Friday, January 15, 2010

There's No I In Team.

I'm a pretty organized woman. Sure, I have junk drawers that need my attention. Yes, I have a never-ending pile of paperwork generated by my local elementary school. And my mailbox contributes to the creeping slide across my counter that the never-ending pile does on a semi-regular basis. But on the whole, I'm pretty organized. I'm very intentional in the manner by which I accomplish this in our home.

Over the years, I've found that consistent attention to the smaller, daily details of keeping things in their place is my best tool in the war against clutter. You know, "a place for everything, and everything in its place," kind of thinking and living. Additionally, training my little Gang members to take individual responsibility for their "stuff" really helps the overall atmosphere of organization here. Soooo much of my time over the years has been spent focusing on that training. "Take responsibility for your stuff," is a constant refrain around here. And by stuff, I rarely mean just their material belongings!

However, I've found more recently that I really need to step up the training of the "we" mentality here to balance out the individual responsibility message. For example, when we're all packing for a trip, just taking out MY coat and putting it in the van serves no one but me. If I know that all 7 of us need a coat for said trip, then taking out all 7 coats isn't just efficient. It's thoughtful and serving of the others. Another example I know you moms will gimme a strong "Amen!" for: when you go upstairs and see a pile on the stairs of belongings, don't just root through and take your stuff. See if you can drop off your brother's stuff on the way. It's team work.

There's a lot of emphasis in our culture on individuality. On taking personal responsibility for our thoughts, our actions, our behaviors. And in these years of training our kids, it's a good emphasis. But I'm starting to think we're missing a whole chunk of the picture.

I think we spend too much time training ourselves
and our children for individual independence.

I know. That's a tough one to think about. I've been thinking about it for a long time, so it's a little easier for me to say it now.

So much of what we have learned as a family over this last year, in our journey to help Li'l Empress attach and bond in a healthy, forward-motion manner has frankly been quite counter-intuitive to those around us who are parenting children of similar ages. I mean, really. By the time your toddler is 2 1/2, you likely have reached many milestones of independence. And likely, you are enjoying a bit of the freedom that you both gain from that. Instead, we intentionally took away a lot of the "developmentally appropriate" independences. (Yes, I made that word up. I can do that, this is my blog!) You can read about it in my series on attachment if you start here and move through the next three or four posts . . .

But over this past year, I've begun to notice many many areas of our life in which too much individual independence has been rooted in my home. Granted, with a house full of teens and tweens, some of it is natural and must be allowed. But it's showing up in a couple areas that concern me. The first is in the attitude of service toward one another. Like the coat example. Or like this morning. One of my little Gang members got out cereal for themselves, got out one spoon and one bowl. That doesn't work for me. There are 5 other bodies in the morning who all have to eat too. Get out all 6 bowls and spoons at one time. SERVE one another.

Another area which I've got my eye on is in the "work" part of team work. We all have regularly assigned chores, on a neat and spiffy chore chart. However, among my oldest four Gang members, there has developed an attitude that says, "Well, this week, that's not my job." And the mess gets left. It's been showing up a LOT in the realm of dishes. And in the mess left in the bathroom after all the kids have finished their morning toilette. I'm really going after it lately. If you use the bathroom and there's a mess on the counter (Four kids generate a lot of hair, toothpaste drops, and other lovely ick in a bathroom sink!), then just clean it up, even if you didn't make it all by yourself. I don't really care if it's not your week to clean upstairs bathrooms. If you make yourself a snack and there are crumbs on the counter, clean them up. I don't care if the kitchen isn't your job till tomorrow.

I'm not angry about this. Well, right now I'm not. I admit to being really frustrated by it when I come upon the mess and "It's not my day," is the reason given for leaving a mess behind. I might even cop to hollering and screeching about it. But I am convinced that it's a natural progression of my focus on the "Take responsibilty for your own stuff," mentality. At least in part.

Finally, the third area which I'm keying in on is the isolation that comes with successfully having taken care of one's own stuff. By that I mean this: when LadyBug finishes all her jobs and fills out her daily checklist of tasks and practices, she often disappears into her room to read. Alone. When Dr. D (Really, I gotta get this kid a new blog name. He's sooo over that one!) finishes school and gets his physical fitness minutes in for the day, he disappears to his room to listen to his music. With his headphones on. Shaggy buries his nose in a book somewhere around the house, also with his headphones on. You get the picture.

On the one hand, it's kinda nice. After a long busy day, I'm almost always garunteed a bit of peaceful quiet in the hour before The Boss walks in. But I get a little antsy when it continues too long. When it's been 2 or 3 hours since I've seen LadyBug playing with Li'l Empress's hair. Or when I haven't heard Baby BlueEyes giggles as he wrestles with Dr. D. Or when I walk around upstairs while Li'l Empress takes in some B@rney time, only to find all four of the older kids in their rooms. Individually. Plugged into headphones or building L*go houses in solitude. It doesn't often sit right with me.

Please don't hear what I am NOT saying. And please don't assume that I have the answer to the questions that are raised by these observations. I am still searching for the balance of it. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this tendency towards individual isolation is NOT how I want my gang to know their teen years. I don't want this pulling away to be the sole goal of their downtime, the reward of their free time. I do know that it's healthy to have solitude. I'm not talking about that kind of isolation. I agree that it's useful for refreshing and recharging, for all of us.

But put ALL THREE of these elements together (cuz that's how I think!) and I am restless with the status quo. I am sensing another bit of "counter-culture" coming on. I'm seeking God's balance for this issue. For me and for my Gang.

There's no I in Team. And there's no I in Gang either.


The Gang's Momma! said...

By the way, this post is a result of thoughts that have been swirling in my head since the beginning of December or so. It finally all flowed today because of the things I read here:

a Tonggu Momma said...

This something I've been thinking a lot about, as the Tongginator is just now starting to develop her own friendships and outside life. I want to keep her close for as long as possible. She needs it. And I definitely do.

Melissa said...

Can you hear my shout of AMEN from here??? WOW. You are dead on that we teach our kids to be responsible for THEIR stuff, but I just realized how little I emphasis them serving one another unless in the unfortunate event one of them is sickl or hurt. And, then I bang my head on the wall lecturing them about how badly they treat each other!! Duh. However, I think that #3 had a word of knowledge about your post because she is home today from having 7 teeth pulled and decided to clean #2's room for her...out of the blue...."just because", she said. I guess she "gets it" more than my older 2 do!!

Thanks for this's putting me back on track! I'm probably going to link back to it in my blog if you don't mind!

Darcy said...

I LOVE your post!! We had a similar experience today and I was blown away...Asked 4 year old to pick up 10 year olds shoes as he was off at school...4 year old says "Why? They are Morgan's". Helllloooo!! We need to adjust our thinking around here, too!

Classic MaMa said...

Awesome post!

Aus said...

Great stuff here GM - we're working on that for our upcoming 'road trip' too!

hugs - aus and co.

Mona said...

Just a thought regarding the gang breaking off into their rooms alone. How much time do the kids spend time with kids outside the family and I am not talking about family down the street? Maybe, and just maybe they spend so much time with each other that getting away to spend alone might just be that getting away. We tend to appreciate each other a bit more when there is some absence from each other. I know that you love for your family to bond, and if fact if I am correct you schedule bonding time. Maybe they are bonded, have bonded and will always be bonded -- but now maybe let them fly just a bit.

And what the heck I am just going to start using my name.

The Boss said...

Mona, as Christians, we are called to be counter-culture. I'm not saying everyone has to believe what we believe but our kids have plenty of time to "fly" later in life. For now, our mission as a family is to spend as much time together as we can, learning how to serve one another and live in relationship, not be independent from one another. Sheltered, you might say? Absolutely, as much as we possibly can while we have the chance to. Did you know that people trained to spot counterfeit money don't actually spend time looking at counterfeit money? They spend all of their time looking at the real thing so when a fake comes along, they recognize it immediately. Now is the only time we have to offer our kids that same training.

Mona said...

I wasn't challenging your parenting methods but rather trying to offer my thoughts. I know spending alot time with the same people (family or not) can cause us to want to step back. I might have misread the blog entry but I thought the concern was that the kids are taking off in their direction alone to either read, or listen to music.

The Gang's Momma! said...

I don't think he took it as a challenge to our parenting methods. Rather, he's affirming my thoughts and feelings regarding our perspective in keeping balance in the AMOUNTS of time spent in isolation vs. solitude . . . going to the motives behind why we'd all feel the need to scatter. Again, taking all three elements into consideration as a whole. It IS very counter-culture to guard one's teens from too much "time in their room" away from the family unit as a whole and we don't ever really mind being different than what many perceive as the norm, like in these decisions.

Darcy said...

I saw this a few days ago and knew you had to see it!
This will be coming out in our home more than just the month of February!

The Gang's Momma! said...

Darcy, thanks! It's definitely a trick that would head us in the right direction . . . Thanks so much.

Oh, and now I've got a new blog to follow. The Boss does NOT thank you :) hee heee!

**Amy** said...

Amen to that! You said a lot of the things that I have been thinking in such a clear perspective. Thanks for the link and directing me to read your beautiful words. We could all use this!

Anonymous said...

Interesting concept. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts concerning this issue. Of course, when you go around your home and clean up after folks you, as a mom, don't say to the kids "i only cleaned up the mess I made..." nor do you cook food for yourself.... It just makes sense. Really. They will thank you for it later. birdv

Anonymous said...

I've thought even more about your post and I really do have to agree regarding the time spent together instead of apart. As adults, we do not reminisce about the times we spent alone as kids. Rather, we talk fondly about our experiences with each other - the fun times, the games played, the shows watched together, the trips taken, the times spent doing nothing together. My kids rarely spend time alone. I did not purposely set out to do that but I do see the benefits after reading your post. Even quiet time reading alone is done sitting in the bed next to me while I do something else. Keep working with them. birdv

Jaime Leigh said...

I like the way you think...We are working with our children about selfishness and attiude...Not that they are bad kids...I just would love to see a lot more kindness come from all three of my children...even towards eachother...Thanks for sharing =)