Is the Big Picture Shrinking in My House?

19 May

I’m not sure if I came to value the ‘Big Picture’ concept from working with teens and young adults most of my life, running a tight-ship kind of a company or maybe even just personal paranoia, but I have always been a ‘Big Picture’ kind of a girl…meaning that it’s essential for me to look ahead and project the results, aftermath or effects of preparation, actions or words.

For example, when I ran my cheer camps – if we wanted things to run smoothly, not only did we need to anticipate everything that might be thrown our way (inclement weather, bee stings or sunburns, injuries, homesick or bratty kids) but we had to be fully prepared way in advance for those issues (solid rain plans, med kits and trainers, detailed staff training and discipline savvy).

As a mom to Ben and the five furry creatures who share our lives– I can’t walk into a room without my checklist (I know ALL moms do this)… So, as I am walking over to lock the front door, I check/fill the dog’s water, make sure the outside light is on, fluff the pillows on the couch (if they haven’t been eaten by the dogs on the couch), kiss the dogs on the couch, ensure there is water in the coffee maker, straighten the picture on the wall, glance at the plant to see if it needs watering…..and move on to the next room with a similar checklist in mind.

But my 14 and a half year old Ben is not so much of a Big Picture guy and I’m wondering if it’s a thing that we’re born with or can develop? Do we need to do a better job of ‘pushing the baby bird out of the nest’ or let them deliberately fail (like maybe let them sleep past the start of school – and take the consequences – if they refuse to get up on their own)? I’ve been yelling at talking with him about this lately and trying to get him to see how much easier his life would be if he could think ahead.

So a couple of weeks ago, Ben told me that he’s going to start looking at the Big Picture by figuring out what he’ll be wearing the next day before he goes to bed, saving himself some time in the morning.

Really? The only things in his closet, as I’ve mentioned before, are khaki’s and more khaki’s, plus solid colored tee shirts. Yet, there he sits on his bed each morning and stares into the closet at his sea of khaki’s deciding which ones to wear. And every day, he’s rushing out the door for school. And although his valiant attempt at being proactive with the Big Picture thing didn’t exactly pan out with the clothing idea, I was encouraged that he at least gave it a shot!

A while back, I let Ben know that Gary and I were not only going out that Saturday night, but that it was a charity event which was starting early. So if he was going out, we could pick him up, but not take him wherever it was he needed to be. And he needed to be at a party.

Here’s our conversation:

TCC: (Every single day the week prior) Ben – remember to get a ride to the party because dad and I have that dinner Saturday and it’s early. Did you follow up on that?

Ben: MOM! It’s only Monday (then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday). Don’t worry – I’ll get a ride.

TCC: Okay, honey, but we really won’t be able to help, so make sure…..

Ben: MOM! I know. Trust me. (Hmmmm)

But up until 4:45 that afternoon, Ben was still trying to get a ride – which he eventually somehow found. Saved again. And as relieved as I was that it all worked out, I didn’t get the sense that he ever came to terms with how much easier it would have been – for both of us – if he had planned earlier.

In fact, the lack of Big Picture kicker came this past weekend, when Ben had a retreat to attend.

We were just about to leave to take him to catch the bus:

Ben: Mom!! Am I bringing a charger?

TCC: I don’t know – are you?

Ben: (Snarky and poised for a fight). Well, did you pack it?

TCC: (Amused but calm) No – I would think packing what you need would be your responsibility, Ben. And since this is YOUR trip and you are old enough to read the packing list, I’m pretty confident you can figure out what you need.

Ben: Are you kidding me?!?!?! (Meany voice) You were about to send me away for the whole weekend without a phone charger? Weren’t you even going to remind me?

TCC: (Voice steady, but not for long) Actually, no Ben – I’m thinking you should remember if it’s that important to you.

Ben: Thanks a lot, Mom. I mean if I didn’t have a charger, then my phone would die. And then I couldn’t use it.

TCC: (Big Picture ‘gotcha voice’): Well, honey, I’m guessing if you forgot your charger and your phone died, you’d never forget it again.

Ben: Thanks, Mom. Thanks a lot. I would never do that to my kid.

TCC – and Moms Everywhere…..SIGH…….

So, my takeaway is that we continue to point out to our kids (and sometimes husbands and others who don’t have the same mental checklists that moms have built-in) that our actions and words, along with our planning (or lack of it) AND our ‘get up and go’ ability, have consequences, right? Like, put aside some time – even a little bit – for studying each day and you might just end up with a better grade. Do something nice for someone else, and someone might just do something nice for you, too. Basic Golden Rules meets Strategic Planning.

Can it be taught? I sure hope so…and sometimes Karma kicks in to drive home a point….

The charger and the retreat, for instance. The retreat center didn’t have Wii Fi anyway – ha!


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