Nest lab report: Hails & farewells

Remember how I started a nest lab a couple of weeks ago where I decided to try to pay more attention to creating better hellos and goodbyes? As promised, today I'm here to report back on my experience--think of it as a lab report on the experiment, I guess. 

As usual I started all gung ho about this idea, then lapsed a bit about a week in, then remembered and rallied to the finish line (note: this pattern pervades my life. Sigh.) I have to admit it initially made me feel like a cross between the family dog and Donna Reed sometimes, dashing to the door when anyone came home. But then I embraced it and found my own variation on it (a little less dash, a little more casual enthusiasm) and realized that it felt great to regularly connect in such a concrete way with the people I love.

I asked the home crew about their take on the last couple of weeks worth of hellos and byes. Maddy admits she read the first post so she knew what was going on but she says she noticed a difference and liked it. G gave the experiment two thumbs up, too. And, though I didn't explicitly recruit their participation in this lab, I noticed a bit more enthusiasm from them when I left the house, too. 

What it did, really, was deliver a good reminder to stop what I'm doing, look each of my people in the eye, and really notice them several times a day. (So basically another instance where the advice stop, look and listen applies.) I do have a tendency to live in my head, thinking thinky and distracted thoughts while the house buzzes around me; these comings and goings were great nudges to get out of my head and on my feet. Maybe it's not as important when it happens but that it happens; hellos and goodbyes just add that element of regularity and routine. (And, as Jenny pointed out in the comments of the initial lab post, you never know which goodbye is your last one so it's good to leave on good terms and with happier hearts every time.)

Lauren leaving for India, 2013

Lauren leaving for India, 2013

Verdict: I'll plan to keep making hellos and goodbyes more meaningful. I can see how it can have a spillover effect into individual relationships and the overall climate at home. It's a really simple, doable thing, a small effort with bigger payoffs.

What about you?  Did you try this experiment? I'd love to hear about it.

Nest Lab: Hail and farewell

Today we’re unveiling (imagine me flicking my wrist and gliding my arm in front of me, The Price is Right style) a new feature for Nest & Launch*. When we met and brainstormed some new ideas a couple of weeks ago, Sarah and I wanted to have a spot now and then for trying out ideas/research/advice. And so Nest Labs and Launch Labs were hatched. Each month one of us will choose an idea to try for two weeks and then follow up with a lab report—ideas related to either nesting (family, home, parenting) or launching (exploring, discovery, outside-the-comfort-zone, next stage sorts of things).  Sometimes we’ll take our cue from old wives’ tales, sometimes we’ll try out what research suggests, and sometimes we’ll just follow a crazy thought where it leads.

We’re not promising that these experiments will necessarily make it into our regular routine and repertoire, mind you. We’re thinking of these more like a dressing room for ideas—some will come home with us but some will end up cast off and crumpled on the floor after just not quite working in the three-way mirror in harsh fluorescent lighting. It’s an experiment and this will be our lab. Oh, and you’re invited to come along, too, if you feel inclined. The more the merrier!

For this first Nest Lab, I’m going with something simple—making better hellos and goodbyes. Sometimes our house feels like a train station; someone is always coming in or dashing out the door. As the unofficial train station manager I used to be quite good about making sure everyone got a good send-off or a focused hello but more often than not I toss an absent-minded “hi” over my shoulder as I hunch over something—a book, a computer screen, a stovetop. (Speaking of hunching, that is a lab for another month. Must. Improve. Posture.) Or I holler “bye!” from upstairs when I hear the jingle of keys. Hellos and goodbyes were easier and more energetic when the kids were younger; I think time, frequency, and routine have sapped them of their energy lately.

Hello, Dad! My dad and me, 1971

Hello, Dad! My dad and me, 1971

As I was writing this I remembered that Gretchen Rubin tried this very thing in her book Happier at Home (she enlisted her whole family in warmer hellos and goodbyes). She says, “somewhat to my surprise, we all began to follow the resolution (most of the time)…as a consequence, each day, several times, we had moments of real connection among all members of our family.” I also think this is a great skill for life: knowing how to give a good hello—eye contact, smile, warmth—and goodbye. Maybe this will spill over into other kinds of interactions. I don’t know. Will this really make a difference to my people? Will anyone even notice? We’ll see.

So for these two weeks, here’s the plan: I’m going to stop what I’m doing, go and look the arriver/goer in the eyes, smile big and give a genuine hail or farewell. It is a very small thing but many family and marriage counsellors believe that paying attention to small rituals like this make a huge difference in relationships and pave the way for a warmer family climate overall. (For example, here and here.) And, surprisingly, it’s often one of the first assignments for a couple in therapy.

Join me? I’ll be trying this for the next two weeks and talking about it in my “lab report” on April 21. 

* We're also happy to be returning to our schedule of posting every weekday starting this week. On the slim chance you're interested in the full rundown (hi, Mom!), here's the rough schedule of posts we're trying out, M-F:

  • Monday: Nest/Launch Lab post, essay, or parenting post
  • Tuesday: Focus on  food - books - movies - research - design - gatherings
  • Wednesday: Essay or parenting post
  • Thursday:   Focus on food - books - movies - research - design - gatherings
  • Friday: A Few Good Gems (fun fact: we were considering eliminating these but many of you mentioned them as favorites in the giveaway post so they're staying)