Sunday, March 13, 2016
I'm writing this on a Sunday night. I have two twelve year olds in my Jacuzzi tub, living it up like they're at a spa and a four year old running around tooting because he's officially entered the Body-Functions-Are-Hilarious stage of childhood. We had a good, nicely paced weekend and it's that time of Sunday night where I think forward to the six days that lie ahead. The time changed last night and daylight just now disappeared after what seemed like many extra hours and we sat out on the deck and enjoyed the cool air and loved it all.
Tomorrow is Monday.
I don't want it to be just another Monday. No blahs, no icks, no yucks. I just don't want it to be that way. I don't want it to be a day of blues or humdrums. No gray. No bland flavors. No counting the hours until Tuesday. No spinning my wheels. No there-has-to-be-more-than this. No flat soda life day. I want the bubbles and carbonated butterflies in my tummy about life.
I want Monday to be neon. Like Cyndi Lauper meets Vanilla Ice meets black light skate night. I want it to be shiny and blinding. I want it to be one big infomercial for Bedazzle. Sequins and rhinestones. I want the feeling I feel when Man In the Mirror or Vogue comes on the radio. I want to turn the day up to eleven. I want wind in my not washed mom-hair and no stains on my tank top. I want a party in my heart. I want Monday 2.0.
It's a Monday I will never have again.
Never again will I wake up to the same small faces. Next Monday, they will be a little more mature looking. A little older. Bigger.
Never again will the exact questions they will ask me come out of their mouths. Next Monday, they'll know a little more and won't need those answers again.
Never again will I get the chance to kiss them in the exact moment of love that will wash over me because of their cuteness or their mischievousness or their fragility. Next Monday, I'll be captivated by something else about them and today's emotion will have been washed away and forgotten in the sea of six days that follow.
Never again will they need me quite this much. Never again will they want me this much.
Never again will I be tired for all the same reasons. Never again will I be this young. Nor will they.
Nor will our time together.
Next Monday, I will have scratched another week off my calendar, pushing them closer to being out my door and across the country from me. Sometimes, like when I walk across a sticky floor I just mopped or don't have a drop of hot water when I want to take a shower, this thought makes me gallop like a unicorn.
Tonight is not one of those nights.
I just want to make it count tomorrow. I want to immerse myself in the routine and the mundane because those are the moments when they're catching more than I am actually teaching. I want to have given myself to them through the sandwiches I make, the fights I diffuse, the laundry I wash, and the hurts I tend to. I want them to see Jesus in how I talk to people. I want them to recognize His nature in my demeanor and my zeal for the day. I want them to learn to wait like it's Christmas Eve for what He will do next because they saw expectancy for good in my every move, even on Mondays. But you know what? It's more than that.
I want to soak up Monday with my kids because I can.
I can touch them. Kiss them. Hold them. Laugh with them. Dance with them. Snuggle with them. Soak them up. Nibble on their ears and smell their cheeks. I can look in their eyes when they're talking to me and notice colors I haven't seen before. I can stare deeply at them and give myself a moment to be in awe of the fact that a few short years ago, my arms were empty. I can drop everything and play hide and go seek for ten minutes with them or demand we all stop and eat a bowl of ice cream right NOW. I can tell them to blow bubbles with their gum and then pop them on their faces. I can breathe them in. I can jump on the trampoline with them (after I put on an adult diaper because I pushed out said children and haven't jumped or sneezed without peeing a single time since). And at the end of all of it, I can tuck them in and sigh with relief that Monday was done well.
They are my Monday.
And because of that, I am going to put my feet on the floor tomorrow and choose to suck the life out of the day before it has the chance to suck the life out of me.
Welcome to Monday, Mommas. This one will come and go. Decide today to take a bite or two out of it. All these Mondays are flying by. A lifetime of Mondays.
Grab one and make it yours.
Monday, March 7, 2016
A smell can do it. Certain scents of pine and cookie and even an odd blend of the two.
Driving by a house at night with a light on inside it... if the curtains are the right color, they do it.
The smell of dinner cooking when the music for the evening news comes on. That does it, too.
There are a few things here and there that immediately take me back to my childhood in a second flat. I never know what the combination will be, but I can assure you that 99% of the time, the sensation makes my heart full, almost aching to go back to that second in time and be five or ten years old again.
I'm sure you'll agree with me that sometimes, in the day to day of mommying, there are seemingly months at a time where all we do is raise our voices or shout, "NO," or referee fights or dole out consequences for the heinous crimes of childhood. For me, a tough day sometimes turns into another tough day as my kids tag team on who's going to take the lead in the ever breathing game of Let's See What Else We Can Do To Change It Up a Little and it often feels like I have fallen into bed fifteen nights in a row frustrated. One particular day recently, I was having a heated and often repeated discussion with my twelve year old, and I distinctly remember thinking as I was in the heat of my monologue, "Is this all she is going to remember about her childhood?"
Such. A. Defeating. Thought.
As I stand in the kitchen in my two-days-not-washed yoga pants, my biggest fear is that all they'll remember is my hair was always a mess and I was perpetually irritated about the wet washcloths left in the bathtub. I fear that they'll look back on their childhood and think I was constantly irritated with them as people. I worry they will forever attach their mom with the memory of a raving lunatic holding a spatula and mumbling under her breath a language they can't decipher but know isn't a good thing. Or that they'll think I was too busy folding clothes or cleaning a toilet to sit down. I fear that they'll breathe a sigh of relief when they leave this house one day because they grew very tired of hearing me lecture about kindness and chores and following through with what we start. I fear so much that they'll look back at entire chunks of their childhood and think it was the worst childhood of all.
Because of me.
Will they only remember this? The stress of me working two jobs and writing a book while trying to give the best of me to them? Will they remember all the times I raised my voice unnecessarily because I was just so tired, I couldn't manufacture one more piece of kindness to give them? Will they sit on someone's therapy couch one day and recall time after time that I was too impatient when I needed them to get their shoes on quicker, or eat their dinner faster, or clean that mess up or stop the dadgum whining? Will they look back on their childhood and see me in shades of tan and gray instead of the iridescent colors I'll see when I look back at their perfect faces?
I can't stomach that thought.
Then I come back to what I know.
I know that my mom raised two very strong girls. We weren't the neatest, nor the quietest, and were definitely not the most considerate kids on the block. We made messes, created chaos, had temper fits, and talked back. We were as opposite as daylight and dark and both of us required something demanding and consuming from our mom. Knowing what I know now about being a mother, I see that she had her emotional, spiritual, and physical hands full. She had very little money to work with, having the budget of a pastor's wife. She had a high school education and was dedicated to being home with her girls while we were little. She was the class mom, the room mom, and the sports mom. We were her job, her hobby, and her very reason to pull every single one of her auburn hairs out of her head on a daily basis. Yet as I look back on my childhood, I remember the most amazing things.
I remember cookies.
I remember laughing until we hurt.
I remember lots of terrible singing.
I remember sitting in the kitchen to do my homework while she cooked, just to be in the room with her.
I remember the best bedtime stories on the planet.
I remember lying on my bed with her, getting the best advice about friends and boys and Jesus.
I remember homemade Halloween costumes and the best birthday cakes on earth with made-from-scratch icing every year.
I remember many heart to hearts as she brushed out my thick hair or braided it before bed so I would have waves the next morning.
I remember her greeting me at the door with excitement, asking all about which girl was mad at who since HE asked HER out and not the girl we thought he would pick.
I remember running home and into the kitchen to find her to tell her my one-day husband finally admitted he had feelings for me, even though he made me promise not to tell anyone just yet. I remember the happy dance she and I did together as we giggled like girlfriends and jumped up and down next to the sink.
I remember popsicles when I had a fever and sleeping in her bed when I had a cough. I remember comfy beds made on the couch during sick days and "whatever you want to watch" times when I was home with cramps.
I remember home cooked meals and tenderly packed lunches and Christmas mornings out of a storybook. I remember every single holiday being celebrated in grandiose fashion.
I remember so much love.
To hear my mom tell her side, she failed a million times. She raised her voice or got frazzled and lost her cool. She dropped balls and forgot things and even raised her overworked hand in anger a time or two. Oh sure, I remember some of the yucky stuff. But those moments are peppered around in a ocean of all that she did right. To be truthful, now that I am a mom, I get it... those moments of humanity that she felt. And in all honesty, those moments make me love her so much more because I know the kind of child I was and how many more moments of the worst of her I actually deserved compared to the best of her that I constantly got.
She chose me so many times.
She chose to be present in the moments that count.
That must be why I remember the things that count.
Mommas, you're choosing your kids way more often than you think you are. You're getting so much of it right. Give yourself a break. We were never asked nor expected to hit every piece of this on target. Childhood really is a big picture ballgame made up of little pieces of significance along the way. Where you're failing them and you know it, change. But as you're mapping out a winning plan, consider in the human factor. That's the spot where you give yourself a margin of mercy for your failings. That's the part that makes compassionate children over the long term. That's the part that takes into consideration the overwhelming heaviness of being the entire world to your children. It. Is. Just. So. Heavy. You're guaranteed to slip under the weight of that. And when you do-- when you find yourself standing in the kitchen wearing pajamas from two days ago while burning pancakes after you stepped in poop that you aren't sure belongs to which child or what animal and shouting at your children to stop yelling about shouting, I want you to remember three things.
1. What you do after this moment is what really counts.
2. They'll laugh when they tell this story one day.
3. So will you.
Go pour a cup and sip on some mercy.
You're doing just fine.
Monday, February 29, 2016
I write this blog the night before Super Tuesday 2016.
I write this blog as our country is yet again at a crossroads and lost for which direction to turn.
I write this blog as we are being inundated with promises and threats and smears and gossip from politicians who promise everything from equal wealth to making America great again.
I write this blog wondering what the world will look like tomorrow night or even more so, The night in November.
I write this blog with a heavy heart, but one that is determined and focused on the two little lives under my roof who are counting on me-- not the President or the many promises swirling around us.
My sister, who is ten years younger than me, asked today if elections are always like this or was she just not paying close enough attention before. We all know that election year after election year, the promises come, the insults roll, and the race intensifies with every passing day. Rumors are spread, scandals leaked, and heads are on the proverbial chopping block as campaigns stop at nothing to get their man or woman behind the desk of the world's most famously shaped office and like sheep led to the slaughter, we believe every single word. This election season, I have to say, tops all the ones I've been a witness to in my 38 years of life so far. I've never been so disappointed in our choices, but even more so, I've never been so disappointed in the behaviors we are witnessing among the contenders and their followers. It's no longer party against party, but now person against person... our own Civil War of sorts happening right under our noses in the most passive aggressive of ways.
Tonight, I wonder as a mom what this means for my children's generation.
I wonder what it means for them if we continue to let hatred run rampant among us as Christ followers. Will people ever know what Jesus really looks like if we say we are His but we look nothing like Him?
I wonder if they'll ever learn to respect authority in a world that equates discipline with control and literally lives and breathes entitlement?
I wonder if their generation will get to participate in elections, or has our generation set the bar so low, it will just require them who can land the heaviest punch to win the White House?
I wonder if their view of people who are different from them will be skewed because of the common place practice now of badgering and belittling anyone who shares a different political, spiritual, or cultural belief from them?
I wonder if their generation will ever learn to say what they feel without fear of being called racist, sexist, or ignorant? Could it be that we aren't setting the best examples for them to follow? What happened to speaking the truth in love?
I wonder if they'll still see people as people when they're my age. Or will people be obstacles to cross or a means to an end of their quest for whatever it is they're searching for?
I wonder if in this day of advancement and progress, where we are so overwhelmingly concerned about equality and political correctness, are we missing the forest for the trees? Isn't every single piece of this a matter of the heart and not a policy we can put into place for humanity to follow?
Oh, how my Momma heart is crying tonight!
- I want my children to see people as people.
- I want them to know that every life matters.
- I want them to stand for what they believe in, while realizing their belief is useless if it's tearing people down when it's spoken. I want their principles founded on the granite Word of God and not the quicksand of culture.
- I want them to work hard and lay their heads down in accomplishment and with a clear conscience at night because they did it the right way and didn't leave a trail of wounded people in their wake.
- I want them to sit next to people polar opposites of them and never be affected by it.
- I want them to look people in the eye and disagree with them and walk away with their integrity in tact.
- I want them to challenge authority while respecting authority even when that person doesn't deserve it. I want my children to respect authority because they know they themselves deserve it.
- I want my babies to see every life through the finished work of Jesus... the greatest world leader, the greatest philanthropist, the greatest influencer of all time. I want their heartbeats to sound identical to His. I want their hearts to break for what breaks His. I want them to line up with His compassion while possessing His steely resolve.
Basically, I am saying that I want my children's generation to turn the tide.
We have to be determined in this hour, mommas. We have to remember that those little eyes aren't looking at who sits in the Oval. They're looking at us. Every President who has put his hand on that Bible and took that precious oath was once a toddler. A nine year old. A teenager. And I don't know about you, but I haven't received a sign from Heaven that I am raising a contender.
But I haven't received word I'm not.
Regardless of the paths my children choose, their lives will impact someone. I have to get this part right so their days will count. I have to choose to seize the opportunities of dinner time, car pool, Saturday chores, afternoon yard time, and Thursday grocery runs to put into practice before their eyes all that I want their hearts to grab about this world and their place in it. If I want them to live it, I have to live it first. I have to live it clearly.
I have to live it loudest of all.
Louder than the candidates.
Louder than their culture.Louder than their peers.
Louder than the easy way or the popular way that will tempt them.
I have to practice what I preach every. single. day.
I do believe America is great.
I just believe my children will make it greater.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
At some point when you're reading this book, you will have the night like I am having tonight. If you have more than one child, you'll have more than one of these nights. And every year, all your life, you'll have them. They never become easier. They are never less bittersweet. You don't look forward to them, but you don't dread them, and no matter how many of them you have under your belt, you find yourself caught in the black hole of nostalgia every single time it rolls around.
It's the night before my son's birthday.
The truth is, I was sure I would never dread him turning older when he was a newborn. After having the easiest baby on earth for our first child, I wasn't prepared for number two in any way imaginable. The first year or so of his life was an endless game of "How Do I Get Him to Sleep More Than an Hour Per Stretch at Night" tag teamed with my second favorite game, "How Do I Get Him to Sleep More Than Twenty Minutes Per Nap." It also was a marathon of endless rounds of, "Why Is He Crying More Than Any Other Baby On Earth," and "Why Does No One Want to Keep My Baby." He's just flat out spicy. He's been spicy ever since he was anxious to get here and grounded me at 31 weeks pregnant. He was spicy since he literally came out of the womb with his eyes wide open and was incredibly awake for the many hours that followed. I remember endless nights of us taking turns shoveling food down our throats in shifts while we held the Newborn Firecracker in lieu of the heavy metal sound of his crying as our dinner music, only to fall into bed for a few minutes before he would wake up screaming, wondering what in the WORLD God must have in mind for this little tenacious life and why He saw fit to choose US to get him there. I would see people with boys aged three or four and be secretly jealous of how much further down the road they were than me.
Now here we are with our foot in the last year of the preschool years and I am wondering where it's all going and how it's happening so fast.
I've written about this before, but I sneak back in every night.
I stand over my sleeping children and kiss their peaceful faces and wonder if I'm getting any of this right. I pray a silent prayer of thanks for the gift of them. And the night before their birthdays, my heart says something like this.
Sleep well, son.
Tomorrow, you'll wake up a whole year older. And I swear that tonight, right in front of my eyes, you grew even bigger and stronger than when you first climbed into bed.
I hope I am getting the important things right for you. You're learning the obvious things-- like no hitting girls, keep your pee-pee in your pants, and don't spit at the restaurant table. You're growing up to know who Jesus is, how to pray for the Holy Spirit to show you where something is that you've lost, and that we need to talk to God about a headache before we take a single drop of medicine. You can count, sing your ABCs, and identify all your colors. But it's not these things that I hope I'm getting right.
I hope I am nailing the less obvious things. The shaping of your character without the breaking of your will. The ability to let you be wild without being reckless. The strengthening of your resolve without feeding your stubbornness. Building your self-worth without nourishing your pride. I hope I am teaching you to see more than what's in the room and to be cautious without being afraid. I hope I am teaching you to ask questions and seek answers. To admit failure and build bridges.
I hope I am teaching you by my life to love.
I know for sure that you know I love you. I'm quite aware it's the bedrock for what God is going to do in you. I take pride in my partnership with Him to lay a foundation of love and security in your life for Him to build mighty fortresses on. Sometimes, it takes my breath away that He chose me to be your advocate, your fan club president, your home. I make it my daily course of study to learn all I can about this masterpiece He handed to me. The streaks of darker brown in your left eye that aren't in your right eye. The one freckle on your nose that's a tad darker than the other ones. Your chipped left front tooth. Your underbite. How you fold your sweet little hands under your cheek while you sleep. How long your strawberry blonde eyelashes are. The way you look for my face in a sea of faces. The tiny things I see that make my heart hurt that no one else sees, like when you're telling a grown up something and they don't know you're talking to them so they walk off and you finish your story to yourself. The way you walk up to the biggest and scariest looking dog at the park without blinking an eye but freak out over the littlest ladybug landing on your finger. The way you look for a way to bless me every day-- a flower from the yard, your last piece of cheese, the first sip of your juice.
I see a giant in you. A man who will lead nations without hesitation and love his wife hard with humility. A defender who will slay giants for his family and hold his newborn baby with tenderness and kindness. I see hands that will fight against injustice but will also raise toward Heaven in worship of His King. I see a lion of a man inside you, my love. You're little but you're fierce. I see the fingerprints of God all over you.
I also see that time is slipping away from us.
You were three tonight, when I tucked you in.
You were wearing blue pajamas with cute little monsters on them. We spent the evening with friends and you hit your head and have a knot. I wrote this blog and you covered my computer with small, squishy plastic frogs and talked about jellybeans and you gave me a lollipop. Then, as you fell asleep, I laid next to you, listening to your voice getting sleepier and your breathing getting softer, your little body finally still after a day and night of constant motion. And in the dark, I got closer. I smelled your head and held my lips on your cheek and wondered how many more years I will be able to snuggle next to your tiny little body as you drift into sleep. How many more years will you want me to be near? I thought of how this time four years ago, I had no idea it would be the last night my womb would hold you. This time four years ago, I had no idea what your cry would sound like or how funny you would be or how enchanted I would be by everything about you.
This time four years ago, I had never loved exactly like this.
So in answer to my question of how many years will you let me snuggle you this way... the answer really doesn't matter. Because I'm your mom and I'll sneak back in like I always do. And whether you're 10 or 18 or 35, I will smell your head and hold my lips to your cheek.
And then, I'll fall to my knees by your bed and thank the Lord of Heaven and Earth that you're under my roof. I'll thank Him that I was the one who gave you life and put Band-Aids on your boo-boos and gave stank eye to the girls who broke your heart. I'll thank Him for entrusting the shaping of your heart into my earthly hands. I'll thank Him for every kiss, every laugh, every smell, every freckle, and every mess.
I am never going to be able to thank Him enough for filling my heart with you. But I am sure going to keep trying.
Happy Birthday, Little One. My heart is so full of love for you, I hurt tonight. It's a pain I wouldn't have missed for the world. And it's one I will carry all my days.
Monday, February 22, 2016
"Mom, am I your friend?"
I'll never forget the day my sweet little (then) seven year old daughter asked me that question with all the love in the world in her eyes.
Everything in me wanted to say, "Yes." Her eyes are the prettiest green I've ever seen. She had the most angelic little cherubim childhood cheeks of all time. The sincerity in her face made me want to sell my last belonging and buy her a snowcone machine and a hedgehog. But in that moment, I knew what she was really asking and it broke my heart as I swallowed hard and said...
"No. You're not my friend. You're my daughter. But one day, you'll get to be both."
She wasn't happy. Not even a little bit. A piece of her heart was broken and there was just no way to explain my heart to her sweet seven year old self at that moment. "Well, that's not nice," she said to me as she stormed out of the room to tell her daddy the news that her mom just told her she isn't her friend. Imagine her chagrin when her daddy agreed with me!
Through the years that followed, I have guarded my words carefully concerning my relationship with my little ones. They're always listening and I always want my boundaries with them to be clear. I call them my buddies, my loves, my darlings, my kiddos, my treasures, my monkeys, my sweethearts, my babies... But I refuse to call them my friends.
Friendship implies equality. It implies that we are walking through life, side by side, enjoying similar lifestyles and hobbies. It implies we have common ground and common goals. That we have paths that parallel and that we are traveling companions. It implies that we are advisors to each other. We are confidants and counselors for each other. It implies we trust each other and need each other for connection and recreation.
Friendship implies partnership.
Now, if you've been a parent more than, oh, five minutes, you know that there is literally nothing that screams equality about parenting. In the duo of mother and child, you know that one is perpetually giving and the other is perpetually taking. You know that one is always needing advice and the other is living the life of a full-time psychologist. One of them consistently gets to live being self-absorbed like the little sponge she is, and the other lives like a fountain of flowing water from an endless spring. One is reckless and naïve and trusting, while the other has to be solid and responsible and fortified for all that lies ahead of both of them.
Bottom line-- if I need her, I can't lead her.
If I need her approval, I will water down my right and wrong to fit her yes and will create a monster under my own roof.
If I need her acceptance, I will bend my backbone to reach her level of growth and will sabotage us both on the floor of her immaturity.
If I confide in her, I will burden her with heaviness that her adolescent heart is not equipped to carry.
If I treat her as my equal, she will not see my authority as her lighthouse of hope when she's struggling and will look for someone higher than me to cast her anchor on.
If I include her in all I do, she will feel entitled to my adulthood even though she has to make her own way in this world.
If I look to be her companion, I am closing the door on the real friendships I need, which truly equip me to be a better mom to her.
If I try to keep her satisfied or happy, I will never get to enjoy the grown up version of her that I know is inside of her, but will have to learn to be happy with a spoiled, narcissistic human that I created out of my own need to be validated and liked. Parenting isn't a popularity contest. It's a marathon of integrity, tears, and the planting of many gardens that take many years to sprout.
I've seen all the commercials and the Hallmark movies and the coffee ads that we get this stuff from. Mom and grown daughter are enjoying a cup of coffee while shopping for the coming grandbaby and they're laughing and making memories and the daughter turns to the mom and says, "You're my best friend," to which the mom replies, "You're my best friend, too." We all cry and we call our moms and thank her for being the best mom ever and for her constant love and friendship.
But what we didn't see are the nights both mom and preteen daughter went to bed with tear stained pillows.
We didn't see the times Preteen raised her voice and stomped her feet and screamed into her comforter because Mom said no.
We didn't see the times Mom left Preteen with the babysitter to go and enjoy shopping with girlfriends or even better, alone.
We didn't see the conversations that ended in, "Because I'm the adult, that's why."
We didn't see the slamming doors, read the text messages that contain the eye-rolling and fire emojis, or hear the school hallway conversations that started with, "Oh my gosh, my mom is the WORST."
We don't like all of these parts.
Suck it up, ladies. We're tending to a precious harvest. We are herding an ever-moving entity of hormones. We're deciphering an encrypted code only we have the magic ring for. We're growing live human beings.
We're growing our future best friends.
All of the hard parts for these 18-20 years are the price we have to pay to enjoy the rest of our lives with our daughters at our side. Because the reality is, one day, we will look over at the passenger in the front seat and say, "I like her. I think I want her to be my friend now." And the time will be right. And we will rejoice. And childhood will be over.
And it will all be worth it.
But you're here, now.
If you stay "mom," you'll get to be friend one day.
Not long ago, I was standing outside of my own preteen daughter's room and I overheard her telling her friend, "My mom is, like, my best friend."
I smiled. And then I started counting the days until I can say that little bundle of estrogen is my best friend.
And then, I went in and told her to put her ice cream bowl in the sink.
We've got a long way to go together.
I can't wait until the Vanilla Bean Frappucino with whipped cream she drinks turns into a coffee with an extra espresso added in. I'll link arms with my friend and we'll girl talk the day away. But for now, my eye is on the ball.
Here's to friendships. And the ones to come.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
If you haven't blown it yet, it's because you're still pregnant.
If you haven't blown it today, it's because your kids are still asleep.
We live, we breathe, we blow it.
My first "blown it" moment came when I was up in the 2 o'clock hour of the morning with my 5 day old firstborn. She had pooped and I was only using a nightlight, so to not rouse her from her drowsiness while we changed and fed. I changed her, fed her, burped her, and re-swaddled her. She rooted and fussed in her bassinet. I rewrapped her, bounced her, sang to her, and tried to get her snuggled back into her bed. She squealed. Bawled. Fretted. Twisted and turned. I tried all of the above again in a tizzy of sleep deprived angst. Only this time, when I took her diaper off to see if she had already messed up that brand new diaper, I found her old poopy one folded up inside the diaper SHE WAS WEARING. My baby was trying to tell me she was miserable with an extra poopy diaper on her bottom.
I changed her and then held her. There was more crying.
But this time, the tears were mine.
I realized in that moment that even though I had read every parenting book on the planet, had studied and asked questions and searched and prepared, and even though my intentions are to walk through hell itself for my daughter's well being, the reality is that I will fail her.
I have failed my kids time after time since that middle of the night in February of 2004. When I raise my voice in frustration over a glass of spilled milk, I've failed them. When I am quick to assume the worst about them, I fail them. When I discipline out of anger, I fail them. When I forget to play a game I promised we would play and bedtime gets here a little too quickly, I fail them. When I fly through my day treating them like they are subtracting value from my life and distracting me from all I "need" to be doing, I have failed them. When I treat them like babies and don't give them enough responsibility, I fail them. When I do something for them because I know they won't do it as well as I would but I don't want to take the time to empower them and teach them, I fail them. Every time I put them off, shut them down, or overprotect them, I fail them. This parenting gig is the hardest part of life.
We fail them.
Not deliberately. I get that. But pain is pain. When our hearts hurt, it matters not that the pain was unintentional. The heart, especially a young heart, doesn't have the ability to automatically sift through the situation and get to the bottom of motives and such. It just knows that pain hurts. As moms, nothing on this earth is more daunting or consuming to our minds than the fact that all is not well in our child's world. And if, God forbid, the pain was dealt by our hand? Sleepless nights and a broken heart are our companions.
There's a difference between a reason and an excuse.
A reason tells all the parts of the scenario that led up to the decision or action that was made. For example, I slept poorly last night, didn't eat lunch, and that led me to have a terrible headache.
An excuse says, I slept poorly last night and didn't eat lunch, so my head hurts and you're just going to have to deal with how crabby I am as a result.
The difference? Accountability.
Accountability says, "These children are making me want to shove toothpicks under my own fingernails today but their very real and terrible behavior doesn't give me the right to wound them."
Accountability says, "I am overworked, underappreciated, and totally forgotten. But these facts don't hand me a ticket allowing me to take out my frustration on my children who are going to be children."
Accountability says, "I am responsible for me."
So what now? What do we do after the moments when we've yelled a little too loudly or we have disappointed or wounded the heart of our child? Here are some things that will help.
1. Take some time and grieve the loss of that moment. Hurt. Feel grief. Feel regret. But accept it for what it is-- a moment in time, and not her whole life. Feel remorse but refuse to let guilt set its camp up in your heart. You're a human who has been given the highest calling of raising other humans. That's reason to feel the gravity of it all, but is no excuse for letting yourself be sucked into the drain of shame.
2. Get down on her eye level and say, "I'm sorry that I______." Don't use an excuse. Own your part. "I should not have spoken to you like that. I am sorry I hurt you."
3. Ask her for forgiveness. In our house, we don't allow each other to say, "It's ok" when one of us asks for forgiveness. It's not ok if we wound each other, period. Forgiveness means to release the offender of the need to pay us back for what was taken. It doesn't mean sweeping it under the rug or writing off the behavior as acceptable. Remind her that being a mom doesn't remove the ability to make mistakes from you. Tell her that by forgiving you, it's like opening a brand new pad of paper to draw a brand new picture with brand new markers. She'll get it.
4. Receive her forgiveness. You need to receive it as much as she needs to give it. That moment is over. You won't get it back, so don't dwell there. Hold her, kiss her, squeeze her, and let her child-hearted mercy heal you.
5. Choose repentance. The word repent means "to turn the other way." God isn't the least bit interested in modifying your behavior toward your children. He wants to change your heart. Worrying about your behavior all the time is exhausting. Walking with Jesus-spending time with Him so we can become more like Him- just automatically sends us in the direction of repentance. He doesn't walk in the direction of destruction or hurt unless it's to rescue us. Walk beside Him and He is sure to lead you in paths of wholeness and before you know it, your apologies will become fewer and farther between. Instead of making your prayer, "Lord, help me not to lose my temper on my children today," why not try, "Lord, make me just like You"?
I believe our children aren't shaped into beautiful adults by perfect parenting. I believe they become compassionate, forgiving, wise, and loving by parenting wins and by our failures. I also believe successful parenting is a conglomeration of wounds and graces and scars and mercies. Today, as you sip on your shortcomings, let God do what He does best-- gather together your ashes so He can grow a garden in them.
You will fail them. But He won't fail you.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
There is more than a 52 week devotional's worth of content about the power of our words, period. That said, I would dare say that there's more than a set of 1985 Britannica encyclopedias' worth of content about the power of our words in parenting.
As in anything you've never done before, it's hard to imagine the gravity of your words in raising children until you're doing it. We spend the first year speaking baby talk, a good 3-5 years saying only the word "no" for 12 hours a day, and then the next 12 years or so constantly thinking, "I probably shouldn't have said that."
I'll cut the chase and go straight to the point.
Words are powerful.
One moment, words from your preschooler can make you feel like a supermodel.
"You're so beautiful in that dress, Momma."
But then, your hormonal preteen daughter can look at you and say, "Are you really wearing that to pick up my friends?" And you're back to doubting your fashion sense because someone with a foot in current pop culture questions your style. Never mind she was wearing a blue tennis skirt over neon orange leggings with her purple "My Mom Thinks I'm Fabulous" t-shirt just 365 days ago. Words are powerful.
A study a few years ago showed the power of words on water molecules. A group of scientists took two samples of the same, pure water and over one sample, they spoke words of appreciation and life. Over the second sample, they spoke words of worthlessness and negativity. Over the course of time, when the study was finished, the sample that had words of life consistently spoken over it had formed crystalline formations in its molecules, creating a beautiful snowflake pattern in the dish. The other group? You guessed it. It literally turned swamp like to the eye and was filled with yuck.
Y'all, if this works on water molecules, our children's hearts are even more so pliable and porous.
I've been a mom for 12 years at the time of writing this book. I've heard and said some of the most far fetched things I never imagined I would along the way. I've spoken words of life over my children and I have also spoken words I had to fall on my knees and pray God would redeem in their little hearts and minds. I thought that today, in honor of words, I would share with you some of the most hard-to-believe things I've ever said to my kids.
I never believed I would say...
Why are your overalls in the toilet?
Did you really poop on that towel?
WHY did you poop on a towel?
No, there isn't a doggie Jesus.
Yes, Momma wipes her own bottom.
No, I don't want you to do it next time.
You can't poke babies in the eye because you think their eyes are cute.
Yes, that baby's eye is real.
You are not wearing your underwear on the outside of your clothes.
Someone get him. He's sitting in the fireplace.
Who put the dog in the garage and left her there?
WHY are you sitting there with the dog's foot in your MOUTH?
WHY DID YOU BITE THE DOG?
What do you mean the bug you ate had pinchers on it?
How much of the dog food did you eat?
Yes, Jesus has a pee-pee.
You can't carry a knife to school in your lunch box.
Do NOT put the iPad in the bathtub with you!
The poop that is laying on the living room floor looks just like a piece of asparagus.
Have you actually been wiping your boogers on the car door?
I can't close the door with you in the refrigerator.
Do NOT take your clothes off in class at church.
Yes, Jesus came out of Mary's you-know-what.
Yes, you can pee in the ocean.
Yes, you can pee behind that bush (outside of Chili's).
Yes, you can pee behind that tree past the slide.
DID YOU JUST PEE IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL THOSE GROWN-UPS TALKING?
Have you showered in the last three days?
Do you actually wash your hair while you're in the shower?
If you DIDN'T wash your hair or your body, what were you doing for THIRTY MINUTES in there?
But more than anything else, I wasn't prepared for how many times I would say:
I love you.
I am so proud of you.
I believe in you.
Will you forgive me?
I forgive you.
You're my favorite.
God loves you.
You can do anything.
I will help you.
Take your time.
Try it again.
You're so funny.
And my favorite, you are mine.
You're going to speak many, many words in the lifetime of your parenting. Some of them will be full of life and power and will navigate your children through the rising and falling tides of childhood and adolescence. Sometimes, you'll think, "Did I really just have to ask who put a sock in the garbage disposal?" And you'll laugh until you cry. But sometimes, you'll cry because you know your words wounded the soul of your little one and you'll lie awake at night trying to figure out where the blueprints are for the time machine that will make it right. Spoiler alert: You won't find it.
But what you will find is that tomorrow, the sun will rise. And with it, brand new, never-been-seen-before mercies for the words you need to speak to make it right.
You blew it yesterday. But I guarantee you that what you spoke rightly far outweighs the bad.
Shuffle to your coffee pot and sleepily pour your cup. And while you stand there, determine to choose words that will make your heart happy when you lay your head down tonight. I promise you, your kids will give you ten reasons to blow it before lunch time.
But they don't get to choose your words for you.