Category: Life Skills

You can raise amazing children. I promise!

As I was raising our children, I made many mistakes. I was not gentle enough. I was a yeller. Sometimes I did not listen. I could be stern.

On my birthday this year, my children told me how much they loved our family and me. They reminded me how much their friends loved coming to our home. I have even heard from some of those friends, how much our family and our home meant to them. I was astonished, grateful, and heartened.

What My Kids Said

Here are some of their comments, paraphrased. I’m not sharing them so you think well of me but because I want to make a point about imperfect parenting.

“Mom, you are so wise and self-governed. I am grateful to you. Our friends wanted to come over for dinner and play because of the security you offered in our space.” Jenny

“Mom, I want you to feel super loved. I wouldn’t choose anyone else for my mother.” Marie

“You’re an amazing woman. The things you have accomplished are truly wonderful. I’m so proud to say you’re my mom.” Seth

Last night I was thinking about you quite a bit. I was thinking about our growing up. We had a lot of struggles and a bunch of kids. We kids never saw anything or understood how hard that was. Now we are adults, and we know it. And then you took in all the neighbor kids as well. It’s just amazing. I appreciate what you did. You and dad were amazing, big time. Look what amazing kids we all are. It’s from you guys.” Andrew

“I get to talk to a lot of my friends about their families because they struggle and aren’t connected. I have a hard time relating. We are connected, and I’m grateful we have such an amazing family. We do love and care about each other. We don’t take that for granted.” Jodie

Some of these comments came with tears as well as smiles. I was blown away!

It’s easy to remember all the things you didn’t do that you wish you had done. It is easy to remember all the wretched things you did that you wish you hadn’t done. It’s hard to know what your children are going to take away from the experience of being part of your family. Often, as I have discovered, it’s better than you think.

Raising a Family Can Be the Best and Worst of Times

I have said that raising my family was “the best of times; it was the worst of times.” These words from the Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities describe how I felt perfectly. In fact, in 1996, at the height of our family problems, that is what I wrote under our family photo.

I remember the fun we had: breakfast on the tailgate of our old pickup truck at the park, quiet conversations while weeding in the early dawn hours. We canned together, read as a family, and ate dinner, and talked. We had fun at bath time, during nighttime cuddles, and while sitting together at church. These were memorable and satisfyingly ordinary days. These were the best of times.

I also have seared on my mind the struggles we shared as a family of nine—a husband who traveled for a living, drug abuse, premarital sex and a child born out of wedlock, thoughts of suicide, failure in school, smoking, alcoholism, lack of belief in one’s value as a person, quitting school, abandoning church, a mother who yelled, managing feelings of despair, and coming to terms with same-sex attraction. These were the worst of times.

That is why I have shared some of my birthday messages with you. If our family can experience what we did, and still come out so well, then so can yours.

You won’t, and, frankly, can’t do everything right. Your children will struggle as they grow. You’ll struggle to do all that’s required in your chosen vocation as a parent. You will fall short and make mistakes. It is part of the process of being human, of being in a family.

Perfect isn’t what makes good parents and families. Those who stay the course, even when they’re not doing as well as it could be done, they are the amazing parents that will raise amazing children. I promise!

Success doesn’t require perfect. Let someone else know this truth!

The 100% Devil is a Liar!

When my grandson, Jack, was three, Mary was just one and Maggie was five, I taught them about germs and hygiene. It was chaotic. Mary was on the table and into everything. Jack wanted his way. Maggie, of course, needs LOTS of help. Whew. Did they get any of that? Despite all my preparation and planning, I was sure that the whole thing had been a big fat flop!

A full three days later, a miracle happened at dinner in the Palmer home. Out of the blue, Jack said, “When you sneeze water comes out of your mouth.” He then proceeded to tell his mom and dad how to blow your nose the right way, how to throw the tissue away so others don’t get sick, and all about germs. AMAZING.

The 1% Principle

This brings me to what I want to remind you about today, the 1% principle.  I have written about it before, but it can’t be repeated too often. It’s a principle, which if understood and believed, can free moms and dads from the quilt they feel when they think they’re not doing enough; things aren’t going right, or their expectations are not being met. It can free them from perfectionism and allow them to enjoy being with their children.

Real learning, growth, and change come from building on a solid, consistent 1% improvement over time. However, we tend to live with and accept the 100% devil who says that if we aren’t doing it all now, in just the right way, then we aren’t going to get a good result. Don’t believe the 100% devil. Remember great things are accomplished 1% at a time.

Back to the germ example. It was chaotic. We moved through the items quickly because of short attention spans. There were lots of interruptions while I was telling them something. How in the world could this turn out good?

Even I, with all my experience, can still have some silly expectations sometimes. Kids are going to sit quietly and hang on your every word. They are going to put their hands on the paper correctly and put the stickers where they go and want to play all the games and sing all the songs. Please, let’s get real. That isn’t how it usually goes.

However, if you’re clear about the 1% principle, that great things are accomplished with small and consistent efforts, then it will be acceptable; you will know in your heart that they are getting it; just like Jack. Three days later is a long time for a three-year-old.

Another example of the 1% principle in action.

My daughter’s family has a family mission statement. When their kids were little, they said it every morning. One morning I got to lead the reciting of the family mission statement. The first line goes like this – “The Joyful Palmer’s are a team. Yeaaah.” As we began to recite that line the 16-month-old raise her little fist into the air and yelled “Yeaaah”. She is 16 months old and the 1% principle is already at work in her life. She is getting it through consistency and repetition. You can bet this one line, understood at 16 months, will make a difference in her life.

I appreciate it when you share. Thank you!

Why You Should STOP Comparing

As a parent or grandparent do you ever feel you don’t measure up? I think we all have those feelings. Here are four examples that will help you STOP playing the comparing game, which isn’t fun, and which no one ever wins.

Story One

Don and I have 14 grandchildren and one on the way. We love these kids. But Don and I grandparent differently. He does a lot of snuggling. He is round and soft, and the kids come and climb on his knee and lean against his ample chest. He chats quietly with them. They tell him fantastic tales and share their thoughts. He has a candy jar which he keeps on the dresser in the bedroom. He fills it with sundry candies and makes sure it doesn’t run out. He also has an air gun and has taught the kids how to shoot. They loved that activity.

I don’t cuddle although I do hug. If I sat down, I might cuddle but I’m never sitting. I’m bustling about all the time. The kids come to me when they need anything. They know that whatever they need I will have, batteries, food coloring, pencils and paper, cornstarch, a box of mac and cheese. I rarely disappoint. One day Mary said to me, “You are the best and most prepared grandma I ever had.”

I’m a bit stern but I still get hugs and kisses. Ben reminds me that he has a billion and I can have one any time I want. I can be counted on to take them to their friends and pick them up, to wash a football jersey or send regular letters with gum inside.

When we went to Seattle to see out newest grandchild Tessa jumped up and down and said, “I couldn’t wait for grandpa to get here because I want to snuggle.”  While we were there, I helped the kids pick blackberries and make tarts. We walked to the corner book cupboard, got books, and then I read to them. I held Gus a ton and changed diapers. I helped Tessa and Elliott and their friends make crafts.

I used to worry because Don snuggled, while I did stuff. I worried that I wasn’t as good a grandparent. Then I remembered my grandparents. They were so different, and I loved them all. I never compared what they brought into my life. I just loved them all and accepted what they gave.

Story Two

Don and I don’t do big presents. We decided a few decades ago as a family that we didn’t want to spend lots of money on gifts and so we don’t. When our grandkids have a birthday, they get a few dollars and a stick of gum. I am known as the gum grandma. There is a stick of gum in every card and letter.

My daughter Marie’s children have grandparents that send big gifts. I worried that the grands would feel we were chintzy because of our choices concerning gift giving. I asked her about it, and she responded with vigor. “Oh mom, they LOVE getting your gifts. They love the gum. They love you and dad.”

Story Three

The four grandchildren I live with have a woman who we all consider grandma. She isn’t related by blood, but they adore her, and she adores them. She takes them to the planetarium, the zoo, the fair, and other wonderful places. On their birthdays the birthday child gets to spend the night at her home. It’s the highlight of their year.

I LOVE Cindy for her good heart, her friendship and because she loves my daughter’s family so much. But I have had to settle myself because what we each bring to the grandparent pool is so different. Our grands sleep on our living room floor many weekends. They love it but it isn’t the highlight of their year. It’s part of their daily life. We help our grands get to their friends’ homes, get homework done, supply them with stuff they need, we are there. I worried that it couldn’t compare to the planetarium and the zoo. However, when we are gone for a week or two they miss us and can’t wait for us to get back.

Story Four

This last June when my youngest daughter’s son turned four, I wanted to get him a book. He LOVES being read to and it fits my gift-giving budget. I found a board book about dinosaurs, currently his favorite animal. Even though it was a bit young for him each page made the sound of the dinosaur. I knew he would like it and he did.

His other grandparents bought him three rockets that shot high into the sky. His grandpa is a pilot. Man, how do you compare a board book to three rockets? Well, you don’t, and Elliott didn’t. He loved the book. He loved the rockets.

What’s the Point!

We need to stop comparing ourselves to others whether parenting or grandparenting. We need to stop measuring our efforts against someone else’s. Children are amazing. They take what is offered and they hold it dear. They love their parents just as they are. They love their grandparents just as they are.
Each adult in a child’s life brings something different. It’s a blessed child that has many loving adults in their life. Kids embrace them all and accept what they give.

Do your best. Bring what you can. Keep adding to your skills and it will be enough.

Enjoy the stories? Please share them with someone who needs to hear. : ) 

Do You Undermine Your Growth and Success

Recently, I taught a class on consistency. I have taught this topic many times and have written about it often. I gave the class some tips on how to work toward being more consistent. However, this year I added a new tip that I have learned the hard way over the last couple of years. It applies to more than just remaining consistent. It applies to every change we want to make or promise we want to keep.

It’s a challenge to commit to something new or to make a change. But when we resent and blame others it saps the energy needed for follow-through. When we’re mired in resentment and blame it undermines our personal growth and success.

A Real-Life Example

I get up early and my husband sleeps in. He’s retired and doesn’t need to get up early, so he doesn’t.

I, on the other hand, have decided through experimentation that when I get up earlier my life feels better. I accomplish more, which matters to me. So, I made a commitment to get up at 5am. I sometimes felt resentful that Don slept in. I felt resentful that he could stay up later.

Often when I woke up, I wanted to sleep longer, and I had to force myself out of bed. I would look at my husband and feel resentment that I had to toe the line, do this hard thing and he didn’t. How unfair. When I let myself tell that story it became very hard to get out of bed and stay out.

If I did go back to bed, when I got up, I would feel terrible because I hadn’t kept my promise to myself. So, I would blame Don. After all, if he wasn’t in bed I would have gotten up. It was his fault. “Why can’t he get up early too and then it would be easier for me.”

This type of thing happens at work, with our kids, in relationships, all the time. It can derail our desire to eat well, keep up with our home management chores, connect with our children, lose weight, exercise, and the list goes on. When we let blame and resentment color our personal commitments, whatever they are, we will have a harder time keeping them.

Here’s the deal. It’s my commitment to get up early because of the things I want in my life. Don never made this commitment. No one makes me go to bed early. No one makes me get up. I can change my promise to myself at any time. It’s all up to me. That’s the true story!

There are many ways to maintain control over resentment and blame. Here are three.

Three Tips To Manage Blame and Resentment

• Stop and examine your story. What are you telling yourself? Is it true? If not, what is true. In this case, Don hasn’t made the commitment, I have. Whether I do it or not isn’t about Don, it’s about me.
• Release blame and resentment. These two emotions sap the energy required to stay the course. If you feel them know that there is something in your story that needs to be examined. Do an honest evaluation. Then let them go.
• Revaluate your commitment. Does it need to be adjusted so it feels manageable? In this case, mine did need an adjustment. I opened my window of ‘get up time’ from 5 am to between 5 am and 6 am. It felt less restrictive. I also gave myself a day off. On Sunday I let myself sleep in until 8 if I want to. I often don’t but I know that I can.
• Don’t quit. Whether you keep your promise to yourself, your personal commitment is all about you. So, when you feel like quitting, don’t. Keep going. If you fall off the wagon get back on as soon as you can. Manage your story. This is about you and what you want in your life.

Your shares are appreciated. Thank you!

What does an algae-filled pool have to do with successful parenting?

This summer my grandchildren spent hours with their friends in the pool in our back yard. Sadly, the weather cooled and so the pool was drained for the winter. Due to the placement of the drains three inches of water remained in the pool. Time passed.

One morning as I went into my office, I investigated the pool. There were three inches of green, algae-filled water. I thought, “Man, this is going to be a project to clean.”

I returned to the office and completed my morning routine. Then I sat down at my computer to begin writing. Into my mind came a clear thought – “You need to clean the pool.” WHAT! I had a full day of writing. But it was a clear, good thought so I got up and left the office. As I stood on the patio, I wondered how I was going to remove gallons of water from the pool bottom.

I decided to sweep a 5-gallon bucket through the water, lift it and pour it over the side. This worked. However, that was a lot of stooping, sweeping, rising and tossing. I persevered. After an hour and a half, I had to stop for an appointment. I thought, “I’m done for the day.”

When I finished my appointment, I headed for the office but again had the thought that I needed to clean the pool. I rolled up my pants, got my crocks and resumed the work. Eventually, my daughter who was on a break came out and said, “Mom, you don’t have to do this. It’s not your job.” I assured her that I knew I was supposed to clean the pool. She suggested that I use the shop vac. What a great idea!

The shop vac sucked up the water well, but it was far too heavy for me to hoist and dump over the side. Even only a quarter full it was too heavy. I returned to bailing with the 5-gallon bucket.

I could see that I was making progress, but it was labor-intensive and taking a long time. If any fathers are reading, please don’t stop because this scenario is so stupid. I know it! : )

Eventually, I decided that I could use the shop vac, suck up the water, and then bail water from the vac and throw it over the side. Each load of water in the shop vac was three buckets to dump. I know it doesn’t seem like much of an improvement, but it was. It felt easier even if it wasn’t faster.

When my daughter had another break, she came out to help. By then I was almost done. Jodie sucked up water while I swept the algae and sand to the center of the pool. Then she and I together would hoist the vac and dump it. We did about 5 dumps. She returned to her work and I did the final sweep and vacuumed up the residue that was left.

It was done and it looked fabulous. When I began the job, it was intimidating. After all, I’m 69, it was a lot of work and took a lot of time. I didn’t know if I could do it. But I was determined. I did what I could with what I had and as I went along my resources and support improved and I was able to finish the job.

I know that a couple of men could have done it in half the time. If I had had better tools the whole job would have been faster and easier. But I only had what I had. I could do it or not.

The Point of the Story

It’s a perfect example of parenting, my parenting. When I began, I had a pool of green scummy water to deal with that came from my growing up. I had a wonderful family, but like all families there was stuff. And my stuff had lain dormant for a long time. It was as nasty as that pool water.

Parenting for me was laborious because I lacked skills, had few resources and very little support. Don and I married and moved far away from family and friends. As the years passed, I tried different things. I learned new skills, found resources. Things got better.

Sometimes, I would look at how we were coming along, and it felt like looking at that pool job. It was hard. It was long. Frankly, I didn’t know if I could hold out to the end. But Don and I did. We actively parented for 39 years.

How Did It Turn Out?

As some of you know we had kids struggle with drugs, alcohol, dropping out of school and identity issues. It was tough. Our kids are all over thirty now and many are in their late forties. They’re smart, loyal, loving, kind, generous people. They can be trusted to do what is right.

I read a wonderful book, That We May Be One, by Tom Christopherson. His family had their share of trials, but his parents determined their success by how connected and bonded the family was. I have chosen to do the same.

My children talk to each other often. They gather at our family reunion regularly. This week one of my children found themselves in an unexpected financial bind. The word went out to the family and in less than 24 hours it was resolved with all of us pulling together.

It doesn’t matter what the water in the bottom of your pool looks like. It doesn’t matter how inefficient your tools and resources. If you will do what you know is right consistently, better tools and resources will come. You’ll get better. If you’re determined to parent as well as you can, to connect your family, to increase your skills and access the resources you need, then you’ll be successful. When you stay the course, no matter what you lack, what you need will show up. Simple things, done consistently over time, make all the difference.

If you relate to this article please share it with others. They will thank you for it. 🙂

 

The Greatest Empire is…Drum Roll Please!

Ok, so how do you do that – get control of yourself?

How do you get your mind to rule over your body? There are many books out there that give some wonderful advice, but I suggest just a few things that any harried mom or dad can do right now – no reading involved.

1. Pick one thing in your life you want to have control over. Make it simple. The harder self-control is for you the simpler the thing you begin with needs to be. The point here is to be successful in one small thing.

If you lack self-control then you must begin small and work up to larger, more important things. It’s like building a muscle. You don’t begin with a 300# weight. You begin with 3#’s. When you can lift that without trouble then you move to 5# and so on. This idea applies to mastering yourself.

Here are some examples of places to begin – putting your dirty clothes in the hamper when you take them off, hanging up your PJ’s every morning, making your bed before its time to get back in it, putting your plate in the dishwasher, and so forth.

It doesn’t need to be earth-shaking or even important. What is important is that you’re willing to commit to it.

2. Commit – There’s a difference in deciding you’re going to work on something and committing to it. When you work on a thing you may get tired and quit. When you commit nothing gets in the way. Nothing!

I know when I have committed and when I haven’t. The real work for me is committing. Once that’s done it’s a done deal! I can feel it in myself when I’m committed and when I’m not. You will feel it too.

To manage the next steps, you must be committed.

3. Be consistent. Do it every day. If it’s hanging up your PJ’s do it every day. Make the effort to never miss a day no matter what it takes! If you do miss a day begin again immediately. Don’t take breaks. Consistency is key to taking control of yourself!

4. Stay the course. You have to do this for as long as it takes for it to become part of your way of being, whether it’s putting dirty clothes in a hamper, running a mile every day, saving $100 per paycheck, always saying thank you, walking away rather than yelling, or not eating after 7 pm. Some things may become part of your way of being after only a few weeks and others may take much longer. For many people tracking on a chart is very helpful.

Remember that it took me ten years to overcome raging. Ten years. But I never quit. I just kept doing the steps that I had determined would help me gain control over my responses. So, stay the course!

5. Only focus on one or two things at a time. Overloading yourself with to-do’s leads to failure. When you work on too much at one time it becomes overwhelming. You don’t do well on any of them and then you quit. I’m sure you’ve experienced this. You go to a class or read a book and have a list of stuff that you feel you need to work on right now. You begin but in a month you’re right back where you began. It is called the 1% principle and you can’t dodge a principle.

6. Forgive yourself for being human. If you miss a day don’t throw in the towel. Forgive yourself and begin again immediately. Beating yourself up is counterproductive. Thinking that you’re a failure is counterproductive. Picking yourself up and beginning again is the mark of success!

Making decisions is challenging and energy draining. It’s where most people fall short. The purpose of the above steps is to stop having to make so many decisions. Once you’ve done something long enough it becomes a habit and you never have to decide to do it again. You have mastered that one thing.

When you gain control over one small thing, you’re moving in the direction of controlling your empire.

Controlling your entire empire is a lifetime’s work and will be worth the effort.

 

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