Follow The Directions

It is May.

Mid-May now.

Before I became a mother of teens and tweens, I thought December was a whirlwind month. Now it is May that does me in. Team practice, dance practice, music lessons, recitals, school concerts, testing, finals, Mother’s Day, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Confirmation and on…

 

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(cc) Creative Commons   by  wyn lok cibc 2015 calendar may artwork

Just writing all that I get sweaty.  So many directions to go.  So many directions to follow.

Some days we eat dinner in the car while kids complain about not getting enough down time. I complain about not enough hours in a day.

Everyone prays for summer vacation when the schedule slows.

26 more days…18 more days…school is almost done…

I tend to get a little overwhelmed in May.

So many balls in the air.

So much juggling of schedules

and children

and places to be.

I try, really I do.

***

Two weeks ago, I took my oldest for his drivers road test. He is finally sixteen and the road test would be his last step to becoming a legal driver. An appointment that begun at 10:20 in the morning resulted in a drivers license at 1:50 in the afternoon.

I didn’t read the directions before we left the house.

I have one job as a mom…no I don’t…I have a million jobs as a mom, but I like to think the most important thing I do is teach my children the right way in life.

After 43 years, I am still teaching by the example of what not to do.

There we are, test day. I have planned ahead for practice time on the way to the test. I have given the pep talk on how we can do hard things. I have convinced him he is ready; he is prepared. I have protected him from doubt and fear with words of affirmation and encouragement. I ensure we are on time, early even, for the test but…

Fee? Forgot we needed cash or check only.
Forms? Didn’t use the government issued form.
ID? Forgot to realize we needed his social security number.

My failure to read the full directions before we leave home results in us standing in two long DMV lines. Had I read the directions, we would have been done with lines at 11:30 AM.

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Why is the process of reading directions so hard for me?
I am a communicator for a living. Just read the directions!

***

Last weekend was my middle child’s confirmation. I sent out an email to our family on what to expect for the day, their directions on what to do and expect for the day. Do you know how many of my family members followed the directions correctly?

One. Out of twenty some people, one of us followed all the directions.

There you go. I come from a long line of successful, non-direction following people. We are talking business people. Doctors. Lawyers. Teachers. They admitted choosing to read the directions they needed most (address) and leaving the rest behind.

And the truth is, I am grateful for gift of non-direction following that comes from generations before. There are lessons in what my family has taught me. So here is what I learned on DMV day from line:

When I am imperfect in front of my kids, it gives me the opportunity to improvise. Because the thing is, I have spent most of my life a perfectionist and it is an exhausting way to live. When I was practicing perfectionism and I wasn’t perfect, it ruined me for days. I would get stuck. Shame. Blame. Unworth.

Perfectionism sounds like wonderful idea, in theory.  We practice to become perfect at music or sports or creative endeavors.  What perfection really becomes is a mask, a way to hide from the world, a way to hustle away from truth or pain or growth.  I was great at it.  I was always prepared to hustle.  Think Michelle Pheiffer’s character is One Fine Day.  I always had everything I needed so I didn’t have to rely on anyone else.

Because each of my kids has a little bit of perfectionism inside, now I can model what it looks like to live in and through a mess.  They can see it is ok to rely on other.  They can see there is a “what will we do now? let’s just figure this out together.”  No more getting stuck in shame or blame. No more doing everything on our own.  The ability to teach how to move beyond the imperfect is such a gift.

Embracing our imperfect day as a gift, standing in line laughing and talking together, teaching how to give grace to ourselves when we don’t do everything right turned into a pretty good day.

The other truth from this day is, not all of us are meant to be direction followers.  Sure, I started out my adult life a pretty severe direction follower.  I always use to think it was because my parents were so unable to follow directions, too many times we showed up somewhere unprepared.  And my day, and his, would have been more productive if I would have followed the directions. My to do list certainly appreciates it when I am a direction follower. But I now I understand what my parents always knew, we miss so much when all I do is follow directions.

It happened around child number three’s birth, I realized I could no longer manage doing everything by the book everyday AND remain sane.  I started to practice letting go and just doing the next thing.  In my brain, I began to understand my parents.  I started focusing on the relationships in front of me and the gift in that.  It has taken me A LOT of years of retraining to do this as well as my mother always did.  I am still practicing!

Innovation, creativity, exploration are nurtured when we rehearse allowing ourselves some freedom.  Allowing my dualistic thinking child to see the possibilities of life when he leans into some of that freedom is ok.

In the end, I learned a lot about what to do better next time. I apologized to my oldest for being the one I have to learn all the lessons on. In the end, he passed his test and spent a lovely day learning about the joys of adulting.

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