How I Simplified My Parenting

I am a big fan of minimalism. The fascination started out for me mainly in the area of physical possessions. I very much like the look of less stuff. There’s hardly a better feeling to me than decluttering a room and getting rid of unnecessary things. It’s freeing. It makes me feel calmer, less anxious. Marie Kondo is my hero.

But the idea of minimalism and simplicity is about more than physical objects. Every aspect of our lives can be simplified.

To me, simplifying means cutting out the unnecessary and making time for what really matters. So in the case of physical stuff, as Marie would say, only keep things that “bring you joy!” This means you have to actually take time to figure out what exactly brings you joy, and what things are possibly worth giving up. As Ron Weasley would say: you need to sort out your priorities.

I recently decided that my parenting needed an overhaul – a simplification, if you will. I knew there were important things that I wanted to do as a mom, but it seemed like there was never time to do them. It felt more like I was trying to get through each day, rather than enjoying the precious moments with my child that I would never get back.

I’m a full-time working mom, so on the weekdays it really doesn’t leave a lot of real quality time for me to have with my son, Calvin. He’s 4 years old (4 and a HALF, I’m sure he would want me to say.) In the mornings, it’s a race to get all of us ready and loaded up in the car to get to daycare and work on time. In the evenings, it feels like a race to get dinner fixed for everyone, do the dishes (if they get done at all), and maybe have a bit of time to be together before it’s time to start getting Calvin ready for bed.

BEFORE simplifying our parenting…

We let Calvin watch t.v. in the evenings after getting home from daycare. We had previously agreed upon a set amount of t.v. he was allowed to watch (3 episodes), after he cleaned up his room. Well, by the time he cleaned his room and watched all his episodes, lo and behold, it was pretty much time to start the bedtime routine. We had even (I’m embarrassed to say) been letting him eat dinner in front of the t.v. most nights because otherwise there was not enough time for him to get all three episodes in. I felt frustrated – I knew that it was important for us to be eating at the table together as a family, but there just didn’t seem to be enough time.

Plus, there always seemed to be unfinished tasks that needed to be done: the dishes, folding laundry – and letting Calvin watch t.v. was useful in that it allowed my husband and I time to finally get some of those things completed. (At least that’s what we told ourselves.)

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The Power of Now

I recently purchased the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle because I was intrigued by this idea:

Depression is dwelling on the past, anxiety is dwelling on the future, and peace is dwelling on the present.

Maybe you’ve heard something like that before. There is a very similar quote attributed to Lao Tzu, although I’ve heard that it may be questionable who really said it.

But this idea that living in the present moment is the key to peace and happiness has been something I have been pondering for a while.

The premise of Tolle’s book is that depression is experienced because we are dwelling on negative feelings about the past, like regret, guilt, or self-loathing. Anxiety is experienced when we negatively dwell on the future, causing feelings of fear, worry, or dissatisfaction with life in general. True peace and happiness, according to Tolle, comes when we stop living so much in our heads, and take time to be present in the here and now.

There are examples in the Bible that would seem to echo this idea. The Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) uses the phrase “give us today our daily bread” (NIV), which could imply that we only need to ask God for things concerning today (we don’t need to ask him for tomorrow’s bread, we just need today’s.) A little later in chapter 6, it says “therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

In the book of Exodus, when the Israelites are wandering in the desert, God provides daily food for them – manna and quail (ch. 16). The people are instructed to “go out each day and gather enough for that day.” Anyone who gathered more than a day’s worth found it to be rotting and “full of maggots” by the next morning.

Mindfulness, the practice of being fully present with where we are and what we’re doing, has been gaining popularity in Western culture over the past decade or so, and it also heavily utilizes the present moment, the NOW, to decrease stress and anxiety. Mindfulness meditations typically have you focus on sensations in your body and view your body and thoughts in a non-judgmental way. Headspace, one of my top picks, is a great app to check out for guided mindfulness meditations.

Obviously the idea of there being power in the now is not new or uniquely attributed to one person.

So what does it look like practically to live in the present moment?

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Embrace Your Friend’s Stupid Mug Collection

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten a lot more interested in anime. It all started back in 2018 with Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, my gateway to all things anime so to speak, and then my interest hit its peak when I started watching My Hero Academia.

I fell way down the rabbit hole with My Hero Academia (MHA) – I have drunk the Kool-Aid and licked the cup clean. I love all the music in the show and listen to at least one MHA-related song almost daily. I have bought all the manga books available (in English) and am reading through them as they come out. I started collecting items like MHA T-shirts and socks, and Funko pop Izuku Midorias… I went to my first My Hero Academia convention this year and dressed up with my husband. And of course, to top it all off… I got my first tattoo earlier this year, which was My Hero Academia-related: Plus Ultra!

It is not an overstatement to stay that I am a bit obsessed. Otaku much?

I know that I’m pretty extra about My Hero, but I don’t care. I love it. I love how it inspires me, and who it makes me want to be each day. I love being true to myself.

I’ve also loved how others have been willing to accept me despite my obsession. It’s one thing to secretly love something that others might think is lame. It’s another thing for people to embrace it with you.

I will admit, I have some great friends. I have been gifted many My Hero memorabilia items from people simply because they know how much I love the show. I’ve received a Deku pez dispenser, a MHA tote bag, a “That’s not very plus ultra of you” patch, MHA Monopoly, and more. My friends know it’s my thing, and that it’s a part of me – and they accept it. They accept me.

I recently began watching a different anime: Sword Art Online. Wow – I had no idea so many people would have so many feelings about this show. I told a few other anime fans I was watching this show, and they were like, “it’s garbage.” I had just started the show, so I kept waiting for it to get lame. I kept waiting for the point to where I would go, “oh, okay, yeah this is dumb.” But it never came.

Granted, there were some weird things in the show (for example, someone having a crush on their first cousin) but nothing that I found to be a dealbreaker for me. And I’m sure that critically there are some aspects of the show that were not as well done as they could have been. But you know what? I still like the show. I’m currently on season 3. I was told that season 2 was where it would get “weird.” Season 2 was actually one of my favorite story arcs.

So, what does this mean? I initially had some guilt about enjoying Sword Art Online. Literally a guilty pleasure, I suppose. I finally had to get over it and embrace it – which was actually more about embracing myself. Why was I so ashamed to like something others thought was stupid?

Better question: why are we so antagonistic to people who like different things than us?

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