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What I Learned Over Spring Break

Last week was our spring break. It was the first spring break in about five years that we haven’t had major money problems.

Where we weren’t in danger of losing our house, where the Man from CL&P wasn’t coming to knock on our door on an almost monthly basis, where we weren’t on food stamps, where we didn’t have to return cans and bottles or hold a tag sale in order to pay for groceries.

We aren’t anywhere near rolling around in bags of money. We aren’t in the position to do whatever we want whenever we want. We are nowhere near that. We still have to be frugal and cut the fat wherever we can.

But we aren’t destitute.

Being in a terrible financial black hole for years had put me into the mindset that I couldn’t relax. That I had to spend just about every second of every day working or trying to find ways to make money. And so for the past four of five spring breaks and Christmas vacations and summer vacations, I have basically ignored the kids.

Going away anywhere was clearly not an option. But I had also convinced myself that taking time to do just about anything with them wasn’t possible. Or allowed.

It’s hard to get out of that mindset.

For me, anyway.

So this spring break, I made the conscious decision to be much more available to the kids.

I did this for a number of reasons.

First, Number 7 is five years old.

Five years old!!!

How did that happen so fast?

There are phases of life that have passed us for good.

We are done with diapers and highchairs and strollers and carrying kids. I find myself feeling nostalgic for some of these things that are long gone sometimes.

Although I appreciate where we are now. I am enjoying the kids having more independence. I am enjoying relating to them on a different level.

But damn is it going by fast!!!

I definitely have regrets. And I’ll see an occasional video show up on Facebook from five years ago and it’s scary how quickly I forget. I forget what the kids looked like and what they smelled like and what they sounded like. I know that happens.  But has it happened more for me because I’ve been letting so many opportunities with the kids pass me by?

I spend a lot of time with my kids. I mean, I’m the one who is usually home with them.

But I feel like I’ve been absent for a lot of that time.

I’m in the same place as them, but I’m not really present.

You know, like the stereotypical husband sitting across the table from the wife, reading the newspaper, and not listening to a thing she ways and just uh-huh-ing her without even looking up from the paper or actually listening to a word she says.

So there was that realization.

Then there is the fact that some of the kids are having issues with behavior. They happen to be the kids I spend the least amount of time with.

Maybe it’s just coincidental, but I don’t think so.

I am certain there is a direct correlation between kids behavior and the amount of or quality of interaction between them and their parents.

My kids need my attention. My focused, undivided attention. They don’t necessarily need hours and hours of it.

But they sure as shit need more than they’ve been getting.

So for the first time in years, I made the conscious decision to spend a significant amount of quality time with my kids while they were home last week.

And something ironic happened.

I didn’t get sick of them. I didn’t find myself getting pissed and annoyed and short on patience.

Don’t get me wrong. They did stupid and infuriating stuff. They still tried to annoy the shit out of each other and me. The are kids. That’s what they do sometimes.

But they started doing it less and less.

I spent more quality time with the kids than I have in a long, long time. And instead of me getting to the end of our vacation and feeling exhausted and exasperated and desperate for a break, I felt kind of sad that the break was over. I could have used a couple more days.

What the fuck?

I have never, ever felt that way.

I have spent every vacation for the last couple years desperate for the kids to go back to school so I could have a break.

And the kids (who are usually at least a little bit excited to go back to school and see their friends) were bummed, too.

Number 4 had no desire to go back to school. That’s never happened before.

At least ten times last week, she just looked at me — not in response to going on one of our adventures or in an effort to get something but just out of the blue — and she said, I love you, Mom.

Whoa.

I guess I am having one of Oprah’s proverbial light bulb moments.

I’m not going to stop working, drop everything I want to do, start homeschooling and construct a huge family bed.

But it’s clear that my priorities need to shift. Or at least the way I structure my time does.

Last week the kids and I had one of the best weeks we’ve ever had together. Possibly, the best week we’ve ever had.

I know we did some fun things. But it wasn’t really the fun things that made the break so great.

It was the fact that we did them together.

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The solution is simple.

Yesterday I lost it on the kids a little bit.

They deserved it.

But I felt bad about the way I handled the situation later.

And when it comes down to it, their behavior isn’t really their fault.

It’s mine.

Because while I know they are capable of behaving better, they aren’t.

And when they aren’t behaving better on a consistent basis and I continue to get angry about it but don’t change the way I am parenting them, the problem doesn’t really lie with them.

I know what I’m doing wrong.

It’s very simple.

I’m not available for them when they get home from school.

That’s it.

That’s all it boils down to.

It’s not that I need to be doing something in particular with them when they get home.

But I need to be available.

I need to be showered and dressed and prepared and organized for practice and dinner before they walk in the door and I need to be physically in the same room and making eye contact after they walk in the door.

I need to be present for them. Not for hours on end.

But I need to be fully accessible when they walk in the door.

And I haven’t been.

So that’s step one.

Gotta go.

Only 32 minutes until Number 3 and 4 get home and I still haven’t showered. 🙂

 

 

Check out this super cute set and and tons of other cute stuff out at Betsy Boo’s Boutique — my fave place to shop online!

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Reality Check

Black Friday.

I don’t get it.

In fact, I find it unsettling.

If you haven’t seen the clips of people acting like complete animals, tackling, punching, slapping, and literally wrestling boxes right out of little kids’ hands, Google “Black Friday Fights.”

You’ll see what I’m talking about.

It’s disturbing.

How do you go from giving thanks and sitting around a table with the people that you love the most to beating the shit out of random strangers on the official first day of the holiday season? The season of love and hope and miracles?

What the fuck is wrong with people?

We have such limited opportunities to be with our families. To spend time with them.

I’ve never been a shopper. So I don’t really get the excitement over shopping to begin with.

But today, as I was reading Facebook posts from people who were going out at 4 a.m. this morning for round two of Black Friday shopping, I found myself thinking about what Number 4 asked me yesterday.

“Mom,  what did you get for Christmas when you were a kid?”

And you know what?

I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember much of anything.

The only thing I remembered was the year my parents got us an Atari.

(For all you youngsters, this was back in the mid seventies to eighties and that was one of the first video game systems in existence).

We were the last of my friends to have gotten one.

And I remember my parents telling me a couple years later that on Christmas Eve, before they wrapped up the box, they opened it up and they played Space Invaders until two o’clock in the morning.

I thought that was funny.

And then for the whole vacation, my brother and I played Space Invaders and Combat until we both had blisters on our thumbs that hurt so bad we finally had to cut ourselves off.

But other than that, I couldn’t tell you anything I got for Christmas when I was a kid.

Like I said before, I love a good deal.

But buying stuff because it’s a really good deal is still just accumulating more stuff that in the end, isn’t going to make you any happier. Not even if it’s a big ass screen TV that you got for $300 off the regular price.

I have a friend who is spending the holidays without his wife and the mother of his son. She passed away a couple years ago from leukemia. I don’t think they were probably the Black Friday kind of shopping family back when she was healthy.

But I also bet the most meaningful gift he and his late wife gave to his son wasn’t anything that was purchased in a big box from Walmart at 3 a.m. on Black Friday.

I would wager money that it was memories of time they spent together.

I know Black Friday is pretty much over now.

I spent mine with my kids. I didn’t buy one single thing.

But I did go on a walk in the woods with my kids.

That’s something I’d love to do with them every year the day after Thanksgiving.

And I think that’s something they’ll look back on and actually remember when they are older.

Fondly.

If you are about to head out on round three of Black Friday, maybe you could reconsider.

Maybe instead of rushing back out into the madness, you could spend the night with your family.

The biggest gift you can give them is the gift of your time and attention.

Because I guarantee they’re going to remember that in the years to come.

But that Hatchimal you’d be willing to tackle someone for?

By next year it will be old news.

And in twenty years?

There’s a very good chance it won’t even be a distant memory.

 


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