Monday, December 30, 2013

Invented worries

One of the biggest pieces of baggage you pick up when you get on the homeschooling train is worry. We all worry about our kids to varying degrees and for many reasons. Even the most laid back moms and dads are bound to find themselves prey to the worry monster now and again. Am I feeding them well? Are they getting enough activity? Should I enroll them in that class? Should I let them quit the team? Am I reading to them often enough? Do they watch too much TV? Am I doing a good enough job?!?

Adding "primary educator" to an already lengthy job description packs on a lot of room for more worries. Are we doing enough schoolwork? Are we doing too much schoolwork? (Often two worries you'll have in the same day). Do they need more time with friends? Do they need more challenges? Do they need a new activity? Should I enroll them in something else? What about a co-op? Is this homeschool group a good fit? Am I moving them ahead too quickly? Too slowly? Am I doing a good enough job?!?!?

Once in a while it is helpful to stop and look at things with a wee bit more logic than emotion. It is easy to get wrapped up in all those worries and what-ifs and let the image you have in your head of how things ought to be get in the way of seeing how things really are.

Case in point, I have been worrying lately that my kids aren't getting enough opportunities to make new friends. We moved, and while our new homeschool group is nice, but we haven't made a lot of strong connections, especially for David, who is certainly the more social of my minions. I kept thinking about whether to try a small co-op, or jump into the rather large one in the area; or find some other activity to sign him up for that will give him the chance to make more friends. There are some options, but I kept going back and forth on what would be best, what would work with our schedule, and so forth.

I wasn't happy with any of the options, really, and it was bugging me that I couldn't find something that seemed like the perfect fit. Add in my already dramatic propensity for overthinking and I was running myself in mental circles over this one. What I had forgotten to do was probably the first logical step - ask my kids what they wanted.

Today I randomly asked them if they were interested in something like a co-op or other group that meets regularly. The boys both looked at me funny and said something along the lines of, "Not really."

I was stopped dead in my tracks. Didn't they need more time with other kids? Aren't they both pining for more opportunities to meet and hang out with other kids around their age? Aren't they feeling left out and sad because they have only met a few kids they have connected with since we moved?

Nope, apparently not. I asked David more specifically about whether he felt like he needed somewhere to meet more kids his age and he said no. They have a few friends in the neighborhood to hang out with in the afternoons, and he's made a couple friends through our new homeschool group. As I was prodding him, he looked up at me and said, "Mom, it isn't like I'm some lonely kid with no one to play with. I'm good." Grayson echoed the same sentiment.

So here I was, googling and researching and worrying about a problem that didn't even exist. Literally. I spent all that energy on something that wasn't even a problem to begin with.

Yes, I know Mr. Spock. Highly illogical.

So cross that worry off my list. We are starting some new things in the new year - gymnastics for Grayson and Ella and kung fu for David - so that will be a new experience and we'll see where it takes us. And both boys are clamoring for team sports, so I see that in our future as well. I should probably chill myself out and not go from under scheduled to over scheduled. My conversation with them today was a great reminder for me to get out of my head once in a while and take into account their actual needs, not just what I think their needs might be. If they're feeling bored, or lonely, or want something that we aren't doing, they'll speak up. In the meantime, I have enough to worry about without inventing new problems to fret over.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A few holiday confessions

I love this time of year. There is so much to love about Advent and Christmas, and from about Halloween onward, I feel like I'm in holiday mode. But I'm not one of those moms who seems all put together and ties everything with homemade bows and has a house full of Pinteresty decor.

With all the blog posts I'm seeing about great holiday crafts, unit studies and activities, I thought I'd go the other direction and keep it real up in here. Without further ado, or any ado at all, a few holiday confessions from my neck of the woods:

I haven't sent out Christmas cards in years
Usually I'm a traditionalist and I hate to see things change due to modernization or technology, but this is one I haven't kept up with. I love the idea of sending out an adorable photo of my kids to friends and loved ones, but I never wind up actually doing it. I have sent them out a few times since having kids, but not regularly and not in the last few years. I used to use the excuse that I had babies or toddlers and it was too much work. Now my kids are old enough that probably isn't such a good excuse. For now, I'll stay with "I'm keeping things simple." True enough.

Painting projects with my kids make me want to drink heavily
This isn't necessarily holiday related, but it seems like the requests for projects involving paint multiply this time of year. I so want to be that mom, who has arts and crafts going for her kids all the time, regardless of the mess (because my kids LOVE that stuff), and in some ways I am. I'm pretty free with the art supplies and David especially makes so many projects, I'm surprised we aren't buried in them. But getting the paint out always stresses me out. They painted ornaments recently and it was... trying. Maybe when Ella is older and less prone to getting paint all over herself and subsequently touching everything, it won't be so tension inducing. But for now, ugh.

I love to bake, but I rarely bake lots of cookies
This one is easy. If I make them, I eat them. Don't tell me that I can simply give them away, be a friendly neighbor and give away plates of cookies and all that. I would do that (and have, in the past), but it wouldn't stop me from eating my weight in sugar. There's that block of time from mixing bowl (because yum, cookie dough) to packaging for distribution and my willpower is exactly zero. Especially for my own baking. If I want to fit into my jeans by Christmas day, I can't spend a month baking dozens of cookies.

We buy too much stuff for our kids
Every year - every single year - we say we won't do it. We say we'll be more moderate, more mindful of our gift choices, and we won't go overboard. And every year, we still do. We are getting a lot better. Compared to some of those early Christmases as parents, we've scaled back. But there are far too many guilt inducing blog posts and articles out there, touting the merits of "simple," "thrifty," and "scaled down," Christmas giving. We certainly aren't extravagant compared to many people, but I always wind up feeling like we did too much. I'll go ahead and throw my husband under the bus on this one. This is clearly his fault. (OK, not totally.)

So what about you? Are you a shouter? A crier? A pouter? What's putting you on the naughty list this year?