Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans
It’s difficult to write from the heart. To say what I really think and feel. Even when writing just for me, I find myself editing. Putting restraints on myself. Making it sound just a little bit better than it actually is. Why do I do that? Who am I trying to persuade?
It’s like that nonsense question ”How are you?” when you meet someone. Do you really expect them to spill their guts all over the supermarket floor? To break down in tears at the library? No, I didn’t think so. You’re just being polite. Expecting an answer along the lines of ”Everything is fine.” Or perhaps a ”Well, you know, keeping myself busy!” What kind of a stupid answer is that?
Everyone is busy, including the children, but there’s no competition where the ones with fewest gaps in their calendar wins the grand prize. Sometimes, though, it feels like this race is constantly making it’s way into every conversation. As if having a busy schedule is something to be proud of and brag about.
Of course you’re going to be busy if your kid goes to ballet, plays the violin (both individual lessons and orchestra), and plays soccer. Multiply that by 3, since a lot of people (at least in Sweden) seem to go for that third kid nowadays (myself included). Seems like 3 is the new 2. So the product of that equation is BUSY!
Not to mention that a lot of these extracurricular activities start before work has ended. Having a full time job is completely impossible if your kid is going to make it to all of these activities. And then it’s usually the mothers who cut down on their time to take on these responsibilities.
What if you simply don’t let your child participate in any extracurricular activities? Then you can work full time if you want to and also avoid all the hustle in the evenings. That’s fine by me. Just beware that this is not considered the norm and your family might come off as a bit strange. But who cares what other people think. Do whatever works best for you and your family.
Children in kindergarten (up to age 5) don’t really have a need for extracurricular activities. They are usually way to tired in the evenings and cannot cope with activities at this hour without cracking in the dressing room afterwards. They are usually better off spending time with their parents. They are surrounded by other children all day and get a lot of stimuli. Relaxing in the evening with just a parent can be a relief. Perhaps we should hold off extracurricular activities until the child asks for it themselves.
And don’t forget your own activities such as book club, yoga and cross fit. You have to take care of yourself. You are entitled to your own time, just for you! Now that’s a new phenomenon as well. At least for mothers. Time for yourself.
But why do you need your own time so frantically? What are you searching for? Don’t worry, your children will grow up faster than you think and soon you’ll have more alone time than you’ve bargained for.
With small children in the family there isn’t really any alone time. My escape is usually the library (a.k.a. the bathroom), where I can hopefully get 5–10 minutes for myself until there’s a scream from one of the children: ”Stop it!” Followed by an indignant cry: ”Mommy!” Seriously, some days they cannot stop pestering each other.
I admire single parents, I don’t understand how they do it. If I feel that I’ve had it with the children, I can walk away and my husband takes over and vice versa. Sometimes just the switching of parent calms the conflict. As a single parent, there’s no such option.
In Sweden, children leave the bird’s nest at age 19. By that time, you as a parent, will have spent 90% of the time that you’ll get with them. Think about that for a moment.
Once they move out, for the rest of your life, those precious moments of visiting, they only sum up to a meagre 10%.
If your kids don’t move too far away, perhaps you can get to see them and possible grand kids a little bit more. But people tend to spread out, travel more, and if you’re unlucky, they will meet someone from the other side of the world and before you know it, they’ve decided to stay!
Of course, you’re happy that they have found the love of their life, but why do they have to settle down as far away as possible?! Theoretically, you could move as well, but it’s a lot of effort to uproot 50 years of existence and move across the globe. These things are easier when you’re 25 and have no strings attached. Also, chances are that you have kids scattered all around the globe, so how do you choose who to move closer to? Instead you stay put where you are and try to visit at least once a year, or maybe every second. You use Skype to talk to your kids and grand kids and that’s great, but it’s not the same as actually being there.
Perhaps not every evening should be filled with soccer training or orchestra rehearsals. Leave room for some slack, and the chance to spend time with your children, really talk to them.
I listened to a talk by some child psychologist who said that if we give each child 15 minutes of undivided attention each day they will be much better off. Well that’s easy, you might think to yourself. I thought so too when I heard it. But telling your kids what to pack in the gym bag for next day doesn’t count. It has to be a dialogue. And if you have several kids, the minutes start to add up and suddenly it’s not so easy to squeeze in 15 minutes per day in between making dinner, swimming lessons and home work. And it should be one-on-one also, no interruptions from annoying siblings. Take advantage of those car drives back and forth to the activities, they are usually a golden opportunity to talk to your child.
Try to understand what goes on in that little head of theirs. They have a lot of thoughts swirling around that they really do need to talk about. But asking them at the dinner table how their day was, isn’t going to give you that much information. It’s like that nonsense question ”How are you?”. Usually, it takes a bit more probing to get a more fulfilling and accurate answer.
My oldest child is 10 years old. So basically, I have spent half the time that I’ll get with him. Hopefully, I’ll be around when he’s the same age as me. There are so many things I want to talk to him about. So many lessons that I’ve only learned lately myself that I wish to share with him so that he will learn them earlier. Help to equip him for life and all it’s surprises, both good and bad.
Through helping him define himself, I also shape my own personality. You have to lead by example. There’s no other way. If I want to him to be helpful towards others, I also have to be helpful. If I tell him to not give up and keep going when he’s learning a new skill, who am I to give up immediately when something isn’t working for me?
Take a look in your calendar and clear some space for spending time with your children or doing whatever else you feel like.
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
Life is what happens every day, not only on the weekends and holidays. And as you may have noticed, it goes by pretty quickly.