Emma and I have been prom dress shopping over the last two weekends and our last two (unexpected and unnecessary) snow-no-snow, ice-no-ice days. Over the course of our excursions, we have purchased six, yes … six prom-appropriate dresses, with the idea that she would bring them home and fall in love with one. She argued that it would be more work for me to return them, and while that is true, the process of returning the unwanted dresses will require me to go downtown and drive around, I choose look at it as an opportunity to have lunch with husband one day next week. Plus, I rarely get to spend one-on-one time with my kids and we had fun going to fancy stores and getting exclusive treatment.
Oh, and Mexican food, always Mexican food.
In the end, Emma fell in love with a dress she never even tried on because it was a designer couture gown, costing $900 (more than my wedding dress and CONSIDERABLY, ridiculously over the budget). She has managed the inevitable (and something I swore I wouldn’t do) – securing from me a promise to make her dress (groaning here because while I am good at making drapes and other home goods, apparel for anyone over the age of 5 has always frustrated me). However, we found a reasonably simple pattern and have decided that Emma will create her own version of the designer gown.
I say all this because one of my goals in dress shopping with Emma was to teach her the value of simplicity. I agree, the purchase of six dresses seems a convoluted way of teaching this, (but remember? I had an ulterior motive there – see lunch date with husband, above). More than the actual number of dresses, though, there is nothing like seeing for yourself the difference between truly simply beautiful and truly obnoxiously overdone to teach this lesson. What makes a dress beautiful after all? The cut, the fabric, and the person wearing it. If any of that is over done, beauty has been eclipsed in favor of … more. And we all know more is almost never better, it is simply more. (Yes, I KNOW … six prom dresses … but it was fun!)
Simplicity as a life skill is something I am trying to grasp these days. I am making a conscious effort to try and impart simpleness into as much of my life as possible. As a mother of 6 athletes (plus the one in college who simply doesn’t eat enough), this sometimes seems nigh impossible. The carpool alone is enough to boggle the mind of the four other mothers + my mom + 3 fathers I share this responsibility with. The food necessary for the care and keeping of 6 athletes and growing children is another. Deciding what to make for dinner is a daily frustration that I am so over (I have a plan for this, by the way, see the bottom of this post).
Today is Ash Wednesday. In my Catholic faith, it is the beginning of an examination process with the intent being to come out the other side renewed, refreshed and closer to God because of a 6-week period of introspection. I have decided to use this period of time to put into practice my new goals. Bestie and I have had many discussions lately on what we are actually trying to achieve with each of our kids and our families in general. She has one going to college next year and the practice of trying to teach her senior (before said senior is struggling with the proverbial swim of life on her own) how to take the reins of her own decisions. She and I both have juniors as well, and have learned from past mistakes better how to help them manage this process next year (simplifying it, if you will), when they will be in the same position.
Simplicity has been a recurring theme for us as mothers. Not only are we trying to teach our kids how to be efficient and productive adults, we have had to turn the tables on ourselves and our own tactics, realizing that holding the reins too tightly in all that we do does nothing but agitate the metaphorical horses pulling our metaphorical carts.
Letting go, not just for Disney fans, apparently.
This is harder than it might seem, after all, I have this house of cards built that one misplaced sneeze could flatten. Or maybe I don’t? Maybe the house that I’ve built is stronger than I think and all it needs is more sensible and skilled builders whose ideas are good and smart and valid. Maybe I need to let go of the process a little in order for those builders to be able to create something amazing. Does this mean that I will step away from my kids and let them run willy-nilly? Absolutely not, but all good leaders delegate and model good decisions. What am I teaching my children when I impart my opinions (both nicely and sometimes not-so-nicely) just because I feel the desire to voice them? Better to do exactly what I tell them to do.
Stop. Think. Succeed.
At the very least, count to ten before I let loose with the snark (this will be very hard for me as Sarcasm is my middle name). If I can model the decision making process, and count to ten before speaking, or say (slowly and with purpose), “You should know that I love you and will always love you no matter what, but I am not thrilled with your decision because logically …” before every disagreement, then I am both teaching and modeling the behavior I want them to have. (The speech thing was Bestie’s idea, by the way.)
Yeah, probably not as simple as I think, but hopefully it will become a habit and I will be able to settle my constantly thrumming blood pressure more easily. As for my new dinner plan? I have a cookbook that divides recipes into the seasons. I am thinking I will simply move from recipe to recipe. No thought. No decisions. Just make what it tells me to make. Who knows? Maybe we will all learn new foods.