I am sitting in the waiting room of my son’s occupational therapist. It has been a week of questioning for me. I’m not trying to answer any questions right now, but trying a new thing of just asking the questions.
One of the reasons I was reluctant to start the thirty days of clean eating is what it changes. The past month of holidays started out frantic and exhilarating, then felt overwhelming and frayed, and then somehow settled into a peaceful companionship of the four of us that I’m not sure we’ve ever had. The kids calmed down after the Christmas craziness. Every person we knew was out of town. It was cold and gray. It was just us. My husband worked a bit, but was home a lot. Every night we ate what we wanted. Every night we had a fire and wine. We relaxed about the kids’ bedtimes. I relaxed about what they ate. Ramen soup two days in a row? I shrugged and let them. I let go of my anxiety about their food and bedtimes, about how much tv they were watching and if we needed to work harder on my son’s writing and reading, if we needed to take away the pacifier from my daughter. I let the should have a week off, and we just were.
And surprisingly, it was all better. My kids were less hyper, and played together a lot. My son actually didn’t ask for the Ipad all that much. They didn’t eat many vegetables, but they ate a lot. Breakfast time was more fun, as I wasn’t spending the entire time telling my son to sit up, use your napkin, stop interrupting, and so on. My husband and I were getting along better than we had in weeks. We felt like a family, we felt like we were in it together.
Then school started. And I feel again the intense pressure of parenting. Bedtimes. Manners. Limited Screen Time. I began yelling more. My husband was tired and grumpy when he came home. I was angry about all the dishes. I felt like I needed to spend all my time preparing my son for upcoming school visits. Nothing felt fun. Add not eating anything remotely indulgent on top of it? Ugh.
But still, the pull of clean eating after so much indulgence was strong. Also we are going on a beach vacation in February and frankly I could use some bikini fine-tuning. And it has been a good thing, even though it’s hard.
But I’m still thinking about how at ease we all were, and how stressed we all are now. And why? For what? Are we doing the right thing? Do we actually need OT and Tae Kwon Do and gymnastics and woodworking and soccer? He’s five. But if we don’t?
I’m reading this beautiful book called The Gift of an Ordinary Day, by Katrina Kenison. And as I was sitting in the waiting room at OT on Wednesday, I read this. And cried in public. Because it was as if she was in my head.
The chapter is appropriately called Questions. And she talks about pulling back and not filling every moment with activities, and letting her kids have unfilled days and allowing them to be bored. About how she had to let go of her own expectations of what her kids would be, and allow them to be who they actually were.
Katrina says: “ And one of the hardest lessons I was learning was that the answers to the really big questions, the answers we most hunger for, don’t ever come to us from the outside; rather, they come from a quiet place within. A place we can reach only when we find within ourselves the courage to pause, to abide for a while in that place of not knowing, to be at peace even with our uncertainties, and then to listen and attend with the ear of our own hearts.”
And that’s where I find myself. In a place where I’m forced to pause and abide for awhile, to ask the questions but not try to answer them. And for the first time in a long time, that feels perfectly right. I don’t need to know. Just asking is enough. And the answers will come.
Katrina goes on to say: “Every time I’m able to let go even a little- of control or judgment, of my need to be right or my inclination to worry- I’m rewarded. Life suddenly seems a bit sweeter, and easier, for us all.”
Amen. A bit sweeter and easier. That’s what I’m aiming for. That’s all we need.