By Megan Gan
In our little family of four we mostly live moment to moment. When crises flare up around us we put out the fire as gracefully as possible, but more often than not, we get burned.
We, like every family, live with a plethora of challenges. Most of them are mundane and hardly worth mentioning but these challenges can make or break our day. The more serious ones, like our health and financial challenges, can impact our future.
So it’s not a question of IF we have problems or challenges (we all do!!!) but it’s HOW we deal with them. I don’t remember much of what my professors said to me in college, but I always think about what one, in particular, said to me. Roughly translated: “You can never answer the question ‘WHY?’ but you can answer the question ‘HOW?’” He was referring to understanding scientific processes, but I’ve conveniently applied it to my everyday life.
I don’t know WHY my 4 y/o got sick yesterday (hanging out at the germy Y, first day of school germs, tired, worn down, stress, dirty hands, he STILL puts all sorts of things in his mouth!???) but I do know HOW to deal with the challenge of a vomiting 4yo who hurls without any warning. In this instance, I grabbed the portable potty (to catch the puke), laid a towel on the floor, got his pillow and blankey, filled water bottles with juice and water and made him comfortable with his Ipad. And we got through that storm.
Taking care of a kid with a virus is usually pretty easy. I had an easy answer to that problem. But in my old age (I turn 40 in 2 months!) I’m starting to realize that to answer the hard problems is to NOT focus on the “WHY” of our problems but on the “HOW” to get through them. It’s hard to figure out the HOW unless you know WHERE you want to go or your purpose. When the stuff hits the fan HOW are you going to get through it. But really I think of it as, what do you see on the other side of the stuff hitting the fan? It’s sort of the light at the end of the tunnel for every situation. If you can set your gaze on the (hopefully) positive outcome, you can work backwards from that positive outcome to figure out HOW to get through the tough stuff.
This type of thinking requires 2 important traits: 1) An ability to look ahead and use your IMAGINATION to view a positive future or outcome and 2) OPTIMISM.
If I can’t picture the end result of my actions, ( some of you might call them consequences) good or bad, I can’t really figure out how to avoid the bad consequences and focus on the good ones. So you have to IMAGINE how your actions will help you get where you want. And if I’m a “Negative Nelly” about everything in my life ( “It doesn’t matter what I do, I still won’t be able to save enough for a new car”, or *insert negative thought here:_____________*), then two things happen. A) I am too focused on the problem and tend to wallow in self-pity and B) I’m not focused on my ultimate goal or purpose.
My oldest, who is almost 8, is a great kid with lots of unique gifts. One of his gifts is ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). When I was a kid, I LOVED, and I really can’t stress this enough, LOVED school. It was my purpose and means for everything that was important to me in life. I made friends pretty easily, I got good grades, it was sort of my identity. Megan: the one who is good at school. Now my first-born is kinda the opposite. School is just something to endure for him. His brain, unlike my brain, was not designed to fit with a traditional school environment. He’s definitely a learner and super intelligent, but he loves to learn by reading, doing experiments and watching YouTube, not school as much. But he tries so hard and has a good heart. So this is one of our challenges.
The beginning of a new school year, although I really want it to be as exciting and happy as I remember from my childhood, is usually really stressful for our family. As we were approaching the start of school, I started to panic a little. I already knew that it would be hard for him to make and maintain friendships and that he would be slow with schoolwork and all the other fun things that come with ADHD. He knew it too, but God bless him, he was still so optimistic (I love that kid). So I took a page out of his book and grabbed on to his optimism and added my ability to imagine a good future and started to work on our HOW.
Our goal/purpose became: making good first impressions and having positive interactions in the new year. We as a family were all on board with this. We worked on several ways “HOW” to get to our goal. We adjusted his ADHD medication, made an organization station for homework and one of the more fun things we did was create a scrum board for the kids daily tasks. If you are a programmer/coder you probably are familiar. Basically it’s a big to-do list but the physical action of moving Post-its around is so encouraging! It seriously helps us get out the door happy and prepared for the day and go to bed with a smile. Bonus, when our kids have all their Post-its in the “done” column, they can earn tokens for screen time!
When I get down about ADHD and it’s challenges I start to ask WHY? I know it’s not a terrible diagnosis in the grand scheme of things and it could be a lot worse, but why my smart guy? Was it something I did while pregnant? Something I fed him as a baby? Which grandparent passed on the gene? But it doesn’t matter WHY and I couldn’t even answer the question even if I wanted to. Instead, with the help of my awesome husband, who helps keep things in perspective, and my kids who make me laugh and inspire me with their optimism, I focus on our purpose. I imagine raising two kind men who have a good relationship with their mom and dad and love what they are called to do in life. And we work backward together to come up with our HOW to get there. When you think of it that way, everything gets really simple again and the hard problems in life have much easier answers.
What can you do to see through the fog of your problems and find your purpose or goal at the end of the tunnel?
Does your family have shared goals or have you shared personal goals with each other?
What is your ultimate vision of your future? For yourself? For your family? Use your imagination!