In late February, I took my kids skiing for the first time, accompanied by a mom friend and her son. I was so excited to introduce my youngest kids to one of my favorite childhood adventures I had experienced with my own parents. I knew they would love the freedom you feel while skiing downhill and mastering harder slopes.
My certainty of their soon-to-be-found love of skiing was so high that there were no other possible outcomes except success. It was also the perfect time, not too early in the season where there is no snow, not during a three-day weekend, and not too late in the season. The perfect time for first-time skiers.
We arrived at the slopes and were one of three families on the mountain; bliss you must be thinking for a seasoned skier and skiing newbies. Skiing bliss was not to be had. The ski resort was about three hours away, and while the weather didn’t look great on my weather app when we left Arlington, it definitely worsened during the drive.
The mountain was a disaster; it was raining, the man-made snow turned to a hard crust of ice, the rain turned to sleet, and only four trails were open. Of the three families, two left within an hour because any skier with common sense would never have been out there. I am not even sure one family left the warmth of the resort.
At the end of their lesson, the ski instructor said, “today is the hardest day to learn to ski.” Did we leave, no? Why did we not? Was it some grand plan I had to teach my children a salient and meaningful life lesson? No, I am not that forward-thinking. I am, though, extremely economically and time frugal. We had driven three hours, paid for the private lesson, my son’s best friend was with us and the stars aligned that I didn’t have to work. Dammit, we were staying on that mountain because this was the time I had to spend teaching them how to ski, and they would love it.
The timing just worked out…
This is not the first time in parenting where I have sacrificed the experience of an event for the timing of an event because it “just worked out.” I did not fully understand the statement the ‘timing just worked out” until I was responsible for keeping small human beings alive.
In the early days of my infant twins, it was all about timing, nap time, bath time, pumping time, and tummy time. As they age, it has, of course, changed, but the ever-present dance of timing has not.
We spend much of our parenting lives waiting for the right time to teach them something, tell them something, and expose them to new things. We hope and plan that the timing is important, memorable, and meaningful. To the extent that we will occasionally put novice skiers on an ice-crusted mountain after one private lesson because we were there, and this is the time!
The cost of time…
Our experience of time changes during our life course, childhood and adolescent years can be spent yearning for more independence and freedom away from the structures of our families and parents. In early adulthood, we experience the stretch of the workweek and the compression of the weekend. Timing in relationships, job opportunities, and even real estate can sometimes feel part lady luck, part happenstance, and large parts of fleeting worlds colliding to lead us onto new paths.
The cost of time increases as our responsibilities and expectations of ourselves increase. When I look back at the leisurely experience of my 20’s now from my mid 40’s view, I see a graduate student who was lucky to have 7 years dedicated to her training and education in psychology.
My journals from my 20s read as long to-do lists, and I can feel the stress pour off the pages in my writing of various papers, research groups, and case notes I needed to finish. My own personal 30s were my childbearing and career sandwich years, where both took off at breakneck speeds. There was no time to write journals, and baby books were not even purchased. There has been no nostalgic reflection yet of that decade.
What I have come to believe is that I did and still do have control over my time and how I intentionally chose to direct my time. What I have purposefully created in my 4th decade is an increase of being time intentional in my relationships with others but also within my relationship with myself.
Being time intentional…
This time intentionality has led me to consider the concept of being time frugal. In my Badge of Busy blog, I wrote about the idea that NO is a complete sentence. This started my intentionality in protecting my time and developing time frugality.
Instead of looking at my daily calendar of have-to’s and scheduled meetings and the non-scheduled meetings I know would pop up, I started looking at my calendar regarding my time being owned by me. I consciously chose when and whom to direct my time to, whether it was limiting my own screen time on social media or intentionally not working outside of work hours.
To create this time of intentionality, I had to recalibrate what the word No meant to me. No meant I was directing my time to an endeavor or a person that I chose to, not being held to a circumstance where I had to give my time based on self-imposed expectations. No, I did not need to answer that call. No, I did not need to sign up for that parent volunteer activity because if I just moved one meeting, I could make it work.
Being time frugal meant I protected my time just as much as my online banking password. Time is our best commodity, and if we begin to see how we can assert control over who and what we direct our time to, our chosen time spent will become more meaningful.
But I can’t say “No” to my boss or my hungry kids…
You’re absolutely correct; there are many circumstances where responsible, law-abiding adults cannot say No. We can, however, start identifying patterns where we have the opportunity to say No and preserve our time but instead say yes and give our time away…