Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Incremental Progress

In a discussion my husband and I had this morning about how things are going at work for him, we talked about the importance of celebrating incremental progress (presumably while waiting for something major and good awaiting us at the end of many more steps to go).  This idea is one that isn't new to me and is actually something I've tried to really make more of a priority as a mom and a homeschool teacher.

But sometimes, it's easy to lose track of the incremental progress and just feel so far from that final goal -- even when the big goal is so big it sometimes seems intangible or possibly unobtainable.

Focusing on how big or impossible something might be is what brings on something like hopelessness for me.  I get so overwhelmed and it makes me feel like working towards small improvements along the way is just too big a task.

I'm certain there are plenty of euphemisms out there about tackling a big project or meeting a large goal, one step at a time, so I won't Google them and paste them here because you can do that yourself.  I'm just going to say that from one mom to another, one Christian woman to another, or one human being to another, we need to encourage one another to remember that there are literally dozens of victories each day that are leading us towards that overall big goal we have set for ourselves.

I recently wrote about how our sons are becoming more like their daddy.  This is true, but on less positive days, I find it difficult to understand how these young, often self-centered boys are going to survive until they become men, much less fathers, themselves.

So instead of focusing on the insurmountable task ahead of bringing up these boys, for my own sake, I need to document some recent incremental progress so I can meditate on that and know that there is hope for more progress each day, each month and each year ahead.

  • Pee.  We went through a long stint where O was urinating every chance he got in locations other than the bathroom.  This was his way of telling us he was tired of feeling like he had no control over his life.  I am happy to say that it has been a year or more since the last time I've stepped into a random puddle somewhere or smelled fresh urine in my hamper or under my bed.  Somehow, we worked through that phase -- sometimes with grace and patience and other times with yelling, many time-outs and early bedtimes -- but we've come through and he seems to be using the toilet 100% of the time.  Not only that, but I'm noticing an appreciable difference in the older boys' aims, too.  Their bathroom is still the one I warn people to stay away from, but ultimately, I'm seeing some improvements there, too.  One day, they'll start caring enough to keep it clean all the time -- right?!
  •  Swearing.  For a while, it was like we were living with three young sailors or pirates or something.  It's embarrassing even to mention it.  It's not like I set the example that it's the way to talk to people!  It started mildly with words like stupid or hate (words which weren't allowed in our home) and by the end, they used every typical swear word including F-bombs and they were boldly shouted into my face as if they had no regard for the fact that I am a woman or their mom or an adult or anything.  We were so frustrated sometimes at the lack of concern for the garbage that tumbled from their mouths.  This phase lasted about two years and it was just last week when I suddenly woke one morning with a reminder from the Lord (I assume) that it had been a good month or two since I last had to correct our sons with any regularity for potty mouth.  This isn't to say I still don't get them talking back now and then, but at least they're doing a better job keeping it clean.
  •  Friendship.  I just know that our three sons are one day going to be each others' best friends.  Until then (and maybe even after that), there is a constant competition going on between the boys.  Who is the best? the strongest? the smartest? the fastest?  I think a little friendly competition is healthy.  However, when the competition means they treat each other like enemies at best, then it's not so healthy.  Two years ago, I tried combining lecture/reading time with H and Z and it was a complete disaster.  Every day resulted in loads of put downs and kicking under the table and temper tantrums.  So the next year, I taught them separately, which adds an extra couple hours onto the school day, let me tell you!  But this school year, we decided to try them together again and lo and behold, they can sit together for a couple hours and no one ends up crying (not even me).  We actually have a good time in class now and I love hearing them encouraging one another in different subjects.  Good stuff.
I'm sure there are others, but these are three big and great things to celebrate.  There is still a long road ahead till they are mature young men, but it's nice to be over these hurdles.  And even nicer to think about them long enough to shout, "Hooray!  Praise God!!"


  1. I also try to keep big-picture stuff to a minimum. I've learned I have a lot more peace when I focus on the small improvements!

  2. Great reminder--I easily get overwhelmed at how far I am from the ultimate goals, but we all need to celebrate the tiny victories.

    Also, I definitely noticed a difference in your kids (I didn't remember to mention this). As they age and learn, they become a little more reasonable more of the time. Fewer timeouts, longer stretches of calmness or obedience, etc. I'm sure it probably doesn't feel like it to you when you're dealing with constant situations, but as an outsider I feel like things have shifted in the past couple of years.

    1. Thank you. I'm glad you noticed improvements on your visit. Sometimes I do get overwhelmed with the day-to-day crazy ... so it helps having some outside feedback!!

  3. I'm really glad I missed those pee and potty-mouth times. Maybe the boys were putting things on hold when I visited. (That can be counted as progress in itself.) I don't know if I could have handled boys. God must have known!

  4. You're great with our boys when you visit. I think that's the difference. I'm not sure I can handle boys, but apparently, God has a good sense of humor and figured I'd appreciate the challenge. Some days, yes, other days ... ugg. :) But somehow we're all surviving -- and they do provide me with loads of entertainment in the meantime.