Each year, we take one week and head to the shore. It’s our happy place. I look forward to this week the entire year. In Ocean City, everything is family-friendly. There are a ridiculous number of affordable activities to entertain children and parents alike. A fun boardwalk, beautiful beaches, boat rides, an adorable downtown, and chicken strips at every restaurant. It is the most relaxing experience I seem to be able to have with kids around.
And yet… every other year we’ve brought along reinforcements – grandparents or friends with kids. This is the first time in five summers that we have come to this experience without extra guests, just the four of us. My husband and I were so anxious about this experience. How could we do this on our own? Part of the magic in the past has been the ability to break up into groups, extra grown-ups to help with laundry and discipline and spilled cheerios. There were always extra people to play cards when the kids went to bed. How will we survive?
So, we had a brilliant idea – camp! There is a playground camp that is just 9am to noon where the kids play and have fun and we could get a few hours off. Perfect… right?
The first morning came to test out our genius idea. We had talked about it with the kids for weeks. Then the moment came to put on sunscreen and leave… and they both started melting down complaining about this camp they knew nothing about. “Don’t make us go! We want to staaaaaaayy!!”
Chaos continued to ensue. “Okay. Everyone out the door to the park for some fun!” “NO! NO! NO!” Then there was the dragging down the street for six long blocks to get to the park. Finally, we got there and met the children in charge (okay, teenagers). My daughter and I saw it at the same moment. The kids were all little. She was older than all of them. I immediately started to panic. “She’s not going to stay. I need this time for me! Make her stay!” In contrast, she completely changed composure. She moved from rigid defiance to soft sadness. Now she was just sad. Of course, my son – my little one – was thrilled and jumped right in. He was all set.
How to handle this chaos? Give in? Tell her, “never mind,” and teach her that it’s perfectly okay to back away from commitments, that pouting and sadness lead to Mommy and Daddy caving? Or force her to stay in this place that might actually be a miserable experience for her? Give up my precious 2.5 hours to myself?
Well, you can easily figure out the result. I literally wrote most of this post from a coffee shop while the kids were at camp. Because here’s why: I took a deep breath and thought about her position on the whole thing. Sure she was anxious. But actually she’s always anxious when it’s something new. And yes the kids were younger than her, but she often enjoys being teacher’s assistant and helping out with little ones.
So, instead of following my first instinct to tell her this was the arrangement that she already knew about and she’s sticking to it, I tried to embrace the chaos. I looked her in the eyes and sincerely said, “Do you think you could try just today? And when I come back in just 3 hours we’ll talk about how it went? Do you think you’d be able to just try?” She nodded sincerely, told me that she would give it a real try, and went to sit down for the craft activity.
This is the life. It’s always a bit of chaos. It’s up to us to make the order. Life is chaotic. It never just works. The kids never just put their shoes on and leave the house. NEVER. When it seems that we have a chance to actually just get out of the house, usually the universe works against us and something else happens (something breaks, someone calls, the car won’t start, and on and on).
Chaos is the norm. Order is what we bring. So often, I realize, when I’m desperately trying to create order, I’m actually just contributing to the chaos. So, instead, I can embrace the chaos – at least the small chaos like pouting about camp – and then perhaps see the bigger picture.
This summer, I took an online Soulful Parenting course with Ayeka. We spent four weeks thinking about chaos and order and parenting. During this course we were asked to notice and embrace chaos in our family lives. As “extra credit,” our facilitator challenged us to try to bless the chaos. The assignment inspired this post.
Can I bless the chaos? Here’s my try:
Blessed are you Eternal One, Creator of Chaos, who enables us to fashion order in the small moments.
Ordinary Days, Meaningful Life is a labor of love geared toward working moms ready to embrace the chaos and find meaning in it. If you found this post meaningful, please share it with someone you think would enjoy it too! I’d love to stay in touch with you! Leave a comment below, contact me, or sign up for the mailing list. I can’t wait to hear from you!