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5 Lessons for My Daughters

This past week I was on a “staycation” at home for spring break. My husband was out of town so it was just me and my girls, cleaning out and doing whatever we felt like doing. I realized that because I work a lot, I hadn’t taken the time to share some of my guiding principles with them. Sure, I feed them and make sure they are safe and clothed, but I haven’t had a lot of time lately to give them more thoughtful guidance. I ended up half way through the week making this list for them. Some of these points I talked to them about, some of them I didn’t. Sometimes, I’ve come to see, they are ready for the message and sometimes they aren’t. But here they are for the record, for whenever they are ready. I hope you appreciate them, too.

1: There is a great joy in finishing things. Here is what I notice during the course of everyday busy life. Most things are just half done. Whether it’s washing the dishes or cleaning something out or putting the toys away, it’s easy to stop halfway through and think that either someone else will do the rest or that it doesn’t really matter. It does. The same discipline that creates a clean kitchen and a sense of completion at home is what makes you successful in the outside world. Nobody wants a job half done. But that’s not why you should finish anything. You should finish things because it FEELS GOOD. (This was the first one we talked about!)

2: Never make a threat you can’t (or don’t want to) follow through on. This is a goofy one, but with big consequences. Halfway through the week I overheard my teenager threatening the 4-year-old with consequences that I knew she could never follow through on. It’s easy to make big threats, but hard to deliver the punishment—so my guiding rule is, only ever threaten things that you WILL do and CAN do. It’s one of the reasons I like counting to three (leaving the consequences mysterious). But as important as this is in disciplining a 4-year-old, I can think of lots of times it matters when you are all grown up, too.

3: Learn to cook for your own pleasure. When I was a girl, the reason you learned to cook was to catch a man and feed his children. While this sounds old-fashioned, I find that when it’s just the girls in the house, we eat and cook differently. The highlight was when I asked Eve to make whole wheat popovers to go with the soup I was making, and she was able to do the whole thing by herself (with help from the little one). Later, we made salsa from scratch and ate it with homemade nachos. Such an easy snack, and it hit the spot—for our own pleasure, no one else’s.

4: Iyengar yoga cures everything. This is a sensitive topic, because right now my kids have more aches and pains than I do, and I can only say “yoga” so many times before they learn to hate it rather than try it. The kind of stress injuries they are getting from technology I didn’t get till I was in my 40s. And even sports injuries from bodies out of alignment seem to be easily remedied by yoga. I guess it seems intimidating—especially because I’ve been doing it for so long and don’t really want to share my private class with beginners (sorry, I can be selfish sometimes!). Still, whether it’s aches and pains or stress, it’s the one thing that I believe everyone should do as a basis of balancing and aligning the body…and yes, the soul. I say Iyengar yoga because it is the only yoga that I am aware of that requires years, years, YEARS of training, and much of that training is focused on healing and understanding how to help the body get aligned in a very precise, detailed manner. I adore it and have seen my whole body and life change over the years.

5: Don’t ever downplay your capabilities. I always remember a story my mother told over and over again about a woman she knew who was really smart and could have been a doctor, but got married and had kids instead. The day she came home from the hospital after having her first child, her husband asked her what was for lunch, fully expecting her to serve it. While those days are gone for good (I hope!), I think we women still tend to modulate our capabilities to those around us. Whether it’s friends in middle school or peers or boyfriends—it still seems like the nice thing to do to downplay our capabilities to make those around us feel good. Don’t do it! Embrace your capabilities! Celebrate them! Let the rest of the world try to keep up; don’t slow down and wait for others to catch up.

I am fortunate in that all my daughters show vast capabilities and promise of contributing joy to the universe and those around them. If only they would do yoga! I love them dearly. But after a week home I also realize that I am made for working. The relentless cycle of messing and cleaning and messing and cleaning is too depressing for me. I love that feeling of finishing things so much that sometimes I need to work to get enough of it.

And that’s a list of lessons for another time.

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11 Responses to 5 Lessons for My Daughters

  1. Sharon Zondag April 1, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    Maria~ Thank you for sharing so much of what I feel…with two lovely daughters I am seeking always to chrystallize my lifes wisdoms for them…what there is of it…and cooking for our own simple pleasure has beome the cornerstone of all that follows….and as for work…on the other side of mid fifties, I have come to find my work, and again the simple pleasure in the act of working to be a treasure. I hope my physical self will keep pace with my ambitions to keep at it ! and my yoga practice I hope will be part of keeping my mind body and spirit in sync!

  2. Emily April 1, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    That’s so funny you mention finishing things. My mom and I were JUST having that same conversation! We were noticing how often people start things (not just cleaning but other big life projects) and never follow through. When my sister and I were younger, we “had” to take music lessons (to this day, we’re both thankful that we were forced to!), and there were dozens of times we wanted to quit halfway through the school year. But we were never allowed to. “We don’t quit things halfway through the year,” is what my mom always told us. By the end of the school year, we were always ready to sign up again the following year. I think it benefits people to be “forced” into finishing things, especially when it’s hard. You get such a sense of satisfaction from conquering something. It’s a good lesson for daughters–and sons!

  3. Lisa S April 1, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    My wisdom to Paige recently was to be mindful. I gave her the lecture on the drive to the middle school to pick up a binder she had left behind. For 20 minutes I spoke to her about paying to attention to the task at hand and being in the moment whether she is collecting her stuff at the end of the day or doing ballet and that it would help her for the rest of her life. I thought I would try this out since my mantra “focus” is a little worn out. Ironically, that Sunday at church (unitarian) our minister gave the very same sermon so I had the chance to be on the receiving end of that lesson. Paige tried it and said it was really hard 🙂

  4. Maya April 1, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    Would love to do yoga if someone would share their yoga classes!

  5. Maya April 1, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    …and these are really good. Especially #1, if only to cross an item off the old to-do list.

  6. Katie L-S April 1, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Maria , your message was timely this morning as I am visiting my son and most wonderful daughter in law and new 6 week old very first grand daughter. I have just read your words to my daughter in law who is holding her sweet daughter. It was a lovely moment reading your thoughts and sharing your insights. Thank you. You have inspired me to begin to write down (to remember!) topics I want to make sure I share with my only daughter who is now 22! As life progresses and daughters age into other stages, other topics emerge.
    I love that you love your work, and for sure you are a wonderful Mom.

  7. Dannie April 1, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    I have a problem with no. 2. Why threaten your loved ones at all, let alone only if you can or will follow through on it? That’s a lesson I’d prefer be passed down. I just find that to be completely against my parenting, it does not promote love and security, which is what a mother (and father) are supposed to give their children.

  8. maria (farm country kitchen) April 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Dear Katie, I can hear your lovely voice reading to your granddaughter…Congratulations!

    Dannie, good for you if you can manage it.

    Maria

  9. Donna in Delaware April 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    I love finishing things, even if it takes days or weeks to do it. My grandmother instilled in us children to do a job well the first time and you won’t have to do it over. This has been my mantra forever it seems, and so I try to tell my nephew and niece and husband too, to finish what you start, even if it bores you to death.

    You are right, don’t make threats that you can’t deliver on. I’ve done that a time or two in my life and it wasn’t a good feeling when I was called out about it. I try never to do it, ever.

    My husband was telling me last night how he is amazed at the things that I can get done around the house that most women can’t or won’t do. I learned a lot from watching my grandfather , uncles and brother, so things like fixing electrical appliances, some simple plumbing, and assembling things that takes more than a screwdriver comes easily for me. So no, never ever downplay your capabilities, because sometimes, all you’ll have left around to count on is yourself.

    I’m not sure I’m up for any type of yoga right now. My hips and feet are hurting as it is. Someday!

  10. Debbie April 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    I especially love #5. Self esteem is a lesson that you learn very early on in life. Believing in yourself and your abilities is the greatest gift of all. I definitely wasn’t taught this as a child but was lucky enough to have excellent teachers that pushed me.

    If I ever have children my list will likely not include yoga but will certainly include #5 and I’d add: Practice Patience. Everything happens so fast now a days and we’ve turned into an instant gratification culture. How about waiting to think before you reply to an email. Maybe even rereading it before you send it. Waiting to find a great man or woman to marry rather than rushing to the alter. For me most answers become clear when I stop, think and reflect.

  11. Nina from Germany April 5, 2011 at 5:20 am #

    Thank you for such clever words – I will sit down with my daughter and translate this to her. By the way she is eight and often join me on the mat as I put on my Ashtanga Yoga DVD’s – this is for us quality time. Her brother of 18 Months is not quite so far yet:-)))

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