Definition: Do what you feel is best for you, in short, do you. ~urban dictionary
Don’t tell my three-year old,but I have a strong aversion to Thomas the Train. And Legos. And driving matchboxes over random pieces of furniture while making car noises out of the corner of my mouth. Same goes for most boardgames, video games, and huge amusement parks.
But pillow fights while blaring seventies rock on my ancient clock radio? Now that’s another story. Love it. Snuggling up close to read a huge pile of books? Tossing the ball back and forth? A game of Memory? Running races in the back yard? Tickle fights? Love it, love it, love it.
There was a time earlier in my mothering career when I thought I should like to do all of the things my kids enjoyed. Am I a bad mom for not delighting in these moments, I would wonder? How ungrateful are you? Be happy they are here and healthy, I would chastise myself.
Buckling down and playing along, I would will myself to enjoy it, all the while bored out of my mind and counting the seconds until I could pop up and get onto something else. “Wouldn’t you rather (fill in the blank with something less tedious),” I would implore. “Nope,” my child would resolutely reply.
Oh, how I wished I loved these things. The reality is, I just didn’t. Still don’t. Learning to admit and accept this has been remarkably liberating. Over the past thirteen years, I have learned to “do me,” by offering myself permission to not play certain things with my kids, at least some of the time. By tuning into and honoring what I find fun, I bring more genuine joy to our interactions.
4 Steps to “Do You”:
- Be aware of what you do and don’t truly enjoy. Is your smile natural or forced? Are you lost in the flow of play or counting the moments?
- Consciously notice what you choose willingly or purely out of mommy guilt (see previous post).
- Offer yourself permission to not like what you don’t.
- Experiment with saying no to the guilt-driven times and create more true yes-moments.
When my little guy is in the mood to play with his cars or my daughter is jonesing for a game of monopoly, they have learned to (mostly) not ask mom. I will occasionally acquiesce. However, when I do, I am consciously choosing to play because it makes them happy, rather than being driven by mommy guilt. This is a subtle, but important, distinction and our children feel the difference. The contrast in my demeanor when my little guy and I are engaged in a belly-laugh-filled pillow fight versus playing trains is obvious to even a three-year-old. They notice when we are slogging along for their benefit, because we think we should, or because we worry we are a bad mom if we don’t.
I am not suggesting, of course, that we always put our own needs before our children’s. There are many things I do for my kiddos that I consider taking one for the team. I spent my daughter’s thirteenth birthday at a Philadelphia concert where we were surrounded by screaming young teens. Not my idea of a great Saturday night, but a thrill for her. I cheerfully purchased the tickets, a large box of earplugs (making lots of friends by passing them out to the other middle-aged moms), and delighted in my daughter’s night of bliss — not because the mommy guilt was in full force, but because I willingly chose it.
So, go ahead, “do you.” Like what you like and accept what you don’t. Notice when a smile appears automatically on your face versus one that is forced. Give yourself permission to engage less in what bores you and more of what you love. You will feel the difference and your kids will, too.