“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
These words from Admiral William H. McRaven at a commencement ceremony made such an impact that it eventually became the title of a #1 New York Times bestselling book.
During this quarantine, I made it a goal to become a family where everyone starts with making their bed. And guess what? It has now become our morning habit.
Pre-COVID, I was constantly running from one schedule to the next: school, extracurriculars, swimming, and constant, endless and numerous meetings. My mornings were always “rush, rush, rush” and then we would sprint to and through our day. We would rush to get the kids up, say a quick prayer and set a goal, eat breakfast, and, inevitably, run out the door.
Getting to school and work on time was always more important than making sure that our beds were made. Afternoons were equally chaotic with shifting extracurricular schedules. Pickups would include a quick snack and I would try to squeeze in conversations in the car about their day as we went to our extracurriculars or sports. Then came homework, making dinner, practicing piano or swimming then rushing to make various evening engagements!
Throughout all this, my wishlist of things I wanted to teach my kids was constantly growing: scripture studies I want to do with them, outdoor adventure learning opportunities, mini-workshops I hope to plan for our community children, and important talks I need to have with each of them. But life every day felt like a blur; everything felt busy but not deeply meaningful.
Then suddenly, there was no school bell. There were no community group meetings or sports practices. With COVID, we had all day, every day at home.
Suddenly, we had ample time to do scripture study during a now much more languid morning. We could discuss what we read, set goals with intention and purpose, and talk about what we want to do during the day. Sometimes we would do this for even a couple of hours!
And yes, we built in time to develop habits like making our beds each morning.
It was like a breath of fresh air and felt so right. Before, I have had to choose what to sacrifice – morning prayer and goal setting vs bedmaking. And so bedmaking and clean up in the morning went out the door – the cost of making sure that the kids would be on time for school. I would just do the cleaning myself. But I always felt that this sent my kids the wrong message; they were learning that they didn’t need to clean up after themselves. Along with this, they missed important opportunities to build life skills, habits, and the mindset of care for their environment to become good stewards of what God has provided.
Now they each take care to focus and invest their time and effort into building important habits like cleaning up dishes and the table after breakfast before we go into our studies. This has also helped them develop the habit of cleaning up after lunch and dinner and after each major science experiment or craft activity. We even talk about the habits we are forming and why they are important.
The children have also grown and changed from doing chores to now cleaning because they want to because cleanliness is next to Godliness. They clean because we are grateful for the house, the car, the table, and the living room we have been provided. We put away clothes, wash dishes, and clean up because they are things we use and we want to care for them. Good life habits form good character, which is critical to raising good children. But even deeper is building a life of gratitude and good stewardship for all we have been blessed with.
Once, I felt that I was a slave to a daily routine and so busy chasing a schedule, but now things have slowed down and I’ve become more intentional to make sure that the most important things guide the flow of our day. Before COVID-19, I would have done the dishes to get them done quickly before we had to run off to the next schedule. Now, I will wash the large pots and pans and leave the dishes so I can slowly do them with my 7-year-old and teach her how to wash the different types of dishes. Now I have the time to not only join in to do craft projects with my children but also clean with them as we are making things. Once we finish, we can walk through how to clean off the craft space together, and talk about why it’s important to do so.
COVID became for us such a tremendously precious time to regain balance from what was an off-kilter lifestyle. This was an important time to put God, spiritual growth, prayer and reflection, and character-forming habits as the focus and priority for our whole family.
I am told it takes about 90 days (3 months) to form a new habit. I now count the past three months of March-April-May as three precious months of very important habit-forming time that was given to our family.
Remember, our most important role as parents is to mold children of character who can honor God and love the human family. What is the point of school, education, extracurricular, and sports if they aren’t helping to mold our children in this way?
What follows is an excerpt from the commencement speech I quoted at the beginning of this post. Perhaps, like me, you might find inspiration for your own family:
“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”