Two Discoveries About How I Enjoy My Family

teapot

My theme for the year is to enjoy my family. That’s surprisingly vague and difficult because I can’t put off all my work and do nothing but enjoy my kids.

Meals have to be cooked and toilets have to be cleaned.

I recently saw an advertisement for an online cooking course for kids. The lady encouraged parents to let their 5-year-olds use knives and flip pancakes, claiming that we often underestimate what our kids can do.

I’d tried letting my first join me in the kitchen, but he was so strong-willed it drove me crazy and ever after I’ve dreaded letting the kids join me.

I almost bought the cooking course, but then I pictured mothers throughout time and place laughing at me that I would need a course to teach my kids to cook!

Kids can learn whatever their parents expect them to learn. Why had I forgotten this?

With renewed energy I brought the kids into the kitchen for making pancakes. I was shocked how much their ability to obey had grown. Even my two-year-old did much better than his older brother had done at that age.

Since then I realized I needed to shift my mindset from getting my work done as efficiently as possible while the kids were busy to training them to help in as much of my work as possible.

Again, I knew this before. The kids had always helped with laundry, why had I forgotten to keep training them? The new baby? The move?

In any case, I discovered an important lesson.

Discovery #1

I enjoy my kids when we do valuable work together.

This simultaneously solves problems of not enough time for housework and not enough time to enjoy me kids.

I know for many of you this is obvious, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the obvious because we forget.

Where you burned once trying to share something with your kids? Washing dishes? Cooking? Writing? Try again now that some time has passed and see what happens!

The second discovery this week occurred during a spontaneous tea party. The baby was sleeping, so I could focus my attention on my 5, 4, and 2-year-olds.

I took out the cookies first to get them excited. I explained that we use good manners during a tea party. We’d never really talked about manners before – I mostly just try to survive meals!

I was astonished how well they responded to my calm but firm directions. They waited patiently with their hands folded in their laps. They carried breakable cups and bowls with two hands.

Even the two-year-old asked politely for more tea and asked to be excused when he was done. We all really got into it!

It would be too exhausting to insist on impeccable manners every meal, but practicing once a week during a tea party sounds doable – and fun!

Discovery #2

Work before play doesn’t always apply. When I take time to enjoy something beautiful with my kids, important lessons can be learned easily and painlessly.

This week I (re)learned that my kids can cook and they can behave at a tea party, and that both activities can be enjoyable and not stressful!

In what other ares do we tend to underestimate kids? Please share your success stories in the comments!

Tips For Going To Bed On Time

computer in bed

Do you struggle getting to bed on time?

I did for a long time, but even though my life is a struggle at the moment, I’m still doing better than ever before.

I credit two simple ideas for my success.

1. Don’t eat one hour before bed.

It’s tempting to enjoy a small indulgence while the house is quiet and little eyes are in bed, but eating always means more time than you think. There’s prep and clean-up and worse, your metabolism gets going again and you’ll start waking up right when you should be winding down.

When I eat I always stay up later than planned.

I don’t eat after 8pm, which means no eating after the kids are in bed. Sometimes I stuff in a piece of chocolate at 7:59pm, but fasting after 8pm has given my productivity and sleep habits a surprising boost.

2. Realize that the day is over after dinner

I used to dream of all I would get done in the evening after the kids were in bed. During the bedtime routine I’d get antsy, waiting for the moment I’d be free to get some work done.

It would drive me crazy if bedtime ran longer than usual, as I saw my productive evening slipping away before it was even started.

Even if I did get some time to work, I’d get too involved and go to bed much later than planned and set myself up poorly for the next day.

Finally I made the mental shift that the day is over after dinner. I don’t imagine I have time for projects or self-indulgence. I just wrap things up and prepare for the next day.

I motivate myself with the promise that if there is some extra time I can do something for myself, but usually with the house tidied up and the next day planned, I’m just as happy to fall into bed.

Yes, I miss having some evening time to myself, but I wasn’t really getting it anyway, and I’ve been much more at peace since I decided evenings weren’t often going to be productive.

Ironically my evenings are more productive now because I do the things that must be done before the next day, rather than procrastinating because “I have all evening.”

An early bedtime makes an early wake-up possible, and I am addicted to early rising now! I’m currently going crazy because sickness and circumstances make it not a wise choice, but I can’t wait to get back to those peaceful morning minutes.

As always, remember that you’re the leader. Give these ideas a try, but don’t feel bad if you find it’s not a good fit for you and your family.

Enchantment: Encouragement for the Worn-Out Mom

peace

I’ve been sick and discouraged, feeling guilty about all the things I’m not doing for my kids.

Each time I hear of a friend or acquaintance whose kids are doing something we’ve never done I get a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I write a blog on how we can’t and shouldn’t do everything, but I still feel oppressed by the idea that I’m failing my kids.

So this week I bring you some encouragement from the outside. Thanks to my friend, Monica, who pointed me to this periscope by Julie Bogart at www.BraveWriter.com.

Since listening to this I’ve enjoyed my kids more than I have in recent memory – and if you follow this blog you know how hard it is for me to enjoy my family when there is work to be done (and there always is!). She said when you get a moment of peace don’t make it harder (time to get to work!), just breathe it in and enjoy it. So simple, but I’d forgotten it!

Here are a few quotes to entice you, but I recommend listening to the whole thing if you get a chance.

“When our kids are enchanted they are quiet . . . And because they’re quiet we might mistake the moment. We might think they’re not engaged.” (24:20)

On why “Enchantment” matters:

“People who are richly satisfied and whole on the inside are insatiably curious and open to learning.” (31:15)

Julie Bogart reminded me that a perfect house is not compatible with enchantment. If you strive for perfection you kill the magic. She quotes Thomas Moore in The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life:

“A home will never be perfect, for perfection is an idea and an ideal, and our home is always an approximation of our dream. I wouldn’t want to live in a perfect home, because enchantment and perfection do not lie in the same order of things. If you’re looking for perfection, you don’t pursue enchantment, and vice versa.” (Moore, l996 p. 82)

I’ve decided to lower my hopes (standards make it sound as if I achieve it) for a clean house, but I’ve also implemented a compromise:

I did a quick purge of the bedroom and will make it my “clutter-free haven.” If I can have one space that is peaceful then I think I’ll better be able to enjoy the mess that is having kids!

So give yourself some encouragement and listen to the periscope! Then come back and tell us how it inspired you.

Note: You don’t have to know anything about periscope, just click the link and you’ll see the video. Also, she’s talking to homeschoolers, but what she says applies to anyone who is intentional about raising kids – which is all of you who read this blog!

One Problem with New Years Resolutions, And How to Fix It

open Bible

I used to make resolutions like “read my Bible every day” but no matter how many days in a row I stuck with it, I always felt like a failure the first day I didn’t manage to keep it up.

Since missing one day meant breaking my resolution, there was usually little motivation left to keep trying.

I might have read my Bible 30 days in a row but my focus was on my one failure. How crazy is that? 30 to one is a pretty good ratio.

Imagine if I’d kept up that pace for the rest of the year – I’d have stuck with my resolution 353 days and only failed 12 days! That’s an impressive amount of success!

Even if we “fail” half the time, that’s still some 180 days in the year of moving in the right direction. I call that a success.

If you’ve made a resolution to do (or not do) something every day, don’t set yourself up for failure by going for a streak. Instead, set yourself up to win with this little change:

Try thinking “I am the kind of person who reads the Bible every day” instead of “I will read my Bible every day.”

With this change of thinking, one off day doesn’t ruin a streak. It’s a just a bad day – an anomaly. You save yourself all the negative self-talk that will rob you of getting back on track tomorrow.

By thinking “I am the kind of person who . . .” you can also bypass procrastination – there’s no room for “I’ll start tomorrow” because you are already today the kind of person who acts.

One other bonus with this variation on resolutions: if saying “I am the kind of person who goes to the gym” doesn’t get you excited, then maybe you’ve picked a resolution that isn’t a good fit and it’s time to think about why and make some changes.

Wishing you all the best in 2016, and may you do and become all you dream of!