WTW: A Quote

I have a little book of quotes I started keeping when I was in high school. In preparation for this post I looked through it, trying to choose a favorite or extra meaningful one. There are some real gems, many of them with special memories or big life decisions or insights attached to them, and it was really difficult to choose just one.

But lately, a lot of wisdom from other moms has been coming to mind. Probably more than anything, this four word question catches me in a hectic or despondent moment and helps me put things back into perspective and smooth my ruffled feathers:

Does it really matter?

I first learned about this question from a grandmother, who had raised six children of her own - three of whom were exuberant and - ahem - creative, busy boys. She said at one point early in her work as a mom that she was having a particularly trying time with her children and it seemed the house was in perpetual commotion and things were a mess and the kids were always in trouble. She went to church one day and the Sunday School teacher passed out little refrigerator magnets with this question on it, explaining that when things seem out of our control or our problems seem insurmountable, or even when we are beset by a million little complaints or inconveniences, we should ask ourselves, "Does it really matter?"

This grandmother said she kept that little question posted on her refrigerator for years, and when things came up, she would pause and ask herself, "Does it really matter?"

In many ways, it helped her choose her battles with her kids. For example, did it really matter in the long run that her boys wanted to have long scraggly hair? (Something that parents tended to freak out about then.) Not really. They were good kids making generally good decisions - they would grow out of fashion statements eventually and she could leave that issue alone.

At other times, asking herself this question simply helped her to pause long enough - when something really did matter - so that she could decided on a wiser, more kind or effective way to communicate why it mattered to her children or to her husband. In this way, she was more often able to teach and guide instead of nag or condemn. She was able to ask, "Does it matter enough to make my child feel small or hugely guilty, or to drive a wedge between my husband and I that I'll feel sorry about later?"

I've come to love this question. Truly, there are so many things that we as women and mothers consistently beat ourselves up over. We try to keep the house just so, we want our kids to look clean and smart and obedient all the constant time, we want them to be happy and so try to orchestrate their activities, responses, choices...And sometimes when things don't go according to OUR plan - which they often don't, seeing as how there are other human beings involved who don't have the same plan and who like to make their own choices - we get all bent out of shape and tend to think our life work is just going down the toilet.

At least I do. Sometimes.

But asking myself, "Does it really matter...

...if Calvin has one more popsicle?"

...if Henry insists on wearing his sandals on the wrong feet?"

...if the laundry doesn't get done one more day?"

...if I stay up and rock Henry to sleep instead of making him go to bed on his own like I know he can?"

...if Cal stays home like he wants to, instead of being dragged to soccer/preschool/swimming lessons today?"

...if the boys touch the windows/mirrors/walls one more time with their little grubby hands?"

These are all small, preschool age type things, and eventually I know there will be things that I will have to lock horns over and assert my point. There are absolutely things that matter in the greater scheme of life, and it's my job as a mom to teach and enforce certain standards - but how refreshing it is to be able to let go of the little things.

And how nice when my kids want to come to me, and talk to me, and confide in me, because they know that not every word that comes out of my mouth is going to be a command or reprimand. That, to me, is something that does matter.

(Now, click on over to My Many Colored Days to see what Lei and the other Woman to Woman participants had to share this week!)


Super Happy Girl said...

Thank you.

I so needed to read that. Now that I have become the "ultimate voice of infinite experience" (having teens and all that) I can ponder and finally understand:
Did it really matter...if Firstborn had one more popsicle?"

So, does it really matter if Firstborn eats one more ice cream sandwich?
Absolutely not. Not at all.
Gracias Big T. If I could just get DH to understand this.

Dee Light said...

Does it really matter?

So simple and soooo true!!! I have 2 kids one is 10 and the other 2. Both ages come with there own set of chalenges.

I tend to let things go and be more laid back with my 2 yr old. But your quote puts into perspective that I need to ask "does it really matter?" when dealling with my 10 year old. She is fast aproaching the teenage years, and I want her to always feel that she can count on me to listen and undrstand her. That kind of trust comes from not sweating the small stuff!!! DOES IT REALY MATTER? Words to live by.

Gran said...

True words of wisdom. What a great quote! This is so true and we should apply it to our lives each day regardless of the situation that we are dealing with. Especially when our growing children are involved. It is those times that will leave a lasting impression in their minds for a lifetime.

Have a wonderful remainder of the week!

Anonymous said...

Well said. This is a great encouragement. Sometimes we do just need to lighten up on some things...

Anonymous said...

Words to live by! I am copying your quote into my little book!

The Amazing Trips said...

Such truth - I have to remind myself of this a million times a day.

Today, I had a "discussion" with Charlie regarding my mom taking our kids for a walk around the neighborhood in their training pants and sandals (probably on the wrong feet).

That's it. No more, no less.

My husband was upset and I had to talk him down. So what if our children aren't wearing shorts or dresses for a 5-minute walk around our block (with the dog) and all of our neighbors think we are white trash?

Does it really matter?? :)

Susan said...

This is a great quote and oh so true. When I was about 15 I heard something similar "100 years from now it won't matter". i used that one a lot and narrowed it down to even "tomorrow it won't matter". I like your 4 simple words better!!!

Real said...

One of the questions that I try to remember to ask myself is, "Is it preference or principle?" If I am answering a request or doing something just because it is my preference, then that's something I can give in to. I can change my mind. I can ease up. If it's a principle, then I know I need to stand my ground, explain, and exhort.

Sketchy said...

Such good advice! They should hand out little magnets out with the little knitted baby bonnets.

MotherT said...

I don't have children at home per se, but I find myself asking this question A LOT in reference to my mother!!!! (She's 86 and has lived with us for nearly 6 years.)

FYI, I'm going to link to this in my post today. I think this is something that many of us need to think about!

Dixie Chic said...

Wow. This post really touched a cord with me because with my 4 kids ages 9, 7, 5, and 3-I am always trying to make every little thing a teaching tool, and I really shouldn't. One of my biggest sayings is, "Pick your Battles". I do NOT want to "battle" my kids on every tiny little thing, especially since they're pretty young still. I'm slowly learning that I don't have to be perfect, and that I need to let my children be children, because they will be growing up way too soon and it will all be over with. I need to cherish the time they have with me as little children. Thank you a million times over for your post!

Janelle said...

What a wonderful post! I've been thinking along the same lines lately-you seem to put it all together much better than I can in my head!

Lei said...

Such wise advice - advice which saves a lot of hassle, I might add. Like most new mothers, I fought each and every battle with my first. Now I am on #4 and let me tell you, there is SO MUCH that does not matter in the grand scheme of things. I am really glad I've figured that out!

Janis Rodgers said...

I say this to myself quite often. It has cut down on the freak-outs tremendously. They are kids and kids will be kids. Now, to get my husband to repeat that mantra!LOL Blessings to you!

megachick said...

great post. i should print that and pin it to my clothing so i can refer to it as often as i need to. i am way more relaxed with #2 than i am when #1 was a baby, but i am still uptight with #1. she's not getting the benefit of my experience. i need to loosen up!

Anonymous said...

Love it.


someone else said...

I have wished more than once that I had been aware of a phrase like that when I was raising my children. There are things I look back on now and wonder why they mattered so much then.

I find some of that freedom now in dealing with my grandchildren. But I also want to say to my own daughters, "does it really matter?" I can't though, but hindsight is certainly a revealing thing.

TJ said...

loved this. i feel exactly this way. i think i need to make myself a magnet and put it on my fridge to help me remember. sometimes i say "is whether or not i vacuum everyday or how i fold my towels going to keep me out of the celestial kingdom?? no, it isn't, so why am i stressing about it." or what the more important issue is that we do our best, and make sure we have our priorities straight. and saying "does it really matter??" is going to help me get there. thank you!!

K 3 said...

Great quote ... Simple yet so powerful. Very well said


An Ordinary Mom said...

I think I need to make a new quote for my fridge. My two year old little man is a very energetic and on the go toddler. I need to remember to think of this question more often. Thanks!

I wish more people understood the wildness and curiosity of little boys more.

Unknown said...

Have you read the book Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel? It has helped me keep some of those thoughts in perspective, because it's so easy to make everything a control issue. Thanks for the sweet preschool-specific reminders.

someone else said...

Hi again, I know you're swamped with new adventures around your house, but you've been given an award and will need to stop by when you have time to claim it. Hope things are going well for you.

Scribbit said...

That reminds me of how my mom would frequently say, "will it matter in five years?" Same thing as what you're saying I think.