What I’m Learning

I had a really bad day yesterday.  The details aren’t even important.  It was just one blow after another, after another, ending with me crying to my husband, “I just need a win, Randall.”

(Robert Munsch’s kid was an early bloomer.)

We’re in a difficult season with our oldest kiddo.  I’ve been contemplating a blog all about it.  It was going to be a really good story starting like this:

I should have known that our relationship would be a struggle when the second they placed my firstborn on my chest he started peeing in my face.

 

True story… I would then go on to list all of the times I felt rejected by him.  They would be witty, but sad.  They would give you a picture of a running theme of hurt I’ve experienced in the past.  You would feel so sorry for me.

I just wallowed in self pity yesterday. I got so sad thinking about my situation that I couldn’t take it anymore.  My natural reaction in these times is to numb.  My go to is to eat something that “I deserve.” But as I’m on Day 23 of a Whole30 and a natural rule follower I could not do this.

My second choice of numbing is watching TV.  Unfortunately for me, I have made an unspoken rule that as a stay at home mom with kids in school, I just don’t turn on the TV during the day.  I don’t know why I’ve equated it to drinking in my head, but I don’t watch TV alone during the day.  I was out of defense mechanisms.

I had to go to God.  But to be honest, I didn’t want to deal with the situation still.  I wanted to numb, so I did my Bible study.  I’m in the middle of two different studies.  One about Exodus and one about Mary, the mother of Jesus.  I did a week’s worth of both.  In between, I wrote out a long prayer because don’t you know God speaks to you about where you are even when you’re trying to avoid it.

In my study on Exodus, the author wrote, “Just as God promised to go with Moses, He promises to go with you. Tell God your objections, fears, and concerns.  Then let Him help you.”  Here’s the deal: God has asked me to parent my kids, even when it’s hard.  That’s where I’m being called right now.

So I prayed. I told him how hard it was and how I don’t know how to parent most days. I’m concerned that the actions I’m seeing today will take this kid on a very dark path. I know as a Christian, I’m supposed to cling to God’s promises but there just aren’t any promises about how our kids will turn out.  That’s what I would wish for… to know that everything’s going to be okay. That whichever way the path takes us, it eventually will lead to a strong and kind man who follows hard after God.

As I was complaining to my husband last night about how hurt I am, how bullied I’ve felt, God was whispering in my ear the whole time.  Today I’ve got some clarity and a few things God wants me to remember in trying parenting times.

 

1.) I love this kid.  I don’t care what he does to me, that fact will never change.  I may not like what he says or does. He may break my heart, but he will never change my love for him. 

2.) Real love keeps no records of wrongs. There is no benefit in me holding on to hurts from the past.  I like to hoard them and stack them up in my mind.  But it just weighs me down. No good comes from it.  What happened on the day my baby was born and when he was two years old has nothing to do with what he did today. I have to forgive him for things he unknowingly did that hurt me. Forgiving means I don’t ever bring them back up or use them against him. That’s not fair and it’s not helpful.

3.)I need to address the source of the issue.  Disciplining the reaction does not solve the issue or prevent it from happening again.  If my baby is angry and does something vicious out of anger it doesn’t mean he’s a jerk, it means he doesn’t know how to handle his own anger.  Give him better tools.

4.) What he has done in the middle of a hormonal crash does not mean he will be a felon when he grows up. Things said and done in anger do not reflect his true thoughts. Dealing with the issues today often means that tomorrow is better. While we are in this parenting gig for the long haul, what’s happening right now will not happen forever.

That being said, do not name your kid by the wrong actions he’s committed. Stealing candy does not make him a Thief. Beating up his brother does not make him a Bully.  Lying about … everything… does not make him a Liar. He is not his sin.  He is my son and occasionally makes bad choices.  When you call your kid by his bad choices, he’ll think that’s all he’s worth.  He may think he’ll need to live up to what you’ve called out in him.  So call out his greatness.  Call out the strengths. I named my boys Laughter and Blessed.  May their lives always reflect those names.

5.) My whiny prayer yesterday has changed today.  Yesterday, I yelled at God because I want to know the future.  I want to know that everything is going to be okay.  He told me that I don’t need to worry about it.  That His promises do apply to our situation.  He promises to be with me and never leave me alone in parenting.  He promises that when my challenging boy told God on multiple occasions that he believes that Jesus is who He says He is and wants to follow Him, that He sent His Spirit to live inside of my boy.  God says in John 10:27-28 that He holds my boy in His hands and no one will ever snatch him from them. That tells me that in the end, I can be sure that everything will be okay wherever this bumpy road leads.

So today, I am praying that I see my boy through God’s eyes.  They span time and space.  He knows that yesterday’s actions do not define my kid.  He knows that whatever he has done, my baby is worthy of love, grace, and the ultimate sacrifice. They are not just God’s masterpiece but He has good planned for my boys. I know that too.  I just forget sometimes.

 

 

God, I’d much rather be called to pastor a church or free a nation of slaves, but you have called me to be a mother.  You have called me to train my boys in the way they should go: following the way of life that Jesus showed us.  Loving others well and serving them. It’s a hard job, God, and I feel the weight of its importance every day.  Give me the strength and patience, the peace, gentleness, and wisdom it takes to parent two beautiful boys. Help me to see my boys through Your eyes and love them as You love them. Thank you for being the best example in parenting.  May our lives honor You. 

10,000 Hours

Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve mastery in a field.

I have been a parent for almost 100,000 hours.  About 98,526 hours as of this moment.  Subtract an average of 8 hours a day for sleep (though new parents know you don’t ever get that much sleep!) and the time that I’ve had both kids in school and that’s still 51,062 hours I have been consciously and physically parenting. So, I guess I’m gonna call that mastered.  Bam. That’s Gold Medal level parenting right there.

 

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Just don’t google the “10,000 hour rule” and read the titles to all of the articles there discounting that it’s even a thing.  And don’t pay any attention to the fact that as your kid changes you have to change your parenting.  Or that the parenting that works for one kid doesn’t for the other.  Or that what used to be a good parenting practice, is now considered inappropriate according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. And don’t even think about how I’ve had an amazing partner doing a good portion of the work, or that I’m not even very good at math, so I may be completely wrong about how long I’ve been parenting… You know what, never mind.

Better with, than without.

I was listening in as our youth pastor’s wife gave some dating advice to our students last month.

One student asked the question, “Does God want some people to be single and some people to be married?  How do you know what God wants for you?”

It’s a great question.  One that I’ve thought about before.  When I was very young I went through a phase where I felt empowered and wanted everyone to know that I didn’t need a boyfriend to be happy.  It was true.  I was perfectly happy on my own.  

When I met Randall, I sat down and rationally made the decision to move toward marriage with him in our relationship.  We married in 2002 and I still feel like we’re in the honeymoon phase.  

But in all honesty, there have still been some times when I’ve wondered what life would be like if I were single.  What amazing things could I be doing if I weren’t tied down to one place?  I like to think that I would travel to Calcutta and serve the poor and be completely selfless.

Rachel, our youth pastor’s wife, answered the question saying that someone once asked her to consider, “Are you of more use to God with your significant other, or without?”

I’ve never considered that question seriously.  I assume if I were single and childless I could do more for God and devote my life to Him fully.  But in reality, Randall is the one who has shown me how to be a servant.  Parenthood has shown me how to be selfless.  I am so far from being the next Mother Teresa. Soooo far.  But I know I am closer to God, and being the woman God wants me to be because of this man.

Happy Birthday Randall. Thank you for all you are and all you’ve done for me!  I love you with all of my heart!

Roller Coaster

I’ve been talking a lot lately about how hard life can be as a parent.  I thought you could see how fun it is too:

 

Right now, at this moment Isaac is using our downstairs bathroom and Asher is using our upstairs bathroom.  The boys are yelling back and forth and telling jokes.

Isaac yells: Why did the goose cross the road?

Asher yells back: Because he wanted to get goosed!

Isaac yells: No!  Because the chicken was tired!

Asher asks him to repeat it because it was hard to hear through two floors, two doors, and over whatever other noises may be echoing in their bathrooms. So Isaac does.

Parenting.  Fun?  Yes.  Funny?  That too.

It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions.

 

And I love roller coasters.

 

… Is my middle name.

It’s been a hard week.

My emotions have been on edge as my parenting style was rocked trying to figure out how to let Isaac be Isaac and not expect him to be me.  You can’t just change your parenting tactics overnight…

On top of that, we’ve been struggling to get (and stay) healthy for over a month after having the stomach bug, the super cold, and most recently pink eye (Come on!).

Then last Wednesday, my grandma (mom’s mom) got sick and on Thursday, she unexpectedly passed away. So Thursday through Monday, my life was filled with cleaning my house for guests, cleaning Mama’s house while everyone was in town, and trying to love my family well as we all grieved this huge loss.

With all the emotion, I felt like I was barely able to take care of myself, much less my children, and our relationship struggled because of that.

Yesterday I was feeling much more stable but that didn’t stop me from yelling at Isaac when he flat out refused to obey after about five minutes of asking him nicely.

I got control of myself pretty quickly and by the time he was able to control his behavior, I went to him and apologized for yelling.  I kissed his head and told him how much I loved him.  “Even when I’m screaming, I still love you.  Even when I’m mad at you I still love you.  Do you know that?” I asked.  He nodded. I took his face in my hands and looked him in his blue eyes and told him one more time, “Isaac, I love you.”

He nodded. I can tell him a million times that I love him, but I can’t make him love me back.  That’s something he’ll have to choose to do.

 

I was at a meeting at church last night when a counselor got up and talked to us about pain.  “Why do you think pain is so hard to deal with?” she asked.  “Because it hurts!” someone answered.  We talked for nearly 30 minutes about the importance of dealing with our pain when the counselor said something else that caught my attention.

“You need to know that God loves you in the good times and bad.  Even when you’re in pain, God still loves you.”

Suddenly, I was reminded of the conversation I had with Isaac and it occurred to me that in a way, God is parenting me, while I’m parenting my kids.  I’ve seen time and time again that He is teaching me the same lessons I want my kids to learn.

It was like in that moment, God took my face in his hands and mirrored my own words, “Even when you’re screaming, I love you.  Even when I’m mad at you, I love you…  Emily, I love you.”

I like to think of God most often as the big Grandpa in the sky.  One who loves me unconditionally and wants to spoil me rotten.  I realize that I may be in the minority of thinking of God this way, but I’m a cup half full kinda girl.  I don’t like to think of God as being capable of anger, though the Bible clearly says He is.

I wonder if God gets angry with me when day after day I refuse to control my temper and hurt my relationship with my kids in the process.  When I think about it now, it’s a worthy reason to get angry.

Or maybe He’s just disappointed in me.  I remember feeling the most guilt when my mom was disappointed in me.  It often happened when she’d ask someone to do the dishes for her after slaving over our dinner in the kitchen all afternoon.  My brother and sisters and I would start fighting over who’s turn it was to do the dishes.  Ten minutes later, my mom would sadly turn on the faucet and start doing the dishes herself.  That felt way worse than any punishment she could have given us.

Either way, I realized last night that my inability to keep my cool not only hurts my relationship with my kids (which you’d think was a big enough reason to get it together) but it also disappoints God.

Thankfully, I know He loves me anyway.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

I wrote the above post yesterday but something didn’t sit right with me.  I couldn’t post it.  So I slept on it and waited until today to finish it up.  I thought about it all morning, wondering if anyone else can relate to the little revelations I get from God.  Maybe this post was just for me.

Then, I checked my Bible app and read the verse of the day: 

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime!

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. 

                                                                                  -Psalm 30:5

That’s what I needed to hear. Did you need to hear it, too?

God, I’m sorry.  Every single time I am pushed to my limit I fail to do the right thing.  It’s a big deal.  I’m sorry for yelling at my kids.  I’m sorry for not having the patience they deserve.  You’ve got to help me.  I obviously can’t handle it by myself.  Please give me patience, and peace, and understanding when I just don’t have it.  Remind me how much I love my kids and want to strengthen our relationship, not tear it down.  Thank you for loving me anyway, in the good times and bad.  Thank you for your favor on me and my family.  Thank you for joy in the morning and cutting through my wandering thoughts to speak to me clearly.  Don’t let me forget how much you love me in every circumstance, but don’t let me forget that my actions here affect our relationship, too.  I trust you.  I know you are just AND good.  Thank you for being both.  Help me to be the same.

 

 

And the Secret Word is….

I haven’t posted in a while.  I don’t know if you’ve been missing reading my blog, but I’ve been missing writing it.  I think the condition of my heart is directly related to how often I blog.

The lack of posts, means my heart has been preoccupied.  Preoccupied with Christmas and New Years and sickness and writing for other assignments.  But most recently it’s been preoccupied with the secret word of the day:  Diagnosis.  You all know what to do when you hear the secret word, right?!  SCREAM REAL LOUD!!!  

When my baby was having constant tummy trouble I went to doctor after doctor, having test after test, and trial after trial to figure out what it may be.  We couldn’t live without the diagnosis.  A definitive one never came.  Asher was negative for parasites and allergies and Celiac’s.  We took him off of food after food to no avail until finally by trial and error we took him off of both soy and milk and that seemed to help.  Most of the time.

On the other hand, earlier last week Isaac’s teacher sent an email to tell us that she’s concerned that Isaac is having a hard time focusing in class.  He is easily distracted by any outside noises or his classmates.  In the same day, she’ll find him staring off into space, unable to complete his work and then an hour later he has so much energy he can’t sit still and bursts out with screams of excitement when nothing particularly exciting is going on.

I asked to meet with her after school that day.  I knew exactly what she was talking about.  We see that behavior all the time at home and I am just helpless as to how to parent him.  Mrs. Larsen suggested that we talk to the pediatrician.  She said she’d talk to the school counselor about doing some observations.  We made a plan to form a care team for him and move him to a desk away from distractions.

I called the pediatrician and spoke with a nurse who suggested we take him to a psychologist to test him for ADD.  I wasn’t convinced we needed a diagnosis quite yet.  I spent the last few days online, researching symptoms of ADD and looking for any answers other than medication.

I went ahead and set up the appointment with the psychologist for last Thursday.  Then I called the pediatrician again.  I wanted to talk to Isaac’s doctor, not just a nurse.  I told her all of the symptoms and how I was feeling.  I don’t want to medicate my son.  I’ve been in the education field long enough to know the side affects of the medicines that curb ADD symptoms: suicidal thoughts, depression, sleeplessness, loss of appetite/weightloss.  My skinny Randall clone can’t afford to lose any weight.

The pediatrician made me feel better about the whole thing.  She said we don’t need a diagnosis at this point.  If Isaac’s school work isn’t suffering and he’s not a huge disruption to the class we’ll just keep an eye out on him and see how it goes.  She was very patient with all of my questions and agreed with my instinct to try everything (diet changes and focus practice) before medication.

We went ahead and kept the appointment with the psychologist.  I wanted to talk with a professional to get advice about how to parent my kid! There’s so much more to talk about than just a diagnosis and medication that may address the symptoms.

Randall was worried that if we went to the psychologist, we’d get a diagnosis that will follow Isaac around for the rest of his life.  Will educators look at him and have lower expectations of him because those three letters are attached to his name?  I don’t know.

I’m not worried about him being labeled ADD if he has ADD.  If he needs different expectations and more help in school, then we need to do what it takes to get him that help.

I think what I discovered this week is that I needed the suggestion of a diagnosis, at least, to change my expectations of my kid.  I expect perfection because that is what was expected of me.  I had straight As in school because Bs were unacceptable to me, not necessarily my parents.  I expect my kids to be able to control themselves, because I learned how to control my behavior.  I’ve expected Isaac to be like me because I am me… and quite frankly I don’t know how not to be. I’ve never expected Isaac to be Isaac.  And that’s exactly what he needs for now.  Diagnosis or not.

Mrs. Larsen said that many kids with focus issues can’t stand the pressure of the school work by third or fourth grade.  I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there… Or maybe we’ll just stand in front of it and watch it waver and consider more diet changes and decide not to cross it again…

One of those days.

I haven’t posted anything in a while.  I’m sorry about that.

I don’t know if anyone is sitting around waiting for my blogs, but there is a direct correlation between my writing and the condition of my heart.  If I can’t find the time to write for myself, then my heart is being preoccupied as well.

My boys will be home from school in two minutes.

I’ve just about had it up to “here” this week.

God, I’m at that point again where I don’t even have words to ask for your help.  Give me clarity of mind, peace of heart, and wisdom as I finish out this week.

And here’s the bus…

Perspective

Parenting is so hard.

I know I don’t have to tell you that. There are so many roles to play.  I can be a nurse to my kids.  I can be their cook, their chauffeur, their entertainer.  I really don’t mind being their housekeeper.  I love to be their teacher and friend.  It’s the parenting part of parenting that I just am not good at.

I feel like I’ve tried every theory possible to “train up a child in the way he should go.” But I feel totally helpless sometimes.  We have many good days, but I seem to constantly question my parenting strategies.

I read this a while back. And I’ve read it many times since.  It was eye opening for me. And I’m using it now as a point of reference.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

I can choose to think that I have a difficult child who is driving me crazy in constant battles of will, or I can choose to see him as a child of integrity who isn’t easily swayed from his own viewpoints.

I can take each situation as a lesson to show him how to respect his elders (i.e. fight with his elders), or I can give him opportunities to make wise decisions and be responsible on his own.

I can break his will and teach him to be obedient, or I can foster a relationship built on mutual love and respect.

This article was completely revolutionary for me.  I still have no idea how to put much of this into practice.  I say that my boy is completely opposite of me and I don’t understand him.  In truth, though our energy levels and social attitudes are very different, our interests and personalities (read: strong wills) are very similar.

I think what I’ve needed most is just a change of perspective.

 

God, help me to step back and look at the big picture of parenting.  I so often feel like I just need to make it through the day.  When maybe I should be focusing on a brighter side.  Establishing a relationship with my boys, not just disciplining or rewarding each behavior.  Push back my feelings of helplessness and give me hope for our future.  I need clarity and specific ideas how to set my boys up for success.  I need patience and peace to handle the crazy that is two energetic boys.  Thank you for the personality that you gave my boys.  May they grow and perfect their strengths; Isaac standing up for what he believes in, and Asher caring wholeheartedly for the people around him.  May they use their strengths to do good in this world and make it better than they found it.  Help me to be a good mother, a wise mother, and one that my boys want to stick with and run to in good times and bad.

Tired

Last week at church, we were told that it’s okay to be honest and raw in our prayers to God.  We were asked to take time and write down one of those honest prayers.

I grabbed my sheet of paper and held onto it for a minute.  I started to write something down, and then abandoned it.

I thought about it all night.  What would my honest prayer be?  God is the only person in heaven or earth that I know I can truly trust.  What would I have to say to him that he doesn’t already know?

Then Sunday rolled around.  I fought with my kids all morning.  I’ve come to the conclusion that most of our biggest struggles come with the kids are tired, sick or hungry.  I saw one of those big struggles coming on and quickly went to make lunch.  I set lunch on the table and Isaac and I had it out. Randall walked in the house just in time to hear me crying to Isaac, “I don’t know how to be your mother!”  I didn’t stop there.  I kept talking, surely scarring my kid for life.  Asking out loud if it would be okay to stop being his mother.  To stop doing his chores and cleaning his clothes and making his food.  If he gets to choose not to obey as a son should, could I choose not to obey as his mother?  I answered the question.  It’s just not an option for me.  I wish it were not an option for him to treat me as he does.

I tell you this, so that you will feel like a better parent.  Surely, you’re not as bad as me.  But I also want to tell you my honest heart so that if any of you have felt like this before, you know you’re not alone.  I want to know I’m not alone in this world!  Please tell me someone else has felt this way.

I sat down after lunch (avoiding Randall’s eyes at all costs) and got on my computer.  I typed this up:

 

I’m tired.

I’m tired of cleaning up after ungrateful kids.

I’m tired of making decisions for other people.

I’m tired of yelling.

I’m tired of screaming.

I’m tired of no one listening to me.

I’m tired of not knowing how to parent my child.

I’m tired of discipline.

I’m tired of rewards.

I’m tired of holding back four letter words.

I’m tired of filtering.

I’m tired of constant loud bursts of gas exploding out of mouths and other orifices at all hours of the day and night.

I’m tired of boys.

I’m tired of tears.

I’m tired of whines.

I’m tired of being mom.

I’m tired of the headaches.

I’m tired of the early mornings and early bedtimes.

I’m tired of homework.

I’m tired of synchronizing calendars.

I’m tired of my seat getting kicked in the car.

I’m tired of the interruptions.

I’m tired of stepping on legos.

I’m tired of sticky walls and sticky floors.

I’m tired of smelling urine when I walk near a bathroom because someone has found a way to pee in crevices that cannot be reached.

I’m tired of scraping toothpaste off the mirror.

I’m tired of forcing my kids to apologize or to say please and thank you.

I’m tired of hearing my son tell me he doesn’t love me.

I’m tired of suppressing the feeling that I don’t like him much either.

I’m just… tired.

 

I put the computer down and went on with my day.  Randall and I actually had a very nice (and greatly needed) date that night.  We left before dinner and spent the whole evening together.  It was lovely. I didn’t even realize at the time that the ranting above was my honest prayer.  But God answered it. He does that a lot; answers my prayer before I even knew I had prayed it.

The rest of the week went by and it was a good week.  Not all flowers and roses.  No rainbows or unicorns.  But a good week.  My boys and I made some memories.  I got more hugs in one week from my oldest boy than I have in months combined.  I wonder if he’s afraid that if he doesn’t hug me, I’ll quit on him…

Or maybe God’s working on his little heart, and mine.

In the News

So, I honestly want to know what you think about parenting in the news.  We’ve got stories like this one:

To be compared with stories like this one:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Not to mention, there are parents like this out there:

Y’all better redneckognize how these decisions are affecting our children.

Y’all better redneckognize how the media is affecting our parenting!

Why is it that police are being called on parents who are giving their children opportunities to grow, and learn, and be independent in relatively safe environments (LaPorte, TX isn’t the only police department arresting good parents), while questionable parents are being rewarded with their own TV shows?

The media highlights the most interesting stories.  It highlights the exceptions to the norm.  But what we see and what sticks in our memories, are the horrible things that may possibly happen to our children.

I looked up the statistics.  Don’t look up the statistics.  The truth is, any possibility that my child could get abducted, or hurt in any way is scary.  But the statistics show that your child is most likely to be safe.

Stereotypical kidnappings happen about 115 times a year.  Total.  Not percentage, not per 10,000 children.  Traffic accidents are down since when we were growing up.

And my thought is, even if I’m outside watching and playing with my kid, if my hands are not on them at all times, I can’t prevent them from getting hurt anyway.

I have trained my children to be aware of their surroundings.  I have trained them to cross the street carefully.  I have told them about strangers and we read a Berenstain Bear book about it. The book is great about teaching children that not every stranger is dangerous but they can’t judge a person by what they look like, so it’s safest to not talk with them and certainly not go anywhere with a stranger.

I read this recently and it rocked my world.  I’ve since told my kids that strangers aren’t the real threat, “tricky people” are.  This is great information because the majority of the crimes you want to protect a child from occur with someone they know.

Okay, quit thinking about all the awful things that could happen to your children.  Let’s think about the freedom, independence, and sense of adventure that you could be giving your children by allowing them to play by themselves.

Seriously, what do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion!