A young lady confidently walked around the room while explaining stress management to an audience. With a raised glass of water everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, ‘half empty or half full?’ She fooled them. “How heavy is this glass of water?”, she inquired with a smile. The answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
The young woman replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
That is what I have experienced with emotional weight. Emotional weight is generated when we have things, we know we should do but we put them off. Emotional weight is created when we are not in integrity with ourselves.
Let me give you an example.
I want to have my Saturday free. For that to happen I have to do a little writing every day. I decided to write for thirty minutes each day. It’s not enough time to complete an article, format it, put the newsletter together, and record the podcast. However, thirty minutes gets me going and then I usually write for a longer stretch. For me, it isn’t the writing that is the challenge, it is the starting! You can see that these thirty minutes would be pivotal in keeping on top of my writing deadlines. Even though I have told myself I will do this, and it is printed on my daily worksheet, I frequently do not comply with my own decision. When that happens, I pay a price. I find myself chained to the computer on Saturday when I want to be with my family or out in the garden. Sigh!
Like the glass of water, the burden of that emotional weight gets heavier and heavier. I know I am not in integrity with myself.
To free myself, I need to begin. I need to write each day for thirty minutes. The reality is that I will miss a day here and there but if I just pick it up again the next day, no weight. It is the promise to myself and then not keeping the promise that causes the weight. This happens to all of us.
The key to removing the emotional weight is to move. Do one thing. If I wrote even three days a week to begin with, can you see how much better I would feel? I need to start and then practice with consistency keeping my promise to myself.
You know you can’t mentor what you don’t do so I have been keeping my word this week. It is Wednesday and I have made significant progress. I’m feeling pretty good about myself.
I am sure you have something that is causing you to feel emotional weight. Maybe you have promised yourself to do it. Maybe you have a plan for accomplishing it. But you haven’t moved. You haven’t done what you said you would. You know you are out of integrity, and it is heavy.
I encourage you to put that emotional weight down. Begin. You can’t fail, although you might have to make some adjustments. I assure you that the relief you will feel from beginning is wonderful. There will be a sense of satisfaction. Putting down emotional weight by taking that first small step feels really, really good!
Next week I am going to share a second, more universal example. I laugh to myself because I’ll bet 99.9 percent of you will be able to relate.
I felt pressedto visit my friend, Judy, whose husband died last year, and I felt she needed something. After two days of this ‘pressing’ feeling, I went. I found that she was stressed out about her front yard and being able to manage it. One bush had a ton of grass growing around the base, and Judy could see it from her front window. She was reminded every day that it needed weeding.
Judy has always managed the front garden beds; her husband didn’t weed. Don ran the machines. : ) But he is gone, so the whole dynamic has shifted, leaving Judy feeling stressed. It wasn’t more than she was used to, but she was alone, and that complicated things in both her heart and mind.
She was also feeling a tad angry because no one had ever stopped to help her. When she was out front weeding, her neighbors would wave or honk as they drove by. Anger is a secondary emotion, and I believe what she was feeling was invisible as if she didn’t matter. I have been there, and I can relate. Our number one need is to be seen; to matter.
Anyway, I could see how simple it would be to get her yard in shape and maintain it. After all, I am the queen of consistency, which is a principle of power. : ) I talked to her about what I had learned from two hard years in the neighbor’s field. I had experienced that it didn’t matter how intimidating the job, with God all things are possible if we are consistent with small amounts of time.
I encouraged her to work in her yard in the morning for 20-30 minutes five days a week. Then I felt impressed to tell her that I would come on Monday and get her started. I did. Then I decided to go every day that week because people need to practice being consistent. They need support while developing a new habit or instituting a new system.
Judy and I were able to get almost the entire front bed done, and Judy felt great about it. We never worked over 30 minutes, in fact, most days, twenty. Judy said that this felt like something she could continue to do.
As I hugged her goodbye that Friday morning she mentioned that it would be great to have some accountability so she would keep going. : ) Isn’t this why we hire coaches and have best friends. LOL We all need support and accountability.
I texted her Monday and then again on Wednesday. She was staying consistent. By Sunday Judy had finished the last of the front beds. (She had decided to not take Saturday off.) We had only gotten started on that bed Friday, and it was a bit intimidating, with lots of grass. Way to go Judy!!
I have been practicing consistency since I was a mom with seven children. I wasn’t always consistent, but I have had to learn some hard lessons about the power of consistency. It’s not the BIG moves we make in life that make the difference; it is the small and simple things that we do consistently.
If consistency is not your forte, it can become so, I promise. I have learned how to be consistent; I have mentored many mothers and helped them become consistent, and I have been an accountability best friend often. I have seen this skill learned.
BUT, and this is a big BUT, you do not become consistent by working on all the places in your life that are a mess. You must choose one small place to begin. Maybe it is making your bed each morning no matter how tired you are or how badly you need to pee. LOL
Maybe it is having your family put their dishes in the dishwasher after every dinner meal. It might be doing the laundry on Thursday, no matter what. Possibly it is going to bed at the same time each night, regardless of what is left to do. I have had to practice ALL these things over the years and many more.
Here are five tips to get you started.
1. Pick one thing. What are you going to work on? For Judy, it was keeping the front garden beds weed-free. For me, right now, it is getting up at the same time each morning. What is your plan?
2. Know the steps you will take. Judy decided that each morning, five days a week, before noon, she would weed; unless it was raining, and then she gets a break. : )
For me, it is to make sure my alarm goes off at the same time each day, six days a week. Church begins late on Sunday, and I allow myself to sleep in.
3. Understand flexible consistency. When I first began talking about this idea, I got blank stares. I mean, if you are consistent, it is exactly the same every day, right? Well, within a consistent framework. Judy gives herself all morning to get it done. She hopes to be out in the yard by eight, but things happen.
I work with moms, and something is always happening! When I first coined the phrase, I was working with homeschool moms. For some, if they didn’t get school started by 8, they felt like failures. That kind of thinking does not help maintain consistency. Flexible consistency would say that you plan to begin school sometime between eight and nine-thirty. Flexible consistency fits a family better.
What flexible consistency does not mean is that you can do it or not. Don’t get confused. You do it every day.
4. Practice – not perfection. We will rarely if ever, be perfect at anything. I am darn good at self-management, but I am not perfect. I can hear my husband breathing a sigh of relief because I am VERY self-directed, and perfect would drive him nuts. LOL I get up at the same time most days. However, now and then, I don’t, for one reason or another. I do not panic. I simply get up on time the next day.
Even if you are not perfect, keep practicing. It is the simple act of consistently doing something the best you can that will, over time, make all the difference.
5. Get support and be accountable. That may mean a therapist, a mentor, or a coach. It could be your best friend who asks you how you are doing, or it might be a neighbor like I am to Judy. Support and accountability can make all the difference in your quest for consistency.
I am a list gal and have a list for every day and everything. I feel deeply accountable to my list because I want to cross it off. I don’t need a friend to check on me. The list does the job.
But a list would never work for my husband. He needs someone to be accountable to. That is what Judy needed. It doesn’t matter what works for you, find a way to be accountable and get support.
If you will pick one thing, know the steps, be flexibly consistent, practice the best you can, and get support and accountability, then you can become the queen of consistency in your life too, one thing at a time.
When you are consistent over the long haul you can make magnificent changes.
As a parent, have you ever wondered how you could resolve issues in your home more creatively, so everyone was happy? Sometimes, to get what we need, it appears that someone else has to give up what they need, and often it is the parent. That can be so maddening!
I know because it happened a lot when I was raising my seven children. It caused me to feel frustrated and, often, angry. Not good for my relationships with my children.
When a situation arises that needs to be resolved, and we are faced with two choices that seem equally bad or unfair, that is called the Sucker’s Choice, and if one is chosen, it will inevitably leave someone feeling wronged.
Don’t pick one of them. There is always a third alternative, and you can find it with a bit of creative problem-solving. I know, I thought just what you are thinking, no there isn’t. If there was, I would have thought of it. When I first heard about the Sucker’s Choice, I didn’t believe it either, but I have learned that it is true. There is always a third alternative in every situation and often more.
Eight Steps to More Creative Problem Solving
Some years ago, I made a video discussing eight steps to help you become a more creative problem solver. I shared a perfect example of what a sucker’s choice looks like in real life. You will smile and probably say, “Oh man, I have been in situations like that!” It is worth a listen, and I hope you will take the time.
Last weekI wrote about the dream goals that had come to pass in my life when I wasn’t looking. : ) It was a varied list. The last item on the list was ‘Live a Tasha Tudor life.’ So, before I tell you about Tasha Tudor and what this means to me, let me tell you about the last thirteen years.
If you read last week’s article, you know I wanted to be a writer, publish a book, speak, teach, and mentor. I have accomplished all of that. But here is the caveat.
When I moved to Utah and began speaking on a broader scale, I was introduced to teachers, mentors, and peers helping others build businesses. I began to feel that writing, speaking, teaching, and mentoring required that I have a business that generated money, not just enough to pay the bills, because none of this can be done for free, but a six-figure income.
To grow, I needed contract help, if not employees. I needed access to lots of people, a list. I needed a nice car and a big home with acreage so people could see my success. I needed to lose weight and appear a certain way on stage. The list went on. I had all these things on a vision board so that I could visualize my business and personal growth every day.
As I moved along, working to become successful, guess where I ended up? Burnout! My enthusiasm waned drastically. I was stuck in inertia. The two things that kept me afloat during this time werethe book I was writing,remember, I always wanted to write and publish a book,and my desire to impact others’ lives for good through writing, speaking, teaching, and mentoring.
I couldn’t shake this thought that weighed on my mind – because I hadn’t been successful in creating a big money-generating business, I was a failure after almost ten years of trying. But then, while mentoring a mom in August of 2020, I realized that I had been chasing the wrong dream goal! As I talked to her about her desires, I saw the goal I had accomplished and hadn’t even recognized in my mind’s eye. Building a large and successful business was not in harmony with the thing I had planted deep in my heart decades before.
A few years before writing my book, we moved into our daughter Jodie’s basement so that we could assist in caring for our special needs granddaughter. We had no large house, no fine car, no big estate. Then we all moved to a small town in northern Utah, on an acre of land, with a handicapped-accessible home built in the 60s. We had chickens, dogs, cats, fruit trees and berry bushes, and a garden. We were a four-generation household in two separate spaces, but it wasn’t the big house on a large acreage on my vision board.
This Could Be The Place!
One day as I was staring out at the pasture, this distinct thought came to my mind, “This could be the place.” I didn’t get it. I thought, “OK, I don’t have the big house, but I have acreage with blackberry bushes and fruit trees. It’s something.”
But as I spoke with my mentee almost two years later, I realized that I had gotten the thing I had held in my heart for decades – a Tasha Tudor life.
I read about this author-artist when I lived in MT, speaking and teaching for the Girls Scouts, community education classes, and the schools. Tasha Tudor was an author of children’s books, an illustrator, and an artist who is as beloved today as she was in her time. I have read many of her books to my children.
Tasha loved the land and enjoyed working it, growing things, and harvesting. She cared for chickens, a dog, cows, and goats. When Tasha was sixty, she moved to a small cottage. She had berry bushes and fruit trees, and people came to drink tea and visit because she was wise.
When I read the description of her life and accomplishments all those years ago, it spoke to my heart, and I said to myself, “That is what I want when I am old. I want to have lived a successful life and to have impacted many people for good. I want a place to garden, a place to walk barefoot, a place to visit with friends, and a place to share what I have learned. I want to write for adults and kids. I want to paint.”
Today, I live in a cottage-sized home on a beautiful property with a garden, berry bushes, and fruit trees. I care for people that I love. I mentor women. I share what I have learned. I write, and people read what I write, and they let me know that it has helped them. I have written and published a book. I am sure I will write and publish others, and some will be for children; the kind of books I wrote for myself when I was eight and began. I have dabbled in painting. I’m not very good, but my kids love my work. Friends come to visit, and we sit in the backyard and talk about life.
I garden, bottle, and dry vegetables and fruit. I drink herb tea and sit in the sun when I can. : ) I walk barefoot in the grass. I have created a Tasha Tudor life, and I didn’t recognize it for a few years. It doesn’t look at all like what I thought I was supposed to want, what the results of writing, speaking, teaching, and mentoring should look like.
Some of my peers think I am running away from my dreams, but I realized that I was fighting for the wrong dream. I was working for a goal that others wanted.
I now know that I wasn’t a successful businessperson because I didn’t want a business. I was not fond of the stress, work, and worry. I didn’t even want a six-figure income. I just wanted a small and comfortable space. I wanted a garden and berry bushes. I wanted to write. I wanted to be available to those who needed me. I wanted a sufficient income with some to spare for others. I desired to walk barefoot in the grass. I wanted to be grounded to the earth.
And here is my message – are you clear about what you want?
In our day, there are so many voices shouting that we can have it all, a career, a successful business, a fabulous family, and on and on. There is so much written about parenting, how it should be done, what it should look like, and how you should be and feel. You, like I, can get lost in all the words.
As a woman, you need to be clear about your dream goals and what you want, not what the world says you should want. As a parent, you need to ‘see’ how you want to parent, what you want your family to look and feel like.
There are many ways to do a thing right. This goes for parenting. Your way doesn’t have to look like my way or the newest bestseller’s way. It needs to be what works for you and your family. If you lack the resources to accomplish that, they are out there. If you need healing to do a better job of what you want, you can find it. I know because I have had to get clarity for myself. I have had to let go of baggage. I have had to sift through the noise.
I am not saying that it isn’t a wonderful thing to have a successful, six-figure business. I am not saying we shouldn’t have careers. I am not saying we can’t get parenting clarity in a book. I am saying that it is vital to know what it is you want so that you don’t waste years and your precious energy working for something that is someone else’s goal.
I still have a vision board. There isn’t a house or car on it. There aren’t any fancy trips, clothes, or jewelry. My vision for the future is about ways of being that matter to me because that is where I am at this point in my seventy-two years of life. What matters has changed! When I take something off my vision board, I feel great satisfaction knowing it was energy well spent.
Would I like to make money writing, teaching, and mentoring right here in my Tasha Tudor life? Sure. Do I want a business? No.Can I have the one without the other? Yup. Tasha did, and so can I : )
Get clear on what you really want, and then move forward!
I had a mom call me in tears. She couldn’t figure out how to continue her education and still wear all the other hats that she must wear. She wanted some advice.
I could relate. I love learning, but I have difficulty even sitting through an online class for an hour without being interrupted. As a full-time caregiver, I am on call 24/7.
Going back to school isn’t realistic for everyone. There is a time and season for formal education. Even taking one class may not be something that fits your life right now. So, what can you do to keep your brain from turning into mush? I’m joking, but it can feel like that some days.
If this isn’t your time and season for formal education or even classes online, I suggest you read excellent books. When I gave that advice to this young mother, she replied, “I never have time to read!”
I know how that feels. Remember, I am a full-time caregiver in a four-generation home. It is a challenge to take a ten-minute uninterrupted shower. And reading, I have had to make some serious adjustments, and you will need to also.
When I was young, I could read as long as I wanted. I had an upstairs bedroom with a sizeable old-fashioned window. I would open it and then sit on the sill. It was on the north side of the house, and there was a border of tall trees. It was shady and cool on hot summer days. I would sit and read for hours.
I no longer have the luxury of uninterrupted reading time, and sometimes I mourn that loss. But I worked on ways to find time to do what I love, read, which keeps me from feeling buried! So here are four tips I shared with that frustrated mother.
Four tips to get your reading in:
I always have a book in the bathroom. In fact, I have a book basket, and it has the book I am currently reading and the next two or three I want to read. So, every time I go in there, which is at least twice a day, I read a few paragraphs. I know it sounds lame, but I get quite a few books read this way.
I listen to books on my phone. I listen in doctor’s offices, while waiting for a child to come out of wherever I am picking them up from, in traffic jams, and anytime I am driving anywhere, and I am by myself. You can listen while you work, fold laundry, make dinner, nurse the baby, etc.
I have a book by my bed. In fact, it is another small basket with my current book and one or two I want to get to. It doesn’t happen every night, but sometimes I can sit in bed for a few minutes before lights out.
Read to your kids.Some of my favorite books, that I learned the most from, were classics for children and youth. Learn together. If you are just learning to read as a family, try shorter things that won’t take much time–short stories, letters, speeches, fairy tales, etc.
You have probably noticed that I read more than one book at a time. This is a skill that I have perfected over decades while finding time to read. I don’t have trouble remembering where I am in each book. I don’t lose track of the storyline. If it doesn’t work for you to read more than one book at a time, then be content with moving your bathroom book to the bedroom and back. Experiment with a system that will work for you.
Would I like to read a book in a week like I did when I was a girl? Sure. Would I like not to take months to finish a book? Sure. But I am learning despite the challenges. I’m growing, expanding, thinking.
I love what Viktor Frankl said about situations that are not ideal. I have lived by these words for many decades now – “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”
How is it working out you ask?
We are almost at the end of February, two months into the new year. In that time, I have finished three amazing books. Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives, was one of the most profound books I have read in a long time. It took me months to complete, a few paragraphs at a time, while in the bathroom. The advantage was that at the end of each chapter was an exercise to try. I had plenty of time to work on it. : )
Another, The book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, was one I listened to while doing dishes, folding laundry, driving, waiting, etc. My only regret was that I couldn’t make notes in a real book. I did, however, pause every now and then and send myself a text because the information was so beautiful and profound. I know there is probably an easy way to do this on the phone, but as I said, find what works till you have something better. : )
The third, The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Love and Freedom on Death Row,was finished in just a month in the few minutes I could grab just before bed; a few minutes, never more than ten or twenty at a time. It was one of the most unsettling and magnificently inspiring books I have read. I learned a great deal about charity and forgiveness.
We all know that parenting calls for adjustments. It calls for change. But it doesn’t require that we give up learning and growing. We can do it if we change our expectations and find a system that works for us. So, begin. Stick a book in the bathroom and challenge yourself to read one or two paragraphs every time you go in there alone. Trust me, one or two paragraphs may be all you get depending on the age of your kids. :
Don’t get discouraged. You will finish your book and then another and another. I know this is true from experience.
The trip was a mixed bag, if I am honest. The kids and I had some great times, and I kept Gus worn out. : ) He had one nap and wanted another Saturday, but we were busy. This from a boy who has all but given up naps.
But as I said, it has been a mixed bag. I brought a deck of question cards which we used at meals and bedtime. It was hilarious and so much fun. BUT Sunday night, we had a zinger of a question – Tell me about an experience that helped you feel my love for you? Gus just laughed. Tessa said, “Well, you have let me snuggle with you.” She has slept with me every night. She wakes up in the wee hours and crawls in. You all know how kids spread out!
That has been part of the reason for Elliot’s answer –“Well, I haven’t gotten yelled at too much.” What? I don’t yell, but I have a stern voice that comes out when I am tired, frustrated, or at a loss about what else to do. My hormone replacement pills went missing for three days, which didn’t help, but he was right; I had some grouchy moments with everyone.
I went to bed that last night a little teary-eyed and thought about it. I mean, grandma’s want to be perfect, and frankly, I am not. There are moms who trust me and what I share here. I couldn’t let them think that I am super happy all the time, not ridged occasionally, always patient and upbeat, or that I don’t ‘yell.’ It wouldn’t be fair.
In fact, just yesterday, one of my clients said, “I saw some of your posts from Seattle. It looks like you had a wonderful time, and so did the kids. You are amazing.” And many Facebook comments were saying the same as if we had a perfect time and I was always smiling and fun and, well, perfect.
Those comments and what my client said stung a bit. Here is the truth – I am amazing, BUT I am also ordinary. I am just an everyday woman doing her best, and my best isn’t always enough. My best fluctuates.
Wouldn’t it be great to be perfect, to play all the time and like it, never to get tired and crabby, always to be cheerful and fun, never to use your ‘stern/yell’ voice. It would eliminate the worried nights when you know you haven’t been the way you want to be. But here we are, just ordinary people working to do the ‘extraordinary’ thing, caring well for others.
This doesn’t just happen to me when I wrangle three little kids at seventy-two years old. It happens at home, wrangling my mom and my husband and all the rest that goes with living in a four-generation household. I have been working on changing my way of being to be more charitable. That last night in Seattle, I felt as if I had made NO progress at all in decades. I mean, I still get grumpy, am impatient, and am not always long-suffering, kind, humble, well behaved, concerned with others rather than myself, grateful, not provoked, etc. I can list them off because I have them written on the first page of my scriptures. I look at the list regularly because, after all, it is my goal.
There is a space between stimulus and response. The thing that has changed for me over the years is that that space has gotten wider. I rarely go off now and wonder what happened. I know I am choosing. I see that space, and I feel myself making a choice. Sometimes that is harder and is a mixed blessing for sure, to know you chose to be uncharitable with those you love. Thank goodness God, and Christ love me despite my weakness.
Monday, my last day as caretaker for the kids, was good. I got them off to school with minimal chaos and lots of smiles and hugs. I managed Gus well, who was tired and a little grumpy. After school, we used our question cards, our goal was to ask them all, and we made it. : ) We had a great supper and laughed and talked. Then mom and dad came home, and happiness exploded all over everyone.
That last night in Seattle, as I lay in bed pondering the good and not so good times we had, I wondered how the grands would feel the next time I came to visit? It was a question mark in my mind. However, little kids are forgiving. They love unconditionally. A couple of weeks ago, I posted on Facebook about my grandma and the tough times we had because I was a bed-wetter. But I still loved her. I always wanted to go to her house.
I feel that is the case here because of what Tessa did on Sunday. We were in the kitchen, and I was fixing some food. She said, “Grandma, let me see how tall I am to you.” So we stood chest to chest, and she measured from her head to my body. It was right at my neck. Tessa laughed and said, “I am as high as your neck, grandma. You are up to your neck in love!”
I would rather not have written this article, but I cannot let my friends and fellow parents think I am perfect because I’m not. And neither are they. It isn’t fair to simply post pictures of smiling kids doing crafts, rollerblading, and all the rest. We have to support each other in our weaknesses and our strengths. So thanks for being here, reading what I write, believing my words, and allowing me to be honest. : ) I still work on my goal of a tender and softened heart, to feel charity every day. I suspect that I will get better and better. In fact, when I shared this experience with my daughter Jodie, she assured me that I was SO much different than when I was a young mom. Glad to know I am making progress even when it feels like I’m not.
So hang in there, keep working on yourself. Be consistent. It is a lifetime job. Don’t let discouragement get in your way.
Getting up when you fall, being consistent in your efforts pays off. Really!!
I have been thinking back to 2015. In February of that year, I had a friend who turned 111. You read that right, 111! She lived with her daughter, who was 87. Anna was in good health and could get around with her walker; she bathed herself, fed herself, and was as sharp as a tack. Anna is gone now, but caring for my mom, who is turning 91 in March, made me think back to some important things I learned about management vs. relationship from Anna and her daughter.
It was fun watching Anna. Sometimes when I was with her, it was like watching a slow-motion movie. She conserved her energy. She did everything slowly and with great thought. I guess in 111 years, you figure out that there is no need to hurry. There is time for anything that matters.
She also conserved her energy during conversations. She listened a lot. If you asked her a question, her answer was short and to the point. I guess in 111 years of living, you learn that you can get more from listening than from talking and that most things don’t need to be said.
My mom can’t do without help many of the things that Anna could. Mom needs more help because she has Alzheimer’s. However, she can feed herself, take short walks, help me in the kitchen, and have a good conversation.
Interestingly, I find myself in the same mess that I noticed Anna’s daughter got into. She and I both got stuck in management at the expense of the relationship.
What did that look like for Anna’s daughter in 2015?
Anna’s daughter was 87, no spring chicken herself. At that age, she found herself in charge of a woman aged 111. That could be hard. A considerable percentage of their conversations sounded like this:
Mom, please take your shower and don’t mess up the bathroom.
Mom, stop slurping your food. You’re going to choke.
Mom, why did you do that!
Mom, wake up. You can’t sleep at the table.
For goodness sake, get dressed. It’s already 10.
Mom, you’re wearing me out.
To me, she might say:
Mom has really been naughty this week.
I’ll tell you, I am so worn out.
I think that mom is having a pity party. She just wants attention.
Sometimes I think she pushes my buttons on purpose.
What does this look like for me, today?
Because my mom has Alzheimer’s, I can’t make the kinds of comments that Anna’s daughter made. But here is my confession, I think the thought and feel the emotion that goes with it.
Mom, it’s eleven. Get up. It’s bath day, and I have a lot to do!
Mom, that house dress is not a blouse.
Do you need a personal invite to dinner?
For crying out loud, hang up your robe.
Man, I need a BREAK!
Does this sound familiar to you? Of course, it does. It sounds like Anna’s daughter, and I are talking to or about a three-year-old, a nine-year-old, a twelve-year-old, etc. When I had kids living at home, I spoke to them as Anna’s daughter talked to her mom. I thought the same kind of things I think about my mom. Here is the crux of the matter – when you are in the position of custodial care for another person, you can spend a lot of your time in management and only a fraction in the relationship.
Anna’s daughter loved her mom a lot, and I love my mom a lot. But we both oversaw the health and well-being of another person. That is a great weight of responsibility. There is food to cook, clothing to wash, floors to clean, beds to make, and on and on. It doesn’t matter if you are 20 years old and have a one-year-old, are 35 with seven children, 87 with a mother who is 111, or 72 with a mom in her 90s with Alzheimer’s; there is a lot to manage! Add to this, if you are a parent with kids at home, your need to teach and direct your kids to grow into able adults.
You can see why the above types of conversations and thoughts are so common and why the conundrum of management vs. relationship exists.
Five Simple Tips to Increase Our relationship Time Regardless of the Work Load
1. When you walk through a room and see one of your children, touch them on their back, arm, or shoulder. Don’t say anything. Just give a squeeze or a pat. You can do this a hundred times a day and use up only a few minutes.
I have begun using this tool with my mom. I call it‘random touch.’ Neither my mom nor I are natural touchers. I have to think about it. I make sure I hug her goodnight now. I touch her shoulder when doing her hair or sitting by her. She is beginning to hug back.
2. Havemini conversationswhile you are in the car, waiting at the doctor’s, etc. Just say something random and then listen. For example – “When I was a kid, I loved red socks.” Or, when your child makes a statement, ask a question about it. For example – “Look at the sky. Not a cloud in sight. Isn’t it beautiful?” Question – “Why do you like that?”
My husband asked my mother this very question today when she commented on the sky. He is a master at this. I am still practicing. : )
3. When a child comes and asks a question, stop what you are doing and make eye contact, smile. Then answer. If you feel interrupted, keep it to yourself. This is called ‘active listening.’
I must practice this with my mom. She will come and ask the same question repeatedly. For example, “Are we going for a drive?” “Yes, mom. In a few minutes.” Her memory is about 2 minutes long. It can be wearing answering questions, but I have learned that when I stop and look up at my mom and manage my irritation, she smiles back, feels heard, and our relationship is enhanced. Here is something else, when she smiles, my frustration lessens.
4. Havefamily reading time, even if it’s only once a week for 15 minutes. Be consistent with whatever you can do. The number of days in a week and the amount of time per session matter far less than being consistent. While reading, cuddle up. Lots of pillows and blankets.
In our family of old folks : ) we don’t cuddle up, but we do sit at the kitchen table and read. It isn’t easy. Although my mom and husband have lots of time, I do not as a full-time caregiver. Therefore, I must make this a priority. I can tell you that it does make a difference in the feeling in our home on the days we get it done.
5. Have dinner conversations no matter who spills milk, slurps their soup, or tips over their chair. You can get it going by saying, “Guess what I saw today,” or “Do you know what my boss did,” or “Hey, did anyone have anything fun happen today?” Coming back from your fifth trip to the kitchen to get something for someone – smile and say, “Guess who I saw today,” you know what to do. : )
This can be a challenge. In our home, we can eat a whole meal and not say a word. Having a conversation is something that both Don and I must think about for it to happen. Recently, I got a deck of cards with questions on them. Picking one out of the deck is helpful. LOL
Listen, I am practicing these tips just like you will have to do. It never gets easy because there is so much to manage in a family. But from experience, on the ground, ‘right now’ experience, I can promise you it is worth the effort and will go a long way in cementing your family relationships.
Don’t allow management to override your relationships!
I knew a BIG black dog named Majestic. He belonged to my friend Cathy. I am sure that in his prime, he was majestic. But when I knew him, he was far along in age and had begun to slow down…a lot! His hips hurt, and his eyesight had gone.
Majestic could no longer run freely and chase balls. He frequently bumped into furniture if someone moved it. If you came into the room and walked towards him, Majestic would stagger to his feet and try to get out of your way, not sure which way to go. He couldn’t wrestle with the kids anymore.
You would think that this once-majestic dog would have been miserable. But he wasn’t. In fact, Majestic wasn’t sad at all. Instead, Majestic was glad to be alive. He was open to sniffing your hand, getting a pat or two, and sleeping in the sun. He was grateful for every good thing and seemed to take the bad in stride.
When Majestic passed away, I thought a lot about his acceptance of his life. How could a once energetic and magnificent dog be happy with where his life had taken him – to aching hips and blind eyes? I have concluded that it has to do with expectations. Majestic didn’t have any. He lived in the present, cared about his relationship with ‘his people,’ and took things as they came.
Here are some perfect examples of what I am talking about. A friend of mine took her family of three boys, ages 9, 6, and 3, on a road trip. They were finishing up a year’s study of minerals and rocks. During that year, the family had terrific experiences. This trip was going to cap it off perfectly. She knew just how it was going to go.
A few weeks later, she gave me a call. I asked her how the trip went, and she said, “Well, it was OK, but it didn’t turn out as well as I hoped.” So, I asked her what went wrong, and she told me all the things that they didn’t get to do.
I then asked her to tell me what they did do. They went to a dinosaur dig and had a fun day. They sang a ton of songs in their van as they traveled. They had great conversations about how the earth was created and what space is like. They dug for gems one afternoon.
“My goodness,” I replied, “there are mothers out there who would give anything for a week like that with their kids.” There was a pause on the other end of the line, and then she said, “Your right. I guess it was a pretty good trip after all. I hadn’t thought about it that way.”
Another mom was telling me about their failed home school day. She described the project she had planned for her kids. The finished product didn’t turn out very well, in her opinion. I asked her if they had fun and learned things. She said yes, but she wished the end product had turned out better.
This mom missed the point of doing the project with her children – to be present with them, connect and have fun and learn a little. But, as far as I could see, and in fact what her kids saw, it was a great home school day, and the project was enjoyable.
Just the Opposite!
Another friend and her children worked in their garden all day long. It was coming along beautifully as they dug and planted seeds. When mom wasn’t paying attention, the water got turned on and was on for some time. The garden was ruined. This mom could have said to herself or her kids, “What a waste of a day!” But she didn’t. She was grateful for the fun time they spent together, and she told me it was a day they won’t soon forget, even if they must redo it.
The Difference Between Adults and Children
Adults care about the product or outcome. This sets us up for frustration, disappointment, and sometimes anger when things don’t go as planned. Kids, on the other hand, care about the process. They are interested in what they are doing and learning. They like the paint’s feel, the clay’s denseness, the cool dirt in the garden. They want laughter and mini-conversations.
The outcome will always matter to adults, but when you’re with your child, make the mental shift from the result to the process. Let your preconceived expectations go. If you can keep your mind on the child and the joy they’re experiencing, you’ll have a far different experience. This is true in organizing, playing, working, taking a hike, going on vacation, shopping, gardening, whatever.
I understand this comment by the motivational speaker Dan Clark: “Begin with the why in mind rather than the end in mind.” I love his statement because when adults adopt this attitude, our kids and we have more fun and satisfaction in just about everything we do together. Rather than focusing on how it turns out, we focus on the child. Our expectation becomes the relationship.
Remember why you’re going for a family trip, why you’re letting the kids help you paint, why you’re planting a garden together. Remember, the purpose for just about everything you do in your family is to build relationships. So, link your satisfaction to your ability to enjoy what is with your family even when it falls short of your expectations.
Time with Our Kids Is What Matters Most
Time spent isn’t just worthwhile if everything goes well. All the time we spend with our children matters, both in the good times and not-so-good times.
And there it is. We sometimes suck the joy right out of an activity, a family trip, a child-parent moment because it wasn’t what we had in our mind; it didn’t stand up to our expectations. Keep expectations from getting in the way of enjoying your family. Keep the perfect from becoming the enemy of the good. Let go of expectations and be Present!
Who do you know that has trouble with expectations? Help them out. : )
That might mean a good counselor or possibly a mentor/coach. It might be a friend who is where you want to be and is willing to share insights. It may be another parent who manages what you are struggling with and is willing to walk you through how they have accomplished what they have accomplished.
1. Friends – I recall many decades ago I was struggling as a mom with a house full of kids. I was yelling and stressed and trust me so were my kids. However, I had a friend who was calm with her children, and she had one who was a tantrum thrower. I asked her about it, and she showed me how she dealt with her over-the-top child. I was astonished. It had never occurred to me that you could remain calm when your child was not. I had not seen that from the adults in my life.
This friend of mine helped me practice and talked with me weekly for a good while. She helped me on my journey to a calmer way of being. It didn’t cost a cent.
2. Hire a mentor/coach – When I was writing my book, I needed some help. I was doing OK in the writing department, but I needed accountability. So, I hired an accountability coach. We talked on the phone once a week. She had published several books and was able to show me the flaws in my excuses as to why I couldn’t do this hard thing. Having her to bounce my doubts and fears off made all the difference.
3. Hire a trained counselor – Another time, decades ago, when I had a child struggling in a way that I couldn’t manage I hired a counselor. As my daughter and I met with her she was able to help me see how to help my child and she was able to show my child ways that she could help herself.
Recently, I advised one of my mentees to hire a trained counselor to work on some issues that are wreaking havoc in her marriage. She has and it is making a difference. Wise people seek the correct wise counsel!
4. Read books – When I was a very young mom, with only two children, I began reading a book on parenting. It was so over my head that I couldn’t finish it. I hated that book because it made me feel so inadequate, but it had shown me that I needed some skills that I had never seen used. I must admit it took a few years for me to get serious about changing my way of being as a parent. When I did another book showed up, and then another book. Change for me was a process. I never did finish that first book but what little I read led me on a path to where I am today.
5. Prayer – One of my first lines of defense, when I am in over my head, is prayer. Yes, you heard that right, I pray. I have had decades of experience in hearing the voice of the Spirit and it has saved me a lot of grief. When I realized I would have to stop teaching and speaking, to care for my mother and husband I was at a loss. This was my dream and being a full-time caregiver wasn’t! But I also knew this was the correct path. How would I know what to do? How could I stay out of resentment? How could I still write when my time would be at a premium?
Prayer has been the BIGGEST help of all! I am counseled as I go through my day. I have been shown how to deal with resentment. I have been shown what my mother and husband need, things I never would have thought of by myself. My heart has been softened. I am learning to touch more. : ) It has made a world of difference in the last three years.
And I have been counseled as to how to continue to do what I enjoy, that helps me make a difference in the bigger world, write. That has meant a great deal to me. I know that I am loved!
Wise people seek wise counsel from the sources that are available to them.
As we seek help more resources open. I have a friend who is a single mother. She is also self-employed and homeschools. Wow! Yes, she is a busy woman, but I can tell you she is also happy. That hasn’t always been the case.
When I first began working with her, she was feeling very stuck in life, as a person, as a mom, and as an entrepreneur. She had been in this stuck place for a few years. But within six months she was unstuck in all three areas and moving forward. How does that happen?
Well, she reached out to me, and I was able to help her with her homeschooling dilemmas and point her to other resources that made a difference. That’s what she came to me for. But I was also able to help her with some of the places where she was stuck in life. Why? Because I am much older and asked lots of thought-provoking questions. I was able to help her see what she couldn’t see amid her worries and fears. We became friends, she trusted me, and she moved forward even when the path wasn’t totally clear!
I couldn’t help her with her business but because she had experienced the value of seeking wise counsel a resource opened which revolutionized her work. It took six months but by the end of that time, she had outsourced much of the load, had learned new strategies which streamlined her business and increased her income. All this before she even thought about adding new clients or raising her rates. Seeking wise counsel changed her life, her kid’s education, her work.
As an aside, let me say that a few years have passed, and she is again stuck. Yes, that is how life works. It is never easy or smooth. But she has learned that wise people seek wise counsel. She knows from experience that if she stays the course, takes responsibility, and prays, the resources she needs will show up.
If you are struggling as a parent, take the time to honestly look at the issues. Do your systems stink? Do you lack skills? Is your confidence in the toilet? Do you feel unfulfilled in some way? Are your most important relationships rocky? Do you need some behavior modification? Have you forgotten how to care for yourself?
Be open to learning and resources show up. Read, ask good questions. Look at your situation honestly. Make the changes you can. Then do a bit more, look deeply at yourself.
In the end, it is all about you. You are the only person you really have any control over. You are the one who must grow and change no matter what anyone else around you does. You have heard one of my favorite quotes before. This one voice made me so mad and changed my life at the same time. What Viktor Frankl said is true, whether you are ready to believe it or not. If you are not ready to accept it do what I did. Let it settle into your heart until you can bear it and then it will change you and your life.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Wise people seek wise counsel. Determine what you can change and then take control of yourself. Let go of blame. Seek the help you need to begin making a change. Practice. Doing this gives you all the power and will revolutionize your life.
I am speaking from seven decades of experience on both sides of this fence.
I hope you believe me. : )
I have a friend, Ann, who has taught children with special needs for 16 years. I have been in her classroom, and she is terrific. But this year, she retired, and her kids miss her.
We were talking recently about her retirement. 2020 was tough because they could not touch the kids because of Covid. Remember that these are special needs kids, and there was no hugging, no touching, no patting backs, or rubbing shoulders. No sitting by the kids, no connection. WOW! She said that by mid-year, her class was chaos. There were more tantrums, arguments, and problems than she had experienced in her fifteen previous years.
Then she made an executive decision. She decided that she would touch the kids. She would wear a mask, but she would physically connect. Guess what happened? Within two weeks, the chaos and problems were 95% better.
Did you catch that number, a 95% reduction in tantrums and chaos? We all need a physical connection. It doesn’t matter if we are special needs, spouses, friends, neighbors; it doesn’t matter. We need a physical connection with our world and the people in it. I have known for years, and I have taught that parents need to touch their kids more often, and it can be done without adding time to your day. I call it RANDOM TOUCH.
Currently, I am getting some re-education in this powerful concept myself. My mom has Alzheimer’s and lives with me. Recently her dog, Little Girl, died after being mom’s companion for seventeen years. Mom was in a funk. In talking with a friend, I was reminded about random touch and that it might be a valuable tool in helping my mom. So, I have been testing it out. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the outcome.
I love my mom, and she loves me, but she isn’t a touchy-feely person, and neither am I. I don’t recall being hugged or snuggled as a kid. As a parent, I had to remind myself constantly to touch my kids. I wasn’t always successful. In fact, I still must remind myself to hug my kids, grands, and friends. But I know how much it matters, and I am better at it.
I can see that my mom is responding to the increased touching. My mother is calmer; we have better conversations; she gets dressed earlier and turns on her light. Hugging my mom more has softened me; I am more tender. Does that sound like something that might be useful with any of your kids?
I want to emphasize that touching your children matters when they’re small; it matters, even more, when they’re ayouth, and it will continue to matter when they’re adults.
Random touch – what is it, and what does it look like
Random touches are just that, random. They don’t require any reason for the touch or hug. They happen whenever you’re close to your child.
Here are a few examples of what a random touch looks like in real life: • If you see your child sitting on the couch, at the table, on their bed, or anywhere, stop, sit close to them, stay for 20–30 seconds, squeeze a knee or give a quick hug, and go on your way. No need to say a word. • When you go into your child’s room to wake them up, hug them. Don’t stand in the hall and yell, “Get up.” Instead, go in; give a gentle shake to the shoulder and a hug. Say, “Hey, buddy. It’s time to get up.” It will take a few more seconds than yelling from the hall but remember to stay out of management mode and build your relationship instead. • As you walk through a room or down the hall and see one of your children, look them in the eye and smile. Touch them on their back, arm, or shoulder as they pass by. Don’t say anything; just give a squeeze or a pat. You can do this a dozen times a day and use up only a few minutes. • When you’re moving from one room to another (as you go through your day) and see one of your children, make a slight detour. Grab your child and tickle them for a few moments, just long enough to get a little tussle going. Then gently punch a shoulder or tousle a head and move on. • Hold your child’s hand when you’re walking together or keep your hand on their back or shoulder for a few moments at a time. • Rub your child’s back while sitting in church, in the doctor’s waiting room, and so on.
Random touches are an effective tool for connecting in astounding ways with your children. Random touch helps reduce the need for discipline, opens pathways to short conversations, melts stony hearts, and bonds children to parents. I want you to understand how powerful this one skill can be in changing the dynamics of your family. It’s easy to do, takes only moments, and practically shouts “You matter” to your child. It was shouting that to my mom, and it shouted ‘you matter’ to my friend’s classroom of special needs kids.
Respect their boundaries if you have a child or youth who doesn’t like to be touched. Remember that I was a bit touch adverse, but I still wanted to connect in meaningful ways, and so do your children. Experiment to find out what is acceptable to your child. For example, a teen may not want to be hugged but may allow you to rub their back.
Experiment with random touch and I know you will be
amazed at the result!
Mary Ann Johnson | Relationship Transformations for Busy Parents, 2017