By Guest Blogger Laura Simon
As I write this, I am preparing to uproot my family from our hometown of over a decade to move to the Winston-Salem area. In addition to my full-time job as a teacher, I have ongoing freelance projects, a house to sell, a house to buy, movers to hire, and a whole house of memories to pack up and load onto a truck. Oh – and I guess my three kids probably need food and clean laundry, and more than a little assurance that this is an adventure and not a bad dream.
Frankly, I could use a little assurance myself.
When we bought our house in Kentucky, we were primarily captivated by the enormous fenced backyard. I could see our children playing outside for hours on end, pretending to sail a pirate ship from the clubhouse, climbing the enormous silver maple, and picking sugar snap peas from the garden. I planned to shoo them outside as soon as they inhaled their breakfasts, serve them lunch on the patio, and possibly invite them in for dinner before sending them straight to the tub. And that has happened…a handful of times.
The truth is, there were a lot of days we could have been outside and weren’t. Sometimes because I was too tired or busy to supervise, sometimes because it was easier to turn on the TV. I work hard in and out of the home; I gave myself a pass on the outdoor time because we had a whole lifetime to enjoy the yard in our forever home. What’s one day, right? And now I’m pricing companies to break down our playset for the move, finding a family to take over our trampoline, and wishing we’d made the most of our massive backyard instead of taking it for granted.
I’ve been giving myself a lot of free passes lately: tons of TV while I make phone calls and respond to emails, processed meals instead of the homemade we are used to eating, and perhaps…just perhaps…I let one child wear the same pair of underwear three days in a row because the rest of his options were still in the dryer.
Moving is hard, and I’m doing everything I can to stay afloat. The thing that bothers me is that I’ve also been giving myself a free pass on the harder parts of parenting: there’s been a lot of angry outbursts, impatience, and words that aren’t exactly kind…from me. I’ve been excusing my behavior because I’m exhausted, worried, and unsure of what to do next. “We’ll be settling into our new home at the end of May,” I tell myself. “Then I’ll be able to relax and enjoy parenting. I’ll calm down then.”
That’s not true, though, and lately I’ve been realizing that now is perhaps the most critical time to be the parent I want to be. Tomorrow does not come with a guarantee. This is when I model to my children what it means to work hard, to be patient, to ask for help, to make time for what is important. Now is the critical time to read that extra story, listen to that (totally irrational) complaint, and hold that cuddle for a few extra minutes. The parent I am in the hard, stressful times in life is truly the parent I am. I may not be making Pinterest cupcakes, but I am teaching my children how to behave in times of crisis. Right now, my behavior doesn’t differ much from my four-year-old’s tantrums. It is time for me to shift my priorities.
I’m a planner; it is one of my biggest strengths, but it has also become my greatest weakness. I’m so busy planning for our future in a new state that I’m missing out on the right now, glorious backyard and all.
When my family settles into life in North Carolina, I do hope things will slow down. I am excited to explore the community that so many of you know and love and to spend more time at home with my own children. I also know that every stage in life comes with a unique set of challenges, and our time in the Triad will be no different.
Tomorrow might be very different than what I’ve planned, and if I want to be the parent my kids need, I have to start now.
How do you stay focused on your family in stressful situations? I’d love to hear your ideas!