Archive for the ‘Week 5: Roadmap for Success’ category

Taking action

May 10, 2009

One of the values we’ve articulated this past week is: We are a family that makes time for play and being active together. I could feel the power of writing that one down as soon as we did it. No more excuses, no more procrastinating while the weeks go by. So yesterday I wanted to take my power walk up a nearby hill that has a beautiful view at the top. The girls had been watching TV for a while, so instead of telling them I’d be back in half-an-hour and leaving on my own as usual, I paused the TV and said, “On behalf of the health and happiness of our family, I declare that it’s time to take a walk together up to the view.” They stared at me in silence for a few seconds, and then: “Why?” “Does it have to be a walk?” “That’s too far!” So with a calm, neutral tone, I said, “Ok, then just I’ll go.” And I walked away.

I was putting my shoes on in the mudroom and Charlotte came running in, “Mom! I’m coming with you!” “Ok!” And then when we were out in the driveway, Ellen came running out, “Mom, I’m coming too!” And then a minute later, Fenner sauntered out. All she said was, “Do you think I need a hat?”

Just then Jerry got back from his errand. He was tired from doing yard work that morning, but when he saw us all ready to go, he rallied too. Everyone made it up the hill, and we stopped at the neighbor’s pond on the way back to look for salamanders.

The walk felt great, but the best part of all was getting home and hearing Fenner say, “Hey Charlotte, you want to have popsicles with us?” and watching them sit and slurp together in harmony.


Pancake progress

May 9, 2009

This morning Fenner was away at her sleepover and Ellen came downstairs for breakfast. “Here comes the pancake maker!” I said. “Moooom, noooo! Will you help me?” “Well, daddy and I are eating our breakfast, but we’re right here and we will answer your questions.” “But I don’t know … I don’t know how to make the batter … how much mix and how much milk, I don’t know!” “Remember how we did it?” said Jerry, “I think it was one cup mix and two cups milk.” “Ok,” said Ellen and got out the mixing bowl.

Jerry watched her from the table, but stayed seated and quiet. “You’re very quiet over here, I’m proud of you,” I said. He smiled, “Yeah … but I’m seeing something right now that … I’d better go outside.” And he did.

Meanwhile, Ellen was pouring batter into the pan. “This seems too watery … it’s not working!” Jerry came back in and walked over to look. He took the pan off the stove and scraped the pancake into the sink, “The problem is, you didn’t have the pan hot enough and you’re not using enough oil.” “Well I didn’t know!! I don’t know how to do this!” Jerry looked at me, “Can I help her out?” “Um, let’s go over here and talk a bit first.” We walked over into the living room and shut the door. “Ellen’s face right now looks really discouraged,” I said, “Vicki said to refrain from pointing out their mistakes. So when you say, ‘The problem is you did this wrong and you did that wrong’ then they just get more and more deflated. So we need to shift the language to be more positive.” “Ok, you mean like, ‘Let’s try getting the pan a little hotter’?” he asked. “Yeah, or ‘Here’s how much oil I usually use.’ For Ellen and Fenner especially, that’s really important.” “Ok, so can I show her?” “Yeah, just try not to take over.” “Ok.” We went back to the kitchen.

“Ok!” said Jerry, “Let’s get the pan hotter this time. I’ll show you how much oil to use, and you can add some mix to thicken that up a bit ‘cause I don’t think I gave you the right recipe.” When it was ready, Ellen got set to pour the batter. “Ok, dad, tell me when to stop.” She poured. “That looks good,” said Jerry and began to walk away. “Is it done already?” she asked. “Ellen, you decide,” I said, “You take it from there.” “Sayonara!” said Jerry and joined me at the table. She waited another minute and then flipped it over. It was a beautiful golden brown. “Ha, ha!!” she said, and did a little dance. When it was done she served herself and gobbled it up:


“I’m going to make another!” she said. Jerry and I were still sitting at the table. He watched her intently but stayed quiet. “Oh…she didn’t spray the pan … she’s not spraying the pan …” he whispered to me. “Ok, then she’ll learn,” I whispered back. A few seconds went by and then we heard her mumble to herself, “Ok, now … have to spray the pan first …” I looked at Jerry and we smiled and nodded. Then suddenly Jerry winced, “Oh she’s getting batter all over the … I better go.” He went outside again. (He demonstrated how he felt standing out there…)


Ellen flipped her pancake again, “Woohoo!” she said. It looked delicious. Jerry came back in. “Look what she made!” I said. “Wowowowow!” said Jerry. Ellen beamed with pride:


ps Later Jerry pulled me aside and said, “Can I give her a tip about how not to drip batter all over the stove?” “Uh…not today. Let her have her victory.” “Ok, no, I wasn’t going to do it today.” Next time…gotta take it slow…

In girls we trust, continued…

May 8, 2009

More trust work today. Charlotte rallied for the bus. She left with no breakfast, no coat, and shoes that would get soaked by the wet grass on her way up the hill. Keep mouth shut. Trust that she can handle it. Trust that she’s learning. Keep mouth shut ….

Fenner and Ellen opted to go in with me, and by chance we arrived at school just as Charlotte’s bus arrived too. She saw my car and waved out the window with a big smile. See? I thought – nothing to worry about.

Yesterday I went to get Charlotte from Sloane’s house to take her to karate. I found her upstairs and cheerfully announced, “Hi Charlotte, time to go! I’ll be in the car,” and walked away. The voice of doubt still lingered in my head, but on my way out she came running down the stairs and almost beat me to the car. Each time, that voice of doubt gets a little quieter.

Meanwhile Fenner has a sleepover birthday party tonight. This morning she said, “I forgot to pack last night, so I just did it now.” End of story. In the past it’s been, “Fenner? Did you pack? Don’t forget to pack. Where’s the invitation? What does it say you should bring? Do you have everything? …” And interspersed with my jabbering would be: “Mooom, will you help me pack? Do you think I need this jacket? Will you check my bag? etc., etc…” None of that this morning. Even when I noticed she didn’t have her sleeping bag (and I knew the invitation specified sleeping bags), I still managed to keep my mouth shut, and a minute later she said, “Oh! I forgot my sleeping bag!” and ran up to get it.

So look how much I’m still learning about what they can do on their own just by zipping it! And if I’m still learning about what they can do, then they must be learning it too. And the process never ends. It will keep going and going for years to come, just from me trusting in them and keeping it zipped! It’s a whole new world.

This morning Fenner also said, “Mom, do you know where my Company Store bag is? I need it … um … because … I left my backpack at Sloane’s.” “Oh, I see.” Clearly she was nervous about telling me this. But glass-man be-gone. No big deal for me means no big deal for her. Just find another bag. And she did.

In girls we trust

May 7, 2009

Hanging in there today. I see our old habits slowly changing for good.

This morning Charlotte’s alarm went off for a full five minutes before it woke her up. “Mooom!” said Ellen, “Can’t you turn off Charlotte’s alarm? It’s so annoying!” “Nope.” And I didn’t.

Then she came into our room rubbing her eyes and said, “I’m not going to catch the bus today … I don’t think I want to go to school.” I paused, let the panic pass, and thought for a long moment. Then I said, in my friendliest tone of voice, “Just so you know, I have to take the car in to the car doctor, so I’ll be leaving at 7:30.” And I walked away. She started getting ready for school.

Downstairs I was greeted with “Moooom, my sandwich wasn’t good yesterday and now I don’t know what to put in my lunch!” “Me neither!” said Fenner. Whoops, time to go back upstairs.

The trickiest part was when Charlotte was the last one out of the house and I sat there wondering what my plan was if she didn’t come out and it became past time to go. Drive away? Can’t leave a 6-yr-old. Pretend to drive away? No, that’s just an empty threat. Time was ticking so I got out of the car and stuck my head in the door. She was still on task, it was just taking her a while. I said, “Charlotte, in a minute I’ll have to start driving slowly up the driveway to make my car appointment on time. So you’ll have to catch up.” As I’m saying this I’m thinking: I’m not sure this is a good idea, or even a safe idea, but at the moment I don’t know what else to do! As soon as I started to back out of the garage, the door opened and out she came. I still think I need a better plan, but even after all that we were still 10 minutes early for school.

Jerry’s doing ok too. When Charlotte and Ellen started squabbling loudly over a chair, Jerry quickly and quietly got up and went outside.

After that, Fenner decided to bake some Pillsbury croissants for herself. “How do you make these? You haven’t taught me,” she said. “Just follow the directions on the package,” said Jerry, “that’s what I have to do every time.” “Really? You do?” “So do I!” I said. She got out a pan. “This pan seems too big. Is this pan too big?” Jerry looked over and said, “That’s the one I usually use.” “What do you turn this dial to?” Jerry got up and went over to her. Uh-oh, I thought. “Turn it to bake … and then I’m just going to tell you this one thing — You have to preheat the oven so it’s hot when you put them in.” “I know, dad, that’s what I just did!” He came back to the table and sat down. “Enough,” I whispered to him. He smiled and said, “Ok!” “The oven seems hot enough, do you think it’s hot enough?” she said. “Fenner,” I said, “I believe you can figure this out and it’ll be ok.” “Yeah, I think it’s hot enough,” she said to herself. She put them in the oven, closed it, and walked away. Jerry looked at me and whispered, “The timer’s not set. She didn’t set the timer. Should I train her?” “No, honey … give her some space.” And he did.

It turns out she did set the timer and enjoyed some delicious golden-brown croissants.

Trust in them. That’s our new mantra. Believe they can do it. And if they don’t do it at first, believe they can learn and try again and maybe do it next time.

Trust in them, so they can learn to trust in themselves and in each other … and in us.

Wish list

May 6, 2009

“Mom, what are you and dad working on this week?” asked Fenner. “Um, we’re thinking about what we want for our family and writing it all down.” “I know something I want,” she said. “Oh, good, we want to know that too.” “I want a horse barn with three ponies in it.” “Oh, yes, well we’re not talking about things. For example, we rewrote the family rules list over here.” “Oh…ok, well how about, I want Charlotte to stop hiding things.” “Mmhm, that’s a negative statement. We’re focusing on all the positive stuff we want.”

Ellen walked over to the new list on the wall and started reading:
“Trust in yourself and each other … I don’t trust Charlotte … Treat each other with respect … Charlotte doesn’t treat us with respect … Listen well … Charlotte doesn’t listen … Offer help when you can give it … Charlotte doesn’t do that.” “Well neither do you,” Fenner chimed in, “And I don’t either.” “I know,” said Ellen, “Take care of belongings … Charlotte doesn’t do that….” “Wow,” I said, “you guys are spending a lot of time thinking about Charlotte. You must really love her.” “No!” they said in unison.

ps Earlier, Charlotte had skipped into the kitchen and said, “I like annoying them,” and then skipped back to the living room. Five seconds later I heard Ellen say, “Charlotte, we know you’re here!” So that’s it. That’s how she knows she matters—she’s the family annoyer and she can do it better than anyone. Somehow we have to get the message across that she matters in a different way. I can’t wait to help her reinvent herself …

Yes, as soon as …

May 5, 2009

Ok so I just had to walk away from Charlotte because I felt myself about to lose it!

A bit ago she wanted a piece of chocolate, and I said, “Yes! As soon as you take a bath.” She tried to take some anyway, so I put them away on a high shelf. After a minute she said, “Mom, it seems like you have a plan.” “Oh, what kind of plan?” She didn’t answer but started to write something on a sticky note:


“I see. Is that my plan?” “No, that’s a letter.” “Ok, I like to keep all my letters.” And I took the sticky note. Then she got out a pen and started drawing on the counter. “Oops!” I said, “Counters are not for drawing.” And I handed her some paper. She wrote on the counter again. I took the pen out of her hand. She went and got another pen. I gritted my teeth and walked away. She followed me, so closely that I had to push my office door shut against her.

Now I have no idea what she’s doing out there … I’m afraid to look…now knocking on the door… “Can I come in?” she said. “Ok.” I opened the door. She came in and found the original pen and picked it up. I took the bait and wrestled the pen out of her hands (which she clearly enjoyed) and then I gently pushed her back out of my office and shut the door.

More knocking. “Mom, can I tell you something?” I opened the door. “What will it take for you to get those chocolates for me?” I smiled and said, “A bath for Charlotte!” “Hmm,” she said and tried to walk to my desk again. “No, you may not come in here, and I gently pushed her out again and shut the door. (Note to self: Next time find somewhere else to go instead of doing this push-out-the-door thing.) “Mom?” she said through the door. “Yes?” “I like a little company for my bath…just in the beginning.” “Ok, so you’re ready for your bath?” “Yeah.” Alrighty then….

I’d say this one was power with a dash of attention and a sprinkle of revenge.

Mapping it out

May 5, 2009

So this week we’re working on the beginnings of our parenting roadmap. The roadmap basically answers the question, where are we now and where do we want to be in one to ten years? Like a family mission statement. For example, instead of reminding, rescuing, and fixing, we want to move into trusting and supporting. Instead of nagging, scolding, and lecturing, we want to be loving and connected. And for the kids, instead of yelling, hitting, and name-calling, help them grow into respect, and cooperation. Instead of fear and avoidance, for them we want confidence and resilience.

Articulating this stuff is not easy. We’ve had to talk and think and think and talk and work hard to uncover what’s really important to us at our core. And we’ve only just begun — refining this is going to take a while, not to mention identifying the steps we need to get there. But just beginning to write it down already feels like a profound shift away from focusing on the negative: “How do we get them to stop _______” toward instead looking at: “What will it take to have, and how can we best model these things that we want.”

Making an actual map with everything written down has been great for Jerry. It really helps him to have this concrete thing to look at and refer to. As we were working, he reflected on his biggest challenge for this week: modeling respect and trust and believing in Charlotte’s strength and resilience. He said, “My biggest thing is remembering not to interfere when they fight. Things like when Fenner gives Charlotte that nasty look, I realized that I then give Fenner the same look! Like, ‘Oh, yeah? Take that!’ … and when Vicki said be careful of violating your own values in search of a quick fix – yeah, she nailed me. You can put that in your blog.”

For me it’s continuing my work on trusting in their capabilities and judgment. Just this morning I had to take Fenner and Charlotte for their annual check-up and drop Ellen off at school on the way. At 7:30 I said, “Fifteeen minutes!” Ellen just got a Nintendo DS for her birthday and she and Fenner were completely absorbed in a game. Charlotte, meanwhile, had found the mini video camera and was busy making her latest look-at-the-cutie-cats movie. No one gave any indication that they heard me, but I kept my mouth shut. At 7:40 I said, “Five minutes! I’ll be in the car!” Still absolutely no movement or acknowledgement. Again, I kept my mouth shut. My stomach tightened as I walked out the door. They won’t come, I thought to myself. They’ve each got their little electronic distractor-gadget, and I’m going to be sitting in the car by myself watching the time tick away. I sat there thinking: please, please, please … And then I saw Fenner through the mudroom window with her back pack on! Phew!

They were still inside when I realized I forgot something from my office and went back in. Charlotte was standing there, looking at her back pack and Fenner was saying, “Charlotte! You didn’t pack your lunch?!” “I forgot!” “Well, you shouldn’t waste all your time watching us play Nintendo, now we’re all ready and you’re not! … Oh … well … Just pack your lunch now and come on.” And she did, and we were right on time for the doctor.

Another thing our roadmap made us realize is that our “Lamm Family Rules” list that’s been in the dining room for the past year needed a major overhaul. We had 20 “rules” written down, and about half of them were all about what we don’t want – like a beacon of negativity: No yelling / No grabbing / No name-calling / No tattling etc., etc. And it came to me that writing those down and displaying them in a family space was like saying, “We expect you to want to do these things, and we don’t trust you to remember not to do them, so just to make sure….” Well they certainly have lived up to our expectations.

And when I sat down and rewrote this list to reflect our roadmap – made it all about the positive and changed the title from “Lamm Family Rules” to just “The Lamm Family,” it was like weight lifted off my shoulders.