Here we are again! Ah, the glowing lights, the familiar carols, the cookies. But a different kind of treat comes along at this time of the year. Something I used to dread: report cards. Now and at the new year, how would it feel if someone was grading me in all my subjects? How would I be doing? What would my subjects even be?
Well, obviously I’d be taking a health course of some kind. Given my natural inclination toward mind-body and helping, I am sure I would be acing that shit. But not so with lots of American moms. Over the last few decades, we have gotten more sedentary and less active than in past years. According to an article by Melissa Healy of the Los Angeles Times, our lack of movement is causing our kids to become more obese. Not only do we do less housework (not fun but burns a mean calorie), we sit in front of the tv far more often. The study authors conclude that moving your ass is an “absolute prerequisite for health and wellness.” As a physician, my husband bemoans the fact that so many common ailments could be treated with exercise, not drugs. I don’t want to raise couch potatoes. Plus, I hate the idea of being all creaky and out of shape. My grade: A-.
For the sake of our family, I am taking a lifelong financial course. This stuff does not come easily to me, and I need all the help I can get. If it weren’t for my financially savvy husband, I may have gotten myself into some serious debt by now. And I wouldn’t be alone. He helped me understand how valuable it is to save, and hopefully, prosper. The kids are getting schooled too. They have their own checkbooks, savings accounts and allowances. They have to keep track of it all on their own. But for the grown-up stuff, I am utterly and completely bumblefucked. I cannot speak coherently on topics ranging from money markets to 503B’s to the stock market. I also spend in a haphazard way that could certainly use some tuning up. For homework, I signed up to take an online course on investing. Eek, I feel out of my element. My grade: B. Okay, B-.
Currently, one of my favorite subjects is community. We all know that fostering social connections helps to lengthen your lifespan, avoid depression and improve your general happiness quotient. However, in the winter months, particularly in the upcoming months after the holidays are over, it’s easy to hide out in the house when it’s dark and gray outside. We have also made a commitment to have happy hours at our house on a semi-regular basis to keep the friends in the same room. It’s amazing how just those brief little get together’s help with the isolation of winter. For me, writing and meeting new people help keep the desire to bury myself under my covers at bay. It would be great to form a dinner club or something along those lines but right now that feels a bit overwhelming. After the holidays. Maybe. My grade: B+.
One subject that I am doing fairly well in is keeper of the family. You know the one. You are in charge of photos, establishing traditions, recording memories, collecting recipes, organizing schedules, ordering what needs to be ordered, grocery shopping, keeping track of hair/dentist/doctor appointments…The list goes on and on. While managing to keep this ever-growing file going, I do drop the ball occasionally. And when I do, I am reminded frequently by my children. Sometimes I think they actually enjoy when I mess up. Although I haven’t put the scrapbook together for the last 3 years (okay 4, maybe 5), I know where everything is and I just have to get my act together and do it. Unfortunately I don’t get a study hall to work on this stuff. Maybe I’ll apply for an internship! My grade: B+.
In the “taking time for myself” class, I have managed to surpass all expectations. With girls trips planned and executed over the last year, time with my friends has been a necessary diversion. Getting some alone time, it’s taken me awhile to learn, is also essential to the well-being of not only me but the whole family. I need “buffer days” if I’ve been working a lot or if we’ve been travelling. Others have ways to deal with the hectic pace of life, but a cup of tea in a silent house is a great way to rejigger the chaos. Along the same lines, my husband and I have carved out more time to be together for quick dinners or beers when we need it, which is weekly. Our kids are now able to be on their own for short periods (if my hands weren’t on the keyboard they’d be clapping). My grade: A.
Parenting class has it’s highs and lows. Some days I wonder how I ever thought I could do well in this course and I have definitely pulled lots of all-nighters. Sometimes I wish I had an advisor I could go to, but even if I did, I probably couldn’t make the office hours. There are times I feel totally competent, rolling and grooving, like I am kicking this thing’s ass…and then…I’m a complete failure. I mean, can I get any extra credit here? The tests feel like they come every day: friendship troubles, teaching gratitude, handling disappointment and hardest of all…being a good role model. The biggest surprise, I suppose, is that two little creatures can serve so often as my teacher, instead of the other way around. Like you, I get it right a lot. And wrong. But the essence of me is always that it matters to me more than anything in the world. Anyway, I wish someone would give me a grade since it seems impossible to give myself one. But in the meantime, I give myself a B.
Ah, fuck that. Make it an A.
What courses are you taking?
Top photograph by the A+ photographer Barbara Paulsen.
Bottom from jumpingwithmyfingerscrossed.com.