Parenting · Single Parents · Stepfamilies

The Sweet Life in the New Year

My brother, Alan, lives in California, and he sends me the most wonderful birthday cards. That Dickinson quote was on the front cover of a card he sent me several years ago, during my most difficult time ever.

My first reaction frankly was frustration and sadness. I thought “Great, it will never come again, and it’s not good. I’ve missed the chance to make it good. I will never get to do this time over again.”

A change in perspective

I soon realized that it didn’t say it was sweet because it was good. It was sweet because this was the only time for this time.

My thought changed again: “If it won’t come again, I better make it as good as I can, even though I’m struggling. I better make it as good for my children as I can, even though they are struggling. How can I make it sweet?” 

Counting the sweet moments

Last month, I sent you some ideas for enjoying the holidays. I started doing some of those things at the end of my first marriage when I was so heartbroken. Then in stepfamily life, my husband and I developed some new traditions when we were struggling so much with stepfamily growing pains. (I’d love to hear from any of you if they were helpful. You can share your feedback in the comment section.)

One of my favorites is to give up perfection and just count all the sweet moments you can find. Our time is precious with our children in stepfamilies and single parent families. Stop counting the days you have with or without your kids, and count all the wonderful moments you have with them. Stop trying to have the perfect holiday or weekend, but keep track of all those great moments over one weekend.

Lessons to live by

  • Make a gratitude list, and count 5 things you are grateful for every day. Don’t just count the big stuff. Count the sheets on your bed, the sun in the sky, a good cup of coffee and the flowers. 
  • Measure your time with your family by the things you do together, not the number of days you are together. 
  • It’s the “doing together” that matters. Try to build rituals and traditions in your home that everyone likes.
  • Lower your expectations for a perfect day, event or holiday. Instead, count all the sweet moments you can find. 
  • Whining and gratitude go together. Honor your feelings of frustration, fear, etc. Have at least one safe person to “vent” to. 
  • Remember where you are is better than you think. The grass is never greener in anyone else’s life. Everyone has problems and difficulties you don’t know about. Be happy in your own yard. 

Ultimately, it’s all about taking some pressure off yourself and enjoying the present with your kids. This practice of intentional living can be a great source of comfort to you no matter where you are in your life. Practice it, and find those sweet moments in every day, just waiting for you to see them.

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