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working on weaknessesI had an epiphany at the beginning of this summer.  But before I tell you about it, we have to step back a little.

There have been a lot of changes in my life over the past 5 years.  Some good, some challenging, and some that are just a part of real life.  I became a single mom, went back to work, made new friends, eventually re-married and I’ve helped my kids transition into adulthood with college, missions and jobs.  Now there are only two of my five still in the house, and that jumping off platform is in sight for the next one to leave the nest.  Now that things are settling down, and slowing down, I have been looking at my life and all of the things that I wish I had done differently. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.

So back to the epiphany.  There are things I have wanted in my life and for my children that somehow got put on hold while I was in the middle of all the other transitions I was going through in my wild adventure of a life.  Then one day (or maybe over a short period of time) I realized that it is not too late to have the home life that I want and do the things that I feel are important for me and my children.

The changes I wanted to make required hard work… they required changing habits… they required buckling down in ways that the kids were not used to, and certainly didn’t want to change.

Well, I tried to make all of the changes at once, often failing at this or that, and resulting in me feeling terrible, instead of recognizing the successes that were being made.

Yesterday I ran across this quote

Let’s help teens become aware of their strengths and build from there.  This doesn’t mean that we should ignore their weaknesses, but just that we are not majoring in them at the expense of their strengths.  They can and should be working on them as well. The rule of thumb here is, I will never require myself or one of my children to work on more than one weakness at a time. “ 1

I have a tendency to go make long lists of things that need to be done before we can relax and enjoy life.  However, the lists of things that we can be working on to be better people can really be endless.  There will never be enough time in a day to do all the good things in the world that can be done.

So when I’m listing all the things I expect from the kids all at the same time, it can be daunting and totally overwhelming.

It reminds me of the time when my son was very young and I stood him in his bedroom and told him “put your toys in the box, put your clothes in the hamper, pick up the garbage and throw it away, make your bed, pull everything out from under the bed and put it away…” and he cried “I can’t do all of that all at the same time.”

Now that he is almost an adult, I find myself in the same desperate mode, trying to get him to do everything, all at the same time, to get ready to be out on his own.

It’s kind of like when you find out that someone is coming to visit in 5 minutes, and you quickly throw everything into a closet, push the dishes into the sink (or in a pile into the oven), and yell at everyone to quick put away your shoes and backpacks and whatever else you don’t want people to see.  It might make a visit go more comfortably, but that isn’t how you clean house when you have time to do it right.

The same concept applies to learning life lessons or developing good habits. If I try to do it all quickly and at once, it doesn’t really get done right.

I think it might be more important to do a few things the right way in parenting, instead of the throwing band-aids on all of the problems, and not really getting to the heart of the issues.

By working on one problem at a time, I think we will be able to really conquer the root of a lot of the problems.  Or at least develop the skills for how to make a positive change when it is needed.  I suppose the best lesson I could really teach my kids at the teen level is the process of change, rather than forcing the change that I want to see.

I am going to try to be more gentle with myself and my children, by working on one important thing at a time. I’d like to put more emphasis on the changing process rather than the results, so that they will have a chance to develop the skills to help them when they leave me and are out on their own.


1 – The quote comes from this book.  A good friend recommended it to me, and I am getting so much out of it, I wish I had read it sooner.  


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