The Redemptive Power of Boring Polyester
Things haven’t been too easy around here recently.
Just the mommy-I-need-this-mommy-I-want-that-mommy-can-I-eat-all-the-candy-in-the-house-right-before-bedtime kind of hard, but most days, that’s hard enough, thank you.
So a few weeks ago we needed to get new school uniforms for the kids. Before we went into the store, I wanted to prepare them. So I said, “This is going to be boring, but we’ve brought stuff to keep you busy, and if you both cooperate, we’ll be out of here soon and off to something fun.”
Ha! I’m sure you can guess what happened next.
One kid ran one way, the other started pulling clothes off shelves. Then the first started laughing maniacally (I kid you not), and no one stood still for even two seconds while I could wrangle them into all that polyester. And of course, the store didn’t have what I needed either.
And I was, to say the least, Pissed. Off. Just like they tell you to be honest with your kids that the needle is going to hurt, I thought I was doing the right thing. And when that when south, I got more and more angry, wondering why it was impossible to take these darn kids anywhere, and why are everyone else’s kids so calm, and mine are complete hellions, ahhhh.
I just didn’t get it. And then I heard it. As I retold what happened to a friend, I heard the words that came out of my mouth. This. Is. Going. To. Be. Boring.
I told them that. And they believed me. So of COURSE they behaved that way. They acted just like how I asked them to.
Oh my god. It was my fault. But not because I’m a horrible parent with wild miscreants for kids. I told them it was going to be hard, and so it was.
Now I’ve been in education for years. I’d always heard, and thought I understood, the theory that kids rise to the level of our expectations for them. But as a parent, I thought that meant “I expect you to eat with your mouth closed. I expect you to put your lunch box away when you get home from school. I expect you to take off your shoes when you come in the house.” I thought I understood it, but I didn’t really get it.
Before I became a mom, I used to be fun. But when I became am mom, I just couldn’t get behind making up a bunch of stories just to try to trick a kid into doing what I wanted. It just felt like a bunch of veiled threats or bribes. Much better to simply ask, I thought. Making stuff up just didn’t feel real.
But reality is only what we experience it to be. And without realizing it, I was choosing a harder reality. Yes, things need to get done at certain times, but I can choose how I want to approach those tasks.
Paradoxically, it’s actually hard for me to think of ways to present things as fun on the spot. But those instructions need to be given either way, but I can use my energy to figure out how to make those things fun and easy, or I can fight against my kids at every turn.
So I’m practicing easy. And I’ve noticed that this practice makes things happen more slowly in my brain. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, like things are coming at me from a million different directions all at once, ease gives me just enough space so that I can choose how to respond rather than living in a constant state of reactivity.
And another thing I’ve realized is that a lot of my hardness came from fear and lack of trust in myself. Like a lot of parents, I am afraid of doing it wrong. There’s that voice in my head that judges my every move. So I tried to be hard and muscle my way through the rough spots. But this was hurting me and I couldn’t figure out why, despite my best efforts to be nicer, as soon as I’d get stressed that wall of hardness and anger would rise up again.
Practicing easy helps me ride through my panic. It helps me slow down. And it helps me figure out what to do in the moment. It feels like peace and forgiveness. I don’t have to know all the answers in advance. I don’t have to know all the answers right away. I just need to be easy, and pause, and trust myself.
About Our Mothering Space Contributor
Hi, I’m Miki. I am a photographer, family history chronicler, and creator of The Book of Love. I create and tend spaces in which we can be truly seen and deeply loved. I am passionate about collecting and tending stories, capturing moments of everyday tenderness and beauty, and reflecting back to people the very best parts of themselves. Come share my story (and share yours if you like) at mikidevivo.com