I cannot remember ever looking forward to January as a child. Fall was my favorite season, ending the boredom of August with the excitement of a new class with a new teacher, beautiful leaves to play in, Thanksgiving foods, the first snow, Christmas road trips to see Gramma… January meant losing all the bright lights and colors of Christmas décor, unending months before I could see my gramma again, and windy cold that saturated right through my thin coats and corduroys. One short season when we lived in one place for a while, I taught myself to ice skate on the lumpy frozen pond in a nearby field. But even that joy came to an end when we moved again. January held no eager anticipation for me — even the year when I awaited the birth of our youngest child.
While my first two pregnancies had been predictable, this one was not. Instead of morning sickness ending precisely at 20 weeks, I was sick the whole 40 this time. I had been a college student the first time, then busy with a huge garden and supportive friends the second time. This time I was surrounded by people who expected me to keep performing to their standards, on their timetable. I was afraid of disappointing them, so I avoided thinking about what it would take to keep up the pace after the baby was born. After all, I fully expected this little one to be as healthy and flexible as the last one. And so, when our full-term, yet smallest, baby was born on Super Bowl Sunday, all 5 of us rejoiced and watched the game from my hospital bed. More people visited him the first week than saw either of his brothers at that age, even relatives who had never bothered to visit before.
The first few months flew by. In the mental fog I lived in, trying to be available to my older sons’ needs as well as my commitments to their teachers, Cub Scout pack, extended family, and the church, my baby and I kept getting sick, again and again. My inner critic found fault, prodded on by the disappointed looks of mentor-types whose plans I disrupted by my inability to keep both myself and my baby healthy. Finally, when our doctor pointed out that the baby had stopped gaining weight, I recognized that something had to change.
As I journaled and prayed and wept about it, I recognized that my children needed me more than the other grownups I had been trying so hard to please. Only by slowing down did I remember the joy I had found in exploring each child’s identity as it formed.
Taking time to learn, to know each of my sons as a person, also gave me the space to rest and reflect – and heal. Only then did I see the parts of myself I had lost along the way.
Well, here it is January again. That baby is now a grown man, getting married to an amazing young woman this month. I am grateful for the opportunity, the privilege of knowing him. I only wish I had been a better student over the decades. Too many times I fell into that road-side ditch of compromise, trying to fulfill others’ expectations of me. The result? I missed crucial pieces of information about my sons’ lives along the way, resulting in ruptures in our relationship which have required time to repair.
In my role as a counselor, I must accept the fact that I will disappoint many others, clients included, to maintain the space I need in and around my soul. It takes time to keep learning my sons, their wives, and their children. I do not want to compromise again.
This January can be a new beginning for each of us. Even with the world of COVID still hovering around us, we can utilize this time as a season of personal transition.
How have my roles, relationships, and daily routines been affected?
Has my current situation changed my self-worth/identity, my attitude toward change?
Which strategies reveal fresh views of myself and my future, broaden my field of support, and move me forward? *
Professional counseling offers more than discussing the same advice or formulas our culture offers. It also goes beyond identifying the pressures of people who expect us to meet their goals, needs, desires, or agendas. Our goal is to facilitate the process of recognizing this season as transition — and leveraging it for personal growth.
Think of what could result from taking the time to rethink the trajectory of your life choices!
Come and see where this season leads you.