(From my sister Ruth Chang, the most amazing mom, sister, teacher, and friend I know.)
“I can’t believe I’m this upset over spilled milk.” My head is fully aware that I’m overreacting, but the rage that overcomes me is uncontrollable. The look of fear in their eyes makes me realize I really seriously am overreacting. Why am I yelling about this? Calm down. Take a breath. Breathe…. Thank goodness I calm down quickly enough, but I’m still upset. We clean up the mess and the rest of the day goes on pretty smoothly, as my two daughters are walking on eggshells for the rest of the night. Later as I’m lying in bed, guilt overwhelms me. Why am I so angry all the time? Spilled milk? I am the clumsiest person I know—I, of all people, should know that it was an accident! Why am I so angry? My life focus is my children! Everything I do is for my children! Then why do I make their lives so miserable? Okay. I know why, but I don’t want to face it. I know the answer. Simply put—it’s because I’m too dang busy making sure they get everything.
When I was in elementary school, my parents couldn’t afford a whole lot for my sisters and I. However, for having four children in 5 years and living off of one income, I have to give credit to my parents for trying. They made sure that we played piano and had swimming lessons. That right there meant pretty “well-rounded.” But I had always wanted to do gymnastics and dance and soccer, and lots of other stuff but we couldn’t afford it and we probably did not have the time either. So, once I had my own children, I was determined that they were going to get EVERYTHING. So I enrolled my daughter in piano lessons (of course) and swimming lessons, and gymnastics, and karate—because she needed self-defense obviously! I am part of a homeschool preschool co-op for my second daughter (so I teach every few weeks) and I am room mom for my first daughter. I also babysit 3 children regularly and I’m the children’s ministry coordinator at my church. Oh, and of course, my daughter is a girl scout, and I’m the head leader of her troop. And of course, we have lots of friends and family to hang out with, so there’s playdates here and birthdays there, and playdates, birthdays everywhere. However, EVERYTIME that Parks and Rec activity guide comes along, I start panicking—my girls aren’t in dance or gymnastics, or mommy and me this and that, musical munchkins, etc. So I start planning my schedule—where can I squeeze in another class/activity???
Well, at the end of the day, guess who is tired and grumpy from being so busy? ME!!! But it’s all for my children! I want to make sure they have everything! But, that night after yelling over spilled milk, I began to wonder… was I sacrificing my children’s happiness in order to give them all of this? At the end of the day, would my children rather have done everything with an angry ambitious mom, or would they be happier with a simpler life? If I’m doing all of this for my children, shouldn’t we be enjoying one another’s company? My daughters always look at me in fear and my eyebrows are constantly creased into a frown. Am I maybe just TOO busy? Even if it’s for my children, is it maybe too much?????
A friend of mine told me that her daughter’s birthday was coming up but that the little girl didn’t want a party or anything! Gasp!!! So the next time I saw the little girl I asked her why she didn’t want a party. She told me, “I’ve never had a day of just sitting and watching TV.” And I said, “Wait. So you’d rather stay home and watch TV all day instead of having a party with friends and presents!!!???” and she smiled at me and said, “That’s right!” Could it be that our children don’t, in fact, want everything? Could it be that they are okay with not being stimulated every second of every day? I was in utter shock. I realized then that maybe I could slow down. Maybe I too could just take it down a notch and it would be okay—that my children would still be well adjusted balanced children without being busy every day of the year.
I didn’t think I could actually cut anything out of my life, but I decided that if it didn’t make us BOTH happy, I would. Since then, only a few things were cut from our lives. The rest, I learned how to ask for help from other moms. I learned how to change my attitude and to really think—does this make us both happy. Things have slowed down in our house, believe it or not, but more so I think my attitude. If I’m doing this for my children, I want them to feel love from it—not busy-ness and stress. Only love and joy.
It’s a hard lesson—every time that activity guide from park and recreation comes in the mail, I go through it and want my daughters involved in all the classes and activities, but then I remember—some days kids just want to do nothing! Slow down. Less is more.