“The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree,” doesn’t nearly say it all, in our case. At this stage, the apple is still growing, still attached to the limb, still gaining sustenance, growth directives and habits from me. Me and my husband, of course, it’s just that my husband has so much cool to convey and pass down. I am the uptight one, the tightly wrapped, shoulders up to my ears at times, taking on all the pressures of the world, wanting to handle everything, and who the hell am I trying to impress by being stressed out all the time?

I remember meeting someone – back when I was single and super relaxed – and thinking that she was such a mess, such a disaster, kept going on about how there was no calendar in the world that could help her keep all the many parts of her life in order. She was spun, and dizzy, and swirling cyclones. She couldn’t stop moving. I sat and watched her from an aloof distance of smug judgment, and thought, “She just wants to feel important.”

Fast forward twenty years. I am spun. I get dizzy. I cannot work a calendar to save my life, because life is full.

And there you have it. Life is full. I have so much to be grateful for, and I need to breathe more. Let me just jot that down on something so I can remember.

In a moment of clarity this evening in the car alone, I realized that I’d gotten frustrated with Ben earlier because he’s always mad. He’s not always mad. He’s always working out problems in his head. He can be very serious and focused and a little driven. He is having fun, but it’s not laughing, fiddle-de-dee, without a care in the world kind of fun, it’s the fun of a major project, and all the moving parts in his head. He hangs out with us, but he’s not always entirely present. He gets a faraway look, because in his head, he is building.

In my head, I am often stressing about something. I’m stressing about not having enough time. I stress because I seem to only be able to be good at perhaps two things at the same time, and there are more like 17 that need my attention. If I’m doing well on the homeschooling front, sometimes my house is a mess. If I’m doing great on cold-calling for the business, sometimes I have three heads. Rarely am I ever doing great at cooking the homestead way. I’ve fallen way off the wagon, and I’m buying prepackaged everything.

So, in an epiphany style moment, with birds singing in the background and everything, I realized that if Ben is looking angry all the time, he is getting that from me. We are both artists. We can both be intense. I have had to learn over the course of my life to strive towards the upward moments, the uplifting side of artistic endeavor, because the downside is a troll. He hasn’t learned that yet, and will beat himself up over imperfections, and get moody, and wallow. Oh, the wallow. Such a melodramatic place. I know it well. It is a place of endless despair, and at the same time never-ending new sources of despair.

He is so much like me, and so dependent on me.

I have learned to be a Pollyanna in many ways. I can sing during the worst storm. But the first little glower from him completely does me in. I’m miserable because he’s miserable, and how’s that helping him?

Tonight I realized that stress sometimes looks like anger, and if he’s mirroring me, and he doesn’t really know about the sources of stress, he only knows how to act out anger. I’m not angry, I’m just tight-lipped sometimes and trying to do too much, or thinking about my list of To-Do’s too much. When I actually just tackle my jobs, instead of dreading them and talking to friends about them, they are not that overwhelming.

I’ve seen friends on Facebook chronicle in one Status Update the enormous amount of things they are up against in one day. I get tired just looking at the list. But this is what I do to myself. And this is what I want to stop – for my son’s sake. Because he feeds on my moods, and it is up to me to help him learn to have his own, and be independent, and to keep it simple. We both need to learn to relax and take it easy. I don’t know how to relax in a guilt-free way. I sometimes give in to being tired and take a nap, but I feel bad about it.

This is my new goal – to Be. And not Do so much. There is still a lot of doing that needs to get done. I want to learn to BE in the moment even as I’m doing.

I do my best to savor these moments with my kids, while they are young, but I know that I can slow down and appreciate them so much more. In the thick of it, in the trenches, when it’s not pretty, or storybook, or comical – when it’s dark and stormy – even there – I want to savor the journey.

Because every attitude and outlook becomes magnified in my children, I best be smiling.

photo from here

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