Monday, July 30, 2012

Balance, Simplification & Saying "NO"

We live in a society where we are blessed to have so many options, so many opportunities, so much we CAN have or do or be or go.

But sometimes, maybe, it's too much.

As parents we want to give our children the world.  We want every possible opportunity for them.  We want to expose them to things and give them things and take them places.  When my girls got to the kindergarten, first, second grade age, I fell into the trap...their friends were doing dance and gymnastics, Brownies and tennis lessons, swimming lessons and ice skating, art classes and karate...and I didn't want my girls to be left out.  I didn't want them to be in school and hear of something that sounded cool and feel sad they weren't part of it.  I burned myself out driving to all of those activities.  I tried to be active in church, volunteering on our Membership Commission and teaching Sunday school; I was active in PTO; my husband volunteers on the board of several committees in our community and church.  We never saw each other.  We seldom sat down to eat as a family.  We were exhausted and stressed and harried and overwhelmed and spread too thin.

When I made the decision to pare things down to two activities per child, I felt guilty.  I was criticized by other moms.  My daughter DID say she wished I was more like "so and so's mom" who had a messy house, never cooked dinner, but was always fun and never minded living in her mini-van while she traipsed her kids all over the tri-state area for travel sports, play rehearsals, dance, music, ice skating, etc.  

I felt guilty.  I felt that there was something WRONG with me that I couldn't physically keep up the pace.  I chastised myself for being selfish.  I worried that there was something physically wrong with me that made me so tired and irritable when I had so much going on.  I looked back over my behavioral texts from college to see if I could change my behavior.

Then I found Sarah on Clover Lane.  Sarah is a lot like me (maybe because her birthday is the day after mine ;-) .  She is an old-fashioned kind of mom, with old-fashioned values who likes her family to eat dinner together and doesn't like to be spread too thin.  She doesn't like clutter and she doesn't buy tons of toys.  She limits her kids activities...and she brings up a good point.  Kids should do just a few activities that they enjoy and really devote themselves to those activities and hone those skills.  Like me, Sarah is very frugal.  It used to bother me how much we paid for certain lessons, but I felt like that was just me being cheap...then I realized, I will spend ooodles of money, pour money into art because it is what my girls love.  Maybe it bothered me so much to pay for piano because they hated it and didn't want to do it?  But when I see them spending HOURS in their art studio drawing, it makes me want to look at more and better art classes, it makes me want to join museums and galleries.

Penelope Trunk brings up another good point.  My generation, GenX are the babies of the women's lib movement.  Some of our moms were "women's libbers" as my stay-at-home conservative mom called them.  I had friends that were "latchkey kids".  GenXers were one of the first generations of kids whose moms worked outside the home.  Many GenXers went home to empty houses after school and felt ignored and neglected.  GenXers don't want to do the same to their own kids, so maybe they have overcompensated with TOO MANY things for their kids, be it tech gadgets or extracurriculars.  BUT, Penelope Trunk, points out, too much scheduling leads to kids who can't entertain themselves, figure things out for themselves without being taught and don't know how to get un-bored.  

After reading these blogs, I am starting to feel more and more like it's okay to say "No" to certain things.  We said "No" to a co-op that meets once a week so Allie and Piper can have more time to sew and create furniture for their American Girl dolls.  We said "No" to church choir because Piper is participating in a Children's Choir this year and we didn't want to spread ourselves too thin.  I said "No" to working another day each week.  We are not saying no to be mean or selfish. 

 Saying "No" isn't depriving my kids of something, it is actually giving them more time to spend exploring and doing things they love, like sewing and making furniture for their American Girl dolls.
Last year, my goal was to create Balance.  Balance between my need for yoga and a clean house and the girls' needs to learn and take classes.  I realized that Balance is achieved by Simplifying our life down to what is really important to us so that we have more time to spend on the things we really enjoy, one of which is being together as a family.  So I am saying "No" without guilt to things that we don't need or love.  To make more room and time for things we love, I am saying "No" to things we are not passionate about.

For Allie this means more time to sew, make videos, draw and paint.

For Piper this means more time to make American Girl furniture, make stop motion videos, sing with the Children's Choir and be with friends.

For me this means more time to blog, read good books and do yoga.

For Jason this means more time for yoga, running and cooking.

It is my hope that by setting examples that we can pare things down to what we truly and really enjoy and love, children as well as adults, my girls won't one day feel guilty that they were not extroverts or that they can not do it is my hope that they will be able to prioritize their time to do the things that really matter to them, the things they really love and are passionate about and spend the energy on those things rather than spreading themselves too thin.