Wednesday, June 12, 2013


"As a member of western mainstream culture, I've been soaked in a set of values that places the individual on a pedestal and tells me to focus on things like reach for more! And fulfil your greatest potential! You know how it goes... get on that achievement treadmill - be better, smarter, and of course make sure that your children are brilliant and smart along with you!
And there are many ways to climb on this treadmill, and they can all look quite different. ...
On thing I know; when I am on my treadmill, I sure don't feel contented. And I'm pretty sure my kids don't either. ...
In terms of parenting, consider what kind of model we provide to our kids when we're running on our customised version of the 'culturally sanctioned achievement treadmill'. What kind of life are we teaching them to create? .....
So much of our lives are taken up with very ordinary things. It can make us feel like life is passing us by, and so we seek the ecstatic and the peak moments. When we turn away from the ordinary, we miss out on being present to the beauty that it contains. When we sit into ordinariness, often contentment may be right there for the taking. ..."
PARENTING LIKE AN ORDINARY HUMAN: Embracing 'Ordinariness' as a Pathway to True Contentment. Hilary Jackson. The Natural Parent Magazine New Zealand. Summer 2012/13.
"Ordinary = belonging to or occurring in regular custom or practice; normal, customary, usual." Oxford Dictionary.
Some people love the normal, usual and familiar things. But apparently increasingly today, people want to move away from the regular and the ordinary, as design your-own-meal restaurants indicate and the huge number of hair colour dye options prove. This want to depart from the ordinary, is influencing how we choose to live.
I like the sentence in the quote above, "So much of our lives are taken up with very ordinary things." Being ordinary, in a sense is inescapable, but there is this push to block it out and instead maximise the extraordinary in its various expressions.
Hilary Jackson's article suggests that seeking "the ecstatic and the peak moments", has become not only a regular and normal thought pattern but a planned lifestyle in many families. She refers to this as climbing on "the achievement treadmill" and says there are many ways to get onto such a treadmill.
Do you personally feel you are running on a treadmill pumped with aspirations of achievement or dominated by the want to be distinctive?
There is nothing wrong with being an achiever, being distinctive, or reading books and watching movies about these subjects. A problem only comes when achieving becomes our staple diet and focus, distracting us from ordinary living.
Hilary asks a question of families focused on achieving, "What kind of life are we teaching them (our children) to create?" 
She advocates families incorporate the ordinary in their lives to offset the dangers of an achievement dominated lifestyle. Unfortunately her article does not explain how to go about this.
The answer, however, rests with parents.
Only parents can establish a proper view of the ordinary into their family's life, and here are 2 practical ways you can do it:~

1. By modelling a happy, relaxed attitude toward ordinary daily household jobs and happenings. Vacuuming the floor, cleaning up after a meal, going back to turn off the dripping tap, changing yet another filthy nappy.... We need a positive attitude that says "this is normal", not a dramatic, big-deal inconvenience. It can be done as we chat or do something we enjoy, keeping it low-key, making it blend into the other things of the day.
I am purely stating the point here, as I have written many posts about how to teach children household jobs, giving them a normal mindset towards  their responsibilities at home. 
2. By adopting a lifestyle which isn't achievement dominated. Today the  obsession to achieve and be distinctive is a trap that is so easily fallen into. I see this in my family and myself. They may be great pursuits, honourable intensions and plans which will bring enormous help to needy people, radical and innovative ideas which should be made known - all worthy things to spend our time on. But if these things dominate our thinking and control our life so that the ordinary simple matters of everyday living, including natural family communication, barely fit in the day, then we have climbed onto the achievement treadmill, and this is the approach to life we demonstrate and offer to our family.
No matter if the children are pre-schoolers or in their twenties, a parent's achievement dominated lifestyle speaks loudly to children. It says many things, including, "this is how we choose to live life", "I'm just busy with this right now and can't spend time with you", "this really is more important for me to give my time to"....
For parents in high-powered careers, this is a difficult area to face, let alone adjust. Each person needs to honestly weigh up their choices and make fitting changes, as the consequences of staying on the achievement treadmill are not bright, especially for our children.
I am always challenged and get a perspective straightener when I read about people living in extremely difficult circumstances. This morning I read an author's account of her father, the true story about Joe, an incredible achiever -
"Joe's birthplace had been a nice two-storey family home in Denver, which his gambling father lost soon after Joe was born. Moving to a small farm to begin again, Joe's father and mother both slowly sickened with tuberculosis and eventually left their four young sons and two tiny daughters orphans to fend for themselves.
Was  Joe the "Cinderella"? The other boys had their father's dashing good looks; the little girls were beautiful; Joe was homely. In any case, it was eleven-year-old Joe, third of the four boys, who dropped out of school to farm and care for the two little sisters and help put his brothers through college.
Ten schoolless years later, when the boys had their diplomas and the girls were situated in homes as domestic help, Joe himself started back to school, crammed junior high and high school subjects to pass an entrance exam, and put himself through college as well.
The third fall on campus, when Joe saw incoming freshman Mary Weible under that tree - for him, everything was new. He proved to her his worth through outrageous effort; he worked both day- and night-jobs, he got straight A's, and he became colonel of the college R.O.T.C. And from the beginning, he romanced her and won her and tenderly nicknamed her Betty.
Six years later, when Joe had his new commission in the U.S. Army, he and Betty were married. Almost immediately World War 1 called him from his nearly completed Ph.D. program and put him on active duty. That changed their life direction, and therefore Mother was his "lady" - through thirty-plus years in the Army and twenty-plus more years as editor-in-chief of a military publishing company."
Disciplines of the Home: Anne Ortlund.
Here is a hard worker, regardless of the situation he was determined to achieve. But although his achieving must have taken a lot of his time, the rest of Joe's story proves he was not achievement dominated. He kept the ordinary firmly in his life.
There seems to be a choice and how each person makes that choice to be involved in the ordinary of family life, will be unique. 
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ all the best to you as you think about these things with your family.

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