I start our family out every September with such verve. Fresh backpacks, new outfits, a variety of healthy lunches mapped out for every day of the week. It’s a Type A personality dream sequence.
I promise myself we will not overschedule. I will limit the kids to one after-school activity. We’ll come home from school and jump in the pool when it’s hot…and cozy up and drink tea when it’s cold.
Come Spring, we will spend hours frolicking in the blue bells like proper Texans. The year stretches in front of me with open possibility that this year I will juggle it better, healthier, and more sociably.
Somewhere around Halloween, the cracks in this plan begin to show. Suddenly my two children have multiplied in one girl scout, one track team member, one baseball player, one horseback rider, one artist and two gymnasts. And, I may have signed up for a few too many things with PTA. Right, and I have a full-time job running a start up.
Pretty soon fall festivals, birthday parties, holidays and science fair projects are upon us. And then somehow it is February, and we all get the flu. In the middle of some feverish and zen-like bleaching of the bathroom for the fiftieth time, I realize that I’ve sort of enjoyed our family not leaving the house for a week. This is my sure sign that I’ve let our “busy season” morph into a too-busy life.
I don’t want my kids to be busy kids. I want them to be comfortable in the inevitable spaces in their lives when they have only themselves…and no where to be and nothing to do. I’ve seen their creativity (and happiness) bloom in those spaces. I’ve seen epic ninja battles fought on our trampoline. I’ve seen fairy gardens get planted and grow. I see kids who look forward to spending time with just themselves and a good book, kids who can fall back on the peace that comes with a rich inner landscape.
Were you raised in a culture of achievement? For me, it’s my easiest trap. It feels so good to check through that list of accomplishments and think they’ll add up to a happy family. When I look in that freshly sanitized bathroom mirror, I want to see a woman who isn’t so busy organizing tomorrow that she can’t enjoy the beauty of today’s entropy. It shouldn’t take the flu to make it ok for us to have some space to just be.
So how do I dig this little family out? It’s time to subtract from our daily equation. Time to use my least favorite word: no.
I will let the things we’ve signed up for run their course, because (queue my father-in-laws’s voice echoing in my head) Vickeys are not quitters. But we might skip a practice when we have too much homework, or if we just really need a nap.
I will be gentler with myself and my family. If it has to get done, I will embrace that it doesn’t all have to get done by me. I am lucky enough to have some resources to get more help with:
– weekday dinners: our Dinner Elf comes every Tuesday and makes 3 dinners that hold us through till Friday.
– cleaning: thank you Home Joy, for bringing the amazing Ana into my life. She obsesses about cleaning my white tile floors better than I do.
– grocery shopping: Instacart, I love you deeply for bringing me ginger ale when I am throwing up and saving me from shopping for school party supplies while my kid is on crutches.
Mid-year resolution: I will not be so busy that I roll right into the next season before I’ve had the chance to notice the beauty and fleetingness of this one.
Nicole Vickey is co-founder of Dinner Elf, a company that helps busy families sit down to home-cooked dinners.