Category: Present Parenting

The Gum Grandma says, “Let’s get Retro!”

How can you create relationships

with people you only see once or twice a year?

That’s a question I’ve asked myself because most of my 13 grandchildren live far away. In fact, most of my children live far away.

One of my children’s complaints about their grandparents was that they weren’t very connected with them. We lived in Montana and it was a looooong drive to see them. They wanted to hear from their grandparents. So, when I became a grandparent, I decided to make the effort to connect a bit more. There have been years when I was fabulous and years when I wasn’t. But all in all, over a long period of time, I think it has worked out well.

With my children, we have learned how to use technology to stay in touch. We have a video app. that we talk on so we can see each other. It’s always nice to see someone’s face. We don’t spend hours a day on this endeavor. However, there will be a post every few days about the mundane as well as the exciting. We got to travel along when our son and daughter in law went to Costa Rica. We can get a blow by blow account when a baby is on the way. We have listened to violin recitals, watched portions of plays and seen some baseball games. We know when someone’s out of work or has gotten a new job.

The grands get on every now and then. Those over eight will share what’s happening at school, a test or activity. Parents will get the littles on every now and then and I love seeing how they’re growing up. I reply by singing songs to them or telling jokes.

But here is what I have done most consistently. I write letters and send cards. I know its old school, but it works for creating very connected relationships. There’s something thrilling about opening the mailbox and seeing a real letter. It even makes me feel a bit excited when it happens, which in our world of technology isn’t often.

A few months ago, I was having a conversation about writing letters and sending cards with a friend; I send hundreds a year. She said that she didn’t think it mattered to people anymore and that I was wasting my time and money. So, I asked the question on my Facebook page and got a lot of responses. Out of all of them, only one person felt like my friend. Everyone else talked about how they loved getting letters and cards as kids and how it’s still cool when it happens.

Let me give you some examples of how impactful a simple letter or card can be in the life of someone else and how connecting it is.

I have a nephew who has had a hard time growing into adulthood. So, many years ago, I decided to send him a card for every birthday.

A couple of years ago my nephew, who is now an adult, was really struggling with his life. That year when he got my card, he happened to be at his mom’s. She told me that when he opened it, he looked at her with a big smile and said, “She never forgets!” It matters to him!

Another sister has a granddaughter who has had some significant challenges due to divorce and parents who struggled, so when she was turning 16, I decided to send her a card. When she opened the card, she looked up and said, “This is the only card I have ever gotten for my birthday!” It isn’t that no one is saying Happy Birthday, it’s just that it’s all digital. That card meant a great deal to her.

Last year I sent an anniversary card to one of my sisters. On her anniversary she called, and this is what she said. “When I woke up this morning I couldn’t get out of bed. There wasn’t any reason to get up. Nothing new or interesting was going to happen today. But when I got up there was your card. You can’t imagine how much it meant to me!”

When my kids were teens some of them struggled with drugs. They didn’t always live at home. So, I began writing letters. I sent the letters to all my kids, even those who were at home. I bet they thought I was crazy to send a letter through the mail when I could have just handed it to them. But I know the letters mattered and kept our straying children connected enough to us that they never got lost. At some point, one of them took all the letters and put them in a book which she then gave to everyone for Christmas. It mattered!

Here’s another cool thing about cards and letters 

In my letters and cards to my grandchildren, I always tape a piece of gum. On a birthday I may add a couple of dollars. That’s all. Years ago, as a family, we determined that we would not spend lots of money on gifts for either birthdays or holidays. We have all stuck with that intention. However, my grandchildren have other grandparents who send cool gifts in the mail. I worried about that. But I didn’t need to.

I voiced my concern to one of my daughters and here is her reply. “Oh my gosh mom, the kids LOVE your letters and cards. They care far more about them than any toy they get in the mail. In fact, they call you the Gum Grandma!”

Cards and Letters aren’t just for Grandparents 

You know, this isn’t just useful if you’re a grandparent. It’s valuable advice if you’re a parent who shares custody or who lives in a different state from your child. Get retro. Send a letter or card and do it regularly, even if you live in the same town. You’ll be amazed at how impactful it will be to your relationships.

So, what do I write about? Anything and everything. I write about the nearest holiday, what is happening in the news, what I am learning about, where I have been, what I am doing. Stuff, any old stuff. The letter can be long or short. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that someone took the time to sit down and share a thought or two. A card or a letter says loud and clear, “I see you. I hear you. I love you. You matter to me!”

How do you feel when you get a letter in the mail? How did you feel when you were a kid and it happened? I’d like to know.

Your shares are the best compliment : ) 

Creating that ‘Family Feeling’

How Do Kids Feel About Reading As A Family?

The number one reason to read to your children until they leave your home and go out on their own is to establish an intimate experience filled warmth and belonging, that ‘family feeling.’

From Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report, we learn only 17 percent of parents of kids aged 9–11 read aloud to their children. Yet 83 percent of kids aged 6–17 say being read to is something they either loved or liked a lot.

One of my warmest memories is of my mother reading poetry to us. She didn’t read to us often, but when she did it was magical for me! As I think back on those reading moments with my mom, I know what made them so special. I felt my mom loved us and it created that ‘family feeling’ for me.

There are many ways to read together but if we really want to create that ‘family feeling’ then we can take a lesson from a mother I observed.

A Better Way To Read

Jodie was reading the book Charlott’s Web to her children. Frequently she would stop and ask a question. “What does manure mean?” “What does loft mean?” What does slop mean”? “What is a manure pile?” When the term manure pile came up again, later in the story, Jodie emphasized the term as she read. Then she asked, “Do you remember what manure pile means?” I heard, “Eweee, a pile of poop.” Then laughter.

In the story, the cows were described as patient. Jodie had been working on helping her children learn to be patient. When she read that word she stopped and said, “Patient means to wait quietly till you get what you need.” She got knowing looks from the kids.

At one point something happened that wasn’t right and one of the characters in the book said, “You’re going to catch it.” Jodie asked the kids what that phrase meant. They weren’t sure so she replied, “It means you’re going to be in trouble.” Then she said, “You’re going to catch it, Jack. You’re going to catch it, Maggie. You’re going to catch it, Mary.” Big smiles all around! Jack said in a loud, happy voice, “You’re going to catch it, mom!”

Later she asked, “Do you know what asparagus is?” A chorus of “No.” “Well, it’s like a great big piece of grass that people eat. It’s yummy. We could buy some, eat it and pretend that we are cows. Should we do it?” An excited chorus of yeses! “It sort of looks like a spear”, Jack said.

Next, there was a discussion about slop. Jodie told her kids, “If some people don’t like something, they say it tastes like slop. But the better thing to say is, I don’t like this.” Then there was a discussion about manners.

Then a conversation about freedom ensued. The animals in the story were glad they weren’t tied up or penned in. Jodie said, “Isn’t it interesting that everyone wants a little freedom, to be able to choose what they want to do.” The kids had a lot to say about that! They all talked about freedom and choice and responsibility.

At one point in the story, the goose was telling another animal to twist, turn, skip, slide and run. Jodie said, “She isn’t helping him. Why isn’t it helpful?” Jack replied, “She’s teaching him to run away. She is getting him in trouble.”

Eventually, they read something in the book that was unfamiliar, and Jack said, “That part isn’t in the movie”. Then they discussed why things in books aren’t always in the movie. They decided it was good to read the book first and get the whole story before seeing a movie about the book.

This family reading time took about 30 minutes. The ages of the children were 7, 5, and 3. They were totally engaged and involved. They got through one, maybe two chapters. It’s going to take some time to get the whole book read. But getting the book finished isn’t what this mother is trying to accomplish. She’s connecting with her kids. She’s taking 30 minutes to be Present. She was intent on creating that ‘family feeling.’

What did they share:

• The meanings to many words that were unfamiliar and that are important to understanding the story.
• They learned about some character traits such as patience and responsibility.
• They talked about freedom and why it is important and why people like it.
• They learned the meaning of a new phrase; you’re going to catch it.
• They planned the next family activity – to buy, cook and eat asparagus and act like cows.
• They talked about manners and what to do if you are eating and you don’t like something.
• They talked about the difference in written stories and movies and why they might not be the same.

This is a delightful way to read a book to children. It’s fun, it’s interactive, it holds attention, it’s learning at its best. I’ve seen this same type of success with older children and youth. Reading time as a family is not about getting through a book. It is about bonding, laughter, happy feelings and learning together.

For Success Remeber The Difference in Adults and Kids

Remember that adults are product driven, for the most part, and kids are process driven. We want to read, move along at a reasonable pace and get it done, then on to the next book. Kids want to experience something while they’re reading. They want to experience that ‘family feeling’.

What great book have you read with your family recently? I’d love to know. : )

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

The Big Epidemic

The idea that we should be careful to keep our priorities right in terms of not letting lesser concerns get in the way of greater ones so that we find ourselves “in the thick of thin things,” is good advice.

The Big Epidemic

However, getting stuck in the thick of thin things seems to be epidemic in today’s world. It can be a challenge to discern what the thin things are and sidestep them. This is a problem for every parent. There are so many things we need to do to manage our home, make a living, and frankly, get some time to ourselves. And then there are the expectations of the world; what parents are supposed to do to really give their kids a good life, to be great parents.

Let me give you two very different examples of the difficulty of staying out of thin things from two very different moms. One is middle aged and is schooling her children at home and one is older with five grown children. And just for fun, I’ll share how the issue was solved.

Phones, Screens, Frustration!

I was working with a mom who happened to be homeschooling. She really wanted to be Present with her kids during the time they were learning together but she kept getting sucked into thin things.

If the phone rang it had to be answered – it might be important. The computer and other screens were also a siren’s song. Just glancing at the screen for a few minutes couldn’t be harmful, right!

As this mom put it to me, “during our learning time are a tool of Satan!” Pretty strong words! That tells you the level of frustration this mom felt at her willingness to let the unimportant intrude on the important.

This mom, like all the parents I work with, really does want her children to know that they come first, that she loves being with them, and values her time with them. But she was struggling to not walk away from being present with her kids to take care of what was coming in from the world. It was making her feel terrible.

Wisely, she pondered the situation, did a bit of knee time and came up with a solution. She decided to turn off the screens when she wanted to be present with her kids during their learning time. She turned the computer off at night, so it wouldn’t be a temptation in the morning and then when she got down to business with her children, she put her phone on silent.

The outcome is that she’s been able to be truer to her family and herself. She can be present for small amounts of time and accomplish her goal of teaching her kids, but more importantly of sending the message that they matter to her and are at the top of her list.

Expectations, Stuff, and Guilt!

I have another friend who has raised five children. In a recent conversation, she mentioned her dismay at all the stuff that she still had from when her kids were living at home. You know the kind of stuff we save – school photos, childhood drawings, old school papers, awards, etc. She felt that somehow, she had let her kids down because they didn’t have all this stuff in beautiful scrapbooks. I mean, all her friends had made beautiful scrapbooks for their kids, she was sure of it. She felt guilty. It weighed on her mind.

This is what she said to me “I guess I was too busy helping kids with lessons, sitting through games, playing, supporting plays,” … her voice trailed off.”

When I called her on this she smiled and said, “Your right. All that stuff I did with my kids was really more important, wasn’t it?”

Seth and his treasures : )

Now there isn’t anything wrong with a beautiful scrapbook or looking at a screen if they don’t take us away from time we should be connecting with our family. I made a few scrapbooks for some of my older kids, but they didn’t have any fancy pages. I just paper punched the sheets and put them in the binders. My son, Seth, who is on the downside of forty, still has his and thinks it’s the best. He never missed beautifully crafted pages. Andrew doesn’t even have a scrapbook, he was farther down the line but he loved the box of his stuff.

And if you feel pressed about all that stuff you seem to be collecting for

Andrew and his box of ‘stuff’.

your kids here is a thought. A couple of Christmases ago I bought some pretty storage boxes. Then I sorted all the stuff, and after seven kids there was a bunch of it! I put each child’s treasures in a separate box and that’s what Don and I gave them for Christmas.

How did that go? They LOVED them. It was so fun to watch them sorting through the contents. You could hear, “Do you remember this.” “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I did that.” They sat and reminisced for a couple of hours. Since then they have discarded most of what I thought needed to be saved all those years ago.

Funny how we downplay the time we spend with our family, connecting with one another. We rarely give it the kudos it deserves. Funny how we sometimes elevate the value of things that matter far less.

As the world gets busier and noisier and the expectations increase, it becomes critical for us to carve out time for those things that are of greatest importance, our children, our family, our time together.

“We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the ‘thick of thin things?’ In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.” (“What Have I Done for Someone Today?” Pres. Thomas S Monson, Oct. 2009)

Being present doesn’t require a lot of time. It does require letting go of outside influences and focusing on those who matter most. When we look someone in the eye and listen, we send a very clear message: I see you. I hear you. You matter to me.

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

You Can Improve Your Parent-Child Relationships

What Is Really Important?

Here’s a true story. A father was painting the outside of his home. His five-year-old son wanted to help. So this good father gave his son an old shirt with the sleeves rolled up several times. They both went to work on the door, dad painting the top and son painting the bottom. It just happened to be the door to the main entrance.

Now because of his age and size, the young boy wasn’t able to spread the paint evenly and consequently, the paint was beading up. That certainly wasn’t how the father envisioned his front door. So each time the five-year-old bent down to get more paint the father would hastily smooth out the paint on the bottom panel. It couldn’t do any harm, the boy didn’t know what was happening and the door sure would look better.

Well, father and son painted in silence for a time, the boy doing his best and the father smoothing it out. As the father thought about the situation and his redoing of his son’s work he decided that working with his son trumped a first-class paint job. He realized that his son was doing a mighty fine job for a five-year-old. The relationship that was being forged over the painting of a door was more significant than the appearance of the door. He stopped smoothing out his son’s work.

Ever after that when the father approached the front door and saw its distinctive style of decoration he was reminded of what is really important.

The father of this five-year-old boy spoke about his experience, with his own father. His father had a workshop in which he made wonderful things. His son said, “I would wander into this workshop and watch him. Just to be in his presence was a thrill for me. He invited me to help him by passing a hammer, a screwdriver, or some other tool. I was convinced that my help was necessary and that without me he would not be able to complete his task.

As I look back and reflect upon those wonderful memories, I realize that my contribution was not necessary for my father to complete the work he was engaged in. I was the beneficiary, as through these experiences I came to know him and to love him. I came to know about a Fathers Role In Parenting .”  We All Have a Father in Whom We Can Trust, Ensign, May 1994, p. 30

Sometimes parents can care too much about the outcome and too little about the relationship. When we take time to be present with our children we give them the opportunity to know and love us. We give them a gift. And they, in turn, return that gift by loving us back. It is the best use of our time because the relationship that develops is the thing of greatest significance.

Are You Withholding the Reward?

You have probably heard the saying ‘begin with the end in mind’. In other words, visualize how you want something to turn out. However, if we want more enjoyment when we do things as a family then we should begin with the WHY in mind.

I love this comment by the motivational speaker Dan Clark: “Begin with the why in mind rather than the end in mind. This allows us to reward effort rather than results.” I love his comment because when adults adopt this attitude we and our kids have more fun and satisfaction in just about everything we do together.

Remember why you’re going for a family drive, why you’re letting the kids help you paint, why you’re making cookies, why you’re folding socks together or why you’re preparing dinner. The purpose of just about everything we do in a family is to build relationships.

Stop worrying about how the cookies taste, how the painting looks, if all the socks got matched, if dinner tasted great, whether there’s a mess, or how long the project takes. Keep your mind focused on relationship building.

As adults, we have motives that can prevent us from rewarding our family’s efforts to work and play together, regardless of the outcome. These motives can make it more difficult to give ourselves a reward just for being together, for enjoying each other, for working on our relationships.

MOTIVE 1—We want the experience and the outcome to match our expectations

When we plan any activity, vacation, chore, etc. with our family it is almost impossible not to have an outcome in mind. However, if the family event doesn’t match that outcome then it’s easy to feel dissatisfied, even angry. It’s important to watch our expectations.

Keep expectations from getting in the way of enjoying your family. Avoid the trap of giving up because, well, what’s the use, what can they possibly be getting out of this? Keep the perfect from becoming the enemy of the good. The point is not what you teach, or how well it looks, but being together. There’s great value in linking your satisfaction to being with your family even when it falls short of your expectations.

MOTIVE 2—We want a reward

In our world, we get rewards for getting stuff done. If the job’s done right, we get bigger rewards. Rewards are what we’re used to.

In our families, the reward isn’t a paycheck but a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of happiness. Frequently, we withhold this reward from ourselves and other family members if what we’re doing doesn’t turn out right, in other words, if it didn’t meet our expectations. We don’t give ourselves the reward for simply engaging with our family and solidifying relationships.

It’s OK to reward ourselves with a sense of satisfaction and happiness even if we fall short of our expectations.

MOTIVE 3—We want others to think well of us

We want to look like the family we have in our mind – kids with clean hands and faces, no bickering, clean plates at dinner, clean rooms, happy conversation in the car…

That family doesn’t even exist but for some reason, we think it does and that if ours isn’t like that we have somehow failed. We want this imaginary family because sometimes our motive when being with our family is to look good to others – to look like that imaginary family. When we have this motive in mind it can suck the joy right out of any family activity with a REAL family

Success in any family endeavor can be measured by how people feel during and after an activity together. Is the family energized? Did you have fun? Did you feel happy being with one another? Was there a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment? Was individual esteem strengthened? Are relationships better? Is the family feeling still strong?

If we can answer yes to even one of those questions then we can reward ourselves because we will have succeeded in WHY we are together as a family – relationships!

When we remember why we do things as a family it’s easier to jettison these common motives and have greater enjoyment as we work and play together.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE –

Your family gathers at the table for dinner. You notice that one of your children’s hands are filthy and send them to wash. Another child complains that now you all have to wait to say grace because of so and so’s messy hands. The child with the messy hands comes back and gives their sibling a raspberry with their tongue. You intervene, remind them it’s time for grace and pick someone to pray.

During the prayer, the smallest child tips their milk. They should have had hands folded for prayer but they were reaching for a slice of bread. While the family finishes grace you head to the kitchen for a towel.

Both you and your spouse feel a bit frustrated but as you wipe up the milk your husband says, “Guess what I saw today?” One of the children responds with, “What?” “Well, I saw a sign for the circus, it’s coming to town.” There is a round of happy comments and someone says “Can we go?” “Well, we can talk about that at our family meeting. But do you know what my favorite thing was when I went to the circus as a kid, the Kaliope.” Someone responds with “The whatopee. I never heard of that.” And so the conversation goes for the next few minutes. Then your oldest child asks to be excused which starts an avalanche of request to be done.

Quickly you and your husband find yourselves sitting alone at the table. You realize that you are going to have to call those assigned to clean the table back and that you are going to have to argue with the ones assigned to wash and dry. But for now, in this brief moment, you and your husband look at each other and one of you says – “Well that was nice.”

And it was nice. You all sat down together. You ate together. You kept your cool and managed your responses. You had a full five minutes of conversation as a family. No one went away feeling less than. It was a success! Reward yourself with a sense of satisfaction and a happy feeling that you are managing just fine because you are!

COMMENTS? I’d love to hear them!

 

Your shares are the best compliment!

You Deserve a Reward!

You have probably heard the saying ‘begin with the end in mind’. In other words, visualize how you want something to turn out. However, if we want more enjoyment when we do things as a family then we should begin with the WHY in mind.

I love this comment by the motivational speaker Dan Clark: “Begin with the why in mind rather than the end in mind. This allows us to reward effort rather than results.” I love his comment because when adults adopt this attitude we and our kids have more fun and satisfaction in just about everything we do together.

Remember why you’re going for a family drive, why you’re letting the kids help you paint, why you’re making cookies, why you’re folding socks together or why you’re preparing dinner. The purpose of just about everything we do in a family is to build relationships.

Stop worrying about how the cookies taste, how the painting looks, if all the socks got matched, if dinner tasted great, whether there’s a mess, or how long the project takes. Keep your mind focused on relationship building.

As adults, we have motives that can prevent us from rewarding our family’s efforts to work and play together, regardless of the outcome. These motives can make it more difficult to give ourselves a reward just for being together, for enjoying each other, for working on our relationships.

MOTIVE 1—We want the experience and the outcome to match our expectations

When we plan any activity, vacation, chore, etc. with our family it’s almost impossible not to have an outcome in mind. However, if the family event doesn’t match that outcome then it’s easy to feel dissatisfied, even angry. It’s important to watch our expectations.

Keep expectations from getting in the way of enjoying your family. Avoid the trap of giving up because, well, what’s the use, what can they possibly be getting out of this? Keep the perfect from becoming the enemy of the good. The point is not what you teach, or how well it looks, but being together. There’s great value in linking your satisfaction to being with your family even when it falls short of your expectations.

MOTIVE 2—We want a reward

In our world, we get rewards for getting stuff done. If the job’s done right, we get bigger rewards. Rewards are what we’re used to.

In our families, the reward isn’t a paycheck but a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of happiness. Frequently, we withhold this reward from ourselves and other family members if what we’re doing doesn’t turn out right, in other words, if it didn’t meet our expectations. We don’t give ourselves the reward for simply engaging with our family and solidifying relationships.

It’s OK to reward ourselves with a sense of satisfaction and happiness even if we fall short of our expectations.

MOTIVE 3—We want others to think well of us

We want to look like the family we have in our mind – kids with clean hands and faces, no bickering, clean plates at dinner, clean rooms, happy conversation in the car…

That family doesn’t even exist but for some reason, we think it does and that if ours isn’t like that we have somehow failed. We want this imaginary family because sometimes our motive when being with our family is to look good to others – to look like that imaginary family. When we have this motive in mind it can suck the joy right out of any family activity with a REAL family

Success in any family endeavor can be measured by how people feel during and after an activity together. Is the family energized? Did you have fun? Did you feel happy being with one another? Was there a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment? Was individual esteem strengthened? Are relationships better? Is the family feeling still strong?

If we can answer yes to even one of those questions then we can reward ourselves because we will have succeeded in WHY we are together as a family – relationships!

When we remember why we do things as a family it’s easier to jettison these common motives and have greater enjoyment as we work and play together.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE –

Your family gathers at the table for dinner. You notice that one of your children’s hands are filthy and send them to wash. Another child complains that now you all have to wait to say grace because of so and so’s messy hands. The child with the messy hands comes back and gives their sibling a raspberry with their tongue. You intervene, remind them it’s time for grace and pick someone to pray.

During the prayer, the smallest child tips their milk. They should have had hands folded for prayer but they were reaching for a slice of bread. While the family finishes grace you head to the kitchen for a towel.

Both you and your spouse feel a bit frustrated but as you wipe up the milk your husband says, “Guess what I saw today?” One of the children responds with, “What?” “Well, I saw a sign for the circus, it’s coming to town.” There is a round of happy comments and someone says “Can we go?” “Well, we can talk about that at our family meeting. But do you know what my favorite thing was when I went to the circus as a kid, the Kaliope.” Someone responds with “The whatopee. I never heard of that.” And so the conversation goes for the next few minutes. Then your oldest child asks to be excused which starts an avalanche of request to be done.

Quickly you and your husband find yourselves sitting alone at the table. You realize that you are going to have to call those assigned to clean the table back and that you are going to have to argue with the ones assigned to wash and dry. But for now, in this brief moment, you and your husband look at each other and one of you says – “Well that was nice.”

And it was nice. You all sat down together. You ate together. You kept your cool and managed your responses. You had a full five minutes of conversation as a family. No one went away feeling less than. It was a success! Reward yourself with a sense of satisfaction and a happy feeling that you are managing just fine.

A Tip To Improve Parent-Child Relationships

Here’s a true story.

A father was painting the outside of his home. His five-year-old son wanted to help. So this good father gave his son an old shirt with the sleeves rolled up several times. They both went to work on the door, dad painting the top and son painting the bottom. It just happened to be the main entrance.

Now because of his age and size, the young boy wasn’t able to spread the paint evenly and consequently, the paint was beading up. That certainly wasn’t how the father envisioned his front door. So each time the five-year-old bent down to get more paint the father would hastily smooth out the paint on the bottom panel. It couldn’t do any harm, the boy didn’t know what was happening and the door sure would look better.

Well, father and son painted in silence for a time, the boy doing his best and the father smoothing it out. As the father thought about the situation and his redoing of his son’s work he decided that working with his son trumped a first-class paint job. He realized that his son was doing a mighty fine job for a five-year-old. The relationship that was being forged over the painting of a door was more significant to the father than the appearance of the door. He stopped smoothing out his son’s work.

Ever after that when the father approached the front door and saw its distinctive style of decoration he was reminded of what is really important.

The father of this five-year-old boy spoke about his own experiences with his father. His father had a workshop in which he made wonderful things. The son said, “I would wander into this workshop and watch him. Just to be in his presence was a thrill for me. He invited me to help him by passing a hammer, a screwdriver, or some other tool. I was convinced that my help was necessary and that without me he would not be able to complete his task.

As I look back and reflect upon those wonderful memories, I realize that my contribution was not necessary for my father to complete the work he was engaged in. I was the beneficiary, as through these experiences I came to know him and to love him. I came to know about a Fathers Role In Parenting .” We All Have a Father in Whom We Can Trust”, Ensign, May 1994, 30

Relationship vs Outcome

Sometimes parents care too much about the outcome and too little about the relationship. When we take time to be present with our children we give them the opportunity to know and love us. We give them a gift. And they return that gift by loving us back. It’s the best use of our time because the relationship that develops is the thing of greatest significance.

When you are older and they have gone from home, you will be glad that you spent the bulk of your time on forging relationships rather than on the outcome of the myriad projects parents need to do.

Work-Presence Balance – Is it doable?

It’s helpful to know and understand that moments of connection can happen during the daily activities we engage in already. It needn’t be out of the ordinary, planned ahead or take extra time.

“In the intervals of the game, while Uncle Henry was pondering over his moves, the little girl looked down at her pets and listened absently to the keen autumnal wind that swept around the old house, shaking the shutters and rattling the windows. A stick of wood in the stove burned in two and fell together with a soft, whispering sound. The lamp cast a steady radiance on Uncle Henry bent seriously over the checker-board, on Molly’s blooming, round cheeks and bright hair, on Aunt Abigail’s rosy, cheerful, wrinkled old face, and on Cousin Ann’s quiet, clear, dark eyes. . . .That room was full to the brim of something beautiful, and Betsy knew what it was. Its name was Happiness.”

These are the final words of a book I enjoy so much, Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield. I liked it as a young girl and I reread it as an adult. Then I read it to my grandchildren.

Presence, What it is and What it Isn’t

One thing I enjoy about this old classic is that it’s all about being Present, what it is and what it isn’t.

Betsy unexpectedly found herself an orphan and went to live with her Aunt Harriet and Aunt Frances. These two dear old ladies were obsessed with taking care of Betsy. If you asked them they would say they were really Present. But they weren’t. They had confused being Present with taking care of all that’s required when you have children. They were stuck in what I like to call management vs. relationship.

Then Betsy goes to live in Vermont, with her mother’s family, the Putney’s. They often seem un-present. But they aren’t. They get Presence – It’s the gift of our full attention, our whole self, nothing held back, and it can take as little as five minutes or less.

Being Present isn’t as much about time as it is about our understanding of how to find moments to be Present when we’re busy, when we’re living our regular everyday lives.

I will never forget the father with teary eyes, at the end of a live event, who said he had always wanted to connect with his children consistently but hadn’t known how. He was short on time!

This father was gone each day working eight or more hours. When he came home it was difficult to connect with each child in a meaningful way. There was so much competing for his time in the few hours they had before bed. There was the deluge of homework, mealtime, and the chaos of getting kids to sleep. Not to mention his need for downtime to unwind from a busy day.

What brought tears to this father’s eyes was the comfort of knowing he could connect in meaningful ways with the time he had. He felt the information was life-changing. Frankly, understanding how to connect in everyday ways is family changing.

A TED Talk on Being Present, Sorta

Nigel Marsh tackled the thorny issue of work-life balance in a TED talk. It addresses head on what that teary-eyed father was feeling. As you listen, change the words work-life balance to work-presence balance. Stick with it to the last 2 ½ minutes and you’ll be glad you did.

That’s the problem that we face the most isn’t it; too busy to really be Present with those we love, hence we feel unbalanced. The corporate executive isn’t the only one who gets caught in this web. It happens to stay at home moms and dads, as well as those who leave home and go to work. It happened to Betsy’s aging aunts.

But with just a tweak in the way we think about what we’re already doing every day we can get a clear vision of what Presence at home, with our children, is really all about.

Today take the time to get the FREE chapter Touchpoints from my book Becoming a Present Parent and begin making this family altering change in your own life. Learn how to be a more Present parent. Then take the time to read this beautiful and cheery little book to your children or grandchildren.

Your ‘shares’ are the best compliment. Thank you!

You Can Manage The Best Job In The World Better

Marie and four of the seven cousins-Parker, Lizzy, Ashley, and Aubrey

In 2011 one of my daughter’s, with four children, remarried. Another daughter and I went to her home to care for her kids while she was gone on her honeymoon. We took three children with us. That makes 7 children, right? But not to worry, after all, we had two moms to handle the job of caring for seven children, ages 1 to 11. How hard could it be?

Well, I cooked….and cooked….and cooked…..does it ever stop? Only when it’s bedtime, that is, if no one wakes up in the night and needs a bottle, a drink of water or a small snack!

I washed and folded….washed and folded….washed and folded mountains of clothes, bedding….really mountains! We started with one very ill child and by the end of a week’s time, we were up to four. That’s a lot of throw up!

My daughter, Jodie, picked up….and picked up….and picked up….does it ever end. Only if it’s warm outside and everyone wants to go out. But it was winter, cold, and cloudy. Everyone was indoors dressing up, gluing, cutting, taping, and playing games with a million pieces, not to mention the puzzles.

Jodie played referee…and played referee…and played referee….stop already! But there were three girls

Three of the seven cousins-Maggie, Mary and Jack

who all need the hairbrush at the same time and who wanted to wear the same princess dress. There were two three-year-old boys just learning to share, you get the picture.

Of course in all this cooking, washing and folding, picking up and refereeing we had to live our regular life of doing important stuff, right? We cleaned the house top to bottom, over and over again. We kept hoping it would stay clean for the bride’s homecoming.

We painted the brides living room and dining room; our wedding present for their open house later that week. Try doing that with one, one year old, two three-year-olds and one 4-year-old with cerebral palsy. We were either extraordinarily courageous or abysmally foolish. We felt we were both by the time we were done.

On the last day, after three of the girls had gone to school, one three-year-old had gone to relatives and we were left with just three children, we gazed tiredly at the strewn living room floor, the chaotic playroom and envisioned the six-hour drive home. Jodie looked at me and said, “Gee, mom, there are two of us and we couldn’t keep up.” I couldn’t help laughing tiredly because it was so true.

I’m sharing this experience with you because I want to make two very important points.

What feels like failure is the process…

First, if two moms struggled, what happens to one mom who does this kind of thing 24/7, 365 days a year? Well, she gets tired and discouraged. It comes with the territory; motherhood is the hardest job in the world. The best we can hope for are glimmers of occasional peace, a few quiet moments of self-care, sloppy kisses and an occasional “you’re the best mom.”

The house will be orderly and clean sometimes but not most of the time. Children will be gracious and kind to one another occasionally but sometimes they’ll forget. A meal will never satisfy until the next meal. Laundry is perpetual and so is folding. Nothing is perfect except for the fact that we have the best job in the world.

Nothing is perfect except the fact that we have the best job in the world.

Yes, motherhood is the hardest, but the best job in the world. We’re raising people who will make a difference in the lives of others, just as soon as they grow up a bit more.

So take heart. What feels like failure is really just the process of raising a number of children in one house until they’re grown enough to start their own house and repeat the process.

Give yourself a break. Be kind to yourself. Speak gently to yourself. And then remember, two moms with lots of experience couldn’t make it perfect even for a week!

Practice being Present

Second, I was reminded of how much effort it takes to be Present. This one thing, which can change a family dramatically, is not always easy.

I’m thinking of the night that I tiredly put all seven children to bed. This was after about 30 minutes of trying to read Understood Betsy to the four oldest girls. The two three-year-olds were everywhere, buzzing their trucks, jumping on the bed, jumping off the bed. We had to stop reading repeatedly to remind them of the rules for quiet time reading, something that was new to them.

As a matter of fact, I had to keep reminding the four older girls also. Finally, I just shut the book and said, “lights out”. I couldn’t wait to hear quiet!

After another twenty minutes of child wrangling, I managed to have everyone in bed. It was quiet, at least for the moment. I stood in the hall with a slightly dissatisfied feeling. I had gone through the grandma motions of reading and tucking but I was focused on getting them all quiet. After all, it had been a loooong day!

As I stood there I remembered that being Present, even for short amounts of time, heals hearts, soothes feeling, opens gates to communication, deepens love and satisfies tired adults and children. So I tiptoed back into every room and kissed and hugged and spoke quietly to each child. It took under 20 minutes but it made all the difference in an otherwise very chaotic and busy day.

Being present is a gift you give to your children and yourself. It takes practice, practice, practice. But this one thing will secure you dividends in your family that you cannot imagine, even if you are only present for a moment at a time.

Would you like to have help practicing the skill of being Present in your everyday activities, not adding anything new, time-consuming or costly, just utilizing what already happens in your every day? You can get the chapter on Touchpoints FREE. It will walk you through how to make your daily points of contention into points of connection.

Please share your experiences of being present with your children and how it makes you and them feel. Use the comment section. I want to hear from you!

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Create A Culture of Togetherness

Tightly knit families with good relationships don’t just happen. We have to have some idea of what we want and then take one small step towards that bigger picture.

Every family has a culture. They’re all different. In my family’s culture kids and adults didn’t play or work together. Even at family reunions that theme played out. There were activities for kids and different ones for adults.

My mom and dad did a lot of stuff for us but not with us. My dad loved to garden but he did it alone. If we needed to weed or water we were sent out to do it. He did his part and we did our part. My mom planned fabulous birthday parties. She did it all and they were great. We attended. We didn’t plan together or organize them together.

I know that there are lots of families with a culture like this. Kids learn and work separately from parents and families spend many hours each day away from one another.

When I was a young mother I had a beautiful garden in our backyard. I usually gardened by myself. I liked the solitude. I would send the kids out to weed. But at some point, I realized that I wanted a different family culture. I wanted a different bond with my children.

So each weekday when I got up at 6:30 I woke a different child up to help me in the garden. I did this all summer. They were not happy about it. But soon we started talking about all kinds of things. They shared what they were feeling with me and I was able to share with them. It was a remarkable summer. The fruits from the garden that year seemed sweeter than ever before.

The Advantages of a Culture of Togetherness

What are the advantages of parents who are present with their children, who foster a culture of togetherness? Learning and working with a child tells them you are concerned about them and that you like them, that they matter. It strengthens self-esteem. It allows children to model what you are doing and to ask questions. They learn more. Deep and thoughtful conversations can come out of casual activity with a mom or dad. Relationships are stronger.

Ways to Create a Culture of Togetherness

But connecting as a family can be a challenge if that wasn’t part of your family culture growing up or if you have gotten used to doing your work and learning while your kids do theirs.

A family culture that fosters healthy, connected relationships don’t just happen. It takes some work. If we want to have a culture of togetherness we have to do something new. We have to take a small step and then be consistent. Simple/small things done consistently over time bring big results.

Take a look at your current family culture. Is it as connected as you would like? If not, figure out one thing that would make a difference in the feeling of togetherness in your home and then implement it.

Do you need to give up using technology when you’re working with or listening to your kids? Do you need to listen more, yell less, play with your children, have more mini-conversations, or tuck them in at night? What is it for you?

You might decide to have your family participate in fewer clubs and classes and allow your children to spend more time at home while you involve them in life’s activities: cooking, repairing something, learning a new skill, or playing.

Maybe a morning devotional would benefit your family. How many mornings will you commit to – one, two?

You could try reading together. Reading as a family and then talking about what you are reading creates a feeling of safety and warmth.

You might consider one evening a week doing something as a family. Keep it simple. Take a walk, play a board game, or serve someone.

For some families just sitting down at the table and eating would be a big accomplishment. If eating together is not something you have been doing regularly why not set a goal to do it once or twice a week. Then be consistent.

Whatever you choose, make a commitment to it. Be consistent and be present. Don’t talk on the phone, fold laundry or watch TV out of the corner of your eye. When you are doing that one thing consistently then choose another and go to work again.

And finally, remember being consistent is not the same as being perfect. Perfect isn’t what we need as families. What we need is connection and togetherness consistently.