When ‘You can do it’ doesn’t cut it

Affirmation note

E couldn’t find his library book on Wednesday morning, and it was not going well.

We try to be functional around here but it’s an uphill battle for four fairly disorganized people banging around into each other half the day. There’s a lot of love and a lot of brains, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we’ve got it together. Some families, I am sure, have it together. But we work harder, not always smarter. It’s the way it it is. We do us.

These days, there’s a gigantic easel in our tiny living room — a collaborative work — with the day’s rough schedule, special weekly happenings like share day at preschool, and tasks that must be completed before school.  We also draw the weather, which, oddly, is the most crucial element. It’s helped a lot but the system is only as good as the systematizer, and half the time, frankly, I seem to be out to lunch. I got our ninth wedding anniversary chronicled, but left off Julia’s family music class. And we forgot about library returns until Wednesday morning.

Family Org ChartAfter searching everywhere, Ethan laid down on the living room floor in despair. It was tense, and it was ten minutes before we had to leave for school. Meanwhile Julia had taken pencil to paper and was asking me how to spell something word by word. I have to spell so many full-sentences-bordering-on-paragraphs for my not-quite-yet-literate five-year-old that I don’t always notice what I am spelling until I’m reading it.

In this case, she held up a sign that said “You can do it.” Actually it said “You can co it,” but I knew what she meant, and I loved her for it. Ethan however, had none of it. He was not to be consoled. That book would never be found.

My heart sank. I was sincerely hoping for one of those family dramedy moments where Julia flashes Ethan a handmade You-can-do-it sign, and he shakes off his resignation, chuckles wryly and realizes that even if he doesn’t have his book, he has a sister who loves him.

But no. There was more writhing, more anguish. I figured Julia would be deterred by this rejection of her offering. But, friends, she wasn’t. Unbeknownst to us, she had a plan B.


And laughter broke forth. I started giggling, then Ethan was giggling. Julia was quite pleased that she had amused us, and pretty soon we were all howling in merriment — even without the threatened belly flop.

The best part was I didn’t have to fix anything, or make anyone do anything different than they were already doing. I didn’t find the book for him, and I didn’t jump in when “You can do it” fell flat.

With mindfulness, I’m learning, I can take wise action, or wisely choose not to act at all. And with mindfulness, more and more, I instinctively know which path to travel.

What's it like at your house?