Staying Afloat

Nearly all the work I’ve done so far has been related to external things- donating the things cluttering up my house, reorganizing the things we need, building better home-keeping habits. But I haven’t really done a lot to try and change my thinking about when something is good enough. I tend to go overboard a lot, and one consequence is a lot of unneeded items in my house, which I’m now trying to get rid of.

Easter was my first attempt to curb this tendency since starting my Simple Year project. Holidays are definitely the time when I go overboard the most, especially Christmas. This Easter I made Emma a nice, but minimal basket. But then I felt like I needed more so I ran out at the last minute and got more candy, most of which I’m going to throw out tomorrow because it’s still sitting in a cabinet, untouched.

Now that summer’s coming, I’m falling into a similar pattern where I’m in danger of going overboard again. I promised myself we’d have a simple, relaxing summer, with just one week of camp. Last summer Emma spent four weeks in art camp, which was too long for her. But the following dialogue has been playing on a loop lately:

Emma: Can you find my guitar? I’d like to play it.
Me: Ok, would you like to go to guitar camp this summer?


Emma: You know, I don’t really like sports, but I do like to run.
Me: Ok, would you like to go to track camp this summer?

You can insert a few other things into the above (art and swim, and a couple others). Never mind that she made her choice over a month ago, deciding to spend a week at a camp which offers both art and science activities. Never mind that my idea of a great summer involves watching her swim in at the lake, not sitting in the car, driving her to camps.


The best part of summer.

A couple weeks ago I filled out the paperwork for the camp she chose, and  felt glad to have it resolved and settled. I promised myself I wouldn’t think about it again. But I have to fight this tendency to feel like we have to do more, because I don’t want her to be deprived, to miss out. Like the way I had to buy another damn package of Peeps at Easter.

So my attempt to simplify needs to apply to how I think as well. I want to recognize I can’t give her everything, and she can’t and probably shouldn’t do everything under the sun, and accept that I’m not really doing right by her when I go overboard.

14 Responses to Staying Afloat

  1. but you’ll always wonder if you gave her enough experiences to find that “one thing” that she’ll have a passion to excel in.

    Oh, wait. That’s going through MY head, wondering if I should have done the summer camp thing.

    sigh, my kids are fine but sometimes you wonder.

    My oldest has a job she loves that she never would have found at a camp (there is a great story behind it) and still enjoys her music. Music was strictly school, no summer camp or outside lessons.

    My youngest is still in school but seems to have found something he enjoys that will make a career that wasn’t even on our radar.

    • Haha, yes! I do have things like that running through my head. But I keep telling myself she’s smart enough to figure out what she likes. The way the world is changing so much, there’s a pretty good chance she’ll end up in a career that does not even exist yet.

  2. instead of camps how about looking for free classes, this would be more of a drop in type thing? I know Michael’s has a free art class, Home Depot has a free craft on the first Saturday of the month (I think from 9-11), check a local running store, they usually have free fun runs for the whole family. Also I know you guys are big readers, did you know B&N has a summer reading program where kids can earn free books?

    • Thanks for the ideas. We’ve done the BN thing and will probably do it again this summer, and our library always has a lot of great events.

  3. Attending camps must be an American thing! Why not plan outings together as well to develop relationships and create lovely memories. I used to get my children to help with the housework then we would go for walks, visit museums, art galleries, concerts, go on picnics after we baked together,go to the cinema, swim at the local pool, explore, sleep outside in tents, visit and explore another part of the city, visit parks and botanical gardens. These are just some random thoughts but many outings can be planned around each child’s interests and be fun and educational at the same time.

    • Those are great ideas. We’re going to get a Wildlife Conservation membership which will give us access to 3 or 4 zoos and an aquarium. I know as the summer gets closer we’ll find other great activities, I think at the moment I’m getting bombarded with camp stuff which is why I’m thinking about it so much.

  4. This is fascinating. Have you figured out WHY you feel this insecurity about her missing out? I am finding great freedom in realizing the roots of my issues. For example, I became a packrat because I moved around so much as a child and I equated stuff with home. And memories. So I’m wondering if there isn’t some underlying regret that is causing you to feel this unease.

    • I do think about it! 🙂 I definitely don’t want her to miss out, and I do think I’m hung up on her finding her ‘thing’ which I know I need to work on. My own parents were very good about letting us pursue our interests, even though there were not nearly as many options as there are today. But I always appreciated that about them so I want to do the same for my kid.

  5. Can you help her to explore those interests without signing up for a camp? Go see concerts in the park as well as sing and make music together at home, in simple ways she can explore her interest in music, and they’re fun things you can do together. Can you go for a morning run together? Get her a bunch of open-ended art supplies to work with? While there is so much societal pressure to structure every bit of a child’s learning, there doesn’t need to be an organized activity or class to support and encourage her passions. You can do it at home by providing a few simple resources, and still have the open carefree days you’re imagining.

    • I think we can do those things, you’re definitely right about the role of structure and how it’s overdone. We’ve seen it with our Girl Scout troop too, sometimes they just need to have some down time with no expectations.

  6. I just finished reading the life changing magic of tidying up (finally!) and recall in the last chapter or so her discussion of a client that had accumulated tons of notes from seminars. This indirectly reminded me of my life in NYC (working in fashion). I felt a constant pressure to “know” and to “have done”. To be on the cutting edge in a way. After returning to the the PNW and going to graduate school I realized that I don’t have time to do and know everything that is the latest passing fling with those who “know” and “do”. I am now very content to plug away at the things that bring me joy. The question is, what will bring you and your family joy? I often underestimate how much joy I find in simply being still, and when I’ve had enough of that, all of the spontaneous fun things that I find to fill my time.

    • I definitely know what brings me joy, I need to work on making more conscious decisions to pursue those things if that makes sense. Like if I have a free Saturday I may run errands and hang around the house by default, even though there are a dozen other things I’d prefer. As for being busy, if I’m busy doing things I want to do, then it’s great. When I’m dealing with obligatory things that are making me busy, I definitely do not like it!

  7. Pingback: May’s Book Club: Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne | The Simple Year

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