On Making Progress


“Carry On.” Made with Photoshop. Buy this art.

My daughter Lucy is five. Getting her to go to bed has been a struggle since the Johnson administration.

Andrew Johnson.

I know that seems impossible, but when you calculate it in sleep deprived years, it adds up.

We’ve made progress on all fronts over the years, but there’s always…something. The latest challenge is training her that when she has to go potty in the middle of the night, she doesn’t have to wake me up to ask me a series of unimportant questions like “How long is it ’till morning?” and concluding with the ever-present, “Is that all the questions?”

She has traces of anxiety and obsessive-compulsiveness that are on the verge of being a concern but fall just short, mainly because they appear to be genetically passed on.

Thanks a lot, self.

If Lucy can make it to the bathroom three nights in a row without waking me up from a deep, delicious sleep, we agreed to get her an Elsa doll from the movie Frozen.

She has yet to string two consecutive nights together, but we are making progress. The ability to go to the bathroom without announcing it first, and tucking herself in afterwards were fairy tales but a week ago. This morning, as I fumed over our inability to eliminate the inane and half-delirious questions that occur in the middle of the otherwise smooth process, Kim sent me a photo she found online, overlaid with a quote from Plato that said, “Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.”

Boy did I need that. Although so slow it seems like backwards sometimes, Lucy is indeed making progress. And so when she woke up, I praised her for the good things she’s been able to accomplish.

That Plato quote is a good one, and not just for parents or teachers, either. I think it’s a good idea to keep it in mind when it comes to ourselves as well.

I am flawed. Imperfect. Regularly falling a little bit short. Like anyone, I have many struggles and foibles, and I am usually the first in line to throw stones at myself, if that were somehow possible. (I suppose you could throw one up and run under it, but I digress.)

Me and you, we’re works in progress. Focus on moving in the right direction. The going may be slow, but that’s ok.

We need to be kind to ourselves.

Yes, be kind. And carry on.

[ About the Art: This one was inspired by the song “Carry On” by Fun. Sometimes, when I’m sketching, I like listening to music and pulling out words and phrases that strike me. The illustrator in me plays with images that could work with the words. After the episode with Lucy and the quote Kim sent me, I pulled this month-old doodle out of the sketchbook and went to work. My first iteration included the Great Pyramids in the background, but I decided that was too…specific. I opted for more of a generic Grand Canyon type of background because it gives an overall sense of scale, but you’re not quite sure where the turtle is on his journey. As far as the turtle is concerned, obviously it is a bit stylized. There is a tendency (at least for me) to draw turtles with droopy eyes and heavy eyelids that make them look old, slow and tired. My goal was to give this one more of determined expression. Mission accomplished? You tell me. (Buy the print!) ]

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  1. Patty Borkowski says:

    Jason, be gentle with yourself. Not to be harsh – but Lucy is 5 years old, not 2. She needs to learn that you care for her, are there for her, but not 24/7 unless in emergency; everyone needs their sleep – in other words, she needs to learn to have an awareness of others, and not just exist in her own little world. SO important for parents to properly teach and guide. It will open her world to greater empathy, caring, and so many other things – in other words, further open up her heart. I am sure she already has these traits – but time for a ramp up.

  2. After a very long week of feeling like little progress in many aspects of my life, this message helped me re-calibrate. Reminding myself that I am headed in the right direction. My 3 teen-age kids are spreading their wings, and not always a happy household, but they have a solid foundation of character and values. For my husband who has been unemployed for 2 years. Liviing in a house for over 10 years that stills rehab in several rooms — Plato’s quote is exceptionally helpful here. This has been REALLY slow progress. And in this “instant” world we’ve lost an appreciation for the slow and the quiet. Thanks Jason!

  3. Sandy says:

    Wow, I needed that today. Plato’s quote will be making it to the rotation in my cube at work. It also reminds me of the “progress, not perfection” which was introduced to me many years ago when I attended an Al-Anon meeting with a friend of mine. We’re all so hard on ourselves and it can be hard to break that cycle of thinking, so we need little reminders like your post today, or the encouraging words of good friends and family. And we also need to remember that sometimes someone we love is in that same place, and we can be that source of encouragement and that motivation to carry on, just like Kim was for you. Thank you both!

  4. Missy Brown says:

    Jason and Kim,
    My mom used to say, “It takes a lot of slow to grow.” She usually used this with the teachers in our child care center when they would rush the children though routines because my mom, being much older and wiser knew that the children were learning so much while completing those routines.
    On a personal note, my younger son who is now 25 didn’t sleep through the night….ever. Thankfully he grew out of ‘needing me’ in the night. Good luck to you and to Lucy as well!

  5. Debbie Green says:

    sometimes people will say just the right thing at just the right time…Thanks for that, Jason! We are most certainly not finished progressing yet. Lisa and I were at breakfast yesterday and I mentioned that when the letter we wrote to ourselves comes…I will have fallen in short in one area. I will keep climbing and know that if I was perfect, I would be in heaven with Jesus.

  6. Darcy says:

    Bedtime..hmmm. My daughter refused to go to bed at night. Absolutely refused we tried EVERYTHING. I slept on her floor, we tried decorations,different lights, music, and this was after the usual letting her cry for a time. A friend suggested we close our bedroom door and let her deal. She pounded on it til her knuckles bled. I guess that’s true stubbornness!! Just like her mom. Guess what? She’s in college now and sleeps just fine all by her self! We alo have a 10 year old that went through much the same thing and asks to go to bed at 9 now. Maybe it was us that didn’t get it?

  7. Jillian says:

    I would have to say that bedtime had been our biggest struggle with our child as well. It took many, many months for her to go to bed and stay in bed by herself. We did what you guys are doing. If Ava could go so many nights sleeping in her bed by herself or not come into Mom and Dad’s room, she would get a prize!

    We used a sticker chart to keep track of the nights she slept in her bed. It was great, I went out and bought a bunch of fun stickers and a calendar, and then each morning that she had slept in her bed she got to pick out a sticker and put it on that day. Ava would enjoy being able to look at her progess on the calendar and loved even more picking out a prize at the store! It was a win for everyone. Ava got a prize and mom and dad got to sleep!

  8. Thanks for the positive message!
    The long days and nights when they are little pass quickly!

  9. Linda says:

    I read a good affirmation, but don’t know the source. It said “I am complete, but not finished.”
    I felt this went along with forgiving one’s imperfections or slow progress…

  10. Thanks for all the well wishes, tips, and moral support, guys! It’s helpful just knowing we’re not alone in these challenges! :)

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