10 Nov 2015

You are the best parents for your child(ren): the power of planning

Plan for peace.
Plan for growth.

I would never have believed you thirty years ago. To my plan-to-the-tee husband, I am about the most spontaneous person there is. (let me guess, you are married to an opposite too?) But I have come to see the power of planning.

You are the best parents for your child(ren) - plan for it to happen!

Married to a planner, I certainly had to learn to plan - in terms of telling him way ahead of time - what is coming around the corner; what I hoped to involve the whole family in (read: need his participation), and what outcomes I am working towards.I was chafing at it quite a bit; then I realised this: from day one that Parenting involved Planning.
When did I last feed the baby and from which side?
 She is going to outgrow her clothes!
 Which formula to wean her to?
 When are his exams.... so soon?!

But plans exist because they serve a greater purpose. 

We plan because it gets us somewhere! So the big Q is not whether you have a plan; but whether your plan will get you where you want to go?

Do you want a family that loves being together?
One that serves the community?
One where each person's potential is championed and supported?
A family where conversations are heartfelt?

Now consider the actual plans and priorities we have. Are we doing what helps us arrive at our vision, or sabotaging what we hope?

I still remember being asked when I chose to stay at home as a mother, "how can you give up the care of hundreds for one?". Yes, the Math did not seem to add up. But it was clear as a haze-less daylight to me. The hundreds can find another pastor; the child I bought into the world is my first direct responsibility. I will learn and I will enjoy this. That was the starting vision for me.

Along the way, I prayed and thought often about the vision of family and home life. With the vision, I put in place plans. The plans include:

 Good Health

 Spiritual Vitality


Wonder at life

The plans always required me to seek these things in my own life and be a model for it. After all, more things are caught than taught.

I may have a helper to get certain things done; but holding forth a vision and living it out first, simply cannot be delegated. Grandparents, church and helpers cannot be expected to develop attitudes, habits and spiritual postures in children. It is the task of the parents to do so.

 Living cannot be delegated.

To have children who are interested in life, secure, who develop empathy -- I needed to be all these myself first. Plan . to . grow .

The pace of life in a city like ours can keep us panting. I know some full-time stay-home mothers who basically plan car routes, meals, tuition and recreation. They are ferrying their children from one thing to the next. Well, there are plans, and there are plans.

A plan is basically a roadmap to get from here to there. It considers the outcome, the resources, the possible hiccups.

In order to go away on a personal retreat to recharge myself, I needed to plan for caregivers, emergency phone numbers, even to plan a time to prepare the children (and their father) besides the aspects related to the retreat itself: booking a spot and preparing my heart.

But it is easy to be so caught up with the daily demands that we hit 'cruise'.

I drove a car once on a highway in the United States and tried the 'cruise' button'. The car basically drives itself! You just needed to hang on to the steering. My cruise mode lasted no more than ten minutes. It felt honestly scary. I wasn't sure if my reflexes would be good enough for me to change mode when something called for it. Crusising was relaxing and it was easy to become less alert I felt. Also, cruising happened at a minimum of  50km/hr speed and it kept at that speed. This meant that I could not slow down at will to take note of any thing I saw along the way. Everything would be given the same length of attention. Things would get monotonous and become same-same -- lowering alertness and increasing the risk of accidents.

Life can run on cruise mode too! Just the same basic motions everyday: wake self, wake kids, pack them off to school, start working/worrying, chores, the homework drills, more chores, maybe a little TV, crash into bed. It can end up feeling like a never-ending highway of things to get done. {for some parents with children who need special attention; this situation is very real and much more tiring}.

To avoid a 'cruise' situation, set aside time to plan.

I'll be cheeky and say this: all of us basically have a 'plan' to get through each day: grit and grin it.

Ok, seriously, here's how I do it. Remember I am not Mdm Systematic.

1. the daily just-in-case I forget something
I have important dates, details and datelines written on a whiteboard for everyone to see. There is even a message section for me to leave 'reminder' or 'cheers' depending on my emotional state! The schools hand out so many letters I found sticking them on the fridge felt so cluttered; instead reading it through and writing out the important bits helped us focus.

2. the weekly check-it-twice
Yes, don't we just love how the school and tutors have to shift things around {and we are talking pre-haze days}. CCA is particularly notorious at the Secondary level and of course, all the project work. The kids used to like to download the information and hoped I was listening. Nope. I was blogging dearie. We both got frustrated. So I learned to really listen, to write it in the calendar or phone or whiteboard (very useful). Slowly, I taught them to plan their week, to anticipate changes, and NOT to assume our schedules are wrap around theirs! "If I don't hear from you early enough, you take public transport, or go without that necessary tee-shirt or extra pocket money...". With both ends learning to plan, things are far better these days.

The weekly plan is not just for activity. Like I say, plans exist to support a vision. So there are already priority items on the plan: personal time with God, family devotion, church, caring for grandparents, and so on. I also include our meals as part of this weekly plan. The menu and shopping cart has some items that are served each week so as to ensure that we have a healthy diet.

3. the monthly pray-it-over-again
Humans are not static and neither are our relationships. We are habitual it's true and it can appear hopelessly beyond change. But kids - their habits can be shaped. Each month (it turns out more or less to be so as I will worry about them regularly: are they faith-filled, sutdying hard, up to mischief, hanging out with wrong peeps, onto porn {gasp}..maybe it's PMS-related), yes, more or less monthly I set aside some time to plan their growth.

Any thing to address? Any concern to dig around? Any issue blocking our relationship? This is the time I pray for insight into each child, and then make some specific plans to talk to them / take them out. A lot of it is not to 'fix' them; but just to share their interests and support their growth. I find so much peace here when I am able to release my fears to God. I also get all excited about being able to spend intentional time which will become a precious memory if not a wonderful time to align and form stronger habits.
My journal has sections specially with each child's name on it. It's cool to parent together with God!

Parenting is hard work. But it is meaningful, beautiful work. And anything worth doing calls for effort and sacrifice. 

A plan makes the art come to pass.

What art are you making as you parent?
What plans do you have?

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