Something I've been thinking a lot about recently is how it's never to late to make a right turn. Or do a total one-eighty. I'm speaking about parenting here, specifically the idea that you can be a family that does this or that for years and then decide to never do either of those things again.
You read about those kinds of shifts a lot because they're fairly unusual. I'm sure I've read multiple blog posts, for example, by and about families that were avid TV watchers before getting rid of every television set in the house.
I always find those kinds of stories inspirational but not on a practical level. Sea changes just aren't my forte. I'm more of a small changes kind of person. Like I won't eat dessert on Tuesdays or I'll do one extra around-the-house chore per day - pretty lame stuff compared to some folks I know who decide to make a change and go for it whole hog.
But I am who I am so small changes it is. And ever since coming back from my epic roadtrip with the kids, I have to say I'm feeling pretty dissatisfied with things. Not to mention overwhelmed and confused about a lot pieces of life that were just a given when summer started. Add in the fact that I'm so tired and it's not so great inside my head.
So time to make some changes. I kept trying to come up with some kind of whole family manifesto but that's too much commitment for me. I came up with these ideas instead.
Beginning bedtime at exactly 7:30 p.m. Unless there are special circumstances, starting any later than that results in everything from tears to insomnia to yelling (on both sides of the age gap). The mister is probably going to push back but I'm the one who deals with most of the next-day consequences of tired kiddos and frankly, I'm so over being called a butt by my three-year-old.
Having the kids do a quick cleanup before the mister gets home. I expect that on any given day only one or the other will pick up their toys with enthusiasm but for now grudging participation is good enough. Yesterday my daughter was the neatness enforcer and today it was my son but I still did most of the heavy lifting. I guess I'm leading by example?
Limiting screen time and re-linking screen time to good behavior. My son would watch TV 24/7 if allowed to and my daughter is pretty well addicted to her iPad. And you know what? It's just so darn easy to say, sure, go watch a show because if they're watching a show I can do whatever I want to do! Which is unfortunately usually work. But I recognize it's not good for any of us to ignore the reality of each other.
Deciding what work-life balance actually means to me. Right now my work situation is so unpredictable. A lot of people rely on me for a lot of things but who they are and how much work I actually have on my plate changes from month to month. That makes it hard to commit to any resolutions involving how much time I spend with my kids or rehearsing for dance. And on that note, is dance work or life or both?
Kissing my husband hello at the end of his day. Like every day. If you're a mama you probably get it when I say that by the end of most days I'm still pretty "touched out". Like I've been touched and touched and touched and touched today so hands off, thankyouverymuch. But presumably no one has touched my husband at work - ahem - so he deserves better than a pat on the shoulder and a mumbled hello.
Eating dinner with the kids more. My first impulse is to wait until my husband gets home from work and then the kids are in bed so we can eat together but that means we're eating super late and that cleanup goes even later. Which means we get to bed later and the cycle of tiredness goes on and on and on. Eating with the kids doesn't guarantee an early bedtime but at least it's a chance to teach my little animals some table manners.
As you can imagine, some of these small changes will be easier than others. Kissing? No problem. Figuring out how I ought to spend my time? That's not so simple. Actually it's really, really hard. And the whole screen time issue I expect to tackle on a day to day basis.
What's probably going to go unresolved is the sleepiness factor. With everything I have to do each day, it feels impossible to get to bed at a reasonable hour even when my little ones have gone to bed when they ought to. But on our trip, I frequently went to bed with them - late for them, but pleasantly early for me, and my son actually slept in quite a bit.
I actually got kind of used to not feeling tired, which means that my newly acquired sleep debt is just about the worst. This alone may be making life appear bleaker than usual. Tonight I hope to get to bed nice and early, though, so it could be that I'll wake up in the morning with a fresh outlook and plenty of energy.
You never know!