Sunday, January 22, 2012

Eat dessert first...

Life is uncertain; eat dessert first.

A week ago, I updated my Blogger profile to declare this my motto for 2012. I'd had something more serious in mind, but I couldn't quite settle on the wording. I realized there was some ambiguity in my goals, and I decided I was okay with that. Hence this flippant motto. Or is it?

I don't want a lot of goals right now. Caring for my grandkids - growing with them - is my top priority, as it is for my hubby. Our days of full-time daycare will end when the kids start school (Augie begins all-day kindergarten in fall 2012 and ViMae in 2013). With this limited window of opportunity, we intend to continue to throw ourselves into the task.

To us, that means responding to the kids - to their interests and passions, to their developmental phases, to their behaviors that call for praise or encouragement or, um, coaching. We take the initiative to expose them to lots of things, but we're always watching for what seems to capture the attention of one or both, and before you know it we're buying books or finding YouTube videos or researching field trips.

They liked the birds at the feeders, so we got bird books (and an iPad app) and learned a lot about birds ourselves. They enjoyed Lego Duplos, so we amassed the world's largest collection of zoo pieces. They love books; our living room overflows with them. Augie drummed on every surface in our house, testing the sound qualities; we got him a drum kit and then expanded it with "wooden blocks like Karen Carpenter's" and "a floor tom like Gene Krupa's" and "a ride cymbal like Levon Helm's." (YouTube really is a fabulous resource.) They like building forts out of cardboard in the living room, staging impromptu marching-band performances through the house, and dancing in front of the mirror, and they insist that we participate.

So here's the thing. My goal is to contribute everything I can to their happiness and development. That means being playful, curious, flexible, loving, and healthy. I was going to make it my stated goal to exercise more in order to build up my stamina to keep up with the kids. But that felt pedestrian and uninspiring.

I've had a lifetime of serious goals. Self-improvement goals, measurable work goals, always goals. For most of my life I felt obligated to do my work first, before I could play. I didn't always DO that, but the obligation weighed on me, so even when I did play, I often felt guilty. Over the past year, a full year of retirement, I've let go of that sense of obligation. I work hard while the kids are with us, and then I mostly do what I want. My motto for 2011 was "Follow your passion, feed your bliss." I threw myself into life with them and allowed myself the time to revel in it.

I've become newly aware that time is fleeting and we are not guaranteed either time or good health. "Life is uncertain." 

So, even as I do what I can to preserve Peter's and my health and to build my strength and stamina, I'm going to "eat dessert first" - figuratively. I'm going to do those things that seem most important, or most rewarding, or most meaningful to others. Sometimes those things will be the most fun - like dessert. Sometimes they may not be quite so appealing, but I hope they will be memorable, and that as a whole they will make a wonderful and lasting course, following the entrees and sides dishes that have made up my life to date.

In other words, and I know I'm pushing the metaphor beyond all appropriate limits, this time in my life is the chocolate-souffle-apple-crisp-creme-brulee topping off years of chicken breasts and broccoli. Yum.  


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