I forgot about the pressures that come with having the children back in school. Especially as all my children (including my baby) started at a new school this year. There’s all sorts of expectations and pressures: making sure everyone is wearing the right thing on the right day, hair done with ribbons, notes to read, healthy lunches, homework, library and sport days, making sure everyone is doing okay, interactions with teachers and juggling extracurricular activities. Franky, it’s stressful right now: I’m rather cranky and short with the kids.
It’s all normal stuff really, but sometimes this feeling creeps in, and it’s an unspoken voice saying, “You’re not doing enough; being enough. You’re not quite reaching the mark Kelly.” Because I can’t reach the invisible line I can see, even if I stand on my toes.
I recognise this voice, and I’m reminded to come back to what is real in my family, what is true, as a way to rally myself against the relentless tide of shoulds and musts. There are a few ways I do that.
1. Remember to give it time
I wrote a post last year, almost a year to date, about having no time to be fun with my kids. And, then about a year before that, I wrote this post: When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough. I’m not scared of hard work and I probably have pretty high expectations of myself and those around me, so sometimes I fall into the trap of trying to fix things too quickly without allowing for adjustment time. I just want things to be right…right now! So it was good for me to reread my post from a year ago, and the year after that, to help me see this is a pretty normal feeling for me at the start of a school year…so be a little more gracious as we all get used to this, Kelly.
2. Talk about it
My mother raised me to talk: to be open; to sort things out; to confront when needed; to communicate. One of the ways I keep myself grounded amongst the noise of modern life is to talk with people I trust. Talk about how I feel, ideas on how to adjust and juggle. It’s interesting, but I talk to help me sort things out in my own head rather than for advice. Which reminds me that listening without judgement is often all we need to do for each other.
3. Tweak, Change or Stop
Even in these early days, I recognise that some things aren’t working well and so I’m the in process of tweaking a little so the routine runs smoother. For example, having things organised for the children to do homework while we wait for piano lessons, and having dinner sorted on that day. I may have to drop some activities out of the week, and I’m open to that. If we don’t have enough time to regroup and play, time for relaxed conversations and rest, at least a few afternoons every week, we are doing too much. I’m still working on this and will continue to do so until I get it right…well at least more right than it is now.
4. Think of Good Things
I’m overwhelmed right now, and when I’m like this, it can be easy to look at everything around me with clouded glasses. I took a moment to think of good things that have happened over the last couple of weeks.
Mr 5 and Miss 7 were playing with Lego men. They asked me if they could take them in the car to continue their game, and I said yes. We went out to do some errands and I didn’t realise at the time, the children brought the Lego with them (usually I ask them to leave it in the car). As we were walking back to the car after the jobs were done, my son said to me,
“Mum, Gem lost the hat to my Lego man. But Mum, I’m not blaming her, because I shouldn’t have taken them out of the car so I’ll take responsibility for that.”
I almost laughed because such a big concept coming from such a little boy sounds comical.
That’s amazing, I thought.
My heart sings when I see my children kiss and cuddle each other goodbye at school. In the first week of school, my eldest daughter (11) told me she went past the Prep building and kissed her brother through the fence bars. She was with her friends at the time, and it makes me glad to see her so unaffected.
That’s wonderful, I thought.
Miss 9 put her arm on mine one afternoon.
“Mum, something is bothering me and I want to talk to you about it.”
“Sure, what is it?” I said.
“Well, you know when you do things sometimes, things maybe you shouldn’t, to fit in?”
“Yes, I can understand that.”
“Well, today I turned all the bubblers on at the same time and was playing with the lights in the toilets.”
Ha! I could think of worse things, but I wanted to see what she said about it.
She continued, “I sort of feel bad about it because it’s not good for the environment and just not the best thing to do.”
This girl of mine is the one who will pick up rubbish from the ground, fish out bags from lakes and study birds. Caring for the environment is important to her (as I hope it is with everyone in our family but I notice it especially with her).
I really didn’t need to say anything!
“I decided that tomorrow, I will stand up for myself and not to do things just because others are or to fit in,” she finished.
Good for you, little one. Don’t tell people what you think they should do, but always let your behaviour speak of what you believe is right.
That’s encouraging, I thought.
Rain! So much rain has fallen in Brisbane this week, and on this particular wet day, I decided to rock up to school in my polka-dot gumboots, joking on my facebook page that my children may disown me. I knew I didn’t have to worry.
Mr 5 was thrilled and I bought his gumboots with me too. Miss 9 saw me next, and gave me a total of 10 kisses, on alternate cheeks. Miss 7 didn’t even notice. And on the car home I asked Miss 12 if I embarrassed her with my gumboot wearing. She said immediately, “Nope. I love your gumboots.”
Yep. That’s my kids, I thought.
I must allow these rays of sunshine speak louder than the unspoken words in my head. Because what comes from within the family unit is truer than the voices pressing down from outside. And that’s the difference.