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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Overcoming Inertia

Get up.  I'm serious, get up right now.  Or, maybe after you finish reading this blog, but certainly after you check your email - wait, what's the New York Times' top story today?  And didn't you want to check that diaper post on that forum?  Plus, there's facebook to update.

The internet is fantastic; it puts the world at your fingertips.  The internet is awful; you never have to move again.  An object at rest stays at rest.  We must strive to overcome this inertia.

As I type this, my babies are playing in the living room.  I could be playing with them.  I could be making breakfast.  I am at my computer.  Through experience, though, I know the pitfalls, and I will not stay here to check my email, or read the paper, or check a forum.  If I spend too long at my computer, I turn to sludge.  I can feel it - my life force seeping out of me and into this chair I'm sitting on.

We must get up.  We must do things.  I, for one, know I feel better if I do.  But knowing I feel better, and having the strength to actually move from this desk are two different things.

You would think toddlers make this easier.  They are always on the move, it seems.  Even a movie on television cannot stop them for long.  Unfortunately, I've found, they don't make moving easier: in fact, they make it harder.

If your kids are in a bad mood, you don't want to take them out.  What if it gets worse?  What if they embarrass you in public?  A change of scenery may help, but if they're cranky, they won't calm down long enough for you to even explain to them that you're going somewhere.  May as well just leave them be to get over this spell of animosity.

If your kids are in a good mood, you don't want to take them out.  The change of scenery might set them off.  Right here, right now, there is such a good balance.  They're happy and chipper; why would you take a chance and end this rare bout of contentedness?

It just seems easier to stay.  And it might be, in the short term.  But if you could only overcome this inertia and try to get them out of the house, if only for a walk to the trash cans, you'd be amazed at the difference in the day.  It's actually less effort to handle toddlers if you give them a few different experiences to mull over in their quiet time.  Toddlers cooped up inside, playing by themselves, eventually (and sometimes immediately) turn sour.  Then, the energy you could have been spending on an outing, you now are forced to spend appeasing them, stopping tantrums.  Everybody loses.

Of course, getting up is not as easy as I've made it sound.  Sometimes, it just feels impossible, especially if you are ill, or pregnant, or alone, or sad.  But it can be done.  On the bad days, if you can even fake overcoming your apathy for a few minutes, it will be easier to fake the next day, and the third.  By the fourth day, it will be part of your routine.

I try to schedule at least one outing with the twins a day.  And it is hard.  We don't always make my goal.  Some days, I need to just stay home and sludge through the day until I can toss the babies and myself into bed.  But I've noticed that we all feel better if we do at least one thing, have at least one adventure together.  Even though it feels like far too much work for far too little gain each morning as I sip my coffee and they watch Dora.

You don't have to be a superstar.  If you don't get the kids out and about, you didn't fail.  There's always tomorrow, after all.  Each day a new chance, and each day more love from your children, as difficult as they may be.  Start slowly.  Read them a book in the living room.  Tomorrow, maybe, take them out to play in the back yard.  If you're feeling up to it, try a short walk.  If not, you didn't fail.  Read them another book.  It won't take long.  Just a few minutes of interaction, and you may find yourself feeling better.  Just a few minutes of interaction, and your kids may be good to play on their own for another hour or so. 

It's not easy, and if you spend your days at the computer, you are far from alone.  It doesn't make you a bad parent.  It makes you a tired parent.  It makes you a normal parent.

Still, maybe you could try it, today.  Maybe right now, you could get up.

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