Fun, Family, and Friends: The F of a Desperately Optimistic L.I.F.E.

March 26, 2010

Little children disturb your sleep; big ones, your life.
• Yiddish saying

Creating and maintaining a support system is an important aspect of student success. While it’s true that you’re the one doing the work, it’s also true that everyone else in your life, from your family to your co-workers to your friends, is also involved. The way you treat them and your acknowledgement of their importance to your success matters.

• Childhood slips away. Whomever the children in your life are—your own, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, even the children of your friends who have become your friends too—they will change swiftly. When you don’t see adult relatives or friends for six months, you may feel that little has changed when you get together. When you don’t see a child or adolescent for six months, a whole new person may appear. If you’re a parent, it’s particularly important to stay involved with your family, but even friendships need nurturing.

• Big kids may seem self-sufficient, but they still need love and attention. Ditto for spouses, partners, and other relationships.

• Make a household action plan that includes everything that everyone needs to do: your homework, others’ homework, shopping, paying bills, staying in touch with grandparents, walking the dog, etc., etc., etc. Don’t forget the minutiae when you are making the list. Parcel out the work, assigning and rotating duties whenever possible, especially if they’re things no one wants to do. Don’t entrust anyone with something at which they’ve been proven to be incompetent. You know in your heart who needs to balance the checkbook and no amount of wishful thinking is likely to change things. Accept and appreciate people in your life for what they can do and avoid expending energy wishing they were different.

• Create bedtime rituals if you have children and be there for bedtime as often as you can. Rituals smooth things out so that when everyone is finally down you aren’t so frazzled you can’t concentrate. Get everything ready for the next day and settle kids into bed gently. Night classes? Leave a pillow note. Record a book so they can hear your voice. Gone for an early morning class? Put a Post-It® greet-the-day message on the bathroom mirror.

• Develop morning routines that begin the night before. We used crates by the door—each person got one and everything that needed to go back to school the next day was put into that person’s crate the night before along with reminders of things like permission slips and money for field trips.

• Get clothing for the next day ready the night before for everyone. I still do this. I get everything I’ll be wearing the next week ready on Sunday evening. It gives me an extra five or ten minutes to read in bed in the morning and ease my way into the day. Sometimes my children wanted to wear the same thing endlessly. I quit caring about the lack of variety and taught them to wash their own clothes. This is when dryer ironing evolved too.

• Make time to have fun. Take a walk. Go to the movies. Sit on the porch. Even a ten-minute break can connect you with someone and will send you back to your studies refreshed.

More F tomorrow.

How do you stay connected to your family and friends?

To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.
• Barbara Bush


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