I don’t know about you, but in my household bedtime can be a lion's den! Some nights after I’ve wrangled them to eat their dinner, put away their plates, have their bath, brush their teeth, put their pyjamas on, and hopefully read a book….I’m thinking: ‘ Please will you just go.to.sleep!’
My friend Lori was the one who made me see things differently a few years ago.
Lori sadly will never get to put her kids to bed again.
After she passed from inflammatory breast cancer a few years ago, I heard a story about how, when she was in the latter stages of being unwell, she would literally crawl up the steps to her kids’ bedrooms so she could put them to bed.
It wasn’t that she HAD to put them to bed and just get through the whole bedtime routine, it was that she GOT to put them to bed. And so for her, it was a truly precious time, not just an exhausting event to try to get through without losing it like it is for a lot of us sometimes!
And while you might be tempted to think ‘Well, she obviously knew that the time she had left with her kids was seriously limited, so it makes sense that every moment was sacred’, the fact is, none of us knows what our future holds, and yet we fall into the trap of sometimes wishing this time away. We just try to get through the mundane so we can sit the hell down and relax for five minutes!
But my friend’s story got me thinking.
How many times a day do we say things like:
I HAVE to go to work
I HAVE to do this paperwork
I HAVE to pick up the kids
I HAVE to cook dinner
I HAVE to get the kids to bed
I HAVE to walk the dog.
Oh! And then when I’m done walking the dog I HAVE to pick up the poop too!
I know I get caught in that trap. And I talk to a ton of people in my office who feel caught in the “I HAVE to” trap in a lot of different areas of their lives.
It might seem a pretty small thing, but when we feel like we HAVE to do things, it can make life feel like something to survive, not something to enjoy, let alone treasure and appreciate every detail in it.
But if you honestly think about it, there are very few things in life that we HAVE to do, which is pretty cool! We choose our life. Period. And there are a lot of things that we GET to do.
Now before you get all excited and start thinking you just got permission from Dr. Paige to stop taking care of your commitments (if only, right?!), my question to you is:
What would be possible if you dropped the phrase ‘HAVE TO’ from your vocabulary? And what if you replaced it with ‘GET to’ instead?
I for one know that I would enjoy the process of parenting, working and day-to-day life so much more.
So how can we do that? Life can be super challenging and let’s face it we are not perfect saints that don’t experience all the normal human emotions like frustration, boredom, annoyance, impatience….the list goes on!
So I’m not about to dish you out a loooooong list of things to do to add to your already bonkers ‘to do’ list...because nobody needs that!
But I do want to share some ideas around how you might start to slow the process down, say for just one part of one day a week. For example, pick one thing, like some part of your morning, and see if you can start to enjoy the process, enjoy the mundane, enjoy your routine rather than rushing to get it done and on to the next thing.
And honestly, the best overall tip that I think is golden...If I can sometimes make the shift to seeing and experiencing things from my kids’ point of view, kind of like an adventure, it helps me go from feeling serious and stressed to light-hearted and fun in no time.
So what questions can we ask ourselves to try this out?: Let’s start in the morning.
- What are the kids going to remember about their mornings at home? Rushed, frantic, yelling? Well maybe once or twice but in general are they a pleasant experience to start the day? Are they launching off into their day with confidence? Are they filled with love?
- And then, what is the drive like? Are you having dance parties? Do you ask silly questions? Do you play ‘I spy’?
- And what is dinner time like? Rushed? On the go? TV in the background? Threats to hurry and clean your plate? Or could it be slow, enjoyable, some giggles between bites, chatting about what you're eating? About your day? Respecting when your body is full?
- Or if you’re out walking the dog are you thinking ‘hurry and do your business pooch!’ or do you wander and look around noticing the sky, the flowers, a crazy squirrel? Are you thinking about what you have to do or thinking about all the cool stuff around you? (now reality check--picking up dog doo IS picking up dog doo. Not sure how else to dress that up!).
- And then the ultimate! Homework time! Is it full of pressure, worry, disinterest, hurry? Or is it more like curiosity, remembering what it was like when you were a child and maybe even learning new things now?
So if you can step into the shoes of your kids, you have a chance of making the everyday special.
And let’s not forget the days when you actually aren’t on the school run - oh my gosh it feels like a holiday sometimes when there is no permission slip to sign! A little dramatic, maybe, but that’s how I feel sometimes.
But what if when we ARE packing their lunchbox or bag...we could just enjoy the enjoy the love we GET to spread to our kiddos. Put a funny napkin in the lunchbox, or fold it in a fun way or leave a note or drawing. Think about how they are going to feel the next day when they open their lunch. It can be really fun.
And last but not least - CAN we see the bedtime routine as precious? As sacred? Something we GET the privilege to do?
I know it can be SO frustrating some nights! But what if we saw it as an opportunity to wind down ourselves? We could use that! What if it was an opportunity to ask awesome questions and have the cutest conversations cuddled up in bed?
So which normal, mundane activity do you think you will give a try? And remember, just having your head and heart in the game is half the battle. Be kind to yourself. This is a no judgment zone. You are doing an amazing job! Just notice something new, try something new, and see how it feels.
My amazing friend Lori never knew the fraction of the people that she touched and continues to touch. I think of her often at bedtime, and I invite you to as well. I would love to know your thoughts.
Leave a comment and let me know how you are going to turn one of your I HAVE to’s into a magical I GET to.
To Your Best Health,