Lessons in Adulting

The other day, I was cooking dinner, opened a ziplock bag, and left it on my electric cooktop for a moment.

A corner was touching a hot burner and melted. After I scraped it up and cleaned the area, I called my 7yo into the room. I wanted him to see my mistake – that I made one, how I handled it, that it was ok.

Have you ever taken a step back and thought about your kid’s perception of you? Of what your life is like? Of the things that are important to you?

Chances are, your children have little clue about your motivations, frustrations, and thought processes when it comes to decision making and problem solving. That either goes on in your head or behind closed doors.

It’s easy to model concrete skills: how to peel a carrot, how to wash a window, how to sort the laundry. These activities break down into simple, observable steps that can be easily verbalized.

This year, I’ve realized that I need to be much more intentional in modeling those oh-so-important skills that are less concrete.

You see, my kids think I have it pretty together. I don’t typically complain in front of them about doing chores I don’t like. They see me primarily doing things I’m already pretty good at, and they hear the final decisions rather than the crazy back & forth that led up to it.

With that in mind, I have embarked on 3 Lessons in Adulting this year (and lots of sidebars as well):

Lesson # 1: We all have tasks we don’t enjoy

There are some chores I don’t mind, like putting away the dishes or running the vacuum, but I hate dusting. Part of it may have to do with my dust allergy, but these insidious little particles that get everywhere drive me nuts.

Yes, I’m teaching my kids to clean with good attitudes, but I also need to acknowledge to them that there are things I don’t enjoy either, and then model that I deal with it and do it anyways.

Lesson #2: Mistakes are normal

I don’t want my kids to be afraid of making mistakes. In fact, I want them to learn that mistakes are normal, expected, and part of the growing process.

I want them to know that I make mistakes and to model healthy ways to deal with that, whether that is cleaning up a spill or re-doing a project that got messed up.

We frequently talk about the time Mama knocked the bottom shelf out of the refrigerator, breaking a bunch of glass bottles and spilling various dressings and sauces all over the kitchen floor – not because it’s a fun conversation, but because they need to know that they’re not alone in making mistakes, that we all make them, and that it’s okay.

I also want to teach the principle of using those mistakes for something better. Barney Saltzberg has an amazing book, Beautiful OOPS (not an affiliate link), that celebrates what can be done with the pieces of a mistake.

The same principle can be found in that beautiful Japanese art of Kintsugi, which takes broken pieces, mends them with gold, and makes something beautiful out of brokenness.



Lesson #3: Failure is expected

I remember going skiing in high school. When I came home, I bragged to my dad that I never fell. He looked at me and said, “then you didn’t improve”. I didn’t push myself. I played it safe.

How can we help our kids learn that failure is normal and ok? That everyone who learns to ride a bike will fall at some point. That not every cooking project will work out.

We can’t be afraid of failure. We have to try new things, go outside our comfort zones, and learn new skills. We need to model this for our kids and create a culture in our homes that accepts these bumps along the way.

We need to teach our kids that to be human is to make mistakes, to accept each other for our flaws and variety of strengths, and that there is no shame in failure. Instead, it’s just preparing us for the next thing.

I read an amazing book a couple weeks ago. It’s called The Boy Who Played with Fusion (not an affiliate link). The premise of the book is that this family has 2 gifted boys, one of whom is experimenting with nuclear reactions, and how they as a family navigate this road. There are mistakes, setbacks, and disappointments, but they as a family figure out how to support each other and weather these challenges. It’s inspirational. And it’s possible.

This post is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop for April 2018.

Click on the image below to read more!


A Bit of Unsolicited Advice – off topic

Dear Stay-at-Home-Moms, Work-at-Home-Moms, Earners of less than 50% of the household net income,

I have some unsolicited advice for you. 

I know you scrimp and save, you stretch your dollars to make things work, you put up with things that really don’t work as they should because… because.

 It’s great that you are so careful, that you don’t frivolously fritter away the family’s income, but there is a point at which you can say, stop. This isn’t working for me. We need to find another solution. 

We have a microwave. It’s only 2 years old. It never actually worked right. The door didn’t close easily, and so it would need to be slammed shut. Eventually, the power supply to the microwave started acting up. You’d have to jiggle the power cable or hit the side to make it work. But I always got it to work, so we soldiered on. We tested and replaced the outlet, in case that was the issue. Moved it to a different circuit (behaved slightly better for a few days, then started acting up again). 

For the last month or so, it’s been getting worse. To the point that I can’t rely on it to heat food. I’ll put food in a few minutes before I need to heat it, slam the door closed (now the power is off), and hope that it decides to wake up again before I need it, slamming the side or jiggling the cord every now & then to see if it decides to cooperate. 

On Tuesday, we had a babysitter here, and I flat-out told her to avoid the microwave. It can’t be trusted and may in fact be dangerous. 

Today, feeling guilty for our bad purchase 2 years ago or for squandering our money for not getting it checked out when it first started acting up (before the warranty expired), I ordered a new microwave. 

We have a cesspool. The first few years living in our home, we had it serviced once. $400. They told us we needed to upgrade from our 1961 system to a newer, more sturdy one. We didn’t want to spend the money or tear up the lawn, so the next time we had issues, I called a different company. Another $400, and the same story. We needed to replace our pool. 

Fast forward to last year. Company comes in spring. We have issues. $400. Company comes in fall. We have issues. $150. More company comes. $400. And it still needs to be replaced.

Then, this January, we have another issue. We finally are on the same page and get our cesspools replaced. After literally throwing thousands of dollars down the toilet trying to hang on to our old system.

I should have spoken more strongly, more convincingly, that I was convinced we should make the switch. We’d been seriously talking about it for over a year. But I’m not the primary breadwinner, and maybe because of that I feel compelled to be ultra-careful with our money.

When you see something that just isn’t working, speak up. Before it hits the breaking point. You’re not being heroic by making it work, especially when you know it will need to be replaced sooner or later. You’re just adding undue stress to your and your family’s life.

Let it go. Give it up. And don’t feel guilty about saying it just doesn’t work. 

(I’m preaching to myself right now).

Ditch the Advice – a better way to help other parents

Parenting isn’t easy, and as the primary caregivers for our little (or big) progeny, we often see their worst sides come out. We’re the “safe zones” where they know they can scream, melt down, and disobey, and we’ll still love them, put food on the table and clean clothes on their backs.

Because of that, it’s easy for us as parents to miss the roses for the thorns. We get so caught up in correcting the discipline issues, teaching life skills, and making sure toys are put away, instruments are practiced, and homework is done. We spend so much time being taskmasters that we sometimes miss the amazing people we’ve been given to raise.

So… if you want to encourage another parent, compliment their child. Not in a generic “she’s so smart” or “he’s so handsome” way, but in a meaningful and specific way.

  • She’s so inquisitive! I love the questions she comes up with!
  • He’s so considerate and nurturing of younger kids.word-1940813_1920
  • She is really good at making sure everyone’s included.
  • He’s determined and persistent. I notice he doesn’t give up easily.
  • Look at her arrange those animals! She has a good eye.
  • I love his sense of humor.
  • She’s made such progress in her ability to ________.

When we as parents are reminded of our children’s positive attributes, we remember that what we’re doing matters. That all our effort is paying off, and that our children are making progress. We’re also reminded of their individuality — their unique spark, that no one else has. And when other people point that out, it helps us to value and nurture that as well.

When I taught high school, I loved doing this at parent-teacher conferences or in other parent-teacher interactions – especially for the kids whose parents are used to getting discipline phone calls. I’d talk about their creative energy, social awareness, sense of humor — all things that would be helpful in the adult world, but in our structured school system tend to cause problems, especially as the students are still developing and figuring out who they are — and their impulse control is developing too. The parent’s eyes would inevitably light up – and our conversation would change, from one based on fear and dread of how he or she has messed up to how we can help little Mikey grow into who he was created to be.

We want our parents to have hope, to see the potential in their children, not to be burdened by even more expectations.

And who knows – once they realized that you truly notice their child – that you value her – they might actually ask for your opinion on something, too! 🙂