Category: Present Parenting

Love, Dependability, and Trust

  Life doesn’t always go as planned!

When our oldest son was young, he became involved in drugs. Don and I were totally out of our element and didn’t know how to respond. We took a parenting class.

Eventually, Seth, at fourteen, left home and moved to the riverbank for the summer. For the next few years, he was home and then gone again. We tried contracts, and tough love, making him earn back his possessions. If it was out there and we could access the information, we gave it a try. Remember that this was before in-home computers were widely available, so resources were harder to come by.

Eventually, we had three other children become involved in drugs. We faced some challenging things. Kids who came home after curfew. We couldn’t let them in because they knew the boundaries. Those clear rules didn’t make listening to them call out to us any easier. Phone calls from kids late at night who were miles away from home and wanted to be picked up. We couldn’t because they knew the boundaries but that meant a lot of knee time praying for their safety. There were the moments when we, as adults lost it and behaved like children. And then the grief over having to tell friends they couldn’t come to our home because of drug issues. Sometimes we were all the family they had. These were really tough times. 

Our kids didn’t always like us, and we worried about someone dying or going to jail. We had some narrow escapes on both counts. Some parents don’t escape these painful outcomes.

Here is why I am sharing some of the darkness we experienced. I want you to know that even in the darkness if we are doing our best, we are a light for our children. What does that even mean? Let me share a message that I got two years ago from my oldest son, who is closing in on fifty. It filled my heart with peace and gratitude.

“Mom, when it comes to all the kids that hung out at our house, even though you didn’t see it, you were a mom to 150 kids. Our home life was so different than everyone else’s home life. That’s why people liked coming to our house because it was such a safe place. Even though we all had our issues, it was a safe place. I still hear it from so many of my friends. It was that you were a mom. It was a safe and secure place for more people than you’ll ever realize, mom.”

So there it is. Our lives weren’t perfect.

Don and I had a ton of baggage. We were inept at parenting. I have talked about that before. We didn’t know how to respond. We tried stuff, most of which wasn’t helpful. Our kids suffered. We suffered.

BUT here is what I want you to hear, we stayed the course.

We remained loving adults in our children’s lives and unknown to us, in the lives of countless other youth. We were home, and we had dinner together. I read to the kids, not consistently, but enough. We attended church together and went on trips to grandma’s. We went camping. We weeded the garden together and did some family canning. It was all ordinary, no big fancy anything, just plenty of family time.

Don and I made a boatload of mistakes. But we were there. Our kids could count on our being there. They could count on boundaries that didn’t change just because we were tired, angry, sad, or afraid. Our kids could trust us. This is all we really brought to the game: love, dependability, and trust.

I have shared some dark memories. Let me share some of the light from today that lets me know our children are OK. A few years ago, they began having a sibling call once a month. Anyone available got on, and they shared their lives. All seven of the kids made time for this call.

Later it was a video app. We have two video groups. The whole family is on one. The grands see and hear us, and we see and hear them. They see and hear their uncles and aunts. Everything gets shared: grades, holidays, mini-disasters, work, sports, etc. There are always videos to watch.

The second one is for the adults, us, and our children. The talk there is more personal: lost jobs, new jobs, illnesses, relationships, etc. Deep feelings are expressed.

Every other year we gather for a reunion. Rarely does anyone miss. Two years ago, we had to cancel our reunion because of covid. Last year we held it and our breaths hoping that everyone would be healthy and safe. We couldn’t wait any longer. The videos were filled with a longing to be together. On the last day, our youngest son asked us to do it again this year. The ‘yes’ vote was unanimous.

Early last spring, I decided that I needed a shed. I wanted to clean out more space in the garage for my daughter’s family, and well, I am a handywoman, and a handywoman needs a shed! : )

I found what I wanted and bought a kit. Then I headed out to Washington to help one of my daughters. While I was gone, a miracle occurred. I was worried as to how that shed was going to get built. Both my daughter and her husband work long hours. Then there are four kids to take care of after that, one with severe CP. I couldn’t do it alone, and my husband’s physical abilities and health made it impossible for him.

When I returned to Utah, there was a finished shed. Jodie had called Seth, our oldest son, and he took some time off from work, drove ten hours one way, and helped her and her husband, Doug, build the shed. Later, I painted it with the help of my nine-year-old grandson. I call it ‘The Shed that LOVE built.’ I can’t look at it or go inside without feeling loved.

How does that happen when a family is in so much pain and danger for so long? How does it come right? When you stay the course, when you keep parenting the best you can, when you keep learning and growing and changing, well, that is what helps it happen.

It doesn’t matter where you are in your family’s life. It may be a dark place, and you may feel hopeless and helpless. But you are not. Pray for help. Seek resources. Never give up. Stay the course. Be the parent you promised to be when you began, as best you know how.

Be there. Be dependable. Be trustworthy. It can and will make all the difference.

Avoiding the Sucker’s Choice

Can Everyone Be Happy, Ever?!

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.

Here’s to a better solution,

happier relationships,

and greater peace as a parent.

To Waste or Not to Waste – That Is The Question

A mother asked me how I handled it when my children wanted to make something that I knew wouldn’t be used after it was created. How did I feel about the waste of resources and the mess that would be left? That is a great question. In fact, this same question comes up often when I am working with moms, and I have put some thought into it and decided that an even better question would be:

“How do we determine when materials are being well used and when are they being wasted and if the mess will be worth it?”

When my youngest daughter Kate was seven, she and a friend created a boat out of an old wooden crate. They spent a few days on it and used a lot of paint, brushes, nails, and other materials. When they were finished, they had a creation that delighted them. They played in that boat all summer. But it did require a fair amount of resources and when seven-year-olds paint and hammer, there will be a mess. 

When my grandson, Jack, was seven he created a robot out of a piece of plywood, tin foil, empty paper roll tubes, and tons of glue, expensive ‘real sticky glue’ as he called it. It turned out spectacularly, but it didn’t have any use. It was too big and not sturdy enough to hang on a wall. It lay on the concrete at the bottom of the back steps to be admired by the whole family until it rained. Then all the pieces were gathered up by an adult and taken to the dump.

Both children learned a lot from their experiences. They utilized skills they would need to hone to become well-rounded adults.  Here are some skills they had to use to make their creations.
They need a vision
It took initiative
They had to bring the vision to life
They needed to gather the needed materials
They had to problem solve
They worked independently
They had to decide when to ask for help and what help they need

These important skills, which they were able to practice, made the use of the materials perfect and justified the mess in my mind. Seriously. : )

Today, let’s explore one of the reasons why parents have so much trouble letting their kids waste, i.e. create, with paper, glue, paint, and so forth, and why it’s tough to face the clean-up afterward.

Adults are End-Product Driven while Children are Process Driven

The end product is what matters to adults, how it looks, and its usefulness. To children, it is all about the process. Children care about how it feels to create. They aren’t as concerned with the usefulness of the finished project or in fact, how ‘perfect’ it looks. They don’t worry about the mess they are making because they are so caught up in the creative process.

Because you care about the end product, you will be viewing your children’s activities through those lensesunless, of course, you will consciously take those glasses off and see what your children see.

Don’t manage your children’s efforts in an attempt to make the project turn out the way you think it should. Don’t worry so much about waste or mess. Think instead of what your children are gaining while creating. 

When you decide to see your children’s projects differently, you will better evaluate the ‘correct’ use of materials. It will be more about them and less about you.

In our communities, we could use a few more adults who aren’t afraid to turn their dreams into reality because they spent their childhood doing it.

What Does it Take to Have Our ducks in a Row?

I love working with moms.

I suspect that part of the reason is that I can almost always relate to where they are. Been there, done that. For example, I am a ‘get my ducks’ in a row sort of gal. I know what that looks and feels like.

One day in a mentoring session, a homeschooling mom with multiple children, who had one of her grown children’s families moving in with her, said to me, “I want all my ducks in a row. You know, to be on top of my game.” So I asked what being on top of her game and having all her ducks in a row would look like.

She quickly laid it out for me – The whole house clean and in order. All the food purchased for the huge breakfast spread she was planning for the two families as they merged. Making sure that everyone was well fed and entertained on this special day. The list went on like this. It wore me out just hearing the list. I know that thinking about the list was wearing her out. It was in her voice. She wanted to know how to get it all done, still educate her kids, and stay sane.

I then asked her, “Well, what do you think God would say if you asked Him what it meant to have all your ducks in a row and to be at the top of your game.” That stopped her in her tracks, and she had to think. It was a very different list she gave me – hug everyone, talk to each other, be calm, smile a lot, feel peace, enjoy my family…a very different list!

We brainstormed how she could be at the top of her game and have her ducks in a row God’s way and not worry so much about her way. I am happy to report that she and her family had a wonderful time. It was peaceful, fun, and restful. She talked and laughed and hugged a lot.

Here is an example of what that actually looked like.

The morning of the previously planned HUGE breakfast spread, she got up, made coffee, poured a cup, and went into the living room where her daughter-in-law was. She sat down beside her, and they had a long and lovely conversation. No HUGE breakfast spread, just a simple breakfast shared with family.

I have learned from long and sometimes bungled experience that what our families want is us, our time, our face, our heart, our ears. They want us. Hash browns, pancakes, eggs, toast, and the most beautiful fruit plate cannot compete with smiling eyes and our Presence.

Let’s get our ducks in a row and be at the top of our game, God’s way more often.

Let’s give our families the gift of Presence and Peace, the gift of US.

The Most Important End Product – Relationship and Memory

This month my grandson, Ben, turns 10.

He is very excited about this birthday, which has gotten me thinking about our experiences together.

We had a fun day experimenting with baking when Ben was just two years old. I was baking gingerbread cookies. Baking over 2000 gingerbread men is a yearly tradition in December in our home. It is a BIG project! I was deep into the project when Ben came down the stairs into our part of our three-generation home. When he saw the flour, eggs, and partially made dough, he was desperate to help.

I am a very competent baker because I have been doing it for over fifty years. However, when you add a two-year-old to the mix, the whole thing changes.

Ben was interested in everything. He wanted to stir the dough. Ben tried rolling the dough, patting it, and cutting it out with the cookie cutter. He ate dough and dropped flour. He was having a GREAT time! I, on the other hand, felt a tad fussed. I hadn’t anticipated his ‘help.’ I just wanted to get the job done as quickly as possible because I had other pressing projects.

And there it is; adults are end product-driven while children are process-driven.

It would have been so easy to say, “Benny, grandma is busy. Run upstairs, and I’ll let you know when the cookies are baked. Then you can have one.” As a young mom, I had done that in the past, and I was sorely tempted.

Here is what I did instead.

I let him help and I watched him for a few minutes as I kneaded my ball of dough, and he kneaded his. I saw his sheer delight in doing something new. I observed as he “floured” the counter and the floor so his men wouldn’t stick. I listened to his laughter as he rearranged my utensil drawer. I watched him stack up the Christmas packages into a tower and then watched as they came tumbling down; our small tree was on the counter. And guess what, my heart softened. I loved watching him. It was fun, and he made the whole project even more worthwhile.

It did take longer, and my floor was a disaster. I had to eventually re-do the utensil drawer. The packages had flour on them, and the corners were a bit flattened. But Ben and I made a memory.

The best gift we can give to our children is to be Present with them and make them more important than the project. We and our time are the very best gifts.

Today when I showed Ben the photo of us baking together, he yelled out in an excited voice. “I remember that!” He was smiling from ear to ear. I also had a photo of him sleeping on my couch at the end of our project, and when he saw it, he said, “I even think I remember getting worn out!”

It doesn’t matter if Ben can really remember that experience or not; he was only two. What matters is that he remembers how he has felt around me, his grandma. He has felt seen and heard. No matter what we are doing with our kids or grands, it is all about relationships and making memories. Let’s make our kids more important than projects as often as possible. We can’t every time, but we can more often. The effort we make will improve our relationships

It isn’t always easy but it is simple.

Think about your child and

let the project be secondary.

When Do I Learn?

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.

So, take heart and continue to learn.

Are You Up To Your Neck In Love?

Monday was my last day in Seattle.

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!!

What I learned watching my 111-year-old friend

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. Have mini conversations while 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. Have family 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!

Be Careful of Expectations

Majestic

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.

I have noticed that my expectations are the thing that gets me into the most trouble. If what I think should happen doesn’t, I have a hard time enjoying what is.

Examples of Expectations Gone Awry

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. : ) 

Wise People Seek Wise Counsel

Wise people seek wise counsel.

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. : )