Hindsight Parenting: Letting Go of Fantasies, Living in the Moment
I Have Always Been a Fantasizer
I have always been a fantasizer. I am sure that there is not one human being who knows me who is shocked by that statement. If I analyzed my tendency to live outside of reality, I would have to tell you that it started as a child; a very young child. My fantasizing began as innocent conjuring; imagining situations which if true would earn me the elusive approval of my parents. Growing up, it was apparent very early on that succeeding in a public way like winning a contest or being the best at a sport or activity instantly got the attention of good ol’ mom and dad. Alas, during my childhood it was my perception that I came up short in many areas. I wasn’t the prettiest. I wasn’t the smartest. I most DEFINITELY wasn’t the most athletic, and because I was just sort of mediocre or imagined myself to be, it seemed I also came up short in the parental attention department. And so I began to fantasize; imagine situations where I was the best and the brightest, winning accolades, standing in the front of the line with the trophy in my hand. All of these childhood fantasies culminated with my mother and father fawning over me and my accomplishments and in my mind I basked in the glow of their adoration.
As I grew older, those fantasies began leaving the confines of my mind. Like feathers in a wind storm, I’d say them out loud, and all at once that innocent fantasy then became an out and out lie. For instance, I once told my parents that I had won a contest that was being held by a local author. He had visited my third grade class looking for stories written by children for his book. Even though my story hadn’t been chosen, the beaming pride and excitement that exuded from my mom and dad was like a drug. And so I continued the lie right up until the very second that we stood in line to get the book autographed by the author. This kind of situation played out over and over again during my childhood. I’d fantasize. I’d tell it as if it were truth in order to catch a moment of parental adoration. My parents would catch me in a lie and withdraw their affection more and more after each deceit. But the high of their approval was just too much and so the cycle continued.
Now at 43, (rather in my late twenties) I realized that I didn’t need to lie in order to feel okay about myself. That there were things that I was good at for real and perhaps, just perhaps, I wasn’t completely mediocre. With that realization, the need to lie disappeared, but the fantasizing curiously stayed a very fibrous part of me.
Now many of you, especially my writer friends, may not see fantasizing as a problem, but in my case it very often got in the way of real life; MY real life. You see, in order to escape the unpleasantries that often accompany adulthood, I’d fantasize hard about future things. These things were often linked to a large event like a party or a vacation or a gathering of some sort. The neuroses of these fantastical escapes would taint actual reality to the point where if the real event, vacation etc. didn’t turn out EXACTLY the way I fantasized it, then I was completely disappointed and couldn’t enjoy or even pay attention to the precious present, but instead spent all my time trying to figure out how to make the experience as perfect as the fantasy or pouting because it wasn’t at ALL like the image that I carried in my head. (I know. I know. I really am certifiable, but you have to admit, the craziness makes for good writing!)
Since this is the year (or decade) of learning from my very good friend, Hindsight, I decided to make a concerted effort to NOT fantasize about our family vacation to the Cape. Alright, I may have pictured myself reclining on a chaise lounge drink in hand listening to the sound of the roaring ocean, but it didn’t go any farther than that. Nope. This time I decided to go without any expectation larger than relaxation. I decided to let the day (and the mood of the two year old) lead us. Each morning we woke up, checked the weather and discussed our options. We spent time at our own cottage’s beach. We swam in the pool. We traveled to Chapin Beach on the bay side and walked out for miles on sand bars until the tide rolled in. When my daughter, Ila, fell asleep in the car on the way home from that experience, we took a detour to the West Dennis Beach where you could park your car directly next to your set up on the sand and while she slept, I snuggled into a sand cocoon dug for me by my husband and he swam and rode the waves. When Ila woke up, we stopped an ice cream truck and—napkinless–let it melt all over us. Dinners were as spontaneous as gluten-free meals could be. One night was even spent at a gem of a picnic table found at a point that overlooked the ocean. That evening ended up with me showing off my kite flying prowess. I mean, that sucker was so high, NASA had to be curious at the object that had mysteriously entered the stratosphere.
All in all, it was a FANTASTIC vacation. Fantastic without the fantasy. Imaginative sans the imagination. Free spirited because I let go of control. Best of all, life happened while I was paying attention. I didn’t miss one cherished smile or excited utterance from my darling daughter. And although I have been to the ocean more times than I can count, this time, living in the present made it all new; the sights, the sounds, the smells. On the day we arrived, we walked over a bluff to give Ila her first look at the ocean. As it came into view, her blue eyes grew to the size of baseballs and an audible gasp breathlessly pushed one word out of that sweet mouth, “Wow!” she whispered. Yes Ila. Yes. Wow indeed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
[Photo credit: (ccl) Ted Kerwin]