Sunday, March 29, 2009

Romance the Hearts of the Children

I was momentarily dumbfounded.

“The LAST row?” I gasped to the usher.

“Nooo,” he smiled reassuringly. “The TOP row.”

Even from this vantage point at base camp, I could see that our seats butted against a cement wall at the summit far, far away. It made me woozy just thinking of getting there. However, my honey and I are good sports (after all, we’d come for a sporting event) and since our “group” was already ensconced at the zenith of Section 316, we began the assent.

We fell naturally into a form of “lead climbing” where Dale tugged me along by the hand in lieu of a rope around the waist. I needed it. I had a hard time focusing on the steep steps I was so distracted by the carnival environment. The Rose Garden Arena on game night is like any other professional sporting venue I’m sure, but I’ve not been to many, and not for a long time. The faces spray-painted red and black, the helium Ford floating overhead, the pounding rock music, and exposed mid-riffs of the “stunt team” had me on sensory overload.

Just to show how dizzy I’d gotten, when the announcer boomed that everyone would get a free chalupa from Taco Bell if the Trailblazers racked up a hundred-plus points that night, I was stupefied. My mind conjured up the image of a crazed kitchen staff churning out 20,000 chalupas while a frenzied chef kept tabs on the action: They just hit 99!”

Dale told me we’d get coupons.

The Blazers did score well over 100 points that night, but we didn’t get our coupons because we left before the guys in baggy shorts had swooshed their fifteenth basket. You see, we weren’t there for Greg Oden or Brandon Roy. We were there for Matt Erickson.

When Matt strode to the center of the court, microphone in hand, everyone stood up. The raucous rank-and-file shushed and stood still – thousands of eyes and ears zeroed in on Matt. I couldn’t get over how his face glowed with confidence (as seen on the Jumbotron from Section 316) even as he began singing a cappella in a key I was SURE was too high for his range: “Ohhhh, say can you see?....” Lucky for Matt, there was magic in the air – the man could do no wrong: he was in his element. Every note billowed with bravado:

“The laaand of the –- “
(here it comes) “--FRRREEEE-“

He nailed it! THE- CROWD- WENT- WILD!

When I was a teen and young adult, everyone assumed I was Broadway bound. As it turned out, my audiences have averaged around two, three, or four loyal fans. On a big night I might pack the house with six or eight. They are the same ones also (well actually, the only ones) who go “wild” over my performances. Interestingly, they all have the same last name as I do and have all been shorter than me for most of my off-Broadway run. No sir-ee, I cannot ask for a more illustrious career or a more ardent fan club ‘cuz when Mommy sings, she can do NO wrong.

Feeling good about that began many years ago when I attended a keynote presentation at a Florida homeschool convention I’ve never forgotten. The speaker, a beautiful young father with a guitar slung over his shoulder and a pony-tail dangling down his back, appeared unconventional to be sure, but I was intrigued with the message. He and his wife, in-between their folksy musical numbers, were telling ten thousand parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents that we needed to romance the hearts” of our children. The phrase was lovely: “romance the heart” - but what did it mean?

This dad explained that there is joy and family unity in “dazzling” children with our gifts and talents. Win their love and loyalty, he said, by sharing with them your genuine passions.

It’s true, I thought. Little children are arrested, if not beguiled, by unadulterated, authentic enthusiasm. They can resist or dismiss counterfeit zeal, forced fervor, or rules-without-reason, but they are easily caught up in anything presented with true delight and excitement. Suddenly, I saw child-like wonder as a precious window of opportunity. The Spirit whispered; Thrill your children with your real, best self. Who needs the world?! Memories of singing and drawing and cooking and gardening and throwing and catching and dancing and reading and racing and praying with my children flooded my imagination. How many times had their eyes glistened with gratitude and admiration: "I love you, mommy” or "Good job mommy!"

How beautiful is youth! how bright it gleams
With its illusions, aspirations, dreams!
Book of Beginnings, Story without En
Each maid a heroine, and each man a friend!

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as quoted by Pres. Thomas S. Monson in “A Lighthouse of the Lord”, Ensign, Feb. 2001)

As I thought on my gifts, I knew my greatest passion was my love of the gospel, my happiness in Christ. It was suddenly clear that if I relished my callings and praised my leaders with sincerity; if I “delighteth in the scriptures” so that Restoration doctrine spilled out all over, “speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up”; if I “gloried” in "my Jesus", my soul “delighting” in the “things of the Lord”, who could deny that it would be to the “learning and profit of my children”? (2nd Nephi 4:15-16, Deuteronomy 11:18-19, 2 Nephi 31:6) THIS, I realized, was the most precious opportunity of all to “romance the hearts” of my children.

As we drove home from the Rose Garden Monday night. Dale made the observation that singing the National Anthem at a sporting event is just a tad different than strutting your stuff on American Idol. In the latter case, he said, you’re being scrutinized and shredded by millions of couch critics, while at a ball game, every spectator in the arena is cheering you on, humming along -- your voice belongs to them. So it is with our kiddos, I thought -- times a hundred.

Imagining a little child in the lap of the Savior, I realized that His commandment to “let your light so shine” (Matt. 5:16) applies nowhere more than in our own homes, where EVERYone has a court-side seat.

Muse with me: what is your experience or take on sharing your talents, gifts, passions or testimony with the children in your life?

A Grandstand Living Room Performance
by mom

Friday, March 27, 2009


17 Musings
100 Follower Friends
100's of readers
16 countries 6 continents

Thank you for musing with me!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Kids Have Got Talent

“Very nice dear. NEEEXT!!!

I probably said that well….ah….FOUR HUNDRED TIMES. (Exaggeration not included.) Yes, one of my all-time greatest accomplishments in this life, is that I listened politely to hundreds of little girls sing: “ToMORrow! ToMORrow! I LOVE ya ToMORrow!” one by one by one by one by one – and was still a nice person at the end of the day. At least, I thought I was nice. A poll of the 400+ stage mothers who believed their little girl should be cast as “Annie”, might have read differently.

I have learned valuable lessons from mothers and fathers throughout twenty-five years of directing live theater. Actually, in all that time, only one disgruntled mother confronted me. (I suspect I’m still on her hit-list.) Otherwise, I found moms and dads to be incredibly generous, supporting the organization in any way they could. Whyyyy? The predominant reason by far was a deep-seated commitment on the part of the parents to facilitate their child’s happiness and development.

Born of my experience working with families in the performing arts and my personal experience as a stage mom myself, I have cultivated a two-part philosophy about such things. The first part boils down to this: my responsibility as parent is to help my kids chose and develop TALENTS. Notice I did not say “their” talents. That’s because I personally believe talents are skills we select to learn and master to some useful degree. We don’t really “own” them. Choose a talent, any talent, if you will – then go for it. Those we acquire can then be used to our own happiness and to the benefit of our families and the Kingdom.

On the other hand, it is also my experience that we are all born with “GIFTS”: attributes or abilities that come to us naturally. A classic example is Mozart, who was wowing everyone with his musical genius by age four. According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, this was because the composer had a head-start -- a pre-mortal disposition and aptitude:

“Being subject to law, and having their agency, all the spirits of men, while yet in the Eternal Presence, developed aptitude, talents, capacities, and abilities of every sort, kind, and degree. During the long expanse of life which then was, an infinite variety of talents and abilities came into being. As the ages rolled, no two spirits remained alike. Mozart became a musician; Einstein centered his interest in mathematics; Michelangelo turned his attention to painting….Abraham and Moses all of the prophets sought and obtained the talent of spiritualities…And so it went through all the hosts of heaven, each individual developing such talent and abilities as his soul desired.” (Teachings of the Latter-day Prophets” SLC: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1986.)

We know the Source-of-All-Good-Gifts (Moroni 10:18) shares our joy as we “discover” and develop the gifts he has given us for the express purpose of blessing others. (D&C 46:12)

Dale took me with him to London last fall and the highlight for me was Westminster Abbey. I was filled with the Spirit as we looked upon the graves and memorials of the world’s most celebrated poets, musicians, inventors, scientists, statesmen and soldiers. These are they who have played their part in the Great Plan of Happiness, I thought. And they did it by using their gifts. I feel the same way when I visit the Church Museum near Temple Square and walk through the portrait gallery of modern prophets and apostles.

However, to use our gifts, we first must DISCOVER, or discern, them. And to discover them, we often need support, usually from our families, particularly our parents. Christy Brown was an Irishman born with cerebral palsy, who had control only of his left foot. Though non-verbal, his keen mind was desperate for expression. Everyone in his environment discouraged him from attempts to hold a paint brush or a pencil between the toes of his left foot. Everyone, that is, except his mother. With her encouragement, Christy went on to reveal himself as both a gifted artist and writer.

As our kiddos grew, we were always on the alert for opportunities to introduce them to a variety of interesting subjects, pursuits and people, including things we did not personally have experience with. I was determined to be sensitive to both the Spirit of God, and to the little spirits who were my children.

When they would express a curiosity or real desire, their Dad and I would, if circumstances permitted, do our best to facilitate their interest, aborting a pursuit here and there when our kiddo didn’t feel the “fire” that would identify a “gift”, or the sincere interest in really working at a particular skill (a “talent” by this definition).

Often of course, we parents feel it is important that our child stay the course even though they want to give up; some personalities in particular. For instance, mastering the piano takes years and there's going to be tears on the keyboard once in a while.

But I also admire the parents who are careful not to punish their kids into and through activities that consume their time and energy in a consistently unhappy or unproductive way; precious years that could be spent in something they really enjoy, if not have a passion for. For instance, we may expect kids to pursue a certain area due to OUR preferences or experience, or because it's a family tradition. I knew a family once who was obsessed with athletics -- every kid played every sport all year round -- which is great of course, except that one of the children did not have the opportunity to discover a real “gift” for acting until he was an adult.

There is no doubt that helping children discover their “gifts” or explore potential talents takes an open mind and an open conduit between adult, child and Heaven.

Two weeks ago, I sat in the audience of the Covey Performing Arts Center in downtown Provo. The packed house was demanding a second encore when memories, a decade old but fresh as yesterday, made me whoop like a crazy mom...

Who knew it would be a historic night in the life of my twelve-year-old when I packed up all the kids for a free, open-air concert in downtown Orlando? A variety of local acts was capped off by a new group called “Toxic Audio”. These three male and two female vocalists, all experienced Disney performers, blew the audience away with their amazing a cappella arrangements – vocals without instruments. If you closed your eyes, you’d swear you were listening to a whole band, not five human voices. Grant was on the edge of his seat, memorized, his whole countenance alight with a very promising “spark”. Afterward, I eagerly escorted him backstage to talk with the group – especially the vocal percussionist named Paul.

Paul graciously showed an interest in Grant and demonstrated a couple of sounds that Grant could practice at home. He did. And he added to his beat box repertoire with amazing speed and agility until one day, a few years later, after Grant had unleashed a torrent of thumps, hits and sizzles, Paul, always the encouraging mentor, exclaimed: “Grant buddy! You’re better than I am!” The group became our friends.

Today, Grant is the vocal percussionist for Vocal Point, BYU’s internationally acclaimed, champion, nine-man accapella ensemble. He brings himself and a lot of other people joy doing it. There is no doubt music is one of Grant's true gifts and vocal percussion is one of his most amazing talents. And I’d never even heard of it before that night in the park.

What a wonderfully noisy ride it has been! I can't even imagine what's

MUSE WITH ME about the kiddos in your life (we'll talk about grown-ups next week): What talents or gifts have you detected or encouraged them in? Remember: talents and gifts go far and broad across the spectrum of life. And they don't have to be remarkable or advanced to any degree to be of value and praiseworthy. (Translated: We all LOVE kid-sized/starter talents. If you have video or pictures, give us the link - or just tell us about it!) On April 12th I'll do a random drawing from all those who comment on this Musing for a gift certificate to a favorite ice cream parlor -- treat the kids after their next recital or game!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What You Don't Have or Have Lost

I would like to continue our musings on the topic of perfection verses imperfection, weakness verses strength, inadequacy verses fullness. And I will do it atop the seventh floor of the Seattle Waterfront Marriott.

I have occasionally mused in a Marriott: Tokyo, New York City, Honolulu, London, Paris, Orlando, Washington D.C., St. Thomas.....

You see, last year (a typical year in this regard), my honey-man spent 180 nights in a Marriott. That’s 180 days out of 220 work days. As exotic or luxurious as that may sound to some, the reality is that a hotel room is a cold place. It’s unfamiliar. It’s lonely. It’s too quiet. It’s not home.

The pain involved in our good-byes has never eased. I am traumatized every single time. It has been over eleven years of airport runs, love letter emails, and panicked-mommy text messages. It’s sleepless nights when I know he’s flying over the Atlantic. It’s clutching his pillow while I cry over romantic movies. It’s hiding in the closet to bury my face in his shirts.

Reunions are sweet to be sure, but I would gladly trade passionate kisses at baggage claim for the mundane-morning type.

However, my journals are full of family adventures, hither and yon, because of our daddy’s miles and points; experiences we never would have had otherwise. They are part of our family treasure-trove and have contributed to who we are. In a very real sense, these opportunities to travel and learn from our travels have also been opportunities to strengthen our family through shared memory. And this, in some measure, compensates us for Dale’s absences.

The concept of compensatory blessings came to me this week as I waited for Dale to finish his Seattle business meetings. Marveling at our beautiful room, I wandered to the picture window framing the Puget Sound. The sky was spectacularly blue – a rare March phenomenon. Knowing we would be riding the ferry later that afternoon and strolling through Pike Place Market, I could hardly believe the charmed weather. But even if the day turned gray and damp, being with Dale was tender mercy enough.

As I opened the sliding glass door to the balcony and inhaled the sea air (my favorite smell in the whole world), I tried to remember Elder Scott’s landmark talk on JOY ("Finding Joy in Life"). I knew there was something in there that articulated what I was thinking. He said:

“Simple, rejuvenating experiences surround us. They can be safety valves to keep the tension down and the spirit up. Don’t concentrate on what you don’t have or have lost. The Lord promised the obedient to share all that He possesses with them. You may temporarily lack here, but in the next life, if you prove yourself worthy by living valiantly, a fullness will be your blessing.”

This train of thought prompted me to make a mental list of the “imperfect” situations in my life; desirable or ideal circumstances that I “don’t have, or have lost.” These are conditions I endure (or have endured) because they just are. And I am sad when I think of them. Usually.

On this morning however, as I watched sailboats and barges from the hotel balcony, I felt something different. A gust of wind blew my curly hair into tangled ribbons, but I stood still, feeling the Spirit organize and crystallize my thoughts.

Yes, you have a daughter with severe disabilities, but she is precious, you have learned so much, and God sent you another daughter who has been your closest ally in that struggle. Yes, you were not reared in an active-member home, but your testimony is actually the stronger for it, and God gave you a loving ward who taught you what you needed to know. It’s true that family members do not embrace the gospel, but you better comprehend charity and God presented you with in-law and extended family who are valiant and exemplary.

And so it went: the listing of compensatory blessings in my life just piled up until I wept.

Elder Scott: “Find the compensatory blessings in your life when, in the wisdom of the Lord, He deprives you of something you very much want. To the sightless or hearing impaired, He sharpens the other senses. To the ill, He gives patience, understanding, and increased appreciation for others’ kindness. With the loss of a dear one, He deepens the bonds of love, enriches memories, and kindles hope in a future reunion. You will discover compensatory blessings when you willingly accept the will of the Lord and exercise faith in Him.”

As the breeze grew colder, I decided to retreat inside. And what an “inside” it was! Because of Dale’s “status” with Marriott, management had surprised us with a complimentary “upgrade”. It was beyond delightful when we discovered our electronic key opened the double doors to Room 736: The Presidential Suite!

Though our family situations are not ideal, though our righteous ambitions seem impossible now, though rewards enjoyed by others appear to have passed us by, the Lord promises that the faithful will enjoy the ultimate “upgrade”: a “place in the mansions” of our Father. (Ether 12:37) Omniscient forces are constantly at work, turning our imperfect circumstances into "perfecting" experiences. (Romans 8:28)

And don’t you know a celestial mansion trumps any Marriott!

Muse with me: what compensatory blessings do you see in your life?

Tour the Presidential Suite....

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Flying Dream

Ashley got the window seat on our flight from PDX to SLC this week. With her restricted mobility, time in the sky is ecstasy for Ashley, especially if she can peer down on the world through clouds. Her face beams: I was BORN to fly. (See Angel Talkin')

Squishing my cheek to hers, I tried to absorb some of her joy. The view reminded me of The Flying Dream. For years, I was plagued by this strange, subconscious fantasy. I don’t know how you've done it in your sleep, but my legs would start rotating like I was riding a unicycle. (How you start this process while still ground-bound is never clear.) The gist of the exercise is that the harder and faster I pumped the invisible pedals, the faster and higher I rose.

It was very heady of course to be air born, to escape the bad guys who were chasing me seconds ago, to sail over skyscrapers and to look down on tiny things. But it never lasted. Sooner or later, even with all the imagination-fluid-in-the-world lubricating my quads, I started to lose altitude. The realization that I was goin’ down was terrifying, a real first-class nightmare. Bad guys, who had been tracking my flight, were of course, waiting at the bottom.

I am grateful to say I’ve been free of The Flying Dream for a long time now. It became less and less frequent when I figured out that I didn’t have to “pedal” so hard….

I lived my early twenty-something life like every day was finals week -– a constant state of “cramming” for the “test”. You name it: index cards, strings on my finger, refrigerator magnets from Relief Society, embroidered scriptures on the wall, charts, how-to books, and sheer will: I filled my environment with these reminders that I was a daughter of a GOD –- and, therefore, logically, a daughter who ought to be “perfect”. Not having been taught the gospel in my home as a child, there were holes in my doctrinal understanding, and this was a big one.

Sadly, my little family suffered for it. Looking back, I can see that my mothering was too intense at times -- especially on my oldest son. He was just a little guy, so sweet and good, and not even out of Sunbeams when I took him firmly him by the shoulders and told him to “PERFORM”. We had been practicing his four-word line for the Primary Sacrament meeting program and I knew he knew it. But at the moment of truth, he refused to leave my side and go up to the podium with the other children. I was aghast at this breech of our reputation, our family honor! Likewise, I’m sure my humble honey-man was roughed over now and again for chancing to be ill on a Sunday, or forgetting the tithing check.

Dale theorizes that some women are frustrated every Sunday morning when their Priesthood husbands do not don a red cape with a big "P" on it, straddle the front doorway in their Sunday suit-- fists to hips--and boom out: "Come on kids! We're going to FLYYYY to church!"

The spiritual evolution or rebirth I went through was gradual. I do remember though, when it began. I was at a stake women's conference and the speaker introduced a concept honestly new to me: GRACE. She spoke of the folly of trying to “earn” our way into the Celestial Kingdom, describing a Savior who stands with open arms to embrace us while we keep our distance with excuses like: “I’ll be right back…have to go to the temple” … or "have to deliver these cookies"...or "have to study my lesson"… (Mormon 6:17) This visual struck a deep chord with me.

Years of scripture study followed. I became particularly sensitive to the humanity of the prophets:

Paul: “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle.”

Nephi: “O wretched man that I am!”

Brother of Jared: “Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness…”

Moses: “Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent…but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”

Jeremiah: “I, ah Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am but a child.”

Moroni: “Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things because of our weakness…when we write we…stumble…”

Isaiah: “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips…”

HOW, I wondered, were these people able to continue toward greatness, despite their inadequacies? Paul really stumped me: "For we are glad, when we are weak..." WHAT?! How can we be glad to be weak? Another Paul-zinger: “Be perfect, be of good comfort.” Oookaaay…how can we be told to be perfect AND comforted in the same breath?

I knew what the end was supposed to be, without being square on how to get to that end. I was living the gospel like a project manager with complicated, detailed lists and flow charts and deadlines and goals and it wasn’t working.

As I say, it took a long time, years of study and prayer before I fully accepted the answer -– the answer that’s as obvious as any doctrine in scripture:

Brother of Jared: “….thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires…” (note: not our lists)

The Lord about the Prophet Joseph: “…and in weakness have I blessed him.”

The Lord to Moroni: “And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong…”

The good news is NOT that perfect people can be reconciled to God, but that imperfect people can. Christ shares his sinlessness, righteousness, merits with the penitent. In his mercy He offers His perfection, in absence of our own. Personal "perfection", or "finishing", is a long, long way off--impossible to attain in this life. In essence, our piles of lists and flow charts can be boiled down to ONE goal:

Uniting ourselves with Jesus, becoming One with Him through a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

When this lesson sunk deep, Moroni’s charge to “lay a hold of every good thing” no longer perplexed me. My life had been a juggling act of “good things”, but now I knew that I just needed to wrap my arms around the Savior and hold on tight. I found my prayers become very very real, very very sincere, very very specific, very very frequent. I devoured the Book of Mormon six times in one year. Good works, good feelings, good relationships, good opportunities, good choices naturally resulted. Looking back on the years since my “rebirth”, I can hardly believe what I have been able to accomplish and become.

This was possible not just because I was embracing the Savior, but because He was holding ME. The fear of "falling" (Jude 1:24) melted away as little by little I felt “lifted up”, not in pride, but in perspective. I began to see others, especially my family, through the Lord’s eyes. My sense of humility, charity, and patience gradually increased. I accepted and made allowance for imperfection, enjoying wife-dom and motherhood so much more after that: "discovering" my children instead of "molding" them, "appreciating" my husband instead of "perfecting" him.

It all came down to loving Jesus, trusting in His promise of celestial somedays.......

Moroni described his own resurrection day as being “brought forth triumphant through the air…” and Isaiah promised that the Lord “giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength…they that wait upon the Lord shall…mount up with wings as eagles…
No pedaling required.

How has the gospel affected your perspective on your relationship with your spouse, children or other family? How have you come to deal with your own imperfection?

Creative Comments and a Winner

I'm inspired! Kudos to Commentators who Contributed to our CREATIVITY! I made a list with all your names and numbered them (two for those who mentioned Musings in their own blog or emailed friends). With 3 witnesses looking over my shoulder (who all have the same last name as I do) I then entered the numbers into the True Random Number Generator and pop! up came the number 11, which correlated to ELISABETH! trust you'll do something fantastically creative with your Micheal's Gift Certificate Elisabeth!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Clueless or Creative: Continued

Excited by the success of “On the Rug”, I contemplated another parenting challenge, an even bigger one: CHORES. As much as I disliked the role of referee, I hated playing commandant even more. Short of Captain Von Trapp’s whistle, I had tried just about everything known to mom to get my kids to do their chores, to do them well, and to do them on time (which in mommy-tongue means: when I wanted it done.) It was going to take a HUGE “burst” of inventiveness to construct a solution...but I knew I could, using the “creativity” formula I’d discovered. (See post “Clueless or Creative”)

The problem: Kiddos' chores undone.
The truth: Children need to grow into capable, responsible adults.
The beauty: They DO grow into capable, responsible adults.

On paper, the creative connection between this "truth" and this "beauty" was the Grand Canyon. I didn’t even know where to begin. Inspired by Janice Kapp Perry (prolific LDS songwriter) who says that she gets her ideas from first, praying, and second, engaging in a mindless activity; I knelt down and asked for help, and then---did my kid’s chores.

They were definitely mindless: shining the mirror, sweeping the entryway, dusting the living room. And right in the middle of a squirt of Clorox into the toilet – sure enough, a hint of an idea bubbled up. I hurried to my files in the office and shuffled through the indexed folders.

At last I found it, a newspaper article I’d clipped some time ago, detailing a study of children who were given a complicated task to complete, Researchers saw two very different reactions from their participants. Some of the kids just starred at the task, either daunted or uninterested, saying, “I’m not good at that” and went no further. Other children however, proactively analyzed the task, asked questions, and triumphantly, if not predictably, solved the problem.

I had archived that bit of news because I knew as soon as I read it that I wanted my kids to fit into the second bunch. The refrain, “I’m not good at math…” or “I can’t do a cartwheel…” became clarion calls to me: “Mother –" they said – “teach your children they can learn ANYthing with instruction, time, patience and practice.”

I had a GREAT opportunity to kill a whole flock of birds with one stone: chores could be done, done well, and done on time WHILE my kiddos were assimilating a lot of character. Instead of looking at chores as an unpleasant or annoying assignment, or worse, cruel and unusual punishment –

we would view chores as an opportunity to learn and become really accomplished at something of worth.

With my creative river running like springtime, it was easy now to draft up a document that we continued to use every Saturday all the way into the kids’ young adulthood (we just made LOTS of copies.) It looked like this:

1. Chore ___Student Apprentice Professional Expert Teacher
2. Chore___Student Apprentice Professional Expert Teacher
3. Chore___
Student Apprentice Professional Expert Teacher
4. Chore___Student Apprentice Professional Expert

Here’s how it worked…

I wrote out a chore list for each kid. The worker-bees understood that the list had to be completed THAT day, however, they also knew they could decide when and in what order. Remarkably, this blend of expectation, agency, and trust bred far more self-determination than all my nagging ever had. The chores were usually finished by lunch. That’s Part I of the scheme.

Part II (their favorite part) was about the “ratings”. When each chore was completed, I and the worker-bee would decide which rating the job fit under. For instance, if the child watched ME scrub the toilet as I explained the ins and outs of the job (no pun intended), he/she was, for that day, a “STUDENT”.

If, on the other hand, it was me who watched the CHILD scrub the toilet, offering helpful suggestions as needed, then, for that job that day, he/she was an “APPRENTICE”.

When the child eventually got to the point where he/she could do the job as well as Mom without any assistance whatsoever, he/she was a “PROFESSIONAL” (this was a BIG day). But if the child eventually took the initiative to go one step further, and experimented with ways of doing the job even better than Mom, he/she was an “EXPERT”.

Lastly, and ultimately, if our worker-bee had been something of an “EXPERT” or “PROFESSIONAL” for a while, he/she had the prerogative of “graduating” from that particular assignment; passing it onto a sibling by becoming their “TEACHER” (the sibling the “STUDENT”). I wanted the kids to assimilate my conviction that sharing your experience and knowledge with others so they can achieve, was the highest and noblest of the rankings.

I do not discount the effectiveness of paying kids for chores. I know it works well in some families. But our kids never received anything for their labors but a sense of accomplishment which came from a sense of ownership.

This approach pleased not only our own children, but their friends as well. The worker-bees often had visiting bees from other hives at their side, finishing things off even sooner. By the time they were teenagers, it was a piece of cake to round up the usual suspects for a yard project.

Of course the idea of progressive attainment as it pertains to the gospel, isn’t new to any of us:

D&C 50:24: …he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

2 Nephi 28:30: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little...

D&C 93:13: And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness...

I realize in retrospect that the ideas which "stuck"--the ones our family used for years and years because they worked--were patterned after “heavenly” parenting, or parenting after the manner of heaven. In the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, the authors captured this whole concept with: “You want to invent new ideas, not new rules.”

Keep your creative parenting ideas rolling in! Read the comments from last week’s post to be edified and entertained by moms and dads. (Anyone can comment, or email me -- you don’t have to be a follower! And if you're new to commenting, check the box next to "Email me follow-up comments" - its fun.)

Watch this: One minute = biiiiig smile!