Saturday, January 6, 2018

New Year, New Mantra

My girl doesn’t often surprise me, but something she said the other day has stayed with me. We were in the kitchen when she dropped a bombshell: “I wish I had your childhood,” she said.

Me at the lakes

Without getting defensive, I simply asked her why. She rattled off a laundry list of things I’d done as a kid of which she was envious. Riding horses with my best friend Carla. Spending weeks at a time at my grandparents’ lake house with my cousin Kristin, fishing with my grandpa, and zip-lining from tree to tree. Riding motorcycles across fields in warm weather and snowmobiling in winter. The list was rather concise because it didn’t take long for me to agree with her; my childhood was pretty perfect.

But, comparatively, I grew up with much less than she. Riding horses for me meant sometimes bareback on a Shetland pony or double when there was only one horse for us to ride. My girl rides English at a barn where we pay someone to instruct her. Instead of cutoff shorts and tennis shoes, she sports riding pants and a pair of pricey leather boots. And a helmet!

Since sixth grade, my girl has attended private schools, where she’s challenged, inspired, and surrounded by like-minded top-tier students. I went to rural public schools where I did the bare minimum expected of me and graduated in the top ten of my class. But I had incredible friends, amazing teachers, and a social life that kept me busy every weekend. Yes, I was one of those nerds who loved high school.

My family’s idea of a summer vacation meant going wherever our current mode of transportation could take us. Many times it was a two-hour trek to Kings’ Island amusement park where we packed a picnic to save money on food. Sometimes we got adventurous, drove to Florida, and camped in our pickup camper—but way before Pinterest made it cool to rough it. I didn’t stay in a hotel until I was 13 (with Carla’s family) and never flew on an airplane until I was 19 or 20. My girl flew at least four round trips before she turned two.
Mia and Ruby June

So, she has enjoyed a more privileged lifestyle and yet she envies mine. While I don’t feel guilty for exposing her and her brothers to more opportunities and I don’t believe they act spoiled, her observation did cause me to reevaluate our lifestyle—just in time for Christmas.

This year, instead of buying her more things to stash in her room, we focused on providing experiences. She scored tickets to a few Broadway shows that are touring to our town theater, and we enrolled her in a sign language class she wanted to take. And a few days before Christmas, we adopted a second dog, Ruby June, from the shelter that has kept us—and Kermit—busy.

Doodle stitching a design by Mia
Even before the holidays, we talked about spending more time doing than observing. I deleted all but one word game app on my phone (that I play for five minutes each morning while having my tea), and we’ve already spent time learning some new embroidery stitches. We spent a lot of time baking (and eating!) together this holiday, and she’s eager to write letters to her friends and seal them with her new wax/stamp set.

Making gingerbread houses with Audrey
While it is easy to say we will be better versions of ourselves in the New Year, I believe even small steps can make a big difference. I interviewed a smart woman several weeks ago who has four daughters. She said the mantra she plans to put into practice this year is Time Well Spent. I plan to piggyback on that and change it up a little to Time (and Money) Well Spent. In fact, that will get inscribed onto my new planner—and maybe in calligraphy, since that’s a new skill I plan to learn this year.

As I dive headfirst into 2018, in the back of my mind I’m repeating less Instagramming and more crafting. Fewer emails and more snail mail. Less screen time and more free time. Fewer shows on Netflix and more books from my to-be-read stack. Time (and Money) Well Spent.

What’s your New Year’s mantra?

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