The difference 2 years can make

Posted June 23, 2013 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Problem Solving

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Going through photographs today, I stumbled across two photos of our family problem board taken 2 years apart. This shows what can happen when kids are given time and space to solve their own problems. Two years can seem like an eternity, I know. But this slow, steady progress is the kind that sticks. For life…

2009 Problem Board

2009 Problem Board

2011 Problem Board

2011 Problem Board

Dear _____

Posted June 7, 2013 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Miscellaneous

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Recently, I took a “Leadership Workshop for Girls and Moms” offered by my friend and fellow Parenting-On-Track-er, Cindy Pierce. Since it was for middle school girls, only my 7th-grader, Ellen, was eligible to attend with me. One of the exercises Cindy had us do was write a letter about our hopes and appreciations for each other. For each letter she provided some structure (italics) and had us fill in the blanks. Since I know my Parenting-On-Track training greatly influenced my letter, I wanted to share it with you.

Ellen-airportAnd if anyone reading this is concerned that my parenting style could result in children who feel alone and abandoned, perhaps Ellen’s letter will provide some reassurance (published with permission):

Dear Mother,

I appreciate that you are always there for me when I need help, and you always listen to what I want and let me choose my own life.

I am proud of you for accepting the mess I give you.

Without you I would not have an outlet for stress and probably would become a homeless person, and because of you I will always have a place to go.

My greatest hope for you is that you find a good place to retire.

Love, Ellen

Dear Daughter,

I hope that you grow up to be your own best friend, loving and trusting yourself.

I want you to experience both success AND failure, and to always have confidence that you will figure things out.

I know you will learn to know what’s in your own heart and will also build the courage to stay true to yourself and say what you need in relationships.

My greatest hope for you is that your love and respect for yourself will guide you in your continued love and respect for others and be the foundation for a life full of intentional courage.

Love, Mom

Never too late

Posted May 25, 2013 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Miscellaneous

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One of my dearest childhood friends sent me the message below. I told her I was equally inspired by her story and asked if I could share it here. Her kids are teenagers—it’s never too late to shift and shake things up!

I get it now. You inspired me. So I get home Sunday night and all is well. Kids and husband happy from the weekend. I note that Sarah’s prom dress is hanging on the kitchen chair and some hair styling tools are on the floor in the TV room. Backpacks are strewn around and books and papers about—homework day. Nothing unusual, but what follows is. So Monday I am in school all day helping with a project. I come home and rather than asking the kids questions about their day and homework situation, I go for a run. I come home and make dinner and am feeling very relaxed from our weekend away. That evening I download the Parenting On Track book and I start reading your blog. So enjoyable by the way! I spend most of Tuesday reading the book. Three chapters into it I decide to quit being the maid and I commit to not picking up after the kids and to do an abbreviated version of do nothing say nothing without telling them. Such a simple decision, and immediately the weight lifted off my shoulders. If I only had to clean up after myself, my whole day opened up—how freeing!

After school, Justin had two friends over and the kitchen quickly piled up with dirty dishes, pans and all sorts of debris from the boys making nachos and chocolate milk and not putting away one single thing. The empty bag of chips and bag of cheese sat on the counter instead of in the trash, the chocolate syrup bottle lay on its side and glasses and plates and utensils were all over the kitchen. The Tasmanian teenagers ate a ton and made a huge mess within minutes. Rather than cringing I was silently cheering inside—I wanted more mess to see how the kids would respond. After I made dinner for everyone I cleaned up my mess, including the pots I used to make dinner, but I left everything else. The friends did not clear their plates, the kitchen remained a war zone and we left for basketball. The next morning Justin made himself breakfast and left out the milk, his bowl and the cereal and went to school. Perfect. Sarah doesn’t eat breakfast, but she does leave her clothes and hair brushes strewn about the main floor. Perfect. A friend comes over and asks why I am living in a frat house. I explain and we have a good laugh. She is curious about this experiment and wants to try it at her house, but says that the dishes with the caked on food makes her “too nervous.”

By Wednesday evening Justin comes home and is visibly curious and somewhat disturbed that the house is still a mess. Sarah is oblivious, enjoying her snack surrounded by stale food and dirty dishes. I am sitting on the couch, feet propped up, reading. We chat about their day and Justin says, “This kitchen is a mess, I am going to clean it up.” I say nothing. He looks around, throws one thing away and then makes himself a banana with peanut butter. He comes back to me and we talk some more. Sarah leaves for PT. Justin asks what I did that day and I told him I went for a long run, did some stuff around the house, and went to lunch with a friend. Under his breath he says, “Well you didn’t clean the kitchen.” Secretly smiling inside I said as a matter of fact, “No, I didn’t.” He said, “It’s a mess.” I said, “I am well aware.” Then he looked confused. You could see his brain trying to process what was going on. After a few minutes, I gave in and said, “Justin, everything you see is either your mess or Sarah’s mess.” He paused, looked around the room for evidence to counter my claim, and then not finding any, he laughed in disbelief. He stood up, took an inventory of what was his, and cleaned up the kitchen. After he was done he said, “Wow, a lot of that mess was mine.” Music to my ears. First step achieved—awareness.

We talked and I explained that for the past few days I have been quietly observing him to see what would happen if I did nothing and said nothing. Then I proceeded to tell him all of the things that I noticed, including lots of great things that they do on their own, and how they enjoy each others company, and are responsible with their time etc. Thanks to Vicki, I then explained that dad and I have not done a good job teaching them how to pick up after themselves. We had good intentions, but now we know that we have deprived them of many opportunities to help out and contribute to our family.

An important lesson for me through all of this was my shift in thinking. In the past I would go through the cycle of trying to “get them” to pay attention to their messes, get frustrated when they did not clean up, then I would clean up and be resentful. While I sat quietly and watched them I understood that their lack of awareness was simply due to a lack of training and if I really wanted things to change, first I would have to be willing to change. I would have to be willing to commit to not saving them, to tolerate disorder, and to teach them to be self sufficient. I also came to realize that my children have different tolerances for mess. When I view it this way there is no judgement. Neither one is good or bad depending on their tolerance, just different. My daughter can tolerate a lot of mess, but she is also a calm, content, drama-free teenager. My son has a lower tolerance for mess, and he prefers order.

Justin is now “in on the game” and we are waiting for Sarah to realize that her stuff is all over the house and we have a bet on when she will make the effort to pick up on her own. My guess is that it will be a while. In the meantime I have explained to Justin that I will no longer pick up after him or Sarah. Their rooms and bathrooms are theirs to clean or not clean and it does not matter to me what they choose. I have asked Justin to think about ways we can keep the main living area clean without me or dad reminding or nagging.

This has been really fun! Last night he made a milkshake and cleaned up the mess. I know things won’t change overnight but this has been a great start. Thought you would appreciate the story.

Comic relief

Posted May 7, 2013 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Contributions

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Hi readers. I know it’s been a while. I’ve got some posts percolating. Meanwhile, enjoy this little gem:

Quotables, cont.

Posted January 30, 2013 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Contributions

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Fenner, age 15:

dollar“I hate when my friends get whatever they want from their parents. To spend my money I know I have to really want it. If I don’t really want it I don’t get it. My friends don’t take care of their things because their parents will just buy them another one. I’m really thankful when you buy me things because it hardly ever happens! And when their parents pay for birthday presents, I’m like, ‘So your mom paid for that?’ And it doesn’t mean as much. I spend my own money on my friends.”

Ellen, age 12:

“Mom, yesterday my friend was like, ‘You mean your mom doesn’t make your lunch?!’


‘She doesn’t pack your bag?!’


‘She doesn’t wake you up in the morning?!’


‘She doesn’t make you breakfast?!’


‘She doesn’t care what you wear?!’


Me: “Do you envy her that her mom does all that?”

“No! It feels like her mom’s all in her business!”

Charlotte, age 10:

“Some parents don’t let little kids, like me, use sharp knives, or the oven, or the microwave. You know what that’s like? That’s like saying your kid doesn’t have a brain.”


Posted November 19, 2012 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Miscellaneous

Tags: , , ,

You know you’re a Parenting-On-Track family when you hear:

  • “Mom, come on! Let’s go! I don’t want to be late for school!”
  • “She’s not willing to clean the sink, so I’m going to do it for her. Can I use the yellow sponge?”
  • “I found out that when I’m left alone, I like to clean. We cleaned the kitchen, now we’re going to clean the house.”
  • “Ok, if you’re willing to play Frisbee later, then I’ll get my work done now.”
  • (As I started to give advice): “Mom, please don’t. I’m so tired of people telling me how to do stuff all day at school.”
  • “I have a problem. I haven’t been getting to bed on time lately. I think if I go to bed too late there should be a consequence.”
  • “Mom, stop staring at me like you know I’m about to figure this out.”
  • “Hey, if I act calm, I become calm.”
  • “If you never let us get hurt, we won’t have any good experiences.”
  • “Mom, I appreciate your self-control when we fight.”
  • “I hate when my friends don’t know how to do anything!”
  • “The more I save, the more I lose. If I count up all the money I’ve lost, it’s like $100!”
  • “I want one, but I don’t want to use my savings.”
  • “Mom, please go away. You slow us down.”
  • “I hate showering. It’s such a pain. But if I go a long time without it, then people really notice when I do shower and I want to die of embarrassment because then I know that they know that I haven’t showered in a long time. Ugh. The only reason I keep any hair on my head is because it’s fun to have when it’s clean!”
  • “I take pride in having a mom who doesn’t tell me what to do.”
  • “My family is awesome.”

The girls at Halloween

In the driver’s seat

Posted September 30, 2012 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Miscellaneous

Tags: , , ,

Charlotte had been hiking before. Up the same mountain, in fact. On the same trail. At the same time of year. She has experience. So I put on my metaphorical duct tape and left her in charge of getting ready.

Duct Tape Moment BadgeShe was going with another family this time—of one of her good friends. I had said what time we needed to leave to meet the friend at her house. Charlotte was up in her room. The time came and went. I knocked on her door…

“Charlotte? Did you change your mind? If so, I just need to call and tell them not to wait for you.”

“No, mom, I’m coming! I just needed to finish my penquin!”

I had assumed she was up there getting ready, but she was actually making a penguin with a paper animal kit she’d gotten for her birthday.

“Look mom!” She held up the penguin proudly.

“Uh-huh. I see you figured out how to make those animals. I’ll be in the car…”

“Ok! I’ll be right there!”

After a few minutes, she jumped in the car, “Am I late?”

“A little, but I think you’re still ok.” I glanced back. She had her spray’n’fan bottle (not for drinking) and her fleece jacket, and she was wearing her good walking shoes. But…headed for a 2-hour hike with no backpack, no water, and no food. And she didn’t eat breakfast either.

I felt the duct tape weakening. Ok, wait…will she starve? No. Will she die of thirst? No. She’ll have to share with someone. (Not her favorite.) Will I feel like a bad mom sending her off with another family unprepared for the hike? Yes indeed.

We drove to the friend’s house.

“Charlotte, where’s your water bottle?” the friend’s mother asked almost immediately after we arrived. I cringed but pressed my lips together and waited for Charlotte to answer. “Oh…I forgot…” The mother all but rolled her eyes and said, “I’ll see if I can find one you can borrow.”

Ugh, this is so hard. Her friend and her hike, but I still feel guilty! (Or embarrassed, or both.) I said goodbye and thought to myself, I hope someone shares their snack, and I drove away.

I told Fenner what happened and when Charlotte got back (happy and healthy) Fenner said, “Charlotte, what did you do on the mountain with no food and no water?!”

Charlotte shrugged and replied, “I hiked it…slowly.”

So often my worry turns out to be much ado about nothing. And here was yet another reminder of how much kids can handle and how little we really need to interfere.

Later I told my husband Jerry the whole story and added, “When she did that same hike with us I helped her get ready and I thought she’d remember what to bring, but it doesn’t work that way.”

“No,” he said, “It’s just like driving. If you’re in the passenger seat there’s no real need to pay attention. You have to be the driver to really learn your way around.