So, I find myself in a local oil change place waiting for the obvious and a radiator flush with Noah asleep in my arms. I can't think of a place that I would rather be… Maybe it's is because I am half way through the "Big 40" (no I am not 45, I will be 41 in November) or I am just feeling sentimental, but I am finding myself thinking more and more about family. The need for cohesiveness, the need to be connected, the need for a bond that is real and shared by all members beyond mutual carpooling or "honey did's". This summer has been different for me. While I am still working throughout the summer, I am taking much more time off than I usually do…
Over a typical summer I spend 350-400 hours working over the 10 week summer vacation… unfortunately, this also includes 1-2 week completely off for a much needed rest, so if you do the math, the remaining 8 weeks or so I am working about 45-55 hours a week…. Not so much bonding time there with the family you can imagine. I don't really know what made the difference this year, whether it was the fact that my family and I did not really plan a big vacation, my wife signed me up to be a coach for Joshua's baseball team, the fact that I have two sons now, and just for sanity sake (both hers and mine) I need to rescue Trish more… of maybe, I am just getting old… But what ever it is, I am finding that I am making a connection with my family in ways I have not been able to before.
I can say confidently that there is one difference that I am very conscious of: I am MUCH happier when I do NOT have a expectation of getting "something" done. You can replace "something" with anything you want: 'getting all the yard work done,' 'finishing the painting,' 'going to "X" by a certain time,' 'reading,' 'working, or doing work for my job,' 'getting the boys to bed on-time,' etc. Once I have an expectation, I am NOT happy with delays or "waiting" or not being able to finish the "task" because I "need" to do something else first or someone else wants me to finish something in an order different from how I imagine it should go… whatever that expectation is that I have created in my mind becomes the overriding rule to my mood, happiness, sense of accomplishment, you pick the positive adjective here… While I know that this is happening, and I cannot consciously stop it once it is in motion, at least I am aware of it, and can leverage this to work toward being in the moment and really happy doing anything that comes before me more often than not.
That said, I am by no means perfect at recognition or at moderating my attitude once I become cognizant of my "expectations," but just being aware helps me to keep from setting those false expectations in the first place… this in-turn really frees me up to really enjoy living in the moment as opposed to looking towards something else or back on what didn't happen when it was "supposed" to…
Those "quiet times" that I am experiencing are become more and more frequent and much more rewarding for me and my family. I still stay plugged in to the works and all of its demands on my time, and my "required" obligations, but i am getting to spend more quality time enjoying my family.
How has this translated into practice you might be asking:
- Getting back to work, I am now taking 1-2 days partially or completely off each week (often Friday's to give me a 3 day weekend with my wife and boys). Additionally, when I arrive home after work, I leave work behind, at least until the boys are asleep, and I have spent a little time with Trish, even if we are just sitting watching television. I work to be less strict about "bedtimes" for the boys over the summer as they are not forced to get up with me at 5am, but I still try to keep them from really hurting themselves due to lack of sleep… (Just because they can sleep til noon does not mean that I want them too…)
- In relation to my family, I am working to just "be" with the boys… to get lost in that sense of wonder and adventure that only a five year old and (almost) two year old can have and create in their minds and personal universe. With my wife, I get lost in spending quiet time with her, and being open to sitting when I want to move, and moving when I want to sit. I have always enjoyed going with her to stores (especially when I got my first data enabled smartphone and then my iPhone) not because I like shopping… frankly I hate it, but because I like being with her. the iPhone just makes the waiting outside the dressing rooms more bearable (unless we are in Victoria Secret, then waiting is just fine… ;0) Ok, I couldn't resist… I know that was wrong, but I had to include it =0)
- In relation to the educational community I am part of, and enjoy… I am finding that really to find balance I don't need to unplug from everything I want to learn about… I just need to unplug from the community from time to time… This is not to be hurtful, or demeaning to those of you who really find solace in this wonderful group we run with… But, I am writing this as a suggestion to find a balance with your family, NOT this group…
These are only my rantings and feelings, however, many… many… people have told me and I am finding this to be a FACT not a perception… our children really DO GROW UP TOO FAST. I can remember when Joshua (then 4) was wearing a shirt to go see Noah for the first time after Noah was born… Now Noah is almost 2 and wearing that same shirt… Where did the last two year go? Joshua is starting kindegarten this fall. I re,member when he was just coming for the first time to my school to attend pre-school classes when he was 3. Joshuan is learning to ride a bike without training wheels, and Noah is trying to ride a tricycle… what happened to them crawling and needing help to do that. Make no mistake, I am a very plugged in Dad. I get my boys up just about every day, and I typically am the one that puts them to sleep. I go to the doctor with them and to the movies, I play for hours with them, but I feel sometimes like they are growing everything I blink or am away from them for a few hours.
Again, this is just my perspective, but I see MANY MANY education community members who are SO plugged in… So, so, SO, plugged into this wonderful community they actually provide / pass along MORE information, write more, participate more, twitter more, facebook more, during holidays, winter – spring – summer break and other times where school is out of session. When I inquire about that, their typical response is, "that is the only time I can get caught up on what I want to "publish, share, contribute, read, write, meet up, you insert your reasoning here." Frankly, intellictually, I completely understand those arguments, but I am finding more and more those "excuses" to be connected with a personal and pre-dominently virtual community to be hollow weighing it against the benefit and need of being connected with our families. Spending time rolling down a hill with our children. Getting lost playing "Indiana Jones" or even hide and seek. Watching an ant hill, chasing "birdies" or squirrels. Spending time AT the store with our family as opposed to "getting through the store." Playing during "tub-time" as opposed to waiting to get them washed… Changing plans 10 times at the whim of a five year old, and then just walking or finding the "ice cream man."
I honor and respect every one of you. I have learned more from this community in the past few years than I have through most of my formal schooling… but right now I am thinking it is more important for you (and me) to be teaching our OWN children and more so learning from them how to enjoy life again. If this feels heavy handed, I can't apologize at this time. Maybe in the future when we are in the rat-race AGAIN I will beg for forgiveness, but as for now, I want to hear from you, I want to learn what you know, but I want it to be about empowering your own families, about great spots to spend time with your family, about what you are learning from letting go as opposed to being plugged in… Oops… time to go, there is a pillow fort / mountain that is calling my name.