Grandma and Poppy have been with us for several weeks. They arrived to escape Hurricane Irma and decided to stay until Brett and Mason’s engagement party since it didn’t make sense to drive back to Florida just to turn right around again a few days later.
Poppy took the whole family out to China Garden Buffet last night because he tries to make my life easier and taking care of dinner is a great way to do that! (Thanks, Poppy!)
We always go to the same Chinese Buffet place near our old home in Charlestown. It’s our favorite Chinese place and the owner knows us and takes good care of us. When she sees us coming, the first thing she does is head back to the kitchen and tell them to bring out more chicken and brocolli and General Tso’s chicken.
The children, of course, empty both of those trays of whatever they have and make a sizable dent in many of the other offerings including the ice cream. I don’t let my children (as a general rule) drink soda, but years ago Jim started the tradition where we all make vanilla ice cream and root beer floats.
As I was sitting with my root beer float (Hewitt accidentally put strawberry ice cream in and it tasted very strange!) and chatting with Poppy, I started to think about how life is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. It can be very satisfying or it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stuffed to the point of being uncomfortable.
So I decided to share some lessons taken from the Chinese buffet and applied to life.
Limit your choices. On any given day, we have a seemingly unlimited amount of choices to make because we have access to opportunities that were unheard of a generation ago. While choices are good, they can be overwhelming because they require us to make decisions. One mistake I see a lot of people (including myself at times) making is to say “yes” to too many opportunities. It is so important to learn to say “No” and limiting your choices is a great way to start.
Set expectations. At the Chinese buffet, my children know they have to eat a certain amount of broccoli (or other vegetables) and protein before they can choose some of the fried foods and desserts. That’s why we always empty the chicken and broccoli dish – because that is the children’s favorite vegetable dish. They also know how much “real food” they have to eat before they can finish with their root beer float. By having some boundaries, it makes the experience truly enjoyable.
Try something new. I always encourage the children to try something new – whether it’s a new dish at the buffet or a new way of doing something or a new event. We should never stop learning and part of that is always being willing to try something new. Experimentation often proves that what we’ve always eaten or the way we’ve always done something is the best. But every once in a while you’ll find something new that improves your life. Never be so set in your routine that you aren’t open to new experiences.
Choose wisely. How often do you go out to eat and say you are going to choose something healthy only to end up with something that tastes super good but you know is not a healthy choice. While I believe that’s ok to do once in a while, it’s not a great life time habit. Everything you choose to eat at the buffet leaves less room for something else. (Remember opportunity cost?) Choose wisely when you consider what to put on your plate in your life.
Don’t take too much. If you ask people today how they are doing, many people will respond, “I’m busy.” Just as we’re tempted to eat too much food at an all-you-can-eat buffet (because we paid for it), we’re tempted to do too much in our lives. There is value in just doing nothing. By not filling your plate with tasks you have to accomplish or places you have to be, you are leaving room for the spontaneous moments of life with your loved ones that are often the most precious and memorable.
Know when to stop. Jim will often laugh at me because I literally leave the last one or two bites of food on my plate. He thinks it’s silly that I don’t finish it since I’m so close, but I know that last literal bite will push me from feeling “pleasantly satisfied” to “uncomfortably full”. So I stop. We also need to do this on our lives. We need to know when that one more little thing is too much. For example, I like to clean up the kitchen before bed. Usually this is pretty easy and quick, but
often sometimes there is a big mess. I’ve learned that if I do too much at night, I don’t get enough sleep and it throws off my next day. So instead of cleaning it up the way I want, I just tidy it up so it is ready to be cleaned the next day.
Like everything else I talk about, it’s all about finding what works for you. There are times you need to learn to say no and there are times you need to learn to say yes. It’s not always easy to understand the difference. A lot of it comes from wisdom that you gain over time. That’s one of the reasons I take my parenting so seriously. My children don’t have any wisdom when they are young. I not only need to teach them to listen to my wisdom, but I also need to teach them to want to listen to my wisdom. (But that’s a topic for another post!)
What about you? Got any other ideas how life is like a buffet??