With Mother’s Day around the corner, I am thinking of the motherly advice that I dish out, and how it behooves me to follow my own words.
This is your reminder that Mother’s Day is a week from Sunday. I am busy in the studio making Heart Flower paintings for a Mother’s Day Market in Ashland (Saturday, May 11th, 11:00am-6:00pm at Bestow & Bloom 149 N. Pioneer Street), and so I’ve been thinking about my job as a Mom. My daughter is fed, clothed, warm and dry, so basic needs are a success!
She’s also a teenager which means that swirling emotions abound! My Momdar is on overdrive right now picking up on all sorts of sensations that may, or may not, welcome Mom’s attention. I won’t go into detail about her as that would create a whole other set of emotional outrages, but I have been thinking about the advice that I give her that is also pertinent within my own adult life.
So here, in no specific order, are five things that I tell my kiddo that us adults may need reminders about every now and then.
#1 Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.
She is a junior in high school and that means that college prep and choices are a big theme right now. She feels an awful amount of pressure surrounding this decision and I have been witness to how this process has changed since I was a teen. Chiefly, it has become highly competitive and exorbitantly expensive.
I won’t go into a big tirade about this (although I could write an entire blog post about how ridiculous I think it all is) but the other day, I found myself saying, “this decision is only one of many that you will make and it does not determine the rest of your life,” which, by the way, is exactly the opposite of how these kids feel.
The point is that the more pressure we put on ourselves, the more stress is created. The pressure and stress are not necessary. In the end, everything will work itself out in one way or another. Which brings me to point…
...#2 Keep an open mind and don’t have specific expectations of how situations will work out.
My daughter has the expectation that she will go to college. I like that expectation. That is a manageable expectation to work within. The best thing that the college counselor said to us is that, “there is a road to college for every student at this school”. The implication that the road will look different for every kid is important as it teaches them to keep their minds open to how their college experience will look.
That is such an important gift of a lesson. As an adult who, in the past, had such an issue with expectations that I felt constantly disappointed and pissed off at the people who couldn’t meet them, I am thankful that she is learning this early. My new mantra is that things will work out how they work out. It may not be how you expected it, but it will be perfect for you.
#3 Speak up. Ask for what you want. No one can read your mind.
When my daughter was little, she would grunt, whine, and get completely frustrated when I could not interpret her groans. My reply was always the same: "I don't understand that language. Please use your words." Now, as an adult, I know how to use language, but sometimes I forget to. You want a raise? Ask. You want to stay home instead of going out? Say so. You need some downtime to take care of yourself? Communicate your needs.
I used to be scared to do this and now that I do, I feel silly that it took me until I was in my mid-thirties to figure this out. I have heard people in relationships say that they don’t feel they should have to ask. For instance, they “want their partner to want to help with the yard work”. Well…that sounds like a fantastic way to never get your needs met.
We all need to speak up! Forget about wanting people to read our minds. Forget about what other people should be doing. And by the way…
#4 Stop should-ing all over yourself.
We all have that list of things we should be doing. You remember how Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” For me, a more helpful direction is: Do or do not. There is no should. “Should” is a reminder of the things that we’re not doing and most likely won’t do. “Should” is an easy way to beat ourselves up. “Should” implies failure of situations that don’t even exist yet.
I suggest to her that she replace the word “should” with the word “will”. This simple change in words used makes a huge difference. Here’s an example: “I should get exercise 4 days a week.” vs. “I will get exercise 4 days a week.” Simple, yes? My theory is that if I can’t say, “I will get exercise 4 days a week”, I’m not ready to commit to that. Maybe I can only realistically say that I will get exercise 2 days a week. When I’m ready, I’ll bump it up to 3. Then 4.
My belief is that it is easier to set ourselves up for success with small, actually attainable goals than to create a goal based on what we think should happen. “Shoulds” are based on what we see other people succeeding at that we aren’t. Here’s a secret: I don’t need to accomplish the successes of others. I am not them. I am me. There is no comparison and there are no rules about mandatory achievements that every person on the earth has to do.
#5 Accept and Enjoy Life
For me, I try (hard) not to sweat the things that aren’t within my control. This includes, other people (and their children), the weather, taxes, the surf report, fire/smoke season (our new 5th season here out West), delayed flights, lines at the bank, traffic and gas prices. I mean, just not worrying about this list alone will save me years of my life.
I don’t think my daughter liked this piece of advice very much but it is a cold hard truth. Decisions, challenges and obstacles never end. I wish I could tell her differently. There will always be some shit hanging over our heads. The good news is that all of us go through this. We aren't alone. The bad news is that it never ends. So, we may as well enjoy ourselves, right?
It’s simple. Eat the ice cream. Learn to play the drums. Choose a college in Hawaii for no other reason than it’s in Hawaii. Don’t worry about what you look like when you dance. Smile and laugh whenever possible. When someone accuses you of not taking life seriously enough, reply, “Thank goodness.”
I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes. To hear from me more regularly, join me on this crazy, beautiful Artventure.