The first year that both kids were off to school we started a little tradition. Jeremy and I dropped them off for a day of learning and then skipped off to a brunch date. We absolutely love brunch, so it seemed fitting to celebrate this newfound freedom with one of our favorite things.
This year was a little different. It was our last first day of school. With a tinge of sadness, we decided to book end our tradition (over pancakes and eggs, of course) talking about all the fabulous memories and the things we’ve learned (so far) being parents to these two awesome human beings. In the moment, we each named one thing that we’ve learned.
Jen… “Love, respect, and value your kids. Listen to them. Learn from them. Have discussions with them. Elicit their opinions.”
Starting this when they’re young creates a great precedent for when they’re older. And if there’s one thing that teenagers want it’s that they want to be respected and valued. They don’t want to be treated like little kids anymore. Also, I find it fascinating (and a little scary sometimes) to hear what goes on in the mind of a teenager.
Jeremy… “Recognize the seasons.”
Parenting a five year old needs to look different than parenting a fifteen year old. That might sound like common sense, but’s it’s not easy to make those transitions in the midst of life. And just so you know, seventeen year olds don’t like to be talked to like they’re six.
I found it interesting how the one lesson we each named that day went hand-in-hand. Of course, there’s many more things we’ve learned, and if you asked us today what the one thing we’ve learned is, we might name something else. There’s so many things to learn when it comes to parenting!
I recently got COVID handed down to me by my daughter. I don’t blame her. I blame, well, I don’t know who to blame. It just is what it is. After 3 days of feeling like someone placed a burning rock in the back of my throat, a positive test result confirmed what I already knew. With an upcoming vacation that my husband and I were determined to not miss, I was banished to my room to wait out a 10-day-from-onset-of-symptoms isolation in hopes that he wouldn’t get it. I felt like a leper, an untouchable. Hoping that the dog gets fed and the dishes get washed, I’m twiddling my thumbs with West Wing on repeat. By end of day 2 of isolation, I was starting to turn the corner of symptoms. Day 2. What do I do to pass the time? West Wing, iPhone games, and magazines aren’t piquing my interest anymore. I’m just plain bored.
Looking out my windows, my only access to the outside world, I start to daydream what Day 11 is going to be like. I’m going to bust out of here that a flying superhero about to save the day. Hopefully this pent up energy will get me back to my January goal of closing my exercise rings every day. No one told my Apple watch that I got COVID, so it’s been yelling at me everyday. It’s even resorted to giving me pep talks to at least achieve my stand goal. Sorry, watch, I’m just a lazy loser living out my days in pajamas and Netflix.
When I moved back from South Africa, I heard all about the Instant Pot and how great of an invention it is, so when I found one at my local Dirt Cheap for well, dirt cheap, I thought I scored. After making 3 or 4 meals with it, I wasn’t happy with any of the results. Neither was my family. I put it in my pantry thinking I might use it to make yogurt or elderberry syrup. That was probably 9 or 10 months ago.
The other day I started thinking, “I should sell that Instant Pot. It’s taking up way too much room in my pantry. I’ve never made elderberry syrup, and the last time I made yogurt was probably 10 years ago.” So I sold it. For more than I paid for it.
This little story isn’t just about my woeful adventures with the Instant Pot. No, this got me thinking about much bigger things like clearing the clutter…physically, spiritually, mentally. So many times we keep things hidden away “just in case” when really we need to get rid of them to create space for more. More time. More relationships. More of what God has for us.
Physically I do this by regularly taking inventory of what’s in my house and thinking back to the last time I used it. I also try to be super intentional of what I bring into my house.
Mentally I do this by having regular times for reading, yoga, prayer and meditation, and exercise. I’m working on incorporating more times of physical creativity, because I’ve noticed how much this opens up space in my brain.
Spiritually I do this by keeping short accounts and forgiving quickly. I’m also working on laughing at myself more. There’s something deeply spiritual about joy and laughter.
What about you? How do you clear the clutter in your life?
5. Learning how to do new things. I’ve had to do this a couple of times recently, and I’ve realized just how much I like the satisfaction of learning how to do something new.
6. Evening walks. It’s probably my favorite time of day to walk. I think it reminds me of Summers spent at my grandmother’s house.
7. Family movie nights. Anyone seen Hamilton yet on Disney+? So great!
8. Options? I do like them, but man. There are SO many choices for electric companies. In South Africa, we had one. My contract with my current provider is ending, so I’m on the hunt for a good plan.
9. Homemade ice cream. That’s EG’s new thing. Man. So good!
10. Fireworks! We saw a fabulous social distanced fireworks show last weekend. My mind drifted to all the years celebrating American Independence Day in South Africa with our dinky fireworks. Such special memories.
In my years of working with people, I’ve seen how the empowerment process involves a slow release of control but not abandonment. In helping people become stronger and more confident, there’s a process of walking with them. It’s not very honoring to have a role, a job, a title dumped in your lap, leaving you to figure it all out. On the contrary, it’s also not honoring to be micro-managed every step of the way. Neither one of those are empowering. Instead, I think it’s kind of like driving a manual. When you’re in first, if you don’t give it any gas or not enough, the car dies. If you give it too much, you lurch forward rather quickly. Neither are pleasant. Instead, you want to maintain a good tension of pressing down on the gas while easing your foot off the clutch. The right tension ensures a great result.
If you want to be empowering, you have to engage the tension and be willing to walk with people and then let go when the time is right.