I am a recovering Type A personality, which deserves a post in its own right. There are many descriptions of Type A to be found, few of them glowing or positive. (Though the competitive nature of Type A’s, and the resulting successes, is lauded.) It is well-documented that people with these tendencies experience higher levels of stress, anxiety, and frustration, in accordance with high blood pressure and other stress-related maladies. I’ve known my share of anxiety, and I’ve blown a gasket from high-standard-related stress more times than I can count. Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden is light, but I have heaved expectations upon his easy burden, often related to Type A thinking.
Early on in my mothering, I naturally widened my too-high-expectations to include my children, subsequently loading my children’s backs with those same heavy burdens. Thanks to one loud and persistent child, I learned that these tendencies were not going to serve my children or my sanity — in fact, they were hindering relationship and stunting self-discovery for us all. I don’t think we can change who we are, or our first reactions to most situations: I still react to a messy house or foiled plans with frustration, and I still want to control a majority of things in my life. But I say that I am a recovering Type A because I am learning to let go of my first reactions in favor of healthy boundaries, healthy stress levels, and healthy relationships. I am learning that oftentimes, the burden I am carrying is one of my own making that is impossibly large and will exhaust me, stress me, and run me (and my family) into the ground. There is mental work involved in letting go, but with time and diligence, it’s not impossible to change.
Which brings me to my “don’t-ask-don’t-tell-don’t-care” days, something I would’ve frowned upon in my early mothering. These are days purposely set aside to practice letting go of my ideas and expectations for myself and for my children. Kids do what they want, when they want. Kids eat what they want, when they want. I set out foods, I give ideas when they are bored, I am available if they need me, but THEY DECIDE how to spend their time. Sometimes they watch TV for hours. Sometimes they don’t eat breakfast until 10AM. Sometimes they spend all of their allowance money on candy and soda, and sometimes they eat it all in one sitting. (There have been times when they’ve felt fine afterwards, and times when they’ve remarked, “I feel kinda yucky. I don’t think I want to eat all of that at once next time,” which I consider a massive WIN.)
Right now, Sundays work best for a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell-don’t-care” day, so it begins at bedtime the night before. If they come to us in bed early the next morning, I send them downstairs to do whatever they want (read: Netflix). When we get up, which is usually around 8a, I’ll set out cereal bowls and milk, reminding them to eat. Throughout the day, I will set out little bowls of things: carrot sticks, popcorn, peanut butter and crackers, cheese cubes, apples. Sometimes they play outside. When they ask me to join them, I do sometimes, I don’t sometimes — the point of the day is for me to practice being in my home, with my children, without guilt and a feeling of stress over what must/should be done. The free-for-all ends around 5p, when we have to work on homework for a return to school on Monday and I cook a dinner I know they will love. (Because let’s face it, they either forgot to eat or only had candy, ha!)
Usually, we are all ready to get back to the routine and tasks of the weekdays after a day like that, and I feel refreshed from allowing myself to not care for a day. I’m not sure how long this practice will serve our family — as they become teenagers, it’s likely that we will see less of each other during the week and so desire more time together on the weekends — but for now, this helps us all immensely.