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Amazing Crazy Chaos: Positive Energy or Nervous Breakdown?

I hope everyone's summer is going as well as mine is so far. The days are hot and sunny, we seize every opportunity to play in the water, and there have been children everywhere we go. What a joyful noise! What happy chaos! How do you celebrate the chaos of your life? Do you own it or resist it? Can you do both? It matters. Read and be encouraged!

I have decided after a highly limited non scientific study, that there are two types of people: those of us who enjoy a bit of chaos and find it lifegiving and fun and those who need absolute control, strictly maintained order, and surprises kept to exactly zero.

When I was a young mom, I was in the first group. When my nest cleared out I found that what I missed most was the chatter, the activity, the friends in and out, the meals around the table with everyone talking at once...I also missed my kids' friends who, to my dismay, stopped coming to visit my kids once my kids were no longer living there. What's up with that? They are all grown now and have children of their own. but I remember them well.

Now that I am more experienced, I still enjoy a bit of chaos. I still identify with the first group. But what I understand better now is that I like the chaos as long as there is an element of control. By control, I mean I have a bit of control. In this way, the chaos can also have some benefits. I believe strongly the energy that surrounds a bit of chaotic interaction between people who love each other can be positive in a lot of ways.

I suppose that what I really mean here is that there is actually a third type: those who enjoy controlled chaos. If you are enjoying your children and this season of life that allows you to shape the world and the next generation, you probably have embraced the controlled chaos and find it at least somewhat energizing.

As children grow and learn and begin to become who they will be for the vast majority of their lifetimes, chaos is a natural part of the process. Childhood and adolescence is a short time to prepare for the decades ahead. Young ones are learn so much so fast. Their minds, bodies, and spirits have a lot to take in before they can be independent of full time parental care. The entire operation of becoming an adult is chaotic. So learning to at least appreciate it is in every mother's best interest.

I know a few people who find any chaos, no matter how moderate, to be unacceptable and nerve wracking to an epic degree. A lot of them are older than I, but a few are actually younger. The great disadvantage that I see in families managed in this way is that the energy expended on keeping a little healthy chaos out is exponentially greater than what is necessary to impose just a bit of control into the chaos. They are exhausted from the effort of keeping everything in perfect and tight control. Frustration runs high.

In addition to the extra energy spent in the effort to eliminate chaos, there is the other downside: a diminished level of joy. Add to this loss of joy the extra stress that comes from trying to control things that are nearly impossible to control, and your family may not be experiencing the same level of closeness or happiness that exists in families that allow some controlled chaos.

The technique for keeping things energized as well as well ordered is a lot like the technique for riding a unicycle: it is all about balance. Here are my thoughts on finding that balance.

  1. Have a general plan. For a few years I was a teacher assistant in a middle school special education classroom. My first lead teacher came to school each and every day with no plan at all. None written down anywhere. After just a few weeks I realized that there was no plan in her mind either. Every day was utter pandemonium. No learning took place and our students were notably unprepared for their required testing. This lead teacher quit at the mid term and I, qualified, educated, and experienced but not a certified teacher, was asked to take over until a new lead could be hired, The first thing I did was create rough lesson plans. In special education there is no way to plan every moment of each day, but I always had learning goals and a plan to achieve them. With this one simple change, the entire class began to learn every day. It was an improvement. So have a general plan for your family. Forget the minute to minute details and opt for general goals and a few ideas for achieving them. Allow room for happy accidents and surprises. With an overall plan, these little detours can be awesome.

  2. Adjust as your family changes. As obvious as this may seem, it is surprising how many moms I have known that fail to adjust expectations for their families in an effort to keep tight control. Things like personal responsibility, curfews, bedtimes, and others need regular assessment. As your children get older and more mature they can and should take on more of their own self care. (I have actually watched mothers brush their eight year old's teeth. Just FYI, they should be doing that on their own by then.) Maturing should mean added responsibility for taking part in the family chores such as laundry, dishes, and simple cooking. With these added responsibilities should come carefully selected extra privileges. Be ready to adjust. Typically developing children are growing and changing all the time. Be brave and trust your instincts as to what needs to adjust.

Enjoy and embrace a bit of chaos. Watch how your family blooms as you let go of tight control. If you have embraced chaos to the point that your family is spinning out of orbit with no one maturing or growing or becoming their best selves then make some general goals and create a plan to achieve those goals. Find that balance this summer! Enjoy your family and give them your best.

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