Today I want to talk about a book that isn’t even out yet, Only Love Today, Reminders To Breathe More, Stress Less And Choose Love, by Rachel Macy Stafford. How can we talk about a book that’s not even out yet? Well, Rachel’s previous books, The Hands Free Mama and Hands Free Life, as well as her website, The Hands Free Mama, are pretty great predictors of what is to come. They are, in my opinion, game changers for parenting in today’s crazy, busy, chaotic, fast-paced world.
And here’s just a little peek at what this book is about.
While in many ways 2016 was going well, in other ways, it was unraveling. Our plates were very full. Too full. Multiple therapies and activities for the younger one, as well as the start of kindergarten, a lot for any five year old, and even more so for a child with autism. The older one was settling into middle school in an accelerated academic program, she had school band and honor band, a demanding dance schedule coming off a major knee injury, and there was National Charity League with the charity work and league hours it required. It was a lot. We were all doing a lot. We were all stressed. We lived in a world of hurry up, we’re late, and chaos ensuing.There was never a free weekend. We didn’t have dinners together. We spent time in the car, but usually going over the “to do” lists. We were together from one stop to the next, but disconnected. I drove like a mad woman from point A to B to C and sometimes D. We’d lived this way for as long as I could remember. Go, do, go more, do more. GO DO MORE. We were doing a hell of a lot, and yet still I felt the need to do more. To keep up.
And we were all tired, anxious, grumpy and falling apart.
But this is the pace everyone keeps, right? Go, do, more. If I want the little one to have a happy and fulfilling life, she needs more therapy. No time to play, go do more speech and OT and whatever else we can find. More more more. If I want the older one to have a happy and fulfilling life, and to go to a good college (remember, 7th grade here) she needs more, more academics, more extracurriculars, more charity hours, she can’t just be in band, she needs to be in honor band, she can’t just be in dance, she needs to be the best at dance. Basically she needs to do all the things, she needs to do them better than other kids, and she needs to be perfect. There’s no time for leisure reading (a passion of hers), spending time with friends or just painting pictures in her room. GO DO MORE. GO DO MOST. GO DO BEST. This is what the other kids are doing! This is what other parents are doing. We better do what everyone else is doing, or these kids of mine, they’ll never end up being happy. We have to keep up.
You can only sustain that level of insanity for so long, which in our case was many years, most of my children’s lives, before something starts to give. And what started to give were my kids. Anxiety, stress, depression, exhaustion… it started to fill our home and their faces.
“Perhaps the scars of a hurried life don’t ever completely disappear. For years I had rushed my little stop and smell the roses child through life, and she heard the words hurry up, more than the words I love you.” “The best moments in life happen in the now, not in the when or someday” -Rachel Macy Stafford
And then one day it all hit me. I was driving the bus that is my family into the ground at 100 MPH so that they could be happy SOMEDAY. I had no regard for if they were happy TODAY. And last I checked, tomorrow is promised to no one. Why on earth did it not matter if my children were happy now, at the most carefree time of their lives? Whoa. We have a problem.
When it comes to kids, there is a lot of peer pressure. But not between the kids, between the parents. With what we think we should be doing to be good parents. With what we think we are supposed to be doing to help our kids succeed. With worrying about what others might think of our parenting choices and how they might judge us. And you know what, it’s a bunch of BS. Everyone is worried about who made the principal’s list or who got what spot in what dance, who made progress, who got the award. As parents those are the badges of honor we wear, even if we don’t want to admit it. Nobody is wearing a sash filled with badges for things like my kid is well adjusted, my kid is happy, my kid is kind, my kid is creative, my kid is unique.
The drive for success is making our children sick, depressed and suicidal, and that’s not an opinion, studies are repeatedly finding it to be true. Suicide clusters are happening in high schools and colleges. Once upon a time I was a young graduate student with a focus and thesis on stress and mental health. I knew this stuff. I researched it. For two years I worked as an interviewer on one of the largest surveys of the prevalence and correlates of mental disorders in the U.S. None of this was news to me, so what was I doing to myself and my precious children?
Then one day I finally did what I wanted to do for a long time, what deep down felt right. I did what I was afraid to do because “what if?” and “what will people think?”. I quit. I quit a lot of things for my kids. We went from having 1-2 activities every night of the week, to having 1-2 activities per week. I even dared to quit some therapies for my little one. And it was terrifying. What’s that they say, FOMO (fear of missing out)? It’s one thing to feel like you are missing a fun dinner party and an entirely different thing to feel like you are missing something that might help your child, some day, some way, some how. It was almost overwhelming.
But you know what was the most overwhelming? Watching the weight of this crazy life lift from the shoulders of my children. Watching a lightness settle into them. Seeing them relaxed. Seeing them happy. Seeing them breathe. Seeing them laugh with friends. Seeing my oldest daughter get lost in painting for hours. Seeing my youngest daughter playing make believe (a big deal for a child with autism). Don’t get me wrong, they are both still active and doing things. My little one joined the after-school cheer club, something we previously didn’t have time for, and my oldest found her love of theatre and stays after school most days to rehearse for school plays and is part of her school’s show choir. They’ve been able to try new things, meet new people, and take part in things they enjoy without it taking over their lives.
By pulling back on doing ALL THE THINGS, am I risking my delayed child not progressing as fast as she “should”? Am I risking my older child not getting into an Ivy League school? I don’t know. And honestly, I don’t care. Because if the price of admission for all of those things is my children’s happiness and the sanity of my entire family, then we don’t need those things. But it’s a journey, and it’s not always easy. As my oldest heads to high school, I’m certain it will only get more challenging to hold this perspective. I need reminders to breathe more, stress less and choose love. We can all use those, right? And THAT is why I am so excited for Only Love Today.
If this post resonates with you, you might want to also check out The Race To Nowhere.
Disclosure: This post was not sponsored or solicited. This one come from the heart. This post does contain affiliate links.