Open up

The Next Family

By: Julie Gamberg

I have carefully structured our lives so that I rarely have to rush my daughter, and I work hard to anticipate areas of difficulty for her, and arrange our days so that I will have the time and space to coach her through them so that she might learn how to overcome obstacles. Great, right? Let’s look at that first sentence again. “Carefully structured.” Lately I’ve been thinking that there might be a problem there.

I work hard (including making complex decisions about what kind of work I will do and when I will do it) so that my daughter and I are not racing around and so that we’re not one of those families who seem to prioritize what they do over how they do it. I leave plenty of room for deviation during those times when we have to get out the door, and have a nice overlap of time between when a caretaker arrives for her and I have to leave for work. I try to keep plans flexible. I try to follow my daughter’s lead and pacing when it is possible. This has helped my very spirited toddler circumvent many a meltdown. But, I have to admit, I overly obsess over this structure, which leads to its own form of stress.

I sometimes think about our days like chess games. I try to plan multiple moves ahead, and anticipate every possible variation. What if she misses her nap or cuts it short? What if she wants to push the mini-stroller all the way to the car, increasing the time it takes to get there by well over 100%? Should I scramble eggs for breakfast? If I don’t have time to wash the pan before we leave, will I have time to wash it tonight? Is it too over-stimulating to go straight from a hike to a music class? Did I leave enough time in case she is feeling severe separation anxiety when I’m about to leave for work?

I’ve been thinking lately about how to let go of some of this. It’s tricky, as I want to keep my daughter safe, well rested, well fed, well loved, and I want to be able to gently, compassionately support her in adhering to the limits and boundaries I set. I want to be a great parent, and that requires a lot of planning. And a lot of flexibility. And planned flexibility! You get the idea. So when do I just chuck it all out the window and “go with the flow”?

Well, I worry that often “go with the flow” is a euphemism for “don’t care” or “it’s not worth it,” or “I won’t be able to effect change anyway”. I believe it’s overused and not always the best advice. However, it’s opposite … treating each day like a series of chess maneuvers, and the stress and work that entails doesn’t seem to be entirely right either. I’d like things to be easier, while continuing to show just as much care. So I turn to readers for advice. What do you do when you want to be diligent, careful, caring and thorough, but also relaxed, easygoing, joyful, and open?

Tips? Tricks? Proud moments?


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