Happy October! How can it possibly be this time of year already? I do not know! But it is beautiful, and we are enjoying apples from Grandpa Jack’s trees, making pumpkin ice cream and watching the mountains turn into what looked the other day like colorful candy, dusted with powdered sugar snow.
Time passes and we work toward the next deadline, whether it is a piano piece learned for recital or a research project a child is working on or finishing making apple sauce with the boxes of apples that are taking over the (my) laundry room.
If you’re like me, sometimes in the haste, you stop and consider if all of the busyness is really bringing you the feelings of progress and validation you expected.
I clip things out of newspapers…Obituaries that inspire me are my favorite followed by comics that crack me up. One funny I have in my file is of a doctor approaching the nurses’ station with a parking pass in his hand, and he asks the nurse to validate his parking, to which she responds something like;
“You stayed in the lines and didn’t pull too far forward…excellent job!”
What is validation? How do we get it and why do we need it? If I may be so bold, I’d say that I believe the only real validation we get in life comes from our family relationships, real friends and from God. Everything else is skewed by trends, statistics and the fickle barometer of public opinion.
To illustrate: on our 25th wedding anniversary a few years ago, we had traveled a few hours to a beautiful little get-away. While we drove, we were reminiscing about our life together and feeling overwhelming gratitude for the road we have traveled and the blessings of children and family we had been privileged to experience. Somewhere in this trip down memory lane, my husband made a comment that I will never forget. It was so profound to me that I wrote it down…..
He said that when he looks back at his life, his education and career and the opportunities he has had, the thing that he is most proud of and what makes him feel the greatest validation in his life is when someone identifies him as one of our children’s Dad. The job, he said is just that, a job, and the purpose of it is to have a way to provide for what we are doing at home, for the people we love and for the experiences we are having together.
Does this sound like an epiphany to you? I think that the reason it struck me so forcefully is that somewhere along the way we have collectively bought into the notion that what makes you valuable or what is validating is a “job” or the accolades or perks that come with being publicly recognized as outstanding in a particular endeavor.
I’m all for progress and “self-actualization,” don’t get me wrong. Education and creativity and the pure joy of work are commendable and fulfilling. Our perspective can get easily skewed, however, when we believe that we have to be all and do all…all at once, to feel worthwhile! The epiphany for me is that the messy, inconvenient sometimes test-you-to-your-limits work of family relationships trumps any other pursuit when you’re talking about being truly validated in this journey. And that, for most of us, that intense period of time with children at home is oh-so-fleeting and worth the effort it takes to be available and present at home as much as possible.
I remember my dad saying something similar when he had a milestone birthday and all of his kids were gathered for a celebration. I remember a few tears and the sentiment that the most important and fulfilling thing he had done in his life was to raise us.
In the delightful book “I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better” (a must read for all family builders), Gary and Joy Lundberg teach that true validation comes when a person feels that they are important to someone and that their feelings matter. This belief is born when we listen with the intent to understand and to feel what someone is saying, to put ourselves in their shoes and have real empathy, and then to walk beside them as they work out their own problems.
It is pure magic when this happens at home. It happens in a million little ways; when a healthy snack is waiting on the table for hungry kids (your health is worth my time and effort!), when a parent listens intently to a teenager who is working out their problems (I hear you, you matter!), or when real gratitude is expressed to your spouse for their love and help (your feelings matter and I value what you do!)
What you are doing at home MATTERS. Doing what it takes to validate and encourage your family is worth any effort. YOU will find great validation in the process. I promise. The proverbial paydays are huge!
You can do this.