The Perfect Day
I'd often find myself dreaming about this perfect day.
Planning it in my head. How it would all flow.
I'd write a plan. A kind of schedule if you will.
It went kind of like this... I wake up early. Ready to tackle the day. Some meditation or journaling. When I was done the kids would wake up and we'd all have breakfast. Then they would play peacefully for an hour while I did some chores.
Then we'd do a planned activity. Maybe a trip to the zoo or a walk. There'd be a little education, a little fresh air and exercise. There'd be no arguing over screen time or what to have for snack. I'd suggest an activity and we'd joyfully go off together.
You get the idea. (stop laughing!) The day was all planned out and everyone got along and was happy.
I thought I could stop yelling by imagining this perfect day into existence. I thought if I planned enough. Controlled enough. That if the plan didn't happen it was because I wasn't figuring out how to plan it just right.
Because in reality it went something like this...
My son woke up before me. My meditation or workout got continually interrupted to where I gave up. My kids demanded 5 different things for breakfast and then didn't eat any of them. We finally make it to the zoo then my 5 year old refuses to get out of the car. We stay for 30 minutes. Where my boys complained the entire time about being hungry and wanting to go to the gift shop. Just to look of course but then would beg to buy everything they saw. Back home again.
Dinner. Bedtime. It was always such a struggle. I felt like I was always fighting against something. Always saying no. Not really enjoying.
But at some point along this journey, I realized that my struggle was against the feeling of no control. I was struggling against my own ideals of this "perfect day". I wasn't able to tune into my boys needs in any moment because it was always about my agenda. I'd yell out of frustration and anger when they didn't do what I wanted. I had forgotten that they had priorities and needs separate from my own in this quest for control and perfection.
Which they could never live up to. And I was missing all the little moments of perfection in each day.
The morning snuggles when my 5 year old climbs in bed 15 minutes before my alarm. The giggles for no reason. The simplicity of sitting in the grass and watching the clouds drift by. Or chasing each other around the yard.
I was missing their childhood in search of the perfect day.
Letting go of control is hard.
Daniel Siegel, M.D. says this about mental health in the book the Whole Brain Child.
It's based on the concept of integration and involves an understanding of the complex dynamics surrounding relationships and the brain. A simple way to express it, though, is to describe mental health as our ability to remain in a "river of well-being." Imagine a peaceful river. . .That's your river of well-being. Whenever you're in the water, peacefully floating along in your canoe, you feel like you're generally in a good relationship with the world around you... You can be flexible and adjust when situations change. You're stable and at peace. Sometimes, though as you float along, you veer too close to one of the river's two banks... One bank represents chaos, where you feel out of control... and confusion and turmoil rule the day... The other band is rigidity... when you imposing control on everything and everyone around.
At its essence parenting is releasing control. Control over another. But I was so terrified of chaos that I continued to try to impose control. I didn't know how to just float along with flexibility and peace. Allowing the day to unfold. Being present with my children and their needs in the moment.
But ironically with my need for control, I was creating chaos because my boys had no control. And I was constantly searching for control by imposing my plan on them. I couldn't see past my need for control to give them what they needed. I couldn't stop to realize that you can't force another person to do something they don't want to no matter how small and have it be easy.
The result was constant battles and struggles.
Finding peace has been a journey of learning to find that "river of well-being." To float along each day. Adapting and listening.
Releasing the idea of how things "should" look. Supporting my kids where they are that day.
The river of your well-being starts with taking care of yourself. Finding those things that you need to keep you floating along peacefully. Is it a great workout? Or meditation? Or a walk? Could it be going to bed earlier than you may otherwise choose? Is it making food choices that give you energy vs. deplete you? Are your thoughts supportive and loving or negative and judgmental?
And when you find yourself bumping against the banks of rigidity or chaos, ask yourself if you've been neglecting your own needs?
Start simple. What's the smallest step you can take today to take care of yourself? To support your well-being. To better support your family.
You're behavior is a model for your child. As you model flexibility and peace, your child begins to find their own. As you support their needs, you gain influence over them to encourage the behavior you're trying to create with the control.
The same goes if your m.o. is chaos. Kids need structure and limits. They do better knowing what is next and they can count on you. Find your balance, too.
Everyday, you're shaping your child's brain by the experience you're giving them. This isn't just the education opportunities or recreation. But the everyday experience with you. "Your child's brain is constantly being wired and rewired, and the experiences you provide will go a long way toward determining the structure of her brain." The Whole-Brain Child. Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. & Tina Payne Bryson, PhD.
Parenting will constantly test us. Challenge us. Make us crazy sometimes. Taking care of your well-being, keeping your canoe centered, isn't selfish but necessary in finding the ability to be flexible and peaceful.
I can't tell you what you need for your river of well-being. Maybe you don't know what you need either. Try something. No matter how small. Move forward. You don't have to figure it all out in one day. Or one week. Or a month. Give yourself permission to explore your needs.
Letting go of control has offered a sort of freedom to the day. To simply be.
And know that each day is the perfect day. Even though the day pretty much looks the same. Maybe my boys only want 3 different things for breakfast now.