The Gift Of March Break

Like most of my stories, this one begins a few weeks ago.  It was early on an unseasonably warm Monday morning, the kids, the Husband and I were heading off to our favourite playground in Central Park, the sun was rising over the buildings on the Upper East Side, and my son looked up at me and asked “Can we move to New York?”, before taking off with his sister to beat the adults to the playground.

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Last week, we were fortunate enough to spend a week in the Dominican.  As I waded out into the ocean with my kids to watch the sun rise, I silently wondered “When can we move to the Dominican?” (or anywhere else where I can wander out in bare feet, put my toes in the ocean and watch the sun rise?)

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But as we are now firmly back in Canada, (where there will be no wandering outside in bare feet for at least another few weeks), and preparing to get back into our routines with school starting tomorrow, I’m realizing that my desire to stay in the sunny warmth of the Dominican was rooted in something much deeper than the enjoyment I get out of this particular routine.

Travel, and this trip to the Dominican, in particular, allows each of us to follow our “must” and, for the most part, to forget about our “shoulds” (please check out this amazing article that I just can’t seem to reference enough to understand the idea of must and should).  For me, on this particular trip, I MUST start each day with a wander out to see the sun rise, with camera in one hand, espresso in the other, and preferably in the company of my little ones, and/or the Husband.  (I also MUST end each day with a (large) glass of bubbly, preferably in the company of several amazing new girlfriends, while the husbands chat and the kids play with their new friends).

But more importantly, in the absence of the million and one little “shoulds” that I have in my normal everyday life at home, the endless to-do lists, the pinging of incoming texts and emails, the urgent ring of the phone, there is time to breathe, and respond to the “musts” of others.  Whether that was curling up with a book to read to the little one, or venturing into the cool water of the pool to play catch with the older one.  There was unhurried time to listen, to respond, and to engage with each of the kids (and the Husband).

What made this experience all the more poignant for me, though, was in the moment, right after taking a series of photos of the kids, in their rings, watching the sunrise, when I put my camera down, and went to float with the kids; as we watched, and quietly chatted to each other, it struck me just how grown up my kids were becoming.  And just how little time I have left with them like this.  Normally, in moments like these, I start to reminisce about the past, to romanticize what was, and to do my best to will time to stop marching forward.  But this time, I simply enjoyed the moment for what it was; and after the sun had risen, and we floated back to shore, I allowed myself to look forward to what the future might hold.

I entitled this post “The Gift of March Break”.  In all honesty, this break provided us with several gifts including the gift of new friends, of good times, happy memories . . .But the gift I’m referring to, is the gift of perspective.

While there will always be “shoulds” in my everyday life, how I deal with those “shoulds” will allow me the opportunity to follow my “must” and allow the kids, and the Husband, to follow their “musts” too.  I don’t want to get so caught up in what I should be doing, that I let this precious time I have with the kids fly by unnoticed; unsavored.  When my son innocently asked if we could move to New York, it wasn’t just because he loves the City so much, or because he is the world’s biggest Rangers fan, I think it’s because I think he felt there, what I felt in the Dominican.

And as we start back at school and into routines tomorrow, I will do my best to make sure that we can all feel that way, even though we’re not on vacation.

 

 

 

Practice Makes . . .

Having spent my formative years as a figure skater, the one adage that was drilled into me, and that I have consequently always held tightly to was . . . yup. . .”practice makes perfect”.  But events over the past month have had me questioning whether that’s always the case.

See, back in the middle of January, my son came home from school with a box of multiplication flash cards and a log sheet.  The note from the teacher accompanying these two items explained that each child in the class was to answer as many flash cards as they could in ONE minute (a new card could not be shown until the previous one had been answered correctly), and they were to repeat this exercise five time each day.

At first, we ALL thought this little exercise was awesome.  So awesome in fact, that even my daughter wanted in on the action, so we started a sight word card challenge for her.  Each time the exercise was repeated, the scores went up, and everyone was excited.

But as the days ticked by, and the improvements in the results started to slow, the enthusiasm started to wain.  In its place crept frustration and impatience.

Sound familiar???

How many times as adults have we started some new program, regime, diet, only to get frustrated and impatient as the results slowed, or stopped appearing altogether, at which point, as adults not necessarily held accountable to anyone but ourselves, we abandon our ambitions.

With my kids, it was easy to find ways to keep them excited with their practice – I started calculating daily average scores, which tended to increase daily, even if individual scores didn’t change too much, among numerous other things.

But as an astute girlfriend pointed out – once you hit a certain point, there were diminishing returns to this exercise.

Concurrently, through the month of February, I was engaged in “Practice February” with my One Little Word project – those of us in the course were encouraged to pick one thing and to “practice” it daily throughout the month of February.  And . . . I was also working through my daily, weekly and monthly goals in my PowerSheets.  And . . . I was trying to keep up with working out (in the event that I changed my mind and entered the CrossFit Open).  And . . .I was practicing running as much as I could in preparation for the Tinkerbell 10K.

And . . . at the end of the month, which happened to co-incide with my 40th birthday . . .I realized I wasn’t as happy with things as I thought I should/would be, given how well everything in my life was running.

Cue the concept of diminishing returns, the idea that maybe all this practice was running me into the ground, and a suggestion by the Coach to take a break from my regular workout regime . . .

And so I find myself here, embarking on a new month of practice – the practice of yoga, of stretching, of breathing, and of letting go of what I thought I NEEDED to do to feel the way I wanted to feel.  And you know what – this whole idea of NOT practicing what I have been doing for the last few years is helping me feel more the way I want to feel.  Oh the irony . . .

While I doubt I’ll ever completely abandon the “practice makes perfect” adage, I am realizing that practicing one thing till you’re absolutely perfect may well result in diminishing returns – to how you feel, physically and mentally and emotionally.  And if you find yourself at the point of diminishing returns, then it’s time to take a look at finding a new way, or something entirely new to practice.

 

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