Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Ugh. I’m awful with the small stuff. And as a parent, I’ve come to see that the small stuff isn’t small at all – it feels like it takes up about 96% of my time with the kids. Fretting over whether to allow that extra cookie. Mediating a dispute over who gets to let the dog out. (Puppy is still a novelty – I know it won’t be long before this dispute turns into something else entirely.) Making lunch and getting frustrated that my oldest doesn’t eat sandwiches (who can expect to get through 12 years of primary and secondary schooling without eating sandwiches??).
You can see how these things can get me spinning. And sadly, this is the kind of stuff that I’m really bad at. Yes, I know my Committee tends to kick into overdrive, and I realize their feedback isn’t always accurate, but… I think I’m objectively terrible at these kinds of small decisions. Which is particularly unfortunate because like I said, it feels like the vast majority of my parenting time is spent in this zone.
But the other 4% of the time? The big, heavy conversations? Those are some of the few times that I feel like, “Hey – I can do this mothering gig after all. I can even be pretty good at it.” When my 10 year old daughter M wants to talk about her body and ask me about things she’s heard at school, I feel myself almost relax inside as if to say, “Yep, you got this one. No worries, mama.” When my then 5 year old daughter E wants to know why one of her shoes has a special heel on it, I can explain how one leg is shorter than the other, and she will one day need surgery – and I feel okay with that talk. I feel connected. I feel confident.
It’s no small accomplishment for me to feel comfortable in my own parenting skin. But these moments are few and far between. Not that I need to be having the “sex talk” every day :), but it would be nice to have more of these moments of feeling confident. Not second-guessing each word that comes out of my mouth. On a good day, I can tell myself that these “big” conversations are the ones that the kids will remember – but I really don’t think I buy that. I don’t think my E will remember me showing her how her legs are uneven and answering her questions in a calm, practical way. I think the things that will stick with them are the day-t0-day experiences and interactions with me – and those are not my best times.
Tomorrow is a good example of how the small stuff takes over these bigger moments for me.
My daughter M has asked if she and I could spend some one-on-one time together. The two younger kids ask quite regularly for “time with Mommy”, and I do that, but M recently told me that she doesn’t ask because she sees that her brother and sister are fighting over who gets to have time with me first, and she knows I have a lot to do, so…she doesn’t ask. All of this came tumbling out the other night at bedtime. I thankfully wasn’t as irritated then as I have been lately, and I told her that I would love to spend time with her.
We agreed that we would go shopping tomorrow, to scout out some back to school clothes for her first year in middle school (grade 6). M then went on to say that she has this vision of us sipping milkshakes as we walk along shopping. But then she said that sometimes she has these visions of how things will be, and then if it doesn’t happen quite that way, she’s a bit disappointed at first but she realizes it’s still great anyway.
The whole milkshake thing threw me into a panic of sorts – and it is such a perfect example of the small stuff. Should I always do things to match her vision even if getting milkshakes at 10am seems crazy? Does she end up disappointed by her visions a lot? The milkshake place she likes is nowhere near the mall where we would be shopping, so does that mean I have to drive there first, and waste all that time? What if I don’t want a milkshake because that kind of thing upsets my stomach, and on top of that, I’m trying to drop a few pounds?
Do you see how I did that? I took something that was good and felt natural and confident – connecting with my daughter, realizing that she needs that time with me and helping her to feel special and wanted – and I took away that comfort and confidence by fretting about a stupid milkshake. The milkshake is clearly the small stuff here, right? But I’m afraid that my fretting about it will destroy any positive feelings about my mothering that I could have had from the whole experience. Not to mention that it will detract from my enjoyment of the time with M – especially since she will pick up on the irritation that bubbles up when I’m not sure what to do with these kinds of minor decisions.
(It’s worth noting here that it probably sounds horrible to say that I’m worried that I’ll destroy the good mothering feeling I had about something – but my confidence in the mothering arena is pretty low, and a constant source of trouble for me, so I have to work on building that up.)
So what do I do about the milkshake? Just tell myself that whatever I decide to do – one milkshake, no milkshake, two milkshakes – it will still be a great opportunity to connect with M and feel good as a mother? That sounds so ridiculously easy to do but I know it would be next to impossible for me to “just tell myself” that it’s ok no matter what I decide.
Where is my thought process breaking down here? What can I do to keep the small stuff where it belongs, and not let it eclipse the important stuff?