We are four weeks into summer break, and I am learning some things that work. We have had two entirely new adventures and I remembered to take pictures! My goal for the summer, besides going a few places and continuing to grow as a mom, is to make a photo book to document the things we did and the people we spent time with. So far, the photo book idea is providing great accountability and encouragement to both go places and to get photos.
Our two new things were a visit to Jones Gap (with friends) and a visit to the Carl Sandburg home to see the goats (with friends, also). I would not have done either trip alone, so I’m grateful to have friends who invited and encouraged me. Thank you, Hilary! Thank you, Marianne! My kids thoroughly enjoyed both places and want to go back.
After the Jones Gap trip, I journaled my reflections on that day and identified three things that made the outing seem easier.
1-Plan extra margin. I knew what time we needed to leave home to meet our friends that morning, and I also knew I wanted to work out and shower and get breakfast for the kids and make lunches and give Story a Dramamine and load the van. I figured out what time to set my alarm, and then I moved the time thirty minutes earlier. I am so glad I did because I used all the extra time and felt less rushed and stressed.
2-Enlist the kids’ help. Why, yes, they CAN get their own water bottles, change of clothes, towels, and shoes. Duh. I have known this, but I have continued to micromanage more than I should. Who cares that they all packed their own separate bag when I have would have consolidated? It was great for me to give them greater control.
3-(Here’s the biggie:) Decide to like what you don't like.
Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin talks in one of her books about changing the way you go about the things you don’t enjoy. You basically just tell yourself the opposite, and it’s surprising how well it works. In the past, I would have said to myself I don’t like making kids’ lunches to take for a picnic. But on the Jones Gap day, I practiced Gretchen’s strategy for the first time. I told myself I do like making kids’ lunches for a picnic. With that mindset, it actually wasn’t so bad (also because I had margin and didn’t have to rush to do it). Another example: When we got home from Jones Gap, I had to go outside and clean the kids’ shoes. Instead of telling myself I don't like cleaning off muddy sandals with the hose, I said, Oh, I do like spraying off muddy sandals. Look how clean!
I have grown in the past month in other ways, too, unrelated to the trips we’ve taken.
1-I learned how to use Hoopla (thank you, Ash!) and I listened to Brené Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting.” It was so good! This is the sort of thing one might listen to again and again and it not get old. I need Brené’s voice in my head.
2-I am learning more and more about the Enneagram through Annie F. Down’s podcast series “EnneaSummer2019.” I am as much of a ONE as I’ve ever been, but I am learning to celebrate all the other numbers better and to appreciate God’s creativity in making us humans all so interesting.
3-I know more about Steve Jobs than I ever thought I would. Reading (and loving) Small Fry by his daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs led me on the quest to read the long and extremely detailed Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. Meanness aside, I am a fan.
4-I learned that lice isn’t as scary as I always imagined it would be. This was not on any of our summer bucket lists, but evidently it became my turn to face another fear. Fortunately, Sailor was the only one of us who got it, although we never did track down where the lice came from, as no one else at her preschool reported it. It’s been several weeks since I found the bugs in her hair and took her directly to the lice clinic, which saved my life. I’m finally starting to move out of the trauma phase into “Been there, done that.” Also, as the sign on the wall in this photo says, the experience of lice helped me to slow down and take a good look at my kids. That’s always a good thing.
5-This last lesson is the one I’m most proud of, even though it’s been the most difficult. I have been practicing making room for Story’s emotions, rather than trying to turn them off or push them out of sight, and it is making a noticeable difference in the climate of our home in the moments when I can remember to put these ideas into practice.
In recent weeks, I have discerned that one of my biggest triggers with Story is when she has strong emotional reactions to situations. Through the inner work I’ve done the past year, of which reflective journaling has been a crucial part, I have set my sights on simply letting Story’s emotions exist. Just letting them BE in the room with us, making a wide space around Story for her to feel and to express her feelings. I don’t have to fix anything. I can observe the emotion and say, simply, “I see that you feel upset right now.” That’s it. It is a big step for me to take this little step, but I have done it. A few times. With good results.
It feels like a miracle.
I am working now on the next baby step, which is to not get angry or withdraw. So not only am I letting the emotion be in the room with us, but I’m also deciding that I will continue to be in the room with Story and her feelings. I learned from Brené Brown’s talk that compassion is sitting in someone else’s darkness with them and not needing to fix it. That is where I am with Story. It feels good, but it's not easy and it’s not over.
There have been more moments of peace. Thanks be to God for helping me, and to writing for giving me room to process this journey. As usual, I feel grateful and hopeful. Also, summer makes everything better.