Ask Jonathots … August 13th, 2015

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I am a mother of three children, two boys aged 5 and 7, and a daughter aged 13. I arranged to work half days this summer, and we planned to have our daughter babysit the boys in the mornings. After two weeks, it’s a disaster. My daughter spends too much time texting her friends, and the boys are running wild. Is thirteen too young to babysit? And should I just give up and put them all in day care?

I’m just curious–if you think your dog barks too much, and if you do, if you think the way to correct the situation is to place him in a kennel?

I’m not trying to be snarky with you. Lest you think I’m saying children are animals, I certainly am not. But their care is not dissimilar.

You are being critical of a thirteen-year-old girl who is texting. It is parallel to being angry at a dog which is barking. That’s what 13-year-old girls do. They don’t suddenly become nannies and take care of their brothers efficiently.

I don’t think anyone can tell you that 13 is too young to babysit, but I do think I can tell you that your 13-year-old is too young. I suppose you can choose to be upset about that, or you can realize that this is your situation.

Let’s go with some suggestions:

1. Daycare would be the last possible consideration because it is expensive, and also a little less personal than you might want for your children in the summer months.

2. Is there a compromise? Could your 13-year-old watch the children for a couple of hours a day, and then have a neighbor come in and check in on the situation and rejuvenate the energy? Wouldn’t you be happier to give one of your neighbors a little cash to assist, which would help their finance, instead of using a daycare?

3. There also may be a woman or man who is a house-parent, who might like to combine families and pick up a little extra cash, and take all the pressure off your 13-year-old.

But let’s look at what we do want to avoid:

A. Making your daughter feel guilty because she’s not a good “mommy.”

B. Spending too much money taking care of your kids and losing your livelihood.

C. Having your children in jeopardy because they are not well-cared-for.

You also have the opportunity of explaining your situation to your boss, and possibly doing some work from home, or at least being permitted to take a break from work to check on your children.

Never throw anger or money at your problems–your teenage daughter does not need you to be disappointed in her, and your bank account does not appreciate being depleted in order for you to work a job.

Use your three magic words: Look around you.

It is a miraculous way to live.

Often the solution is within eyesight, and we ignore it because we think everything needs to be more complicated.

 

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Untotaled: Stepping 42 (August 27th, 1967) Driven… November 29, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I woke up in one of those adolescent grumpy moods, staring at the ceiling, disgusted with my life.

It was nearly time for school to start again and I felt like I had squandered my entire summer, worrying about how little summer I had left.

Even the things I had done which seemed enjoyable had passed too quickly, and now it was time to go back to school–to pretend to be a student and memorize a bunch of information which would give me a good grade on a test, knowing in my heart that I would soon forget the knowledge, yet knowing that somewhere in the future, I would be expected to remember it.

I had acquired three dollars yesterday by finally mowing the lawn, which had grown so high that one of the neighbors had complained to my parents, fearing that varmaints or snakes might dwell within. I reluctantly did the job and was rewarded with the remuneration.

So I woke up with a scratch I needed to itch. That’s the way it is when you’re a teenager–it’s not really an itch you need to scratch, but rather, an ongoing scratching sensation and needing an itch to justify it.

I got in my car and headed over to Katie’s house. She was the highlight of my summer. We had come together to search for pop bottles we could turn in for deposit to get gas money so we could drive around, talk and be silly.

There was nothing romantic involved, though candidly, I would have jumped her at the slightest invitation. She just thought I was funny.

When I picked her up that day, she had two dollars she had earned by picking blackberries on her grandma’s farm. Between us we had five dollars, three candy bars and some leftover tuna sandwiches her mother had foisted on her as she departed.

Katie explained that she needed to be home by three o’clock in the afternoon, and since it was already ten-thirty, our time would be shortened.

I told her that since we had enough money to buy fifteen gallons of gasoline, that we should drive three hours somewhere, talk, laugh and turn around to drive three hours back.

She was cool with it so we took off for Columbus.

Driving on I-71, we reached the south end of Columbus. Then that scratch that needed an itch suddenly raised its head. So I said, “Let’s keep going.”

She was nervous but agreed–and before too long we passed through Washington Court House, Wilmington and suddenly found ourselves on the outskirts of Cincinnati. It was deliciously naughty, filled with wild abandon and irresponsibility.

A sign read that the Ohio River was four miles ahead. I had never seen the Ohio River, and Katie had only passed over it in a car with her parents while being sound asleep in the back seat. So I said, let’s do it.

We crossed the river into Kentucky.

We felt like fugitives. It was similar to trying to make our way into the Soviet Union through the Iron Curtain (they had that back then).

Everything on the other side of the river, including a town named Covington, looked so different. We felt like Christopher Columbus eyeballing the New World.

Suddenly, Katie looked down at her watch and it was two o’clock in the afternoon, and she realized there was no way she would be able to get back in time. There also were no cell phones or texting, and pay phones were out of the question because we had used all of our money for petrol.

So knowing we were going to get in trouble, we turned the car around and headed back the way we came. It was the strangest combination of fear, jubilance, independence, anxiety and nervous bowel twinges that I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Strangely enough, when we arrived home, people really didn’t say much about us being late–just that we should never do it again.

Katie and I knew that was impossible.

Something changed that day.

I no longer felt bound to a small home on a tiny street in a little village. I realized there was a big world out there–and the only way I would ever get to it and be myself was to survive a couple more years of provincial schooling … to finally be able to point my life in my own direction.

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Fun Must Be Done… January 7, 2013

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kids textingAs I emerged from the sanctuary yesterday morning at Hope Lutheran Church in Port St. Lucie, Florida, I noticed a young man sitting behind a table in the lobby, busy working his phone, punching buttons furiously, almost to the point of breaking a sweat.

Now, there was a time in my life that I would have been upset that this eleven-year-old specimen of humanity was perched outside of the hearing of my show, involved in his social media. But yesterday, what crossed my mind was, “How can I come up with an app for his phone using my philosophy that will be interesting enough to this young fellow that he will savor it with the same intensity he is presently using with his preoccupation?”

We spend too much time trying to turn people into grown-ups, hoping they will share our misery and therefore, lighten the human load. I told you–it’s all about becoming like little children, and it is no different when we approach work.

Here are the three things I know about children–and since I’m trying to become one this year, it would be a good idea for me to study these carefully: (1) Children need purpose. (2) Children find purpose in work. (3) Work must be fun.

Here is the interesting fact: we never outgrow those three principles. We just attempt to ignore them by masking them with a frown.

I need purpose. In other words, I need at least two reasons for doing anything. If you give me just one, I will end up grumpy. But if there are two reasons to stop off at the shopping center to get something, then it has the potential to be an adventure instead of an inconvenience. Don’t tell me to love my neighbor as myself–I will act like I’m some sort of noble knight on a quest for the king. Explain to me that humanity is out there, ready to make my life easier. They make my purpose more purposeful. Intelligently teach me that people have the capacity for lightening my load.

We find our purpose in our work. If you are miserable on your job, you are not only losing precious moments of human enjoyment, but more than likely–through stress, apathy and complaining–you are shortening your life. Nothing is worth that.

My job was created by me to answer a calling I felt in my heart, and is constantly being retooled to be simpler and more enjoyable all the time. I will not do any work unless you can show me a way to accomplish it with fun.

Feel free to call that “childish” as you grumble your way through your daily activities. But know this–there is always a more pleasant way to accomplish any task that leaves us feeling satisfied and tired instead of exasperated and exhausted.

Here is my suggestion: link all the aspirations of what you do with your heart’s desire.

For instance, my heart’s desire is to be creative and bless as many people as I can while living comfortably. I have conjured a lifestyle that affords me that privilege. It’s why I am deliriously happy.

Now, instead of saying, “It must be nice…” start duplicating that in your own life. Don’t change your flat tire until you realize that after it’s changed, your vehicle will roll again and you can go out and reward yourself with a lovely treat.

Link your work with your heart’s desire to establish your purpose, and then find a way to make it fun.

It’s what children do. You don’t have to buy them toys–give them four rocks, six sticks a broken cardboard box and five minutes. They will create a fort and begin to launch into a fantasy of frivolity.

I want to be that child. Don’t tell me how difficult it is to be an adult–I will laugh at you. In my heart, I will mock your silliness, hoping that you will outgrow the notion that life is meant to be arduous and difficult.

  • We are children.
  • Children need purpose.
  • Purpose is found in work
  • And work must be fun.

Without this, Congress makes passing a bill to bless our country with financial gain and prosperity look as if they’re climbing Mt. Everest with a broken leg.

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