Tag: connecting with kids

Would You Turn Back Time?

On a mature dating site commercial, a giddy woman said, “It’s just like being back in high school.” YIKES! I liked high school. It turned out okay. In my yearbook, I’m listed as “The most typical girl”. But I wouldn’t want to go back!

When I got married, I was happy. Our children were born; we loved them and learned a lot of things. Some of it was great and some was hard, but all in all, it evened out and we had fun. I was happy. But I wouldn’t go back!

There isn’t a single point in my past life that I would willingly return to. You know why? Because today I’m a better person. I know more. I’ve learned to value now what I couldn’t value when I was younger. This is the natural course of life; with experience comes wisdom.

Relationships are valuable

Last week I mentioned one of the pivotal moments in my life, playing Emily Gibbs in the play Our Town, when I was sixteen. It was pivotal because Emily learned the hard way that going back isn’t always good. Going back showed her that often we can’t “see” one another because we’re too busy doing all the things that we think matter – laundry, cooking, education, church duties, work, making money, changing the world. Emily understands for the first time that all that matters are the relationships we have.

When I’m making a big decision, I ask myself, “How will this affect my ability to nurture my current relationships?” I recently asked that question as I considered some important life choices, and I ultimately made different decisions than I might otherwise have made.

That’s the great perk of aging. We have a clearer perspective on what really matters. That’s why grandparents can be so great. That’s why they have so much fun with grandchildren. It isn’t really because we don’t have to discipline or manage our grandchildren. It’s because we truly want a relationship with them. We like them. We “see” them.

Maybe it’s because the sand is running out of our hourglass faster and faster. We’re aware that we don’t have all the time in the world. We just have now, today. That’s all. It’s all anyone has. We can fill it with “busy” or we can simplify and make room for relationships. It’s a choice!

Tips to Make Room for Relationships

  • Simplify your calendar.
  • Simplify your activities.
  • Stay home more.
  • Read as a family.
  • Turn off all the electronics and play a game.
  • Fold laundry together.
  • Eat together.
  • Talk and listen.
  • Laugh more.
  • Let stress go.

Ask yourself, “What could I let go of today to have more room for what matters most?”

One day you’ll be older. Your kids will be older. You won’t care how clean your house was, how spectacular your yard, if you homeschooled or public schooled. You won’t value the amount of money you made, how often you went to Disneyland, if your kids got a new bike every year or what college they got in to. You won’t care if they were carpenters or lawyers. You won’t care if you impacted thousands of people. What you will think about more than anything else is the condition of your relationships. That, my friends, is what you’re going to treasure most. Take time now to make them sweet.

I appreciate your shares. Thank you!

We Don’t Understand Do We!

When I was sixteen I portrayed Emily Webb in the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder. The plays about the short life of Emily Webb, her growing, loving and dying. It’s about her realization that all that really mattered were her relationships. After her death, she laments that most of us are too busy with cleaning, cooking, work, hobbies, getting through each day, that we miss what matters most.

As you read these lines, you will feel her sorrow and the urgency to look at one another and really see.

Emily: Live people don’t understand, do they?
Mrs. Gibbs: No dear-not very much.
Emily: Oh, Mother Gibbs, I never realized before how troubled and how…how in the dark live persons are. From morning till night, that’s all they are – troubled…But Mother Gibbs, one can go back…into the living.
Mrs. Gibbs: Yes, of course you can…All I can say is, Emily, don’t.
Emily: But I won’t live over a sad day. I’ll choose a happy one…
Mrs. Gibbs: At least, choose an unimportant day. It will be important enough.
Emily: I choose my twelfth birthday.
____________________________________
Emily: Mama, I’m here! Oh, how young Mama looks! I didn’t know Mama was ever that young.
Emily watches breakfast being served and conversations between her family members.
Emily, with mounting urgency: Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I’m dead…Mama. Wally’s dead too…But just for a moment now we’re all together. Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s look at one another.

Emily, in a loud voice, to the Stage Manager: I can’t. I can’t go on. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize…Do any human beings realize life while they live it?
____________________________________
Mrs. Gibbs: Were you happy?
Emily: No…I should have listened to you. That’s all human beings are! Just blind people…They don’t understand, do they?
____________________________________
I thought about this play as I was looking through old photos and weeping and weeping. I saw my two brothers and my dad who are gone. There were aunts and uncles and cousins, all gone now. Here is the beginning line of a poem written by my living brother not too many years before my dad passed away-      “I know this man as father, yet I know him very little.” It’s a beautiful poem, all about what he learned from my dad that has helped him in his life. Yet the beginning line holds a world of meaning and experience between the two.

Here is an excerpt I found in a letter I had written my dad many years ago. “Thank you for a piece of yourself. The letters from you to grandpa confirmed something I already knew, that as we grow older, we make friends of our family members.”

Why is that? Why do our children have to grow up and go away before they become our friends, before we know who they are, who they really are, if we ever even get that far? I think it’s because we’re so busy keeping track of what they will eat and won’t eat, how well they read, how they take care of responsibilities, their grades, who they hang out with, if they speak politely, and all the other concerns of good parents.

We need to be present. We need to listen to each other. We need to ask better questions. We need to look at each other. We need relationships that go beyond just sharing a home or a workspace or a church pew.

I clearly understand being present. I teach it all the time. But being present can be tough. I admit it. I talk with my mom enough. I don’t sit and listen to my husband dream enough. I don’t know enough about the hopes and dreams of my adult children. I don’t call friends enough.

We live as if life will always be the same. The people we love will always be here. We have plenty of time to know them, to love them. But we don’t! Life moves on relentlessly. People move away, sometimes they die. Sometimes they just stop being an everyday part of our lives. Connecting with people we love, every day, in all the mundane moments, that is the essence of a life well-lived.

These moments happen at the dinner table, during bath time, bedtime and family time. They happen in the car on the way to the store. These moments happen as we weed the garden, clean the garage, take a walk, and do the dishes together.

They happen when we free our mind from the babble of what must be done next and focus on what is happening now, right now, with this child, with this spouse, with this friend, with this parent or sibling. They happen when we’re not so caught up in life that we can’t appreciate life.

Being Present is a skill.

We need to practice it with real intent. When we fall short, we practice some more. Whatever we focus on grows and expands. We can use this principle to become better at our relationships. Spend more time looking at your children and hearing them. Don’t be as Emily Gibbs laments, “blind people.”

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Are You Like The White Rabbit?

Do you recall the White Rabbit in Lewis Carrols, Alice in Wonderland? You know the jumpy little guy who was always crying out, “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.” He was so worried about being in the right place at the right time. He had so much on his plate.

I don’t know about you, but I have lived the life of that rabbit. I have spent time hopping from one thing to another always with the feeling that I am not quite where I should be; I am not measuring up. Busy-ness became a habit. I was mired in the thick of thin things.

Mothers and fathers find themselves here all the time. All the chores belong to parenting: cooking, cleaning, yard work, laundry, dishes, getting kids up, putting them to bed, running kids here and there.

And then there are all the good things that we can do for ourselves to feel successful. We do them to serve in our community. We do them because we want our kids to have a good example. You know the stuff: serving in church, PTA, community events, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth choirs, charity organizations.

It can all feel so exhausting. And yet aren’t these all good things. Yup. They are. But I try to remember what Stephen R. Covey explained. It is important not to sacrifice the best for the sake of the good.

So, what is best?

Our family, with its relationships, should be right at the top of the list.

It’s wonderful to drive your child to sports practices, to lessons and other worthy events. But it could be best to sit for 3 minutes on their bedside at night and listen to them.

It’s valuable to take your family to a movie or a water park or other fun venue. But it might be better to sit at the dinner table for 15 minutes engaged in a mini conversation.

Laundry, clean counters, and bedrooms all matter and must be done. That is good. But it might be better to learn how to engage during chores in a way that strengthens the relationship and doesn’t just get the work done.

It’s valuable to show our children how to serve by leading groups and organizing community events. It might just be better to send the same message by learning to be more Present at home: actively listening to them when they come home late in the evening or putting down your phone to look them in the eye when they need you.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t serve in our communities and church. I am not saying that we shouldn’t go places, do things as a family. I am not saying that lessons and organizations aren’t important.

Here is what I am saying. Time at home, serving each other and being Present just might be BEST.

If being home doesn’t feel nurturing or successful to you right now, then maybe you need a tweak in how you see the everyday events that happen there. If chores, bedtime, and meals are points of contention then maybe you need to learn how to use them for connection.

When we understand that connecting with our family members should be top on our list, when we know the difference between good and best, then we will feel more successful in our homes and we will have more satisfaction in our lives.

Unlike the White Rabbit, you can stop hopping from place to place wondering if you are in the right place. You are at home. You are with your family. You are in the best place!

Learn how to STOP being the White Rabbit

If you want that tweak in how you see what you do at home, if you want to turn points of contention into points of connection, get your FREE copy of Chapter four from the book Becoming A Present Parent: Connecting with your children in five minutes or less HERE.

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At War With Your Family?

Many years ago, I had a friend ask me if it made me mad that someone would undo what I had just cleaned up. I must admit that is exactly how I lived many years of my parenting life. I was at war with dirt, disorder, laundry, and frankly, my family. But all that changed the day that I had an epiphany. I realized that I wasn’t at war at all. I had signed up to serve, to minister to my husband and my children. That small shift in the story that I had been telling myself changed everything. It didn’t change the workload. It didn’t change the messes or the frustrations. What it did change was my ability to deal with the load, the messes, and the frustrations.

What Is Ministering and What Does It Look Like

Ministering is being aware of and attending to the needs of another person. When we minister, we watch over, lift, and strengthen those around us. Doesn’t a family seem like the perfect place to minister most effectively?

I’ve never forgotten a short video I saw as I was beginning to make this mental shift from war to ministering. It was of a very influential man who was hurrying to get to a meeting that he would be leading. As he headed down the staircase his one-year-old daughter was climbing up. He stopped to pick her up and hug her.

He discovered that she had a messy diaper. He knew that his wife was in the kitchen with their other children trying to get them fed and off to school. He faced a dilemma. After all, he was going to a meeting and he was in charge. But here was his sweet daughter in need and his wife was occupied. He could have engaged in a mental battle. He could have felt irritated that his daughter was messy, that his wife wasn’t taking care of it; that he, in his suit, probably should. But he didn’t go to war. As he realized the need his face softened, he gave his daughter a smile and a squeeze and he headed back up the stairs. He diapered his daughter, washed his hands and then headed out to his meeting.

In a family the ways we can love and minister to one another are limitless. I find that I need the help of a power beyond myself to keep my thoughts on ministering and not at war. I need help to know what’s needed because what is needed by one may not work for another. It’s been my experience that as we commit to being flexible, as we ponder real needs, as we make the effort to know another person, as we consider how best to love and serve, we can know how to minister better.

Six simple ways to minister to your children

•Don’t criticize – Listen, support, ask questions and teach gently. We all make mistakes. We all have moments of poor judgment.
•Don’t talk poorly about each other. Words are powerful in moving us to emotion. We want to feel good about our children, so we need to refrain from using words that are negative even when we’re frustrated or stressed.
•Refrain from judging – We can’t always know why a person behaves as they do, chooses one action over another or disappoints us. Rather than jumping to a judgment listen, ask questions, choose to think the best.
•Smile more – It’s amazing to me that we must be reminded of this, but we do.
•Listen, Listen, Listen – Those who are the most influential in this world listen more than they talk. They’re interested in others’ ideas and thoughts. They feel they can learn from anyone and so they do. When we listen it’s easier to think the best, criticize less, refrain from judging and so on.
•Touch – I am a champion of random touch. We shouldn’t need to be reminded of the power of a touch, but we do. I work on reaching out and patting a shoulder or giving a hug. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Maybe it doesn’t to you. But with practice, we can do better.

All those years ago, when I changed my story from war to ministering, I made a short video. I hope you’ll watch it. You will find it helpful.

Here’s to families and the opportunity to minister.

Share some of the ways that you keep from going to war with your family.

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 : ) 

Touchpoints For Summer PRESENCE

Maggie doing her chores.

As much as we love summer and our kids both can challenge our patience and our energy. My new book – Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting with your children in five minutes or less teaches you how to use touchpoints to connect with your kids. What is a touchpoint – the point at which one person feels seen and heard by another person; when they know they matter. Most touchpoints, there are eight of them,  happen daily and many require five minutes or less. Let me share one touchpoint that will really sweeten the summer pie!

TOUCHPOINT 4 – Chores and Family Work

Thinking about the word WORK can make a parent groan inside because work is often a point of contention in a family. But work can be a place where we create a touchpoint rather than a point of contention if building relationships are our ultimate goal.

CHORES

Often we get so involved in the management portion of family life that it’s difficult to address the relationship portion. But when we’re Present things work out better.

Everyone wants support when facing a tough job. No one wants to be isolated in a mess. We sometimes forget our kids feel the same way we do.

Moms have had the experience of walking into a disaster of a kitchen after a long day. Your family’s watching TV, and here you are, in this messy kitchen. Where do you start?
How does it feel when your husband abandons his show, comes in and begins helping you pick up? And how does it feel when he also asks you how your day went? It’s amazing!

This happens to dads in garages and backyards. How does it feel when your seventeen-year-old volunteers to help get the backyard in order? How about when your thirteen-year-old offers to spend time helping you organize the garage? It feels better, doesn’t it?

When a child is faced with what seems like a daunting task, check on them. Put your hand on their back or rub a shoulder and say, “Let me give you a hand.” Help them for 2-3 minutes while having a mini-conversation. Then head off to the next child or to your own work. It makes all the difference in how chores feel and in how well they get done. It solidifies relationships. It allows you to be Present with your child for a few minutes.

Chores can be a touchpoint!

You can get more details on how to make chores a touchpoint rather than a point of contention in your home in Chapter four of the book and you can read it for FREE.

FAMILY WORK

Family work is another time when you can create a touchpoint rather than a point of contention. When working as a family we need to keep in mind the objective isn’t just to get another item off the to-do list – we’re creating relationships and bonding our family.
I love gardening alone. I love the quiet and feeling the dirt in my fingers. But I understand it’s an opportunity for me to teach and connect with my grandchildren. Gardening can be transformed into an enduring memory for us all when I remember the garden isn’t what’s important, the relationship is.

Add fun to any work you do as a family – sing, dance as you clean, play great music, tell jokes, laugh, have mini-conversations and lots of random touches.

Things aren’t going to work out all of the time. You’ll have family work that turns into chaos or contention. We’re all imperfect, we get tired, and we have grouchy moments. It’s inevitable. But what if you could make family work more pleasant even one-quarter of the time?

If you can be Present as you work together even one-quarter of the time, your family members will feel supported and relationships will be built. You’ll experience GREAT results in the happiness level of your family.

Learn about the other seven family touchpoints. Read chapter four, Touchpoints, FREE

Happy Summer,
Mary Ann