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Category Archives: All Ages
When our oldest daughter, Hannah, was in middle school I had my first totally gut wrenching experience of watching her be truly hurt by friends. She had been invited to a house for a birthday party with a group of girls from school. When I dropped her off she was all smiles, bouncing up to the door with a polka-dotted gift bag. I remember feeling all warm and fuzzy about the new friends my daughter was making—all was well in the universe.
About four hours later she texted that she was ready to be picked up. When I arrived, she walked out to the car, absent of all bounce. “How was the party hon?” I asked. “It was okay,” she responded sliding into the passenger seat. “Is everything all-right?” I continued, noticing her flat tone. “Not really, Everyone is sleeping over except me. I didn’t get invited to.”
And then she burst into tears.
I can’t begin to explain the flood of intense emotions that rolled over me. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me by a bunch of pimply snap chatting middle schoolers. But I don’t need to explain, Moms, you know exactly what I am talking about.
Not only did I desperately want to hug my child until all the pain was squeezed out of her, but I found myself instantly remembering long locked away feelings of being left out when I was a child…which is always fun.
It. Felt. Awful.
“I am so so sorry honey.” I softly said. “I just don’t know why they don’t like me enough to see me as one of their group,” she sobbed. I had no words to explain…who knows?
We drove home in silence. Both of us hurting and confused.
Now I know some of you moms out there would be making a phone call the next day to the mom who hosted the party, or crossing those girls off your child’s friend list permanently and believe me, I understand. Our mama bear comes out in those situations like a dog chasing a cat. I just didn’t have the fight in me for that one. Hannah and I talked about security in God and not in friends and how much we loved and accepted her in our family. But the pain was still there, and to make it worse it happened a few more times that year. More fun.
I actually think in that situation I did the right thing. This was part of Hannah’s friend story. I didn’t rescue her. I just sat in the pain with her. But I didn’t always choose that option. Over the years with our three kids I found other (unhealthy) ways to deal with my pain and theirs.
For example, sometimes after our children experienced particularly painful encounters, I would make secret plans in my head to move my family to a remote country where we would raise chickens and help orphans because of course there would be only rainbows and no pain there.
Other times, I would react, like the time I stormed out of our back door and told off a group of boys that were teasing my son (this had been a repeated event and I just lost all my cool). And then I calmed down. And got the full story. And realized I could have asked more questions and talked to them in a reasonable way about how this behavior was really hurting my son instead of as a freaking out suburban crazy bear mom. And then I called to apologize to all the moms for my overreaction. And then felt even more terrible because one of the moms had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I didn’t know. Geez.
A couple of times I sent emails to moms to try to work out the problems and both times that exploded into an awful exchange of misunderstood tones and meanings. (Important note; DO NOT EMAIL OR TEXT IN THESE SITUATIONS. Resist your inner millennial and pick up the phone).
But most often, I didn’t do anything except brew mean thoughts about those kids who were hurting our kids. How they were just plotting and planning ways to leave our daughter out (which I realize sometimes is the case, but not usually) or how they relished the pain it was causing my son to not get invited to high school social events (ok, relish is probably too strong of a word). I would make up stories about how if I could only give them a taste of their own medicine then they would stop, or that maybe I needed to intercept my child’s phone and send a nasty text back.
So…just so you know I’m not very proud of these thoughts.
Note that what I didn’t at all account for in this inner mental tirade was that our child MIGHT have POSSIBLY contributed to the situation. Which as moms we need to admit is very often the case.
And the problem is that when the next day my child is full of smiles and pep because they are now best friends again with that child that hurt them (AND sent me into an emotional nosedive just twenty four hours before) I was not over it. And would have to drive this child to an activity in a carpool or feed them a snack at my kitchen counter. With a smile pasted to my face.
I was sharing all of this with a close, wise friend few years ago and she (as good friends should do) said, “Amy. You need to get off this emotional roller coaster. You are riding it right along with your child and they don’t want or need that. They need you to be waiting at the end of the ride, calmly, sanely, with a hug and and ice cream cone. (Well I added that part about the ice cream but I could imagine her saying that.)
And when you watch them get back on the coaster (which they inevitably will), just sit on the bench and breathe and pray.”
In essence she was telling me to get a grip.
She was sooo right and her words were incredibly freeing.
Moms, our kids don’t need a mom who joins in on the railing and complaining against the perpetrator, or a mom who sends and email they might regret, or runs out the back door yelling and pointing fingers. Ahem.
No. They need stable, calm, sane mom. Solid in her foundation as a secure adult who is not rocked by the misdeeds of others (mere children for gosh sake!). Who is confident of her God who loves her and her child…who takes a moment to calculate what time of the month it is before responding like a crazy person.
Our child needs a mom who assures them that everything is going to be okay and asks empowering questions like, “Wow. That must really hurt. What do you think you should do about this?”
Believe me I know this is hard. When our kids are hurt it causes us moms to go a little let’s say…bat you know what crazy. Just ask our husbands. We lose rationality and clear thought. We are out for blood. We are mad. Like a little insane mad. Because these are our flesh and blood and our primal instinct as moms is to protect them from pain at all costs.
The problem is in those moments we are totally focused on the now. Not the tomorrow or the years ahead. Not our child’s long term maturing process. Not our relationships with other moms…like when you will see that other mom at the bus stop or show up for the same volunteer time at your kid’s classroom, or sit down the row from each other at the middle school band performance. Awkward. Not that that has ever happened to me…
In those moments we are not understanding the long term perspective. That our kids really end up being okay. They figure it out. It becomes part of their story, they learn from it how to be a better friend to others and who to choose as future friends. We forget that that child that we are so mad at will possibly be in our home for years to come and really do we want to be harboring ugly feelings for an eight year old mistake when they are fourteen?
So, slowly, I got off the roller coaster of our child’s friendships. I got a grip. Those friendships were brutal sometimes; still are. Just last year my daughter had a incredibly painful friend situation her first year in college. I listened. I prayed for her. I hung up and prayed for my heart which was killing me as I sat over a thousand miles away from her.
But you know what? She got through it. That is the same child who was not invited to the sleepover? She’s amazing. And secure. And has good boundaries. And has an incredible group of friends this year who all flew to our home for a weekend stay and some mountain skiing just last month.
Just last week our seventeen year old son shared that he had been left out of something his whole group did together. They just didn’t want him there. The pain is still very powerful and real. Those mean thoughts wanted to take root. But I just handle it differently now. I pray. I ask God to give me wisdom and peace and to shut my mouth. I listen to my son and if he doesn’t want to talk about it I don’t pry. He will be okay.
They survive. We survive.
The pain…if we can wrap our brains around it moms, is not this evil ugly monster trying to devour our child. If they have a safe and sane place to land at home, the pain turns into strength and learning about how to treat others, and perseverance, and healthy boundaries, and maturity.
I don’t think those girls at the birthday party were intentionally trying to be mean. They were just clueless. Can we give those who hurt our children the benefit of the doubt? And can we acknowledge that our children aren’t perfect and also will cause hurt to others in their eighteen years of childhood? Can we demonstrate grace and forgiveness to those in our home and those outside of our home?
What an incredible example of Christ’s love we can be.
Moms, you are amazing! Press on!
This blog was written a few months ago and I am just publishing it now. I needed to let it percolate and seek the okay from family members, because it is real and a bit vulnerable…but hopefully encouraging to you as you know you don’t walk this parenting journey alone.
I do my best processing of life on airplanes. There is something about being confined to my own little space with no distraction except the occasional beverage cart or turbulent air pocket. I am trapped and it is blissful.
Out in the wide open world I have trouble containing myself. There is so much to see and do and be. I am constantly pursuing and being pursued in wonderful friendships, pouring time into my family and my relationship with the Lord. It too is blissful. Yet my heart and brain are so busy and full that I don’t find much time for quiet reflection. Which is why, right now, I am writing, almost 40,000 feet above the earth, traveling over cities and farmland and lakes, but in my own space of solitude with a blanket on my lap and a soda on the empty seat next to me.
Today I am thinking about parenting. We are in the throws of teenage life.
My husband took me to the airport this morning, he taking his own flights, me on another route, and we will meet up in New Jersey tonight and spend the day in New York City together tomorrow, just the two of us on a little 24 hour vacation. On the early morning car ride I brought up a sensitive topic—one of our children and how to navigate a promise we made to him and that we don’t fully agree on the appropriate reward at the end.
It is just one of the places we spend a lot of time lately-navigating our different opinions on parenting our teenager. Me from my background, my husband from his, we circle the issues over and over, slowly, slowly coming together in the center. It is taking time. It hasn’t been easy.
Up until our teenager parenting years we were always on the same page as mom and dad. A unified front. But what I have realized is that teenagers will peel back all the layers of ourselves, down to the tender core. The stakes feel high. We can see the clock running out on their time with us and we care SO darn much about the people they are growing into.
Teenagers expose our messy, darker sides as we fight to control our emotions, have endless patience, and exhaust ourselves seeking the wisest way to handle each and every situation.
Growth. It is a constant companion these days.
Just this week I smiled with clenched teeth at my daughter in the orthodontist’s waiting room as she argued with me in front of a room full of parents paging through magazines. I reached for her phone after asking her to put it away several times and she pulled it away, thinking we were playing a game. I. Was. Not.
The playful arguing continued, evoking raised eyes and sideways glances from the people sitting around us. Until we got into the car…and I lost it. Unfettered emotion and frustration and embarrassment spilled all over her. She began to cry.
I had surprised her. She thought I thought it was funny, that we were just goofing around. By all my outward signs she was right in her interpretation—getting publicly mad at my daughter and creating a scene is about as comfortable to me as sitting on a cactus. So in the moment I play with fake smiles and clenched teeth “Please give me your phone…”. When inside I am wrapping up more and more tightly, like a coiled spring.
The emotion and tears and raised voices continued all the way home. It was messy. In our driveway, my daughter and I sat and talked it out. I said I understood how she misinterpreted the situation, and that I was very sorry for not handling it better once we were alone. She apologized for arguing and not being respectful. We agreed to do better, both of us.
My tender core. Needing growth, again. So much stretching and learning and being humbled.
And then last night, as we celebrated Father’s Day on our back patio on a stunningly beautiful Colorado evening, my girls called, “Mom! Come hold our feet!” They were upside down, a 19 and 15 year old, in the grass trying to imitate a paired headstand yoga pose they had found in an Athleta magazine. Giggling uncontrollably.
I walked through the grass, stepping on the thick blades and over dog poop land mines. Holding the magazine in the air my girls said, “Hold our feet together this way!” Laughing, I tried…to hold their feet… but they couldn’t both stay in their pose at the same time. Breathless and giggling they kept falling over.
I could only grab one leg and then as the other child’s leg came up the first one would fall. More giggling, “Try again!” More grabbing and falling and mismatched poses. Breathless laughing. “Once more Mom!” We never got it. And it didn’t matter. The point wasn’t “getting it”. The point was the moment together, the laughing and trying and falling.
That is the Parenting Teenagers Experience. Wanting to grab all their feet and connect them in perfect synchronicity to hold the perfect yoga pose. No falling. No multiple tries. Spot on the first try. Wanting the beautiful, composed image of a happy healthy family, like the sculpted Altheta models on a beach in Tahiti or somewhere. Peaceful. Perfect. Balanced.
But instead, grabbing one child solidly only to lose grip on the other. Lot’s of falling over, lots of trying, never quite in sync.
I call these “almost poses.” Almost always showing grace and patience and forgiveness. Almost responding the right way every time. Almost completely understanding each other’s point of view. Almost perfect.
Sometimes this place of “almostness” feels really discouraging. I feel like I should have mastered how to react to stressful situations with my kids at this point, know the wisest call to make at every new issue, and how to always be on the same parenting page with my incredible husband by now.
Other times, when I am in a healthy spiritual place, I see this “not yet there” as a gift of the journey. God has work to do in me, in my husband, in our children. He can’t grow perfect people. He can’t use perfect families to demonstrate forgiveness and mercy and grace and hope.
God wants to sanctify me—the process of renewal and change for His purpose and aligned with his heart.
This is done, I am realizing, in “almost poses,” clumsy and surrounded by poop land mines, and meltdowns in the car. It is where he can do his best work.
Not on a beach in Tahiti.
Those of us who are in this phase of life know what I am talking about. I would encourage you to find a friend who is willing to share about the hard parts, who is striving to be the best mom possible, and walk this journey together.
I have several of those friends, but one in particular, who lives a over a thousand miles away and is walking closely with me through these teenage parenting years. We text each week, sometimes call, sharing prayer requests, asking for advice. We are brutally honest and completely real. She is safe for me, and I for her.
We love our families with a fierceness that gets us in trouble sometimes, but we remind each other to embrace the process God is taking us all through. We sometimes get off the phone completely validated, and sometimes completely challenged to get back in the ring of raising great kids and showing up well for our husbands. It is awesome.
Find your people.
So press on fellow parent. Strive not for perfection but for sanctification.
I’m taking a sip of my Diet Pepsi now, gazing out at the patches of land below as the plane begins it’s decent.
We are almost there.
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A few months ago my daughter, Maddie, asked if I could help her with her homework. I took a screenshot of our text message conversation because it was a painful (but important) truth for me about how she perceived my attentiveness toward her:
Maddie is my brutally honest child. And I love her for it. She felt the need to highlight my history of “un-devoted” or “distracted” homework helping skills in the past. And she was completely right in asking for my complete attention.
See, I am a distracted mom. Ask anyone in my family. I am usually thinking of or trying to do five things at once, because I think I can. But I really can’t, at least not well.
This need to be power productive at all times causes me to forget things my family has said to me because I was half-listening to them in the first place. They often talk to my back as I whisk around the house with an armload of laundry or watering the plants out back or picking up shredded toilet paper rolls off the floor (thanks to our new puppy). Often I am on my computer, responding to emails or blogging–and it’s effort to peel my eyes off the screen and shift my thoughts from what I am writing to what they are saying. I rarely stop and look them in the eye, bend down to their level, put down what I am doing….why? Because I think I can multi-task and meet their needs while meeting mine.
The truth is, I shouldn’t “multi-task” my children. When I do, I am not fully present with them–they only get a slice of me, and the world gets all the other slices. And that sends a powerful message to them about their priority in my life.
I remember through my childhood years and even into college when I would call my dad at work, he would always, always take my call. And he was the president of the company he owned. He had important things to do and important meetings to have. But whenever his secretary let him know I was on the phone, he stopped what he was doing and talked to me. It’s not that I needed to feel loved…I knew he loved me. I think it meant so much because it showed me I was more important to him than all the other important things in his life.
That’s what our kids want. They want to know that when they ask for homework, we think that time together is worth a king’s ransom. They want to know that when they are talking to us, we have eyes for them only, and their words and thoughts they are sharing are more important to us than our phone or computer screen, or the pile of mail to sort through.
It’s not always easy. There are times when our kids just can’t be our center of attention. Maybe we have an important work project due or need to get the dinner in the oven. It’s okay, we need to have grace for ourselves, because it is not good for our kids to be the center of attention all the time.
My point is more this…the reality that for many of us our kids are rarely the center of our attention. At least for me. My tasking, productive, technology-wooed life is a distracted one. I am often not a fully present mom to them.
How about you?
The good news is that change is not that hard. It’s being intentional with some new habits like looking our children in the eye, shutting the computer when they are around or just sitting still and being available. We CAN push past the shiny objects in our day that beg for our attention, and instead give it to our flesh and blood standing right beside us.
I have created a “Distracted Mom Quiz” to help clarify our areas of most distracted behavior and where we are doing a great job. At the end are some practical tips and encouraging thoughts to help us regroup and find our way back to where I believe we all want to be as moms…present and engaged.
So, are you a distracted mom? Maybe ask your kids. Have a conversation with them and listen to their perspective.
Technology and busyness are our greatest barriers to being fully connected with our kids.
How are these getting in the way of your best parenting goals?
I’ve created a quiz to help us figure out exactly where we struggle. I’ve included some tips on how we can start being less distracted moms right now:
And please, don’t be discouraged! This is a tough one friends, but it’s never too late to make changes.
I have been a parent now for nineteen years. Some days I feel like I have learned and grown so much as a parent that I could sit with a new mom and pour wonderful nuggets of wisdom into her cup. Other days I feel completely unequipped and literally exhale doubt and confusion about how to walk this parenting journey well.
Over the years I have garnered advice from various sources and tried numerous “systems” in our home to to be an intentional, character developing mom. Many of the new things I have tried have totally flopped, and some have been a great success. Today I want to share with you three of my most successful parenting “hacks.” These are resources that are not only extremely helpful to me as a mom, but continue to help me again and again as my mothering seasons change:
MOTHER AND SON by Eggerich
This book is a must read for any mother of a son. Eggerich writes about speaking a different language with our sons–a language of respect. We are natural speakers of love and affection as moms, but he teaches us how to reach our son’s hearts by speaking words of respect and honor to them. I began to see changes in my relationship with my son as soon as I started implementing the wisdom in the book. It’s well worth having in your parenting library– you can click here to find it on Amazon:
Mother and Son: The Respect Effect
CIRCLE by Disney
So……this is not my children’s favorite but it is one of mine. I have struggled with managing the technology beast in our house that was threatening some core values we had as a family–protecting what our children watched on screens (what we are putting in to our minds), time spent on screens (how we manage our time), and sleep (…pretty sure sleep can be a core value).
With Circle, you order a small modem that you get for a one time $99.00 fee. When it arrives at your house you plug it in and the modem basically re-routes all the Wi-Fi in your home through the Circle network. You then download an app and from your phone can manage all the users of any device in your house.
For example, my daughter has a computer and a phone. Both of these devices are recognized by Circle which means I can see all the apps on her phone and subsequently manage all of them (Snapchat, Instagram, Netflix, etc.), specifically how long she can be on each app (like one hour on YouTube/day). I can also see what websites she is visiting.
I can also set filters for all the devices (ours are all set to Teen) and set a wake up and sleep time which shuts down the devices at night.
For our family, Circle became necessary when our kids grew old enough to stay up later than my husband and me (actually we are just getting old an needing to go to bed earlier) and we were concerned how long into the night they were on their devices with no supervision. However, I wish I would have been able to start Circle earlier when our kids first started having phones and computers.
As our teens get older, I will graduate them out of Circle since they will need to learn to manage their time on devices on their own, but for now it is helping them set good habits and learn reasonable time limits for their phone and video use (and I don’t think we can protect our sons enough from access to pornography).
You can order CIRCLE HERE if you want to give it a try…it has given me great peace of mind.
FOCUS ON THE FAMILY PODCAST
I started listening to this a couple of years ago and boy do I wish I would have had this resource earlier in my parenting years. This podcast is one of THE MOST helpful and encouraging (and challenging) tools I have had as a mom. The podcast is every day, and it ranges from marriage to parenting to discipline to faith building topics. They are all amazing. But the parenting ones have been priceless for me. Here is the link. I have downloaded the app on my phone and listen while I am driving or doing chores around the house.
So, those are my three favs. I hope maybe one of these is helpful to you in your parenting journey. We need to link arms as moms and encourage and help each other out as we raise our kiddos.
Blessings to you!
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POSTED IN: Christian Blog, CIRCLE BY DISNEY, MOTHERS AND SONS, parenting, PARENTING RESOURCES
POSTED IN: Christian Blog, CIRCLE BY DISNEY, MOTHERS AND SONS, parenting, PARENTING RESOURCES
My husband read a quote on Facebook today:
“I was going to quit all my bad habits in 2017, but then I remembered nobody likes a quitter.”
Ha ha! That quote speaks to what many of us are thinking about as the calendar changes to a new year. We want renewal and change but our good intentions often aren’t fulfilled.
As I mentioned in my last post, I am kind of a New Year’s Resolution geek. And my family gets to entertain my obsession with goal setting just because they love me and don’t really have a choice. I only subject them to this once a year–when we do our family New Year’s Resolution/Goal-Setting night.
All kidding aside, I do think there are some great benefits for taking the time to work through goal-setting as a family; specifically two:
- Our kids learn the habit of self-reflection and the practice of change. It is actually quite easy to move through life without looking back to analyze what we has worked for us and what we can improve upon. Successful businesses do this annually (or even quarterly). They review the numbers or the growth they are trying to measure and make changes accordingly. Why not do this with ourselves and our families? In seeing what did or didn’t work last year we can then work on changing ourselves going forward. I want our kids to learn the gift of self-reflection.
- Our kids learn how to set concrete goals and steps for achieving them. We have all heard how the road to bleep is paved with good intentions. Well, I would love our children to learn the art of actual change and be able to look back on the year and see how their steps toward improvement made a positive impact on their lives. I want them to feel empowered in their lives with the ability to get “unstuck” if needed.
So in early January Jon, the kids and I sat down and worked through some questions and then talked about them as a family. We gave the kids a chance to identify some areas of their lives that they were happy with and some areas where change might be needed or wanted, and we did the same for ourselves. It was great and I would encourage you to give it a try!
If you would like to have a Family Goal-Setting Night, here are some questions for everyone participating to ask themselves:
- WHAT are some areas you would like to work on this year? For kids some examples may be in academics or sports or cutting back on social media. For adults some examples may be finding more time to connect with your spouse or goals with your work life or homemaking.
- What are the SPECIFIC goals you want to work on in the areas you picked?
- WHY do you want this to be a goal? This is one of the most important questions to ask–if we don’t have our strong “why,” the chances of change are pretty slim.
- What are the specific STEPS you can take this year to achieve your goals?
If you are like me and want a more structured plan than open ended questions, I created the FAMILY NEW YEAR GOAL-SETTING PRINTABLE
In the printable each family member can draw circles around areas where they want to set some new goals (spirituality, friendships, healthy eating, social media, screen-time, and family relationships to name a few) and then they can work through how to accomplish those goals.
Here is an example from my own life that I gave our kids as they worked through the printable:
One of my resolutions for 2017 is with meal planning. Last year I put as one of my new year’s goals “to increase the variety and consistency of making meals for my family.” Well, I totally flopped in achieving that goal, and it was a source of frustration for me all year.
But instead of feeling like a total failure as a kitchen maven, I took some time to really look at why my goal didn’t work. In 2016, two of our children had their license, all were in sports or working, involved in youth group activities, and my husband traveled about twenty nights out of the month. We had a revolving front door, with busy teenagers and constantly moving parts.
Even when I thought everyone would be home for a meal, I was constantly disappointed that I had made the effort to cook (something I don’t particularly enjoy) when plans would change and no one was there to eat it. And when the kids did trickle in they were not hungry since they had eaten a snack at work or church.
So this year, I am still going to make it a goal, but tweak it a little. (In the printable I created, each family member can work through these four questions):
GOAL: Planning meals that work for my family’s busy schedule
WHY: This is still an important need for my family and it makes me feel good when our kids are served a nutritious meal at home.
- To prepare a variety crock pot meals that the kids can eat whenever they arrive home. This is far more flexible and appealing than a meal on a plate in the fridge that needs to be reheated.
- To make sure that in our family meeting on Sunday nights I am aware of everyone’s schedule and they are aware of what nights I am making the effort to cook so they come home hungry and expecting a meal.
This was a great exercise for me to work through personally, and I hope you and your loved ones can find some time to do the same.
Click HERE if you would like to try this with your family!
POSTED IN: Christian Blog, family, family goal setting, Goal setting, New Years Resolutions, women's life blog
POSTED IN: Christian Blog, family, family goal setting, Goal setting, New Years Resolutions, women's life blog