What's the rock in your shoe lately?
On our annual podcast retreat this past weekend, Erica and I took a walk through the woodsy neighborhood where we stayed. During the walk I asked, "So what's the rock in your shoe lately?" We had a good conversation, each answering the question and brainstorming solutions to our own rocks. I liked the question so much I wanted to share it here.
Here's the thing about a metaphorical rock in your shoe: it's not an emergency but it causes just a bit of friction or discomfort on a daily basis. You can get by with a rock in your shoe for quite some time. Maybe you've lived with a little annoying rock for so long you forgot what wearing a shoe without a rock feels like! So it's worth taking the time to reflect on life's little rocks and what agency we might have to remove them.
When it comes to metaphorical rocks in our shoes I think there are three kinds: the ones we have the ability to eliminate, the ones we can make less uncomfortable, and the ones that will only go away with time. Knowing what kind of rock I'm dealing with helps me minimize unnecessary friction in my life.
I thought of two "rocks in my shoe" that I have lately. One I have the ability to make a bit more comfortable and the other will probably only get better over time. But it's worth reflecting on them both.
Screen time rock in my shoe
My first rock is the boys being on screens and playing video games at friend's houses. At our house, the boys get screen time on Friday after school and for about two to three hours each day on Saturday and Sunday. During their screen time, the boys play video games on their handheld Switches or watch kid shows on Netflix. At all other times when the boys aren't in school or at activities they can be playing outside with friends or at the houses of friends who live nearby. I love that my kids are spending the formative years of their childhoods playing outside and with neighbor friends. What I don't love is the additional screen time they are getting at friend's houses plus not always knowing what they are watching or playing.
The situation feels tricky to manage because we can't extend our rules to someone else's house. I also don't want to tell the boys not to play at certain houses because I want them to choose who to hang out with. Plus that would require so much micromanaging from us and might encourage the boys to lie about where they were playing. This is a challenge of the boys knowing so many kids right on our street and being able to go from house to house. I love giving them so much independence but also worry a bit about what they might be exposed to. Obviously if I had serious concerns I would talk to other parents and put boundaries in place. It's more of a slightly unsettled feeling I have as the boys step into bigger kid independence and activities.
What I can do is to continue to have conversations with Chris and the boys about the situation. We do understand that kids socialize around screens and that's what makes me feel okay about not enforcing restrictions around the screen time at friend's houses. We also try to ask the boys what they were watching or playing at someone's house and not to admonish them about anything they share (so that they will continue to feel comfortable sharing with us). If we notice the boys are mentioning video games or content we aren't comfortable with then we can have a conversation with them or the friend's parents.
So for this rock I think the approach is making the situation a little more comfortable but I'm not going to eliminate it. I can remember to focus on how much time outside and with friends the boys have and how much I value that for their childhood. I can also remember that even with screens the boys are being social and are also telling us what they're watching and playing. Finally, I can know that establishing honest communication with the boys about screens and media will serve us well as they get older.
Toddler meltdowns rock in my shoe
The other rock in my shoe are Maeve's toddler meltdowns! These are often at their most extreme in the morning. I'm talking ear-piercing screams because I said, "Good morning..." or because we brought her the exact breakfast that she requested. Yeow! We try quiet one-on-one time together, offering food we know she likes, and playing games before getting dressed. During one of Maeve's grumpy mornings these attentive parenting efforts are met only with screaming. It is so unpleasant!
I think these feel especially hard because so much has to happen in the morning already and doing tasks to a soundtrack of a meltdown is decidedly not enjoyable. I can also feel frustrated because we aren't rushing Maeve or being short with her. Instead, we're being our most patient and calm selves and it doesn't seem to count for anything in the moment. During the fall, we were in a phase where our typical morning included a very crabby scream-y Maeve. That was really hard. But! I'm so happy to report that the daily grumpy mornings have subsided into two or three mornings a week.
So for this rock in my shoe I'm first noticing that this hard thing has already improved which reminds that it will keep improving. For whatever reason, Maeve's toddler emotions are all a-jumble and cranky in the morning but they'll even out over time. I think we also need to reinstitute feeding Maeve something as soon as she wakes up. We used to often greet her in her crib with a yogurt pouch. It didn't always prevent a grumpy morning but I don't think it hurts anything either.
I feel better after reflecting on these rocks in my shoe! For each one I identified some things I can do to make the situation less challenging, and I also know that one situation will improve a lot over time (hopefully over the next few months even). I'd love to hear what rocks in your shoe you have and what you can do about them.