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. 

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. 

Top 10 Life Lessons

I was challenged by my uncle to list my Top 10 Life’s Lessons. I think I relearned all of these lessons simply by thinking about them all over again.

I saw this quote today not long after I received this challenge and its so fitting:

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What a great way to move forward and be present: reflect on how the past has made me who I am today.

1. Don’t gossip:
At a very young age I learned how hurtful words can be. It’s not worth trash talking people I love for the sake of keeping other “friends.” If they gossip to me, they’ll gossip about me.

Learn who you can trust:
My most valued and cherished friendships are girls who are honest, brutally honest sometimes, but who love me enough to be honest. There is no flattery! There is encouragement. We aren’t afraid to be down in the trenches with each other when needed, but we also help lift each other out of them.

2. Stop worrying about what others think of me:
I still have to remind myself of this one. Most of the time what I perceive other people to be “thinking” are just my own insecurities projected onto them. God gave me my own conviction, passion, and vision. The more I focus on others’ approval the less I focus on God’s purpose.

3. Don’t be afraid to try new things, especially when it comes to food:
I lived most of my childhood hating seafood. I had only had salmon BBQd, “well”-done, with a either lemon or a brown sugar glaze. Bbllleecckk! Now, hand over the sashimi or catch it fresh on the rivers of Idaho and sear it with a little salt and pepper medium-medium rare…now we’re talking!! I had never tried sushi until I was 21 because I was told eating raw food was dangerous.

Most everything tastes good if made the right way!!!!

4. Smile:
If someone looks grumpy or rude, smile, say “hello”. I’m only responsible for my own attitude and actions. More often than not, I discover how nice people really are. Some are just deep in thought, more reserved or not having a good day. When I smile, it makes their day and my day too!

5. I am my son’s (and soon to be born daughter’s) Mommy for a reason:
God gave him to me, not someone else. Not the over-opinionated old lady leaving the grocery store who thinks my 8 month old needs to be wearing sunglasses for his 30 second trip inside. Not to the family member or friend who sees things differently. We (my hubby &I) make decisions for our children based on prayer and the convictions God has given us.

It is important to learn from other people’s experiences and heed the wisdom, but discernment is also necessary. Just because there’s a blog that says this or that doesn’t mean our choice was wrong…just different than how that family decided to do things for their child(ren)…and that’s OK!

We need to support and love each other with our words and actions, not judge and tear each other down.

6. Forgive myself:
I make mistakes. I can and have been well-intentioned and still hurt people. Good people do bad things sometimes, and it’s not always on purpose. Being humble and apologizing is huge, but still not always received. Forgive myself, learn the lesson, move on and don’t repeat the same mistake. Living in the past just prevents me from being my best now and in the future.

7. Quinoa is a superfood: It is a complete protein:
It serves as a great alternative for pasta or rice. There are many delicious ways to cook it, both alone- hot and cold (mmm yummy greek salad!!)- or in a casserole or some other fun Pinterest recipe. Try it!
(This leads me to my next lesson)

8. Quinoa should not replace everything:
Meat is good! Sometimes you just need a good steak…or chicken…or ground beef or sausage. God created plants AND animals for us to enjoy. There are few things better than my Nana’s Rosemary Garlic Rack-of-lamb or All Day Meat Sauce!

9. Lighten up:
I’m still working on this one… One of God’s greatest gifts to me is my husband Joseph. He teaches me how to laugh at myself and not take life so seriously all the time. And now I have a son, with his Daddy’s sense of humor, who by 16 months had discovered the humor in hiding and jumping out to scare me.

I love to laugh and have a good sense of humor, but I also know I’m not that funny, so my most memorable moments are when I surround myself with people who help bring the silly out of me.

This reminds me of one of the funniest road trips: crank up the music in the car with a good friend, do some hand motions while you dance, and sing as loud as you can…and if you end up on the wrong freeway, remember the lesson: lighten up:)

10. Miracles do happen:
God heals! The stories in the Bible are important to teach us lessons in history, but Go is the same God now.

I, personally, within a 6 year period, was diagnosed with a chronic digestive disorder, suffered migraines, anxiety, had mysterious inflammation that “wasn’t quite rheumatoid arthritis”, a brain tumor, and was told it would probably be impossible to have children. All of which through prayer and God’s Grace are completely gone.

God wants to be present and in our lives, but He doesn’t force Himself. We must invite Him to participate. He wants to show us His power that will work in us, through us, and around us.

Until my munchkin’s next nap time: I challenge you and encourage you to Make your own list.

It’s really cool what happens in your brain and in your heart when you write stuff like this down. If you’re comfortable sharing some of them, I’d love for you to comment. I can always handle some more learning from others.

Opinions: No one wants them, but we’ve all got them

Venting…Ready….GO! People are really opinionated! It doesn’t matter if I even know the person, people are ready and willing to share their plethora of vomit wisdom and knowledge even if you don’t ask for it. Scccrreeech!! Time for the breaks before I lose you. Can I let you in on a little secret? I am too. Eeeekk! I said it!

Ugh! So, I had an epiphany: the things I despise about myself, I am so quick to criticize about other people. I have, however, been on a mission to change my negative, critical way of thinking for a few years now, but there’s still pieces to chisel away.

This epiphany, fortunately, was a quick reminder of how important my support system is to me. I have those friends I call when I’m having a really rough day; those friends I can call on a great day who will be excited with me; friends I call when I need to vent about rude comments I get from people, like, “Enjoy your pedicure now, because once your son gets older this will never happen!” and they’ll give me some humor to lighten the mood; others who know when to listen; others who have the perfect wisdom, experience, and encouragement to offer like, “the only reason you care so much about what others say is because as moms we put enough pressure on ourselves, we don’t need others to do it for us.” They remind me, and all my opinions, to breathe, and see the good intentions in those “opinionated people.”

Then there’s my best friend, who I proudly call my sister, who knows which of the above I need and when, without me even opening my mouth. (Thank you for that, Em!)

Then there’s my amazing sister, who I call my friend, who also falls into most of the above categories. I love that I can call her to tell her about the goofy, awkward, overly concerned customer service I received, and she knows I’m not judging the poor guy who asked five times if I needed to talk to the supervisor about not being satisfied, simply because at the register I decided I didn’t want to buy that $40 bathing suit…and…we laugh!

Here’s another lesson on giving myself some grace: 1. For not being perfect, as much as I’d love to always be right, I know I’m not (shhh don’t tell my husband I admitted that); 2. For caring unnecessarily about strangers opinions, or anyone’s for that matter; 3. For giving my opinion when it isn’t asked; 4. For being hypercritical of myself and circumstances, trying too hard to control everything.

My friend gave me some great words last night, ” We aren’t meant to control balance every part of our lives, so why do we strive so hard to achieve it? Instead, we should wake up every morning asking, ‘what is my purpose for today?'”. After all, in order to achieve “balance” something’s gotta give. So why stress about it every day? Just let go! Ask God! Let God!

I was looking at my son’s precious prints and it reminded me. We’re all unique. We were given our own design to make a mark on this world. We have one life on earth to live out a purpose. Here’s my point: I want to be the person anyone can call for any reason and know without a doubt I will be the one to listen, encourage, offer advice (using wisdom to know when it’s warranted and when to keep my mouth shut). I want to help people; be a light to people, be a mentor, be a friend. I am a work in progress, but aren’t we all?!?

Until my munchkin’s next nap time:
I hope my transparency will help you find peace and joy in your circumstances! If you’re looking for that support system, I’m here for you. I may not have all the answers, but we can learn together. In the mean time, smile! It’s amazing what a smile will do.

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