I was raised by a mother who was a very wise woman, with a keen understanding of human nature. That, combined with her ability to find common ground with most people that crossed her path, made her a person that people often sought for advice. Many a time, friends would come home with me after school, and before we could get settled in up in my room, listening to records or doing whatever junior or senior high girls did at the time, I would find my friend at the kitchen table with my mom, having a cup of tea, deep in conversation. I have one friend who recalls this as one of her fondest memories of my mom.
Willa Cather describes one of her characters, Neighbor Rosicky, as someone who had "a talent for loving people. It's like an ear for music or an eye for art." It's just part of who they are. I think my mother was like that. Not that she got along with everyone she knew. If she didn't hit it off with someone, or if we were having a problem with someone, her advice was to "give them a wide berth." No sense setting yourself up for an altercation.
But for the most part, my mom just had a way about her that made people feel comfortable and they would easily confide in her. They sought her advice. And she always seemed to know just what to say. There was an occasion in our family when my brother's best friend had his fiance came to town, not knowing how to tell her before she got here that he was breaking up with her. The news came out of left field for the young woman and she was a mess. The boys decided that my mother should take the girl to the airport, and the poor girl sobbed all the way there. I wish I had been a fly in the car and could have heard the words of encouragment and advice my mom would have had for her.
My mom had quite a psychology about raising kids. For one thing, she knew that the more she repeated something, the less likely we would hear her. And she didn't like repeating herself. So, instead of telling us the same thing over and over, she took to writing notes. Her signature black magic marker and masking tape became very common place in our house. On the freezer in the basement, "Make sure door is shut all the way." On the jar for bandaids in the closet, "Put lid back on." On the toilet, "Jiggle handle." The kitchen scissors were tagged with "Kitchen" and God help us if she found them somewhere else.
When I set up my own household and had my kids, I always listened to my mom's advice, because I knew that it contained words of wisdom that would help me create a home for my family like the one she made for us. She would tell me, "make it easy on yourself." Put things where you use them most, have a system, it doesn't have to be fancy, just common sense. The kitchen shears were not only labeled, but had their own hook under the kitchen cabinet, so they were within easy reach and we didn't have to go digging in the drawer for them.
One of the ways she made it easier for herself was writing notes. I don't remember being nagged as a child. Yes, I was reprimanded, I wasn't always happy with what I was told to do or not do, but I can honestly say I wasn't lectured or nagged. My parents had better ways of getting their messages across. And for the everyday, menial, reminders, my mom's method was to write notes.
I'm trying to apply this more in my own home. By now, my kids have heard just about everything I have to remind them about at least a gazillion times. I don't think they hear me anymore. At least not the words. But it's human nature to be curious enough to see what a note has to say, so I've taken to leaving them little notes, either instructional or sometimes with some words of praise. Perhaps, without shouting in their ear, they'll come to listen to what I have to say.