Tag Archives: planning

The Five Year Plan

Image by woodleywonderworks

My sister-in-law visited this past weekend and, in the midst of chatting about important things like the kids, plot developments on Grey’s Anatomy, and her new puppy (I’m not a dog person, but this little guy?  Cute.  Very cute), we got to talking as we often do about our short-term, long-term plans – where we see ourselves in five years.

Five years ago I was living in Connecticut, teaching history to highly motivated, high achieving high school students at a highly competitive prep school.  One of my classes that fall was Russian History, a seminar in which I taught my seniors about, among other things, Joseph Stalin’s Five Year Plans.  That semester Five Year Plans were all about collectivization and industrialization, catching up and getting ahead.

I never imagined what my own Five Year Plan had in store.

How could I have?  I was childless.  I was a teacher.  My husband was a PhD candidate just starting to hear about interviews at schools that might one day hire him.  I went to yoga four times a week.  I coached basketball.  I ate leisurely dinners with my husband and my friends.  I sipped coffee slowly.

How could I have foreseen that today, just five years later, I would be living in the Midwest, with my college professor husband and our three (!) kids, working as a part-time work-at-home writer?  (A writer!?  Where did that come from?)  That I would drive a minivan full of car seats?  That I would be a devotee of weekly date nights?

Looking back at that younger woman, I wonder what her dreams were.  I suspect that I am living many of them.  I know I am living others she never conjured.

It’s remarkable – isn’t it? – the way our lives unfold in scripted and unscripted ways.  We dream and we plan and then we find ourselves in places beyond our imagination.

Who knows where I will be five years from now?  I look ahead and see some likelihoods, some possibilities, and some not-even-considereds just starting to shimmer around the edges.

Instead of leaving a comment on today’s post, please take a moment and visit Big Little Wolf to learn about the important work she is doing to help raise money for a life-saving kidney transplant for Ashley Quiñones, aka the Kidney Cutie, aka the sister of Kelly Miller of The Miller Mix.

Is there anything you can do to help Ashley dream of a Five Year Plan of her own?

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Do You Trust Your Instincts?

I’ve written before about my passion for plans, my delight in following directions.  This weekend, I took those tendencies to extreme lengths, abandoning my instincts and trying to adhere to an agenda that did not work.

We started potty training Big Boy on Saturday.  In advance of this big day, I did some (admittedly scatter-shot) research and discovered a book that offered what turned out to be the toileting equivalent of a get-rich-quick scheme.  Given the success we’ve had with sticking to plans for our kids’ sleeping and feeding, I figured a structured approach would work for potty training too – so I ordered that book, read it cover to cover, and got ready for the magic to happen.

And I’m still waiting for that magic.

The problem was that the idea worked for me, all nicely laid out as it was in bullet-point form in the book.  But it didn’t work for Big Boy. Nope. Not at all.  He didn’t like the potty doll.  He didn’t like the sticker chart.  He really didn’t like the practice runs to the potty every time he had an accident.

And it wasn’t only that he didn’t like it; he simply didn’t get it.  He didn’t connect the rewards to the positive behavior and the consequences to the undesired one.  As far as he was concerned, I had gone crazy and was asking him to join me.

He didn’t get it, and I didn’t get that.

So we spent the day at odds, me clinging to a rulebook and him throwing it back at me in the form of tears and wet Spiderman underwear.  I violated every tenet of the parenting version of the Hippocratic oath: I made my child cry; I hurt his feelings; I injured his spirit.  I did harm.

The worst part is that I knew in my gut that the approach just wasn’t right.  Every instinct told me that the plan was both punitive and went against Big Boy’s wiring in every way.

But I didn’t listen to my gut voice.  Instead, I stuck to the plan.  And, ignoring my instincts completely, I found myself at sea (no pun intended) when the plan failed.

Thankfully a fortuitous double nap that afternoon allowed me to sit down and revisit our tactics.  A knotted stomach and the echoes of Big Boy’s sobs provoked me to do what I should have done long before: focus on the child.   Think about all of the progress he had made that day.  Think about how to reinforce that progress.  Think about how to help him listen to his body.   Think about how to help me listen to my instincts.

And I did better.  And he did better.  There were accidents, but there were triumphs.  There was celebratory ice cream.  There was a four-man family bobsled made out of pillows and a rocking chair.  There was “I love you, Mommy” while reading Shel Silverstein poems in the bathroom.

I went to bed that night still feeling guilty about the way the morning had gone.  Husband reassured me that no great damage had been done.  As I lay falling asleep, I wondered whether I would be able to retain my own lesson from the day: to let my instincts speak as loudly as the voices of the experts in my books.

Are you good at listening to your instincts?  Which do you tend to trust more – “expert” advice or your own gut voice?

Will you forgive me for making my 29-month-old son cry?

Image: when things go wrong potty training DSCN9426 by johnbullas via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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A Belated Valentine from You to You

One of the unanticipated gifts from my foray into the blogosphere is the treasure trove of parental wisdom that I’ve discovered here.  In sharing your own experiences as parents, as children, as adults, and as teachers, you have inspired me in ways both large and small.

While pondering how I might honor the spirit of Valentine’s Day here at Motherese, I thought about the powerful responses I received on my post last week about Big Boy’s sensitivities.  I then took a stroll down Archival Comment Lane and found more and more nuggets of chocolate-covered acuity and rose-red reason.

And it occurred to me: the best Valentine I could give you is the one you have collectively given me.

So I’d like to present you with a collection of some of my favorite pieces of parenting practicality and perspicacity – a great big karmic kiss from me to you – or, really, from you to you.

On Expectations

Christina @ Change of Plans: “Whatever you have is what you will make work.”

Charlotte @ Memories for Later: “One of the lessons I’ve learned with having a lot of kids is that there is rarely one method that works for anything. My favorite quote (because it is completely true) is from John Wilmont: ‘Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.'”

Bruce @ Privilege of Parenting: “In the end I’m a reformed cynic turned optimist, and I think we can all make something good of whatever our situation is—celebrate everything easy and savor the soul-deepening aspects of struggle.”

On Planning

Sarah @ Momalom: “You have to adapt, you have to change your ways, if something isn’t working you have to find something else. But I don’t mean you go from phase to phase to phase just putting up with stuff. You have an end goal in mind and you have to find whatever it is that will work to get you to that goal. The goal stays the same, the tactics shift over time.”

Big Little Wolf @ Daily Plate of Crazy: “Even after all these years, there is no formula. Listening. Observing. Discussing. Letting go.”

Linda @ Bar Mitzvahzilla: “I have to leave my agenda behind, let them do what they want, and know that, just like me, if they’re meant to be something, they’ll find it or it’ll find them.”

Jane @ Theycallmejane’s Blog: “‘One mountain, many paths’ is the phrase I refer to when sharing my belief on which religion is ‘right.’ I think this phrase works for motherhood, as well.”

On Believing in Yourself

Heather @ the Extraordinary Ordinary: “I would tell them to TRUST themselves before any other advice or book or TV show or…TRUST themselves. They will come to know their children and only they will be the ones that hear that small voice that speaks to parents. The gut voice, I like to call it.”

Nicki @ Nicki’s Nook: “You know your child best.”

On Balance and Sacrifice:

Queen @ Queen of the Park: “I suppose that’s the trick to this whole parenting thing. To act as though we know enough to be parents, but to still accept that we’re works in progress ourselves. And to, most importantly, give ourselves a little grace now and then.”

Aidan @ Ivy League Insecurities: “We must nurture Self to sustain Other…We are better mothers – and people – when we put time and thought and energy into the evolution of ourselves. We do not stop living and learning – nor should we – when our kids start.”

Lynn @ Allegria Images: “Once you make the decision to have children and be a family, the person you were before has to expand and change and make room for the family’s needs, and sometimes the individual’s own desires have to be put on hold.”

Goldfish @ On Three Kids: “I’ve found that even more useful than multi-tasking is the ability to just walk away. To let a job remain unfinished without subsequently defining myself as a failure.”

TKW @ The Kitchen Witch: “Advice to new parents: Date night.”

What is your own favorite piece of parenting advice?

Image: Fun with hearts by bored-now via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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