I started the 2018-2019 school year living with the tension that I have a freshman in high school and only 4 more years left of the Carter Four in this house together. Now, that’s not the end of the world, but it is the end of an era and it really made me pause and think about what will have mattered the most when we look back on these four years. It has made me reflect a lot about the Mom and Wife I want to be, but it has also made me think about the Person I want to have become when the era ends.
I’ve never been a New Year’s Resolution person because you can decide to be or to do whatever you want on March 23 or November 18 if that’s what suits your fancy. This year, however, I was wallowing in the tension of change so when January hit, I decided to really set some personal goals and expectations for myself. I tried this last year without any sort of structure and only two goals: 1) Keep Lindsey from developing a Slime Lab in her bathroom and 2) Start writing. I was only able to follow through on one of those goals in 2018. The good news of 2019 is that I think she’s through the Slime phase and I started the Blog mid-January. I also bought a journal/gratitude/goal-setting calendar to give me some structure going into this year and frame the things that really matter. One of the first things the journal had me do was reflect back on what I learned the previous year. I thought for about 2 seconds and wrote these words down.
I’m not sure where these words came from because I don’t think I’ve ever said them in a conversation, but the more I stared at them the more I realized how true they are.
I’ve suffered at the hands of my own insecurities more times than I can count and worry and comparison have been my lifelong companions. Around the time I hit 30, I thought I had overcome them, but looking back, that’s when I had children and so I basically reassigned them a new duty post. I have fretted my way through every single stage of life these kids have gone through. I don’t know why that is. I think as the Mom we are down in the weeds so much with their lives and there are countless things we make comparisons about. We don’t even need to go on social media (although that’s a minefield in and of itself), the very first pediatrician visit will tell you the child’s height and weight and what percentile they fall in- and the comparison begins. Join a play group or a Mom’s Bible Study and you will inevitably fall prey to women telling you their 2 year old progeny’s aptitude for soccer or how many Bible verses the 3 year old has memorized in Latin. We listen to this and somehow start playing along. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to these comparison conversations and gone home to worry myself into a sleepless night. I reached a breaking point in 2018, where I ramped up the comparison and worry traps to such insane levels that it drained me of the joy of watching my kids be the actual people their Creator made them to be. By the end of 2018, I watched things that I had worried and made myself sick over earlier in the year, work out in beautiful ways. Not perfect ways. Not the way I would have scripted, but infinitely better ways because the adversity I wanted removed from their life taught them (and me) that focusing our energy on the unknown or what other people are doing is a colossal waste of time.
I think at the heart of worry and comparison is fear. I tell my kids all the time: We all, every one of us- act out of our insecurities. Teaching my kids that truth gives some consolation when hurt, rejection, or bewilderment happens. It also teaches them to empathize. They have insecurities too. They know what it feels like to make a bad choice from a place of fear or insecurity. When you can feel empathy for someone who has hurt you, it releases you from all the “less than” feelings. We aren’t victims, we’re all just fellow sojourners, doing the best that we can. Making mistakes along the way. Figuring things out.
I’m developing a strategy to fight the worry and comparison. I’m learning to zoom the lens out. Stop focusing on the One Thing- whether it’s grades, classes, sports, friends, or getting into a college. All of those things tend to work themselves out without worry and comparison. Zooming the lens out is a hard thing to teach to your kids, who have a limited experience on this planet. It can also be a difficult thing to do as a parent because we only have the experience level of our oldest child to draw from. When experience is not an option, I think gratitude is the only way to persevere. When you don’t make the team you hoped to make: I am grateful for good health and an active lifestyle. When you don’t succeed in a class you took: I am grateful for the opportunity to learn how to be a better student. When someone says something hurtful: I am grateful for the loyal people in my life that show up for me. Every one can give thanks. It doesn’t take a long life of experiences to be grateful.
I don’t know if this is the perfect path, but I’m willing to bet it’s the path to a healthy perspective and I will take that over the insecurity, worry, and comparison. I want better for my kids than the path I made for myself. And I want better for myself at the end of this era than the path I took those first 30 years. We’re trying the wide angle lens and gratitude.
I’ll keep you posted.