Love Is Simple

IMG_0596

I am going to keep this simple because a lot of times that’s all we have time and energy for — simple instructions and simple ideas. 

I wanted to share some quick ideas on how to show your kids that you love them.

What your kids care the most about is whether or not you love them.  So just love them!

Here are some simple ideas on how to demonstrate your love:

First, always tell them.

Second, demonstrate it by giving an appropriate hug and kiss.  For some kids, it might mean a back rub, tickle-time, or chasing them around like a dinosaur.

Discover your kids’ love languages, and use that knowledge to enhance their perceptions of your love. 

At the end of last week, I decided to do a simple but fun activity that also used my knowledge of their love languages.  I took a post-it-note and wrote a specific message on the note for each child.  I then attached the notes to the undersides of their dinner plates.

The kids loved finding their notes and then carrying out the instructions on the individual notes.  It was a simple but fun way to demonstrate to my kids that they are loved.  The activity also taught the kids practically how they could also express love to one another.  (I will post pictures of the notes so you get the idea…)

It’s important to let your kids know you love them, but expressing that doesn’t need to be complicated.  Keep it simple but love them!

IMG_0600 IMG_0599 IMG_0598 IMG_0597 IMG_0601

No Pinterest Or Glam Mom Here!

IMG_9220

I don’t take award-winning photographs of my gorgeous, athletic, brilliant kids; my ribbon-merit baking creations; award-winning artistic renditions; and Pinterest-worthy home.  In fact, if I was trying to take pictures of those accomplishments, I would probably be waiting a long time.  A very long time!

Oh, my kids are adorable, smart, active, creative!  Definitely to me!  I love them though not because of some trait or ability I feel they must possess to be accolade-worthy.  I love them because of who they are — not because of what they have or what they do.  I love them because they are themselves.  They are my children!  It’s that simple.  Yet, it’s not simple at all.  It’s really quite profound!

I gaze at my kids and every day think how amazing and miraculous they are!  How amazing and miraculous it is that I am their mom!  I am grateful.

As a mom, there is a part of me that really aches when others don’t see my kids through the same eyes as myself.  I “bleed” a little inside when my kid tells me that he is ugly, that he’s the last kid to be picked for football teams, that he never wins any of the creative days at school for dress.  I “bleed” not because those things are so important but because my son is so important to me, and he has so much worth and he doesn’t see it.  I try to tell him that his worth isn’t based on the fickle opinions of others.

In fact, I have reached out to a lot of his school buddies, invited them over.  It’s fun to hear them greet me when they see me.  My favorite line though I like to say is, “Hi, handsome!”  I am not trying to establish an over-emphasis on the outward appearance.  Yet, all kids need to know that they are something special!  I focus on everything about them: their God-given talents and abilities, their own special unique features, and the fact that they are precious to me!

Even more importantly, I like to focus on the inside person.  I call selfishness and sinful behavior as ugly but call good and loving behavior as lovely.  I tell them that you can be considered “pretty” or “handsome” on the outside but be selfish, mean, angry on the inside.  I told them that those things will make a person “ugly.”

When the boys and I have talks about girls, I encourage my boys to look for a woman who is beautiful on the inside to be their future wives.  I then encourage them to be the kind of man that that kind of woman will want to marry.

I am a simple mom.  I am not an amazing cook.  I don’t knit.  I don’t sew.  My house isn’t Pinterest-worthy, but it’s my home.  We are slowly fixing it up to where I really like the way it looks.  It’s comfortable, homey, warm, and even charming at times.  It’s basically clean and fairly organized.  It’s not magazine-worthy, but it’s my home.  It’s the place where my family and I make memories.  It’s where we love, work, create memories, and learn to forgive and be forgiven.  It’s real.  There’s no pretense in the home.  Some times, I am thankful that I know that I have God who is watching me that is pleased with an action I just took.  At other times, I wish that no one: not a child, spouse, or God had seen a certain attitude or heard unkind words I had uttered that day.

There are times, I bow my head with shame because I wasn’t the mom God created me to be.  I wasn’t the mom my kids deserve.  I wasn’t the mom I want to be.  It’s for these moments that I pray.  I pray over my children — that God would heal the areas in my kids hearts that hurt because of something unkind I said or did.  I pray that God would continue to work in me to help me to be more humble and more obedient to his voice.  I pray that God would “cover” my kids with His grace in areas that I can’t. 

I look at myself and see this average person.  I don’t have an Einstein I.Q.  I don’t excel in the arts or sports.  I don’t have model-looks.  I am not a mom that is everyone’s hero.  I am just me.

Yet, when I see myself as God sees me, I realize the rest of all of that doesn’t matter.  God loves me because I am His.  I am His daughter!  I am unique!  There is no one else on this planet and universe that will ever be identical to me — in the past, present, or future! 

You and I will leave our own stamps on this life that will never be completely repeated.  I wish we could just wrap our minds and our hearts around that incredible truth just a little more.

Because the more I understand the meaning of my life, the better I am able to appreciate the meanings of others!

A Day In The Life Of A Mommy Of A Newborn

baby damian

(FreeImages.com/MarcoOjeda)

I’ll be honest.  Yesterday was tough!  It was the first time since giving birth to my 19-day-old that I cried.

Up until two days ago, I had been feeling good.  Tired but not extreme exhaustion.  Holding a contented newborn.  Maintaining a decently clean house.  Keeping abreast of business stuff.  Generally doing well with recovery and life.

Yesterday it came crashing around me.  It’s not that anything was horribly major — like someone dying or a terminal illness or a house burning down.  It was all those “little” things that add up and when you are exhausted, make you feel like nothing is going right.

I get about 5 1/2 hours of sleep at most per night.  I know some can survive with that few hours of sleep, but I start to feel like a zombie or overly emotional after awhile if I am not getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night.  We know how it goes with a newborn, sleep just doesn’t happen much — especially when you have four other children too.

With three of them in school, I have to awaken them at 6:30 a.m. and help them madly scramble to dress, eat, pack their lunch boxes in the backpacks, find gloves and hats (always by their back packs), take vitamins, pray with them, and then send them on their way with hugs and kisses by 7:00 a.m.  In the mad scramble, the boys often are too noisy and to my horror — yes horror, manage to awaken their 2-year-old sister at 6:30 a.m. also.  That means that Mommy’s day has begun — whether ready or not.  Of course, there is a newborn to be fed every two hours in there, and the feeding takes 30-45 minutes total.  This also involves a partial outfit change as the poor little guy spits up a lot.

So, I begin my day with sleep deprivation which means everything is “amplified” — the stresses and hopefully the joys too.

Did I also mention that my two-year-old has decided that naps are a thing of the past?

On top of that, I had to spend my day talking with banks, auto mechanics, sales’ representatives, the hospital where I gave birth, the Social Security office, health insurance representatives, doctors, etc…  Why all of this?

Because… our van is in the shop — thanks to a bad repair job that should have cost us around $100 but is now going to cost us at least $2000!  As a result, I’ve been without a vehicle for a week, and it will be another half a week ’til I have a vehicle again.

My husband and I had lots of decisions, research, and phone calls to make to decide on whether or not we wanted to invest more money into a high mileage vehicle or take our losses.  We had to consider what type of vehicle we would buy in its place and how we would pay for it.  So many decisions and many phone calls and research!

No vehicle means I am house-bound and have been for weeks.  Thankfully, my sister and mom have been available to pick my Kindergartner from school, or we would be in trouble.

Then, there are all the insurance issues.  My husband changed jobs — a good thing — less than a month from Baby’s due date.  The new insurance plan offered would have meant we would have had to pay completely for the cost of the birth so we elected to go with Cobra, our only other option available at the time.  I did more research and found that once Baby was born, we could then switch to a cheaper plan.  I’ll spare you the details, but to get the best deal, it meant we had to go with Cobra for October, my  husband’s new insurance plan for November, and then I needed to apply for a third plan for December, that we hope to keep ’til the following December.  All these insurance changes meant time — time with a capital “T”!  I had to call doctor’s offices to get information.  I had to keep reentering information on our online application as it wouldn’t save prior information.  Lots of time involved!  I had to submit applications for Cobra and make more phone calls.  I haven’t even gotten to resubmitting bills yet.  That will come.

Then, there is the issue with our newborn’s birth certificate and social security card.  They have the wrong name.  So, I had to call the hospital, fill out paperwork, resubmit the form for a corrected birth certificate, try to reach the Social Security office to no avail, and now we have to wait for the new certificate before applying for a new social security card.

Of course, Christmas is fast approaching.  This is a season and holiday I love, but it means more work.  I have Christmas gifts to make and order, letters to write, and shopping to do.  This is not meant to be a burden, but add it with everything else, and I started to feel overwhelmed.

Boring you yet?  Probably an under-statement…

Yesterday when I started to cry, it wasn’t because of all of the previously mentioned challenges.  It was because my baby wasn’t acting like his usually contented self.  He would cry from hunger, I would attempt to nurse him, and he would turn up his nose at me.  There is nothing like holding her own crying and unhappy baby that will more quickly reduce a mother to tears.  I couldn’t satisfy him at the moment and help him, and that was “ripping my heart out.”

Thankfully, in the midst of my exhaustion and emotional stress, I remembered the necessity of prayer and began to pray for God to help my baby and I.  I attempted to nurse him again, and that time, he began to suck.  I still held him with tears rolling down my cheeks, but I didn’t feel like such a huge failure afterallThere is something about when you breastfeed your baby that makes you particularly vulnerable to a sense of success or failure, based on how your child takes to breastfeeding.  This, of course, isn’t true; but somehow, it feels like it. 

That evening, I also needed/wanted to finish the week’s Bible study on the life of David, directed by the Beth Moore devotionals.  I didn’t know if I would be able to meet with the other ladies the following day, but I wanted to stay on schedule.  As I began to read more of the lessons, I began to “hear” what God was trying to teach me through His Word.  It’s amazing how the Lord always brings exactly into our lives what we need to hear and when we need to hear it!  His timing is perfect!

I began to be reminded by reading David’s life story how God had time and time again shown a desire to be loved, to reveal the immeasurable greatness of His own love, and to have a close, intimate friendship with David.  I was then reminded of the many ways that God has worked in my own life and the truth of Who He is.  I was reminded to praise God for Who He is and what He is doing!  This was such a good reminder for me — something I needed to read that very day.  I was feeling so tired, so completely worn out, and overwhelmed.  God reminded me of how much He loves me and of how He has and is working on my behalf!

I may be a sleep-deprived Mommy of five.  My house may not be perfect.  My vehicle may not be running and may empty a good portion of our savings to fix it.  Christmas gifts may not be timely this year.  One thing I do know is that I am loved, protected, and desired by a God Who is Merciful, Gracious, Just, and Loving!  I can and will survive, and I can do it even victoriously!

Save

When It Is Okay To NOT “Protect” Your Child

IMG_9619

Last evening, two of my boys had soccer practice.  As usual, I loaded up the soccer balls, water bottles (boys brought their own), and folding lawn chairs.  I instructed each boy to dress warmly since it was cold outside.  I recommended long-sleeved shirts and jackets and even went so far as to find them both clothing items since we are still in the process of moving the seasonal clothing around in their drawers and closets.

My one son promptly dressed himself in the recommended clothing and was ready for practice without delay.  The other son ignored both mine and my husband’s instructions to dress warmer and to wear or at least bring a jacket.  He did neither.  Knowing how important natural consequences are, I took him the way he was to soccer practice.

As I thought would be the case, he immediately began to complain that he was cold.  I then gently reminded him that I had told him several times, as well as his father, to dress warmer but that he chose to disobey us and as a result was cold.  I encouraged him to listen to his parents next time, knowing that Daddy and Mommy give instructions that are for his good and well-being.

The compassionate Mommy side of me wanted to relieve him of his discomfort.  In fact, if his discomfort was a result of my negligence, then it would have been necessary and important for me to have immediately found a solution.  I would have probably removed my jacket and offered it to him and suffered as a result of my poor choices.

In this case, I knew that if I tried to relieve him of the discomfort that came as a consequence of his wrong choices, then he would continue to never learn the lesson.  As a Mom, this can be very tempting.  What we must ask ourselves though is, “How is this preparing him for when he must get his homework done in college, get himself out of bed for work, manage his checkbook, wash his dirty clothes as a single, pay his bills,” etc…?  In other words, if I always spare him from any discomfort, he will never be required to learn personal responsibility for his own actions.

I was grateful that I had just heard a radio program that morning, discussing something very similar to this situation.  It was a great reminder to me, going into this situation.

The responses of other parents to me in this situation were interesting.  One mom heard my son complaining he was cold and immediately offered her spare jacket to him.  In this situation, I did allow him to wear the jacket because I thought this was an opportunity for him to experience grace, which God so often demonstrates to us.  If God provided a solution, I wasn’t going to turn it down.  The mom though later said, “I always carry a spare jacket for when things like this happen.”  There wasn’t opportunity to properly respond to her comment so I let it go.  I couldn’t help but think though that if I had brought a spare jacket, my son would again have not learned the lesson.  In fact, I would have done him the injustice of teaching him that he doesn’t need to take responsibility for his wrong choices/actions because Mom will always “protect” him from the consequences of those very choices/actions.

A mom who is also a teacher was standing nearby so I asked for her input as to how to handle the situation.   She encouraged me to let him face the natural consequences of his actions, which I had determined to do.

The situation had escalated though.

My son went from complaining he was cold to then refusing to wear the jacket because it was too big, and he would be embarrassed.  I told him that he shouldn’t worry about what others thought but should do what is right for himself.  I also suggested rolling up the slightly too-long sleeves.  At this point, my son began to cry and refused to practice soccer.

Ugh! There I sat, trying to figure out what to do.  I tried to firmly but reasonably talk to him but to no avail.  I then led him back to our car.  There, I more firmly warned him of the further consequences of his choices/actions.  (We had paid a lot of money for the kids to be enrolled in soccer so his refusing to practice was a loss of our investment.)  I told him that he would not be allowed to watch movies (his favorite activity) for the rest of the week and that I would have to speak to his daddy about further consequences should he refuse to practice soccer.  I told him that we had invested a lot of money for him to play, and it was not okay for him to refuse when he was perfectly capable of practicing.

I then encouraged him to make the right choice and to practice with his friends.  I reminded him that movie time would not be removed should he obey.  My son refused.  When I tried to lead him to the soccer field, he dug in his heels.  Now, I was really in a predicament.

I didn’t want to leave my son, standing alone by the car and freezing without a jacket.  I also knew that I couldn’t carry him to the soccer field.  So, I firmly but calmly explained that I was not going to drag him kicking and screaming to the field, but that until he chose to do the right thing, he would be standing by himself in the cold.  I encouraged him to join me, where he would be safer and warmer.  I then walked away.  What a tough place!

I sat down and watched my other son practice soccer, while at the same time, trying to keep an eye on my child, standing by our car.  At one point, I saw another set of foot-prints near him and immediately walked over to check on him.  Another mom was trying to persuade him to come. I watched patiently while feeling like the father of the Prodigal Son, wanting so desperately to swing him up into my arms and to wrap warmth around him.  The other mom finally managed to get him to walk to me, which is when I mouthed, “Thank you!”.  I have no idea what she thought of me, but sometimes it does take another person removed from the situation to help positive progress to occur.  I was too close to the situation and had come to represent the person who wanted my son to do something he didn’t want to do so I was not as effective.

My poor son stood there shivering and blue with cold.  We did persuade him to put on the jacket.  He still refused though to practice soccer, complaining he was too cold.  I tried to encourage him that he would get warmer if he played and to point out that all his friends were playing and no one looked cold.  This was to no avail.

I didn’t yield to the temptation to coddle him or remove some of the consequences because other moms didn’t understand and thought I was “cruel” or something.  I did rub his hands for him to warm them and then gently reminded him that because he had still refused to practice, movie time was still removed for the rest of the week.

I share this with humility.  I know that there may be those who will pick apart what I did and think that they could have said or done something differently or better.  Perhaps, they could have.  What I am learning though is that God created me to be me and to be this child’s mother.  I need to obey God alone in the way I conduct myself — not discipline or parent in a way that pleases all the other parents watching.  I am also learning that being a good parent doesn’t prevent all problems from occurring.  Disciplining correctly doesn’t mean my child won’t ever embarrass me or misbehave in public. 

I also learned that being a good mom doesn’t mean that I “protect” my child from every discomfort, hardship, or pain in life.  By trying to relieve my child from feeling the discomforts of his wrong choices, I may be actually putting him at greater risk/harm’s way because he will not understand how our choices do carry consequences with them.  My son should make wiser choices that will protect him if he learns that consequences are a natural occurrence of our choices.

I want my son to develop into a mature, young man, who has learned how to make wise choices that result in positive results.  I want to help my son develop personal self-control.  I want my son to develop fortitude, courage, responsibility, and faithfulness.

Sometimes, the best choice — not the easiest — is to NOT “protect” your child but to give them the opportunity to develop their own strength of good and godly character.

For The Desperate Mom

IMG_9624

I finally finished reading the book, Desperate, by Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson.  I found the book so beneficial that I bought two more copies and mailed them to friends.  My copy of the book has notes all over the margins.  There are so many paragraphs and sentences underlined.  Many stars and exclamation marks decorate the book as well.  I don’t normally mark up my books so this book definitely made an impression on me — a very good one.

I wanted to include some more quotes from the book, taken from the last two chapters I read.  If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it.

“Having little ones is a season … children, Lord-willing, do grow up.”

“A mama’s primary domain is her home. …your first and main purpose is to deeply invest in the souls He’s given you, and you will struggle immensely if you do not have resolve regarding your role as a mother.”

“…there is nothing more important or sacred than being an intentional mother whose time is focused in the home.”

“Give in to your season of life. … the more you allow yourself to be fully and completely invested in the discipling of your children, the less defeated you will feel.”

“…the forming of their souls is a hard, long-distance race.”

“The work of motherhood was the way He wanted me to serve and love Him.  I have always found my source for this inspiration in the way Jesus was willng to lay aside His life to serve and love His disciples and those around Him, and to invest in their lives.”

“…are you choosing in your life to cling to God’s goodness and instruction in righteousness?  Is your heart turned toward Him in a posture of trust and submission, as an earthly child to your heavenly parent?  Is your own soul being formed by His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit?  The call to train up a child is more than a one-time choice; it is a day-to-day, long-term commitment to shape your children, the greatest gift that God has given you stewardship over.  The attitudes and choices you practice now in your day-to-day walk will determine your ability to endure the distance in your ideals.”

“…develop a heart of contentment and trust in God’s faithfulness.”

“…turn your heart toward joy, and celebrate the goodness that God brings into all parts of your life.”

“…engage your heart in God’s grace.’

“….seek to love them and to see the potential in them, knowing that in whomever God begins a work, He will be faithful to complete it in His time.”

“…turn your heart toward being faithful to the end, knowing that God will never leave or forsake you in your journey.”

“…a mother … a warrior who will not give up or cease to keep fighting the battle for her children’s souls.”

“Your labor is not in vain.”

“…overcoming is always rewarded with great blessing.”

“…God wants us to be those who prevail, who are willing to engage in the fight and to hold fast, waiting for His blessing.”

“…don’t measure your worth to God by the times you fail.”

“He is committed to helping me grow.”

“…faith is the key element of the power behind my commitment to be a good mom.”

“He weaves the beautiful thread of redemption through the pattern of your life.”

“…to live within the limitations of your own family puzzle in such a way that cooperates with your personality and with the gifts God has given you.  There is no one ‘right way’ or formula to follow for every family, mother, or child.  Live in the freedom of faith and the abundant life Jesus came to provide.  Understand that children are a gift.”

“…seek to enjoy your children and love them and you will be happier…”

“Filling my mind with truth is the attitude adjustment I usually need.”

“God is the only who can meet your needs.”

“Begin and end your day with prayer.”

“Pray for your husband and children.”

“Cultivate a heart of gratitude.”

“Do not practice comparing your life or limitations to others.  What you water the most is what will grow, and the weeds of a whining spirit will choke your own joy.”

“Create a cheerful atmosphere.”

“There’s nothing like living day to day with children to show you exactly where your own soul still needs work!”

“When you see motherhood as your service of worship to Him and that how you treat your children is your obedience to Him, it gives more importance to treating your children as He would.”

“Remember, training and maturity take time.”

“…give them a foundation of security in their relationship with you…”

“…loving my children, and my husband, was more about my choosing to love them and to extend God’s grace every moment I could decide to do that, and not an issue of how I felt.”

“…failure does not ever have to define us.  Failure and pain become foundations for wisdom and understanding and strength to face life’s battles.”

“…discipline is an issue of training, little by little, year after year.”

“Children are more likely to respond to discipline if they feel loved and affirmed.”

“…many moms try to micromanage every single behavioral issue with their children and feel a need to win every battle, especially when they are young.”

“I should have enjoyed my kids instead of worrying whether I was always doing it right.”

“Do not expect it to be static [the home environment], and you will not be as impatient.  This is a home first, and homes have life and the swaying of days and growth and love.”

“…it is never too late for Christ to change things around in the lives of our children.”

“Choose words that heal, bring life, and empower those in your life.”

These were such excellent thoughts and advice!  They were so timely, following a stressful situation with a son at soccer practice.  It was so encouraging to know that I can kindly and firmly enact consequences, but that I can also remember that such challenging moments don’t define our children permanently nor our success as a parent.  Rather, it is those moments that give us opportunity to walk by faith, to walk in grace, and to walk with unconditional love towards our children.  May desperation no longer define us!

The “Mompetitor”

P_DSC0068 hazy 8x10

IMG_2509

How many of us know a mom who seems to always be talking about the latest achievements of her children?  Words.  Words. Words.  Brag.  Brag.  Brag.  Our response?  We often either pity her, condemn her, or compare ourselves to her.

I remember as a young mom with two toddlers and a baby, feeling very frustrated that my kids weren’t learning their colors, shapes, alphabet, and numbers like my friends’ kids.  I remember feeling like a bad mom or somehow that I must be not doing something correctly because my boys weren’t potty-trained or reading when my friends’ kids were.  Maybe, my kids had inherited a slow gene or maybe I just hadn’t pushed them hard enough.  Sigh.

I knew I read to my kids — read to my first-born when he was a wee babe and had no idea what mommy was doing with that object in her hands.  He liked reading — more because of the cuddle time with mommy and hearing his mommy’s voice.  I really don’t think that my reading made a huge educational impression at that point in his three months of life.  What did make an impression was the interaction I had with him, teaching him about security, love, kindness, and how love is an investment of time.

Then, I’ve found myself listening to other young moms talking about their kids and then wanting to chime right in with my own comparisons or not just wanting to but doing it.  I’ve walked away from those conversations, convicted by my own pride and selfishness.

I’ve then had to ask myself, “Why did I feel the need to compare or to do my own bragging?”  Suddenly, I understand the hearts behind the bragging moms or “Mompetitors.”  Insecurity.  Fear.  Depression.  Those fears stem from wondering if you are doing it right — if your kids will be failures because you didn’t give them everything at just the right moment and in the right proportions.  It’s the pressure of perfection.  The unending voices that we listen to that tell us we should be parenting this way or that way or another way.

The results?  Instability.  Insecurity.  Anger towards ourselves and even our children because they don’t measure up to our standards of perfection.

Exaggeration?  No!  I think one of the greatest dangers of motherhood are our unreasonable expectations and comparing ourselves and our kids to others.  It’s looking around us too much for our sense of well-being and affirmation as mothers and for help with raising our kids.  Oh, help can be great — true help!  The problem is we are too quick to follow the latest advice and trends on the social market.  We are too quick to compare our kids to Susie and Johnny “who do everything perfectly and are advanced in every area.”  We are too quick to try to fit ourselves into the personalities and gifts of others. 

We want to be Pinterest-perfect in our creativity, organization-skills, and decorating.  We want to be able to sew like an expert and cook like a chef with a Master’s degree.  We read the blogs, and every blogger seems to be much prettier, smarter, more articulate, and wiser than us.  Compare.  Compare.  Compare.

If we homeschool, we find a mom who is more organized than us.  Or we find one who is less so we can condemn her and somehow feel better about ourselves in the process.

I recently bought a book off Amazon — thanks to a B’day gift card I had received.  The book is called Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson.  The book has been amazing and just the book I so desperately (no pun intended) needed to read!  I have under-lined paragraphs, written exclamation marks, starred pages, and written “Amens” all over this book.

I think some of the thoughts that have stood out to me the most were the advice to give more grace to ourselves and our kids, to not compare, to accept how God uniquely created me and my kids, and to not follow everyone else’s advice.  This doesn’t mean we don’t listen to godly advice, but the key is godly — finding the right person to listen to — not just anyone and everyone.  There are so many voices — too many is the problem.  There is only One voice we really must heed: that of the Lord’s.  The beauty of it is that He created us and loves us unconditionally, in spite of our failures and imperfections.  He is not sitting up in Heaven with a great big paddle, waiting for us to mess up so he can take pleasure in exerting His God muscles in punishing us.  Sad how we get these twisted perspectives due to our own imperfect “lenses” from which we view everything and everyone, including God.

I recently experienced a situation at church where I felt condemnation.  I believe the individual thought that they had me, my husband, and our kids all figured out.  The problem is they don’t.  We aren’t like certain other families.  Church doesn’t give the full picture into our lives.  Oh, there are basic principles to parenting, but there are also so many variations — variations because we are uniquely designed individuals and families! 

I remember the smug feelings I had before becoming a mom.  I thought I knew all about parenting due to training, classes, experiences I had.  The problem with that is you don’t really know about parenting until you become a parent yourself and even then, that doesn’t make you an expert on other people’s lives. 

I know that a lot of people are simply trying to help and there is good advice out there.  The problem, young moms, is that there is too much — too much advice, too many voices.  We can become so concerned about pleasing everyone out there that we miss the whole point of our own calling.  Motherhood isn’t about pleasing everyone else.  In fact, you never will please everyone else so you might as well forget about it.  The point is motherhood is about finding what God’s plan is for your life first, then your family, and then for each individual child.  Motherhood is about serving the individual needs of your children — not the needs of those who wish to condemn or critique your parenting.

Motherhood is also about courage.  It means that sometimes you do what is not popular within your social networks.  It means being willing to meet the needs of your family and children because of who God uniquely created them to be.

Sometimes, it also means parenting “blindly” because you don’t know the end results.  Sometimes, it means we don’t have all the answers and neither do all those around us.  Sometimes, it means you walk by faith and press forward even when circumstances are very discouraging.  So long as you know that you are doing and walking how God called you to walk, then by faith you press forward, even when you don’t know the outcome.  This, my friends, can be agonizing to the heart of a mother who would like to see immediate results and grieves over a child whose heart is not right.  It means surrendering ourselves, our goals, our lives, our plans, our dreams, and our children into the merciful and loving arms of our Heavenly Father.

Dear friends, accept the gift of whom God created you to be.  Discover those gifts within yourself and your kids.  Walk in your calling.  Encourage your children to walk in theirs.  Embrace His plan for your life and your children’s.  And breathe.  Allow your children to breathe.

Enjoy the dance of life with those precious ones!  The dance of life is so brief really.  So dance and dance it well.

Before You Turn In Your Letter Of Resignation As A Mom

IMG_9164

A couple of weeks ago, I hit that point.  I called my sister and half-laughing/half-crying told her that I was turning in my letter of resignation as a mom, not giving two weeks’ notice, but that she needed to find my replacement immediately.  With a laugh, she replied that she was sorry but that there was no replacement for me.  (Exactly what I was afraid of.)

It was the accumulation of many days with fighting and fussy kids, long hours taking care of four kids while my husband worked equally long hours away at his job, struggling with pregnancy hormones and discomforts, and I was feeling very burnt out.  The worst part was the feeling of desperation — that I couldn’t get a break even when I needed a few hours to just reflect and rejuvenate.  Plus, my husband was too tired by the end of his LONG hours at work to have anything left to give or help.  Burn out!

During those particularly trying weeks, a few things made a big difference for me.  First, I talked with those who could empathize, pray, and give godly and wise counsel.  I talked with two sisters, who listened, sympathized, and gave some great encouraging words of advice.  Even in my husband’s exhausted state, he still managed to pray for me and to give me some much-needed hugs.  Sometimes, it’s simple things that make a huge difference.

As I expressed to my one sister, I know that as a mom, I still have to carry on/persevere.  I wasn’t asking for an escape from it all.  What I wanted was to hear that someone cared and would be lifting me before God’s throne of grace — grace that I so desperately need(ed).

I also listened to advice that was given to me by my one sister and a friend.  They suggested working out a schedule for my kids on days they are home during the summer.  I planned a schedule, informed the kids about the schedule, and began to enact it.  The schedule was a help.  It helped give the kids direction, gave me opportunity to plan into our days both fun things, beneficial activities, rest, relaxation, and time for the kids to learn responsibility while helping with chores.  It’s amazing how much help children can be!  Chores also give kids a sense of purpose, well-being, worth, and responsibility.

I also made it a priority to begin my day with prayer, devotions, and good books.  One book I read during that time was by Nick Vujicic, called Life Without Limbs.   The Lord used many quotes from that book to encourage, exhort, and motivate me.

I thought I would share a few of many of his quotes that really impacted me and helped me to take my eyes off my own circumstances and feelings.  You just might need them as much as me…

You and I are perfectly suited to be who we were meant to be!  …Adjustments are necessary along the way because life isn’t always rosy, but it is always worth living.  I’m here to tell you that not matter what your circumstances may be, as long as you are breathing, you have a contribution to make … You can’t always control what happens to you.  There are some occurrences in life that are not your fault or within your power to stop.  The choice you have is either to give up or to keep on striving for a better life … ”

“Our human powers of reasoning can be a blessing and a curse … Often, though, that which you dread turns out to be far less a problem that you imagined.  There is nothing wrong with looking ahead and planning for the future, but know that your worst fears could just as easily prove to be your best surprise.”

“For the longest time I thought that if my body were more ‘normal,’ my life would be a breeze.  What I didn’t realize was that I didn’t have to be normal — I just had to be me, my Father’s child, carrying out God’s plan.  At first I was not wiling to confront what was really wrong with me wasn’t my body, it was the limits I put on myself and my limited vision of the possibilities for my life.  If you aren’t where you want to be or you haven’t achieved all you hope to achieve, the reason most likely resides not around you but within you.  Take responsibility and then take action.  First though, you must believe … in  your value.”

Life isn’t about having, it’s about being … Recognizing your purpose means everything.  I assure you that you too have something to contribute.  You may not see it now, but you would not be on this planet if that were not true.  I know for certain that God does not make mistakes, but He does make miracles.  I am one.  You are too.

“I was never crippled until I lost hope.  Believe me, the loss of hope is far worse that the loss of limbs.”

You should never live according to what you lack.  Instead, live as though you can do anything you dream of doing.  Even when you supper a setback or tragedy, there is often an unexpected, totally improbable, and absolutely impossible benefit to be realized.  It may not happen right away.  You may at times wonder what good could possibly come of it.  But trust that it all happens for the good — even tragedies can turn into triumphs.”

Nick quoted from Reggie Dabbs who said, “You can never change your past, but you can change your future.”

“When you judge yourself harshly or put intense pressure on yourself, you become judgmental of others.  Loving and accepting yourself as God loves you opens the door to a much greater sense of peace and fulfillment.”

“You are beautiful because God created you for His purpose.  Your challenge is to find that purpose, fuel it with hope, drive it on faith, and put your you-niqueness to the highest possible use.”

“…you view the world through your own unique perspectives and attitudes based on your beliefs of what is good or bad, wrong or right, fair or unfair.  Your decisions and actions are based on those attitudes, so if what you’ve been doing isn’t working, you have the power to adjust your attitude and change your life [by God’s grace].”

“Adopting an attitude of action creates positive momentum.”

“When you are confronted with hard times, tragedies, or challenges, instead of looking inward, look to those around you.  Instead of feeling wounded and seeking pity, find someone with greater wounds and help them heal.”

“An attitude of forgiveness set me free … when you hold on to old hurts, you only give power and control to those who hurt you, but when you forgive them, you cut the ties to them.  They can no longer yank you on your chain … So don’t worry about what your forgiveness does for the antagonizers and hurtful people in your past.  Just enjoy what forgiving them does for you.  Once you’ve adopted an attitude of forgiveness, you’ll lighten your load so that you can chase your dreams without being weighed down by baggage from the past.”

“The best of us fail. and the rest of us fail too.  Those who never rise from defeat often see failure as final … Those who succeed bounce back from their bonehead mistakes because they view their setbacks as temporary and as learning experiences.”

“…defeat is a great teacher.  Every winner has played the loser.  Every champion has been the runner-up.”

“…failure can also build humility into your character.”

“Too often we don’t listen to understand.  Instead, we listen just enough so we can respond.  To really connect, you have to take into account the feeling behind the words, not just the words themselves.”

When you believe in abundance, you believe there are enough of God’s blessings — enough fulfillment, enough opportunity, enough happiness, and enough love — out there for everyone … If you tend to think of the world as a place of scarce resources and limited opportunities, then you’ll see fellow travelers as threats who’ll take what is out there and leave nothing for you … With an abundance mentality, you believe there are rewards enough for everyone, so competition is more about striving to do your best and encouraging others to do the same.”

“Sometimes you’ll even find that the boulder that fell and blocked your path left an opening that takes you to a higher place.  But you have to have the courage and the determination to make the ascent.”

Nick quotes from Albert Einstein as having said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”

Nick Vujicic also quotes from Helen Keller as having said, “…there is not such thing as a secure life.  It does not exist in nature… Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  He goes on to say, “Risk, then, is not just part of life.  It is life.  The place between your comfort zone and your dream is where life takes place.  It’s the high-anxiety zone, but it’s also where you discover who you are.”

“The awesome power of God is reflected in the fact that if we want to do something for others, our availability is every bit as important as our capability.  God works through us when we reach out for others.  Once you make yourself available for good works, guess whose capabilities you can rely on?  God’s!”

Nick Vujicic’s quotes really inspired me to persevere, to have renewed hope and faith, to see the “big picture,” to be encouraged that we all have enough grace given to us to fulfill the tasks we have been called to do — including parenting, and to get my eyes off my own personal struggles and challenges and onto those around me.

Another recent event really helped me to feel refreshed.  My husband and I made it a priority to take time to celebrate our anniversary with some couple-time.  My one sister graciously watched our four kids so that we had a weekend sans-kids.  We also are very frugal on most objects so we do keep some spending money to do something special on our anniversary.  Thus, we were able to do some fun and relaxing activities that really helped us both to feel refreshed and motivated to persevere.

Each couple and parent has to figure out for themselves what works to help refresh and motivate.  The important thing is to not give up and lose perspective.  Life will have its challenges.  The challenges ebb and flow.  The key is how resilient are we in dealing with them and what steps do we take to help us tackle them and ride the next wave into shore.

May we each cling to the grace we have been given, and may we burn on…

A Homeschooling Dialogue

 

I recently came across a discussion on Facebook regarding homeschooling.  I thought that I would copy some of my thoughts on this subject.

Let me first try to make myself clear.  I respect homeschooling and homeschoolers.  I understand the reasoning behind why most homeschool.

I also understand why people choose to not homeschool and respect them as well.  Of course, we all might have our private opinions on these matters, but I want to make it clear from the onset that I am not trying to promote one form of schooling above another.  I am not trying to criticize or condemn anyone. 

I just want to share a few thoughts in regards to homeschooling because I believe there just might be a woman out there who is struggling with unnecessary guilt and stress over this issue.

The Facebook discussion was talking about the merits or detriments to the concept of “un-schooling” within homeschooling.  Some parents are very favorable to this method and prefer it above all other means of education.  Others vary from cautious to critical in regards to it.

Let me first say that I was homeschooled and grew up with a lot of homeschoolers.  I also homeschooled my two oldest for two years and my youngest this year.  Though I don’t profess to be an academic genius, and there is always more for me to learn, I am fairly confident that I received a good foundation that has not prevented me or “held me back” in any way.

Let me copy some of my responses to the issue of the un-schooling method of homeschooling.  I believe I can then clarify the point of this blog:

The quote from a friend on Facebook that initiated the conversation:

“Short rant: Have you ever noticed that those who advocate ‘un-schooling’ have an education? So why do they think that not educating their children is a good thing? I’m sorry, I thought that education was to be valued!”

The following quotes are my responses to this discussion:

“If  ‘un-schooling’ means taking your kids for nature hikes and then looking up the plants you find in a book or on the internet, then I am for it. If it means you take things that are not from books, but then learn more about those things from books, then I am for it. Otherwise, I think home-schoolers need to be careful. I was home-schooled all of my life and knew tons of home-schoolers. What I have known and seen is too many home-schoolers who can’t spell, form correct grammatical sentences, or hold their own in a formal academic setting. The result is you have young men who are intimidated by more formal education so they stick to “blue-collar” jobs, which is okay if that is what God has called you to do but not okay if that is a decision based on the fact you can’t survive or thrive in a formal academic environment. What I see is home-schoolers who excuse a ‘poverty’ mindset as ‘learning to be content,’ their families always struggle financially and academically, and the cycle continues. Our goal isn’t to pursue wealth, but it is to be effective and excellent — in all areas of life.

“If our husbands and sons can get good-paying jobs, support their families comfortably, and have more resources to then share with others, praise the Lord!  This is a good thing!  Daniel, Moses, and Joseph were highly skilled and educated young people whom God was able to use greatly. Paul was as well. God can use anyone, but it does take certain skills for certain callings. We don’t want to limit our kids because we have accepted a sub-standard of education, priorities, standards, and goals for our family.  It’s too easy to “spiritualize” our own excuses or weaknesses. There is nothing praise-worthy about mediocrity in any area of life — including education.”

The conversation continued…

Our children need to learn discipline and structure, or they will have difficulty adjusting to college life or a job. If, as homeschoolers, we never keep to a schedule or actually have our children sit down and learn to concentrate in front of a table or desk, how are they going to be able to build the life skills of discipline, self-control, and organization in their own lives?  There is a balance to all of this, but some formal training is very important for learning this. My husband has a job that requires him to sit at a computer, concentrate, focus, and be extremely organized and productive with his time. He can’t just be casual and informal in his work. He’d lose his license. He can’t lack self- control and need to constantly get up and walk around every so often. He has to focus, calculate, create, organize, coordinate, etc… I am thankful for the education that he received that makes it possible for me to be a stay-at-home to five kids and to pay our bills. I want my boys to have the same opportunities in life for their families and to fulfill God’s calling on their lives.”

My last response:

Homeschooling is a valuable and high calling, but it is a high calling. It’s a huge responsibility and just as important as any other area of our parenting. I have many homeschooling friends, was homeschooled myself, and I have homeschooled. I am proud of my homeschooling. What I am trying to do is to caution. As homeschoolers, there is not as much accountability, and this can be dangerous. I am not calling for perfection. I am calling for giving our children a decent education and opportunities to serve God.  Too much is excused as something good when it is not.  That is where the danger lies.  It is not fair to ourselves, to our calling from God, to our children to neglect so great an area as their education. Homeschooling can achieve both, but it needs to be viewed as such. We need to respect the importance of our children’s education and of our calling to homeschool, if that is how God has led our families.”

“If a mom simply can’t homeschool her kids decently and manage all of her other priorities/responsibilities, the question is, ‘Why is she doing it?  Is the calling for her and from God?’ If she homeschools out of a sense of guilt and obligation or even legalism, it is wrong. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone.  Homeschooling isn’t required by God to be godly, to raise godly children, or to achieve some level of superior-spirituality. It is a calling, by God, for individual families. We, as women, have to be honest as to what we can and can’t handle and for what God has individually called and created us.”

“So, if God is calling or has called you to homeschool, then do it and do it with reverence and honor for your calling, your God, and your children”

“That doesn’t mean you won’t have bad days or even a day when you decide you have to take a day off. It doesn’t mean you won’t want to quit at times. What it does mean is that when the going gets tough, you’ll know to persevere because the calling came from God and not some misguided sense of guilt or legalistic hyper-spiritual view. You will persevere because you will know that because God called you, He will enable you to do this.

“Any other efforts to homeschool will ultimately either fail or not succeed because they are attempted in our own personal strength rather than from the Lord’s calling and thus His gifting and grace. Believe me, I know what it means to attempt something under guilt and then to fall flat on my face from coming to the end of my own strength (which happens quickly).”

“Bless, you homeschoolers, you have entered a high calling. Treasure it!”

The main point I want to discuss in this blog is the factor of guilt.  I believe that there are women, like myself, who grew up surrounded by homeschoolers and with a strong emphasis placed upon homeschooling ones children.  In the community in which I was raised, to not homeschool was paramount to sinIt was taught that homeschooling is the ONLY right way to educate ones children.  With such a strong emphasis placed on homeschooling, there was a lot of pressure to homeschool because “it is the only spiritual thing to do,” and the result was a lot of guilt, fear, and condemnation if you didn’t follow this teaching.  It has taken me years to understand that homeschooling is not spoken of anywhere clearly in Scripture, it is not a formula for producing godly children, and it is not God’s calling for everyone.

I completely understand the reasoning behind why people homeschool — well most reasons.  I also completely respect them.  My desire is in no way to discourage those who have been called to homeschool from doing so.  It takes special character traits and grace from God to homeschool, and you, who are homeschooling, deserve recognition and praise for your efforts and accomplishments!

For those of you who are homeschooling more from a sense of obligation, guilt, fear, pride, or “super-spirituality”, I want to encourage you to examine and to be honest with your feelings and motivations.  If homeschooling has become a means of failure for you as a mom, for your family’s well-being and functionality, and is not accomplishing what it should, perhaps you need to take some time alone to read your Bible, to spend much time in prayer, and to examine your heart before the Lord.  Be honest with yourself and with God.

To not homeschool does not make you weak, a mediocre Christian, a failure as a wife and mom.  Nor does it mean you have “let down” your family.

To not homeschool does not mean your children will all become rebellious and worldly. 

Moms, the questions to be asked are, “What is God calling you and your husband to do for your family?  What is the best educational method for your family?  What method best fits how God has created and gifted you?”

Moms, here’s another big one: If God has not called you to homeschool, it does not mean that you are less gifted or weaker than your fellow Christians who do homeschool.  It does not mean that your life is necessarily easier, nor does it make you selfish.

In fact, to do anything, even something good like homeschooling, out of the wrong motivation is actually selfish (the reasoning is self-centered). It may actually become a means that will destroy or cause much detriment to your family.

It also takes strength of character to admit that you were not created to do a specific thing that perhaps everyone else in your circle of friends is doing.

If God has called you though to homeschool, then you have embarked upon a very high calling.  You will need much humility to walk in God’s grace.  You will need much strength from the Lord to persevere.  The rewards may not even be for others to see; you may not have children who are godly in following the Lord or even children who succeed academically.  What you will have though is the peace of knowing that you were obedient to the Lord and did what you were supposed to do.

You see, dear women, it’s not about a certain method that determines the fruits of our labors or peace within our hearts.  It’s about following our God who loves us unconditionally and who made us with the unique abilities that we each possess.

The measure of our spirituality is not in what we do necessarily nor how we appear.  It is in how much we have learned to abide in God.  “Spirituality” comes from Him.  As we learn to abide in Him, we become “plugged” into the true Source of “spirituality”/godliness, and His fruit will become evident in our lives.

How I Went From Seeing Red To Seeing Blue-Green

 

Colors 2

(FreeImages.com/HavardKristoffersen)

That was my day today!  I “saw” a lot of “red” today. Oh, not the pretty kind, like in flowers, fruit, or something cheerful.  No, it was the kind of day where my blood pressure must have been like lava.

The day started with some disappointment — nothing unusual in the life of a mom.  A good friend had invited us to join her son and her for a birthday celebration.  It would have been fun, but instead I spent my morning cleaning up stomach contents from a sick son.  Not pretty at all.

The Mommy mode went into full gear, and soon the sick one was ensconced in a comfy chair with all possible means of comfort given.  The laundry was churning in the wash machine.  The kitchen was clean again.  Business phone calls were made — everything from prescriptions, to getting a broken window pane fixed (previous one), to VBS invitations, to summer party planning.

The day felt productive and was going fairly smoothly.  Then, chaos erupted…

Seriously, sometimes I wonder what God was thinking (not in a disrespectful sense) when he gave me three very active boys and a fourth one on the way.  I grew up with three sisters and one very mild brother. I was the type of girl who liked reading books, drawing, playing with dolls, and pretty things.  I would play explorer at times, but I was a quiet girl.  I definitely had very little experience with busy, active boys.

Here I am now…  today…

My boys got into an argument.  One boy locked the other brothers outside.  One brother decided to take the handle to a paint roller (long kind for ceilings) from the garage and bang on the glass window of the door.  As glass from the broken window pane splintered on the floor, I saw red.  There was no blood.  I was simply furious! 

How many times have we talked to the boys again and again about consequences, controlling anger, responsibility, respecting property, and had to enact negative consequences for unwise decisions?  When would they get it?!! 

My son quickly sobered when he realized what he had done and how upset mommy was.  The rest of the evening, he was given lots of chores to do and knew not to complain or make a peep.

Too bad, the boys’ bank accounts aren’t big enough to pay for all of the stuff they break.  My husband and I decided that we would come up with an extensive list of jobs that would eventually total the amount he owes us for the glass pane.  Unfortunately, it’s not the same to us, but for him, it just might teach him something positive.

I saw even more red when I discovered that same son had also stolen chocolate candy bars from my room.

Before too many conclusions are drawn, let me assure you that we do try to address all negative behavior and enact consequences.  This kind of negative behavior is not tolerated.  The problem is changing the heart. 

It’s so easy to focus on outward behavior modification rather than the inner person.  It’s the goal of my husband and I to do both, particularly focusing on the latter.

I know we aren’t perfect parents, and there is always something more to learn.  But, I don’t know a single perfect parent and one who doesn’t have something to learn, including psychologists

Our children really aren’t “cookie cutters” who come with a complete list of personal instructions.  Each child is unique.  Each parent is unique. This means, as a parent, I must get to know the heart of my child and learn it so that I can apply the truths and principles that will successfully lead him/her to acknowledge and examine the state of his/her own heart.

So, how did my day go from “seeing red” to seeing “blue-green”? 

Blue and green are the colors of calm, peace, serenity.  They are considered soothing colors.  In fact, they are my favorite colors — perhaps because I need lots of calm in my life.  🙂

One thing I am learning is when I am upset, maybe I should say “really upset,” it’s best to not open my mouth.  So, I ignored a couple of phone calls, resisted getting on Facebook, and kept trying to remember to pray about the whole situation.

Thankfully, God was merciful and helped me to take some deep breaths and to calm down, after awhile.

By the end of the day, I was able to get all four kids ready for bed, dishes cleaned, laundry folded and put away, and then began the process of tucking the kids into their beds.  That’s when the real heart work began to occur and when I really began to see “blue-green.”

I came to the son who was the main character of these events (besides myself), and he said, “Mommy, I just can’t get it right and be good.”  Seeing his pain, I immediately felt the last remnants of my anger melt away and gently said the following,

“It is good to feel sad over sin.  The question is, ‘Now what are you going to do with that sadness and shame?’  Are you going to use that as a motivation to change your behavior and want to do better?  Or, are you going to say, ‘Well, I am bad so I might as well just be bad.’  The first choice will allow you to seek God’s help and have His forgiveness. The second choice would be believing a lie…  Have you talked with God about this, asking Him to forgive you and to help you to do better?”

My son then replied that he hadn’t.  I asked him then if he would like to pray.  He promptly began a simple prayer that went from discouragement to a very heart-felt prayer of repentance and desire for help.  As he finished, I quoted I John 1:9 to him, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

My son went to bed with a feeling of peace and the satisfaction of knowing he had been forgiven. I went to bed very thankful that God is working in my children’s lives, even when I don’t see it at the moment. I also was humbled to see how God is working in my own life. 

I too needed to learn to stay calm, even when circumstances are extremely frustrating.  The experience was a reminder to me again that “heart work” is really “God-work.” I am not in control of it, merely a vessel that God enjoys using for my own benefit.

Save

Why Parenting Is Becoming “Harder”

IMG_2914

As a parent of four children, I often wonder if the kids will survive childhood and if I will survive it too!  I am positive that I am not alone in my sentiments.

Why do so many of us parents feel discouraged, concerned, or stressed over parenting?  Is it because parenting itself is challenging?  Our kids are challenging?  Is it more than the normal stresses and challenges of dealing with imperfect and immature little replicas of ourselves that gets us?

As a mom, I can attest that it is more than the actual parenting and caring for four active little ones that gets to me at times.

Yesterday, I took my son for his 7-year check-up.  Normal procedure that every concerned and dutiful parent does.  There was nothing wrong with the visit, and my son was declared fine.  What bothered me was the normal feelings of guilt that accost me as I step away from any institution that “specializes” in caring for children.  Let me explain.  It was the helpful forms they gave afterwards and a few of the questions the doctor asked my son…

The forms were full of great information, but my feelings of guilt came when they indicated that if a parent modeled good behavior and didn’t allow negative behavior in their child, that child should become more consistent in demonstrating his or her own positive behavior.  They were good words of advice: to model good behavior for our kids.  There are plenty of parents, including myself at times, that need that reminder.  What got to me though was the implication that if I am doing the right job, my kid will behave correctly.  What about when my kid(s) don’t behave properly?  Does that mean I am a failure?  That I am a horrible parent?  That I am a negative model?  Can children be that controlled by their environment?

Then there were the questions…  They were fine questions.  The doctor asked my son what fruits and vegetables he likes, what activities he does, what safety equipment he uses, how he’s doing in school, how he sleeps, how his bodily functions work, his dental habits, etc…  The questions are probing but can be useful in cases where true negligence is.  What bothered me was not so much the questioning as the conclusions drawn by the young doctor.  My son honestly answered her with a shrug when she asked him what vegetables he likes.  Me, not being as mentally alert at the moment, didn’t think to respond with, “He eats vegetables — just doesn’t like them much.”  In other words, because a child doesn’t like vegetables does not mean we conclude the parent neglects to feed their child vegetables.  The truth is I don’t like many vegetables either, but my family and I eat them anyway.

What makes parenting so much harder these days is the intense pressure — the pressure to insure early cognitive development, proper stimulation, health and weight management, social interaction, etc…  It’s the lists of check-lists that we feel we must all accomplish with our children for them to develop into healthy, productive adults.  It’s effective too — for the concerned and responsible parent.  We want our kids to mature into responsible, caring, productive, successful adults.  So, we studiously follow the charts, the books, the newsletters, the blogs, the articles, the check-lists.  The result: we may produce safer and healthier environments, but then we may also be producing something less safe and less healthy: an environment of stress.  Stress because we are stressed as parents over insuring that we have met all the guidelines and suggestions.  Stress because our children are not allowed to simply be children at times and to occasionally overlook the forgotten bath or allowed the occasional sweet.  I almost wince as I write this because it sounds so bad.  Once again, there’s the guilt.

We guilt ourselves as parents over all this stuff and assume if we aren’t doing everything and following all the professors’ and doctors’ instructions then we are dooming our children to a life of failure and are failures ourselves as parents.

Pressure!  You betcha!

The truth is all the suggestions — or most of them — are good.  The truth is I try to fulfill as many as I can.  The truth though is I also wish that sometimes I could relax a little in my parenting and just let my kids and I have a little more flexibility without feeling like I am failing us both.

My suggestion to health-care providers and educators is that they encourage more.  Encourage the parents that are putting forth positive efforts.  Because most of us parents care a lot about what our kids think of us as parents, what we think of our parenting, what others think of our parenting, what God thinks of our parenting because we do care.

Instead of allowing our parenting to become so narcissist, I believe the goal should be that we love our kids and that we enjoy our kids.  Too much rule-setting and goal-setting produces the opposite effect — adults that are too afraid to even attempt the daunting task of becoming a parent or parents who feel as if they don’t know if they’ll even survive parenting, let alone enjoy it and enjoy their kids.  Then, there are the kids, who in spite of our best attempts at doing everything just right resent us because they sensed our fears, felt the pressure, and observed the disconnect.

The goal after all is for our kids to grow up feeling secure in our love — even more so than having eaten their five helpings of fruits and vegetables for the day or having their teeth flossed and brushed two to three times that day.