Sunday, June 12, 2016

Intentions versus Reality

I feel always in conflict with myself, between what I want to get done during the day, and what actually happens. Does anyone else struggle with this, or is it just me??

On the one hand, I desire to get so much done; to be organized and productive and efficient.  This part of me would love to have a home that looks good and is ready for company to walk in unannounced.  This same side of me envisions getting hours of school work done with the kids every day; not necessarily curriculum, but stuff that helps them capitalize on their interests.  On the other hand, though...sigh...on the other hand, I realize that I will never have a drop-in-unannounced kind of home (recall my recent post about never having a clean house again while Matthew is living in it!). Our home is generally pretty messy - it's getting a little bit better as the kids get older, but not much.  This side of me also recognizes that, for lots of really excellent reasons, we have chosen to mostly unschool and let our kids engage in lots of (invariably messy) things that help them figure life out.

I suppose this dilemma speaks also to where my heart and nature are really at.  On the one hand, a good-sized part of me is little-miss-organized; the person who genuinely enjoys and wants a clean and organized house/life and finds rest and less chaos in that; this side of me works hard all of the time trying just to maintain the sanity that cleanliness and tidiness bring me.  But on the other hand, a big part of me (the most natural part, and likely the bigger part) is spontaneous, a little carefree, a little lazy, a little 'let's-read-and-talk-for-the-entire-day-while-we-drink-tea-kids' kind of person.  

It's a genuine duality in me and I struggle with it every. single. day.  I suspect I am not alone in this.

It is not uncommon for the more natural part of me to get lived out during the days with the kids.  We love sitting around drinking tea and reading books and having great conversations; we talk about everything and I find great joy in having those long and winding conversations where we wrestle with issues and come to no firm conclusion.  These are the times I feel I am at my best as a parent, particularly because I see my kids (two of them in particular) becoming more and more comfortable with who they are.  I also love taking the dogs to the park on these kinds of days and just letting them all - dogs and kids - run free and hard and to the point of exhaustion and collapse...and then we talk (or argue) some more while lying on the grass in the park with the dogs nipping at our toes or climbing onto our stomachs to rest.  I wonder what the neighbours must think of us on these days, if they see us or even care.  For sure we're the unusual ones, lolly-gagging away those kinds of days.

And then other times I get quite anxious if the house is in a state because I genuinely find more peace and calm in a tidier/cleaner home (and for sure this is Geoff's preference...poor fellow).  I can't often deliver on a tidier/cleaner home, but there's no doubt that I enjoy this kind of home more than one that is untidy and, particularly, dirty.  This part of me creates to-do lists for each of the kids and for myself on a pretty regular basis - maybe 3-4 times/week??  On days like Wednesday this last week I don't bother with to-do lists - we went from a morning full of math tutoring to dog walking to a friend's birthday party to dog walking to evening dance recital for my niece...there wasn't much time for anything other than caring for the dogs between events and making meals.  But on at least a few other days of the week, I prepare to-do lists for each of us for the following day, and we all feel rather accomplished when we get to tick things off of the list. :)

Here's an example of a to-do list from Tuesday:
Ruth - Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Get Ready for the day; tidy bedroom & make bed

Laundry - Seth’s

Time with God

Vacuum upstairs & steps

Devotions with the kids

Math with Seth or Lizzie

Bake chocolate cake for Learning Centre

Math with Matthew

Read out loud to kids (Superkids book)

Learning Centre at Marilyn’s - 1:00-4:30ish

Reading with Matthew

TT for hair cut & highlight - mid July

Reading lesson with Seth

Take photo of kids & dogs near lilac bushes

Reading lesson with Lizzie

TT AIA re: multi-sport camp

Matthew - Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Get ready for the day:  Wash face; brush teeth; comb hair; dress

Chore - clean out under bed

Tidy Bedroom & Make Bed/Cot

Chore - tidy craft area in sunroom

Read out loud to Mom - 20 minutes

Walk Charlie with Seth

Math homework - games & read books

Pack bathing suit, etc for afternoon


Practice lowercase printing with Mom

Seth - Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Get Ready for the Day - Wash Face, Brush Teeth, Dress, Lotion, Hair

Chore - vacuum and sunroom

Tidy Bedroom & Make Bed/Cot

Pack bathing suit, etc for afternoon

Reading Lesson with Mom

Chore - fold & put away laundry

Math homework


Walk Charlie with Matthew

Lizzie - Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Get Ready for the Day - Wash Face, Brush Teeth, Dress, Lotion, Hair

Pack bathing suit, etc for afternoon

Tidy Bedroom & Make Bed; clear floor

Reading Lesson with Mom

Math homework


Chore - empty dishwasher

There are days when everything, by some miracle, everything gets checked off of the lists.  My younger children, in particular, thrive on these kinds of lists and love them...they are the reason I began to create the lists in the first place.  Seth and Lizzie, in part by nature and in part by circumstance of their past, crave a sense of order and routine and predictability and structure that I find hard to deliver at times given the better/bigger part of my nature.   Regardless, we all love ticking things off of the lists despite my heart's pull towards no-list kinds of days.

In order to help me resolve the inner conflict I experience about intentions vs reality, and in particular to somewhat appease the orderly side of my nature, I recently said "yes" to an offer that my parents very generously offered me about 18 months ago and which I have, until now, said no to.  They offered to pay for a house cleaner for me, every two weeks, as they did when Seth and Lizzie first joined our family (when I was so overwhelmed by life that I could barely see my way out of the chaos).  In those early days with the younger kids, I was so very glad for the help that my parents offered; but when that house cleaner retired, I was determined to go without in order that my kids learn to clean.

And the kids have learned to clean.  Each of them can clean a bathroom pretty well, vacuum, tidy, etc etc.  I'm glad about that, and part of me would like to keep things this way, without depending on external help.  But as the kids get older and more creative in their messiness (again, reference previous post!), I find myself becoming overwhelmed and anxious again about the state of the house - and simply not able to keep on top of everything.  So recently, I said "yes" to my parents and I now have cleaners coming to my house for a few hours every other week.

Well, what a joy and a freedom those cleaners are turning out to be.  The kids and I still do chores every day, because the cleaners can't get through my whole house during the few hours I've given them.  But it has soooooo freed me up...I can hardly believe it.  They (the cleaners and my parents) have given us the capacity to enjoy more of those tea-drinking-and-book-reading kinds of days without the anxiety-building pressure of needing the more organized kind of day, and they have given me additional capacity to begin to work on some of those endless organizational projects that I have never been able to get to because I have been spending all of my time until now just trying to get basic house maintenance done.

In the past few weeks, because of the cleaners, I have (partly with the kids, partly by myself):  Cleaned out the entire garage (which has needed it for years...and now we were able to spend hours and hours just cleaning it out and hauling things to the recycling depot and salvation army and giving the garage a through cleaning); cleaned out the main floor closets; cleaned and wiped down the laundry room (including walls, windows, cupboards); worked through our master bedroom; cleaned out several kitchen drawer and cupboards; and puttered at several small, miscellaneous projects.  I have been sooo happy to get so much stuff done while still having a maintained, relatively-clean (not necessarily tidy) house.  It's like a miracle, and I am very, very thankful to my parents for their generosity...we couldn't do this without that generosity.

And so, at the moment, my day-to-day reality resembles a wee bit more my intentions.  I will never have anything resembling a meticulous, drop-in-unannounced kind of house (though, to my friends, I invite you to drop in unannounced anyway because I would rather have you here in my mess than not here at all!).  For now, I can't do everything I might intend to do...but I can relax just a little and let my natural, albeit somewhat messier, self take the reins and enjoy those tea-drinking, out-loud-book-reading days a little more often...and that's ok.

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