New-year intentions are in mid swing… atoshimatsu is “cleanup”. Decorations are restowed, laundry done, clothes to be donated set aside, leftovers enjoyed. It’s also time to consider mindset, shifting back into the mode of work and school, obligations, how many, which ones, etc. Conversations with the boys on this topic are often, regrettably, a bit one-sided. Today was different, though. I asked for an appointment with Sam, and when it was time to chat he engaged willingly, from repose on his favorite couch.

We reflected on some things I mentioned last night from a book I’m reading, written by a Samurai for his students 375 years ago. Musashi* had retreated to a cave where he expected to die of illness. In his book, he talks about rhythms. The carpenter shifts between making tools, teaching tradesmen, and building houses. The warrior shifts between serving his lord in battle and retreating from service. The merchant who becomes wealthy and enjoys a good life, or corpulent because of wealth and paying for others to do his work. Shifting from being in harmony with others, and not being in harmony.

It’s time to shift back into work and school mode, but how do we shift between rhythms of laziness and effort without resentments dragging us down? To make the shifts easier we can hold out inducements; getting up with the alarm is easier if you know you have some couch time awaiting before the breakfast/school/homework cycle begins. Think about how good it feels to be independent, not reliant on someone else controlling you or labeling you as lazy, or unmotivated.

Parents do this all the time without thinking about it. We use labels to help us (and others) relate to our kids…he’s the self-starter, she’s the crazy one, he’s sensitive to scratchy clothes and loud noises, she’s a picky eater. These are the “business cards” we hand our kids from a very early age. But might it be better to resist doing this? Labels are confining. We should be asking questions, and encouraging the kids to figure out the answers. We only know a portion of who our children are. They evolve and amaze us as they begin to define themselves. Even the most basic personality traits (like introversion vs. extroversion) have plasticity, potentially changing over decades. (And a personality continuum limited to one dimension like this is flawed at best…but that’s a topic for another day.)

Ben is eating berries at the counter, Sam is making lunch. We circle back to the morning’s conversation.

Sam, I’m struggling a bit with investing time in going up for hockey tonight when I know how it will go. It’s a late night, too. How do you deal with that? How do you stay committed?


Honestly? That’s interesting, because Dad and I were just talking about how hard it is to overcome your inertia sometimes. That couch…How do you break a rhythm of relaxation?

Repeated effort. Substitution method.

The (former) hobo philosopher speaks. He no longer looks hockey-hobo with long hair, but we had a laugh thinking about how hobo he looked for a long time. What I found out later, at THAT hockey practice I was resisting, is that the hockey director’s WIFE wanted to take a picture of Sam to her hairdresser to get her hair cut like his! She liked his natural flow very much. I explained that’s “hockey flow” 🙂

I am so grateful I have the luxury of being at home with the kids. Yesterday was a snow day here (January 22). It gave me a day to catch up on sleep lost over the past week. I also found this draft post from earlier this month!! I have been noticing that while certain conversations or days are really trying, the next day they’re usually funny. I’ll try to maintain my sense of humor in the moment, even when a simple snowball fight somehow turns into festivus! (I told the story of a snowball fight turned street rumble this morning to a friend and she described it as festivus. Does anyone know what that means?)

This morning… “You know, Sam, it takes a lot of effort for mothers to give up a desire to feel needed by their kids.” Sam replied, “Well, if you want to feel so needed, why don’t you grab me a bowl and some milk.”

It takes great effort to be a patient coach, not giving orders but walking beside them as we figure out how to do this together. Holidays (and you know what? A simple snow day!) are so important for that relationship recalibration, a chance to find a rhythm for the next phase of the year.

PS. I cleaned out old clothes from Sam’s closet. I found his three pairs of grey tactical pants. He wore those EVERY day last year. They fit me fine, so I grabbed one and wore it to the gym over my tights. One of my good friends saw them and commented – “hey I like those pants!” I have a pair set aside for her now, too 🙂 You can imagine how much I enjoyed laughing about Sam’s newfound position as the style-setting hockey guy for 40-something ladies!

(*The 17th century samurai who wrote The Book of Five Rings for his students.)


  1. Gramma 24 January, 2018

    I love this written progression of leadership by partnership! It’s like a philosophy class – you have to read each section twice to understand the depth of meaning and application of the meaning. I especially liked, “Why don’t you grab me a bowl and some milk.” Sam’s wry humor always surprises! 🙂

  2. Gramma 24 January, 2018

    And delicious pictures with a fragrance we can almost smell.

  3. Pops 24 January, 2018

    Allison the philosopher queen ? I enjoy and am blessed by your reflections, insights, and antics with the lads. Blessings with prayers to you all there and virtual hugs. Love ya.

  4. MAUREEN 21 June, 2018


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