Tonight when scrolling through social media I noticed that several of the pages I follow are sharing lists of things I must do – books I must read, podcasts I must listen to, five things I must tell my daughter.
I’ve been blogging nearly 7 years. I’m pretty sure that I’ve written posts like that myself. But tonight, at the end of a long week that comes on the downhill slide of a long month, I don’t have any idea or clear authority of what other parents of teens must do.
But in this month, I’ve learned a little about what I must do to be an acceptable parent.
Yup, I’ve not only abandoned all hope of Mom of the Year, I’ve given up aspirations of being “good.” This month, “acceptable” is the best I can hope for. And frankly, lowering the bar a bit feels rather liberating.
I must let my teen know that I love her
This seems obvious, but in the midst of school assignments, volunteer projects, standardized tests, doctors’ appointments, social activities and teen inattentiveness, it’s possible the message could get lost.
Saying “I love you” and knowing that message was received makes me feel like I’ve fulfilled an essential parenting requirement, even if I’ve failed at everything else that day.
I used to say “You’re loved” to her pretty regularly and while that’s true, the passive voice seemed somehow wrong. I love you. It is not only a feeling, it’s an action, and it’s something I do day in and day out. It’s as simple as breathing.
I must get sleep
File this under the “put the oxygen mask on yourself.” Turns out that the decline in my hours of sleep directly correlates to a decline in my parenting performance.
Teens stay up later on the weekends, school starts early on weekdays. Combine that with some hormonal issues that mean sleeping through the night is more elusive than it used to be and I’m tired. And that’s just physically speaking. The emotional exhaustion is real, too.
I have no cure for that other than reminding myself that I can stay on the platform and not board my teen’s roller coaster ride through adolescence, and sleep. I’m a whole lot more rational, reasonable and likable when I’m rested.
I must ease up on the must dos
When I think of “must do” items, there are many more, of course. Thinking about them is like releasing a flood gate and they come rushing in.
I know that I must be responsible for my own happiness, find my own joy, have my own goals and pursue them with passion and purpose. I must exercise, eat more vegetables, meditate, and read more.
But feeling like I must do those things seems like a lot of pressure when things have been a little rocky.
It turns out that I actually do not have to do them all with great zeal every single day. Ideally, yes, that would happen. But let’s be real. There are days when finding the joy is easier said than done, and when you’re just not sure what you want to be when you grow up, and when you decide cauliflower just isn’t great.
Letting go of those and other must do items makes me less ambitious. This Friday evening, I’m pretty okay with that.
Right now, that works, for me.
Because I live with a teen, I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, so I’m hesitant to commit too far into the future. Things can change.
Maybe even now, that doesn’t work for you. That’s okay, too. If you feel differently and your must do list is what keeps you feeling great, I return to the words of Amy Poehler, “Good for you. Not for me.”
And that’s what I’ll think the next time I see another “must do” list online.
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