The beginning of a new year, time to restructure, reorganise, streamline our lives. All the best intentions, coupled with ‘achievable’ goals and healthy eating plans. We know it’s gone wrong in the past but this time it’s different; we know what to change.
And then the year begins.
One month in and I’m starting to see the cracks in the outer shell. We’ve made it to Feb, but I’m meaning we’ve screamed in, kicking and shouting, limbs flailing about, troops all ragged. The calm and organisation I had planned for the year seems to have been replaced with a Burundi warzone. Just mentioning the words ‘overtired’ and ‘children’ in the same sentence can send any parents within earshot into a flat spin, perspiration breaking out on their already lined foreheads. A sure fire way to ruin a day is drag an overtired child around with you. So this is where I am. But with two overtired children.
Despite my best intentions, I have already agreed to too much. With eyes bigger than my stomach, I have dived into the year with extra murals on everyday, a full social calendar and work deadlines our company could drown in. The kids have a full plate, which in theory is fine if they are getting enough downtime and sleeping 11- 12 hours a night, but they’re not. Their plates are piled high with fun activities and exciting new sports, but without the rest, they are moving at a snails pace and have replaced their ears with beautiful ornaments (that for aesthetic value only) any rugby player would pay top dollar for. They simply don’t work at all. Not only is this extremely frustrating, but the lack of hearing causes even slower children, resulting in more frustration, more tardiness, a grumpier mother and general misery in the house.
Today is Saturday. I am sitting down for the first time since last weekend, to do something I want to do as opposed to something that is in my calendar or on my To-Do list and has to be done. How is it possible that almost a week can go by without a ‘time-out’ for myself? And the year has only just begun.
I know I am not alone in how I am feeling, yet no one wants to talk about it.
I also know my kids are not the only ones feeling the pressure, acting up and not listening because they simply can’t cope with the volume of ‘stuff to-do’ at their young ages. School in the mornings, busy sporting afternoons, play dates, birthday parties, late nights when parents have friends over, the list goes on. No parent wants their child to be left behind so collectively we are all making our kids do so much, everyone trying to keep up with everyone else. How did we get here? When did parenting become a competition?
At 6 years old I certainly hadn’t mastered every swimming stroke. I hadn’t tried almost every sport offered to preschool children, in fact, most sports our kids play weren’t even offered to preschool children when I was young! Play dates happened infrequently, leaving me to play with my siblings, entertaining ourselves in the garden with make believe games and toys we made from sticks and acorns. Life was simpler. My mother was certainly not trying to one-up the neighbours and post our achievements all over Facebook. Am I misrepresenting the 80’s or was that time easier on everyone’s self-esteem? Without social media constantly telling our parents what everyone else’s kids were doing we were allowed to back off a little, play outside and have a few afternoons to explore our exciting world. But this is not our reality anymore.
Life is only getting faster. What we are now faced with is not wanting to be left behind. The feeling of everyone else leaping ahead while we wander slowly along. So we don’t. We fall for it. We dive in with swimming lessons, prance through modern and ballet only to tumble our way into our gymnastics class. Not forgetting the staples like tennis and soccer. We’d be nothing without self discipline so karate is kicked in too, followed closely by extra science lessons to expand the mind and ecology classes because we must also be saving the environment. This is all on top of a full day at school and excludes extra-extra lessons when competitions and eisteddfods are in full swing. It’s exhausting just writing it down.
The obvious addition to all of this is the expense of it all. We seem to be in a whirlpool going further down into the depths and it’s getting harder to pull ourselves out. I find myself constantly glancing around for a sea-rescue boat that can pull us back into calmer waters.
I have pondered this little predicament all week, desperately searching for a way to still do all the things we do but without all the insanity. Without all-the running from one place to another, packing bags, wolfing down lunch and darting off in another direction.
I know I have answered my own question though.
There is no way to ‘do it all’ and avoid at least some insanity. It’s a hard pill for me to swallow because I don’t want my kids to be the ones left behind. But there it is.
I know if I want my kids to enjoy the simpler life, having time to lie under the trees and stare up at the golden leaves filtering the suns warm rays, or draw pictures in the dirt with sticks whilst laughing with their siblings, I am going to have to teach them that that is what life is about. At the moment, that is not what they are learning, not what I am teaching them. Squashing my own competitive nature is proving hard to do.
The world is their oyster and they need time to discover it, instead of running from one place to another in a series of frantic bursts accompanied by banshee-like yelling from their mother. The only challenge now is to take a step in the right direction.
Does anyone have the balance right? Is it even possible? Please please tell me how you do it!