It was the toothpaste incident that did me in today. I had just decided that I wasn't being totally productive or wildly motherly and that I needed to get my butt in gear and stop moping around about Paul being in a different time zone ... and stop fretting the fact I haven't had access to my new classroom yet... and so on with slimy excuses for today's sub-par performance as Mommy when I walked in the bathroom and found a toothpaste bath in the sink.
A plastic toy figurine which closely resembles a bull and a gummy pink ant Thomas "earned" at Chuck E Cheese's last Saturday night were having a toothpaste hangover. How I had missed Thomas sneaking around, with his very logical fascination of switching over to "adult" toothpaste, I just don't know. Whenever the shenanigan, I had to save Bull and Helicopter [Thomas's name for the ant; I kid you not] from their fate of suffocating white.
And when I said the incident "did me in" I don't mean to be misleading. You know, "doing one in" sounds like a shutting down, tuning out, or a big scream fest of, "YOU STOP THAT RIGHT NOW! SERIOUSLY! I'M GOING CRAZY IN THIS HOUSE!" Yeah, luckily, it was none of those things.
Instead, a new level of determination found its way to the surface of my thoughts.
As a teacher, I've heard every excuse in the book from students, parents, and teachers. Teachers complain that Student A plays too many video games and Student B never does her homework and Student C is going to fail this class and just take summer school. It's easy as a teacher to listen in and nod an agreement, throw in some sympathy, and even add to the conversation with a similar frustration. I've done that many, many times. The problem is that in focusing in on so much negative [the majority which can be grounded in a degree of truth] is that in doing so we are prone to lose an inexcusable amount of time and energy which would be better spent creating solutions. Understanding our realm of power and control liberates us from grasping why others' aren't better utilizing their own. We must immediately follow our statements with action: Change a policy. Try another approach. Be honest. Schedule a conference. Ask good questions. Research. Model. Preach less. Utilize every minute.
As a parent with just two and a half years under my belt, I'm finished re-learning the necessity of not allowing excuses. I'm over being stuck on reasons why I'm not XYZ or doing XYZ. I refuse to let myself slip into a land of only ifs. [Only if I was a) creative b.) thrifty c.) extroverted d.) the type of Mommy who pins projects on Pinterest AND actually does them]. I don't want to miss one more minute of my son's life to an excuse-ridden type of partial presence. So, I'm allowing no more excuses. At the first sight of the little energy-sucking thieves, I'm popping back with a, "So yeah. You're right. Now what are you going to do about it?"
Parenting is tough stuff, but I've recently acquired a skill which transforms me into something of a pro in the finesse of mental toughness. My imagination. Well, I'm working on it at least. Thomas watches on in awe of my Imagination Apprentice role, likely because he knows his Mommy typically operates on the imagination level of a squirrel. He harbors excitement as I work out an impromptu dinosaur family sketch, tell another "Once upon a time there was a little boy named Thomas" story while I cradle him in my arms, and awkwardly participate in vague imaginary enterprises where I see invisible things in our house and quickly convince Thomas they're really there before I lose interest.
Imagination is critical in parenting. The entertainment of child element is helpful for starters. Yes, stuffed animal meetings, naming of toys as if your life depends on it, and other nonsense you so desperately wish you had a script for is all very good for the health and well-being of your growing little mini-me who is gaping at the horror of you pairing Hellicopter and Spider as playmates when you should know dang well they don't go together, Mom!
But even greater, an imagination is of paramount usefulness in life, something even more than the decree of No Excuses! When we say we won't let ourselves grow weary in our roles as employee, parent, Christian, spouse, or ____________ [fill in the blank] and so won't allow excuses, we have to spur on our imaginations to fill in that gap. Our imaginations must provide for us a vision of a five year old, a joy-filled marriage, a size 4 pair of jeans strutting its stuff into work, and for me as of late, a garden with an upswing of things more so living than dying.
I'm thinking this equation of No Excuses + Imagination (in the vein of: this stuff I'm doing is really, actually working even when it doesn't feel/seem/look like it) should day by day allow for happier parenting. I was having a good time already what with all my V.I.P invites to Thomas's room for jigsaw puzzles and reading to an audience of carefully lined up dinosaurs, witnessing Thomas ask strangers, "What your name is?" and hearing him follow-through the conversation with info about his name as "Thomna", but I'm wanting something better than just a good time.
I want to be what I saw in my Mom the other day when she visited us. In asking her some question or other about Dad being on the road for a week as a truck driver while she was at home with four little ones and listening to her warm response about truly enjoying all the time she had with us and seeing the honesty in her eyes when she said it, I sensed that's a little different than me consciously holding back from screaming things like, "YOU STOP THAT RIGHT NOW! SERIOUSLY! I'M GOING CRAZY IN THIS HOUSE!"