Slowing Down

Last year at this time, we started our journey to a more simple life. I quit my job (and the commute, nights and weekends that went with it), we quit eating out for the most part, and we jettisoned half of our stuff. Then, we screwed up all the simplicity by having a baby in October. Now that it’s been six months, we felt it was time to get back on track, so last week, we made some fairly drastic changes around here.

#1: We cut down on tv. We went from a PBS Kids marathon most mornings and a post-lunch DVD to George and Cat and no mas. We did keep our weekly tradition of Friday Family Movie Night, but no “According to Jim” re-runs, no America’s Funniest Home Videos…absolutely no mas for Scooter and Cheech.

#2: We changed the duty roster. We also went from mama doing bedtimes to sharing that responsibility with daddy. Now before you start burning your bras in celebration, my husband has always been helpful at bedtime. Up until this week, he was changing, dressing and (attempting) to comfort a screaming Cheech while I did the nighttime ministrations with Scooter. However, we decided to turn this little routine on its head; he now takes care of Scooter soup to nuts and I take care of Cheech.

#3: We stayed home…mostly. I also stuck to a “one-thing-a-day” rule. As in, we only do one errand/outing per day, not counting preschool. One. I used to lump two to three errands into every morning or afternoon, many of them for the children: the zoo, the children’s museum, a play date. You know – that stuff you’re supposed to be doing with your kids if you “don’t work” and all you have to do is stay home? Yeah, that stuff.

And the big one?

#4: I deleted the Facebook app from my phone.

So, the Million Dollar Question is: how did it go?

I admit, I expected all hell to break loose. Our Scooter is quite the television aficionado. We were fortunate to find a home daycare for him when I worked part-time after his birth, but one major drawback was the 104” television that was on all day long. Sure, it was harmless children’s programming (and smutty soaps during nap time), but it was on all day long. So he grew quite accustomed to a constant barrage of animated animals and hyperactive adults singing and dancing his days away even before I began staying home this year.

Monday, I braced myself for major waterworks, door slamming and screaming. And I got…minor whining. Minor. Tuesday, I thought it would be worse when it began sinking in that we weren’t going to be watching a DVD after lunch ever again as long as we live (or at least until Mommy gets the flu). And I got…nothing. Nothing. By Wednesday, he wasn’t even asking. Not a peep. When Friday rolled around, he was crack-addict-about-to-get-his-fix-excited about movie night – and he was glued to that screen like I’ve never seen before – but he was perfectly happy to go without movies all week long.

Tune in to Saturday: I went out and Daddy wanted to mow the yard without a four-year-old assistant (WTH?!?), so he plopped him in front of the set. Scooter was apparently comatose for close to three hours and Saturday afternoon was…horrendous. Scooter was rude, disobedient and very, very awful at bedtime. While I wasn’t exactly happy about this outcome, I wasn’t exactly unhappy, either, if you catch my meaning. Dear daddy most certainly did.

Bedtime during the week was also a surprise. Scooter was happy to get more time with his daddy and we all got to enjoy peace and quiet (mostly). Scooter still threw an almost nightly fit when it was time for light’s out – but he was thrilled to have daddy read to him, daddy sing to him (egads!) and daddy snuggle him in the darkness and talk about big boy stuff like whether spiders eat lizards or if purple is for girls only or if he should be a zoo keeper or a builder when he grows up. Priceless. It has become a really precious time for them and I am thrilled. The surprise is how sad I feel giving up this time with my boy. I’ve always been the bedtime person and daddy has just been the poor substitute, the relief pitcher. I miss it. But I absolutely don’t miss hearing Cheech howl for twenty minutes – or flossing another human being’s teeth.

The one-thing-per-day rule was heavenly. I thought I’d be bored. I thought I might kill the children. Mostly, I thought we’d starve since it would mean cutting down my weekly grocery trips from twelve to one. I had to plan. I had to think ahead. I had to prioritize. It was terrifying – and it was wonderful. I had more time to care for my home. I actually got around to cleaning out scary drawers and closets in anticipation of our upcoming garage sale. I finished my laundry, housekeeping and cooking chores early – and was able to enjoy a mostly chore-free weekend.  I played with my kids – outside and inside. We read books and made a paper mache dinosaur helmet (which we will paint this week). They napped well every afternoon – without a fuss or a fight – and they were tired. Tired from staying home.  Of course, I still made it to the grocery and we had a wonderful play date with some of our favorite people. I had the oil changed and took Scooter for a haircut. I also had coffee with a friend and went to a parenting class.  I just didn’t while away my days in the car, on the road, and in line.

So, our home is more peaceful. More tranquil. Yes, Scooter still pitches fits and called his dad an “ass” this week (oops! need to work on the profanity!) – but overall, ours is a happier home.

And our home is more fun – we played with corn starch in water and blew bubbles and made a friggin DINOSAUR HELMET. How awesome is that?!? We had a peaceful weekend, spent time sitting in lawn chairs after dinner and laughed more than we have in a long, long time. Sure, we have a long way to go, but slowing down and doing things differently is working well for us so far.

As for Facebook, two weeks ago, I posted 27 times, and this week, I posted 17. That’s an improvement – but I’d like to do better. I need to stop kidding myself that anyone actually gives a crap about what I have to say any more than once a day. Not even my husband. And besides, I could pick up the phone, send an email or O. M. G. send a hand-written note. Better yet, I could make plans to see these people in person – even the ones that live far away. I won’t ditch FB entirely – it serves a purpose – but I want to spend my days doing something more than staring at a little screen pretending I am socializing.

So, that’s it. Some baby steps toward a more simple life. This week, I’m going to go pick up a copy of Slow Family Living , a new book written by my new friend and LTYM Austin cast mate, Bernadette Noll. She is the co-founder of SlowFamilyLiving.com and a delightful human being. (I would have gotten it last week, but had to stick to my one-thing-per-day rule and bananas for Cheech trumped book for mama.) We have made many steps around here to simplify in the last year, but I am looking forward to making new strides with some new tips from an intriguing person.

I’d love to hear from you how you have simplified your life – your home, routines, whatever. Now that I’m not checking FB every four minutes, I have the time to listen.