All my life, I’ve been a planner. I have a calendar in my kitchen, filled with scribbled entries made in pen, pencil and marker. The kitchen calendar is calibrated with the school calendar and the one on my phone. I refer to all of them, constantly.
Ever since moving into the city over 20 years ago, I’ve never wanted to miss out on anything and have tried to keep on top of what’s happening in and around town. I’ve always been amazed at what New York City has to offer adults and kids of all ages, on any given day, in any neighborhood and for any budget. I want to expose my kids to as much of it as possible and truly enjoy planning, purchasing tickets, saving dates, all of which is done weeks – sometimes months – in advance. So it’s no surprise that we are constantly busy, and often, over-scheduled.
This is extremely annoying to our family and friends who have a more laid-back approach. When I ask friends about their weekend plans and they tell me they’re going to ‘play it by ear’, I’m dumbfounded. Our kids, like most in the city, have schedules full of play dates, birthday parties and after-school activities. After a full week of school (with a million add-ons before dinner-time), they often have just as full of a weekend waiting for them. I recently started noticing that on Sunday nights, all four of us were completely exhausted. While we have a great time doing all the things we do, I’ve slowly realized that as they get older and their schoolwork gets harder and their schedules busier, something had to give on the weekends for our family.
The New Year was the perfect time for me to make a resolution. To my husband’s delight, I vowed to cut back on (some) plans and have more time to just ‘play the weekend by ear’. Whatever that meant. We’re just about one month in to the New Year and it’s been a transition for me.
The first weekend I was extremely antsy. While the rest of the family happily embraced having a lazy day, I organized our closets, cleaned out our pantry and donated multiple bags of toys and clothes to Goodwill. Now that the house is (somewhat) in order, and I’ve had a few more weekends of down time, I’m finding this new weekend pace quite liberating! Don’t get me wrong, we still are probably more ‘planned’ than most, but for us, there’s been a huge difference.
Pre-resolution, our weekend mornings typically began with a tag-team of my husband and I going to the gym. This meant that one of us had to be out of the apartment by 9 am, if we wanted to ‘do something’ with the kids by lunch time. Now that we’re less planned, we’ve been sleeping in more. Our kids are at that wonderful self-sufficient age where they quietly play or watch TV when they wake up and actually let us sleep.
Two weeks ago, we miraculously slept in till 10 am!!! (truth be told, they had invaded the pantry by then and had eaten a healthy breakfast of crackers and fruit roll-ups). Last weekend, my daughters woke me up (after 9 am) and snuggled with me for quite a while before we started the day. Weekend mornings have been heavenly.
We’ve been trying to keep one full weekend day (or most of it) completely free of plans. We’ve been catching up on TV shows, doing little projects around the apartment, cooking more and spending more time just hanging out with one another. I’m hopeful that there might even be a family nap in our future.
My resolution has given me pause and I’m more aware that we’re on borrowed time with our kids. Right now, we dictate their weekend schedule. Aside from birthday parties, weekends consist of family time for us. We choose the people we see and the places we go. It’s only a matter of time before sleepovers start, commitments to team sports invade our calendar and the girls simply start to prefer spending more of their free time on the weekends with their friends.
For now, I ‘m trying to embrace this time with my family. I know that the events, exhibits and plays will be there for us when we get cabin fever. I’m enjoying the less rushed family meals, the longer conversations, and the more frequent instances of spontaneous cuddling. I’ve noticed a new sense of calm in the household for all of us, the kids seem happier and better behaved and my husband and I seem less wound-up.
By bedtime on Sunday night, I feel more relaxed and a bit more ready to face the crazy pace of the week ahead. I still have moments where I can’t believe we’ve spent the bulk of the day doing ‘nothing,’ but I’m trying my best to let that go and focus more on whom I’m with, as opposed to where we’re going next.
Just the other night, I was flipping through some old photo albums and couldn’t believe how tiny my daughters were as infants. I marveled, as I often do, at how quickly time has been passing and how they seem to be growing up with lightening speed. Now, when I check in on them while they’re sleeping, I can’t get over how long their bodies are now, compared to those compact little swaddled bundles they once were. Sometimes, when I watch them doing homework or playing the piano, I’m amazed at how their minds have developed from those early days of learning their ABCs.
I watch them chase each other on the playground and think back to their wobbly first steps. I see them using chopsticks and think back to the messy meals of pureed carrots and tiny little spoons. There are a million moments, all of which I want to freeze in order to ingrain them in my mind – a particular smile, a belly laugh, a clever remark or a sweet display of affection. I want these moments to be crystal clear for me in a few years when they are running out the door to hang out with their friends on the weekends.
Maybe, just maybe, this new simple plan of mine will help slow down time a little. Even if it’s just on the weekends, I’ll take it.
Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Mina was an HR Recruiter for years. Now her time is spent happily juggling the demands of two young daughters while trying to expose them to the endless adventures the city has to offer.
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