Kathy’s Summer Reading List

KathyYou know that thing where you’re running around like crazy and when you finally stop you can’t even think straight? This summer has had a lot of that. Nothing bad – we’ve taken several trips and gotten to see people we haven’t seen in ages – but it’s been a lot of switching gears. We are almost in the home stretch, and hopefully in the next week or two I’ll get back to posting more regularly. In the meantime, here are a few things that I read recently but didn’t get a chance to post about.

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Travel Tips by Introverts, for Introverts from Introvertology

Tiffany and I did a post last summer about travel, but there are lots of great points here I’d never thought of. I love the tips about how to stay anonymous. One thing I’ll add from this summer’s adventures: make sure you bring enough reading material! Doodlebug only brought one book on our most recent trip – hopefully she’s learned her lesson on that one.

 

People Prefer Electric Shocks to Being Alone with Their Thoughts from The Atlantic

The people in this study were obviously not introverts in the middle of a hectic summer! The craziest part of this to me was that the people had already had a chance to feel the shock before they were left alone – I figured some of it was just curiosity, but nope.

 

Sleep Study Shows New Moms Are Dangerously Exhausted for Months from PBS Newshour

I can certainly believe this, and I would love it studies like this led to longer maternity leaves. I also think it’s a good argument for better paternity leave policies – iDad was up just as often as I was when Doodlebug was tiny, bringing her to me so I could feed her, then changing her and putting her back in her bassinet. He also fed me yogurt at 4 a.m. and listened to my half-asleep dream ramblings about placemats. Tip: Don’t reproduce with someone who wouldn’t do that for you.

 

I’ve just fallen in love with Gemma Correll’s artwork – she is the person who made the Map of the Introvert’s Heart illustration I posted on Facebook, and she seems to have lots of other introverty themes in her work.

 

How to Maintain Your Energy During Busy Times from The Business of Introverts

Speaking of busy times! One thing that has been helping my family stay grounded this summer is our nightly reading time – we sit together and read to ourselves for about half an hour as part of Doodlebug’s bedtime routine. If things get too crazy and we have to skip it, I’m always sorry. [And if you were hoping this was about my real summer reading list... My top picks are Landline by Rainbow Rowell, the two Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith, and Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue by Tom Angleberger. And I can't wait for Louise Penny's next mystery, The Long Way Home.]

– Kathy

Hello? Is It Me You’re Looking For?

  Tiffany  As a child of the 80’s this Lionel Ritchie song pops up in my head every now and then. And I figured it would be an amusing way to re-introduce myself to the fabulous Introverted Mom community. To refresh your memory you can read more about me here.

Three cheers to Kathy who has so brilliantly run the blog since January. Hip hip hooray! (Repeat two times to yourself.) I am thankful to her for picking up my slack and for growing our group, and I am super excited to be back.

So where the Hell have I been?

The short answer: school. Because I am a masochistic lunatic.

Earlier this year I enrolled in a professional development course. It turned out to be a lot more work than I anticipated. “This is like taking a firehose in the face,” one of my fellow panic-stricken colleagues said. Weeknights and weekends (and, let’s be honest here, workdays) were suddenly consumed with reading, researching, and paper-writing. While it was exciting to engage long-dormant parts of my brain, it was almost paralyzing to realize how much more I was suddenly responsible for. Dreamy took on the brunt of the domestic responsibilities and it is only thanks to him that we somehow survived five months of Utter Nightmare Class. It wasn’t pretty but we slogged through.

Throughout this experience I was on my own a lot, hunkered down at a coffee shop or the library.  And you know what?  I was lonely.

Wait. What?

“I’m an introvert,” I thought to myself. “We don’t get lonely. We LIKE lonely.” But I was, and I didn’t like it at all. Feeling disconnected from one’s husband and kids is terrible and it served to amplify and exacerbate the school stress. When we did spend time together as a family I was bitchy and distracted by ever-present papers and projects. Not pretty, indeed.

We all suffered until I was able lean back (sorry, Sheryl Sandberg) and let go of the need to get perfect grades and to perform perfectly at work. Giving myself permission to not earn a  perfect grade on each and every assignment (hmm, sensing a theme here, are we?) liberated me from my own idiotic false expectations and empowered me to refocus and recommit mental and emotional energy to my family.  And voila – the loneliness vanished.  I still cared about doing well but “A Little Less Than the Best” became my official motto. Releasing those expectations felt wonderful and I regret not doing it much sooner.

Now that the course is mostly finished I have a newfound appreciation for the time I thought I didn’t have before; time which, while enrolled in the class, was necessarily highly structured and managed. I can see now how much time I DO have to devote to the kids or myself or to other things, like the blog or DIY home projects. Having truly free time again is a gift I will do my best not to squander.

Now then. Off to purge and organize the medicine cabinet. Just because I can.

 

Summer Shake-Up

KathyEvery year I think I’m prepared for summer, and every year I’m… not. As I was reading Jennifer Senior’s book All Joy and No Fun last week, I think I hit on part of the reason why. The book (which is great, by the way – I hope to do a review soon) starts with a section on autonomy. Senior argues that one of the toughest adjustments for new parents is giving up the control they’ve come to enjoy over their lives and their time.

And I realized that summer is, each year, a little like becoming a parent all over again. After a stretch of mostly organizing my own time, I have to readjust my schedule to make room for another person, meeting Doodlebug’s needs without losing myself in the process. And as I’ve already discussed, that was tough for me. Really tough. It’s not just the lack of routine that makes it hard, it’s also the loss of control.

I find myself falling back on some of the same strategies that got me through the baby days, especially Do the Most Important Thing First. When I have my precious two hours of writing time, I can’t let myself fall down an Internet rabbit hole or get distracted by laundry. I’m retraining myself to save those chores/rewards for times when I’m “on duty” with Doodlebug but she’s absorbed in her own play. Independent play = the new nap time!

Other strategies I relied on for staying sane, like Wear Her in the Sling While We Watch Lost, don’t work as well these days. And, while I love the fact that iDad and I both work at home now, it adds an extra layer of complexity to our schedule. Not only am I stressing that I’m not getting work done and that I’m not spending enough time with Doodlebug, now I’m also stressing that iDad isn’t getting enough work time.

Things will get both easier and more complicated as the summer goes on – so far we’ve been hanging out at home, letting Doodlebug decompress from the school year and squeezing in work time when we can. Coming up, though, we have camps and trips, some of which are of the grandparent variety (translation: sleepovers!). All that’s good, for Doodlebug and for our work schedules, but it’s a lot of changes in a short space of time. And we all know how well I do with that.

notebook_of_powerI do have one new strategy I plan to keep in place: my Notebook of Power. I am huge on lists – there is something so satisfying about finishing a task and then checking it off. I have even been known to write down jobs I’ve already finished just so I can mark them as done. (What? It’s something I accomplished! I should definitely get credit.)

So during the school year, every month I make a list of writing goals in my To Do notebook. Every week I make a list of tasks. And every day I write out 5-10 things I plan to do, including work and non-work items. In past summers I’ve let these lists slide, which means I lose that concrete proof that I’m getting things done. But this summer I’ve committed to sticking with my lists. Even if I don’t accomplish as much as I do during the school year (and I know I won’t), the summer won’t look like a giant black hole of wasted time when I flip through my notebook in September.

I know some of you guys have been in the summer trenches waaaay longer than we have – school got out crazy late here this year. How are things going at your house?

– Kathy

The Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging Mom

Review of MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths by Janet P. Penley with Diane Eble

Kathy

The Emperor from Star Wars. Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter. O’Brien from Downton Abbey. What do they have in common, other than being cruel, heartless, nasty pieces of work? They’re all INTJs on the Myers-Briggs scale.

Just like me.

I’ve known my type for a while now – iDad and I did a version of the Myers-Briggs personality assessment before we got married. It measures your preferences in four areas, each correlating to a letter:

  • Introversion vs. Extroversion: Do you draw energy from being alone or being with others?
  • Sensing vs. iNtuitive: Do you evaluate information pragmatically or by adding meaning?
  • Feeling vs. Thinking: Do you evaluate situations emotionally or logically?
  • Judging vs. Perceiving: Do you prefer to have a routine or go with the flow?

There’s a much more detailed breakdown on the Myers-Briggs Foundation website. And here’s a quick quiz if you’re interested in finding out your type. I have a strong preference for introversion and judging, and I was more middle-of-the-road on the other two. According to the people making up fun internet graphics, this adds up to being kinda evil.

So that’s why I was glad to read, in Janet P. Penley’s book MotherStyles, that INTJs are also “Individual Integrity” mothers. That sounds much more positive. The book talks about the strengths and struggles each of the 16 Myers-Briggs types faces as a mother. Penley argues that anyone can be a good parent by knowing what works (and doesn’t) for their personality.

Penley herself is an introvert (an INFJ), and she talks openly about her parenting burnout before she understood that fact. But she and her co-author interviewed hundreds of moms of all type-stripes, and after a nice introductory section that explains each attribute in depth, the book lists strengths and struggles for each type of mom.

I definitely identified with the INTJ challenges – the chaos of family life, having confidence in my mothering skills, and living a balanced life. And I will try to do a better job appreciating my strengths (according to Penley, that’s being a non-conformist, being persistent, thinking deeply, and expecting the best from myself and others).

Reading about the other 15 personality types will give you insight into how your own mom, your mother-in-law, your friends, and/or your spouse might operate. (Dads are definitely covered – Penley says 80% of what’s in the book also applies to fathers). One of the basic tenets of the Myers-Briggs system is that no one type is better than another – but people are different. Knowing what lights others up and what drains them is a good reminder that parenting isn’t easy for anyone, and that even though some things you struggle with come naturally to other people, the reverse is also true.

The technique applies to kids, too – starting around age 8, most kids are settled into their personalities enough for you to figure out where they land for each of these traits. Even if they’re younger, though, you can probably guess about certain things. Doodlebug has always loved imaginative play and art, which suggests she’s an Intuitive sort. And reading this book made me realize she falls on the Feeling side of the scale.

You can even type your family – if you know the personality type for each person, you can figure out which traits are dominant in your household. Like I’ve said before, our family is definitely an introverted one, which works great for the three of us. But if Doodlebug had turned out to be an extrovert? That would be challenging, for her and for her parents.

This led me to my biggest lightbulb moment – when I realized exactly why summer is so stressful for me. I always push myself to create a laidback, go-with-the-flow atmosphere for our family, which is exactly the opposite of how I prefer to operate. And, as Penley points out many times, working against your type is possible, but it’ll cost you.

So I will be taking my 2 hours of work time every day this summer. Because if not, I might turn into the kind of person who leaves bars of soap in dangerous locations, shoots blue lightning at Jedi knights, or joins the Death Eaters. You have all been warned.

– Kathy

P.S. There’s a whole MotherStyles website, with more info about the book, articles, and even a mini self-care plan for each type of mom.

Screens, Glorious Screens

KathyWarning: Loooong post ahead!

This morning, Doodlebug crawled into bed with us forty-five minutes before the alarm was supposed to go off and mumbled, “Screen-Free Week is over!” iDad and I didn’t appreciate the early wake-up call, but we both shared her sentiment.

Screen-Free Week is an initiative from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood that encourages people to unplug for seven days each spring. I thought it would be an interesting challenge – could I last a week without TV, without blogs, without Facebook? Lately I’ve felt the pull of the internet a little too strongly, and I thought a break might be refreshing and enlightening. I convinced iDad and Doodlebug to try it with me, and we were off. Literally. Ha.

Each of us planned to do the week a little differently. Doodlebug gave up TV, movies, and iPad and phone apps. iDad, as you might imagine, uses computers and other screens extensively for work, so his plan was to skip TV for the week and to put his phone away for three hours every evening. I also went TV-free, cut out all non-work-related internet use, and pledged to check my email just three times a day.

I am proud to say we all survived.

Doodlebug happily wrote stories, drew pictures, played with ponies, rode her scooter, read, listened to audiobooks, played games with us, and made an epic Perler bead house. She did miss her videos, but not at the times she usually watches (after school and on Saturday and Sunday morning) the way I expected her to. I especially liked having a snack and hanging out with her after school, since she wasn’t dashing off to the basement. iDad and I tried to point out how much more time she had to play and suggested that she might want to cut back her TV time a little – she was not into this idea, but we’ll see how it goes.

For myself, I noticed the biggest change in the evenings, when I often watch TV with iDad or go online to “just check a few things” and close my laptop, slightly dazed, hours later. I read more this week than I had in a long time, which is definitely a win. iDad and I finally tried out Carcassonne, a game we’d had sitting around for ages, and realized it would be fun to play with Doodlebug. And I got a little more sleep, but only a little. (Books. Too. Interesting!) All of that was good, so I’m going to try to incorporate 2-3 screen-free nights into each week. When I do go down the internet rabbit hole, I’m going to start cutting myself off at 10:30 instead of 11:00. Baby steps, people.

During the day, I was surprised to notice that I didn’t miss much by not checking my e-mail as often. Maybe it was a light week, but it was perfectly fine to reply to messages three times a day. I didn’t miss anything crucial, I didn’t leave anyone in the lurch. It made me realize that a lot of the time, I’m checking messages (and Facebook) because I’m bored. I should cut that out.

But I also noticed that I use checking in as a motivational tool – I’ll tell myself that I can go on Facebook after I finish editing a chapter or writing a draft of a blog post. So I’m going to try limiting my check-ins to five times a day, which I think will be plenty. Also, I loved not feeling tied to my phone while Doodlebug was at home. iDad reports that he didn’t mind being unplugged for those few hours every evening, either, and that he thinks he’ll keep it up. Yay!

All that being said… I didn’t really enjoy this week. Not that it was hard, because overall it wasn’t too bad. I just didn’t ENJOY myself that much. The evenings especially were kind of dull, because they were repetitive. Yes, reading and sleeping are two of my favorite things, but variety is good. I like watching TV. Sometimes I just need to laugh at Mindy Kaling or Jon Stewart. I like Mental Floss and Young House Love and Forever Young Adult because the stuff I read there is interesting, or gives me cool ideas, or leads me to great books.

Also, I work at home. We have zero water coolers. I did see some of my friends and family IRL last week, but many, many more of them don’t live nearby. Facebook lets me talk to them and hear what they’re up to and feel connected. Maybe that’s just a sign that I’m addicted to screens. But to me, it says these things serve a purpose in my life.

Maybe you’re thinking, what about your family? Shouldn’t less screen time translate to more family time? In our case, no. Maybe this is the ultimate proof that we’re all introverts, but we basically used our extra time to do our own thing. Obviously, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But the experience pointed up ways in which screens actually bring us together as a family – movie nights, or checking out photos of the beach house we’ll be staying in this summer, or watching videos like this seriously cool drone orchestra. Again, I think that’s a good thing.

So will we do it next year? Maybe not – I think this week has shown me that our screen-life balance is not so out-of-whack that we need a whole week to recalibrate it. There are definitely spots where we can cut back, but we don’t need to go scorched-earth. Still, it was an interesting experiment and I’m proud of us for trying it out.

[Finished my post. Off to check in on Facebook. BECAUSE I CAN. Woo-hoo!]

– Kathy

Tripped Up

KathyIt’s not like I thought our two-night trip to New York over spring break would be relaxing. We hit the Empire State Building, took a ferry ride past Lady Liberty, and fit in visits to Grand Central, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and Central Park, plus Books of Wonder (awesome), FAO Schwarz (crowded but fun), and Toys R Us (insane). I knew we were going on a trip, not taking a vacation.

Vacations are about slowing down. Trips are crazy, fun, busy, hectic, stressful, memorable. I like trips if they’re short, which this was, or to somewhere interesting, which this was, and if they’re surrounded by plenty of downtime, which this… wasn’t. Once we got home and switched back to our school routine, I realized that our entire spring break had been filled with trips, even though we’d only spent three days away from home.

iDad was trying to finish up several work projects before we left, so I took Doodlebug out of the house as much as possible. This meant playdates with friends we hadn’t seen in far too long (yay!) plus lots of errands and shopping (ugh). Without meaning to, I’d packed the week full of draining outings with too little time to just chill out at home.

All of this has gotten me thinking about summer, and, once again, that tricky fun/structure balance that I’ve struggled with for, oh, the past eight years. Summer is a chance to do things we can’t while we’re in the grip of school-year busyness, but spring break reminded me how easy it is to fall into a pattern of too many trips, not enough vacation.

School ends super-late this year (thanks, polar vortex), so I’ve basically got July and August to work with. The end of our summer is pretty locked in with camps and (low-key!) trips. But we’ve got several open weeks, and this year I’m leaning toward a more structured routine.

I would like to:

  • Work at least two CONSECUTIVE hours a day. And I’d like this to be a formalized, scheduled arrangement between iDad and me (possibly with an assist from our babysitting neighbor). Call me a control freak, but I can’t stand the catch-as-catch-can aspect of grabbing time here and there all summer. Too often it results in my productivity grinding to a halt, and I’m not willing to go there this year.
  • Make time for family outings or projects. iDad and I are lucky enough to work from home, and while Doodlebug is still willing to spend time with us (sniff!), we need to do Fun Stuff together. I know some families make a summer bucket list, or pick a theme or a project to last them until school starts again. I’d love it if 2014 could go down in history as “The summer we…” Tried 15 popsicle recipes? Read all the Little House books? Found a geocache each week? We’ll see.
  • Guard our downtime carefully, although I want to do it in a free-flowing way. Sounds easy, right? I don’t want to skip fun things that pop up unexpectedly, or turn down a friend’s invitation because it’s Tuesday and we only do playdates Monday/Wednesday/Friday. But I am vowing to keep the vacation in our vacation this time around.

What about you? What are your summer strategies? If you’ve got any tips (or popsicle recipes), do tell!

– Kathy

Home Again, Home Again…

Kathy… jiggety-jog. Home again, home again with my groundhog… Despite the fact that we have zero groundhogs, Doodlebug added that line years ago and now we always say it when we get home from a trip. Our latest was to New York during spring break, preceded by four days of playdates and errands and general running around, so I’m glad to back to our regular routine. Including my internet routine — I was offline a lot more than usual, and while I wasn’t completely unplugged, I definitely didn’t have time for my normal round of blogs and those random cool things you just stumble upon. Now that I’m caught up, I thought I’d share some of the good stuff I missed. Call it the first Introverted Mom link roundup.

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  • First of all, this piece on tech timeouts from Fit Bottomed Mamas! How… timely. (Sorry.) I have a thing about posting on Facebook when it’s clear I’m away from home — I’m always paranoid that our house will get robbed. Sooo, I wasn’t posting every little thing about our trip as we went, and even that small pull-back made a difference. I checked in on my friends from time to time, but it was nice not to have that constant “Did anybody like my post?!?!” brain nudge. Something to remember.

I’m not sure I agree that most introverts are bad at interacting with people, but I definitely liked the reminder that being yourself in social situations can lead to those real, meaningful relationships introverts enjoy so much. The app that can pull all of a person’s social media posts off the web for you… uh, that’s just kinda creepy.

GIFs ahoy! (Is that a hedgehog floating in a bathtub? Cuteness overload.) A list of what introversion is not, plus some good tips, especially the part about not spending too much time on the internet. Ahem.

I almost didn’t include this one, since I didn’t think it had much to do with being an introvert. But then I decided it absolutely does. The more stuff I have, the more stuff I have to wrangle. That takes time away from things I’d rather be doing — hanging out with iDad and Doodlebug, writing, eating Nutella while watching the Daily Show…Dealing with stuff is stealing my downtime. Yard sale season is almost here, which will help with things we’ve already accumulated, but I want to be much more conscious of what we bring in to the house in the first place. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the posts in this series.

– Kathy

Playdate-palooza

KathyDoodlebug is an only child, so playdates are a way of life for her – if she wants to see another kid outside of school, we have to find one. For me, though, they’re definitely a mixed blessing. When they go well, they can be a nice little mini-break. When they don’t, they can drain the life right out of me. Here’s a list of playdate experiences you may recognize, in order from ahhhh to aughhhh!

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The Holy Grail – you drop your kid off at the house of a friend she loves. They play for several hours while you go home and read, or nap, or do whatever you want.

The Family Affair – you are friends with the parent AND your kids like each other too! The kids play peacefully while you and your friend talk about Orphan Black. (NINE. DAYS!)

The Lunch and a Movie – you and a friend take your babies to one of those special movie showings for parents with little ones. You get to see a movie for grown-ups and maybe even have lunch, hopefully while the kiddos nap throughout. (Okay, this isn’t exactly a playdate, but those were good times.)

The Happy Surprise – a new friend comes over to play with your kid and they get along beautifully. They make crafts, share the toys, and eagerly eat whatever snack you offer. (Am I the only one who is paranoid about snack? Like the kid will starve if they don’t eat something in the two hours they’re at my house?)

The Coelacanth – your kid calls a friend herself, then they run around outside the whole time and you never even have to see them. (Fine, this has never happened at our house, but this does still exist, right?)

The Hit and Run – “Can I drop Molly off for a while kthanksbye!” (I love advance notice. I really, really love advance notice.)

The Nap Eraser – the playdate lasts longer than you thought it would and your kid conks out for ten minutes in the car on the way home. Then they’re up and cranky for the rest of the afternoon – goodbye, downtime. (Doodlebug hasn’t napped for about four years, but just typing out that scenario makes me want to cry.)

The “Preschool teachers should get paid more” – your house is full of kids fighting over the same toy. Everyone ends up in tears. Then they find the drums and maracas and decide to have a parade.

The Ninth Circle of Hell – The playdate has no pre-set end time. Your kid and her friend start fighting after five minutes and you have to wrangle them for who knows how long. Outside. In August. In 90% humidity. This one will require pizza delivery for dinner and days of recovery time.

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So which ones did I miss? Tell me about your favorite and least favorite types of playdates in the comments!

– Kathy

Leadership in Lowercase

KathyAfter the recent brouhaha over Sheryl Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign, I looked over the website’s materials for girls, parents, and teachers. There’s a lot of good stuff there, urging girls to speak up about what’s important to them and giving adults strategies for helping them be heard.

I wouldn’t be sorry to see the word bossy fade away. I can see that fear of being called something negative could make some girls reluctant to speak up. But my bigger issue is with a word that’s all over the materials created by Sandberg and the Girl Scouts, who are co-sponsoring the campaign: Leadership.

I haven’t read Sandberg’s book Lean In, but I know she wants more women to hold positions of power in the corporate world. In the “Leadership Tips for Girls” handout on the Ban Bossy website, these numbers are front and center: Women make up just 19% of Congress, 17% of corporate boards, and 5% of Fortune 1,000 CEO positions. I don’t like those numbers any more than she does – I’d love to see women equally represented in government and business.

However. Not everyone wants to be that kind of leader. Obviously those big-ticket positions are not her only goal – there are many possible stepping stones or stopping points, so I’ll say this, too: Not everyone wants to be the director of a library division (a possible career trajectory for me if I hadn’t changed my path). Not everyone wants to be the head room parent for her daughter’s class.

A friend sent me this article from The Atlantic in response to Ban Bossy, which points out (again) that introverts can be excellent leaders, thank you very much. “[S]ome girls prefer to plot their world domination quietly,” notes Olga Khazan.

I agree with her that some tips in the handout for girls seem anti-quiet. #1, Speak Up in Class, with the added instruction of “Avoid editing what you want to say in your head” beforehand. Wha? Thanks for invalidating my entire thinking process.

Others, though, I really like. #7, Trust Your Inner Voice, recommends keeping a journal if you don’t want to share your thoughts out loud. Or #5, Don’t Do Everyone Else’s Work, which is essential for group projects at school but also a good reminder for parents who need to resist picking up everyone else’s dirty socks.

That’s where I think the emphasis on Leadership is missing the mark: these are not leadership tips, they’re life tips. The handout is full of techniques for being true to yourself and navigating relationships. Girls and boys should know this stuff. But I disagree that the logical next step after #3, Challenge Yourself, is Run Something.

Maybe you’d rather make jewelry, or research cures for cancer, or introduce kids to J. K. Rowling, or be the next J. K. Rowling.

Maybe you’d rather blog.

The handout notes that our society hasn’t quite figured out how powerful it wants girls to be. But there’s more than one way to be powerful, and I’m afraid some girls will read these materials and hear “Your way is wrong.” That’s not a message I want to send to my daughter, or to anyone else’s.

– Kathy

When “Being the Change” Doesn’t Feel Like Enough

KathyToday is Pancake Day, AKA the only day Doodlebug buys lunch at school. I’m fine that she doesn’t buy more often, because as far as I can tell the food her cafeteria serves is not that great. I know some schools in our county are revamping their menus to include fresh, local produce and food that’s prepared on-site, but most of her options seem to be precooked, highly processed food-like-substances. Like, for instance, maple-flavored pancakes that are microwaved in a plastic pouch. Blech.

So I was really interested when I came across info about a new cookbook aimed at school cafeteria workers in this month’s issue of Eating Well magazine. A group called Vermont FEED put together healthy recipes that are popular in school cafeterias, all in big-batch portions so other school cooks can use them too.

For a minute I got all dreamy-eyed, imagining what it would be like if Doodlebug’s cafeteria served things like Mac & Trees (with broccoli – cute!) or Carrot & Quinoa Muffins. Her school is starting a garden this year, maybe some of the plants are vegetables that could be incorporated into the lunch program? I could let the staff know about the cookbook, and maybe…

No. No no no no.

Because I know what happens. The person who suggests a cool new idea also gets put in charge of implementing said idea. I hate gardening, I hate being in charge of things, and I don’t need an extra project in my life right now. I’m barely maintaining a good balance between other people’s demands on my time and my own needs as it is. Step away from the cookbook, introvert!

And I did, but it kind of breaks my heart. There are lots of things like this in my life – things I feel strongly about, things I think I should be advocating for, things I always end up leaving for someone else to take the lead on. If another parent saw this same article and started whipping our school lunches into shape, I’d help. In my small way. But spearheading the entire effort? No way, not me.

I’ve always liked the quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” (It’s usually attributed to Gandhi, although he may not have ever said it.) After my momentary flirtation with the cookbook idea, I had to remind myself that my smaller efforts are not worthless. Did I send organic apple slices and yogurt to Brownies last month for snack? Yes. Did I make from-scratch cupcakes with real ingredients for Doodlebug’s class on Valentine’s Day? Yes. Am I voting with my pocketbook by not having her buy lunch in the cafeteria more than once a month? Yes.

Am I worried that that last paragraph is obnoxious? Yes, and I know that’s part of my problem – sometimes I stick with being the change because I don’t want anyone else to feel bad about their choices. (And let me point out that we are definitely not perfect. There are currently five boxes of Girl Scout cookies in our pantry.) But the bigger reason is that I just don’t have the energy or personality for leading a huge project.

Maybe it’s like Susan Cain’s theory about introverts and public speaking – she argues that, once you find Your Topic, the thing you’re truly passionate about, talking about it to big groups becomes easier. Maybe I just haven’t found My Topic yet, the thing I’d be willing to upend my life to advocate for. In the meantime I’ll just be here, packing lunches, typing to other people who (hopefully) understand why I’m not doing more.

– Kathy