Monday, September 24, 2012

Thoughts on Making a Halloween Costume and Striving for Balance

Henry's Halloween costume is finally done--hooray!

My first attempt was a complete disaster. I kid you not. I tried to make a little outfit in the shape of a strawberry and it ended up looking like a three-dimensional Star of David with a slit down the back so Henry could get into it. Oy vey.

I then decided that for Attempt #2 I would make more of a sandwich-board kind of strawberry costume with a flat strawberry on the front and back, connected by straps over the shoulder. Fortunately, the 1/2 yard that I purchased was sufficient felt for both my failed attempt and my second try (too bad I didn't realize that I had enough fabric left over before I tried to salvage the first attempt with a seam ripper). 

I experienced my general gamut of emotions that I feel when I DIY something: excitement, exhilaration, inspiration to mass-produce them and sell them on Etsy, despair, frustration, agony, and ultimately satisfaction and pride for making something with my own two hands. 

This time was a little different because I worked on it while I was watching Henry. At the inspiring parent education event I attended and mentioned last week, I came across this quote: "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."--Emilie Buchwald

I decided that the same general philosophy applied to this situation: "Children are made artists/crafters/doers/inventors on the laps of their parents." So I tried to involve Henry as much as possible. He sat on my lap while I cut out the strawberry seeds (we took breaks so he could feel how sharp the scissors are). I held him on my hip while I used steam-a-seam and an iron to attach the seeds to the strawberry body. He even sewed a little with me, pressing the button to reverse my stitching at the beginning and end of my sewing runs and then pressing the scissor button on my machine to separate the thread from my fabric. I was mentally patting myself on the back for being so Soule Mama

But then the tides shifted and Henry started to get impatient. He didn't want to wait until the end of my sewing line to press the buttons. The tension and frustration built as I tried to stop him from pressing the buttons, and he wanted to press them more. I started to get frustrated and impatient because I was so close to finishing the project and I wanted to get it done. It had been taking up valuable real estate on our kitchen table all week and making me feel unsettled.

And then I stopped, took a deep breath, and realized that our current activity was no longer meeting both of our needs. So we set the sewing aside and went into the backyard. Henry explored while I sat and enjoyed the sunshine and the quiet of the day. I was able to get back to my project as soon as Matt got back from his run and my free time started. 

That experience reiterated for me that I am not the best parent possible when I'm frustrated. I was impatient and short and even a little angry with Henry. It made me realize that Matt and I typically go to great lengths as a family to minimize our frustration, thereby trying to be our best parent selves. For example, after I stayed home with Henry for an entire year and started to get frustrated, I found a part-time job for myself and a daycare for Henry. When I start trying to make dinner in the evening and Henry gets irritating (because he's tried, hungry, etc.), Matt gets home and we can tag team (Matt intentionally works a job that allows him more time with our family). When I pick up Henry from school, we go to the park so he can explore freely and I can chat with other parents. 

For us, parenting is looking at the family as a system with different components and different needs. Our needs are just as important as Henry's needs, and Henry's needs are just as important as our needs. When making decisions for our life as a family, we try to look at the whole system and figure out what makes the most sense for making everyone healthy and happy.

It's a careful balance to find, for sure. If we swing too far in one direction--letting Henry's need dictate everything about our lives--then we can grow weary, depleted, and bitter (which wouldn't end up being very good for Henry at all). If we swing too far in the other direction and let our needs trump Henry's, then we risk not providing him with what he needs to reach his fullest potential. 

It's a balance we keep at the forefront of our minds when we decided how much daycare to sign Henry up for, when we decided when to end co-sleeping, when we decided to stop breast-feeding, when we decided to try sleep training, when we decided how to spend our days, when we decided how much Matt and I should work, when I decided to put down the sewing and go outside. 

It's impossible to get it exactly right every time, but it's definitely worth striving for.

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Ellen said...

I love this post, and as someone who struggles with impatience and anger, I know this will be an issue when I become a parent too. I think it's right on for you and Matt to keep prioritizing your needs too.

Carrie said...

I'm right with you, although I probably have way more impatience and anger than you have. It really does boggle my mind sometimes how vastly different and vastly more frustrating our life is with 2 children than without. As my husband says, "it's all part of life." And it will change, surely.

Kristy said...

Keep on keeping on Sarah! We strive for a balanced approach too. A solid family is the sum of its parts.

Anonymous said...

Love this. Parenting is a humbling experience for me as I muddle through my own impatient agenda. At the same time, I am in awe that - on occasion - my love for my little guy allows me to see what *is* happening in the moment instead of what *needs* to happen. It is nice to get a glimpse of how you are practicing this with your little guy! I hope I can keep that kind of patience when Miles is ready to push buttons on my sewing machine :)

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