family life / parenting / philosophy

my mantras: guiding thoughts to orient my days

You know when you have those little revelatory moments, those “I’ll never forget this all important life lesson”? It was hard won, hard learned, and the moment it entered your existence, you’d remember forever.

And a few months later, you can’t remember when or where you learned it.

I write the big ones down — occasionally bumping into them on my iPod lists, reminding me of what I know to be true, reading and rereading them.

Some of them I’m apparently not reading enough. Others I think I’ve got licked.

Not necessarily in order of importance, but rather, in order of my recording, I share them with you.

1. Harsh words make hurt feelings, not healthy habits.

My voice becomes my children’s inner voice.

Which is too bad on one hand really, cause I’m aware that my inner voice has a few unhealthy recordings. I’m workin on that. My inner voice has to retrain itself as I see a reflection in my children’s inner voices.

Watching my four, I see their personality differences. I’ve come to believe that ‘nature vs nurture’ can’t be quantified. My children’s natural states are not defined by me or my genetics, no matter how much or in what way I nurture them. They are who they are. They each receive my words differently.

But my voice will always carry weight in their minds. In reaction to me, or in agreement with me, they regularly respond.

For this reason, parenting is internal work. Hard work. Uncomfortable work. And sometimes painful work. But work that always pays in reward.

2. Orderliness is not our calling, relationships are.

And if you’ve walked over the threshold of my home, you will see I have learned to embrace this truth, in all its dusty imperfections.

The floors were washed a week ago, but, honestly, how could you tell? The bathrooms are cleaned once a week. I assign that chore on Saturdays. It all gets cleaned; it just only looks clean Saturday afternoon.

Gone are the days when the taps are shone or the hand towel is straightened on the rod before a visitor’s arrival. Priorities. Took me years to understand these priorities.

Orderliness does help clear the mind and does keep me organized and productive.

Get that head clear, and clean of inconsistencies and imperfections, but remember, this is the day you’ve got your six year old. Right now. These are the memories you’ll remember–his memories and yours.

Perfection won’t happen; good enough might be the right goal. Try to embrace the messiness of it all.

3. Give them grace.

From a mom who is known for ‘life lesson talks’ (so named by the resident teenager), sometimes an explanation of their disrespectful behaviour (or a lecture in their minds) doesn’t need a long explanation.

Give them grace.

This one I’m not naturally good at. I’m good at soliloquys and five point essays.

Well, I’m good at grace some days; I’m mostly good at it in front of other people. Better at it when the sun is shining, the schedule is proceeding as planned, everyone woke up on the happy side of their beds, and only one trouble is happening at a time.

I’m sure you’re surprised. I’ve learned I’m not the exception.

The level of grace I give myself is the level of grace I can give to others, so it’s worth a bit of self-assessment to determine if I’m being kind to myself.

They’re never going to be perfect. Me neither. So embrace some of the messiness in my life, and their little lives too.

4. I am a child of God and a gift to my parents. I can have the power God has given me to do something. I ought to do my duty. I will do what is right.

This is a quote from Charlotte Mason. That book reading, nature lovin, dictation and narration focused educator of school girls in Old England.

This was a quote that my family repeated as a daily morning mantra for a while.

Our children’s days have meaning, their work has a purpose, their contribution has value. They will find their self-worth when they know they’re doing worthy things. Things that are helpful to the family, edifying to their friends, and helping others. They’ll find it when they pursue their unique interests and work at developing them. They’ll find it when they complete a task they don’t care to do with their best efforts. And they’ll find it in my morning cuddles and encouragements whether they’re doing these things or not.

I want my kids to know that they were created, placed on this earth for a reason, and are a special gift to me.

5. Life does not have to go fast to be meaningful.

Fast gets stuff done. But fast is harried in my books. And when I don’t have time to think about what I’m doing right now, but always living in the next moment and planning the next thing, I’m not happy.

We’re not the only culture in the world, the westernized, North American super-productive one. There’s a few other folks on the planet, and we gain insight watching what’s effective in them. Some cultures are pretty slow, and though they aren’t as efficient and productive, they are more openly engaged with one another. Some cultures focus their energies on la dolce vita, a balance between work and play. They know that a happy life requires guilt-free playing. There’s a lot to be learned from others.

Fast gets stuff done. But being in the moment makes us happy. One has to live, rather than exist. So carpe diem!

When once I thought I could be done learning lessons that this life has intended to teach me, I have learned, there is no stop. There is always another thing to learn or a lesson repeated till its learned in a new way. In the meantime, I’ll keep reminding myself of them as I write them down.


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