole bag of dog food. I want to work with authors, spending time really absorbing their books and their voices, and helping them grow.
I want to cook elaborate meals with my husband while we laugh and listen to music. I want to have long summer dinners with friends—the dinners where the adults laugh and talk and the kids play in the pool, only coming out to grab some food. I want to go camping with my family, and sailing. I want to go on more bike rides with them. I want to go to movies and plays and concerts every once in a while. I want to do home improvement with my family.
I want my job to be what I love best—living life fully, truly being with my kids, my husband, my family, and my friends, observing the little pieces that make up the glorious whole, attempting to capture that in those miraculous black marks on crisp paper, those itty bitty word seeds that, if viable, blossom into near-recreations in the mind.