Friends, Personal, Uncategorized

Writing My Obit

Okay, don’t panic about the headline.

I’m not really writing my obituary, and I’m not dying.

I am, however,  thinking about my eulogy and what I would want somebody to say about me at my funeral.

I know it sounds morbid, but stick with me.

A few days ago, I found out about a tragedy in the family of one of my dearest college friends.

His brother and  sister-in-law died in a car accident while their 16-year-old daughter was driving.

She accidentally went off the edge of the highway and struck a road marker, which caused the car to slide sideways and overturn, coming to rest on its wheels in the desert. She and her 19-year-old sister survived the accident. Their 22-year-old sister was not with them on the trip.

Three young girls without their parents.

I attended the funeral yesterday, bracing myself for the depth of sorrow I would feel.

I came away uplifted, inspired, and wishing I had been best friends with or next door neighbors to this amazing family.

When the oldest daughter stood up to speak, I prayed silently for her to have the strength to get through her remarks.

She stood behind the microphone, looked out at the many friends and family that filled the church, and gave one of the most eloquent talks I’ve ever heard at a funeral.

I couldn’t believe she could stand there so poised and articulate at what had to be the worst moment of her young life.

One of the first quotes she shared was from LDS President Thomas S. Monson, “Choose your love and love your choice.”

English: Thomas S. Monson. Photo by Brian Tibb...
English: Thomas S. Monson. Photo by Brian Tibbets (tibbets.org) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She said that quote summarized her parents’ love for each other.

She spoke of a parents who never missed a game, concert, award ceremony or graduation; a father who made up sappy jokes that kept them all laughing, and a mother that cheered so loud and got so riled at the refs that she nearly got ejected from more than one game.

She remembers her mom laughing all the time, her dad giving what little money he had to someone else when it seemed like they needed it more.

She concluded by saying the best gift her parents ever gave her was their LDS Temple marriage which gave her hope that she and her sisters would be with them again as a family.

DC LDS Temple
DC LDS Temple (Photo credit: waynemillerphotos)

The bishop that presided at the funeral did not know the couple and their children, but he knew their extended family.

He said, “I didn’t need to know this couple because their last name tells me all I need to know about them.”

I left thinking about my own funeral and how I would like it to be just like that one.

I want people to know me by my last name because I have lived up to the honor, character, integrity and legacy of faith that is symbolized in my family name.

I want people to say of me what they said of this couple — that everybody that knew them felt like they were their best friends; and that everyone that ever spent time with them left feeling better about themselves.

I know funerals can be sad and depressing, but they can also be full of hope, strength and perspective.

Even though I didn’t personally know this couple, I know them now from the beautiful tributes I heard about them yesterday.

It made me think about what I want people to say about me when I die.

How can I live to earn the kinds of tributes I heard yesterday? How can I be as good as Kendall and Rebecca?

While it might seem morbid, imagine sitting in the pew at your own funeral.

Are you confident you would like what you might hear?

I want people to say of me what they said about this remarkable, loving couple.

That inspires me to be a better mother, daughter, wife, sister, and friend.

How about you?

Family, Parenting

How to Motivate Kids

A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor asked me to write a blog about how to motivate kids to get good grades.

Report Card
Report Card (Photo credit: AJC1)

She asked me how I motivated my kids.

I had to think about it for a minute to remember, then I squirmed a little.

“Money,” I said.

I honestly don’t know whether our offers of cash motivated them, but we tried it.

Our plan was to push them a little harder to get As. So we paid a premium for As, less for Bs and Zippo for grades below a B.

I’m afraid our system turned out to be about as bad as our allowance plans. They started out strong and waned over time.

This happened to the Tooth Fairy too. She was a flibbertigibbet of a fairy really. I think she didn’t know what to do with all those teeth she collected so sometimes she forgot to do her job.

Cover of "Dear Tooth Fairy (All Aboard Re...
Cover of Dear Tooth Fairy (All Aboard Reading)

One morning we found a note on Annie’s pillow that said, “Dear Tooth Fairy, you should be fired! You forgot to do your job.”

The forgetful fairy quickly flitted into our house the next night and doubled the prize for the little tooth resting under Annie’s pillow.

But, back to my neighbor’s question about how to motivate her kids to get good grades.

Her problem is really not motivating them to get good grades, it’s encouraging them to get the best grades they can. She believes her oldest son is capable of getting straight As. He’s a smart, talented student with outstanding athletic abilities. She’s sees scholarships in his future and believes he should do everything he can to snag the best ones out there.

I remember asking friends and neighbors the same question about incentives when my kids entered high school. Most people told me they rewarded their children with money, phones, video games or promised to pay their car insurance or give them driving privileges. One woman told me if her children got straight As all through high school, she promised to buy them a car.

We didn’t go that far.

Cell Phones
Cell Phones (Photo credit: Scallop Holden)

Others used the punishment system – poor grades equalled loss of privileges like getting a driver’s license or playing video games.

Doug’s parenting theory is that the reason parents give their kids things is so that they can take them away. We relied on that for bad behavior but never really needed to punish for bad grades —  not that they always got straight As, but we always felt they were doing their best, and if their best only got a B or even a C in some classes, we applauded the effort more than the grade. (I honestly hate the grading and testing system in our schools, but that’s an entirely different blog!)

When it came to grades specifically, compliments for good work went a long way. We hoped gushing over the As or rewarding them inspired them to get more As.

Sometimes their best motivation came from their peers. When their friends were high achievers, they wanted to be too. It also helped that they set their sights early on getting into Brigham Young University, a school with high admission standards. Their strong desire to get into BYU spurred them to do their best, and actually seemed to do more than money. (Remember, however, that our money incentive plan went the way of allowance and the lazy tooth fairy…They faded out over time.

I did a little internet research and learned there is a lot of debate on this topic. Some think financial rewards are shallow and meaningless, and that we shouldn’t reward kids for doing what they should be doing anyway. Getting good grades is what they should be doing anyway so there shouldn’t be any further motivation. Others say that monetary rewards are effective and give them yet another reason for working hard.

 

While we obviously want our children to develop their own healthy motivation, sometimes it takes more maturity on their part for them to discover their own internal, personally drive and determination.

Some parents recommended rewarding kids with dinner at their favorite restaurant or buying them the new coveted toy or item they want.

I think the best idea I read was asking kids what they really want. Ask them, “What would motivate you?”

Some kids said a weekend ski trip, a new video game, a ticket to a special event or a special item of clothing motivated them.

What do all of my loyal blog readers think?

For all you parents, what works? What doesn’t? What do my kids think? Did any of our parenting ploys work? For all the college students who can still remember what their parents did, what worked? I’d love your answers and advice.

I’ll be sure to pass it on to my neighbor!

Change, Family, Parenting

Letting Go

As a mother of two college students – one of them only two weeks away from graduating –I am continually asking myself, “What would my mom do now?”

I want to be the kind of mother she’s been.

The area that needs the most improvement lately is trying to be a better listener.

Sometimes, I am more of a fixer than a listener.

When my daughters call and tell me their concerns and problems, I instantly, naturally want to fix everything.

I get worked up in my here’s-what-we-need-to-do speech, and then I think of my mom and an inner voice yells, “Shut up Laurie! They only want you to listen, not try to make everything all better! Think of Mom.”

Annie called a couple of weeks ago to tell me that she’s going to Uganda for a service mission with HELP International.

http://help-international.org/uganda

African child

It was an awkward conversation as I felt this rising, confusing objection, and wanted to say in a scolding mom voice: “Ah… no, you are not going to Africa. You are coming home, getting a job, sleeping in your bedroom down the hall from me. You are going to sing in the shower, bake cookies, have parties, and    scatter your clothes all over the floor, and play the piano for me. …just like you’ve always done.

I stammered a bit and kept thinking of my mom, and what she would do.

Just listen.

I calmed down as the conversation went on, and I told her she had to be patient with me as I got my head around her new, exotic, and oh-so-foreign-to-me plan.

In a moment of weakness, I blurted out, “Annie, I am just not ready for you to be this grown up. I know you have an adventurous spirit and I am trying to be supportive, but I am fighting some powerful mom instincts here that make me want to fling my arms around you and keep you close to me forever. I still see you as a little girl, not as a world traveler and humanitarian!”

I reminded myself of Steve Martin in “Father of the Bride” when his daughter, also named Annie, told him she was in love and wanted to get married. He looked across the kitchen table and saw those grown up words coming out of a little girl’s mouth.

While it’s a hilarious scene, it’s also painful to realize I’m Steve Martin.

I’m not transitioning well from seeing my daughters as my little girls to seeing them as independent, adventurous women whose passions are taking them in directions that feel further and further away from me.

Cover of "Father of the Bride (15th Anniv...
Cover via Amazon

And, I know they need me to listen more than advise.

They need me to support more than protect.

Yet my adviser and protector instincts are not easily tamed.

In my conversation about Africa with Annie, I vacillated between being supportive and curious and treating her like she was 10 years old, when I would have said, “Well, you certainly are not going to Africa. Now, finish your homework so we can get you bathed and ready for bed.”

As I navigate the new waters of parenting adult children, I think of my mom constantly and wonder how she did it.

I call her often and say, “Mom, really, how did you do it?”

I’m still trying to figure it out.

I think the real answer is that she did it a day, and a conversation at a time just like I am.

I hope my daughters can understand that this “letting go” part of parenting is not easy.

help letter annie

But, of course, like me, they will only really learn it when they become parents.

Then,  I hope they’ll call me for advice and say, “Mom, how did you do it?”