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. 

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…

Heartbroken Part 2

“Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early and there are no words that will ease their pain.”

                                  President Obama

What do you do when such tragedy strikes?  How do you go on living after such devastation?

I remember when the Columbine shooting happened in Littleton, Colorado.  I was so thankful that I wasn’t there at that time.  Because I can’t understand how life goes on after something like that.  How do you close your eyes and see anything but haunting visions of that day?  How do you hear anything but the echos of the noise of trauma?  I didn’t know. I still don’t know.

I can only imagine the thoughts and questions that consume someone after they have experienced something so tragic as witnessing a mass murder of children and their protectors.

No. I’m sure I can’t fathom the grief families are experiencing right now in Connecticut.

The hint of loss I experienced when my boys found out the truth about Santa is nothing compared to the loss of innocence in these children.  A loss their parents probably can’t even relate to.  Oh, how this puts things into perspective.

My heart goes out to them all.

God, I have to thank you first and foremost for my children.  For all children.  They teach us how to love, how to be humble, how to be better people. I don’t pretend to understand why you let things like this happen.  But I also can’t comprehend the amount of tragedy that you do prevent.  The amount of lives and innocence that you choose to save on a daily basis.  I know your character is good.  I know you can be trusted.  I know there is a party of innocent little children in heaven with you right now.  They have been saved from having to live through this disaster, and I believe that’s a blessing.  I pray boldly now, for comfort to consume the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I pray that the children in that area will not live in fear.  Give them the ability to grieve in the way that they need to, but give them an otherworldly hope as well.  It’s so hard to see how you can make good come out of this situation, but I pray that you do.  Protect those kids.  Comfort their parents and families. May life after these deaths turn people to you.  One more time, thank you God, THANK YOU GOD for my babies. Bless the people of Newtown, CT beyond what they think is possible tonight and in this season.

What Counts

We never gave our kids a specific prayer to pray before meals, but they seem to have one that they usually say.  It goes a little something like this.

Dear God, Thank you for MommyandDaddyandAsherandforourfood.  Amen.

At dinner last night, Isaac prayed before we ate.  In his prayer, he slowed down, thanked God for his family, asked that God bring Randall home safely to us (it was storming outside and Randall was still at work) and thanked God for our food.

When he said “Amen” I looked at him and smiled and thought to myself, that one counted.

It occurred to me that sometimes I think like that with God.  Some prayers count because we really mean them.  Some don’t.

But I don’t think God counts.  He cares deeply about our prayers, thoughts, feelings and lives, but I don’t think he’s got a tally list anywhere that keeps track of things.

He certainly doesn’t keep track of our sins. Psalm 103:9-12

He doesn’t keep track of our good deeds either. Romans 4:4-5

So what does God count?  I looked up the word “count” in the New Living Translation of the Bible and noticed every reference.  Here’s what God counts:

His creation.  He knows every star in the sky by name.

And his people.  Those who love him and put their trust in him.  That’s what matters to God.

Galatians 6:15 says, “What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.”

When I was a child, I remember my pastor talking about prayer.  He said that a lot of people feel guilty when they go to bed and start their nightly prayers and then fall asleep in the middle of them.  But Pastor Fred said that God thinks your prayers are the sweetest things.  Imagine a child sitting in his father’s lap as he reads him a bedtime story.  If he falls asleep in his arms, even in the middle of the story, it’s the father’s most treasured time with his son.

That image has stuck with me for decades.  God loves you.  He’s not keeping score. Just like you don’t have a running tally of your kids’ mistakes.  Obviously, those moments when you’re speaking to him and your heart is in agreement with your words, those are most meaningful.  But your kids are yours, and if you believe in Him, you’re His and every conversation is meaningful and brings you closer together.

And that’s what counts.

Lesson Learned

Kindergarten

The one thing that annoys me about our elementary school is that you don’t find out who your new teacher is until Meet the Teacher day less than a week before school actually starts. Parents and kiddos wait patiently (or not) outside locked doors and when the doors finally open, there is a mad rush to find out if you got the teacher you wanted. Staff members wait at each door with a list and one by one they find your name and let you know who your new teacher is. It’s very poor planning and really stressful for people like me who like to know what to expect for as long as possible to prepare for a new phase of life.

 

This year, the boys and I got to get in the school early to see a bus safety presentation with a bunch of other new kindergarteners. We walked through the school looking for any signs in the hallway with Isaac’s or Asher’s name outside any teacher’s door, but the teachers were obviously not yet prepared by the time we got to the school. So we headed on to the cafeteria where we met some familiar faces. Many of Isaac’s friends have little siblings Asher’s age so we already knew some of the incoming kindergarteners and their siblings that were attending this meeting.

2009

The kids were introduced to a remote controlled bus who taught them all about bus safety and then they were invited to take a ride on a real bus around the neighborhood. Isaac’s friends were getting in line to ride the bus, and since I knew there would be plenty of seats, I told Isaac to go ahead and ride along.

When the kids got back, the kindergarteners were invited to eat a cookie and have some juice at a few tables set up around the room. The teachers told us the cookies were only for the new kindergarteners but there was more than enough for all the siblings in the room. Isaac waited patiently, and then watched as all of his older friends grabbed a cookie and sat next to their younger siblings. He asked me if he could have a cookie and I told him it was fine with me if a teacher would allow him. So Isaac asked the assistant principal standing nearby if he could also have a cookie and juice. She looked and him and shook her head and told him it was only for kindergarteners.

Isaac politely came back to me and waited awkwardly as every child in the room finished their cookies and wiped their crumby faces. Fifteen or more cookies remained untouched in the middle of the tables and I watched with growing anger as the teachers ignored my polite boy and talked amongst themselves.

I think Isaac and I both were waiting for a staff member to see that there were more than enough cookies for him to have one, but no one noticed. I watched as some of Isaac’s old classmates took a second cookie and tried to contain myself.

Isaac never asked again and honestly didn’t seem overly bothered that he was the only child excluded from the party. We were eventually dismissed to find our classrooms and meet our new teachers.

I walked out of that cafeteria knowing in the back of my mind that this was the first of many rejections my son may receive in his life. It’s a silly example, who cares about a cookie?  But the lesson I was reminded of here is that the good guys don’t always win. In real life, you don’t always get what you want by doing the right thing.

We met our new teachers and they seemed nice enough. But on our way out the door as we passed the cafeteria and tables of lonely, delicious cookies one last time I really had to fight the urge to tell my boy to just take what he wanted. He deserved a cookie and I guarantee that the others were just going to be thrown away within the next hour.

 

Isaac, I am so sorry to tell you that if you continue down the path of politeness; if you continue to do the right thing, you will often stand alone in a room full of people. You may again, be left out of the fun. Selfish people usually end up getting what they want. Someday, you’re going to like a girl and I hate to tell you, but most girls like the bad guys. You will find rejection, humiliation, and defeat throughout your life.

I am also sad to say that this is what I want for you. It breaks my heart that what I’ve told you is the truth, but I want you to always do the right thing. I don’t want you to be selfish.  I don’t want you to do what it takes to get what you want.  I want you always to be known as a GOOD man. I want you to be polite and to make wise decisions and to follow the path that Jesus laid out for us. I don’t want you to get walked all over.  I do want you to stand up and be strong.  And though you may not get what you want, God promises to give you what you need. Though you may miss out on some fun, there can be joy in every circumstance. Though you may not get every girl, you will find a girl who wants you for who you are and she will be worth far more than rubies.

 

SupermanGod, you never guarantee happiness for those you love, but I do pray for happiness for my boys. You never promised riches and wealth, but I do pray blessings on my boys and I pray good things for them.   But more than popularity, I pray for good quality friends. More than happiness, I pray that they can find joy in good times and in bad. More than earthly treasures, I pray that my boys leave a lasting impression on everyone they meet. Though they may stand alone (and I pray they have the strength to stand alone) I pray that everyone else in the room sees the height of their character. May they be strong and wise, and polite and caring.  God, you never promised protection from rejection or humiliation, but you do promise comfort when they come. “In this world you will have troubles…” My joy comes from knowing that this world is just a blip in the vast eternity of life. My joy comes from knowing that this world is backwards from how you’ve created your followers to behave. May we have the wisdom to follow in your son’s footsteps whatever trials we may face. And please give us all the strength to relinquish the cookies and do the right thing.

 

The Truth.

                                                          Ugh.  

I hate being imperfect.  I don’t think most people would think me a perfectionist.  I don’t really fit into that box.  But maybe I’m a lazy perfectionist, if that exists.  My imperfection drives me crazy… but I guess not crazy enough to improve too much upon. 

                                                       I repeat… Ugh.

Last night, I was tired and hot and just plain worn out.  It was past bedtime and Isaac was looking for any excuse not to get ready for bed, as usual.  I told the boys to get their jammies on and brush their teeth while I was finishing the dishes.  Isaac came into the kitchen sniffing and obviously wanting my attention.  I chose to ignore him because I don’t want to encourage that kind of behavior.  I’d rather, he verbally ask for help than wait for me to acknowledge his sadness. But as time ticked away and he still wasnt getting ready for bed, I decided to ask him what was wrong.

“My fingernail bent back,” he said.  I told him I’m sorry, I know that hurts, but to man up and get ready for bed and I went back to doing the dishes.

The truth is: I’m really a very heartless person.  I don’t know why people think mercy is one of my top spiritual gifts.

That’s when Isaac started crying.  Tears were falling down his face and it occurred to me that sometimes all a kid needs is a kiss from his momma.  So I stopped what I was doing and hugged him and told him again that I was sorry he hurt his finger.  I asked him how it happened and we came to the conclusion that it was really just a hangnail.  I told him that I know how much those hurt but there’s not a whole lot we can do about it.  I tried to cut it off, but it was too close to the skin so I found a General Grevious band aid, gently put it on and lovingly told him I was sorry but to get ready for bed.

I went down to finish the dishes and kept sending up reminders to “do a great job on your teeth.”  Asher replied that they were already finished so I told them to get in bed and I’d be up in a second.

I finished the dishes and put everything away and went upstairs about 15 minutes later.  When I came upstairs, Isaac was sitting on the floor playing with his legos and Asher had just made a mad dash for the nearest bed.

I was angry.  I completely lashed out at both boys, but Isaac got the brunt of it.  He immediately started blaming Asher and when we moved past that point, started complaining that his band aid was falling off and he wanted another one.

I told him again to man up and get in bed and if the first band aid didn’t last, a second one wouldn’t either.  I kissed them both and tucked them in and angrily prayed for the boys to go to sleep quickly and to learn to obey.  Do you think that kind of prayer works?

I went downstairs to watch my show, but the computer hadn’t recorded it.  So I’ll have to wait another 30 days before they post it online.  That was upsetting as well.  But then Isaac came down stairs again asking for another band aid.  I was so angry.  I grabbed another band aid and put it on and it immediately wouldn’t stick to his thumb and I told him to just go to bed.  “I LOVE YOU!” I yelled.  “BUT I’M ANGRY.  GO TO BED!  I LOVE YOU, BUT GO TO BED!” I yelled.

Isaac’s and my personalities completely clash.  I do not know how to parent him.  We’re still having the same old battles over who is stronger willed.  I still feel like I have to show him that he can’t out stubborn me.  Randall, lovingly reminds me to choose my battles and not to discipline his personality, but the behavior.  But I honestly don’t understand his personality.  He is weird and overly energetic and 7 and I don’t even remember being 7 and my mom tells me I was never as energetic as him.  And his behavior is blatantly defying his mother, the authority figure.  And you can’t succeed in life, without acknowledging and respecting other authority.  Right??

  No seriously, can someone please just tell me how to parent my children?

Anyway.  I eventually cooled down, and regretted every action that had taken place.  I wanted to make things right before I went to bed.  I went to his bed, and he was sleeping deeply.  I whispered, “I love you.  I’m sorry,” in his ear. He stirred, but was not conscious.  I repeated myself and hugged him and carressed his sweet face.  I didn’t feel forgiven and went to bed sad.

I woke up first thing in the morning and curled up next to him in bed.  I told him I was sorry I was so angry last night.  I asked for his forgiveness and in typical Isaac fashion, his energy got the best of him and he jerked his head back and conked me in the forehead.  I pushed his head out of the way and tried really hard to keep my same “begging for forgiveness” tone.  “Do you forgive me?” I asked.  “No,” he said.  I asked why not and he told me it was because I flicked his head.  I explained that he had just given me a bruise on my forehead and I was pushing (with a flat hand) his head away from my face so he wouldn’t do it again.  He said, “Ok.  I forgive you,” and we went on with our day.

 

Seven year old boys with too much energy that don’t seem to like you at all are hard to love sometimes.  And that’s the truth.

 

It is by God’s grace that I have this beautiful son.  It is by God’s grace for me, that I know how to love this boy.  He is very sweet and very smart and I love his creativity and when he allows me to touch him, I hold him tight and cherish those moments. And when he refuses to let me touch him, I don’t mind too terribly much, because I sneak into his room every night and squeeze him tight and whisper my love into his ear, praying, at least in his sleep, that he knows he is loved by me.


Here’s my conclusion on how to parent two boys: First and foremost, pray a lot.  Pray for patience, pray for forgiveness, pray for health, and pray that you all will make it through the day.  Pray for him, that he will grow and learn and understand your love for him.  Pray for you, that you will make wise decisions and teach him how to be a godly man, and my most common prayer: that I won’t screw them up.                    

              Though I’m sure it’s too late for that…

Secondly, be honest.  Tell him you screwed up and you’re sorry.  Ask for forgiveness as often as you need to.

Thirdly, tell him you love him.  You know it’s true, but sometimes you need to say it out loud to remind yourself.  And if you’re having a hard time remembering that you love him, he’ll definitely need to know that it’s still true. Say it often.  But mean it when you say it… or say it until you mean it.  Just make sure he hears it in all situations. 


The truth is, we are all imperfect.  There is no perfect parent.  And even one that knows exactly how to handle their kids, gets frustrated and screws up every once in a while.  And there is no such thing as “Perfectly Imperfect.”  What does that even mean?!  

 


Isaac I love you when you pummel me with darts.  I love you when we’re at each others throats.  I love you when you listen to the same annoying song over and over and over again.  I love you when you’re awake and when you’re asleep.  I love you because you are sweet and smart and so creative and fun, but you don’t have to be any of those things.  You don’t have to earn my love.  I love you because you are you and you are my son.  There is nothing you can do that will ever stop me from loving you.  And that’s the truth.