Last night I found myself in an unusual position: it was 7pm and neither kid was watching the TV. I decided to nab the opportunity to watch another episode of a series I started a couple weeks ago on Netflix. Apparently, this has the same effect as when I pick up the phone to call a friend, or sit down to balance the checkbook- a few minutes into it, my younger son plopped down on the couch next to me.
“What are you watching?”
“An episode of a TV show I found on Netflix.”
After a few moments of silence. “Is that guy his dad?”
“No, they didn’t meet until just now.”
“Why did he call him Father then?”
“Because he’s a priest and that’s what people call priests.” I glanced over at him. “Did you want to watch one of your shows?”
“No, I want to see what happens.”
So we watched the show, but not in silence. He had lots and lots of questions. I had some answers, but not all. See, I had the benefit of seeing the 19 episodes prior, so I knew the history. History is good, but it doesn’t necessarily give an obvious clue as to the future.
It struck me that this is a lot like life. It would be be nice if life were like Netflix, where I could watch the “good” parts over and over, rate the “bad” parts with one star and remove them from my watch list, and skip ahead when I just can’t wait to see what happens next.
But life isn’t like that. Life is “old school” – I only get to see it real time, as it happens. It seems like the difficulties and struggles linger while the peaceful times are as brief as a single breath…maybe two, if I’m lucky. I know where I’ve been, I know where I’m at, but I have no idea what happens next. I have no choice but to meet one sunrise after another and take it in as it unfolds. I may not like all the “parts,” but with God’s grace, surely I can frame my view so I see each moment as something to cherish.
My last post was a poem that was on the depressing side, so I thought this week I’d share a funny story. Next week, I plan to have a fiction piece for one of Emilio’s photos ready to post. I’d give you a hint of what it’s about… but I don’t know yet 🙂
Last month, my sons’ cats had their yearly vet visit. My older son (he’s 12) was concerned about what he thought might be tumors so he talked to the doc about it and they took some fluid to test. The conclusion: fatty deposits. My son asked questions and the doc confirmed that they would shrink in size if the cats lost some weight.
As soon as we got home, my older son announced he was going to take the cats for a walk. With a raised eyebrow I asked, “A walk?” He said yes. So I asked how he planned to do that. “A leash.”
I stifled a laugh. I had a feeling I knew how this would go, but I helped him find a harness they couldn’t wiggle out of. Lizzy was the first victim volunteer. It was as if she grew ten more legs, but we finally managed to get the harness on her. As he carried her outside and set her on on the porch, I told him to just let her explore in the yard . After ten minutes or so, I went outside to find out how the walk was going. This is what I saw:
When he heard the door open, he turned to me and said, “she won’t move.” Apparently, his good intentions didn’t translate into feline motivation. I asked what happened if he picked her up, so he lifted her to standing position and, as soon as he pulled his hands away from her belly, Lizzy fell onto her side again. We laughed.
He learned a lesson that day: you can put a cat on a leash, but you can’t make her walk.
I don’t have a fiction piece ready this week- but I have two stories in process, so I’ll definitely have one posted next week. Instead of rushing fiction, I decided to write about something I’ve been thinking about for several weeks: motivation.
Motivation is one of those human mind things that fascinate me. There are times when the prospect of success is enough to get us moving. In other instances, external factors give us a kick-start (like when a toddler is offered a reward for using the toilet.) I tend to think that internal motivation is stronger than motivation by reward… then again, some kind of motivation is better than none at all.
For instance, I would love to see my older son do his chores- and do them right- because of a sense of pride in a job well done. It would also be kind of cool to see pigs (or javelina) fly.
We’ve tried motivation in the form of allowance, or rather no allowance when chores aren’t done, with little success. Quite by accident, we found what does motivate him.
The events leading to this serendipitous discovery:
When my older son was nine, he drove us nuts begging for a cell phone. Finally, I said, “Don’t even bother asking again until you’re twelve.” That bought me a few years of peace, but then it happened: he turned twelve. Somehow, his mind interpreted my statement as, “You’ll get a cell phone when you’re twelve.”
The nagging commenced several weeks before his twelfth birthday. We made it clear: no chores, no possibility of a cell phone. He showed a little more initiative in doing his work. His own mistake led us to the biggest motivating factor. When he accidentally ruined the flip phone that we share between the kids, we activated the other spare phone we had on hand:
A pink phone… brilliant. Man, I wish I’d thought of that on my own!
While my younger son doesn’t seem bothered by the pink phone, my older son refuses to use it… even if it means extra waiting when his school activities end earlier than expected. He wants an iPhone. I smile and remind him, “You know how to make it happen.”
Discovering what motivates my son made me turn to my own (lack of) motivation. For several months, longer writing projects have been in a holding pattern. Rather than writing, I found myself playing mindless/addictive games on my phone, or watching Forensic Files marathons on TV. It seemed procrastination had won. But then through comments on my last fiction piece, I realized some things about why I’d stalled on writing.
Offers of guidance and assistance with my longer work gave me the extra nudge I needed. I’ve dusted off the rough outline of a novel-length story I’d started last year. I can’t wait to feel the satisfaction again of knowing I can finish a story over 5,000 words!
That’s the motivation I needed.
What motivates you- personal satisfaction? Recognition? Curiosity?
I learned so much this week, I decided to break it up into two posts. If you missed the first one, and you’re curious about what else I learned, click here to read it.
Teaching an almost 12-year-old to be grateful rather than entitled is an exercise in futility…. but I’m stubborn enough to keep at it
I overheard my older son counting his dollars before the birthday cards. (If we were zoned for chicken coops, perhaps he’d have counted chickens, too.) I explained that birthday gifts were…well, gifts and shouldn’t be expected. Money is tight for several family members so I reminded him he needs to be grate regardless of the money he receives. When I told him I’d invited my best friend to his birthday gathering, he was a little too excited… when I informed him I told her not to bring a gift, the disappointment was apparent.
I. Won’t. Give. Up.
I stumbled across the line between atrocious and appalling, and I don’t ever, ever want to go there again
My younger son’s table manners are atrocious. Despite my constant nagging reminding, he’s just a little piglet. He drops crumbs everywhere. He wipes his hands on his shirt (leaving a clean napkin ready to be looked at during our next meal.) He scatters his empty wrappers on the table – it was bad enough, I threatened to make him eat his Pop-Tart wrapper if he left it on the table again.
Then, on Saturday night, I saw his friend eat fettuccine alfredo. Oh my. It was appalling. I lost my appetite a little bit. I’m not sure if he used a fork or not, but he had sauce all over his chin. Finally my younger son said, “Dude, you need to wipe your chin. Do you need another napkin?”
The irony made me laugh. So much so that I had to excuse myself from the table to pull myself together.
Boys act brave, until coyotes howl
Each of my kids had a friend spend the night on Saturday night. I put them all to bed in our pop-up camping trailer. Around 11 pm, I heard coyotes howling. I remembered I didn’t send a phone handset out with them, so I decided to leave it with them, if they were still awake. (ha- if they were still awake…. what was I thinking?)
As I neared the trailer, I heard voices, so I stopped and listened.
Friend #1 – “There’s safety in numbers. We should stick together.”
Friend #2 – “What if they try to get inside?”
My older son – “The coyotes would have to be like six feet tall to get in here.”
I started laughing, giving my presence away, so I continued to the trailer. The only child asleep was my younger son. The other three were huddled together in one bed and boy did their imaginations freak them out! They were grateful for the phone and I assured them they were safe.
As I walked back to the house, my evil streak surfaced in the form of a temptation to scream in terror.
The thought of the four boys squeezed into MY queen-sized bed nixed the impulse real quick!
Kids are to egos what needles are to balloons (confidence must come from within)
I got a haircut and, for the first time in months, I liked the result. It’s longer in the front and cut short around the neckline in the back. As I type this, I realize it does sound like an odd haircut but it works for me- I feel like I have some hair, but it doesn’t get all bulky and hot around my neck (this is huge in Arizona; especially in the summer!)
Older son: “You got a haircut.” (With a look on his face like he caught a whiff of rotting food.)
Me: “Yes, and I love it!”
Older son: “Okay… but did you see the back?”
I laughed. Good thing I didn’t come home looking for approval from a critical almost-twelve-year-old. Come to think of it, I don’t even know what my husband thinks of it…. I never ask 🙂
And there it is; all the things that life has taught me over the last week. I’m sure there’s more, but sometimes this student’s mind wanders.
I had fun with my first post of wisdom gained that I did a few weeks ago. I jotted down notes throughout the week so I could share more useless realizations things I’ve learned. Here goes:
Not all kids think I’m lame- just the ones I gave birth to
My kids’ friends happened to come over when the kids weren’t home. (They had gone on a bike ride with a neighbor.) Since I expected them home soon, I let them hang around. After replacing a Band-Aid that had fallen off, one of the boys commented that I was “like the nicest mom ever.” Oh, but I didn’t let it go to my head. See the next bit of wisdom.
Don’t fall for flattery from 11-year-olds (they will eat you out of house and home)
Woody Woodpecker announced a text message on my phone. When one of the kids identified the voice, I expressed my surprise because it was “an old cartoon, from my generation.” He said his mom watched it and she was thirty. I laughed and said, “oh, I’m much older than that.” After revealing my age (41) they proceeded to feign shock and assured me I didn’t look that old. (Seriously, I didn’t buy that load of flattery, but it was a good effort.)
After the kids had played outside for several hours, I had expected them to go home for lunch. They didn’t, so I fed them. One of them ate two Velveeta mac and cheese packs and then asked if he could take some home. I said no because they were for the kids’ lunches.
I have a feeling we’ll have visitors for lunch again soon. Just a hunch.
Sometimes bad housekeeping is a good thing
As we ate dinner on the patio one evening, I kept my eye on a wasp hovering near by. (This means I had my butt barely balanced on the chair so I could dash into the house.) It went into a vent cover that was near my husband. I stared for several minutes but it didn’t come out. “Oh, there better not be a nest in there!” I said in a near-panic. When I crept over to the vent and peeked in, I saw the wasp tangled in a web.
Spider webs aren’t just for Halloween…. I’m happy to have another excuse for leaving them up year-round!
The AZ Motor Vehicle Division operates by computer, not reason
Ah, a government agency. What could possibly go wrong there, right? Well, I figured after over a year of living in our new location, I’d get a new driver’s license with the correct address. When my online attempt failed, I called the MVD. I explained that the message said I couldn’t get a duplicate license because my photo needed updated in 2011. I told them how I had done it a couple months prior to the due date after receiving the notice in the mail. Apparently, they put in the computer that it was a duplicate with no indication of a photo being taken.
According to the MVD, my driver’s license photo is from 1998. If that were the case, I could see my photo being used in an upcoming anti-drug use campaign – as a shocking “after” photo of a 25-year-old who made bad choices.
I knew that hour at the MVD office was one I’d never get back, but I had no idea that, years later, I’d discover it was like it never happened.
Life really stepped up its game in educating me, so tomorrow, I will post a follow up with more things I learned. What have YOU learned this week? I’d love to read your observations (funny, frustrating, or anything in between.)