Archived Ideas for ‘Philosophy’

IDEA 55: COMMUNICATE

Sep
2012

Birthday_invite

Birthday parties with small children in the house can be amazing events. Kid parties are, at best, a fulfilling creative outlet, and at the very least a heartfelt celebration of life. If you have children, you are probably compelled to do something special for each and every birthday.

And then one day you look around and see that all those kids have grown up. And they have different ideas of how one should celebrate a birthday. In a busy family, it’s easy to find that you’ve allowed life to drift away from some of your old traditions. Kids that once had a hard time falling asleep the night before a holiday now may seem not to really care too much about it. And as a mom you do your best to morph, to go with the flow. And that’s really just fine and no one should spend a single second worrying about it.

But even if you don’t feel like the ringleader you once were, guess what. You still are one. And you may be surprised that although a few of the rules have changed, these people are still your family and they really do respect your wises to make things happen.

This was evidenced to me when my middle son was turning 19. Our dinner table, once used to hosting our family of five almost every evening of the week, is now lucky to see three. With the kids’ jobs, school, activities and friends, most nights we are missing one or two. My son turning 19 was not going to be home for dinner on his birthday and I was resigned to lose this last vestige of childhood birthdays, the family birthday dinner. I was busy, and maybe a little bit of me was afraid if I pushed it, I would be disappointed to realize no one really cared. By letting the busy-ness be the culprit, I’d be able to avoid feeling silly, or let down.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how bad letting it go would make me feel. And in poignant contrast to all the emphasis I put on communicating, I couldn’t think of a way to bring it up to my family.

So, I surreptitiously asked around to find a night when everyone would be available. And when I found one, I decided not to leave it up to chance. I created a sign inviting everyone to the birthday dinner on that night, and posted it where I was sure everyone would see it.

Then I made a cake. My daughter made a cake. My other son and his girlfriend made two pies. And we had our party. It wasn’t such a big deal, (although we did have enough desserts for a week). But it was just exactly right.

And here’s the best part. That 19 year old really had a great time. We opened cards and small gifts and stayed at the table long into the night. And I see now that I wouldn’t have been the only one who would have felt a loss if we had decided we had simply outgrown the family birthday dinner.

Birthday_boy

IDEA 53: HOUSE RULES

May
2012

House_Rules

I have had teens for a few years now, and if you have small children, I will tell you, things really don’t slow down one bit. In fact I think they speed up. And it really does seem like five minutes ago these giants were toddlers. One day, you look around and realize there are all kinds of things that somehow you forgot to tell them.

The good news is, it is never too late to talk to your kids. And a great way to do it is to post some House Rules. Now, these rules will vary widely depending on the ages of your kids, and what’s going on at the moment. So it’s not a bad idea to see this as an ongoing thing. Maybe renew the rules each year at the same time, like school’s end.

I came across this idea when we were having what I felt was an uncomfortable dialog at the dinner table one night. Sometimes we buy different snacks for each kid to take in their lunches. One kid’s bag of chips was raided by another kid’s friend who was over. And Kid #1 was grousing about it to kid #2. I knew the discussion was making me uncomfortable but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Then it occurred to me. Our house is supposed to be one of grace and cordiality. I would not expect a kid to tell their friend they can’t snack on something any more than I would be rude to one of my guests. And my feeling was fundamental enough that I felt I should declare it in writing. These kids were almost old enough to fly the coop–how could they not have picked up this oh-so-basic doctrine? Instead of ruminating on that one, I just posted the rules.

When I began addressing the first issue, I thought of others that bared recognizing at this juncture. But I felt the need to keep it short. Four rules. As it turns out, we have not had to renew or revise the rules yet. But if and when we do, they will be amended.

Here are our House Rules, that I printed out and taped to the kitchen cupboard. Yours will probably be different. But I will say that I’m glad I spoke up. And every one of my family members, including my husband, thanked me for doing so.

HOUSE RULES:

1. We treat guests like guests.
Any guest in this house has first priority when it comes to sharing. No one is obligated to tell a guest they can’t help themselves to something. At the same time, guest or not, we do not tolerate anything illegal, hurtful, or damaging to the house or things in it.

Example: Someone is drinking a liquid near the piano. Please say: My mom will kill me if we have liquids near the piano, drink it over here.

Example #2: Guest is munching on a snack that you realize belongs to someone’s lunch. Rather than actually taking it out of guest’s hand, apologize (LATER) to sibling. Note: In future, mark all lunch stuff as such so any dummy can see that it’s off limits. And stow it somewhere that’s not right out there in the open. Do not force your family mates to be the food cop around their guest. It is totally not cool.

Example #3: Guest thinks it would be a good idea to find and drink alcohol in the house. Tell guest that is SO not happening.

2. Respect others and yourself.
Think for a half second before you say or do something. How would that sound or feel to you?

Example: The kitchen is clean. You create a new mess. Clean up after yourself.

Example #2: The kitchen is kind of a mess. You add a little to the mess. Now, before you leave the scene, clean up not just your mess, but some or all of the previous mess. Others have done it for you plenty of times. Just a little hint of what it’s like being a grown-up.

3. Always call for a ride. If you are in any kind of trouble, call us. If you think there may be trouble, walk away and call us. Do not ever drive drunk. Do not ever get in the car with a friend who thinks (s)he can drive drunk. Don’t buy into your friends saying you’re better off not going home. You are always better off coming home. And we will vow to keep that promise.

4. Act, live and speak with love in your heart. It shows.

xo,
Mom


IDEA 52: HONOR THE ROAD TRIP

Apr
2012

Souvenir

For many spring breaks our family of five has hit the road for the annual Road Trip.

Once my oldest began college, he had a different spring break week. So, we just hadn’t gone in what seemed like a very long time. But this year, we decided to go with what’s left of our dwindling family.

My middle son is 18. And I’m sure it’s no surprise that a few days before we were to leave he began making his case to stay home. And no one I complained to, (husband, office-mates) gave me the satisfaction of even humoring me, let alone agreeing that I was right, that he should feel excited, or at the very least obligated to go.

But here’s the thing. I really wanted my son to go with us. Not because I didn’t trust leaving him for a week (with his older brother and our dog), but because I just wanted very much to be with him. And somehow, miraculously, he saw the light and came along.

Not surprisingly, the road trips, whose photos fill to overflowing my many photo albums, really are some of the most dear memories we have. He’ll never admit it to me, but I think this son, in the very back of his mind, cherishes those memories too.

So, we headed off to Texas because we hadn’t done that trip, and it was somewhere we could drive to and back in a week (which is, of course, the first requirement of a Road Trip).

Several hours speeding along America’s highways gives one ample time to ruminate, and I began thinking about how different a road trip with grown children is than one with little kids. I remember one trick that worked so well when they were little. I actually wrapped six small “gifts”, two for each kid. The point was, just when things would get out of hand I would distract them, one child getting to open something. It would be something the whole lot could play with, like a deck of cards, or colored pens and paper. They were things I would have brought along anyway, plopped in a bag, but the fact that they were wrapped like presents put a whole different spin on things. It got their attention and made their trip much more exciting. Now, with teenagers, I brought a different kind of trail mix for each, (Target has an awesome variety) and marked big bottles of water with their initial. It’s not wrapped prizes, but the kids still respond to the love.

Water_bottles

I’ll be the first to admit there was a bit of nostalgia to planning this trip. So I tucked in a binder we’ve been adding to for years. The binder is filled with drawing paper. And there’s room for a zip-lock bag of pencils, erasers and colored pencils. A big rubber-band keeps it all together. And it’s usually packed with a few clipboards. This book of drawings spans many years of car trips and it’s priceless. I was happy to see the attraction of making drawings is still there, as my daughter sketched a lovely rendition of her shoe.

Car_Art

This same smart daughter also came up with what I thought was a dandy car activity. She took a close-up (well, as close as you can get while speeding along the highway) photo of every different color car we passed. The object being to make a rainbow of all the car pictures at the end of the trip.

We’ve gotten smarter about car food, as we kept the snacks generally healthy, and stopped for the most photogenic smoothies, one strawberry, one Very Berry and one mango–all with different color straws.

Smoothies

And even though we’re all so “mature”, there’s something about a car trip that just brings out the family in you. We all marvel at the amazing things you can see as you roll along. We saw a hot-rod called “Godzlla” being hauled in a trailer. We realized we were in windmill territory when we saw three semis each carrying one blade of a windmill, hitting home just how gigantic those things really are.

Windmill_Truck

And we saw some cattle standing and walking along in what must have been a large, very shallow body of water. As the animals moved in the late afternoon light, it looked as if they were walking on water.

Honor the road trip tradition. You won’t be sorry you did.