How Will You Be Remembered?

I lost at Monopoly.

And I loved it.

Last weekend, our 11-year old granddaughter, Averie spent the weekend with us. We rotate having all three grandkids, and it was her turn.

It was an amazing weekend.

We finished a jigsaw puzzle.

She and I went to Starbucks at 6:00 AM, and sat outside and just talked while the sun came up. Then we went out to breakfast.

We went to a home and garden show.

She and Grandma made a “spa day,” then worked on sewing a skirt together.

She baked. She drew.

Then we played Monopoly.

monopolyMost people either love Monopoly or hate it. In our extended family, Averie and I are the only ones who really like playing it. She got out the board, set everything up, and the three of us sat down to play.

She managed to buy every property on the cheapest row – from Mediterranean Avenue to Connecticut Avenue. She quickly put up hotels on each property.  They must have been really nice hotels, because I stayed at all of them multiple times.

I managed to buy every property on the most expensive row – from Pacific Avenue to Boardwalk. I couldn’t buy hotels because I kept spending my money to stay at Averie’s hotels.

Averie won. Grandma and I lost.

It was awesome.

Partway through the game, Averie told us about playing a video version of Monopoly with a friend. She described all the things that happened that were unique.

“When you land on “Go to jail,” a big cage slams down over you,” she said. “Then a crane picks you up and carries you across the board to the jail square.”  She described how different characters move across the virtual board, and the cool things that happen when you draw cards.

It sounded great, and I’d love to try it with her. It would be fun to play it like that and see the clever things they’ve built into the game.

I thought about that for a few minutes, and realized that I’d still rather play the board game.

  • When you’re playing a video game, you can still talk – but you’re looking at a screen.
  • When you’re playing a board game, you can still talk – but you’re looking at each other.

I realized why I love playing Monopoly so much that day – because of the dynamics that happen between the people who are playing.

Whenever Averie made a good move, she would glance up at us to see how we were reacting.

We made eye contact. We laughed.  We talked.

We were playful about our facial expressions, acting frustrated when someone hopped right over our best property.

We were being entertained by each other, not distracted by animation.

I spend my life looking at screens. I’m looking at one right now while I’m writing this.  For many of us, it’s our default setting.

Screens aren’t bad. But someday when I’m gone, I don’t want Averie’s mental image of me to be where I’m looking at a screen.

I want her to remember me looking in her eyes.

Producers of video content know exactly how to grab our attention with the right kind of graphics and movement and content. It’s not that it’s bad – but it can easily distract us from what matters most in our lives.

Goethe said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

We focus on the things that we love and value the most.

Where are you looking?

How will the most important people in your life remember you?

Maybe it’s time to play Monopoly with someone who means the world to you . . .

The Kid Whisperer

We babysat our grandkids last night. It’s one of our favorite things to do, because we get to spend time with little people that we adore.

Usually it’s fun and games. But sometimes issues that come up requiring discipline.

And I’m always amazed that I rarely know what to do.

I’ve been a parent for 35 years, a spouse for 38 and a grandparent for almost 10. I’ve written three books on communication, and have two more on the way. I should have this figured out. But more often than not, I don’t have a clue.

It was a little thing last night. The youngest grabbed a paper that was important to the oldest. A tug-of-war started over it. I told him to let go. He didn’t and the paper ripped.

I thought, “OK, what do I do?” I helped the oldest tape the paper back together, but wasn’t sure in the moment how to handle the infraction from the youngest.

So I did nothing. He escaped without consequence, and I didn’t talk to the oldest about what she was feeling.

Not a huge issue in the scheme of things, but it got me thinking about “The Horse Whisperer,” “The Dog Whisperer,” and “Super Nanny.”

Redford horse“The Horse Whisperer” was a late ‘90’s movie where Robert Redford calmly and patiently won the trust of a wild horse and turned it into a strong but compliant animal. He started by simply sitting nearby and watching it for days at a time, connecting quietly until he built trust.

I remember thinking, “How could someone simply sit and stare at a horse for hours at a time?” (At the time, my wife suggested it was the same reason she could sit through a movie and stare at Robert Redford for hours at a time . . .)

“The Dog Whisperer” was a TV show where Cesar Millan would enter homes where undisciplined canines had destroyed any sense of order and serenity. The owners had given up. But he would walk through the door, looked the dog in the eyes, make a simple gesture with his hands and gain instant compliance.

“Super Nanny” was a British woman named Jo Frost who tamed kids who were totally out of control. She would come into a home when parents had given up hope, and provide logical, effective discipline that produced angels.

I’m not sure of the exact statistics, but I estimate that I have no idea what to do about 90% of the time. Even when I’m just having coffee with a friend and they tell me about some family situation they’re facing, I have nothing to tell them. I’d like to be profound, but I often draw a blank.

The thing that’s attractive about the three people mentioned above is that they always have answers. They’re confident. They write books about their techniques, suggesting that if we follow their advice, everything will be perfect.

They never say, “Wow . . . I’m stumped on this one. Good luck!”

Sometimes, that makes the rest of us feel like schmucks – especially when it comes to kids. We’re loving parents and grandparents, and would give our lives for these little people. In many ways, we do.

But in real life, scripted answers don’t always work. Kids are fluid. Just when we think we have them figured out and know what to do, they come up with another angle that catches us off guard.

I’m here to celebrate the majority.

We don’t have to be perfect parents. These kids don’t come home from the hospital with instructions and a warranty. We figure it out as we go, feeling inadequate and wondering if we’re ruining our kids.

Our kids won’t turn out perfect, no matter what we do. If we expect that, we’ll be disappointed.

We need to accept our imperfections, admitting them while striving to grow. We need to “be there.” We need to love unconditionally. Our kids need to see how we negotiate life when it’s uncertain.

We need to give ourselves grace.

The Super Nanny was 33 years old when she started the show – and she’s never had kids of her own. I read today that nine years later, she’s thinking of starting a family.

Please, please make it a reality show where we get to see the real moments where her kids don’t know her reputation. We need to see how she handles the moments where she’s out of resources, low on energy, high on frustration and simply at her wit’s end. We need to see her handle a toddler who strips naked in the grocery store, asks “why?” for the hundredth time or washes his dad’s cell phone in the toilet.

If it’s true reality, she won’t be perfect – and we’ll be OK with that.

In fact, it might become our favorite show – because we’ll have a genuine look at what to do when life happens.

How about you . . . ever feel inadequate at your parenting skills?

11 Ways to Make Valentine’s Day Special For Your Kids

1. Look them in the eyes, and don’t rush to lose eye contact.

2. Hand them your phone and ask them to turn it completely off for the day.  Tell them, “You’ve got my full attention, and you’re more important than anybody who might call.”

3. Hug them for no reason.  Often.

4. Tell them stories about when they were little (even if they still are).  Go through photo albums and tell how you fell in love with them.

5. Number a page from 1 to 10 and put it on the fridge.  Tell them, “I’m going to think of 10 things today that I really, really like about you.  Whenever I do, I’m going to write it on the list.”

6. Go to a pet store and pet the puppies.

7. Leave notes for them where they’ll find them all day long.

8. When they want to read “just one more book,” read two.

9. Let them hear you complement them to someone else.

10. Ask them to draw you a picture, then put it in a frame and hang it where everyone can see it (instead of putting it on the fridge with a magnet).  Tell them that once a month, you want a new one.

11. Say it – often, and with conviction. “I love you – and you can’t change that, no matter what.

Your kids are older or grown-up?  The ideas still apply.

Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Why Kids Draw Big Nostrils

Have you ever noticed that whenever little kids draw adults, they usually include big nostrils?

There’s a reason for that. Think about a kid’s perspective.  When they’re about three feet tall, and they look up an adult that’s five or six feet tall . . . what do they see?

Nostrils.  Big nostrils.

When they’re looking straight up, it’s the first thing they notice.  From their vantage point, those nostrils are rather obvious. So, why wouldn’t they draw them?

Big nostrilsMakes sense.  But it got me thinking.

When adults have conversations with each other, they’re normally at the same level.  Even if there’s a difference in height, we can look each other in the eyes.  We connect.  We communicate.  It feels like an adult conversation.

Eye contact makes all the difference.

With kids, it’s different.  Adults tower over them, so it’s hard to have the same level of eye contact.  Sure, we get down and play with them.  But in the routine of day-to-day living, adults tend to talk down, while kids listen up.

I don’t want to put too much weight on this.  But I think it’s worth considering.

A friend is in a wheelchair because of a car accident years ago.  He was speaking to a group of young adults at our church once, and allowed people to ask any question they wanted about life in a wheelchair.  People wanted to know how to treat the disabled, whether they should open doors for them without asking – just common courtesy questions.

Someone asked, “Is there anything you’d like us to do differently?”  He responded, “When you’re holding an extended conversation with me, sit down so we can be at the same level and look each other in the eyes.”

I never thought of that.  But that’s what real conversation is all about – looking each other in the eyes. 

I think that applies to kids as well.  When we’re having an in-depth conversation with a child (especially our own), we need to get to their level so we can make that connection.

That might mean squatting down while we talk.  It might mean plopping them up on the kitchen counter so we can see the whites of their eyes, and they can see ours.  It means we’re able to see into each other’s soul.  Eye contact is an emotional hug that says, “You’re important to me.”

So I’m not suggesting that we have to do that in every conversation.  We just need to be aware of how often we do connect at that level, and how often we don’t.  Then make intentional choices based on what we discover.

Bottom line: My goal is that when my kids or grandkids draw pictures of me, it won’t be with huge nostrils.

It will be huge eyes – because that’s what they’re used to seeing.

ThoughtsComment here.

How Our Conversations Shape Our Kids

When our son was little, someone asked him, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

We expected him to say, “a fireman” or “a doctor” or “an astronaut.”

His answer surprised us all: “I want to be honest.”

Now, at age 32, Tim has fulfilled his childhood dream.  He’s one of the most honest people I know.

That doesn’t mean he’s always made good choices.  When you’re growing up, you make mistakes when you’re finding your path.  He didn’t always volunteer information – but when we asked, he told us the truth.

But honesty is simply a part of who he is.  It’s important to him.

I don’t know if he remembers giving that response, but he’s heard us tell that story often.  The more he heard it, the more real it became for him.

We’ve also pointed out how sensitive he was to the feelings of others when he was growing up – how he could just “sense” what was really going on inside a person.

That’s also who he is.  Now, he’s managing a restaurant near San Diego – and his intuitive skills have made his customer service world-class.

kidsAs kids, we were all influenced by what people said about us.  When someone pointed out a hidden skill or strength that we didn’t know we had, we listened.  The words stuck.  And if others pointed out the same thing, we began to believe it.

The opposite is also true.  If someone devalued us as a child or pointed out a negative trait that we hadn’t noticed, we listened.  The words stuck.  If others pointed out the same thing, we began to believe that, too.

Kids are impressionable.  Before they have skills of discernment, they believe what people say about them.

They believe the good words.

They believe the bad words.

They become what others see in them.

It’s not that different for adults, is it?  We tend to believe the perceptions of others, even if those perceptions are inaccurate.  People’s words can either give life to us, or they can steal it from us.

The Bible says, “The power of life and death is in the tongue.”

So, what does it mean?

  • Our kids are listening to what we say about them, even if we don’t realize it.
  • We need to acknowledge – to their face – the unique strengths we see in them.
  • We need to tell others – with our kids listening – about those same strengths.
  • We need to be intentional about the way we describe our kids – to them, and to others.
  • We need to avoid praising our kids for characteristics they don’t have, but that we hope they’ll get.  That’s flattery.  They sense it’s not true, and we lose integrity and influence with them.
  • We need to look for the strengths in the adults around us, and affirm them honestly in those areas.  People assume that adults don’t need encouragement, because they look like they have their act together.  They don’t.  Nobody does.  It’s part of being human, and we need each other.

Our words will make a difference in another person’s life, whether we know it or not.

Choose those words carefully.

Comments?

Keeping Your Kids Curious

Curious babyKids are naturally curious.  If you’ve spent any time around four-year olds, you know how many times they ask, “Why?”

Because of that curiosity, they explore.  When they discover how to do something they repeat it, over and over again. 

Nobody forces them; they do it for the sheer enjoyment of discovery. 

Most adults have lost that curiosity. We get busy with our lives and our work, and don’t have time to investigate.  After all, what we’re doing is working; why would we want to consider doing it differently?

So where did we lose it?

I think it often happens when kids try to be curious, but it’s not a positive experience for them. 

One psychologist says that there are three main reasons kids quit being curious:

    • Fear.  If a child doesn’t feel safe in his/her environment, they don’t have a secure comfort zone to return to after they’ve been exploring.  A family crisis makes kids uncertain, so they hang tight to whatever they can just to survive.
    • Disapproval.  If parents show disgust when their child comes in with muddy shoes, the kids will quit digging for earthworms and exploring the ground.
    • Absence.  When parents have their back, kids feel safe roaming.  But when parents are physically or emotionally absent, those kids lose the foundation from which they can explore their world.  They also don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with, which is what encourages them to stay curious.

So, how can we make sure our kids keep their curiosity as they move through life?  Here are 10 ways:

    1. Model curiosity. When they’re in the car with you, always take a different route home.  Order something new every time you go to a restaurant. Tell them it’s because you want to know what else is out there.
    2. Ask open-ended questions that allows them to think.  Instead of, “How was school?” ask, “Tell me something you learned today that you didn’t know yesterday.” Instead of, “Who’s you’re best friend?” ask, “What is it about your best friend that makes you want to hang out with them?”
    3. Whenever they demonstrate curiosity, affirm them.  “That’s so interesting – the way you look at that.  I love it when you observe things that nobody else sees.”
    4. Take a walk with them in a crowded area of your city, and listen for sounds that are not man-made – like birds chirping, water running or the wind blowing through trees.  Teach them the value of listening and observing their environment.
    5. Ask the journalist’s questions about everything: Who, What, Where, When, How and Why.
    6. Don’t get bored.  They’re watching.  Whenever you’re bored, acknowledge it, but use it as a trigger to explore something.  Help them develop that pattern.
    7. Teach them that failure is OK.  Failure means you’ve learned one more thing that doesn’t work, so you’re that much closer to success.  Then keep moving forward.  That’s a skill they’ll use the rest of their lives.
    8. Teach them the value of good questions, and make it safe to risk answering – and safe if they’re wrong as well.
    9. Limit their media input.  Sure, TV can be educational – but it’s simply handing them content, not whetting their appetite to explore and question their world.
    10. When they share discoveries with you, don’t add your knowledge to it.  Let it be their moment.  Ask probing questions about what they’ve shared, so they’ll want to explore more – and share more.

Try one or two of those ideas today.  It’ll help your kids stay curious – but it might awaken your curiosity as well!

 

What have you tried that keeps your curiosity sharp? Comment here:

 

Finding Common Ground

The phone call came on Monday: “Can you fly to Mexico City tomorrow to teach a seminar on Wednesday?”

Normally, my first thoughts are about logistics: arranging flights and hotels, finding the seminar location, and making the right contacts.  But this time, my first question was, “Do they speak English?”  My Spanish consisted of the one phrase my grandmother knew: Como se llama su gato? (What is your cat’s name?)

That question could be handy in the right circumstances, but I wasn’t sure I could turn it into a full-day seminar. 

I was assured that my participants would be English speaking.  The company sent a driver to pick me up at the airport for the three-hour drive to the hotel.  I assumed that he would be able to communicate in English, but that wasn’t the case. Somehow he figured out who I was and approached me as I entered the terminal.  He had written out a sign with my name on it, so I followed him to the parking structure.

The language barrier was immediately obvious.  I made a few simple comments about the crowded terminal, the weather, and the time of day.  He just smiled and raised his hands as if to say, “Sorry – I don’t understand.”  He also made a few comments; I smiled and raised my hands in the same way.

It was obvious that our long ride would be a quiet one.

When he didn’t understand me, I found myself speaking a bit louder or a bit slower, thinking that would make a difference.  But there was no getting around one simple fact:

            He didn’t speak my language, and I didn’t speak his.

Nothing I could do would change that.

Mostly we just smiled at each other.  We couldn’t understand each other’s words, but we could smile.  Somehow, that began to form a connection between us.  As he drove, we accepted the language barrier and looked for other ways to communicate.

The best moment came when he remembered something he had in his glove compartment.  He reached over, fumbled through a pile of cassette tapes and pulled one out.  His huge smile appeared when he showed me one that he had obviously made himself with the words “American Music” written on the label with a blue marker.

We both laughed as he proudly inserted the tape and turned up the volume.  Who would have thought that old Sonny and Cher songs could be the common ground between two people?

To communicate effectively with my driver, I had three choices:

  1. I could learn Spanish.
  2. He could learn English.
  3. We could find some other common ground.

Option 1 would work in future situations, but not in that moment.

Option 2 assumes that it’s the other person’s responsibility to make the conversation work.

Option 3 can make effective communication a reality: finding common ground.

black-and-white-baby-togetherEveryone is human, which means they share a number of life experiences and emotions.  Those similarities can be the touch points that connect people at the heart.

A lot of people feel like they have to be really smart or well-read to be a good conversationalist. 

There’s an easier way:

Instead of trying to impress another person, try understanding them.  Look for the common ground between you, no matter how different they are.

Try it today with your boss – a stranger – your spouse – your kids – your colleagues.  Look for what unites you, not for what divides you.

It’s the foundation of every healthy relationship.

10 Things Our Kids Need to Hear Every Week (no matter what their age)

10.  There’s nobody in the world exactly like you.

9.   I can’t get over how awesome it is to have you as my kid.

8.   You make a difference.  You can always make a difference.

7.   You’re valuable – not because of what you do, but simply because you’re you.

6.   What you think matters to me – whether I agree or not.

5.   Nobody’s perfect – give yourself some grace. It’s OK to make mistakes.

4.   Spending a day with you is an awesome day for me.

3.   Don’t let other people’s opinion of you define you.

2.   I believe in you.

1.   You can’t make me not love you – no matter what.  Ever.

baby with headphones

Is Technology Stealing Our Human Moments?

Saturday was “Daddy and Me Snow Day” at my 5-year old granddaughter, Elena’s school.  It was one of those events where they truck in snow and form it into multiple sledding flumes on a grassy hillside.  They also had a separate area for building snowmen and having snowball fights.

Dad distracted

Since Daddy was on a business trip, I got the privilege of taking her.

 Best.  Time.  Ever.

It was pretty chaotic, but really well-organized.  Dads and their kids would line up behind a roped-off area for sledding, while teachers handed out plastic sleds.  Elena went by herself first, then we went together, and finally we raced side-by-side (she won, of course).

Free hot chocolate and marshmallows kept everyone occupied, and teachers documented the event with their cameras.

A few minutes before it was over, they corralled everyone into a building where we sang a few songs and watched some dads get embarrassed on stage.  At the end, they showed the pictures they had been taking throughout the event so we could all see ourselves.

That’s when it got interesting.

One picture showed a line of dads with their kids, waiting in line for the sled run.  There were about 7 or 8 dads in line, and their kids were waiting with them.

Dad distractedAll of the dads – every one – was looking at their phone.

My first thought was, “Really?”

My second thought was, “Did I do that?”  Fortunately, I hadn’t this time – but I’ve done it many times in the past.

My final thought was, “Why do we feel the need to constantly stay connected, even while we’re at event that’s designed to celebrate our relationships with our kids?”

 

It used to be that when we had to stand in a line, we only had two options:

  • We could think.
  • We could talk to people around us.

Our technology seems to have replaced our thinking time where we ponder situations and come up with creative ideas.  At the same time, we don’t make casual conversation the way we used to, just for the simple pleasure of human connection.

Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of Crazy Busy says that two things are required to have a human moment:

  • Physical presence
  • Attention

With technology, we’re missing the physical presence

When we’re checking our phone while spending time with our kids, we’re missing attention.

Only 7% of our communication takes place through words.  38% is tone of voice, and 55% is body language.  So when we’re focused on our electronic communication, we’re missing 93% of what takes place in a human moment.

No wonder we misunderstand each other so often!  We’re communicating through words alone – transmitting information, but missing out on human connections.

I’m not faulting those dads.  I’ve done the same thing – it’s become part of our culture.

What I’m doing is recommitting to having human moments.  I want to look in Elena’s eyes and see her heart.  I want to watch the subtle facial cues that bond us together.

I don’t want an email relationship with the most important people in my life.

I want human moments with them.  And I want them as often as possible.

 

Agree?  (Comment below, or under “leave a comment” at the top of this post)

 

 

 

 

The Pictures on the Fridge Don’t Match Our Decor

We moved into our house about six years ago.  It was a “fixer-upper” – structurally sound with a great layout, but hadn’t been updated since the 70’s. 

Kids drawings on fridge

The walls were covered with textured, old-school wallpaper; the orange and brown tile in the entryway brought Woodstock-style flashbacks; the fluorescent lights in the bathroom provided motel-like ambiance.

At least the carpet wasn’t shag. (Worn and faded, but not shag.)

The kitchen was the worst. The oven was smaller than our old microwave. The microwave had a mechanical timer like a speedometer in an old Chrysler. Peeling linoleum seemed to match the peeling cabinets, and the sink was . . . well, frightening.

We had more time than money, so we were planning to do everything in the house ourselves. But the kitchen needed went beyond our abilities. We needed help. We needed a professional.

So we hired Josh.

Josh is one of those people whose passion leaks out in their work. He didn’t come in with his design expertise and drop a kitchen on us . . .

 . . . He listened.

Somehow, he took what was in our heads and made it happen. Sometimes he would just stand quietly with his eyes closed for a minute or so, forming a design in his head. Then he would grab a pad and start scribbling, show it to us and say, “This is what you want, right?”

It was.

Josh is a perfectionist – but he’s also an artist. He supervised the construction to make sure everything was perfect. Walls were moved, doorways were expanded, and the ceiling was raised. Hardwood floors and recessed lighting provide a frame for the room. In the end, it was a showcase kitchen.

We still haven’t gotten to the entry tile, and the fluorescent lights still flicker in our bathroom. But the kitchen is a work of art.

So what’s the problem?

We’ve added artwork that doesn’t match.

It’s on the fridge.

It’s from our grandchildren.

And it’s our favorite part of the kitchen.

Kids drawing on fridgeJosh gave us our dream kitchen, and it’s a killer design.  But really, he didn’t give us a room to admire and showcase; he gave us a tool for building memories – a place where life happens.

In our entryway, people notice the tile.  In the bathroom, people notice the lights.

In our kitchen, people relax and connect.  It’s a place of warmth.  Why?

Because of the pictures on the fridge that don’t match anything.  Those pictures were drawn by our favorite little artists, who put the same passion into their design as Josh did in our kitchen.

Josh understands that more than ever.  He and his bride bought a fixer-upper, and have been rebuilding it over time.  When it’s finished, I’m sure it will be a masterpiece.

But they also just had their first baby.  Which means it won’t be long before they have pictures on their fridge that don’t match anything.

And those pictures will be the first thing they show their guests.

They’re a reminder of what matters most.

 

Comment below – or scroll up to “Leave a comment” under the title at the top.

 

Don’t Forget the Memories

“If your house caught on fire, what would you take with you on the way out the door?”

Mature romantic couple looking at photos

We’ve all heard that question, and we all have similar answers:

  • Family members and pets
  • Photo albums (pictures of family members and pets)
  • Special mementos (things made by family members (not pets) that have special meaning)

I don’t know anyone who says, “I’d grab the couch,” or “I paid a lot for that ceiling fan – it’s coming with me.”

It we can replace it, we leave it behind.  What we paid for it doesn’t matter.  The value doesn’t come from the cost; it comes from the relationship it represents.

We rescue the things that are irreplaceable – the things that connect us to others.

Mature romantic couple looking at photosMy wife has crafted photo albums that cover our entire marriage.  They include hundreds of pictures of the things we’ve done together, of our kids and grandkids, of our friends.  They show special events and significant moments that have brought us to today.  With the comments she’s added, they represent a journal of our lives.

They’re awesome.

Whenever someone wants to know about some event from the past – when something happened, who was involved, what we were doing – she grabs the appropriate album.  Within seconds, we have the answer we’re looking for.

But it doesn’t stop there.  We find ourselves browsing through a few other pages as old memories capture our attention.

“Hey, look at that!  Remember when you had those sideburns?  And that curly perm is crazy!  I don’t remember your hair being that color . . .”

We’re reminded of memories we had forgotten.

That’s a good thing.

It’s not healthy to live in the past, yearning for the “good old days.”  But the richness of life comes when our past provides meaning for our present.

That’s why we study history; remembering where we’ve been gives context for where we are.

On our deathbed, we won’t be focusing on the colors we picked for our living room.  We’ll think about the conversations we had there.

We won’t think about how our yard was landscaped; we’ll think about the people we played games with there.

The vacation scenery won’t matter as much as who came with us on the trip.

We’ll remember the people we made those memories with.

Every day, we make memories – whether we notice them or not.  How do we make sure we don’t forget our most important memories?

  1. By being fully present in the present.  The next time your family gathers, give each person the give of undistracted attention.  Look them in the eye, and don’t rush to get to the next activity.
  2. By intentionally exploring the past.  Grab a photo album and look through it with someone close to you.  Relive events, tell stories, and refresh your memories.

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and overlook the richness of our lives.

Let’s make memories that we won’t forget.

 

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Vacuum Lines of Love

The best part of vacuuming is making lines.  No matter what direction they go, vacuum lines shout that the carpet is clean. I’ve often thought that if I would just drag a stick across the rug in a pattern, people would think it was freshly vacuumed.

Vacuum lines in carpet

Over the years I’ve tried different patterns to make sure the lines are symmetrical or creative or expressive.  I almost feel like it’s half-science, half-art.  You want people to walk in and see the lines . . . so they know you’ve cleaned for them.

But it doesn’t last long.

After a day or so, the lines are gone, replaced with footprints.  Usually, when I see the footprints, I think, “Oh, now I have to vacuum again.”  It’s like something that needs to be fixed.

If the carpet has lines, it feels like the whole house is in order.

Vacuum lines in carpetBut one morning, a couple of years ago, it was different.

It was a Sunday morning.  As I walked out of the bedroom and looked into the living room, there were no lines.  There were footprints — hundreds of them.  It was the exact opposite of the perfection I strive for.

But it made me smile.

They were little footprints, not big ones.  They came from the day before when our granddaughters, Averie and Elena (age 6 and 3 a the time), had spent hours with me in that room.   The foam blocks had become castles as Averie told non-stop stories of dragons and princesses and kings and moats.  The wooden train cars kept Elena occupied as she scooted animals and trees and signs across the tracks.  We talked and laughed and played until dinner.  Mostly, we loved.

The room had been filled with shrieks of delight with wrestling and pillow fights and “tickle bugs.”  It was a room of giggles and joys and memories being born.

It’s what that room was for.

The next morning, there were no lines.  But instead of the usual frustration, there was a deep satisfaction with what had happed in that room.  The footprints were a joyful reminder of what the room was really for.

Now, I still make lines when I vacuum.  But when little people are coming, vacuuming isn’t to get rid of the footprints.

It’s to prepare for them.

 

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Why We Don’t Have To Be Perfect Parents

Do you ever feel like a bad parent?

Sleeping dad with baby

I’m amazed how many parents are highly successful in their career, reaching the pinnacle of achievement and winning awards for the performance – but when they come home, they feel like a failure.  Maybe not all the time, but often enough to think, “Why can’t I figure this parenting thing out?”

Kids don’t come with instructions.  I remember bringing our daughter home from the hospital.  We were surrounded by support, and family and friends pitched in to make the transition less painful.

But soon, they left.  We had this adorable, tiny little girl in our house, and we were clueless.

And terrified.

Sleeping dad with babyFortunately, we (like most parents) began to figure it out as we went.  We made mistakes – lots of them.  We usually didn’t realize they were mistakes until it was too late.

Sometimes we wondered if we were ruining our kids by the mistakes we made.

We read books.  We listened to advice from people we trusted (often conflicting advice).  We swapped stories with other young parents.

We really wanted to do it right.  And we did a lot of things right.  And we kept making a lot of mistakes.  We were just afraid that if we made too many mistakes, we’d mess up the kids.

Looking back, we recognize that our kids didn’t need a greenhouse, where everything was perfect.  They needed a safe place to learn how to handle an imperfect world.

An imperfect home with imperfect parents helps kids learn to handle real life.  They learn about what to do with their emotions, and how to disagree.  They learn what forgiveness looks like when they mess up.  They learn to apologize by being apologized to.

They learn grace.

Parenting is an important task, because the stakes are so high.  Sure, we need to protect our kids.  But we also have to prepare them to handle life on their own.

The older they get, the more we need to trust the journey.  Someday, they’ll be independent.  Will they have what it takes to survive?

If so, it’s not because they grew up with perfection.

It’s because they grew up in the messiness of real relationships that taught them to negotiate life.

As a parent, that gives me hope.  I don’t have to be a perfect parent.

  • I need to care consistently.
  • I need to love unconditionally.
  • I need rock-solid devotion to them, no matter what they do.
  • I need to believe in them when they can’t believe in themselves.
  • I need to make mistakes, and then demonstrate how to handle mistakes.

Our kids are grown now.  We still make mistakes with them.  But they still don’t need us to be perfect.

They need us to be real.

When that happens, maybe they learn to do the same.

 

What else do kids need from parents to be ready for the “real world?” Comment below: