How Do You Spell Success as a Parent?

spell-successI nearly blew it again. My youngest daughter turned thirteen this past weekend and I almost didn’t have a card for her. As a rule, I don’t buy cards. I’m a crafter and I know I can make a card that I like much better than anything I’d find in the store. And I enjoy making them. But I have a hard time getting down to the business of making cards – it requires pulling out my stamping supplies and finding the creative bandwidth to generate a design.

On my daughter’s birthday, cards arrived in the mail from her grandmother and great aunt, as they do every year. Me? I missed sending my nephew’s birthday card last month. And I hadn’t started yet on my daughter’s card.

I beat myself up about it. I want to be like my mother and my husband’s aunt. I want to be the person who always sends a birthday card. And I’ve always felt like a failure because I’m not.

Then it occurred to me this week: whose priorities am I trying to live by? What do I really want success for me to look like?

I once met a dad who boasted about never missing one of his son’s basketball games from youth league on through high school, despite holding a job that required him to travel. It was impressive. He had committed himself to being there. It fit his definition of success and he fulfilled it. But me? I’ve missed gymnastics meets and soccer games. I haven’t bent over backward to be present for every one of my girls’ sporting events because that isn’t what I feel called to do (not to mention that it’s physically impossible when you have kids in events at the same time in different places). I’ve never considered myself a failure for missing my girls’ meets because perfect attendance was never part of my definition of success.

I realized this week that as much as my bucket list gives me goals to shoot for, I have to pay attention also to those I am not shooting for. I have ask myself, “How do I spell success as a mom? When my girls graduate from high school, what do I want to be able to say I did without (or nearly without) fail? What do I want to be able to check off my parenting bucket list? And what am I not going after?”

My priorities include serving a family meal every night of the week (success!), seeing them off to school every morning (success!), and making them a card for their birthdays (working on it). But my priorities don’t necessarily include being that person that doesn’t miss sending a card to everyone else. That might be a priority for me in another season of life.

I’m ready to stop trying to measure myself against other people’s priorities. I hope to recognize when I’m tempted to feel bad about measuring up against a standard that I haven’t subscribed to. And I’m only including on my parenting bucket list those things that truly matter to memy priorities.

Would you do the same? Think about how you spell success as a parent. Let go of trying to be the mom who throws Pinterest-worthy birthday parties if that’s not you. Don’t push yourself to execute the perfect bedtime tuck-in every night if it’s not working. Find the goals that do suit you and pursue those. Put them on your bucket list so you, like the perfect attendance basketball dad, can celebrate your accomplishment when the time comes.



Bucket List Life Dare: Make Spring Break Memorable

How many spring breaks do you have left with your children? What will you do to make this spring break memorable?

March 2016 Bucket List Life DareBethany, my eldest, received a packet in the mail this week notifying her that she has a summer job as a lifeguard at a camp in Wisconsin, 100 miles from our home. It wasn’t a complete surprise. She applied in December and had an interview at the camp early last month while she was there helping with a junior high retreat. By her estimates the interview had gone very well. But part of me was still hoping she wouldn’t be chosen for the job. I have counted the number of spring breaks and summer vacations we’ll have with her before she heads off to college. We’re down to two of each. How could we give up one, especially a three-month long stint like summer?

As Gretchen Rubin says in her book, The Happiness Project, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Nowhere is this more true than in parenting. I can remember when my girls were toddlers and babies, counting down the years until they’d go to preschool for a few hours each day. Not that I wanted to be rid of my three little girls, but I was exhausted by them and found focusing on the impermanence of those physically demanding days a source of comfort. The days spent changing diapers and wiping spit-up from my shirt sleeves, while little people with an incessant need to know “why, Mommy?” clung to my jeans and begged me to play another game of Candyland, dragged on and on.The days are long

But now here we are. Those little girls are twelve, fourteen and sixteen years old. This spring break I’ll be driving Bethany out East to look at colleges. We’re taking my mom with us for the journey and planning to do some sightseeing and vacation-like activities while we’re there. A tour of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. A stroll along the National Mall during the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. And some time hanging out with my aunts and uncles in Pennsylvania on our way home.

It will be a different spring break, for sure. I’m sad to leave behind my husband and the other two girls, but we all agreed that it would be less fun for them to hang around while we tour campuses and sit through information sessions. But it also promises to be a memory-making excursion. Three generations of women set loose on a road trip from the Midwest to the East coast. It has the makings of a movie plot.

So my challenge to you this month is to take note of how short the years are for your family. How many spring breaks do you have left with your growing children? What can you be doing during this year’s spring break to store up memories for the years to come?

Each spring break is an opportunity to break free of the everyday chaos and hurriedness. It is an invitation to hang out, sleep late, play games, talk, travel. To make memories. More than likely your spring break plans are already set. Maybe you’ve booked a trip or bought tickets to a local event. Whatever you have on the calendar for your kids’ spring break, I dare you to make it one for the books. Pull out your family’s bucket list and decide you’re going to complete something on it this year, THIS spring break.

Because you never know when a letter is going to arrive in your mail notifying you that the time you thought you had left with your kids has just shrunk a little further.

Tell us in the comments, what will you do to make the most of spring break with your kid(s) this year?
CoursePromoImageIf you want to make sure you’re capturing the most interesting, motivating ideas for your family’s bucket list – the kind that bring you closer together, you need to take my online video course, Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists. Now through the end of March you can get the course for 50% off, using this link. Purchase it now and watch it together over spring break. Or save it for those rainy days in April. It’s self-paced and packed with resources (many of which aren’t available anywhere else).

 

[Image via Pixabay]

The Appeal of ‘Just Once’

The Appeal of Just OnceA handful of years ago, when my daughters were preschool- and elementary-aged, I surprised them with a Valentine’s Tea. I set out my china, made tiny cucumber sandwiches cut in the shape of hearts, baked cookies, and brewed up some hot tea. When they arrived home at the end of the school day, instead of after school snacks, we sat in the living room and enjoyed afternoon tea.

They drank daintily, holding pinkies high in the air, sipping gingerly. They munched on sandwiches and chattered about their school day, being careful to place their teacups on saucers and wiped at their mouths with the cloth napkins I’d set out.

It didn’t take a lot for me to put on this special holiday tea for them. A bit of baking and sandwich making. It was a pure delight to me, something I’d been wanting to do with my girls since the first of them was born. And the effect was marvelous. They ate it up, literally and figuratively. I’d loved them by spoiling them with something different that Valentine’s Day.

We haven’t had a Valentine’s Tea since then. My girls still talk about it – it is probably one of their most memorable Valentine’s celebrations. And that actually is the point of it. It’s memorable because it happened just once. I had wanted to do it for them. I did it. We enjoyed it. And now it is a fond memory.

As Valentine’s Day approaches this year, I see where more moms could use a “just once” bucket list approach to treating their kids to something special. Because many of us get worked up about creating a great experience that we will repeat year after year. Which makes no Valentine’s celebration memorable. And it wears us out.

Many of us get worked up about creating a great experience that we will repeat year after year. Which makes no Valentine’s memorable. – Tweet This

So as you contemplate what you will do to love on your children this February 14th, consider this: what would you do if it was only “just once”? Is there a special way of celebrating you have wanted to do for a while, but haven’t (like my Valentine’s Tea)? Then ask yourself whether this is the year for it or not. Recognize that your children do not know about all the wonderful ideas you have that you may not execute. If you don’t have any “just once” Valentine ideas, then give yourself a break. Going overboard does not make you any more loving, nor will your children feel any less loved if you do not.

And if last year you made a terrific display of affection for your kids, release yourself from the need for a repeat performance. Let it stand on its own and relish the memory. Relax and stop beating yourself up over what you don’t do. Show yourself some love this Valentine’s. Even if it’s just once.

Ever done something amazing for your kids one time, never to repeat it? Or have you been wanting to do something special for them “just once,” but haven’t yet? Share your story in the comments.



The One Where We Sat on the Roof and Ate Ice Cream

In July I dared readers to step out and conquer a bucket list goal that required them to let go. To be wildly free. Something like dancing in the rain.

For me that expression of whimsical freedom came in the form of sitting out on my roof eating ice cream sandwiches with my kids – a daring bit of fun that always appealed to me, while at the same time sort of freaking me out. I put it on my bucket list long ago in hopes that one day I would get the courage to do it.

In response to the dare, I pledged to take my kids out on our roof for an ice cream treat by the end of July… And I did it (just barely before the end of the month)!

July Life Dare Accomplished2It was a sultry evening, thick with late July heat and humidity, but overcast enough that the roof wasn’t too hot to sit on, with a gentle breeze that stirred the warm air around.

I opened the window screen in my office, placed a stepstool under the window, and hoisted myself into the opening, one leg outside, straddling the ledge. Somehow climbing the rest of the way out became a sort of human origami act, me folding myself in half to duck out the window, while testing different bent configurations of my limbs in an effort to fit through without falling. I tried and got stuck. Tried again. And finally managed to squeeze through and pull my other leg over the ledge.

It seemed like it should have been easier, especially when each of my three girls popped out the window behind me with brisk efficiency. In my defense, having an ice cream sandwich in one hand did add a challenge to the process. That and a fear of heights.

Once outside all four of us lined up along the low roof above our garage, eating, chatting and people watching. I kept waiting for passers-by to spot us, but no one looked up in our direction. Perhaps it didn’t occur to them to expect anyone to be up where we were. But it seemed strange to me to see our neighbors pass by close enough to hear their conversation and yet not have them notice us. I’m used to the vantage from our driveway where we sometimes sit. There we share greetings with most who walk by.

As it was, it was a relatively quiet night. Very few cars, a handful of bikers, and a small number of walkers. The emptiness along our street wasn’t surprising though, since our little city tends to empty out in late July as swim, baseball and softball seasons end, and families finally take their vacations.

After devouring our ice creams we sat there for a bit longer, enjoying the night and the view. One of my girls suggested bringing a game out to play. But that went beyond my comfort zone. I guess I hid my anxiety at being up high a little too well.

I’m glad we did it, though. That simple act – eating ice cream sandwiches on the roof – whimsical as it was, made for a memorable evening. I can see us doing that again next summer and the one after.

Just don’t expect to see me walking around out there. I’ll be the one on the end, back pressed firmly against the house.

July Bucket List Life Dare: Be Wildly Free

Recently I was talking with a group of moms when the topic of dancing in the rain came up.

“I have always wished I could do that,” one mom said. “But I just can’t seem to bring myself to go ahead.”

July 2015 Bucket List Life Dare: Be Wildly FreeEveryone agreed. We all yearned to be so carefree. But we all had to admit that we had never indulged in such a whimsical romp.

I would bet if you stopped to think for a moment, you have at least one bucket list dream of your own that relates to shedding your inhibitions or otherwise breaking free of rules, expectations or constraints.

Now is your chance! This month’s Bucket List Life Dare is to “Be Wildly Free.” If you choose to take this month’s dare, find something on your bucket list that allows you to drop conventions or somehow express your freedom in a way you haven’t before:

– Dance in the rain.

– Eat cake for breakfast or ice cream sundaes for dinner (I have done both!).

– Go up the down escalator.

– Compliment a stranger.

I remember as a young newlywed hearing a pastor’s wife I admired share a story of one summer afternoon when she invited her elementary-school-aged son to join her in having an ice cream treat while sitting out on their garage roof. A neighbor boy came by, spotted them and asked if he could have a treat with them. So she sent him home to ask permission and then allowed him to climb out her window to have ice cream alongside her and her son.

I loved this idea! It was so impetuous and rebellious and such a great memory-making activity. I swore I would one day do it with my kids. But I still haven’t. Now, thanks to this dare (plus a freezer full of popsicles, Klondike bars and ice cream sandwiches), I have no excuse. Think my kids will join me?

If you take this month’s dare and choose to blog about it, link your post back here. Or comment below that you’ll be taking the dare and report back about what you did when you check off your goal. We want to hear about your July dare adventures.