Growing up in my house was different. Not different bad, “just” different.
My parents started fostering when I was 12 years old, and because of that, things were quite often, really crazy. Sometimes we’d have 8 kids living under one roof, and chaos quite often did ensue. There was lots of laughing, story telling and fun. But more often than not, there was a whole lot of loud, whiny and complaining children.
Obviously, that kind of busyness and that many little bodies from different walks of life, needed things to run “differently”, and that is where my parents excelled. My Dad was crazy but my Mom was his level-headed balance that kept us all alive. Literally. 🙂
My Dad spent many years working for different marketing companies, doing motivational speaking and encouraging people to reach higher and do better. A part of that involved putting different and unique plans and tools in place and naturally, he brought some of those things home to us.
If we got lippy or rude, we had to do push-ups or sit-ups. We had to write out “lines” saying positive statements. We were given the Think and Grow Rich and the Richest Man in Babylon books as presents. AND we were expected to read them. We had to write out the hours that we spent doing chores or helping out around the house, if they weren’t written down, we didn’t get credit for them. We had water fights IN the house, and had to listen to my Dad’s “mix-tape” that played NOTHING but Don’t Worry be Happy when we went on family vacations. We stopped at EVERY tourist attraction on our way to anywhere. We were led up on cliffs and waterfalls while my Mother screamed at my Father.
We were also “dragged” and I say dragged because none of us were excited to be going, to see different motivational speakers. I saw Anthony Robbins, Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy, all before I was 16 years old. There were “positive thinking” signs ALL OVER our house. My Dad would write sayings out on poster board and tape them all over the place for us to see everyday. He installed speakers in our bedrooms and bathrooms, and we would wake up every morning to the Zig Ziglar, “Born to Win” soundtrack. Every morning. To this day, I can still hear those words in my head. There was always something new to encourage us and lift us up. It never ended.
Now back to the whining and complaining. I believe I was about 13 years old when my parents had, had enough and put a plan into place. We had no idea what was going on, but my Dad had us all invite our best friends along and hauled us all down to the river bottom for a picnic. When we got there, we had a great time eating and playing with our friends, and then my Dad got weird again. By now, we were very much used to his strange games and stories so when he asked us to go and find the biggest rocks that we could carry, we did it. Without question.
Needless to say, we all managed to find some huge rocks and hauled them back to the picnic site. We all sat down, and were given felt markers and crayons and were instructed to write the words “I Can’t” on our rock. We all rolled our eyes but did it. He then told us to decorate them and make the rocks beautiful. We did. Once they were all beautified and complete, he said, “pick them up, we’re going to the bridge”. We all did some serious complaining as we had all found the biggest stinking rocks we could carry, and “the bridge” was at the top of a steep hill. And we were at the bottom of it.
It took awhile to get our little wagon train of whiny and complaining rock yielding children up the hillside but we did it. Once we were up there, he asked what our rocks said, and we all screamed, “I can’t”. And without much ado, he said, throw them over the edge and into the river. Our initial response was heck no as we had just hauled them up what was basically a mountain and now he wanted us to just throw them away. Why would we do such a thing …. but we did.
Once we watched them all crash into the river and fought over whose rock made the biggest splash, he told us to be quiet and listen. Then he spoke the words that I will never forget. He said, “I can’t is no longer alive at our house. As of this moment, it is dead. If you say it, it will be ignored. You may use other words such as I won’t, I don’t want to, or I don’t know how, but you cannot say I CAN’T”. We all looked at him, laughed and giggled and agreed and ran back down the hill to tell Mom what our crazy Dad just made us do. She just smiled and nodded.
Well, we went home and life went on as usual. The fighting and complaining started and so did the “I can’ts. But this time, my parents were ignoring us. We’d be screaming I can’t, and they would just stare at us and smile. Let me tell you, your hissy fit loses a lot of its steam when you have to stop and change what you’re saying to “I don’t want to” and realizing that you were just basically being a whiny baby. We kept trying the I can’ts for a couple of months, but we eventually gave up. CAN’T really had died, and 100% without question, it made a significant difference in our lives.
That one simple trip to the river showed us that anything WAS possible because failure was no longer an option. At the time, we were all sure that there was something really wrong with my Father, but now we get it. That positive attitude made us into the people that we are today, and frankly, I CAN’T is still dead in all of our lives. My life growing up may have been really different or weird, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Thanks Mom & Dad.