Carving Out a Life

When life goes according to plan it feels like we are writing the script ourselves. Other times an unknown director is pulling our strings and we can only react to the circumstances presented to us. It’s pleasant when we are in charge of the pageant and driving the plot. It’s annoying and frustrating when we feel like powerless participants in someone else’s show. 

Carve out time for clarity
The great production of living always holds surprises, but authentic personal power lies in our ability to attain mental clarity. The clearer our minds, the better our attention for what matters most. 

Do you know the story about putting the big rocks in first? It goes like this: if life is a jar and we fill it with the little stuff - demonstrated by gravel and sand and water - there will never be room for the meaningful things. Instead, put the big rocks in first, and then you can add the little stuff afterwards because it will fit around the rocks. 

By practicing skills like feeling our feelings and separating feelings from thinking, we develop greater mental clarity about our values and goals - the big rocks. Carving out the time for this is essential if you want any control over the screenplay of your life. 

Make time for self
This one is cliche but that’s because it’s accurate. You must put your own oxygen mask on first! No parent is useful to their kids if they can barely keep their own head above water. Take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. 

Many times people have asked me when they see me swimming at the lake or the pool, “What are you training for?” My reply - “life.” As the mom of an active son, I have always wanted the ability to connect with what interests him. 

The first act of parenting - babyhood - is not too physically demanding (except for the sleep deprivation part). However, parenting’s second act requires almost athletic endurance and emotional labour. You might have to train for that! The third act is the launch into adulthood. I want us all to make it to the third act without collapsing at the finish line. 

Prioritize your teens
This one is tricky because they are often compelled to act like they don’t want us. This is normal and good - they are maturing and differentiating. Remember: they might act like you aren’t important, but it’s not actually true. Don’t forget how valuable they are to you, no matter what they show you. Watch them sleeping. Let your heart melt. 

Don’t forget fun
There is no emotional or mental health without fun. You need fun and so do your kids, no matter how old any of you are. Playfulness helps humans learn and connect with each other, even if it’s just verbal banter or a moment of silly dancing. Children will show us what is fun for them, and invite us to join them. This  is vital for their well-being and it lays a foundation of trust.  

It can be hard to play when our kids are little. Some games don’t come naturally. Try anyway. My son and I spent hours in the woods pretending we were either mountain bike heroes or that he was 
the mountain bike hero and I was the videographer. I told myself, “play with him now, while he craves your attention and thrives off it, because this is temporary and brief.” Sadly, it really was. 

Carve a masterpiece
This will likely be my last column for the Fernie Fix on parenting teenagers. My caretaking is presently needed in Saskatchewan with my ailing father. It is  a profound responsibility and privilege to guide our young ones through the fire of the teen years. It is equally important to help a parent transition beyond this material existence. I have massive respect for all who participate in these world-changing endeavours. 

Thank you for reading these 38 articles over the past three plus years. I treasure the opportunity I’ve had to celebrate and support those of us raising the next generation. I have not been a perfect parent and neither are you, but we get to learn together and enjoy the sweetness. 

Photo by Vanessa Croome