I had big plans this summer.
The break from school was going to be fun and memorable. Oh yes indeedy.
But it was also going to include a lot of learning time as well.
I set plans into motion early. The kids would go to camp but when we came home and after dinner and clean up, we’d take time to do fun learning games, including the rather large homework packet they were sent home with on the last day of Kindergarten.
My first learning plan was too vague, I thought. They weren’t buying it.
So, I spiced it up and made it more fun, which helped a little but they still weren’t buying it.
“Don’t try to steer the river,” says Deepak Chopra.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be,” says Lao Tzu.
Better than both of those quotes is this one:
It is not action or effort that we must surrender; it is self-will, and this is terribly difficult. You must do your best constantly, yet never allow yourself to become involved in whether things work out the way you want. ~ Eknath Easwaran
My daughters’ rivers are flowing in new and unpredictable directions and I can’t do a thing about it. They have changed too much. Things that used to excite them no longer grab their interest.
Instead of playing a game with me after dinner, they want to wrestle with each other.
Instead of arts and crafts, they want to do cartwheels and backbends and play leap frog.
Instead of helping me in the kitchen, they want me to call them when it’s ready.
The river they follow is the only one they know, the only one they can follow. I can only float beside them, bobbing along with the many twists and turns that are ahead of us.
And, strangely, I am at peace with this.
Here are some ways to follow your own family’s flow.
Study it. Before you implement a new schedule or a change in the rules, study what is currently happening. What is the natural flow and order of things now? If you change that, is it worth the stresses that may come with it?
Let go. Perhaps dinnertime hasn’t been working out. The kids are crying. You can’t seem to find the time you need to make the food. What would happen if you surrendered and let go? Just toss together some cheese, bread, fruit and veggies? Stop trying to force anything at all. Forget your agenda for a single day.
Lower your expectations. As a control freak, it’s hard for me to sometimes have to give up on the expectatations I have created for my family. I’m OK with having no expectations of other people but I have plenty for how I want things to roll each day and when that fails, or appears like it’s going to fail, I can get rather cranky. The best days are the ones where I have no set agenda of my own and just go along with whatever comes along that day. Those days are the ones when I actually sneak in a nap or reading a book, too. The children are fine. Win-Win.
Go with the flow. Ride the river. Sneak in what you need to sneak in as you float along. Things will get done, just not on your rigid timeline. It’s better not to fight it. Find natural moments to work in good conversations, reading aloud and teachable moments. Find natural moments to play together and work together to tackle the chores. Parenting is a lot like waiting for the right time to step onto the down escalator. Timing is absolutely everything for a smooth ride.
Accept imperfection. Some days just don’t turn out the way you wanted them to. Some days you’re just picking up the pieces of the chaos. That’s motherhood. That’s parenthood. That’s life with children.
Keep perspective. Playing and having fun is always at the top of my list of things to do today with my children — even more than dishes and cleaning up. I just have to fit the other things into my free time after the kids are in bed. The flow of a day with children is not always perfect but it’s always open and ripe with possibilities. Like tonight when we spontaneously went barefoot around our neighborhood playing follow the leader and I GOT TO BE THE LEADER! Be open to all the possibilities. As Kelly Rae says … be a possibilitarian.
How has your family’s flow changed as your children grow up? How have you coped with those changes? Any advice to offer?