New Year; New Tradition?

I woke up with this idea for my New Year’s Day post…

My grandparents are 89 and 97.  After than many years on Earth, you amass a lot of great stories.  One of my favorites is what I like to call “The Bean Bowl.”

archaeology.JPGMy grandparents are pretty amazing people.  Grandpop was an organic research chemist and Grammy met him when she was a lab assistant.  They both got into archeology and amassed quite a collection.  As a result, their basement was practically a museum.  Seriously.  When they went into a nursing home a few years ago, they donated about 80% of their collection to the Pennsylvania state museum in Harrisburg.

Among the arrowheads, pottery and other artifacts was this one glass fishbowl.  It contained about two inches’ worth of pink spotted beans in the bottom.  When I was a kid, I asked him what it was all about.  “I’ll tell you when you are older,” he said.

Once I had made him a great-grandfather, I asked him again about the bowl of beans.  I guess he figured I could handle the story he was about to tell:

When I married your grandmother, a bunch of my scientist buddies at the lab had a bachelor party for me.  Towards the end of the night, they gave me a present.  When I opened it up, it was this fish bowl and a bag of dried beans.

They explained to me that I should put it on my night stand and after your grandmother and I got married, I was to put a bean in the bowl every time we had marital ‘relations’ until the end of our honeymoon phase (two years).

For the rest of our marriage, I was to then take a bean OUT of the bowl for the same reason.

My colleagues warned me that for the rest of my life, I would never be able to empty the bowl… And that’s how they prepared me for matrimony!

We both laughed.

I then went to my grandmother and asked her if she knew the significance of the Bean Bowl.  She shook her head.  I asked my grandpop if I could tell her and he said okay.  I retold the story (mainly to make sure I got it right) and at the punch line, she just laughed and pinched him on the arm.

It’s one of the more special memories I have with them.  Partly because it was just the three of us, partly because it’s such a clever gift and partly because it was a rite of passage that I could be in that circle.

Why am I telling “The Bean Bowl” story on New Year’s Day?  Because as off-color as the anecdote may be, it’s really about keeping tabs on a situation- a physical representation of the status of things.

Kidney Beans, Beans, Dry, Legumes, Pulses, Bowl

 

So I’m thinking of stealing the Bean Bowl and adapting it to our family.  We can put a bean into the bowl for every good thing our children do- chores; being sweet to each other; helping others.  And we’d take a bean out for the infractions- forgetting to do homework; stretching the truth; a messy room…

I’m inviting you to make the Bean Bowl a part of your 153Promise in your household.  It can serve as a light-hearted reminder to make good choices as a family.  You might even put a line on the side as a goal and a reward is enjoyed by all once your family gets enough beans.

It’s certainly more versatile than a swear jar, and it’s a lot easier to keep track of than a fancy chart.  Plus, there’s the added benefit of it being one communal bowl.

And imagine the look on their faces when you explain to them the origin of “The Bean Bowl” when they are old enough.

Just remember that the originators are Benny and Doris.

-Kisses!  XxXx

Sondheim Was Right

When I was in high school, I discovered musicals.  My favorite at the time was Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim.  It’s a mash-up of several fairy tales, whereby they all have to go into the woods to get what they want.  (Symbolism, anybody?)

Toward the end of the work, a widower/baker begins to tell his fussing infant child the story of his mother, creating a legacy for his offspring.  The witch who was the antagonist throughout the plot stands off to the side, offering one of the main messages of the musical in the form of a haunting lullaby, warning:

     Careful the things you say;
     Children will listen.
     Careful the things you do;
     Children will see
     And learn.
     Children may not obey,
     But children will listen.
     Children will look to you
     For which way to turn-
     To learn what to be.
     Careful before you say:
     “Listen to me.”
     Children will listen…
I remember singing along with my tape (yes, I’m that old), in my bedroom and I loved that song for it’s bittersweetness.  Now that I’m a mother and have children of my own, I understand this song on a whole different level.
For me now, the message this song sends is that your sons and daughters will learn about the world through your words and actions.  What lessons do you want to send through how you act?
 The first understandings of how a relationship is supposed to function is from how you interact with your partner.  (At a young age, they cannot separate themselves from the situation; how you react with them teaches them more about the world; not interpersonal communication.)  Therefore, it is very important to model what a healthy, loving relationship looks and sounds like.
I was given the model of dysfunction.  When I was growing up, my parents argued all the time.  They were never affectionate.  I came to believe that the people who are highly involved in your life are also the ones who know you enough to hypercritical about you.  Hugging and kissing was only the stuff in movies and obviously not reality.  As a result, I sought out that same dysfunction I was used to seeing as a child.
Only now as I write this am I realizing that it took another 18  years away from my parents to totally relearn life lessons in how to attract and keep functional relationships.  I think I am not unique in this phenomenon whereby people turn a corner in their insight about their lives in their mid 30s- it’s because they have had as many years away from their family of origin to realize that their understanding of the world and the people in it comes from their childhood and is not necessarily Truth.
When your children experience second hand your relationship you have with their father, mother — biological or otherwise — you are really creating a certain “relationship radar” in your children.  So make the 153Promise to your husband, wife, partner or any other people your children come in contact with to model the type of relationship your children will have when they become old enough to have one of their own.
Children will listen, see, and learn.
Make their lessons happy .