Happy Not Perfect
I met Nedra at church. I really admired her mothering. Happy, relaxed, and most of all, her children were very loving.
In a class I was teaching I asked what the children
could do to serve their mother. Most gave answers
like, "Make my bed" or "Clean my room".
Nedra's little ones said, "I could put a flower on her
pillow", "I could put her shoes away", "She likes me to
brush her hair". You could tell they did personal
service to their mother and loved it.
I'm thinking, "This lady knows things I don't know".
So I followed her around. Set up a Joy School with
her, invited her family over for Family Night, went to
a mother class she taught and soaked up every word.
Once I said to her something like, "I know you
shouldn't yell at your children, and I don't, but
sometimes it is very useful because it gets their
attention and they finally do it." She said, "Yes it does
get their attention...", in a Oh-dear,
she's-missing-the-point kind of way.
Then she taught me, "Happy not perfect. It becomes more perfect."
I needed that because my little boys were going to obey me!! And learn the value of work! They would have good manners and they WOULD be kind to each other!
How much nicer is it to play with your child, than try to get him to do what he doesn't want to do?
How much more fun is it to plan something to delight them, like toasting marshmallows over a fire, than standing over them forcing a task.
The point I was missing - it's not that we ignore the hard bits, we still get them to do important things, but we approach it differently.
Remember seeing through a child's eyes? When he tells you about his game, he is excited. She is so thrilled with what she played that she giggles as she tells you. That's what is important to a child.
The bewildered look as you interrupt a game for a task. "But I'm in the middle of a GAME!" They are genuinely mystified by the value we place on getting things done.
It's not that they PLAN to leave a trail of disaster behind them. They don't even THINK about it.
Do you know a child who thinks like this? "I'll get up, make my bed, put my pajamas under my pillow, pick up that toy that's been left, have breakfast, clear the table after myself and put my dish in the sink. Then I'll pull a few weeds and sweep before I start my day." Unnatural. If ANY of these cross their mind it's only because you have trained them. No... it's still very unlikely.
To a child there is all the time in the world. And don't you feel bad dragging a small girl away from her stuffed animals to run a few errands? There is so much you need to get done. But in your little one's childhood keep plenty of time for being unhurried. One of the worst parts of being a grown up is being pushed for time. Don't teach them that feeling, even when you live by it. Even when it means you will accomplish less.
School holidays are a good time to work on this.
"We're off to the park today. Let's clean up a bit so we can spend more time there."
"It's raining today so let's make a cubby house under the kitchen table. We'll have to vacuum up those crumbs first."
"How about if we make something for a tea party!" While they are stirring, you put dinner together so you don't have to save energy (your energy- it's far more valuable than electricity or gas) for cooking later in the day.
You could use this as an ideal to work towards. It describes many mothers: You have a feeling of excitment, interest and adventure about your family. How you choose to live, what you do with the children. Like you lead this happy troup and they wonder what great thing you will come up with next. They adore you and help you (not always, but often), with a strange lack of reluctance. As Nedra says, "Make a happy memory every day"
Put the dull, but necessary, in its rightful place as a sideline to the real business of living.
It helps you overlook the little frustrations and small problems that always come up because, after all, you are "in the middle of a game".
Keep "Happy not Perfect" on your fridge forever.
Just thinking this way helps in so many areas.
You are preparing for a birthday party and have just vacuumed. Because all those 4 year olds care about the state of your floors. The birthday boy runs in with some exciting news, leaving footprints. Child - happy, floor - not perfect. Respond to his news with a smile and move on.
It helps with comparing yourself to other mothers. It's not a contest - this mother job. It's not about how much you can shove into it. You look at others and vet what you read for ideas that will suit you now, without trying to do everything at once. Family - happy, mothering - not perfect.
Your child misbehaves publicly. Small humans are famous for naughty, thoughtless, messing up, no control. It's not a reflection on your mothering but it may feel like it is. You deal with the problem in the way you want to, according to your mother ideals, trying to leave out any anger over them showing you up. You feel good about how you handle it and optimistic about the child's progression toward the ideal. (because one day...ahem...neither you nor any of your family members will do anything amiss...) Mother - happy, child - not perfect.
You would have some things you need. Some of them you need badly. You can't make it perfect, but you can make it happy.