Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Valentine's Day lesson in living in the moment

I went home sick on Valentine's Day. Years ago this would have been devastating. Now, it's just one less occasion I have to wear pantyhose.

We actually don't celebrate the day and haven't since early in our dating days after we agreed that it's a Hallmark Holiday, meaning it's mainly a way to boost greeting card sales during a slow time of year. Instead, we opt for spontaneous celebrations of our love throughout the year. For us, it's much more meaningful.

Four year old Ava, however, has fully bought in to the hype, asking when we'd be getting her chocolates and whether Daddy would be getting me flowers and a balloon for the day. She was quite disappointed to hear we weren't going to partake in the heart-covered extravaganza.

Since she didn't have school on the day itself, her class celebrated the following Friday with traded valentines and Pajama Day. 'Cause if you're going to have chocolate at school, the only thing better is having it in your PJs!

The teacher sent a list of all the kids' names so that no one would be left out. After hunting around unsuccessfully at a grocery store and drugstores, I found a 32-card valentine multi-pack that was perfect for our needs. But once we opened the pack, Ava decided that she also wanted to do cards for all the teachers at her school. It kind of speaks to how close-knit and small the school is that she felt enough of a connection to them all to A) want to recognize them all, and B) could remember their names.

So in addition to writing out the names for eight classmates and her main teacher, she also did seven other teachers cards and signed each one.
I was so proud of her for her thinking of it and for sticking to it, even though I was rushing to finish and was much less patient than she was since it was after dinner, getting late, and there was still teeth-brushing, pajamas, next day clothes decisions and all the weekday home adminis-trivia to do.

At one point, after discarding a card that she'd written the wrong letters on, I realized that my annoyance was clearly showing (in the form of a sigh and eye roll) because she made another mistake and immediately looked stricken, saying, "I'm SO sorry! I didn't mean to! I really didn't!"

Good grief! I felt like Mommie Dearest sans wire hangers, and we were suddenly a far cry from the evident joy on her face when we'd written together in the past. Just look at the last photo on this post. Clearly I was making this feel more like a task to be perfected than a fun, thoughtful craft for her friends and teachers.

So I took a deep breath, smiled and said, "It's okay. It doesn't have to be perfect. How about if I draw a couple lines on each one to help guide you so that you can see where the letters need to go?" She smiled and eagerly shook her head yes. With that renewed spirit of teamwork, she resumed signing her name on each card and carefully wrote the remaining names as I called out the letters.

I was embarrassed that I was projecting my own sure-to-fail perfectionism on her and nearly ruining what should have been some lovely "Mommy/Ava time" as she calls it. I love doing things like this with her and Dylan, but struggle to fit them into our busy weeks, resulting in the aforementioned rushing and annoyance. It takes all of the fun out of the time we spend together.

So I'm trying to get better at setting aside sufficient time, stopping to just "be" in the moment, and also realizing that some things will just have to give. For example, if Jason's working late and hasn't started dinner, we may need to have cobbled-together leftovers or takeout instead of a more labor-intensive meal if we want to spend part of the evening doing some fun activity that takes a bit of time.

We'll muddle through, but I wonder how other busy families manage this nightly juggle of feeding everyone and spending quality time.