Don’t fold wash cloths. If the kids lose their pencil, give another from the endless supply you keep on hand. Don’t put top sheets on beds. So what if report cards have C’s. Paint all your walls the same semi gloss color. Only buy one color/brand of socks. These are things that would have been unacceptable to me in the past, but my focus has changed. These things aren’t really that important to me, and to keep sanity, I opted for the easy way out. I lowered my expectations.
To help sort out which standards were too high, I asked myself one question over and over: “What’s more important?” To me, five minutes of time is more important than folded washcloths. Keeping up homework momentum is worth the cost of a pencil. An afternoon playing outside instead of rewriting a project for the fifth time makes a lower grade acceptable. And paint? What’s more important, the boys or the paint? Sometimes the choices are easy.
I only have my boys for a few years, and I’m not about to waste the years stressing over the little things, or nagging over the bigger things. Here are some of the things our family doesn’t worry about any more:
- The yard. We mow it and rake it. That’s it. Thankfully, our next door neighbors’ yard makes ours look good anyway.
- Dusting is optional, unless my mother is coming.
- The car can stay messy until one of the boys is finished with homework, even if that’s not until the summer.
- There are certain words that the boys will say. I quit trying to stop them, although I have imposed fines for public use of the slang word for flatulence.
- I ignore burping in the house.
- Nice clothing must be worn only on very special occasions, and I’ll iron them. On other days, clothes must match, and the boys do their own ironing.
- Only the living room has to stay totally straight. If our friends look down on us because of the house, we evaluate the friendship!
- At school, one of our son’s teachers lets him stand up to do his work. She heard from last year’s teacher that this small concession increased concentration and decreased fidgeting.
Think back on the past week, and make a list of the times you have reprimanded your children. Analyze your housework, your clothes, your job, your vacation. Imagine yourself looking back on these things ten years from now. Which things really made any difference? These things should form the basis for what should be important today.
There are still standards and expectations in our home, and they are fast and firm, but the days of perfection are over. We don’t shine like we did before, but we I think we have a certain worn patina that comes from contentment.