My alma mater has a Facebook page. Recently someone asked this question: What life hacks are helping you kill it right now. For me, at this busy stage of life, as a full-time caretaker, I find that a morning and evening routine makes ALL the difference.
I use my morning routine to get myself on track for the day and my evening routine to slow myself down for sleep. Much of the content of these routines is about caring for myself. They are, for the most part, things that fill my soul.
What my morning routine looks like –
• I get up as close to the same time each day as possible. For me, that is between 5:30 and 6:30. The later I get up, the less likely I will be able to do my thing.
• I make the bed (at least my half of it. LOL)
• If there isn’t any activity in my room, I pray. If Don is still in bed or dressing, I head to the bathroom for prayer.
• I dress and get ready for the day in the bathroom. My clothes are already on a hook, ready to put on. No distractions here!
• I read my affirmations/truth statements. I begin every day by reminding myself what a spectacular person I am and what a wonderful life I have! Some days I know I’m really going to need the reminder. LOL
• I read from my spiritual cannon.
That’s it. I take about 30-40 minutes on a good day, and if the day is going south already, it gets fifteen. But it fills my heart and sets me on a positive path for the day.
Here is my night routine –
• I have a set time to STOP. Otherwise, I would work till I fall into bed. It’s my way of being. : ) I STOP at 8:30. 8 pm is better but, again, I do what I can.
• I plan the following day using a simple form I created after a few years of trial and error. It is working for now. : )
• I take a shower. I have been doing this since I was 16, and it isn’t about getting clean. It feels nurturing to me. While showering, I think, I sing, and I get warm enough to sleep.
• If we didn’t have family prayer after dinner, I make sure that happens.
• If I have stopped soon enough, I read. Reading is my favorite pastime.
• Then prayer and bed. My bedtime goal is 9:30 pm, but I don’t always make it. It is a work in progress.
Here is what these routines do for me on the crazy days, and I have plenty of those. When I go to bed, if I have done my morning and evening routine, no matter how many other things are still undone on my list, I feel satisfied that I have done my best.
And that feeling is worth a thousand bucks!!
Who do you know that needs to feel like a thousand bucks? Pass it on!
to when I was a child. There are good memories and sad memories. But one thing I return to most often is the time freedom I had. I’m not talking about the freedom to roam, although I had that. I’m talking about the space to sit, think, do nothing, or create without the knowledge in the back of my mind of other things that would eventually need to be tackled. There wasn’t a to-do list that was always present.
The to-do list didn’t exist. There were chores and homework, but they weren’t on a list. My mom would cajole me into doing my duties. I had to do them, and that could feel onerous, but it wasn’t hanging out on a list in my brain. My brain was free.
I know that of all the things I enjoyed as a child, this was the most wonderful. The irony, though, was that I didn’t know anything else. Never having experienced the mental list, I couldn’t appreciate not having one; I couldn’t cherish the freedom of it. It is as I have said many times, “You can’t know until you get there.”
My mom has Alzheimer’s, and, in some ways, has become a child again. She can sit, fully intent on her crochet, read her scriptures for hours, and occasionally ask questions. She has lost many things to this disease, but she has gained back the freedom of those lost childhood days – the freedom to sit and think, do nothing, or create without the endless to-do list.
A few years ago, my husband and I went on a cruise to Alaska. I took my computer and my phone because when you write, there are deadlines. When you have a large family, you’re frequently needed. Fortunately for me, my computer and my phone didn’t work on the ship. My husband wasn’t in good health, and so he spent lots of time resting. We didn’t go too far from the boat.
That all turned into a tremendous blessing. It gave me an enormous amount of free, by myself with no list, time. One morning I got up early, grabbed my book, and went down to the ship’s center where there were tables, chairs, and lots of treats. I walked in and came to a dead halt at the quiet. No one was there besides a few staff and me. I realized with significant impact that I didn’t have a single thing I had to do that day, not one thing! I began sobbing.
Isn’t that remarkable that the lack of a mental list brought me to tears? Now the truth of my life is that I am not going to be on many cruises. I won’t find myself alone, with nothing to do, very often. But it is vital to find ways to manage the list and be free, if only for a short time. It is healing and exhilarating.
Tools to manage your to-do list
1. Be sure that every day your list has some self-care on it. Mine is consistent and has been for over 60 years – take a shower before bed. Sing. Think. Close my eyes and meditate. Rest! Hot water is a must.
2. Sort your list effectively. There are many ways to do this. Find what works for you. For me, it looks like a one-half sheet of paper with the have-to’s listed at the top and bottom – my morning routine and my evening routine. Then a numbered list of the most important things I must do. Then there is a section called – ‘If Time.’ If I get time, I do those things, and if not, they move to another day. Then there is a section called ‘Miscellaneous Notes’. As I have thoughts of stuff I need to do, that aren’t on my list, I write them here. It is the parking spot for my brain clutter. I feel good knowing I won’t forget them, and I evaluate their importance when making my list for the next day. Some things drop off.This process limits the number of items on the to-do list each day.
3. Prioritize. Pick the top three things from the list. Circle them in red or highlight them. Maybe you had clarity when you began, and your three are already written at the top. If that’s all you get done, it will feel like a success. My goal is to do what matters and not get overwhelmed.
4. Track what is done. I know one woman that has a DONE list. That’s too much work for me, but it’s effective for her. Me, I cross them off. Very satisfying! Tracking helps you visually see at the end of a busy day that, yes, you did get the important things done.
5. Leaveemail, Instagram, your Facebook feed, Tick Toc, untouched until you have given yourself at least one hour on your to-do list. Our best time is usually earlier rather than later. Don’t get sidetracked.
6. Before bed, identify the one thing you are getting up for. I have found it much easier to get up when I go to bed with clarity on what I will do first thing after I get up and have finished my morning routine. It makes the morning battle with the bed easier to win.
Unless we can regularly go on a cruise or another vacation without Wi-Fi, phone access, or kids, we probably won’t experience the mind freedom of our childhood days. But that doesn’t mean we can’t experience relief from the constant mental to-do list. Find list management tools that work for you, and you will be healthier, more in control, and have more peace of mind.
Know someone drowning in their to-do list? You know what to do. : )
I have a friend, Audrey Rindlisbacher, and recently I was listening to an early morning Facebook Live she did. The topic was ‘comparison.’ Audrey is an exceptional woman who has been speaking and teaching for years on great books. I have sat with rapt attention in her classes. She inspires me with her knowledge of natural law and principles.
Not too long before she did this Facebook Live, she spoke with another woman that she considered exceptional. This mom had been the Young Mother of the Year, had multiple degrees, and currently lives in a foreign country where she has been for the last ten years with her family doing full-time work with refugees. Audrey admitted that during her conversation, she had thoughts like these – “You have always wanted to take your kids and do some humanitarian work. Why haven’t you? If you had, your family would be so much better off. You are so lame!”
I had to smile inwardly because when I first heard Audrey speak, I had similar thoughts – “Man, you should have read more great books than you have. Why haven’t you gotten as much out of them as Audrey has? How come you don’t understand natural law and principles as she does. Reading isn’t enough; you needed to think as she has. You are so lame.” When we begin comparing ourselves to others, our self-talk plummets! When our self-talk dives, then our life-results also dive. We must speak kindly about and to ourselves.
Another reason to speak well of ourselves is that how we are and what we do,speaks volumes to our children. We want to model a way of being to our family that will help them as they tackle hard things in life and as they begin seeing that where they are and how they are doing is different from someone else.
Tools to Derail Comparison
When I find myself treating myself poorly or comparing myself to others, I have a couple of tools I use to get myself back on track.
1. Focus on gratitude. When I shift from seeing what I am not or what I don’t have and focus on who I am and what I have, my self-talk improves. My result improves. There are many ways to stay in gratitude, but one that I use is a gratitude journal. Each evening before bed, I take a moment and write at least three things I am grateful for. No matter how terrible the day has been, I have yet to be stumped. I can always find at least three and usually more. Keeping my eye on what I have that is good keeps my mind on a higher plane, so I don’t spiral into negative thinking and self-talk.
2. Limit social media. As much good as social media has provided, it is a hotbed of comparison and envy. Currently, three of my daughters have taken breaks from social media. No Facebook, no Instagram. They have found that they feel better about themselves when they cannot compare their worst to someone else’s best. I spend less than 1 hour on social media each day, and on days when I don’t need to be on it for work, I spend none at all.
You don’t have to give up social media. Just limit the time you spend there. If you have a hard time, then turn off your notifications. Give yourself set times during the day to participate. When we compare ourselves to others, it creates unrest within us. It sucks the joy out of our accomplishments. It diminishes us in our own eyes.
We each have strengths and weaknesses. We all do well at times and at others do poorly. We all are in the process of becoming. Accept that you are still learning, growing, evolving. Be kind to yourself. Speak and think with generosity, and it will improve your pace. It will also give your children a better example of what to do when you are not perfect. It will do your family good.
Take the time to let a friend know about these simple tools to derail comparison.
A few years ago, I stopped business building after ten years. I published a book, and I’ve continued to write, but my main focus shifted to caregiving for my family. For now, it’s my calling and mission. My mother has Alzheimer’s and lives with us. My husband has been ill for some time. My daughter works full time, and I get my grands off to school most days and help care for my granddaughter, who has severe Cerebral Palsy. It is a lot. I take it very seriously.
I use prayer to stay focused on what matters and on what to add or delete from my life. It is imperative to receive this help in our busy four-generation household. Without direction, it would be impossible for me to maintain balance. Through prayer, I understood that my mission needed to change from speaking and teaching to caregiving. It was equally clear that I should continue to write my weekly article, post once daily, and work with a few mentees. It wasn’t an easy choice; I LOVED what I was doing but I trust God. So, after agonizing for a few months, I made a leap of faith.
A couple of years passed, and then this spring, I understood that I needed to add two resource sections to my newsletter – Resources Worth Sharing and the Home School Corner. That added to my workload! (By the way, I am always on the hunt for excellent resources to share. Got one? Please send it my way.)
Then, a couple of months ago, I felt prompted to begin making the articles into audios. YIKES!!! I have put it off for a while. I made a few attempts to figure it out but then would let it go in frustration. However, this week I determined to get it done, and after some crying and handwringing, I DID IT!! Can I say that I am over-the-top proud of myself!!
I have asked a few questions as I have implemented these new things:
•Why would I be asked to let go of something I loved and was good at, which impacted others for good? After all, it was my dream and passion.
•Why would God ask me to keep writing and mentoring when life is crazy busy, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed?
•Why does God keep asking me to learn how to do hard things? Isn’t what I do enough?
•What should I be learning?
In the past two decades, God has asked me to let go of several things that I loved, and which mattered to me. It was never easy to decide, but I did because I trust God. What have I learned from letting go?I have learned that I can make hard decisions even when they fly in the face of what others think I should do. I have learned that life isn’t always about me and what makes me happy. I have learned that when we give something up, we make space for something else. Often it’s of more value than what we gave up.
Every week I get one or more emails from those who read what I write and those I mentor. They consistently relay the message that what I share matters to them, helps, and gives them confidence and hope in their efforts. Every week in my small way, I have an impact.
As for question number three, I have pondered it diligently. Here is what I think. I needed confidence that whatever is required of me, I can learn how to do it! With God, all things are possible. In the coming days and years, this clear belief, backed by my own experience, will help not only me but others. Life can be tough!
I have also learned that when we are faced with something we don’t know how to do or a problem we are unsure how to solve, we need to move. As soon as we take even a small step resources and people that we need begin to come to us. But the key is to move.God can’t steer a parked car.
Another thing, getting older is not easy. Things change, and it’s tempting to begin doubting yourself and your abilities. My memory has become an issue. I will recall your face, but I may not know your name, where we met, or anything about you. If you tell me your name it all comes back. It scares me because I may see you in the future, and despite this current hardship, I want you to know that I am your friend and I love you. It matters to me.
My energy level has changed. I can still work rings around many younger people, but I feel the difference. However, God keeps asking me to learn and grow despite the challenges of aging. He asks me to keep sharing with you. I believe he wants me to remain confident in my ability to impact my small piece of the world for good despite the limitations I may face. We really are never too old to influence others positively. Talking with those I trust has helped me deal with these things.
I am sharing all of this, so you know where I am and why I do what I do. It may help you because what you need to do in your current life may be kicking your butt. : ) Maybe you struggle to do as you feel moved. Perhaps you’re afraid to give up something you love to make space for something new. Perhaps your needs outstrip your current abilities or skills, and you must learn something. Maybe something has changed, and you are scared. Perhaps you need a mentor.
A True Story
This is the process of life. It never stops. It doesn’t matter if you are twenty-five, fifty, or over seventy, like me. We need to keep pushing the boundaries of what we know so we can serve better. We need to be obedient to what our promptings, gut, or thoughts tell us. We need to be willing to go to some scary places. How do I know this? Let me share a story that drove this home to me. I was younger, but I am living the truth of what I learned then.
Marjorie and Marion were eighty-year-old twins. They had both lost spouses and lived together. Every day they took a walk around the block arm in arm.
One day Marion was walking alone, and she was a bit tippy on her feet. I saw her and was worried, so I went out and said, “Marion, can I walk with you.” As we walked, she talked about her life and her sister. They had been fighting, and she was sad. Their relationship had been a mess for a few days. She was trying to figure out what to do about it. She began to cry.
I was stunned!! I couldn’t help myself, and despite her tears, I blurted out, “Marion, I thought when I got to your age, I would have it all worked out!”
Through her tears, she began laughing – “Oh goodness honey, that will never happen. There is always something to work on!”
So, take heart. You are not yet eighty, and so as Marion said, “There is always something to work on!”
Because I keep learning hard things, here is what is new as of today. Each weekly article has a featured image. When you click on the Go To The Article link it will take you to the website. Please note that in the corner of the featured photo you will see a small sound icon. Click it and voila, you can listen to today’s article. You will also see a soundbar at the end of the article on both the website and in this newsletter. Again, you can listen in. God knows that you are busy and that sometimes listening is more accessible than reading. That is why he had me learn this new, hard thing!
Here is the caveat. I won’t be doing any fancy editing. I won’t be taking out all the little mistakes—no musical introduction. No logo. Just me, a busy mom, grandmother, and caretaker, sharing with you. You get what you get. I hope it will be enough and that you and I can continue to learn from one another as we share our experiences.
Listen, I never give up until I learn how to do what is required. You do the same and if you do it will be enough. : )
Do me a favor and spread the word that you can now listen, as well as read.
She lives across the country, and so we talk regularly on the phone. We enjoy sharing our lives, and we help each other solve problems. Nicole often feels that she is somehow not doing as well as she should be.
Recently we were talking about exercise. We’ve been talking about it for a few months, but Nicole hasn’t been able to find a way to fit it into her busy life. She is a single mom with kids who freelances from home.
She wants to set aside a 30-minute block of time to take a brisk walk. She would ask her mom to watch her boys.
After a month or so of this plan with no result, she decided that she needed to buy the right workout clothes and shoes. She needed motivation, so she did some research and made the order. A few weeks passed and still no follow-through. Her work at home life, because of the pandemic, got busier and busier. It was all she could do to fit the boys in and stay present enough to feel like she was doing a good job.
A couple of weeks ago, she was sharing her struggle with me. Her language was negative. “I’m just so lazy.” Remember that this is a single mom who works from home 40+ hours a week, so we took a bit of time to work on her self-talk.
Then I suggested that she set a time to leave her desk and do a few laps around the back yard. No special clothes. No need to call grandma. And instead of 30 minutes, what about 15?
She gave it a try, and this was her response – “I feel oddly motivated! Walking around the yard is invigorating.” Of course, it is. She is getting that exercise in, and she is feeling much better about herselfand her days.
I suggested that she let that be enough until there was something more that she could do.
My sister, Rozanne, is an empathetic and vigorous woman. She is a certified health coach. She has been teaching the elderly how to keep their bodies in shape. The comments that come from her students have been amazing. She has made a BIG difference in many of their lives. But the comments aren’t just centered on her workouts. They are about her remarks, her empathy, her caring.
After taking a class on how to market her skills, she said, “I’m just not good enough for this field. I don’t have enough certification.” She was seriously taking herself to task for not knowing more than she knows and not doing more than she has been doing. I said, “Rozanne, you have something to give right now. Let that be enough until there is more.” After a pause, she replied, “I am going to remember that. I do make a difference now!”
We would all like to do whatever it is we are doing better. We would all like to know more. We would all like to exercise more consistently, but sometimes the backyard will have to be where we begin. We have to start where we are. We don’t have to stay where we are, but we have to start there.
It’s OK not to be perfect. Of course, you need better life skills to parent better. Many of us need to manage your money more efficiently. Most of us need to exercise more. We should eat better. There is a world of things that require more information, consistency, and practice to do better. BUT it is wise to remember that you have something to give today, as imperfect as it may be. Let that be enough until there is more!
Let others in on the good news that perfection is NOT required!
My sister uses only white dishcloths. When they are soiled, she boils them on the stove until they are white – I mean white! There is not a stain on them. When they begin to fray or wear out, they end up in the rag bag or the garbage.
On the other hand, I use any color dishcloth, and I don’t care if they are stained. When my dishcloths are soiled, I throw them in the washer. I do this until they are beginning to have seriously frayed edges and small holes. Only when they are not holding up to the job, do they head for the ragbag or the garbage.
This same sister had a rat that lived under her kitchen floor. It was a white pet rat, and it was blind. But it was a rat! A few times a day, he came out to be fed. After all, he was blind. I have a hard time allowing my husband to have one small dog.
In my family of origin, all the pans were dark. I thought that if you cooked in a kitchen pan or used a baking sheet, it got dark. There wasn’t anything you could do about it. However, as I got older, I noticed that my grandmother’s pans were ALL shiny and new looking. Hmmm!
What I discovered as an adult was that if some remnants of oil remained on a pan, then when it is next used, those remnants would be dark. Left long enough, the bottom of the pan would be dark. Since then, I have noticed some women with shiny pans and even more whose pans are dark. Mine are, for the most part, dark.
Here is something else I have noticed. Some people make hospital corners when they make their beds, and some don’t. I joined the nurses club in 7th grade and learned how to do a hospital corner, and so I make them.
Here is something I have never done in my home. We have never eaten a meal at the kitchen bar. We always ate at the table. I have a friend whose family eats almost all their meals sitting on stools at the bar. They seem to like that. It feels odd to me.
I was recently at the home of a friend, and I noticed that she had labeled baskets in her laundry room. There was a basket for whites and one for darks, one for jeans, and so forth. Then there were marked baskets for each person. As clothes were washed, they could be sorted and put into the correct room.
It caused me to think back to my laundry room when I was a young mom. Everything went into a pile in the middle of the laundry room floor. When washed, clothes went into a different pile until they were parceled out to different rooms where it was hopefully folded. If it didn’t get sorted and sent to the correct room before a need arose, whoever had the need would dig through the pile until they found what they were looking for. And sometimes whites and darks went into the same load because I was plain tired and wanted it done! That’s how it went in my home of origin too.
I know a family that plays games a couple of times a week. I never did that with my family. We didn’t play games with adults when I was growing up either. We took drives together, though, and we went camping.
One of my good friends would visit far-flung places in the States with her family a couple of times a year. That seemed out of the ordinary to me. We drove to my grandmas and played with cousins or went camping in Yellowstone Park.
I’ll bet as you have been reading this, you have made some mental judgments. They will have been based on your version of how something ought to be done. That is natural, but it can be dangerous.
It is usually counterproductive to compare. There are as many ways to run a home and family as there are families. Some methods are more orderly than others. Some may appear to work better than others. Then there is just personal taste. Women tend to put their systems or ways of doing things against their neighbors and friends. Often, they come out as the losers in some imaginary game of ‘Who Does It Better.’
It Is Wise…
It is wise to look at what works in your home and be OK with it. If something isn’t working, ask the simple question, “Why doesn’t this work.” Then experiment with new systems or ways of managing a thing until you find what does work.
It is wise to look for systems or ways of managing if what you are doing doesn’t or has stopped working. Others can share what works for them. If it sounds good, give it a try. Just remember that it isn’t a case of ‘Who is doing better.” It is merely a case of “What works for us.”
It is wiseto keep comparison and judgment out of your life. You will find that your happiness and contentment will increase. Your family and home will feel and fit more comfortably.
If this article could help a friend, let them know about it.
When you improve your life skills, it’s a boon to your whole family. The better able you are to navigate life and the more growth you have, it naturally rubs off on those around you.
Case in point. Over a decade ago, I began my quest to improve my ability to manage my thoughts so that my life results would be more in line with what I wanted. I read books, attended many events and classes, got some personal mentoring, and even did some energy work. I noticed that I was happier, more often, by choice. I spoke kindlier to myself. My confidence went up. I was able to help others make changes also. It felt good. My granddaughter, Mary, was born just after I began my quest to control my life, my happiness, and my responses; to stop being a victim. Although I didn’t know it, she has been watching me.
A few years ago, she saw a vision board on my wall and came and asked me what it was. I explained that it contained pictures of what I wanted to happen in my life. She must have thought about that for a few days and then she came and asked me to help her make one. She also noticed that I made my bed every morning, and soon she began doing the same. She was only eight or nine, and nobody told her to do it. She saw that I did it and that it was a good thing. She also saw the sayings and affirmations that I have on my walls. If you go into her room, you will notice that she has hopeful and joyful sayings all over the place. When she makes anything or buys anything, she makes sure that the words she loves are on it.
One day, about a year ago, she said, “Grandma, you and I am the same.” You know she is right. I work to remain in control of the story that I tell myself, and so does Mary. Her room, art, clothes, and actions all reflect her understanding that she oversees how she feels and how life looks.
Not all children will respond this way.My two grandsons are not the least bit interested in making their beds. : ) They don’t wear upbeat sayings on their clothes. They don’t do much art, and when they do, it doesn’t say things like “Love Yourself.” LOL However, I can tell they are learning valuable things, and it comes out now and then in something they say and do.
Our example to our children matters. If we feel like victims and live our lives as if we are, our children will see that and follow suit. If we blame and criticize, so will our kids. If we talk poorly to ourselves, then how can our children believe that they are any better. We can’t and won’t be perfect people or parents, but what will last and impact our children the most is when they see us growing. There is power in understanding and believing that you are 100% in control of your life. You may not be able to control all the circumstances, but you can manage your response.
I have seven grown children. Some are edging into their fifties, and they tell me how much my continued desire to become better has helped them. So, if you have issues in your family, look inside. See what you need to do to take control of your feelings, your own life. Let go of victimhood—practice consistency. Take charge of the story you live and tell yourself. Clean up your self-talk. It will not only bless you. It will bless your family!
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.
“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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 orgrandparenting. 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. : )
Mary Ann Johnson | Relationship Transformations for Busy Parents, 2017