Life can be overwhelming. We can start to list things in our minds and feel there is no hope in tackling everything. This is the list I texted my friends this morning: exercise, work, “taxi” services, errands, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and let’s not forget the basement that I’m dying to organize. My kids don’t stop growing and I also need them to help me go through all of their clothes. You can see how it can all overwhelm any of us. If we do a little every day, it leads to all the big things getting accomplished. Lists, checking off the boxes, prioritizing, finding what is working and what isn’t working along the way. I was finding things that weren’t working for me, and I was making little shifts.
The way that I unwind at night is by reading. My mind settles and knows it’s time to go to bed. It is a routine that works for me. I have also found that I love listening to Podcasts while I walk my dog and do dishes. All the books and all the podcasts continue to teach me more ways to manage motherhood and life better and become a better person.
I don’t want you all to think that I am always down on myself. I’m not ripping myself apart and telling myself that I have to change. What I am doing is noticing places where I am struggling or feeling overwhelmed and I am finding ways to make my days better. There is always room for improvement and I strongly think we should all be learning and growing every day.
The latest book that I just finished is The Little Things by Andy Andrews. I strongly encourage you to read his books. He is so inspiring. I have only read The Traveler’s Gift and The Little Things so far. Next up on my list is The Noticer. Andy Andrews taught me that the little things are not so little. He taught me that all the little changes that I am making every day are a big deal. I would love to share with you some of the little changes that I have made in my life that are making a big difference.
I am going to start with my daughter Lillie. I know you have heard about some of my struggles with Lillie. Lillie is a spirited child who has big emotions. Never do I want to break her of any of that. I want Lillie to feel her feelings. I think that’s important. I also want her to be able to manage her feelings. One of the best things that we can equip our children with are coping skills. I talk to my friends, I jog on the treadmill, I read a good book, I write, etc. We learn through the years how to cope with our feelings in healthy ways. I know that it’s unhealthy to reach for a chocolate chip cookie when I am stressed but that it is healthy to disappear to my basement and take my stress out on my punching bag and treadmill. What am I teaching Lillie?
I ordered some stones for Lillie (for the family). I had no idea that this small purchase of $15 was going to make such a big difference for my family. The stones have positive messages on them including peace, love, courage, strength, you rock, inspire, hope, gratitude, pray, believe, faith, and dream. They are smooth pretty rocks, and they sit on my island in a small pretty pink bowl.
I sat down with Seth, Ella and Lillie, and I explained why I bought these rocks for us. I told them that when they were having feelings that were upsetting them including anger, sadness, anxiety, etc., that they could go grab a rock of their choice. I told them they could rub the rock with their thumbs, they could take deep breaths while holding the rocks, they could put it in their pocket and take it with them for help. They could sit with the rocks during remote school. I explained how these rocks could help them. I had no idea that my little suggestion would turn into something so big.
I do remind Lillie to grab a rock and she does. I want to go bigger than that. Now, when she sees me upset, she hands me a rock. You know I am a sap. I just cried typing that sentence to you. I was upset last night because I bought Lillie her favorite yogurt for her school lunch and it disappeared. How does a yogurt disappear? Silly me only bought one yogurt. I gave up and asked Seth to please look in the fridge as I couldn’t imagine that my son who never stops eating would choose a peach yogurt. Lillie told me it was ok and handed me a rock. I was sad because I bought it special for her. It sounds so silly as I type it, but I was perplexed and sad that the yogurt had disappeared. Seth found it for me, but in the midst of all of this I was so touched that Lillie was telling me it was ok and handed me a rock. I was getting somewhere with her.
There are so many little tweaks that we can make in our parenting that have such a big impact. Lillie and I talk a lot about the power of a little pause. A little small pause that we can take before we react is game changing. Teaching her (and reminding myself) of the warning signs of getting angry. My jaw tends to clench. You may feel your breathing increase. Lillie says she clenches her fists. Realize the signs and take the pause. I told her the pause with deep breaths and/or counting to ten will lead to such better results for her.
These suggestions sound so little and yet the results are so amazing. I was realizing as I read the book The Little Things that all the little things aren’t so little. I realized I was making little suggestions along the way and getting big results.
Andy Andrews says that there are two ways to achieve lasting change. Number one is, “What’s in it for me?” and number two is, “Proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” I believed that I was going to make lasting change. Lillie knows that she gets more positive attention, more rewards, and a better relationship with her family if she makes these changes. I have explained the proof and she has seen the proof with her own eyes.
I used to let Lillie relax in the morning on Thursdays and Fridays while I exercised. I let her wake up and relax and then the “fight” began to get her to complete her schoolwork. Lillie is home on Thursdays and Fridays from school and is expected to complete lists of independent work. In realizing that this wasn’t working, we altered the schedule. We discussed that we were going to get the work done right away and then she could have the rest of the day to do whatever she wanted to do. This would lead to less fighting and it would reward her with plenty of play time. There was a lot in it for her! I was making little tweaks here and there to challenges I had been seeing and was seeing big results over and over again. All it takes is a little change! Little changes are also less overwhelming. I wasn’t changing my whole week’s schedule. I was just changing two days by a couple hours.
Let’s move on to McDonald’s. Every so often on a Monday I would grab a chicken nugget McDonald’s meal for Ella after school to eat before she ran to three hours of theater. I call it marathon Mondays. Ella goes to school all day in person and then goes to her theater. She gets home a little before 8:00 PM. It’s a super long day for her but she loves her theater. I thought I was doing a “nice” thing for her buying her crappy food sometimes to help her not be starving. However, Lillie was also grabbing a happy meal and feeling sick every time. Ella and Lillie gobble up their McDonald’s and they both head to theater last week. Before bed Lillie complains of indigestion and doesn’t sleep much. It took me three times, but I finally put two and two together. Every time she eats McDonald’s she doesn’t sleep. Making Ella something to eat instead of stopping at McDonald’s may sound so small to all of you but it is going to lead to a lot more sleeping for Lillie and I. She just doesn’t seem to digest it. I don’t think we will ever get Lillie to eat McDonald’s again and I’m really okay with that.
Let’s move on to grocery shopping. I used to grocery shop on Sundays for the week and make sure I have a lot of food for lunches and dinners. The store was very busy, and I wasn’t enjoying my Sunday time at Wegman’s. I decided to make a change. I now grocery shop on Mondays. The store is so much less busy, my kids are all busy at school, Seth is at work, and my experience is so much better. I know a lot of you go to work on Mondays and can’t take this option. I fortunately am able to make this change. A small little change that has really made me happier.
I could go on and on about the little changes I am making. There are just a few more little tweaks that I’ve made that have made a positive difference in my life. If you are like me, dinner can be daunting. Thinking of what to make every week and coming up with meals was really plaguing me. I also was sending Seth to work with a ton of food because as I attempt to go down in sizes he is attempting to go up. I’m embarrassed to tell you that I think we both have the same goal weight. He needs to go up to achieve it and I need to go down.
As I was scrambling trying to find enough food for Seth, I changed my ways. I started to get a routine of what I was making each night. Here I was fighting this my whole life. I thought it was so boring to have the same things every night, but I actually found it freeing and helpful. Our family tends to have the same things on Mondays, Tuesdays….and I was buying and making extra to send with Seth to work. You may think this sound so little and simple, but this has been a big game changer for me. I am finding meals to be so much less stressful. I think this idea started when Seth told me Tony Robbins eats the same thing every day. Seth told me part of my issue with my weight and my stress with meals is needing variety every day. Seth said, “If you have a routine with your food, you know how many calories you are eating, and you won’t be guessing anymore. You also won’t be trying to figure out what to make every week.”
Wait, there’s more…. Seth’s brain works very differently than mine. I am more creative and emotional. Seth is all about systems. He has systems at work, and he tries to make systems at home. I see the benefits in how he operates. “Stop guessing and actually calculate,” Seth tried to explain to me. He was calculating what he burned calorie wise vs what he ate in an attempt to gain weight and muscle. He knows that is not what these tools tend to be used for but that’s what he was using them for. He purchased me a bracelet to wear that tells me how many calories I burn every day. He convinced me to use the My fitness pal app to track my food. My friend Kristin has been doing it forever. It seemed so simple to her. I resisted tracking. I resisted having a routine with my food. Maybe it was time to embrace these little changes. This was hopefully going to have big results.
Here I sit, learning more every day and making tweaks to my days. My goal is to always enjoy my days, to be healthy and to try to be the best me that I can be. Will I always take the pause? Probably not? Will I always make a healthy choice with my food? You know the answer to that is no. However, all these little changes that we make in our days are not so little. They will lead you somewhere big! I hope you will go make a little change in your day today! I would love to hear about it!
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R