≡ Menu

Making a Difference, Take Two

I originally wrote this article yesterday. However, as I was editing, it was accidentally deleted. I was not happy. [understatement!!] For a while, as I wallowed in my frustration, I lost sight of the message in the lesson I learned from the experience I wanted to share in my post.

I am not very good at recapturing the essence of a really well-written post. But thanks to Amy and Alison, I have the first few paragraphs from Google Reader. Thanks to me quoting some of the article on my personal blog when I linked to my MM post, I have a few more paragraphs. And thanks to God who is gracious and kind, I have a closer-than-usual re-creation of my post.

And in the light of a new day, regardless of the wording, cheers to learning lessons and making a difference!

————

I have been stymied about what to write for MM lately. The ebb and flow of my creative juices are just at low tide right now, and I haven ?t been able to completely figure out why.

Regardless of the reason for my lack of posting, today [yesterday] I had an experience that begs to be written. I share this not to showcase my family in any way, but simply because for me it was an eye-opening experience that can be applied to multiple situations in life. I believe there is wide-spread application that fits within most people ?s circumstances.

This [yesterday] morning started out normally enough – tired mom and tired kids dragging themselves out of bed to teach / attend seminary (in our home) and to get ready for school. Seminary ends; the rush to finish getting ready commences. And suddenly we have a volcano eruption of emotional outbursts on our hands. Four daughters and one mom ? all fighting to maintain control of the hot lava.

Actually, one daughter wisely headed to higher ground to avoid the overflow. And this mama held it together pretty well. (Ahem, this time!)

These moments are just not pretty. Sometimes life is messy. Life becomes complicated. You get upset over little things and just can ?t pinpoint a reason why or find the needle that tipped things over the edge.

Here is how the rest of our morning went: Most of the girls were ready, so Ray took the three girls to school on his way to work. But it seemed nothing was going right for one of my daughters. I did what I could to make things easier for her. But by the time we left, it was obvious she would be late for school. She knew it, and the realization caused more tears.

And it occurred to me: She doesn’t need to rush into school late, rush to her locker, rush to first period, and then try to slow down and take a really big test. She doesn’t need to face a bunch of questions about whether or not she’s all right. She needs time. She needs attention. She needs love.

So I “kidnapped” my daughter. I gave her an escape clause. I called the school. We went for a drive. We came home and played Scattergories. And then I took her to school. She went to school happy and relaxed. She went to school knowing that sometimes it’s okay to throw out the “should’s.” She went to school knowing that her mom loved her and would drop everything to help her.

I do not consider myself a rigid parent, but I am a pretty strong stickler when it comes to things like school attendance and the like. I am also a “checklist” kind of person. On the other hand, we are frequently a flexible and spontaneous family. However, this type of excursion with my daughter is not something we normally do.

The split-second decision to take a right turn instead of a left… heading away from the school instead of toward it… made an impact. Love and time to calm down when everything is going wrong are way more important than a big test at school or being there on time. I find that sometimes in my rush to accomplish everything that needs to be done, I forget to pause and take advantage of these moments. This experience was a reminder to pay closer attention to the various needs of those I love.

Today [yesterday] I made a difference. I made a big difference.

And it matters.

It matters to my daughter. It matters to me. It matters to my family. These few hours changed the course of our day. It contained the lava and calmed the after-shocks of the eruption.

And so I wonder: How often am I too caught up in the daily necessities? How often am I willing to drop the to-do list to meet the needs of others? How often am I taking advantage of these moments to really, truly spend time with my kids? How often would the “kidnap / escape” response fit a situation better than the “checklist” response?

How can we make a difference – doing the little things that inexorably shift a mood, an attitude, a life – every day of our lives?

My daughter can make up the test she missed this [yesterday] morning, but we would not have been able to make up the time we spent together healing hearts.

————

P.S. The results of yesterday’s intervention continue to be felt. This morning everything was smooth sailing!

{ 11 comments… add one }

  • Michelle D April 21, 2010, 2:29 pm

    Due to technical difficulties and frustrations, this article has been reposted and can be discussed here. Thanks to those who helped!

  • Alison Moore Smith April 25, 2010, 3:46 pm

    Michelle, I think it’s all good now! :) Thanks for your patience.

  • Alison Moore Smith April 25, 2010, 7:38 pm

    This is beautiful. :) Good on you, Michelle.

    A friend of mine in Florida often had “mental health day” for her kids when they couldn’t face school. We do this kind of thing a lot, because, to me, school is just a resource and if attending is going to be damaging to a kid, they don’t go.

  • jennycherie April 26, 2010, 12:54 am

    I am bummed to see the comments on the original thread are all gone. . . I can’t remember what I said! :shamed:

    Anyway, I think this was a great article. These transition times, especially when it means getting ready to leave to go somewhere are HUGE stress times in our home. It has improved recently simply because my husband and I are working more as a team, and, sadly, because he has been late recently (because it is really hard to get kids out of bed and moving when I have laryngitis). Most of the time, taking a “mental health day” is just not an option for us since both my husband and I have to get to work. I’d love to think that will change soon, but that is doubtful. Here are the questions though that really get me to thinking:

    How often am I too caught up in the daily necessities? How often am I willing to drop the to-do list to meet the needs of others? How often am I taking advantage of these moments to really, truly spend time with my kids? How often would the kidnap / escape ? response fit a situation better than the checklist ? response?

    How can we make a difference – doing the little things that inexorably shift a mood, an attitude, a life – every day of our lives?

    How often am I too caught up in the daily necessities?? ouch, frequently. Pot: Kettle as Me: Martha (no disrespect intended toward Martha, I think she is often horribly misunderstood–someone had to get dinner on the table, right?)
    I do notice that I tend to get caught up in what I need to “get done” instead of focusing on nurturing my children.

    How often am I willing to drop the to-do list to meet the needs of others? ? I really don’t know! We do frequently change course when necessary, but the to-do list does get in the way. :shamed:

    How often am I taking advantage of these moments to really, truly spend time with my kids??This is a *real* challenge and concern for me. We don’t have a lot of time together and it seems like a lot of our time together is eaten up in fixing dinner, doing homework and getting ready for bed. What I do see is that the little rituals of FHE, prayer & scripture and doing chores together are much more important times for being together, provided we keep the right spirit while we are doing it!

    How often would the kidnap / escape ? response fit a situation better than the checklist ? response?? Good question – is there a way to adapt this when staying home is not an option? I have on occasion taken a kid to work with me when I thought s/he would fall to pieces if s/he had to go to school, but I really try to avoid that for the precedent it sets. Plus, while I *love* what Michelle did and think it probably did a lot for their relationship and for calming things down, I also think many times that my kids need to learn to function in less than ideal situations. Is this really mean of me? I mean, we can’t stay home for every headache and stomachache and cranky day (and Michelle, I know that is *not* at all what you are suggesting), and I see many of my college age students who think they need to stay in bed for every minor, non-contagious ailment, so I want to be sure my kids know that they *can* make it through the day even if all is not 100% well. I am not sure if encouraging them to be strong or if it is just really insensitive. :shocked:

    How can we make a difference – doing the little things that inexorably shift a mood, an attitude, a life – every day of our lives??I would really love to hear ideas for this! At our house, when my husband and I are both in sync and handling things well, we can pretty easy help ease our kids into good moods, but things are not always ideal. I think sometimes I need a referee to blow the whistle and STOP me when *I* am the one who needs an attitude change! :confused:

  • Michelle D April 26, 2010, 8:47 am

    Thank you, Alison! I’m sorry the original comments were deleted, but hooray for fixing the problems!

    And thanks for your input, Jenny, especially for answering the questions. I didn’t really expect the discussion to reveal personal answers… just to get people thinking like I had the opportunity to do.

    For us, one of the reasons this “mental health day” was so effective was because it was so unusual. We just don’t often let our kids miss school (or part of school) for reasons other than illness. Our normal reaction is to take a little time to try to help calm the stress and the frustration, to talk through issues, and then basically to “take a deep breath and keep going.”

    I believe our kids (and Ray and I, too) have had some pretty pointed lessons over the past few years in learning to function in less-than-ideal situations. Lamaze breathing techniques are our number one choice of dealing with issues – whether it is emotional stress or mental fatigue or physical ailments. :smile: Taking a deep breath and trying to step back from the problem to view it more objectively are usually effective methods in reducing this type of angst.

    The other reason this worked for us is simply because of the “ironic, coincidental” timing. Even one week earlier, I would have been rushing out the door for my CNA class. I would have (hopefully! … but unfortunately, not always) picked up on the bad mood vibe, but I wouldn’t have had the time to talk much with my daughter – let alone help rescue her from showing up late with tears still in her eyes.

    So Jenny, I say don’t feel bad that giving your kids a mental health day just doesn’t work well for your family in your current circumstances. It sounds like you are well on your way to understanding what will work for you (teamwork and resolving issues as much as possible before they become huge and uncontrollable).

    I asked these questions because I often react the same way you mentioned. I needed to ask and re-evaluate for myself, and figure out how to apply the principles in the future. (Because you know with 5 girls in the house, there will always be a “next time!” :devil: :wink: :cry:)

  • Alison Moore Smith April 28, 2010, 1:59 am

    jennycherie, I’m really sorry! The only comment I saw was yours (I think?) that copied the first part of the feed! :sad:

    Posted By: Michelle Decause you know with 5 girls in the house, there will always be a “next time!”

    Truer words were never spoken!

  • Alison Moore Smith April 28, 2010, 2:13 am

    Posted By: jennycherieI also think many times that my kids need to learn to function in less than ideal situations.

    I’d challenge that idea. Although I really do AGREE with it, I think that our general way of thinking about that is off-kilter. One of the most common complaints I hear about homeschooling is that “kids should go to school to learn to deal with mean people.” Well, golly, why not just round up some bullies and throw them in a pit with your kids?

    I just think there are SO many times we have less than ideal situations, that there are few times when we need to say to our kids, “Well, I know you feel like crap, but you must do X anyway because it will teach you a lesson.” If you know what I mean. So although I agree that we need to learn that, I don’t think we usually need to force that lesson. Life is a pretty good enforcer.

    I mean, we can’t stay home for every headache and stomachache and cranky day (and Michelle, I know that is *not* at all what you are suggesting), and I see many of my college age students who think they need to stay in bed for every minor, non-contagious ailment,

    I can share my experience. I’m pretty easy about letting sick kids stay home from stuff. But we almost never (pneumonia is the only time I can think of…) do the “I am so sick I will stay in bed and watch TV and be waited on” thing. “The sick one” might sleep in, but mostly being sick just means doing your reading in bed and getting more juice than usual. Usually when we’re sick we do the same stuff but at a lower level. My sick kids usually do chores and dishes even, but maybe with some help.

    But even though my kids can pretty much decide when they are too sick to go to school or church or other places, my college kids almost never miss school. Belinda didn’t miss any days her first or second semesters. And I only know of two days Jessica has missed in four years. I think it’s a function of (1) not making sick days super rewarding and (2) they know they are totally responsible and, as adults, staying in bed and missing school has some pretty negative consequences. (Another reason it’s good for kids to pay for their own college. They CARE more about how they do.)

    But jenneycherie, I think there are LOTS of ways you can do this kind of thing even if you can’t skip school. What about taking a kid out to a movie or park or for ice cream or something — when they are supposed to be doing dishes or chores? Or really anything surprising and fun. How about taking them out on a school night — after their bed time? I’m sure others have more creative ideas, but maybe that’s a start.

  • jennycherie April 28, 2010, 4:14 am

    Posted By: Alison Moore SmithWhat about taking a kid out to a movie or park or for ice cream or something — when they are supposed to be doing dishes or chores? Or really anything surprising and fun. How about taking them out on a school night — after their bed time? I’m sure others have more creative ideas, but maybe that’s a start.

    actually, those are really great ideas. thanks!

    Posted By: Alison Moore SmithOne of the most common complaints I hear about homeschooling is that “kids should go to school to learn to deal with mean people.”

    I’ve certainly heard many versions of that, so I see your point. For my kids, I am mostly worried about not giving in to every illness that miraculously afflicts them when there is something happening at school that they want to avoid (like a test, usually).

  • Michelle D April 28, 2010, 10:17 am

    For my kids, I am mostly worried about not giving in to every illness that miraculously afflicts them when there is something happening at school that they want to avoid (like a test, usually).

    My brother was a pro at that! I’ve heard it at times from some of my kids, but they know if they are too sick to go to school, they are too sick to play with friends afterward. That usually cures most “mysterious” illnesses! And I agree with Alison – my older kids don’t want to miss because they are mature enough to realize that catching up is worse than most non-contagious illnesses.

    Alison, I love your ideas, too! Anything surprising and fun would work to help a child (and adult!) feel special and move on after a tough day.

  • Oregonian May 11, 2010, 6:15 pm

    michelle im glad you rewrote this for us. i think a day like that is good for everyone sometimes.

  • partone May 16, 2010, 1:52 am

    I just got to read this and it gave me some really good ideas. I need to try some new things. Thank you.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge