Planning or Present - Need at Time Out?
As March melts into April, we all want it to be spring. Mother Nature is tempting us with sunshine and longer days, but then there’s that wind, rain and chilly morning temps. With Easter and spring break coming, April will come and go in a blink and May will be knocking on the door. April was also the month I secretly prayed at night for rain so that after-school sports and games might get rained out and we’d get a bonus hour or two out of it because I knew May would be a doosey
When my kids were adolescents and I was teaching full time, I remember feeling that May was a bit conspiratorial. It gave us a glimpse of summer ease, but there is always so much packed into the last weeks of school. Concerts, plays, field trips, outdoor sports, the desire to play outside BEFORE and AFTER dinner. Toss in things like First Communions, graduations, all that spring yard work, and it is just relentless. To end the month, the US Naval Academy’s Commissioning Week means an influx of thousands of proud family and friends and lets us Annapolitans usher in summer with the Blue Angels’ flight demonstrations.
Let’s stick with April, shall we?
April is one of those months that we’re doing the dance of planning and presence. If you’re a parent, it’s a constant juggle of calendars and Cozi and praying the carpool works. It’s also a time when many of us feel and witness our kids are growing up too fast. Whether you’re making the exciting choices about college acceptances or watching your five-year-old whiz down the street on her own two-wheeler - it seems each spring they spread their wings and fly a bit further out of our sight. Despite our exhaustion, our maternal inclination is to hold on a little bit longer. Am I right?
I am a huge planner. In fact, one of the things that give me energy and is frankly, one of my superpowers, is my ability to initiate and organize thoughts, ideas, people, stuff. I know I need external supports to follow through and I’ve learned to plan those into most any system. I know that I am not a person who innately slows down and appreciates what is happening at the moment. Again, I plan for that, and after years of practice, sometimes I feel this internal pull to pause and witness.
However, none of this made sense to me when I was parenting. There was an endless to-do list that woke me at night and haunted me during the day. Weekly drama or dilemmas taunted me, leaving me asking “what’s next?” (Have I mentioned both kids had chronic asthma and spring in Maryland is hellacious for asthma?)
One April morning as I welcomed my third graders, a perky child handed me an envelope, beautifully embellished by her and with my name written in perfect cursive by her mom. When I opened it, I was struck by how aware this mom was of her kids and how much she loved them. She explained that Audrey did not have her spelling or reading homework completed because when she picked up both kids the day before, she realized they were all on overload. Kids homework and sports and mom had enough on her plate. She just a big old TIME OUT. Neither child did homework. They went for a walk, made dinner together and just hung out with board games and books that evening.
BRILLIANT was my first thought.
And then I felt envious. There was no possible way I could call TIME OUT. My kids were a little young for homework but had some, and as a teacher, I always had homework. But we were on overload too, but the denial kind of overload.
The thought of calling TIME OUT percolated and within a couple weeks, we developed our “Cinema Grill Night.” Long before Netflix and movies on demand, we decided to spread a blanket, popping in a VHS tape and eating dinner together as a slushy-picnic movie was exactly what we needed when the overload crept in. It often came when one of us was sick or if dad had been out of town for more days than we could count. I got really good at seeing the patterns an even began to swoop in before we crashed.
We can’t always call a TIME OUT on our busy schedules or out kids. But as my kids got older, I encouraged them to be aware of when they were reaching their breakpoint - ideally recognizing that before they slammed into that wall. They witnessed me slamming into my wall on many occasions so we could talk about what it means to identify those feelings before, during and after. In high school, it sometimes meant we ate dinner very late so my son could spend long chunks of time on his art or so we could eat after sundown once sailing practice ended. Or it meant asking and giving help or listening when it was requested or going easy when someone vocalized their stress.
If you can’t take the night off, what can you do to balance all the planning with being present and doing what you really need - especially if it’s not what others need from you?
Prep dinner ahead time?
Make a double batch of dinner or breakfast and freeze?
Have kids help with laundry, so you spend time with them and more time on something else you choose?
Set boundaries personally or professional? A friend just shared she doesn’t email between 8 p.m. -8 a.m. I’m pondering a similar rule for myself.
What structure or support help you stay present and keep to your plan? If you need support in determining those and sticking to some new routines, let’s schedule a discovery call. Maybe a four-week Accountability Partner package or some coaching is what you need this spring to feel grounded and ready to grow.
Maybe call your own TIME OUT for a few minutes and do some planning and be really present with what it is you’re feeling, needing and desiring. Let’s make a game plan for May so it’s a bit less conspiratorial!