Each kid did something today that reminded me that although we mature in many ways as we grow older, there are certain things that we bring with us into adulthood (and they’re generally not the childlike qualities I so WISH we brought with us). Or, at least, there a few behaviors that our children exhibit that remind me of, well, of us (or male adults, generally speaking, in relation to #2 below – I make no statements, specifically, about my baby’s daddys toilet etiquette).
1) I can’t stand being put off when I’m trying to say something. I’m not a chatty person, so when I speak, it’s normally because it means something to me. If I’m blown off by my husband, when he determines he’s able to focus on what I had to say, I often feel so frustrated that I DON’T WANT TO SAY IT [ANYMORE].
Pictured above is my little lady, just after she was blown off. Before the tears began to well up but after the foot had been stomped, she, verbatim, indignantly affirmed I DON’T WANT TO SAY IT ANYMORE. To which I responded, yep, I know just how it feels.
2) What’s the deal with men needing a task while sitting on the john? Reading a magazine, surfing the web, checking email. I mean, they don’t really take that long to go to the bathroom, they’re just sitting on the toilet finishing their task.
As it turns out, this behavior begins well before a human male learns how to read, or can even wipe his own booty for that matter. Little Denali, pictured above, requests a toy EVERY time he sits down to lay a deuce, and then proceeds to play well after he’s finished. Now I’m sure there are little girls who do this and that there are women who flip open a book on their phone while dropping the kids off, but it seems to me that it’s largely a male dominated behavior.
Perhaps they’re stereotypical behaviors exhibited by males and females, perhaps our apples just didn’t fall far from the tree. Either way, some things never change.
When you’re like me, there are at least five different things, at any given time, that you’d LIKE to sink your teeth in to. At this very moment, literally, this very moment, there are exactly five things I want to be doing.
1) Studying for the GMAT
2) Studying Mandarin
3) Working out
4) Writing (which I, technically, am doing)
5) Sewing (or at least trying to put together the puzzle that is my new, very used, industrial machine)
One child is out on a daddy-date, the other sleeping sick by my side. SO, theoretically, I have some much-coveted free time on my hands.
Now let’s dissect the word LIKE. The key element behind the word LIKE is that because there are SO many things to do, my brain decides that too many things actually cancel themselves out, leaving me reading the New York Times, or basically ANYTHING that is NOT on my list. I think it’s something similar to procrastination. I’d LIKE to be doing, but I’m overwhelmed, so I’m just thinking about doing. Like when you were in college and you’d end up watching an entire season of Sex and the City, instead of studying for finals. Or when you’re moving and the packing feels like it’s going to implode on you, so you end up going for a walk instead.
It’s not exactly procrastination though, I think that it is the brain’s defense mechanism against feeling overwhelmed. TOO many things to do self? That’s okay, let’s just not do ANY of them and then we won’t have to feel overwhelmed. I don’t have the time to full heartedly do EVERYTHING, so let’s just not half-ass any of them. It’s my brain’s fault, not mine. Damn brain.
But this is where you pull a fast one on your brain. A little word called P R I O R I T I Z A T I O N is employed. Break it down by task, make the vastness smaller, and tackle slowly.
Find the LARGEST wall calendar you can and give yourself a daily goal. A daily task to tackle. And not all five. Just ONE. Maybe TWO. But NEVER five.
My daily hopes (LIKES, if you will) are most often somehow, directly and indirectly, connected to the current overarching question in my life: how to create a career with two young kids and remain flexible enough that we can take off and travel when my old man has the time.
When I was pregnant with our first, I listened to an NPR show where there was a woman who was speaking about the effect her children had on her career. She spoke about her fear that having children would derail her from her path and her surprise that they only made her path more clear. Now, I didn’t exactly have a career at that point, but knew how utterly important it was for me in the future (I had actually deferred acceptance into law school for a year and was planning to enroll the following year); a fear that was real and terrifying for me. But I listened to her words with hope that I too would speak them someday.
Fast forward 5 years, and I’m definitely not yet singing that sweet tune. I am, perhaps, more lost than ever, as ever relates to my career self (read here for more clarity). As I approach 30, time feels like it’s barreling forward and I’m left behind trying to catch up. I want so deeply, to speak of how my children helped positively sculpt my career.
Here I am, left with 3 million interests, trying to find the time to pursue them.
Life’s a journey and as long as you keep walking, you’ll get to where you’re meant to be, right? My children ARE teaching me how to PRIORITIZE and how I can have everything, but perhaps not at the same time. I need to be patient. I need to take it one goal at a time.
And so, a note to my self: it’s OKAY. chill. alright? just chill. take it one day at a time, put one foot in front of the other. week by week, set goals. define a daily task and stick to it. work when you’ve set out time to work and be in the moment, with your kids, when it’s time to just be.
Without further ado, I introduce to you, my right hand and my left foot.
Believe it or not, I find the idea of this quite liberating. You can’t go anywhere without your appendages, right?
If I think of my children as extensions of myself, journeying around the world with them seems obvious. OF COURSE I’m going to bring along my hands and feet. And I don’t mean to say that my children and I are one being, with a murky, mushed together identity. Realistically speaking, my right hand and my left foot are quite unique (just ask my mister, he’ll have you on the floor laughing) and most definitely have their distinguishing marks. Same with my kids. While we share similar genes and are most definitely a unit, we’re all our own people, which I believe is something that is of UTTER importance in keeping us all happy.
If I look at my children as being extensions of myself, it makes living the life I (yes, I) dream of, feel simple. The way I see it, and I’ve said it many times before, my journey can be their journey. The universe/God/whatever larger force your faith names, put these unique beings in my life and I trust that the decisions that I make will be right for us all (as long as I’m observant and open enough to see the signs). Don’t get my wrong, 100% of these decisions are and will always be, made with the interests of our children first and foremost (I believe this is just inherently part of the process). I’ve learned that young children are extremely adaptable and flexible and oh-so-open to new experiences, so at least for the foreseeable future, my idea of life works well for them.
If I see my children as being extensions of myself, all it takes is a simple recalibration, and the challenges that come along with traveling with young kids is base zero and rather than being challenging, is just normal. Sure, sometimes my right hand feels like its getting osteoarthritis and my left foot is going numb, but who said life was without growing pains?
We recently went away for two nights, ALONE, sans children. While, yes, it was everything wonderful I had hoped, it also made me realize that the things you find to be so burdensome in the moment (i.e. bedtime routines, pee stops just as you’ve embarked, the fact that you can’t go ANYWHERE without snacks stashed), are never the memories you’re left with and at the end of the day, aren’t really that annoying after all.
Being able to experience new cultures, foods, geographies, people, and places with my children, is nothing short of amazing. More than that, being able to experience these things through my children, is unlike anything else in this world.
We often wonder which, if any, of their travel experiences, will be pivotal in their lives. Will there be a hike up a desolate mountain that will inspire Denali to be mountain climber? An acrobatic show that will spark a fire in Safari to become an acrobat? Will there be a street performance that will incite a love of music? What will those moments be that will shape the adults they will become?
People often question travel with young kids because they won’t retain the memories anyway (which I’ve never vibed with – I believe, concrete memories or not – experiences impart themselves into our beings). Safari is four and a half. We took a trip through New Zealand almost exactly a year ago and just yesterday, totally unprovoked, she recalled memories of seeing two dead possums on our trip. So although I think she was subconsciously gathering information long before she stored it in her long-term memory, it’s still exciting to know that what she experiences now will be backed up by real, raw, solid memories… for a lifetime. Though, I’m not so sure what the memory of two dead possums adds up to?
My greatest hope is that their travel experiences will leave them as more balanced, open-minded, confident children and eventually, adults.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Mark Twain
*All the my’s and I’s should be read as us’s and we’s, to include the mister, who most definitely completes our unit.