You don’t always know the impact for good you have on your kids and others, even when you aren’t perfect. Just a couple of weeks ago this was brought home to me. I went to my sister’s home and her daughter was there with her son Jordan.
Jordan is nineteen. I hadn’t seen him for a few years. But when he was four and five, he came to my home to be babysat now and then. Deidra, his mom, reminded me of this. I had totally forgotten that I cared for Jordan. She also reminded me of something else.
A Safe Place
When Jordan came to my home, he fell in love with a chime I had. It had a lovely bell on the end. He would stick it in the back pocket of his shorts and prance around to hear it ring. I gave it to him as a gift. Jordan was standing there as his mom related this story to me. He smiled. What his mom said next blew me away. “You still have that chime in your room, don’t you Jordan.” He nodded yes.
WHAT! It has been fifteen years. Then Deidra said, “When he knew he had to go to a babysitter he would say, “I only want to go to that Mary place.”
As I think back, I can’t recall why he would have found our home so inviting. I had one daughter left at home, but she was in her teens. Our apartment was bright and clean. I was working from home and very busy but my guess is that Jordan felt safe in our home. Isn’t that wonderful? And this isn’t the first time a youth has reminded me of what my home and I meant to them.
Even in Dark Moments, You Can Be a Light
As you know we had some children use drugs. It was a hard time. But in the last few decades, I have received messages from some of my children’s friends. They talk about how wonderful it was that I was there, that there was food, that our house was a safe place. My oldest son, who hadn’t liked us for a while, said in his late forties, “Mom, you will never know how many people you touched,” or words to that effect.
Truth is, I never knew that our home was a haven.I felt that because of how things had worked out, Don and I were failures. I have written about our struggles over those thoughts.But there it is, even in that darkness, in our obvious imperfection, we were a light. Our home was a light.
Last year I got an email from a young woman that I had taught in a church class when she was 16 and 17. She told me that my lessons had had a huge impact on her life. REALLY! She slept through the class! I felt I was doing a terrible job and asked the leaders to get a new teacher. I knew I was giving it all I had but, well, she and others appeared to be so bored.
AND THERE IT IS!
When we do our best, even when it is terribly imperfect, we can be an influence for good. You never know the impact you have on the lives of the children and young people in your life. So, hang on, mom and dad. Don’t throw in the towel. Stop beating yourself up and fearing the worst. Just keep doing your imperfect best and you will get better.In the meantime, you will impact your children and others for good.
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!!
I had two daughters who had babies last year – one in June and one in Dec. One daughter suffered from postpartum anxiety, not to be confused with the blues or even depression. It was excruciating. Just functioning was a challenge.Besides the new baby, she had one preschooler and one grade-schooler.
Despite her struggles with health and energy, I saw her remember what her kids needed to do to be ready for school. I watched her get them to their events and lessons. I saw her force herself to school with her new baby to participate in a classroom party with her daughter.
My other daughter has tweens, teens, and grade-schoolers. She was up multiple times a night. But one morning bright and early I witnessed this: she was in the kids’ rooms getting them up, reminding them of what they needed for the day, giving cautions about getting to work on time and bringing instruments home after orchestra so they could practice. It was all in her head, and despite her baby fatigue, she was letting it out at the right time, with the right tone. There is no getting around it,
MOTHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THEY’RE STRUGGLING.
My sons-in-law also experienced the addition of new babies into their families. One is in the last stages of genetic blindness and was ill at the time of the birth. However, he donned a mask and was by his wife’s side, not just during the delivery but until his wife came home a day later, even though fluorescent light burns his eyes. Then he returned, mask in hand because the baby had a severe bilirubin issue. His eyes burned as he endured hours of blue light. I watched him get up at night to feed his son, diaper, and cuddle him.
The other dad had a two-plus hour compute every day into the city. He left work early so he could get home sooner. When he got back, the load shifted from his wife’s shoulders to his own. He made food, played Candyland, fed the dogs, tucked kids in bed, and comforted his wife. There is no getting around it,
FATHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THE LOAD IS HEAVY.
Neither of these couples is doing it perfectly. There are down days, moments of resentment, and checking out. BUT they get up daily and do it again because they love each other and their families. There is no way around it,
PARENTS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THEY AREN’T PERFECT!!
Know a parent struggling because they aren’t perfect. Share. : )
This summer my grandchildren spent hours with their friends in the pool in our back yard. Sadly, the weather cooled and so the pool was drained for the winter. Due to the placement of the drains three inches of water remained in the pool. Time passed.
One morning as I went into my office, I investigated the pool. There were three inches of green, algae-filled water. I thought, “Man, this is going to be a project to clean.”
I returned to the office and completed my morning routine. Then I sat down at my computer to begin writing. Into my mind came a clear thought – “You need to clean the pool.” WHAT! I had a full day of writing. But it was a clear, good thought so I got up and left the office. As I stood on the patio, I wondered how I was going to remove gallons of water from the pool bottom.
I decided to sweep a 5-gallon bucket through the water, lift it and pour it over the side. This worked. However, that was a lot of stooping, sweeping, rising and tossing. I persevered. After an hour and a half, I had to stop for an appointment. I thought, “I’m done for the day.”
When I finished my appointment, I headed for the office but again had the thought that I needed to clean the pool. I rolled up my pants, got my crocks and resumed the work. Eventually, my daughter who was on a break came out and said, “Mom, you don’t have to do this. It’s not your job.” I assured her that I knew I was supposed to clean the pool. She suggested that I use the shop vac. What a great idea!
The shop vac sucked up the water well, but it was far too heavy for me to hoist and dump over the side. Even only a quarter full it was too heavy. I returned to bailing with the 5-gallon bucket.
I could see that I was making progress, but it was labor-intensive and taking a long time. If any fathers are reading, please don’t stop because this scenario is so stupid. I know it! : )
Eventually, I decided that I could use the shop vac, suck up the water, and then bail water from the vac and throw it over the side. Each load of water in the shop vac was three buckets to dump. I know it doesn’t seem like much of an improvement, but it was. It felt easier even if it wasn’t faster.
When my daughter had another break, she came out to help. By then I was almost done. Jodie sucked up water while I swept the algae and sand to the center of the pool. Then she and I together would hoist the vac and dump it. We did about 5 dumps. She returned to her work and I did the final sweep and vacuumed up the residue that was left.
It was done and it looked fabulous. When I began the job, it was intimidating. After all, I’m 69, it was a lot of work and took a lot of time. I didn’t know if I could do it. But I was determined. I did what I could with what I had and as I went along my resources and support improved and I was able to finish the job.
I know that a couple of men could have done it in half the time. If I had had better tools the whole job would have been faster and easier. But I only had what I had. I could do it or not.
The Point of the Story
It’s a perfect example of parenting, my parenting. When I began, I had a pool of green scummy water to deal with that came from my growing up. I had a wonderful family, but like all families there was stuff. And my stuff had lain dormant for a long time. It was as nasty as that pool water.
Parenting for me was laborious because I lacked skills, had few resources and very little support. Don and I married and moved far away from family and friends. As the years passed, I tried different things. I learned new skills, found resources.Things got better.
Sometimes, I would look at how we were coming along, and it felt like looking at that pool job. It was hard. It was long. Frankly, I didn’t know if I could hold out to the end. But Don and I did. We actively parented for 39 years.
How Did It Turn Out?
As some of you know we had kids struggle with drugs, alcohol, dropping out of school and identity issues. It was tough. Our kids are all over thirty now and many are in their late forties. They’re smart, loyal, loving, kind, generous people. They can be trusted to do what is right.
I read a wonderful book, That We May Be One, by Tom Christopherson. His family had their share of trials, but his parents determined their success by how connected and bonded the family was. I have chosen to do the same.
My children talk to each other often. They gather at our family reunion regularly. This week one of my children found themselves in an unexpected financial bind. The word went out to the family and in less than 24 hours it was resolved with all of us pulling together.
It doesn’t matter what the water in the bottom of your pool looks like. It doesn’t matter how inefficient your tools and resources. If you will do what you know is right consistently, better tools and resources will come. You’ll get better. If you’re determined to parent as well as you can, to connect your family, to increase your skills and access the resources you need, then you’ll be successful. When you stay the course, no matter what you lack, what you need will show up. Simple things, done consistently over time, make all the difference.
If you relate to this article please share it with others. They will thank you for it. 🙂
Last weekI shared two stories about how our perception of what is happening fuels our response; that paying attention to our thoughts and the stories and emotions they generate is important when parenting and is a skill which can be learned and practiced.
Yeah right!! There was a time when I didn’t believe that I could control how I felt let alone that it was a skill which could be learned. Many of you may also have a difficult time accepting that you can control how you feel and respond.
CAN CONTROLLING YOUR STORY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
I was a reasonable person, and I lived a good life but, darn it, stuff was always happening. I mean, if the kids are acting crazy, it’s going to make you feel crazy. If milk keeps getting spilled, if the house is getting trashed, and if grades are down, you feel down yourself. When money’s tight or your spouse isn’t helping you out, you feel overwhelmed. If you feel unsupported or if you have a health issue, all of this is going to mess with how you feel and respond, right?
Back then I knew the answer was a big fat yes! But time and experience have proven to me that you can control how you feel by taking control of the stories you tell yourself.
THOUGHTS CREATE OUR STORIES
Perspective is an amazing thing. It is, simply put, the story we tell ourselves: what we think is happening or has happened. It all begins with a thought. Once we have a thought, if we hold it in our minds, it becomes a story because our brain does its job and goes to the files and finds evidence that our thought is correct. This process takes fractions of seconds and this scenario repeats itself hundreds of times each day.
You change your story by controlling your thoughts. You manage your emotions by controlling your story. When you do this, you take more positive actions and you get better results. It is a skill and the more you practice it the better you get!
TIPS FOR HAVING BETTER STORIES
TIP 1—Take responsibility and stop blaming
When we choose to tell ourselves stories that blame others, we decide to become victims. Victims parent poorly. I hear parents blame their kids all the time for how they’re feeling.
• You make me so mad.
• You have ruined my day.
• I can’t think straight because you’re so noisy.
• I wouldn’t be yelling if you would listen.
Blame is always an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening.
TIP 2—Decide to think the best of others
A father expected his 16-year-old daughter home at a certain time but she was late, very late! He began writing a mental story. He imagined all sorts of scenarios for why she was late. She lacked respect for family rules. She was thoughtless. She was irresponsible. The later she was, the bigger the story grew and the angrier he became. As she opened the door, he exploded with, “You’re late! You know the rules, and you broke your promise. You’re grounded, young lady.” Of course, his daughter ran to her room crying.
To let you in on the facts, the girl’s date had taken her to a drinking party after the movie. When she asked him to take her home, he refused. She had tried to call home, but the line was busy. So she called a friend who got off work at midnight and came and got her. In the meantime, she sat on the curb in the dark because the party was out of control and not safe.
The father’s story was at the heart of the problem, not his daughter’s lateness. When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively.
TIP 3—Choose words wisely
“What’s in you is what comes out.” It’s true! Pay attention to the words you say in frustration, sorrow, and anger; you’ll get a good idea of what you’re holding onto in your subconscious mind.
Our words reveal what we truly feel. The words that we allow to come out of our mouths are what ultimately drive feelings and the resultant actions and bring the results we live with daily.
Watch the words you use when thinking or speaking about your children and teens:
• Childlike vs. naughty
• Young vs. clumsy
• Needs more direction vs. oppositional
• Tired vs. grumpy
• Preoccupied vs. lazy
• Angry vs. rebellious
• Being a kid vs. messy
• Wants my presence vs. needy
• Has a need vs. is pushing my buttons
TIP 4—Check your core beliefs
We can get an idea of the beliefs we’ve formed growing up by paying attention to the stories we tell ourselves over and over again and by listening to the words coming out of our mouths. These beliefs may not be supportive or helpful in having good relationships with others or in our ability to be Present and parent well. Once we’ve found a core belief which is not helpful, we can get rid of it by rewriting the story.
TIP 5—Track your thoughts
Because thoughts are powerful, we need to gain control over them in order to stop getting more of what we don’t want. Once you’re aware of a negative thought, you need to capture it—write it down. You might be thinking it’s crazy to write down negative stuff, but I’ve lived this, and I know it works! So pay attention to your negative thoughts and write them down. Look for patterns, unsupportive and destructive stories and repeating themes. You can shred or burn your daily list periodically. Take control!
TIP 6—Teach others what you’ve learned
Teaching others what we’re learning and experiencing is a powerful tool that helps us make even greater changes. As we teach others, we clarify for ourselves. If we teach what we learn to our family, we’ll be heartened as we see them making changes also, and our whole family will be blessed.
TIP 7—Keep practicing
Keep working at controlling your thoughts. This is something you need to do daily. There isn’t a point when you’re so good at it that you can stop working on it
Simple things done consistently over time are what bring the changes that matter in our lives. Often we look for a silver bullet but time, increased understanding and practice are what are required for lasting change. Here is an example.
The 1% Principle
I learned about the 1% principle way back in 2011. It basically states that when you work on the one most important change you need to make it exponentially expands that change for good in your life – it affects not only the 1% you were focusing on but all the rest of your life as well. That sounded really important to me and even true.
But it wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that I put it to the test.
I wanted to flow into 2014 gracefully and make needed changes. So I began taking that desire to the Lord (my chosen source for information) and asking him for some guidance. I phrased it this way, “What is the one action step I could take in 2014 that would make the most significant change for good in my life?”
You will notice I asked for an “action” step and only one of them. Remember the 1% principle.
God must have wanted to see how serious I was about the question because I prayed that same prayer every day for three months! Then one night I knew the answer – stop complaining!
That response shocked me because I certainly wasn’t a complaining person. However, over the next few weeks, as I watched myself, I found that I did a fair amount of complaining.
• Can’t you put your socks in the hamper?
• This meat is so tough.
• I can’t believe the city decided to fix the road now!
• Stop being so noisy.
I worked on this one thing for the next couple of years but eventually, I went back to my knees because I didn’t feel that I was making much progress. This time the response came immediately and was just as shocking. Be grateful! I have worked on that for three years now. I have used gratitude journals, better prayers, more service, and I have become more grateful and I do complain a bit less.
But this year I felt the need to understand this whole complaining thing better. I recall a conversation I had with a friend not too long after I was counseled to stop complaining. She said, “You’re not a complainer. Everyone says stuff like that. It’s just talk.”
So although I am aware of when I complain and work to keep on top of my thoughts and the words I use I still felt that something was missing because I still complain. There seemed to be a gap in my understanding that if understood would radically assist me to complain less and be more grateful.
I have to take a short detour here in the narrative. At the same time I began working on complaining less I made a serious decision to become a more charitable person, less judgmental. That has been a work in progress too. Here is how they’re connected.
Last week I was sitting in my office pondering what I knew about complaining, thoughts and words and how they affect our lives. In that moment a light bulb went on in my brain. Complaining was more than just being bugged about something or someone.
Complaining is actually any negative thought we have. Any negative thought. And in that same moment I came to understand that when you are having a negative thought, even before the thought becomes words or action, you step back from charity. You cannot be negative and charitable at the same moment any more than you can experience fear and faith at the same time.
I have been embracing this new information for a week now and it has radically changed what I allow into my mind and out of my mouth. It’s a simple concept but it isn’t always easy to implement. Entertaining negative thoughts and speaking complaining words are as my friend said, “What everyone does.” It is a bad habit!
What You Get if You do the Work
But here is what can change in your family and life when you change the habit of entertaining negative thoughts and speaking negative words:
• You get better and more inspiration. You cannot hear God (your Higher Power) when you are listening to the negative
• Your relationship with yourself will improve. You cannot be charitable to yourself and your weaknesses when you use unkind words about yourself.
• When you truly love and accept yourself, warts and all, you will love your family better. You will be more charitable when someone messes up.
• Your family relationships will improve. You cannot be charitable, teach effectively or build up those you love when you hold negative thoughts about them or their actions or speak negatively to them.
• You will be a more effective example and teacher. Children learn better when there is less yelling, tension or judgment.
• You will yell less. If you hold negative thoughts and emotions long enough the complaining words will come out and spill onto others, despite your best intentions
• You will grow as a person. The process of learning to control your thoughts, words, and stories will teach you new things and elevate your way of being. That is what happened to me last week.
• You will be more charitable and less judgmental
• You will feel more gratitude, even for the hard things, because you will recognize them as opportunities for growth.
I have been working to lessen my own complaining for five years. Yet just last week I got another part of the puzzle and it’s exciting.
Sometimes we equate the time it takes to make a significant change in our lives with failure; “If we were really any good we would have gotten a handle on this by now.”
But that’s a lie. Simple things done consistently over time (whatever amount of time is required) is what bring changes that matter and adjust our lives for the better. I have been working on becoming a more grateful, non-complaining, charitable person for five years and I just had a new lesson. Thank goodness time spent does not equal failure. It equals eventual success no matter what it is we’re working on.
So don’t get discouraged. Just keep working on whatever is your 1%. When you don’t quit, change is guaranteed.
Mother’s Day is almost here and for the next few weeks, I want to talk about it. Let’s begin the conversation with me telling you that I used to HATE Mother’s Day. Really, I hated it. I would sit in church or with groups of other mothers and hear stories about mom’s who never yelled, always said the right things, attended every baseball game, loved camping, liked playing with their kids, were affectionate and nurturing, didn’t yell if someone threw up in the car…I was not that mom.
I wanted to be that mom but I wasn’t. I frequently said or did the wrong thing. I wasn’t always nurturing, comforting or there and I didn’t like to play. I had already yelled so I was out of that competition. And baseball, yuck, I hated baseball.
It took me many years to learn how to stop yelling; to learn to hug more often, to go to sporting events, and to just be quiet and listen. I had to learn a lot of skills that I didn’t have when I started out. Sometimes coming to a realization that there was a skill I lacked was the challenge.
As far as parenting goes, I thought it was as simple as picking a good man and having a passel of kids. It never occurred to me that it would be useful to have some type of plan, to learn new skills, to be clear that things don’t always work out the way you think they should and that people, even kids, get to decide how they want their lives to look and feel. It was sometimes a jolting and unnerving experience.
I have frequently joked with my family that NOTHING turned out how I thought it would. That happens to be more truth and less joke.
However, I do not hate Mother’s Day anymore. I embrace it! I love Mother’s Day. It’s a day on which I celebrate the fact that I am a mom. I have a family and we are OK. My children love me very much, despite all my mistakes and lack. My husband is happy with how things turned out and so am I.
I may not be the mom that gets talked about in church or at the ladies luncheon, but I am the mom who raised this family of seven happy, healthy, kind, and good people. I am the mom who learned a great deal and made some valuable changes. I am content with that.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all you mom’s who sit in church or at lunch with other mom’s and feel less than. NOW STOP IT. Stop comparing yourself to other mothers. Stop judging yourself harshly. Stop believing that somehow you are failing your family.
Take my word for it, that it is wasted energy. Instead, celebrate the fact that you are a mother, that you are doing the best you can, and that you do have good desires in your heart for your family. Then get more education. Learn something new. Practice a skill you need and don’t quit till you are reasonably good at it. Be proactive. Mentor with a mom who is where you want to be. Keep working on yourself. Keep loving your family. Keep going!
What you will learn is what I learned while actively parenting children in my home for 39 years – you will learn you can grow and change, your children will love you despite your weaknesses and lack and, yes, in the end, it will all be OK.
What thoughts can you adjust for a more satisfying Mother’s Day?
In her book Daffodil Principle: One Woman, Two Hands, One Bulb at a Time, Jaroldeen Edwards recounts the day her daughter, Carolyn, drove her to Lake Arrowhead to visit a daffodil garden. It wasn’t just any daffodil garden. It turned out to be five acres of beautiful golden flowers nodding in the breeze.
As Jaroldeen gasped in amazement, she asked the question that everyone who visited the garden asked, “Who did this?” On the porch of a small and neat A-frame house was a poster answering the question.
The first response to how many flowers there were was “50,000 bulbs.” The second fact listed was, “One at a time, by one woman, two hands, two feet, and very little brain.” The third was, “Began in 1958” (Edwards, Daffodil Principle).
When we multiply small amounts of time, with small increments of daily effort, consistently, we can accomplish magnificent things.
Last week I shared that it took me almost fifty years to learn to read music and almost ten to learn to sew. I had to keep practicing and getting help from those in my life who knew more than I did in order to eventually sew and sing well.
Whenever you hear that a person has achieved an extraordinary goal, rarely, if ever, are you told the process they used—that is, the ordinary actions they took consistently. You only hear the outcome.
We’re led to believe extraordinary successes in business, home, parenting or life are a result of significant actions, but they’re not—they’re a result of daily actions done consistently over time.
I enjoy the story of Naaman found in the King James Bible. Naaman was a captain for the king of Syria, “a great man with his master . . . because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: . . . a mighty man in valor, but . . . a leper.” (2 Kings 5:1).
At the direction of his king, Naaman went to Elisha the prophet to be healed of his dreaded affliction. When Naaman got to Elisha’s house, Elisha sent a messenger out to him who said, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (2 Kings 5:10).
Wow, Naaman wasn’t even going to have to do the consistently, over time thing. He was only going to have to repeat the action a mere seven times. But Naaman was angry with Elisha. He felt the prophet should have come out of his house to see him and he should have done some big thing to take care of this big problem.
He said, “I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper” (2 Kings 5:11)
Naaman was ready to go away in disgust at the simple instructions he received, but he had a wise servant who reminded him of the principle we’ve been discussing—simple things, done over time consistently, bring significant results. His servant said, “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (2 Kings 5:13).
Naaman came to his senses and he “dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2Kings 5:15).
As parents, I think we are, at times, like Naaman. We know we have problems and issues, but we expect a significant or seemingly important thing to come along and bail us out of our affliction. In reality, it is truly the small and simple things we can do daily that, in the end, will make all the difference.
Understanding this is especially important in parenting because it nearly always takes until a child leaves home and creates their own life to see the results of our efforts to parent well, teach our children and create a wholesome and happy family culture.
While they’re growing, it’s tempting to let ourselves feel failure because we don’t see our children as learning the important lessons that will help them be successful people. Often we feel there is something amiss in our family culture or in how we parent.
Remaining Present while we parent, not checking out because of discouragement or feeling overwhelmed, is dependent on doing simple things consistently rather than searching for a one-time fix.
Have you ever found yourself in Naaman’s shoes? I certainly have. But now that all of my children are grown and gone I can look back and see that it truly was the small and simple things that we did consistently for their whole lives that made the real difference. I’d love your comments.
There is a valuable principle that if we understand it, can change our lives and that of our family – that consistency in small things, over time, brings big results.
But most of us, when faced with growth or change in ourselves or in our family look for a silver bullet. We want one big effort, one new system, one big push to be all that’s needed. But the idea of a silver bullet is a myth. We accept this myth because the truth of small steps over time seems daunting.
Why would we rather do one big thing to change our lives? Although the big thing may take a massive effort on our part, if we gave the effort, then the work would be done. But the truth is we have to decide what we want and then follow through—over and over and over and over . . . ! There is no one and done.
In seventh grade, I took a sewing class. I made a plaid skirt and it was a disaster. But I was unfazed. I took sewing in eighth grade and again in ninth. I never made a single item that was wearable. I couldn’t seem to understand the directions even when they were explained to me. I couldn’t understand the machine. But I REALLY wanted to sew. So my mother signed me up for a class at the local sewing center the next summer. The results were the same.
When I was a senior in high school I took a final sewing class. I picked out some darling pink and brown striped material for an outfit and went to work knowing that it was going to be fabulous. When I put it on the crotch was at my knees, the zipper zipped up the inside and the facing was on the outside. I had done my very best and my best stunk!
When I was twenty years old I became engaged. I was the oldest child of nine children and so I determined that I would make my wedding dress. When I came home with real satin, beads, and lace my mother looked like she was going to cry.
I set to work determined to be successful and it appeared that I might be until I had sewed my first two seams. They were done incorrectly. As I picked out the seams I realized that on satin, every pinhole shows and it doesn’t stop showing, ever. I knew I was in big trouble!
In my moment of need, I asked my Higher Power, God, for help. I reminded him that I had made absolutely every effort to learn to sew. I had asked for help from the experts in my life. I had put in the time. I had practiced repeatedly. I asked God to help me remember everything I had learned. I asked that I would understand the directions fully and that I wouldn’t make any more mistakes. And guess what, I didn’t. I sewed that dress without having to pick out another seam. I knew what to do and I did it well. The dress was simple but beautiful. In fact, my cousin was married in that almost 50-year-old dress this fall.
When I was in 10th grade I wanted to sing in the school choir. I loved singing so I tried out and I made the cut. Here’s what the conductor didn’t know; I knew nothing about music. I couldn’t read music, didn’t even know the name of the notes. I didn’t know what pitch accompanied each note. I couldn’t always hear the notes. If I didn’t sit next to someone who really could follow the music I was lost and just had to mouth the words. But I loved to sing. So I stuck it out for two years until we moved. I didn’t get any better.
As an adult, I sang in every choir, in every church group, in every town we lived in. I never did get any better at reading music.
By my sixties, I had done all I could to learn to read music. But I still struggled so I did what I do. I went in prayer to my Higher Power, God, and I reminded him that I had spent almost fifty years practicing and working to learn how to read music. I asked him to help me understand.
About a year later I noticed something amazing. I seemed to be able to follow the music. I knew the pitch for each note. In fact, women who were struggling to learn a part would stand next to me and follow my lead. It was absolutely astounding!
Sometimes it takes years and even a lifetime to learn how to do some things well. Parenting is one of those things.
It took me well over fifty years to learn to read music and almost ten to learn to sew. In all that time I didn’t berate myself. I didn’t feel humiliated or embarrassed because I couldn’t do it independently, without a lot of help. I kept asking for help from many sources, classes, people, books. I didn’t feel like a failure and I never quit. I just kept singing and sewing.
Most things that we eventually master take lots of practice and time. But we cannot become masters if we berate ourselves, if we feel like failures and if we quit. There are few things where this applies as well and consistently as it does in parenting.
Here are the simple steps that I took consistently over time in order to learn to read music and to sew:
• I desired a new skill
• I learned all I could from multiple sources
• I practiced
• I ask for help from people and my Higher power
• I was consistent in my efforts
• I was kind to myself and kept trying even when it seemed as if I was failing
• I did not quit for as long as it took
Real growth and change come from learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time, consistently, for as long as it takes. Having the family you want will take time. Becoming a Present Parent takes time. Raising successful children takes time. It requires accepting the principle that small and simple things done consistently over time bring big results. You have to keep learning, practicing, failing and trying again. And it never hurts to ask your Higher Power for help to understand what you and your family need.
It takes time and practice to make lasting change and to grow as a person or as a family. We must commit to it. We need to consistently do the work. We have to believe we can accomplish our heart’s desire. In fact, it has to be our heart’s desire.
Doing simple things, consistently over time, is what will ultimately give us the success we seek as individuals and as families.
What do you think? Has this principle made a difference for you or do you think it would when it comes to your parenting efforts? Leave a comment and I will respond. : )