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.