Life in General

When you think you have it all worked out…


I hate my couch.

Truthfully, it’s not the end of the world to hate your couch.

But here’s the problem with my couch.

It’s less than a year old. And I chose it.

And I hate it.

The old couches were looking like they needed a bit of an upgrade, and when they marked their tenth birthday, I started scouting for new ones.

Going into a store to browse is something of the past – and the distant future. Online shopping is way less traumatic than having all the kids traipsing through a furniture store.

And so I scouted. And browsed. And searched. And narrowed down my options.

I pride myself in being an experienced mom of boys, so there were two criteria for my new dream couches. 1. All the cushions had to be attached. (If you only have daughters and can’t figure out why, let’s just stay in a boy’s life, anything not attached to its source is meant to be used as a sports ball of any type.)

  1. It had to be a dark color. So that I would not get aggravated with every mark and spill.

And no fabric. Genuine leather or faux leather doesn’t bother me, as long as it can be wiped down.

Pretty easy to please.

I found just the couch I wanted. L-shaped with plenty of space, dark color, cushions attached. I was ready to make the big purchase.

I read the fine print and the big print, up and down, and all the reviews. I got my husband’s approval of the couch and I was good to go.

The couch was delivered on a Friday.

The delivery guys set it up and left.

And before I could even sit down to appreciate it, one of my boys was holding a cushion in his hands.

And then another.

And then gleeful shouting.

And the reality sank in.

The. Cushions. Were. Not. Attached.

Six big brown cushions, to make towers and forts and slides and sleds. All the things of my nightmares, all the things of their dreams.  All the things me, the experienced mother of boys, was so confident about avoiding.

I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.

I definitely wanted to cry.

The kids were having a blast.

This can’t be happening!

Visions of the next ten years flashed through my mind, threatening, warning, reminding, and repeating to leave the pillows on the couch.


I found my phone and a quiet corner to call my husband.

“They’re not attached!!” I yelled into the phone.

He wasn’t quite as alarmed as I was, but did voice his surprise, considering the couch description we had seen.

I had to calm down and come up with a plan.

I had to think rationally.

I had to make a reasonable consequence for taking the pillows off the couch.

No Shabbos party for a year?

No, too impractical.

No videos for three years?

No, too harsh.

The squeals and laughs from the other room were interrupting my brainstorming.

After a few more minutes, I had it. Something not too drastic but drastic enough. Something they’d care to lose and was realistic to implement.

I let the kids have a few more minutes of fun and then called an emergency meeting.

In my most serious voice I told the kids that I was establishing a new rule.

No one was allowed to take the pillows off the couch.

The couch is for sitting.

The trampoline is for jumping and the slide outside is for sliding, the climbing dome for climbing.

The couch pillows are for sitting only.

And anyone who would be caught taking the pillows off would lose computer time for three weeks.

They all nodded seriously.

I had a fleeting feeling that it would be ok.

But it didn’t last long.

It took less than an hour till the first kid came to report that someone had taken the pillows off.

And apparently my toddler hadn’t been impressed with the consequence either.

I don’t know what I was thinking, but it really was not a good plan. Because really, if the pillows are not attached, then kids, by definition, will take them off.

I couldn’t keep up. I had lost, royally.

I started avoiding going into the living room and pretending not to see, so that I wouldn’t have to add another three weeks to  the already 5 months computer time that some of the kids had lost, (which I knew about because one of my other kids was counting, because he loves to keep a tally).

And the kids pretended not to remember what I had told them and not to notice that I wasn’t seeing on purpose.

I emailed the company and begged, TAKE IT BACK!! This was false advertising!

They couldn’t do that but offered me a steep discount.

I took it, but that helped my aggravation for only  a few more days.

I hated the couch. I hated seeing six cushions spread across the living room.

It was time to make a decision.

Instead of giving my kids 3 choices, I gave it to myself.

Choice 1: Spend the next 10 years, until we get another couch, being the official Couch Police.

Choice 2: Get rid of the couch.

Choice 3: Figure out a way to not be so bothered by the couch.

I had tried Choice 1 and I really didn’t like it as a career.

Choice 2 wasn’t an option because the couches were only a few weeks old; I couldn’t toss them and just buy new ones.

I was left with Choice 3, which was easier said than done.

Try as I could, the sight of the cushions on the floor was driving me crazy. But I wasn’t ready to give up. I had to figure out a way to deal with it.

And then I thought of it. The 80/20 rule. It fit here perfectly.

I was spending 80% of my energy on something that had less than 20% of importance to my life.

And that didn’t make any sense.

Ok, I hated the couch. Couch cushions on the floor might be a pet peeve of mine, but it did not deserve 80% of my energy.

With a house full of boys, there’s no end to the things I can react to and deplete my energy in no time.

I would make the 80/20 rule my measuring stick.

Sure, I would still remind them to pick up the pillows, put them back and tell them not to make towers.


And sometimes, or many times, I would ignore it.

But I would keep the bulk of my energy for where I can make positive changes in them as people, and not just in their typical kid behavior.

I would reserve 80% of my energy for where the dividends would be a lot greater than a 20% impact on our family.

And really, that goes for every area in life. Sometimes we put in 80% effort and yield only 20% results and sometimes 20% effort brings the 80% we so badly need.

It was time to re-evaluate what was important. And couch pillows just doesn’t make the list.


2 thoughts on “When you think you have it all worked out…”

  1. From a girl’s mom: I have never had attached cushions. My daughter has not yet envisioned the fort-making potential— I on the other hand, am dying to throw those things around, make stairs and build tents. Maybe your kids could teach a clinic on advanced furniture creativity, lol.

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