Never turn down an invitation
My uncle Harry recently died. He was 87 and my favorite uncle of all. Everyone who knew him loved him. He began his adult life as a priest and missionary, and eventually left the ministry to marry my aunt (a former nun!). He continued to be an active community servant, dedicating thousands of hours to making life better for those less fortunate.
One of his mottoes was: “Never turn down an invitation.”
I thought about that saying today while working. When we write with children, when we relate to them, when we parent them, what would happen if we came with a posture of “invitation” rather than “command” or “demand” or even “request”? What if what we offer our children is offered in the spirit of an “invitation you can’t refuse”?!
Let’s look at a “for instance.”
“Camille, set the table for dinner. We’re going to eat in ten minutes.”
“Camille, I’d be touched if you’d set the table for dinner. You do such a lovely job. Would you do that for me?”
“Sean, today we have to learn long division. Get your books.”
“Sean, would you be like to learn the secret to long division? I’d love to show it to you today.”
Now you may be saying to yourself, “Julie, give me a freaking break! That sounds unnecessarily syrupy sweet! I can’t talk like that all the time, or I’ll get cavities!”
Okay, okay. I get it. You’re in a hurry; you just need cooperation; your kids need to understand how to listen to you and act; you can’t be pausing to consider how you say every little thing.
So how about my compromise deal?
What if you pause to consider how you say *one* little thing? What if one request you make is an invitation where before it used to be a demand?
Think of all the ways you feel honored and valued when you are invited to participate rather than required to. If someone asks you to lead a committee, or give a talk, or help out at a doctor’s appointment, or to make a meal, or to go to a business dinner—these feel entirely different when the important person in your life makes it a privilege to participate, rather than the expected requirement of your role (wife, daughter, mother, best friend, homeschool co-op board member).
Your kids are similar.
It’s a thrill to learn to squirt bottles of Windex at age 7-10. Treat it that way.
It’s wonderful to get new carpet in a messy bedroom that needs to be emptied of “junk” to get it installed. Create an event that celebrates the decluttering, rather than harping on why the clean-up has to be done or you don’t know what you’ll do with the ungrateful wretch who calls herself your daughter.
Invite kids to the wonderful big stuff that helps the family function—the things you know they’re dying to be old enough to do, but also the stuff you want done.
They love this:
–shopping alone with you
–picking paint chips and giving meaningful opinions
–riding along to the vet, supervising the dog
–selecting an exotic fruit at the Farmer’s Market
–washing the car by hand (too fun with loud music and bathing suits!)
–rearranging all the furniture in a room any way they want to
–dressing up fancy
–raking leaves and jumping in them
–making a bonfire from gathered “downed” branches after a storm
–programming the DVR
–dish-washing with quarters hiding at the bottom of the soapy water
–making a CD mix for a long trip
–picking all the snacks for the same long trip
–arranging flowers for the dinner table
The possibilities are endless—look at your life with new eyes and turn the things you want done into invitations they can’t refuse. Change the tone of your voice for one request per day. See how invitation changes how you see your children and your needs.
We all like the opportunity to say “Yes, I’d like to” or “No, I don’t want to.”
There should be chances to say “yes” and “no” every day that don’t mean someone is being disobedient or willful.
We all want to express preference. Invitations help you to remember that each family member is a unique being, deserving freedom of movement and activity in the home, at least sometimes, at least once a day.
You might start saying “yes” to your kids’ invitations too: to listen to a song, to watch a video, to play a game, to talk, to take a hike, to bake, to read a book, to run to the store, to make a huge mess, to eat dessert for lunch. Why not?
As Harry would say: “Never turn down an invitation.”
Who knows what good might come from it? until you say: Yes!
Cross=posted on facebook.