A new groove

I’m really focused on making my home a sanctuary for my family. This means I’m committing a considerable amount of energy into doing mundane things like making the beds every morning, and cleaning the table after we eat. It’s shameful in a way, that these simple tasks were not already habits, but they just weren’t. I prioritized getting out of the house over orderliness. The house would reach a certain level of chaos, and then I’d do a massive reactive cleaning that would take a who day. Just keeping it real.

Being a good mom means modeling decent bahavior. And I wasn’t modeling decent standards in every area of life.

I just finished reading ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg. What an amazing, worthwhile, timely investment. Charles discusses that almost everything we do and become are an amalgam of habits. He further says how we can accomplish anything, including the quality and tone of our relationships, by changing our habits. He breaks down habits in terms of how they form and perpetuate, into cues, routines and rewards, and he articulates how we can transform habits in a lasting manner. He identifies the common mistakes people make, and their vulnerabilities when they are in the process of change as well.

I was already familiar with the importance of inner orderliness, and that your outer world is a sign of your inner peace. This concept I learned over a decade ago from reading a book called ‘Organizing Your Private World’ by Gordan Macdonald. His is one of those books I return to about once a year, because some situation prompts a revisit, and the cueing of either new or revitalized goals. Knowing the importance of the order of my outer world (the state of your car, your clothes, your home, your physical condition, your sleep habits, your friends and relationships, your work, etc) wasn’t enough to kick me into ‘finishing’, or evolving from my old habits.

What changed? It’s not because I read Duhigg’s book that I prioritized the orderliness of our home. It was a heart change. I decided I want my husband to come home to a place he felt welcome, proud of, enjoyed, and rejuvenated. And I didn’t want my children copying my old lazy ways.

I don’t like cleaning, or dishes. But now I think of these things as a way to serve my family. This new paradigm carries me through lots of tasks I wouldn’t otherwise embrace.

This is changing the lives of my children too. In the short term, they are learning:

  • If they can’t care for their belongings, then they have too many
  • We respect our things by taking good care of them
  • Fun is a reward for fulfilling the daily requirements of life
  • Hard work pays off in many ways
  • We prioritize discipline and self-control
  • The value of a dollar
  • Positive morning and evening routines

There is an app that’s become incredibly helpful to me in terms of building more rigid or specific morning and evening routines into our lives. It’s called ChorePad. I use it to track our accomplishments, keep us accountable, and (lightly) to make sure we are on track for homeschooling. And I use it to hand out rewards. Ten points earns Micah simple benefits and privileges, or he can learn the power of patience by racking his points up for a bigger reward. I’m rewarding myself too, for sticking to it. For example, Micah chose to skip playing 10 minutes of his iPad, for an opportunity to go to a bounce house in foul weather. This took a lot of self control for him! The bounce house costs him 40 points, four times as much as playing the iPad for 10 minutes. But it’s worth it to him, so he’s waiting. I was proud of him for this choice. Using this app has made the morning so much easier, and his desire for ‘things’. When he asks for things I say, ‘let’s see if you earned enough points for it’. He doesn’t argue. Of course there are times I just give him things, out of love. I’m also having him earn things because I love him. He loves working hard for meaningful things, and his father and I get the opportunity to sincerely praise him for diligence.

The other big concept I’m working on is called ‘Clearing to Neutral’ (CTN). This concept is discussed by a podcaster (and company) I’ve recently enjoyed called AsianEfficiency. They research, talk, and blog all things that (potentially) make one more productive. CTN is the old concept my parents tried to instill in me: “put things back where they belong” and “finish what you start”.

I’ve started to define what being a Cooper means to my older son. “Coopers do…” “Coopers don’t…” “Coopers tell the truth.” His father has told him “Men don’t sneak” for probably three or four months now. I’ve been telling my son “wow, every day I see you growing in your patience/ self control/ (insert whatever we are working on)”, and ‘you’re a boy who tells the truth’. 

Well, part of being a Cooper is being responsible. That means owning (only) what we can care (well) for, appreciating simplicity, slowing down, knowing our priorities, keeping things in order.

Because I’m doing this life clean up, we have been having hygges all week. A hygge is a sense of warmth, coziness, or togetherness. We use the term to describe a specific kind of family time. It includes sitting together snuggling, music, and praise and worship time. It may or may not include a little snack. I’m blessed in that Ian loves playing music and singing for us. And moreso that he loves God and facilitates our human need to praise and worship our Creator.

Lastly, part of our new groove is a new evening routine that includes a short visualization. You wouldn’t even believe how well this worked for Micah! I’m so grateful for this slower pace. Simple is so good!

I just wanted to share with you how transformational these few ideas, books, and resources have been for me. Maybe some of them will be helpful for you, too.

Wild stallions

To the mom whose child is also a wild stallion, who constantly test boundaries, who is stubborn and non-conforming in nature… To the mom who has to remind her kid to control his body, work on his self control and put a stop-valve on his temper… To the mom who has to train her child to notice how their actions impacts others… Maybe you have to do this a lot, too. Thank you.

One day I won’t be here anymore, to tell my child he’s a winner despite on-the-surface short-term outcomes, to look at his greatest weaknesses as also his greatest gifts and his best assets as also his biggest liabilities, to tell him the reason we fall down. One day I won’t be in his ear, or perhaps he won’t want to hear from me of what I think or what I know, though I pray otherwise. One day I won’t be around to help him realize his daily victories, even among the battles we sometimes have to pursue (until I see the defiance of sin scurry away). His sin is not him. And I remind him of who God made him to be on the daily.

There are moms I watch whose children consistently require a kind but firm hand. They go head to head and toe to toe with them. These women are strong and tender towards their strong boys.

You’re raising the kind of young men I want my sons to hold close in their pockets. I want them to have friends who will know the difference between right and wrong, whose first and last defense is prayer and figuring what God thinks about a matter. I want my sons to be around other men who think women are God’s rare treasure and decide to court instead of date. I want my sons to know they are to be humble and there is only one Creator and it is not them, nor their friends, nor sex, music, intelligence, money, nor power, nor anything else. I want my sons to know when to be competitive and not sacrifice a win, and when to show grace and mercy and deference. And I want my sons to know the mantle they must be able to take on as future men, husbands, and fathers one day. I need your sons reminding my sons how to be a man. Because their father and I won’t be around one day.

So thank you for raising young stallions with me, and sowing the careful seeds in them of humility, courage, right thinking and truth-seeking, of a lifestyle of prayer and the posture of servant-leadership. This is God’s way. 

And I want to encourage you, because I already see the fruit of discipline in my wild stallion. One day he will be a steady companion to your son in shaky uncertain times. He will be sure of himself, because he is sure of his Creator. He will know ‘the Word’ and know how to pray and listen for an answer. He will be able to discern the voice of God and have wisdom to deliver the message. He will know how to listen, and how to encourage your sons. And he will know how to see the big picture, and step out of miry clay, which means he will take your son’s hand to help him out too.