Friday, July 31, 2009

Where My Feet Are

In recovery, I am taught over and over again the importance of keeping things in the moment; to not awfulize or catastrasize about what might happen, to not project too far into the future. One of my favorite expressions is to "keep yourself where your feet are". I use this when I'm overwhelmed, when I feel like I'm not measuring up, not getting to all the things I feel I need to be doing - I look down at my feet and think: I'm right where I'm supposed to be.

The feeling like I'm supposed to be doing more, like I should be doing more things or different things, is particularly hard to resist when it comes to parenting. In this high pressure world, it is difficult to just stop. We are trying to have what I have dubbed "an old fashioned summer"; summers the way I remember them - long, lazy days without the overstuffed schedules of the school year. The kids aren't enrolled in camp, or classes of any kind. We have access to a wonderful family pool center, and a beach cottage we share with another couple. We have friends for playdates, and we have each other. This, I thought at the outset of the summer, should be enough. In any sane world, this should be more than enough.

And, realistically, it is enough. We play board games when it is rainy, or watch a movie together. We run through the sprinkler, we read books. We have the occasional playdate or trip to the beach. We get to the things that get shuffled to the bottom of the pile during the hectic school year.

It is astonishingly difficult to get used to this pace - for the kids and for me. The first couple of weeks were really hard. "What are we going to DO today, Momma? " and "I'm BORED!" were heard over and over again. They would say this in the middle of doing something fun together - like while playing a board game (a bored game?), or building a fort in the back yard. We are all so accustomed to the constant stream of a busy schedule - running from school to girl scouts to soccer to the grocery store to a playdate. During the school year we are hardly ever just home. It got to the point where I would get a panicky feeling on days we didn't have anything planned - I'd rush to the phone to schedule a playdate or look up an activity we could do at the library or the YMCA.

I realized after about a week and a half of the "I'm boreds" why it was so difficult: my kids had forgotten how to amuse themselves. During the school year, when they are shuffled around from one activity to another, they would get up each morning and look at me expectantly - what are we doing today? Where am I going? Who is coming over? I found myself saying those things I remember my Mom saying to me: "A house full of toys and things to do and you're bored? Go find something to do!"

I also realized I felt completely responsible for their contentedness - like I had to save them from boredom. Wow, I thought with some measure of fear, I am over-involved. I can't let them just figure out how to fill a day. I feel that mother-guilt creep up - the thought that other mothers are doing a better job keeping their kids busy. To spare my own feelings of guilt, or unworthiness, I don't let us stop.

It is getting easier as summer marches on. I have forced myself to let the flow of days come - I schedule the odd playdate, visit with family or friends, but I don't over-think our days. This morning they entertained themselves happily for an hour or so while I read a book. It was physically difficult for me to stay focused in the moment - my mind kept thinking about the rest of the day - how I would fill it. Then I looked at my feet. I was right where I was supposed to be.


  1. Thank you for this. I often get the guilts that I am not doing enough with and for my son. We go to karate twice a week and that's it. Some people take their kids to karate every night, or karate twice and soccer or softball three times...I like to just veg at home a lot, and I my son is getting pretty good at amusing himself, but I wonder if i am a bad parent for it sometimes.

  2. Great post Ellie! I also adopted this very attitude this summer. We did not enroll our girls in any activities. We have been having playdates, going to the pool and/or lake to swim, playing in the sprinkler, board games, arts/crafts or having picnics at the park. I'm tired of being on the go constantly and I'm tired of the girls not knowing how to entertain themselves. I agree with you 100%. Summers should be about lazy days and having a nice break. Our summer started out kinda scary but we've evolved and the girls seem to have found a nice routine and are doing better than I'd hoped for. I think more families should try it!

  3. Great common sense, with a wonderful visual image to hang onto!
    I am right where my feet are!

  4. "Keep yourself where your feet are" is a good motto for someone who is already thinking about how we will navigate next summer. I am a bit of an uber planner.

    Well said all the way around. The mother guilt thing, as you say, is borne out of comparison and I am a serial comparer.

    I am resisting the tempatation to compare to you because my son is not capable of the lazy old fashioned summer (we tried last year) and I feel as if I am a failure for that. But it's just the way he is, at least right now.

    Happy old fashioned summer!