“We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement.” — Hermann Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund
In seeking a mate we are often encouraged to search out our opposite, our complement. My husband is certainly quite different than me. While we share certain traits, the fundamentals of our personalities are quite different. This has led to quite a successful partnership and marriage.
However, it has lead to my downfall when it comes to motherhood. You see, when you marry your opposite, your progeny may also be your opposite — and not always in a complementary way.
Nothing has thrown this into such stark relief as this year’s summer vacation. Hours of free and unscheduled time is a dream for me (and my daughter) — but not for my boys. They are five years apart, which presents its own set of challenges, and when not provided with specific tasks their play dissolves into disaster. Either a fight breaks out, or they become so rowdy that someone gets hurt (minor so far, thank goodness). It is exhausting, and the first week of vacation isn’t even over yet.
I was determined that since I was fortunate enough to be at-home with my children, that I would not fill their summers with camps and lessons. I would NOT raise an anxious, over-scheduled child … and yet now I wonder if I’m doing it all wrong! Would we all be happier if I was packing them off to camp everyday? Do I really have to schedule activities every hour of the day to keep the peace?
Yesterday, after 3 days of arguing and fighting and yelling (yes, I’m ashamed to say most of it was by me) — we bailed out and headed to a local farm to go strawberry picking. Mind you, I had a quart of strawberries still in the fridge, but emergencies are emergencies. It was a gorgeous day, sunny but not hot, and everyone’s mood lifted. I wish I could say it lasted through bedtime, but exhausted little people inevitably break down.
Here’s what I learned though — I need to break things up more often, and in smaller chunks of time. I’m a work first, play second kind of girl. I want to get ALL my chores done first in the morning before taking the kids on an outing. But that just isn’t working. I think I’ve got to commit to breaking out by 10 am and getting them involved in something to keep them on track. Then home for lunch and another activity mid-afternoon.
I have to be honest, this approach is killing me. Despite my work-first mentality, I’m also a go-with-the-flow, take-advantage-of-the-moment worker. If the kids wander off and are playing nicely, I’ll ditch every plan and try to get something of my own accomplished. But more often than not this blows up in my face. It is SO tempting for me to dive into a small task and try to push off an outing, then sometimes we miss the outing and I get burned.
But we do have weeks with camps planned for everyone. I need to remember that those breaks are coming. It’s time to buckle down and find a way to make our differences complement each other.
“Have the strength not to compare and contrast opposites but rather, balance and combine them.” –Xia Neifion~Clark