Parenting 101 (part 2): Enjoying the View

Tonight, like every night, I will kiss my kids and tuck them into bed, and pray they don’t remember how I’ve failed them. I will lay in my bed, like every night, and think of how to be better, love better, be more present, be more prepared and ask myself, “how do I not fail tomorrow?”

The answer is the same. You are here. You are present. You love them. You are a good Mom. It’s not what you do. It’s not what you say. It’s that you love. And I love you.

I spent five days in the hospital, and by God’s grace He made me grateful for it. 
I saw the leaves on the trees. I was able to look above the concrete, from the elevator hallway floor-to-ceiling windows, and see creation.  

I saw people. Hurting people. Lonely people. Chronic pain. 100s cycled through; hundreds cycled through- just the NE wing: floor 7- in five days.

I saw my friends. I saw love. I saw compassion. I saw that I matter to a lot of people. I saw that I am not alone. As much as I believe that horrible lie, I saw that I am NOT alone.

I saw my husband. I saw how much he cares for our family. I saw how much he protects me. I saw his unique, individual, only-Joseph-shows-empathy-to-me-this-way love. 

I saw my kids. Not just their physical bodies. I didn’t just hear their words. By God’s grace I saw their hearts. 

When they weren’t even there, I saw them. I saw that my performance and parenting skills, at which I have often boastfully reassured myself to be good, does not produce mathematical results. I saw that there are not always answers to every question. I saw that I don’t have to make up an answer to every question when I can’t find one. I saw that my life that I define as “Crazy” is beautiful. 

I missed them. I missed the crazy that I often want to run and hide from. 

It was oddly bittersweet getting into those elevators; I knew I would not be able to stop several times a day, feel the warm sun peering through the glass, and see the view above the buildings. 

It’s amazing how quickly the images of hurting people leave my mind’s eye when the day to day tasks and frustration arise.

It’s amazing how all that I “saw” starts to become blurred by the distorted lenses of fear and doubt.

I am choosing to take off those lenses. I’ve done this before in other ways on my journey, but this time I don’t want to put them in their protected case. I want to step on them, crush them, destroy them, so they can never be worn again. Anyone with me?

Let’s take off the lenses of shame. 

Let’s take off the lenses of judgement. 

Let’s take off the lenses of doubt.

 Let’s take off the lenses of fear. 

Let’s let anxiety be the uncomfortable, itchy eye-sore we never want to enter our home, instead of wearing it like our cozy sweatpants we’ve had for ten years that we don’t want to get rid of.

And for those of you who don’t identify with any of this parenting stuff, love those in your life who might. Spend time with them so yours eyes see a little more clearly the reality they face daily. “See” them. Listen to them. Ask questions. Offer help with your hands not your mouth. 

Use your mouth to speak words of encouragement. If you start to judge, self-reflect. It’ll be better for everyone, including yourself! Maybe you’ll see the amazing qualities you have to be life-giving to someone who feels hopeless and helpless.

I Love this picture of my daughter and I hiking! 

This is friendship.

There are many mountains we will climb in this life. Let’s not kick someone in the knees and make them fall to their face. Let’s help lift each other up when it’s needed. Let’s walk side by side. Let’s find a walking stick to empower each other and strengthen each other. 

Find your people. Be that person to someone. Love even when it’s hard. Be the light that shines hope in the darkness not a magnifying glass to imperfections. 

Who’s in?

I used to say, “until my munchkins next nap,” but in this season the reality is my writing will wait, “until the next time I have an opportunity.” So in the meantime, surrender, smile, breathe, cry if you need to, kiss those you love, and find an opportunity to make someone’s day, not break it. 

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Parenting 101: The Test

Parenting feels like a multiple choice test. 

Not like a scantron where there’s actually a right answer. No. It’s the type where all the answers could be right and you have to select the best one. 

You ask yourself (as time is ticking), “what is the BEST for THIS situation!” 

You choose.

Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes you’re wrong. Sometimes no matter what you choose… you’re wrong because there actually is not a correct answer. 

Sometimes you try “all of the above” and you’re still wrong. 

Because, my friends, in parenting, your strong-willed kid is that professor that gets to choose (not morally, ethically, or actually) what he thinks is right and wrong depending on his mood.  

No matter how much reading, studying, discussing, and reasoning you have done to come up with the best answer, if the professor has a different opinion, there is no changing his mind.


Example
: Your kid throws sand in another kid’s face. What is the appropriate response?

Answer

  • A. Walk over calmly take the shovel, explain (for the 100th time in his life) that it’s mean/not nice/disrespectful/not ok to throw sand. Tell him to make sure the other kid is ok. Tell your kid to apologize. 
  • B. Remove kid from situation. Give him a time out for making a bad choice. When time out is over, have him apologize.
  • C. Take shovel. Spank kid’s bottom for being mean. Tell him it’s unacceptable behavior and to make it right.
  • D. Leave the park. Your kid knows it’s not ok to act that way. Tell your kid if he wants to be at the park, he needs to earn the privilege of being at a park back by being respectful at home. 
  • E. Ignore it. They’re kids. They need to be able to work out conflict on their own and establish relationship rolls.

I’ve read about and come up with all sorts of great solutions. The reality is though, the ideas that “you’re the parent, and the kid will behave perfectly if you’ve done your part to establish authority” or ” your kid just wants to feel safe, if they feel loved and secure their behavior will follow suit” aren’t always true. 

So many people I know, including myself, who battle either depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, addictive behavior, and many other debilitating conditions were not allowed to take ownership of their choices and emotions as a child, and were often even criticized for them. 

Anyone else familiar with, “children are to be seen and not heard”, “children are to only speak when spoken to”, “she’s a child, she doesn’t understand”, “he’s a kid, he doesn’t know what he wants”?

When you witness scenarios like the example above, you might ask. “How old is the kid?” “Does he know better?” Was this the first time?” “Why is he throwing sand. That’s mean! Why is he so mean?” Do you compare him to all the other kids you “know”?

These are all great questions and concerns. They’ve gone through my head too. Both as a observer/bystander and about my own kids. 

Sometimes we don’t see the invisible ink:

  • F. There is no correct response.

Come on Moms, if we’re honest with ourselves and each other, we know that “breast is best” doesn’t work for a baby who’s Mommy can’t produce milk. Sleep training does not work for every kid. Some kids refuse a pacifier and will only suck their thumb. Potty training boot camp works wonders for some families, and for others it produces bathroom anxiety and long term digestive issues.

I have a secret… It’s all ok. 

Moms, it’s ok. 

Dads, it’s ok. 

This is not a test.

Do you need to do something? Absolutely, you are a parent; however, this is NOT a test.

Now, to the really nosey people who think that your “expert opinion” matters, it ok. It’s really ok that “those parents” aren’t doing it “your” way! 

It is NOT ok, however, for you to make them feel less-than. It’s NOT ok for you to give your opinion if it’s not asked for. Your unsolicited advice is hurtful and unnecessary. If you’ve had kids, you had your chance to raise THEM. 

If you want to mentor younger parents, then love on them, spend time to know them AND their kids, and if they ask a question, you then have permission to answer. You have been invited. Trust me, we need more of you who truly care!! We need more safe people. Otherwise, you are an intruder and are trespassing. Zip it please!! 

We forget sometimes that kids are people. They have brains. Emotions. Sometimes BIG emotions. Thoughts. Opinions. Good days. Bad days. Tired days. Tantrum days.

Oh ya, can we talk about this for a second?

Any one of those answers to the above situation, by the way, could result in a tantrum.  Some, for a child, are totally controllable and are out of complete defiance. Others, however, I believe happen when a child’s amazing developing brain is unable to process and respond to both the facts and emotions at the same time.  All the circumstances are so overwhelming that his or her mind and body explodes like ticking time-bomb.

I absolutely believe it is my responsibility to teach my children respect and kindness and integrity and love and patience and self-control.  

I am also learning that all I can do is teach it and model it. And most importantly pray about it. I cannot demand it. The more I push and strive and strain to control my children, the more out of control I become.

So, I pray for my own self-control. 

My kid is going to do what he wants to do because he is a person. He is not a programmable machine. He is not a dog that I can give a treat for good behavior and expect that he will eventually behave a certain way and make all the right choices.

Does positive reinforcement work? Absolutely! It encourages. It shows that there are good consequences and rewards for good behavior. But it does not change a heart.  

Do consequences work? Absolutely! They establish boundaries. Kids need to know what is ok and what is not ok. They need to know there are rules in life even as adults, and there are consequences for making bad choices. But it does not change a heart.

My kids also need Jesus, just like I need Jesus every day. When I come to Him, Jesus shows me my heart. He shows me when I totally mess up and yell or when I ignore because I don’t want to deal with it, when I make choices out of control or selfishness, and He forgives me and helps me start over or “push the restart button” like we say in our house. The reality is I make my own choices too, and I fail daily. 

I pray I bear the Spirit’s fruit of self-control because I am not strong enough to will it upon myself.

If you’re that frustrated Mom out there, like I am today, and you feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing is working. Please don’t feel defeated. I feel pretty defeated on a lot of days, and you know what, I’m worth more than that. You’re worth more than that.  Though we feel beat up all day long, we are not punching bags.

You have value. You have purpose. 

We are not taking a test, being graded by the successful responses or good choices of our children.  

Observers, please stop grading us.

We grade ourselves. We judge ourselves. God gave our kids to us and us to them for a reason. We will do many things to mess up along the way, but it’s in those moments, when we can’t do it on our own, that we hopefully realize God’s strength to guide us through.

Please don’t assume we are bad parents because of the choices our kids make. 

Please don’t assume we are good parents because of the choices our kids make.

Please don’t assume anything.

Coming from a very opinionated person on a tough journey learning the time and place to put voice to my thoughts. Coming from a person who cares so deeply for people, and truly wants to see people grow and learn and flourish into the person they are created to be for the life they live: 

Use your mouth to speak words of encouragement. If you start to judge, self-reflect. It’ll be better for everyone, including yourself! Maybe you’ll see the amazing qualities in which God has gifted you, to be life-giving to someone who feels hopeless and helpless.

Parents, we can be protected from our head to our toes with salvation, righteousness, faith, truth, the Spirit, and peace. 

If you’re down on the ground, rise up to your knees, say a prayer. He’ll heal those wounds and support you as you rise back to your feet.  

I love brainstorming with other moms. The learning does not stop with the many incredible tools from my Mommy friends, podcasts (shout out to the seriously life-changing God Centered Mom), and other bloggers who have great parenting insight. Here’s the reality: those tools are super helpful, and sometimes nothing works! 

It’s ok. 

Tonight, like every night, I will kiss my kids and tuck them into bed, and pray they don’t remember how I’ve failed them. I will lay in my bed, like every night, and think of how to be better, love better, be more present, be more prepared and ask myself, “how do I not fail tomorrow?”

The answer is the same. You are here. You are present. You love them. You are a good Mom. It’s not what you do. It’s not what you say. It’s that you love. And my daughter, you love deeply. And I love you.

Breathe. Smile. Rest. 

I used to say, “until my munchkin’s next nap,” but in this season, the reality is my writing will wait until the next time I have an opportunity. So in the meantime, surrender, smile, breathe, cry if you need to, kiss those you love, and find an opportunity to make someone’s day, not break it. 

Present!

The funny thing about writing is that it must be inspired. My dilemma is that my little cutie pie is my inspiration. I hang out with my son and I get a sea of thoughts and ideas roaring around inside the walls of my brain.
Why is this whirlwind a dilemma? I get to my next point: in order to jot any of these thoughts down I’d have to sacrifice spending time with him and attach myself to the lifeless technology that we so obsess over these days. At a leadership conference I attended last year, the theme was “Be Present”. So often we try to “capture the moment with a photo instead of actually experiencing the moment.” This concept was so profound to me. You see, as I had just recently upgraded my cell phone to have text messaging [for business purposes, of course], I obviously was a cheerleader for this concept. Side note-don’t we do that so often? We hear this amazing idea and don’t realize that the reason its so “amazing” is because it fits so comfortably within the paradigm we are already living.
Now a year after the conference and only a month into being a proud iPhone owner, I face the realization of how easy it is to get distracted from what’s important. That concept that was so “life altering” now actually needs to be. It’s so easy for me to grab my phone for music, to learn developmental milestones, activity ideas, fill in the ______. What I should be doing is learning what my four month old needs by watching him, listening to him, holding him; not holding my phone as if it were a lifeline to ensure and secure my child’s bright future.
Let me encourage you, like a friend did for me last week. Moms, give yourselves a break. Cut yourself some slack. Take an ounce of grace. We all have these realizations that will make us feel like terrible moms, but that’s what makes us incredible moms. We love our little ones more than words can explain. It’s a love that only a mother truly knows and understands.
Take these epiphanies, embrace them and then learn from them, but don’t let them be the next thing you harbor that will distract you from that smile or giggle that will warm your heart and make all the problems of the world go away.
The attached picture of my adorable son is right before he started crying, and there was my moment of realization : “Danielle! Put your phone down and hold your son! He doesn’t want his ‘pic’ taken, he wants to be with Mommy!”
Well, until my munchkin’s next nap-time, like my mom always reminds me, Make-it-a-great-day!!!!

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