With the freshness of a new year, I’ve resolved to expend less effort on things that are not all that important. I made this idea a topic of conversation over the holidays, and got some great responses as to what we thought was a big deal at the time, but wasn’t really such a big deal after all. In fact, the actual big deal may have been missed amongst all of the stress. Here’s what was suggested as not that big of a deal…
Most of high school. Don’t get me wrong, I made both lifelong friends as well as some wonderful memories. But the majority of it wasn’t nearly as important as it seemed to be at the time. I remember living in near-constant fear of what would go on my “permanent record,” which I have never seen to this day! And the drama. So. Much. Drama. Many of those relationships, both platonic and romantic, were petty and fleeting. And none of it is a big deal to me today. The actual big deal was starting to define what was important to me, learning to make my own choices and treating people how I wanted to be treated… and finding a few good friends who are still with me 25 years later, through thick and thin.
The cookies at my wedding reception. If you’re reading this and you are not from western Pennsylvania, you’re likely wondering why one has cookies at a wedding reception. Let me assure you that they are definitely expected, and a great deal of both time and money can be spent on them (in addition to the elaborate wedding cake, mind you). My family had several arguments about said cookies during the months leading up to my wedding, with more than one relative actually crying over them. Fifteen years later, I now understand that the cookies were not a big deal. The actual big deal was that my husband and I loved each other and wanted to share that moment with the people who meant the most to us. (Kudos to my Midwestern husband, who knew this all along but was wise enough to remain silent at the time.)
Decorating the baby’s room. Oh, the effort that went into this… would primary colors be too stimulating? Does the glider match the chosen theme? Has the crib been certified as safe by at least 3 major parenting organizations? Have I selected crib décor that has the proper amount of whimsy? Seriously. I should have just relaxed because none of this was a big deal. I can guarantee you that my newborn daughter neither saw nor cared about any of it, since she slept in a bassinet in our room for the first 6 months of her life anyway. And when she finally started sleeping in that room, the carefully selected décor was destroyed in a particularly non-whimsical way: rotavirus. Enough said. The actual big deal was that I had a beautiful, healthy baby and enough resources to properly care for her.
Baby’s first birthday party. Fortunately, I never jumped on this particular bandwagon, but I have attended first birthday parties that rivaled weddings in both elaborateness and expense. Petting zoos, pony rides, gift bags, fancy “smash” cakes, personalized napkins: I blame you, Pinterest. At many of these extravagant parties, the guest of honor sleeps and/or cries through the whole thing. Let’s be honest and admit that throwing one of these parties is not a big deal. The actual big deal is that you have a kid who is growing and she gets to spend time with people who love her on an important day. Take some pictures so you remember the cuteness of this moment, and give yourself a pass on the rest.
Housecleaning. My mother and grandmother should have received medals for the amount of housecleaning they accomplished every year. Nothing was spared. I liked to joke that I could have performed surgery on my grandmother’s dining room table if necessary. That amount of cleaning was required in the coal- and steel-industry days, when the air was dusty and settled in people’s homes (and lungs). Times have changed, but I still find myself deeply cleaning when I know company or even family is coming to visit. In this day and age, an immaculately, permanently clean home is not a big deal. Who has time for that? The actual big deal is that your house is messy because it is lived in, and lived in with love. Many of us work full- or part-time outside of our homes, and all of us manage much more than just ourselves. There are so many more important times to be had with your family. Tidy up and leave the sterilization for later.
Getting the “perfect” photo for your family Christmas card. I receive many Christmas cards with professional photos of friends and relatives. Trust me, I love receiving them, and I do admire how beautiful everyone looks, how fast the kids are growing, etc. But I’ll also wager that getting these “perfect” photos stressed Mom out for weeks beforehand: the clothes! The hair! The setting! The forced poses! And of course – the expense! Getting these “perfect” photos is not a big deal. The actual big deal is that your family is beautiful just as they are. Trust me, I drive your kid in a carpool, so I know how much he loves fart jokes… why not include a photo of him in mid-laugh? That’s who he is. That’s what I love about him. There’s no need to stage anything else.
To the friends who made suggestions for this post, thank you. You know who you are, and you are definitely a big deal. Here’s to focusing on the more important things in 2017!