I’ve been ‘single-parenting’ it for almost two months now as my amazing husband has been gone day and night, working his day job and then heading nearly an hour away to help his family renovate an old home. It’s for a single mom who needs a place to move with her son because she’s losing her home to foreclosure, so there’s a time pressure involved. My husband is a skilled builder, so the renovation has fallen mainly to him, and with the narrow time frame he has to work with, the pressure has been pretty intense.
Nearly every day after work he heads straight to the reno house and works late into the night, often just staying there and sleeping so he can get up and go straight to work again. Between all of his extra driving and the times the children and I have driven over just so we can see him for a few minutes and get a tour of the work he’s doing, our gas budget has nearly doubled. That’s just not sustainable for a one-income family, so we’ve had to stop going to see him.
What that’s meant for me is a hubby who’s absent most of the time (read: no breaks for mama!) and who, when he does come home, is stressed and tired and tapped-out. Now, by ‘breaks for mama’ I don’t mean time away from my children. I don’t want or need to leave my little ones. But normally along with all of the sacrifices, compromises, and hard work that goes into keeping a long-term marriage healthy, there is companionship, caring, support, and a sharing of responsibilities.
In our family, mama having a break means daddy is the one who listens, at least for a little while, to the endless stories about snails that our little mud-magnet is into sharing at the moment. It means daddy takes a turn at the helm in helping our SPD girl cope when she gets overwhelmed. It means daddy takes our currently teething, clingy, diaper-rashed, sad little milk monkey out in the evenings to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to the moon (she’s a bit confused, but it’s adorable) so mama can take a shower alone. And, of course, all of that’s in addition to him running to the store, helping out around the house, fixing what’s broken, grilling dinner occasionally, etc.
But for the last two months all of the myriad details that go into running our home…homeschooling, juggling teenagers’ schedules, shepherding a high-spirited kindergartener, keeping up with a toddler, handling the bills, doing the banking and shopping and cleaning, coping with a broken dryer, and on and on and on…have all fallen entirely to me. Add to that some pretty hefty life-stressors we’re dealing with at the moment outside of our marriage and home…
And I’m tired.
And my hubby is tired.
And we’ve unconsciously fallen into the ‘my needs vs. your needs’ vicious cycle. You know the one:
First volley: “This is what I did all day.” (Translation: I need you to acknowledge me.)
“Well, this is what I did all day.” (Translation: I need you to acknowledge me.)
Second volley: “These are the reasons I did what I did all day.”
(Translation: I need you to understand me.)
“Well, these are the reasons I did what I did all day.”
(Translation: I need you to understand me.)
Third volley: “This is why what I did was harder than what you did.”
(Translation: I really need you to hear me.)
“Well, this is why what I did was harder than what you did.”
(Translation: I really need you to hear me.)
Fourth volley: “You didn’t do this.” (Translation: I’ll make you hear me.)
“Well, you didn’t do this.” (Translation: I’ll make you hear me.)
Unmet needs result in an ever-escalating cycle of attempts to get those needs met. And, as long as those two little letters ‘vs’ stand between ‘my needs’ being met and ‘your needs’ being met, the cycle will continue. Someone has to break the cycle, and the solution is always the same: Sacrifice.
Someone has to step up and stand down. Someone has to let go of their own needs and focus on meeting the other’s needs, not in an attempt to manipulate that person to meet their own needs, but with an honest generosity of spirit, a choosing to lay down self, a living expression of love.
And ‘someone’ will. Our marriage wouldn’t have lasted for twenty-five years and counting, otherwise! But I wanted to share some of the dynamics of breaking the ‘need standoff’ in a relationship while they’re fresh in my mind.
There are endless contributing factors to who stands down and when, from the differences in love languages, to past hurts and experiences, to upbringing, to the circumstances of the conflict itself. And standing down can take many different forms. It may mean moving on without receiving the apology you believe you deserve. It may mean letting go of the need to explain your position. It may take the form of an apology from you or a verbal indication that you are choosing to let go of the conflict. Or it may take the form of a favorite meal, flowers, a back rub, a gift, or some other loving act.
Sometimes the one who chooses (note: an active choice, not a reactive/self-protective response as in an abusive/controlling relationship) to stand down in a relationship is the same person most, if not all, of the time. This is often the result of a peacemaking personality. If you feel you are ‘always’ the one to stand down, consider these two things:
1.) Are you really the one to always stand down or is that just a perception you need to work through?
2.) Do you have a peacemaking personality? In other words, do you tend to be the calming factor in most of your relationships?
If you do, in fact, have a peacemaking personality, be aware that it is a rare gift that comes with great responsibility. Someone once asked me why they always had to be the one to “put out the fires” in their relationship. Knowing this person to be a peacemaker in all of their relationships, I said, “Because God gave you the hose.”
While it can certainly be frustrating to be in that position, instead of letting it cause resentment to take hold, imagine how difficult life can be for those who don’t have that inner calm, and try to focus on the strengths they do have rather than fixating on the gifts they don’t have. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and focusing on people’s strengths (as well as being aware of our own weaknesses!) helps us to give them grace for their weaknesses.
*Take note, when it comes to parent/child relationships, the parent must always take the role of peacemaker, regardless of personality or gifts. Children not only don’t have an adult’s capacity for self-control, but they also don’t bear the responsibility for maintaining the relationship.
And so, in our home, with both parents tapped-out, tired, and out-of-sorts, we’ve found ourselves in that place of competing to get our needs met. Our children have, of course, joined in the ‘needs games,’ little reflectors that they are. It’s made for a less-than-joyful interval in what we typically refer to as the joyful chaos of our lives.
Then, last night as my miserably teething little milk monkey woke me up for the zillionth time with her crying and whimpering and tossing and turning and climbing from one side of me to the other and nursing and nursing and nursing and nursing until I thought I might explode, she suddenly stopped mid-climb, mid-cry, and pressed her ear against my heart. And then, with her tiny body draped across my belly and her head cradled between my breasts, she sighed and relaxed, a little Mona Lisa smile curving her sweet mouth as she finally succumbed to a peaceful sleep.
And in that moment, that tiny, mysterious, contented smile called me to surrender. To surrender to heart-meltingly sweet moments. To embrace again the extraordinary loveliness of ordinary life. To marvel at the littleness of the issues that set us apart and the bigness of the love that holds us together.
Love is a choice, not a feeling. Feelings shift, flowing now hot, now cold. They lead nowhere, and instead are misleading with their mercurial, capricious nature.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13
I choose love.
[Portions reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost available on Amazon]
“People are telling parents like me that we are failing our children because we practice controlled discipline in our homes. I say: the children that are raised without it are the ones being abused and robbed of the chance of success in adulthood.” Controlled discipline in the eyes of this author of I Don’t Like Spanking My Kids, But I Do It Anyway is physical punishment. Equating discipline with punishment is a common misconception, but she is, unfortunately, not alone in her stance.
Many of today’s most popular self-proclaimed parenting ‘experts’ also equate physical punishment with discipline and go to great lengths to describe the best methods and tools for hitting children along with instructing parents to maintain a calm, controlled, and even cheerful demeanor as they ‘lovingly’ hit their children.
It is interesting to note here that, when it comes to the law, crimes of passion are treated as less heinous than premeditated, planned, and purposefully executed crimes which are termed ‘in cold blood.’ And yet when physically punishing a child, a crime in many places across the globe, hitting in anger or frustration (i.e. passion) is deemed wrong by proponents of spanking, while hitting children with calm and deliberate intent (i.e. premeditation) is encouraged.
It is also interesting to note that, in the not-too-distant past, husbands hitting their wives was also viewed as not only a societal norm, but a necessary part of maintaining a harmonious, successful marriage. In fact, a man who epitomizes the words calm and controlled, Sean Connery, shared his thoughts on the ’reasonable smacking’ of his wife in a 1987 interview with Barbara Walters:
The core belief behind ‘reasonable smacking’ of wives was that there was no other effective way to control them. I have to agree. If controlling another human being is the goal, then force is necessary. Fear, intimidation, threats, power-plays, physical pain, those are the means of control.
But if growing healthy humans is the goal, then building trust relationships, encouraging, guiding, leading, teaching, communicating, those are the tools for success.
Many parents simply don’t know what else to do. They were raised with spanking as a means of control and “turned out okay” so they default to their own parents’ parenting choices without researching alternatives to spanking or considering whether “okay” could be improved upon.
As to the I Don’t Like Spanking My Kids, But I Do It Anyway author’s contention that “We are raising a generation of children who are over-sensitive because they eventually find out that they aren’t as good at baseball or ballet as some other kid and their parents promised them that everyone is equal. They feel entitled because we teach them that they should. They throw tantrums when life doesn’t go their way because their parents have tiptoed around them to make sure that it does,” that reasoning sounds strangely familiar.
People throughout history have complained about ‘the trouble with kids these days.’ They’ve pinned all the ills of their society on permissive parenting. They’ve ranted about out-of-control children, disrespectful youth, entitlement, spoiling, disobedience, violence, self-centeredness, etc:
“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect to their elders…. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and are tyrants over their teachers.”
~Socrates, 5th Century BC
“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions.
Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”
~Plato, 5th Century BC
“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words… When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and
respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint”
~Hesiod, 8th Century BC
“The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.”
~Peter the Hermit, 13th Century AD
My grandpa notes the world’s worn cogs
And says we’re going to the dogs.
His grandpa in his house of logs
Said things were going to the dogs.
His grandpa in the Flemish bogs
Said things were going to the dogs.
His grandpa in his hairy togs
Said things were going to the dogs.
But this is what I wish to state:
The dogs have had an awful wait.
~Unknown, circa 1936
Small children disturb your sleep, big children your life.
Perhaps, just perhaps, there isn’t any ‘trouble with kids today.’ Maybe the trouble is with societies who view normal stages of development as somehow abnormal. Maybe the problem is with parents who repeat the patterns their own parents set and don’t delve into the belief system they are now passing along to their children. Or maybe the problem is simply the rose-colored glasses older generations tend to have about their own youth when they share idealized versions of ‘the good old days.’
Could it be that ’kid’s today’ are just kids like they have been through the ages, full of exuberance and curiosity and learning their way in a great big world? Could it be that a listening ear, gentle guidance, and trusted arms to turn to when inevitable mistakes are made are really all children need to grow up into kind, helpful, responsible, productive members of our society?
Consider this, ”Since more than 90% of American parents admit to spanking their children, it’s hard to accept that a decline in spanking is responsible for the purportedly escalating rates of youth violence and crime. Could it be that the 90% of children who are subject to violence at home in the form of being slapped, paddled, smacked, yanked, whipped, popped, spanked, etc. are taking those lessons out into the world? Is it just possible that children who are hit learn to hit? That children who are hurt learn to hurt? Perhaps the lesson they are learning is that ‘might is right’ and violence is the answer to their problems, the outlet for their stress, the route to getting others to do what they want.” Better Children, Better World
Could it be that sowing peace in our homes is the answer after all?
As I drove out of my driveway this afternoon, I glanced up and saw The Avengers racing around my neighbor’s yard, intent on fighting crime (or each other or the dog or some dragonflies, lol). It made my heart so happy to see childhood…just real, everyday, the-way-children-through-the-ages-have-played kind of childhood at its most honest and robust and carefree. I jumped out of my van and proceeded to confirm my neighbor’s suspicions that I’m a little off my rocker by wildly waving my camera in the air and pointing at her adorable boys roughhousing, silently asking for permission to play paparazzi. She nodded, and the boys hammed it up for me for a few minutes, posing and posturing in their wonderful world of make-believe.
I climbed back into my van amidst my little girls’ giggles (pretty sure they were laughing more at me for taking pictures of the neighbors rather than laughing at the boys’ antics). As we headed off on our afternoon errands, I thought about how the world has changed, but children haven’t. Yes, over time the world will do its share of influencing or corrupting, as the case may be, but children are born children just like they have been since the beginning of time.
Every child is born a fresh, new, open book with pages and pages waiting to be filled. Everything is new. Every day is an adventure. Every experience is an opportunity for discovery. Whether they’re boys or girls, whether they have average or advanced or impaired cognitive or motor abilities, whether they’re Asian or Caucasian, Black or Middle Eastern, Hispanic or (as a growing number are worldwide) a unique blend of races and ethnicities, they all start out the same…brand-new, innocent, precious beyond compare.
I am passionate about helping parents fill the first pages of their children’s lives with messages of gentle welcome, of needs met, of trust. I’m equally passionate about helping parents transition into later stages where they are simply there to offer guidance, support, and encouragement as their children begin filling the pages of their lives with their own choices, interests, and gifts.
I’ve heard it said that only those crazy enough to think they can change the world actually do change it. I honestly believe that changing the world starts at home with how we parent our children. Maybe my neighbor is right about me, after all.
*Book art via Anagram Bookshop*
There’s another teenager in our house! My Renaissance Girl turned thirteen this week. It’s hard to believe my little preemie who started her days in the NICU, came home at 3 lbs 13 oz on an apnea/heart monitor, has struggled with severe dyslexia, sensory and auditory processing disorders, vestibular issues, attention deficit disorder, and more, is now a poised and confident young lady who is frequently absorbed in classic literature, enthralled with the art of Masters such as Van Gogh and Degas, and who’s musical tastes run from Mozart to The Beatles.
My children are homeschooled and are quite used to interacting in a mutually respectful manner with adults in banks, doctor’s offices, libraries, etc, so it’s always a bit of a culture shock when we run into society’s negative view of adolescents as we did on Renaissance Girl’s birthday. Literally, every time we mentioned that it was her thirteenth birthday as we shopped for gifts and took her for a birthday lunch, the reaction was rolled eyes and either expressions of condolences or warnings to my husband and I. Well, except for the one waiter who leered at her until my hubs caught his eye and shut him down!
What a world we live in, seriously. Is it any wonder that teenagers seem to have anti-social tendencies when, based on chronology alone, they’re either pigeon-holed as miscreants without anyone taking the time to actually talk to them (or, more importantly, listen to them!) or immediately become the object of sexual attention?
For those of you willing to look beyond the number of years a person has lived on this earth and see the person themselves, let me introduce you to a young lady who has some amazing gifts to offer this world…my Renaissance Girl!
Renaissance Girl has a heart for the elderly, the poor, the hurting, for anyone who is suffering. From her earliest years she would toddle up to an elderly person sitting alone at church or the park and climb up beside them to ‘chat’ or sing them a song or show them a flower she’d picked. Her heart breaks when she hears of children being abused or neglected, and she plans to adopt as many as her future husband will agree to (and with her sweet, strong spirit, I imagine she’ll follow through on that!)
The paintings of The Masters ignite Renaissance Girl’s imagination. For her birthday we ordered a Van Gogh’s ’Starry Night’ inspired ice cream cake from our little town’s best kept secret…Donna C, the decorator at our local Dairy Queen!
As part of our interest-led homeschooling, we’ll be working our way through unit studies on Michelangelo, Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso, and more with materials from here.
Renaissance Girl has decorated her room like a small artist’s loft with a drafting desk, a custom mural of a Parisian street scene (by your’s truly!), a romantic little reading nook with twinkle lights, and a stainless steel cable (Ikea!) stretched across the wall for her to hang her art, along with an art wall waiting to be filled.
Renaissance Girl studies with Mozart filling the silence (an SPD and ADD coping technique), and then rocks out to the Beatles on her brother’s Xbox Rock Band. She picks out tunes on the piano, trying to teach herself to play by ear, and is working on teaching herself to play the guitar.
Her beautiful mind sees the world through a unique lens similar to those of historical icons such as Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein. While academics have been a huge challenge for her, the artistic and musical gifts she’s been given are incredible, and her gentle, sensitive soul is a rare and precious treasure. Many years of therapy have yielded the ability to read, and she’s like a butterfly newly emerged from her cocoon. Jane Eyre, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, all have sent her beautiful mind soaring to different times and places, and all have become intimate, lifelong friends with my sweet Renaissance Girl. (From Beautiful Minds)
From her own artistic ability to her fascination with The Masters, her beautiful voice to her eclectic taste in music, and her humorous storytelling to her love of literature, my Renaissance Girl is much, much more than ‘just’ a teenager or ‘just’ a girl or ’just’ anything. She is an incredible gift to the world, and our family is blessed beyond measure to have her!
Think homeschooled children are unsocialized, over-controlled, locked-away-from-the-world misfits? Think again!
From goofing around in Goofy hats at Downtown Disney to playing Just Dance 3 on the Xbox Kinect, from gales of giggles pushing each other on the tire swing to gathering around to check out the awesome cello mastery of ThePianoGuys, from chowing down on mexican food at Tijuana Flats to burning waffles for breakfast, and from trying on jewelry to decorating cupcakes, these homeschooled girls are as All-American as apple pie!
Check out Renaissance Girl’s favorite YouTube version of ThePianoGuy’s dueling cellos!
Happy 13th Birthday, My Renaissance Girl!
An aged beauty tips her face up, and her elderly companion leans down out of life-long habit to catch her soft voice. His old eyes see past the ever-deepening lines to the vision of youth he married decades earlier. His hands reach out to steady her fragile, but oh-so-familiar frame, and she smiles the same smile he’s woken up to and kissed goodnight his entire adult life. Theirs is an old love, subtle with wear, ripe with age, its rich beauty lost to those without the palate to plumb its boundless depths or the senses to delight in its warm bouquet. They are a living love story, two hearts time-stitched into one, beautiful old souls stepping in tandem toward eternity.
Truly, love does have many seasons and faces, each revealing its own power, its own purpose…
Young love shouts from the rooftops and expresses itself in passionate displays. Its flames are brilliant, stoked with newness and fueled with idealism, but at times it burns itself out with its own heat or through lack of care and tending.
Old love whispers quietly, “I’m here. No matter what, I’m always here.” It is a silent glance, a hand clasp, a timeless commitment.
Young love, blind to the rich time-tested tapestry, deaf to the wealth of meaning in quiet companionship, lost to the supple oneness of hearts in accord, often looks at old love and calls it dead.
Old love sometimes looks at young love and smiles with fond remembrance, but ofttimes shakes its head and declares it foolish.
Each has a place in the world, a purpose, a time, and a season.
And then there are the other faces of love…
The exhausted young mother tenderly cradling a brand new life in the early morning hours. The middle-aged man getting up at four o’clock in the morning for another backbreaking day of work to support his family. The teacher spending her meager pay to make sure her students have pencils. The pastor visiting a convicted felon just to play a game of cards. The teenager stopping to help a stranger push their stalled car to the side of the road…
Each speaks love in a different language, but the message is the same…love is alive.
There is another Love, a living, breathing, timeless, endless, lavish, inconceivable, unconditional, sacrificial, unlikely Love. His Name is Love because He is Love. He and I have an old love, a stalwart and enduring love, a time-tested, unraveled and rewoven, wounded and healed, shattered and renewed love.
In the beginning, when I was newly in love with my Love, His passion fueled mine and I was consumed. I flared white-hot and brandished His Name like a sword, intent on conquering the world all on my own and presenting it as a treasure to my Love. I scorned the quiet love of my elders as a burned-out relic, not fit for my King.
Then time passed and life happened. My Love clung to me fiercely through the storms, even as my own grasp weakened and slipped. My Love held me close in the dark and never let go even when I kicked and flailed and railed at Him because I couldn’t see Him through my tears.
And my young love grew into an old love, deep and rich and still. Our old love is a stunning tapestry of life and loss, triumph and tragedy, joy and heartache, woven from the tattered and torn remnants of our young love.
Now, in place of conquering the world, I let Him love the world through me. Instead of proselytizing, evangelizing, and sermonizing for my King, I let His love permeate all I do like the subtle fragrance of rain as it washes clean the earth. Rather than feverishly working to present My Love a treasure, I bask in His presence knowing I am His treasure.
And our beautiful old souls step lightly toward eternity…
To Everything…Turn, Turn, Turn
There is a season…Turn, Turn, Turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To Everything…Turn, Turn, Turn
There is a season…Turn, Turn, Turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
To Everything…Turn, Turn, Turn
There is a season…Turn, Turn, Turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
There is a season…Turn, Turn, Turn
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late
As a child, I loved to find a little ‘hidey-hole’ and tuck myself away from the big, big world for awhile. Somehow, sitting in a closet quietly singing to a much-loved babydoll, hiding in the leafy bower of an old grandfather oak with my nose in a book, or throwing a blanket over an end-table and crawling under it with a flashlight just made the world a little smaller, a little friendlier, a little less overwhelming. I remember feeling safe. I remember listening to the sound of my breathing, just listening. I remember closing my eyes and daydreaming, the cadence of my breath the only sound in the stillness.
It was there in the stillness, in the wanderings of my imagination, that I processed the brokenness of a broken home, adapted to the subsequent juggling of two homes, coped with the eventual abandonment by a father, and, over time, unlocked my guarded heart to a new father. It was in the smallness, in the microcosm of my own creation, that the big world shrunk down and the chaos receded and life’s mountains became surmountable molehills.
With my own children, I’ve fallen in love anew with the ‘hidey-hole.’ Whether it’s a fort of sofa cushions, a sheet with the ends tied to dining room chairs, a blanket hung over a coffee table, or the tree house built by my amazing hubby, my children’s imaginations take flight. And, as they make clubhouse signs and set about ‘nesting’ in their little corner of the world, their muffled giggles and busy chatter make my heart sing.
I pray that the big, big world out there is kind to my children, that they never know sadness, never taste bitterness, never experience disillusionment. But I know better. I know life can and will challenge and even hurt them. I know people will disappoint and hearts will be broken and dreams will be shattered.
But I also know that in the quiet places God’s still, small voice can be heard whispering comfort. I know that in the simplicity of play the complexity of life can be sorted like puzzle pieces joined to reveal a picture. And I know that in the nooks and niches we carve out for ourselves even as adults, the world seems a little smaller, a little friendlier, and a little less overwhelming.
You entered your teen years with a bang a few years ago, and the explosions have been shattering our home ever since. I’ve begged, threatened, and bribed; cried, shouted, and bargained; but I just can’t find a way to reach you anymore. You constantly say I don’t listen to you, but how can I when you won’t talk to me? You say I don’t understand you, but how can I when you push me away? You say we aren’t a family, but then spend every day with earphones in your ears, blocking us out. You ask me why I hate you, then roll your eyes when I tell you I love you. How did it come to this? We used to be such a happy family. Please, let me be there for you during this huge transition in your life. Let’s really try to communicate with each other. I’m just lost here, honey, and I need you to reach out and help me reconnect with you. I love you.
Happy family? Are you kidding me? No, I guess not. You never did get it. Okay, you asked, so I’ll tell you. You were always happy because you were always in control. Want to know why I don’t talk to you now? Because you never listened when I was little. When I was scared in my room at night and called you, you either ignored me or threatened to spank me if I didn’t go to sleep. I’d lay there, crying so hard I’d almost throw up, terrified of the sounds and shadows in my room, but even more terrified of you. So, sorry, but I don’t buy that you’re ‘there for me’ when it’s only ever been at your own convenience. When you were mad at something I’d done and I tried to explain myself, you’d call it backtalk and smack me in the mouth. So forgive me if I don’t really believe you when you say you want to ‘communicate’ with me now. When I’d try to show you a dance I’d made up or tell you about how someone had pushed me on the playground, you couldn’t even be bothered to look away from your stupid computer while I was talking, so if I’m wrapped up in my electronics, I learned that little trick from you, father dear. Oh, and ‘reconnect’? Really? That implies that we were once connected. But when I was a little girl and invited you into my world and asked you to play with me, you were always too busy. So if you don’t understand me, sorry, but that invitation expired years ago. Want to know why I think you hate me? Because your actions told me so. Your ‘love’ is just words.
Parents, you’re building your relationship with your teens while they’re still toddlers. Listen always. Respond gently, quickly, empathetically. Laugh and smile and hug and play. Give them your undivided attention. When they invite you into their world, it’s a huge deal to them, and how you respond will set the tone for your future relationship. Accept and enjoy! This season of their lives is as short as they are, but its impact will last a lifetime.
Ever heard the phrase sisyphean effort? It refers to any endless, frustrating, fruitless task, and it’s based on the mythological Greek king, Sisyphus. In short, King Sisyphus was a crafty, incestuous, murderous king who cheesed off the wrong mythical figure and was sentenced to an eternity of pushing a huge boulder up a hill almost to the top only to have it roll back to the bottom of the hill where he’d have to start all over again…whine, whine, whine.
Seriously? The best they could come up with was to sentence the black-hearted king to be a mom?
Mommy boulder #1 ~ Every mommy knows the moment the mountain of laundry is reduced to the last load, it’s a clear invitation to every stomach/intestinal bug in the vicinity to visit with their leaking, spewing, and reeking baggage of bodily fluids.
Mommy boulder #2 ~ Every mommy has experienced the sinking feeling of tackling the mountain of dishes, triumphantly putting away the last dish, and heading to the family room to sit down for the first time all day only to spy a pile of dirty cups and plates on the coffee table while simultaneously being bombarded with “I’m hungry!” and “What’s for dinner?”
Mommy boulder #3 ~ Every mommy’s shoulders have drooped when, upon vacuuming the family room and moving on to the bedrooms, she’s heard the unmistakable crunch of crackers and rushed back into the family room to find her toddler gleefully dancing to the magical music of goldfish being ground into carpet.
Mommy boulder #4 ~ Every mommy has cringed when, after organizing the playroom into neat bins of Legos, crayons, Hotwheels, Barbies, blocks, magnetic letters, puzzles, marbles, Squinkies, tea sets, play food, My Little Ponies, etc, she’s headed into the kitchen to start lunch only to run back at break-neck, but oddly slow-motion, and either way, insufficient, speed, at the shout “Where’s my blue truck?” followed by the crash of multiple bins being dumped into one. big. pile.
Mommy boulder #5 ~ Every mommy’s brain has mulled thoughts of possible tortures and other heinous acts of revenge after nursing her baby to sleep and then, bladder bursting, trying to slip out of the room only to hear the clomp of preschooler feet followed by the inevitable, “Mooooommmmyyyyy!” followed by the equally inevitable baby wail. (Note: real cause of incontinence?)
Any ‘Mommy boulders’ you’d like to add, my fellow mountain-climbing mamas?
I’m not big on making New Year’s Resolutions, mainly because statistically they are almost certain to fail. While failure is a normal and even healthy part of life, setting myself up for failure seems illogical to me. Instead, I prefer to start each new year by evaluating my long-term goals and where I am in relation to those goals, and then plan the reasonable steps forward in the new year toward accomplishing those goals.
Or at least, that’s what I used to do.
Then came loss. One miscarriage after another, each knocking the wind out of me, shaking my faith, draining a bit of life with all its zest and hope and glory from me. One, two, three…nine miscarriages, the last with triplets, three babies lost at once. I was crushed. But I survived, bruised and bloody and scarred, yes, but not broken.
And then came my Sammy. His twin was lost at nine weeks, but Sammy lived on, waving and bouncing around at every ultrasound as if to say, “I’m here, mama! I’m still here!” What a tough little guy.
A tough little guy with a death sentence. A random mutation, incompatible with life. But he did live. With my body playing a most willing hostess, my little invited guest grew and thrived, kicking and rolling and LIVING. I enjoyed every moment of his life, treasured every movement, stored up every memory. It was all I would ever have of him, so I drank deeply of the days and saved my tears for the nights when all was still and the knowledge of death pressed too hard to ignore.
And then one day my Sammy unexpectedly slipped into and out of the world, still and silent and beautiful, bearing the imprint of his siblings on his tiny features.
And I was broken.
And I have remained broken. Someone in a similar situation asked me how I ever got over losing my son. My answer, “I didn’t.” There is no getting over the loss of a child. There is moving on. There is healing. And there is living. But I am forever changed. A part of me will always be broken while I live on the underside of Heaven and my son awaits me topside. That is a fact of life and loss. I have moved on. And I have healed.
But living is another matter altogether. Living, really living, is embracing life in all its fullness, laughing and loving, twirling in dizzying abandon in the rain with my little girls and playing a sorry game of basketball with my boys while they alternately chuckle at my crazy aim and earnestly try to help a lost cause. Living is cuddling on the sofa with my hubby watching midnight movies while he snores in my ear. Living is feeling and hoping and stretching and experiencing. It is breathing in all the joy and breathing through all the hurts. It is planning for the future, the unknown, brilliant with possibility and studded with thorns.
Living is not hiding. It is not stale and distant and cold. Living doesn’t cower under covers or behind locked doors…or in front of computer screens.
I thought I was done, that I’d handled losing Sammy to the best of my ability and moved on and healed and started living again. But as I stopped to take stock of 2011 before moving onto 2012, I was brought up short. The incredibly sharp rear-view-window vision of hindsight revealed a startling fact to me. I had moved on, and I had healed, but I was functioning, not living.
I do love, and I do laugh, but hope, that most basic of human needs, is transparently thin and unutterably fragile in a heart afraid to live like mine. The future, that great unknown, brims with more pain than possibility when viewed through a veil of tears. Fear reigns, and life suffers under its dictatorship. Life abundant has become life restrained.
And planning for the future is too breathtakingly daring to even consider.
Until now. I have felt the pull back into life this year…in the tiny hands of my one-year-old miracle baby tugging me to follow toddling steps into adventures untold…in the never-give-up attention-seeking of my five-year-old dirt magnet…in the budding womanhood of my daydreamer-artist twelve-year-old…in the endearing, emerging solidness of a man of character in my seventeen-year-old…and in so many more ways that I can no longer hide from the message, “It is time.”
And so, though my first response was to cringe and retreat when I read the One Word 365 post about a one word focus for the coming year, a seed was planted that quickly sprouted into a word, my word, my theme for the year 2012. I won’t be making resolutions, and I won’t be going back to my former pedantic planning just yet. I’m still too fragile for that. But I will take a step forward. I will let God show me the fullness of meaning He intends for this word, the impact He plans for it to make in me, the transformation and liberation and newness that can come from embracing one single word.
For 2012, my word is…LIVE.
Proud little-boy smile on a man’s face
Grease-smeared, skinned-knuckle hands display
An object immeasurable in its mediocrity
Changed tire, fixed washer, working toilet
It matters not the object
The gift is in the giver
And love makes it extraordinary
My hubster is at it again, giving me one of his extraordinary gifts (in addition to the tires, washer, and toilet, lol!).
Watch this site to see this…
Become a hybrid between this…
He’s at this stage right now…
Mechanics are in place and working, and the basic structure is done. Now he’s working on the platform to support the seats for our two littlest ones. I’ll update with pictures of his progress. What a man!
Hubby hard at work
Hubs is building the seats as I write this! He’s made everything removable so we can pop it in the back of our 15 passenger van and head for the trails without having to mess with a trailer. So resourceful!
Almost finished! We’ve been taking it on the trails for a few weeks now as my hubby tweaks the mechanics, and now he’s working on the enclosed topper (to keep the sun off of little heads and the bugs at bay, lol!).
Me with my two youngest
Multi-tasking mama…babywearing and breastfeeding while bike riding! And that’s my talented hubster in the background.
Parenting involves lots of creativity, yes, but wouldn’t interacting with our children (i.e. playing basketball with them, setting boundaries, communicating about health and fitness, cooking together, taking hikes, bicycling, etc.) be better than stealth and trickery? I’m all for playing outside, but these PSA commercials by Let’s Move.org and the accompanying catch-phrase, Mom Was Here, seem to be the exact opposite of involved parenting, or parenting at all for that matter. Mom actually isn’t there…she’s too busy skulking around in the basement, carrying out her nefarious plans, and cackling bwahahaha with a sinister smile.
Here’s the latest PSA in the series:
Wouldn’t this be better…
And here are some interesting statistics:
- According to the formula the U.S. government employs to measure weight, any person with a BMI over 25 is classified as overweight. BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It is a number that shows body weight adjusted for height. BMI can be calculated with simple math.
- The B.M.I. doesn’t tell you the percentage of body fat you’re carrying, or how your fat is distributed. According to this measurement, half of the National Basketball Association is overweight or obese. [Muscle mass weighs more than fat, so the more muscular you are, the more likely you'll be labeled obese!]
- Until a weight-loss industry funded report by the National Institute of Health in 1998, “overweight” was defined as having a BMI greater than 27 and “obese” meant your BMI was greater than 32. After the 1998 NIH report, suddenly tens of millions of Americans became “obese” even though they had not gained a pound. Shifting the BMI down two points helped turned obesity into moral panic.
I’m thin and active and healthy. I have friends who are also super active and healthy, but would be considered obese by these standards. Should we be placed in separate ‘classes’ for insurance companies to have an excuse for not providing coverage? Who is all this stealthy number-shifting benefitting? Does tweaking the standards really serve the American public? Does making healthy people feel bad about the body God gave them seem like a good plan to you? And why does tricking our children instead of parenting them seem like a good idea to anyone? What do you think?
You’re sitting in a restaurant waiting the prerequisite 10-15 minutes for your food to be served, chatting quietly with your spouse and two-year-old, when it happens…the dreaded moment suddenly hits, and life as you and every patron, staff member, and passerby know it is turned inside out and upside down. That moment that every parent fears, the sudden switch from table companion to terror, aka ‘Toddler Time’, is, in fact, toddler time. The insignificant 10-15 minute waiting period for food to arrive is actually eons in toddler time, eons of hunger, eons of boredom, eons of stillness, eons of being expected to act like the adult that they are years and years (eons!) away from becoming. But you really don’t want to be housebound for all of those eons, right? And yet more and more public places are becoming child un-friendly with snarky signs saying they’ll give your child an espresso and a pony if you don’t control him or charge you extra if you dare to enter their establishment and support their business with your hard-earned money or even flat out ban you altogether if you bring ‘the beast’ out in public with you!
And what about those hazy, lazy summer days at the park with the laughter of children floating in the air, mommies packing babies in their carriers while they chat and keep eagle eyes on their precious little monkies dangling from brightly colored jungle-gyms, when it happens…the dreaded moment suddenly hits, and all goes quiet as every eye turns toward the poor soul who called out those awful, awful words, “It’s time to go!” The words echo against the lowering sky, which has conveniently decided to threaten rain just to add to the sheer madness of the moment, and then the shrieking begins. In toddler time, an hour at the park is gone in the blink of an eye, and fun things like being strapped into carseats and baths and naps awaiting at home are just adding insult to injury.
So what is a parent to do?
Here are a few preemptive tools for your parenting toolbox:
1.) Gather a few special ‘quiet’ toys and keep them in a Quiet Bag in the car. Only get them out when you go into a store or restaurant and let your little one play with one toy at a time until it’s time to go, saving one last special toy for the car ride home. Some ideas for stocking your Quiet Bag:
Here is our Dr Seuss Quiet Bag we put together for Dr. Seuss’ Birthday…
I found some excellent Cat in the Hat crafts on clearance at Michael’s. We have a felt board with felt Seuss characters and lots of colorful felt letters and numbers and symbols. And we’re making a felt board with a piece of metal, too, so we can use magnets on it. The foam Seuss stickers I found on clearance and the foam pieces to the Cat in the Hat mosaic will go on a magnet sheet and be cut out with an Exact-o-knife. All of the items went into labeled Ziploc bags for easy storage, and then were packed away into the Dr Seuss backpack I found at a thrift store. My little ones love it!
This is our new Scooby Doo Quiet Bag. With all of the back-to-school sales firing up, this is a great time to stock up on Quiet Bag supplies, and since we found this super-cool Scooby Doo lunch bag on sale we decided to just make a whole new one so we could alternate them out. Toys-R-Us had a little party favor area with mini boxes of clay and mini water paints and stress balls and fun little smiley-face bendable figures for $0.50-$1.00, so we stocked this bag with those along with some Scooby action figures, zombies, and mini markers. Then I just printed out some coloring sheets to fit the theme, and our Scooby Doo Quiet Bag was done, no crafting necessary!
2.) We made Calm-Me-Jars with these round, plastic bottles for our Quiet Bag. So far, we’ve made Starry, Starry Night, Goodnight Moon, Nemo Under the Sea, And Hello Kitty Princess Ballerina. Can you tell which ones my little ones named, lol? (click here for detailed instructions on how to make them and ideas for how to use them to help cope with or even prevent tantrums!)
3.) Consistently keeping your little one in a highchair (or carrier/cart in stores) will help with any running around, disturbing people, and getting into things issues.
4.) Your best offense is a good defense, so keeping your little person occupied is always a good place to start, but if yelling/screaming become an issue, try responding with a whispered question or two. It’s pretty much irresistible for little ones to quiet down to hear what you’re saying, and even better if what you’re saying is super silly…”I think my nose went outside for a walk.” (conspiratorial ‘shared secret’ look) ”Could you check for me to see if it’s back yet?” (crossing your eyes to see for yourself)
5.) With the dreaded leaving-the-park issue, try bringing snacks your small one loves, and instead of saying “Time to go” try saying “Snack time!” and describe the yumminess waiting for her, all the while gently shepherding her to the car.
6.) Don’t forget to pack your ‘funnybone’ for a back-up plan! Humor is a powerful parenting tool, and carseats presented as rocketships to the moon, shared naptimes (parents can always use the extra sleep!) on marshmallow planets, highchair-bound movie directors with mommy and daddy as the actors, and shopping carts cars that continually stall and need to be fixed by their little riders are all inventive ways of keeping little people too busy and happy to meltdown. (Not to mention that these are great ways for parents to reconnect with their little ones and remember just how adorable they really are!)
7.) Actively work at avoiding confrontations and meltdowns by giving choices, staying engaged (i.e. listening to your child), and paying attention to triggers such as hunger, tiredness, sickness, etc. When our parenting goals shift from meeting needs and guiding actions to controlling our children, they invariably rebel and the battle is on, not a happy circumstance at any time, but especially difficult to handle in public! (And, in the long run, that makes for an ‘us against them’ relationship that sets the stage for an unhappy home, particularly when the teen years arrive.)
This is for all you mamas who see the creative projects and crafts and cute baking on Pinterest and wish you were the kind of ’crafty mama’ who could whip together such adorableness for your little ones. I, too, wish I was a crafty mama and have pinned so many great ideas and tried a few with…let’s just say less-than-stellar results, lol. But my children have loved every flub, giggled at every failure, and laughed their way through every project regardless of the results. There’s joy in the journey, mamas, so take heart and grab some of these ideas and flub and fail your way to a happy, craft-astic holiday!
Here’s a project that didn’t turn out as intended. (From the creative genius Play at Home Mom, who made a beautifully flat and festively decorated ice rink which mine doesn’t remotely resemble, haha. Head over to her site for some really great ideas!)
But, even though my ice rink somehow ended up with a mysterious growth, my little people loved it just the same. In fact, they really enjoyed the ice mountain (aka ‘growth’) and used it for some Florida sledding!
And here are some other ideas I’m planning to
ruin, er…try out for some Christmas fun!
This site has some really cute Advent ideas for using picture books!
~And these cute ideas are from Pinterest!~
My most recent craft-aster: setting Christmas gifts on fire last night! So, fyi, coffee beans are flammable (who knew?). The candle needs to be in a glass votive and high enough out of the coffee so the beans won’t fall in and catch fire. Mine didn’t even vaguely resemble the adorable ones pictured below (pre or post fire, lol), so click on the picture to get instructions if you want to make them!
I am thankful for An Attitude of Gratitude!
To be thankful is to see~
The sweetness of a little helper’s heart instead of just the extra work in being ‘helped’
The gift of shelter instead of just a house in need of cleaning
The provision of food to eat instead of just a pile of dishes to wash
The worthiness of a child’s play instead of just a waste of time
The miracle of breastfeeding instead of just a display of skin
The happiness of the little ‘king of the mountain’ instead of just the pile of laundry to be refolded
The love language of a man instead of just a fixed toilet
The blessing of an income instead of just a job
The joy of serving others instead of just the burden of other’s needs
The goodness of family instead of just the annoyance of different personalities
The image of God in others instead of just their human flaws
I am thankful for traditions!
The knowledge, unity, and security that come from our traditions give us strength and courage, and it is this strength and courage that fuel our ability to reach out to those in need, give mercy to those who have failed us, and accept those who differ from us.
This Thanksgiving, I give thanks for those customs and traditions who make us…US!
I am thankful for my big, happy family!
“A happy family is but an earlier heaven”~ George Bernard Shaw
A Colorless World
I grew up in a primarily black neighborhood in the 1970’s, a little white girl with mostly Black, Filipino, and Hispanic friends…a little white girl whose favorite babysitter was a black teenager named Cassandra…a little white girl who carefully tossed rose petals one by one down the aisle as the flower girl in a biracial wedding…a little white girl who never even knew racism existed until she became a teenager and found her friends divided, angry, mistrusting, no longer friends, now just ‘us’ and ‘them.’ I didn’t grow up color-blind, seeing only ugly shades of grey. I saw and understood and appreciated the different colors and backgrounds and cultures in my poor socioeconomic, but richly diverse neighborhood. I never felt the need to change to be like them or to change them to be like me. We all went to the same school, worshipped at the same church, played in the same streets, shopped at the same stores, but that was where the sameness ended. The unique flavor of each family filled their homes with tastes and colors and sounds my child’s heart delighted in, never knowing what exotic new treat my babysitter would produce or what dazzling hue would grace the hat on my neighbor’s head, and never, ever, knowing what in the world my Filipino friend’s sweet grandma was saying, bless her heart! And now, in a world where color-blindness is the supposed path to peace and gender-blindness the new chant of tolerance, my adult heart aches, wondering when we lost the wonder and the beauty of difference, why we reject who and what we were created to be instead of embracing and celebrating our uniqueness, and how we can “become like little children” again. God has created an amazing array of beautiful masterpieces splashed across the earth in a stunning mosaic. What tragedy if we reduce His majestic display to a series of canvases turned to the wall in uniform rows of monotony!
“He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than he can give. Don’t analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.”~Bob Marley