(Author’s note – This was supposed to be posted on January 1st and due to falling down a worm hole in time consisting of a 4 year old’s birthday, a traveling husband and a new found addiction to Game of Thrones it is now being posted on January 22nd).
The holiday season is behind us. I loved December and all of it’s sparkly excitement for Santa and his sleigh, Hanukkah and it’s eight nights, family feasts and ribbons and bows and well, you get the picture. But with every rite of passage, I’m happy to see the door close on December and have my faced turned towards the January sun and all that lies ahead in 2012. However, looking back on the past few weeks I’ve learned some great lessons that I’d thought I write about today.
First of all, I knew that my husband and I were going to have some very long, back to back holiday gatherings as both of our families are local and we celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah. Having been burned by the interfaith holiday fire in the past, I strategized to allocate at least 30-60 minutes a day of pure Me Time to recharge the battery. These lovely moments included naps (sans kids), baths with a magazine or book in hand, walks, even something as simple as removing chipped nail polish so I’d feel better looking at my hand while holding a glass of wine later that night. These self-care activities helped tremendously and I noticed how my stress-level reduced and my patience increased when I was subsequently pulled in a million directions. And what’s interesting about intentionally creating this Me Time is that I now want more of it. The days I take more time for myself, I thrive as a person, wife, mother and therapist. So now my focus is to build on this important area of my life, be aware of how I’m feeling when I am giving myself this time and sharing the feeling with those around me.
On New Year’s Eve my family was invited to spend the weekend with some great friends at their ranch. This is one of those magical pieces of land where you are surrounded by beautiful hills, vineyards, animals, vegetable gardens and most importantly, good people. I’ve hardly passed up an opportunity to high tail it up there with the kids to get away from the city, noise, traffic, etc. As some of you know, being away from home with young kids is unpredictable. They can either sleep great or give you hell all night. They can either be polite, well behaved angels or brazen little misfits who test the boundaries outside of their normal routine. Usually, it’s a combination of both. I’ve learned to drop my expectations and hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
One day I was watching my daughter run around on the deck with her friend while I was helping my son get out of the high chair. I noticed the girls had these wooden toy hammers (as I write this sentence I’m wondering why in the world they had these hammers in the first place) and were playfully pounding on the deck floor but a second later they were heading for the glass windows. As I jumped up to stop the girls I completely forgot about my son who a second later was tumbling out of his high chair onto the floor. His second fall of the day mind you. Yes, these things happen when a brain can’t process information quick enough but here’s the kicker, I wasn’t alone when all of this happened. My husband was sitting nearby, a few friends were closer to the deck than me so why did I feel the need to be the parent in two places at once? Mom brain – maybe. Being a little scattered – definitely. Or could it be that I find myself having to be the parent that is ‘on’ with the kids and have a hard time asking for help – ding, ding, ding! How hard is it to ask – Could someone help the girls? Or honey, can you watch him while I deal with her? Why do these easy words and sentences fail me when I need them the most?
Assuming the omnipresent mom role and not asking for help can actually get people hurt. And what’s fascinating is that I thought I was able to ask for help but since this incident, I’ve become more of aware of the dozens of times when I’m not asking for help. So now I’m trying out a few practice sentences from “I need help” to “Can someone help me please?” or “I could really use help over here.” I’m realizing these aren’t always the easiest things to say because of some sort of deep, weird, internalized message that tells me: you don’t need anyone else, rely on yourself, be careful to depend on others. Make your own way. Perhaps some residue of being raised by a mom in the post-feminist world but regardless of the origin it’s time to stop and ask for help when I need it. If I’m trying to teach my four year old to express herself and ask for help instead of getting frustrated than I should be able to model that for her. It takes time to change some old habits but it’s worth trying as who wants to see any more kids tumbling out of high chairs? I certainly don’t.