Years ago I read the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Steven Covey. I took away lots of great insight and advice from the book, but one analogy has stood out the strongest over all these years. In short its message was “Put first things, first.” I have tried to continually put it into practice and to pass this important lesson along to my kids. Then, the opportunity presented itself for a tangible lesson and teaching opportunity. And because of that teaching opportunity, I also gained material for a blog post. So, win–win, right?
My kids have lots of toys and I try to organize them in a way that we can maintain a clean home, have space to play, and have access to games and toys without complete chaos in the wake. One of the recent favorite toys to pull out and play with for hours and hours are the Playmobile sets, known as Mo-mobile sets in our home because that is how Daniel heard it called and it stuck. The problem with mo-mobile is there are lots, and I mean LOTS, of tiny pieces. The best way to keep up with it all is to have one large storage bin for all three sets. Everything is in one place and we don’t go insane trying to match up parts to specific sets. (DISCLAIMER: this does not include Samuel’s set. All the pieces are in their precise designated location, kept in the original box in the top of his closet, off limits to all siblings.) But, for the not-so-OCD-Mach children, the remaining sets are fit very well in one large bin–IF you put them in the bin in the proper order. And here is where the teachable moment fits in.
My children, including Samuel, want to get the toys picked up with the least amount of effort. Good. Efficiency is good. They will toss the pieces into the bin in no particular order, and finding that the lid will not fit on the bin, begin to push and cram the pieces hoping to get the desired results. It never works. Stephen Covey tells us in 7 Habits that we have to put the “big” stuff in first. We have to put important things like prayer, marriage and parenting into life before we can add in the activities, the parties, or even work at times. If we put the big things in first, all the little stuff will fit in much more easily. The other night it was Joshua who was assigned to clean up the mo-mobiles. In his rush he tossed the items into the bin, but couldn’t get the lid on. With frustration and irritation in my voice, I said, “You’ve got to put the big stuff in first, Bud.” He tried to scoop the small items to one side and slip in the largest house. He even figured out how some pieces nested together to save space, but still the lid would not shut. So, I got down on the floor and showed him how to do it. I removed the large pieces and set them to the side. Then, I dumped all the pieces out onto the lid with only a few spilling onto the carpet. I replaced the large pieces and lifting the lid, I carefully dumped all the little pieces into the bin. In less than one minute they were all neatly in the bin, lid on, and slid into their home on the shelf. His eyes were wide with amazement. Not only did everything fit, it was easier and faster to do it that way.
The analogy was not lost on me and I hope it rooted deeply into Joshua’s heart as well. It sometimes seems for me that time for prayer, relaxation, or any activity apart from hearth and home will not fit into my busy day. I try stuffing it all in, but like toys that get lost or broken in the process, I too can become lost and broken. I get in a hurry to get it all done and in the end nothing gets done well, if at all. I put it off because the thought of fitting it all in is just overwhelming, but then I realize that I just need to focus on the big things first and take them one at a time. When I finally set all the little things in my life to one side, I can see more clearly where the big things can fit in. If I start my day with prayer, work on my relationship with my husband and kids, and focus on my main job of teaching; somehow I have a little time here to read a blog or two, a little time there to play a game, and another spot of time to work on growing my business (new venture, I’ll post details soon). It all fits and it is easier and less stressful to boot.
Now, I just need to remember to put it into practice daily. Old habits die hard.