The 3 Words That Can Revolutionize Motherhood

It was one of those early school mornings that started out with Cap’n Crunch cereal for breakfast. Just a regular Thursday, the same kind we have most every week. The details don’t matter, but a simple request quickly escalated into an argument between parent and child.

It was over nothing, really. But then why did it hurt so much? Small things can still temporarily turn a home into chaos.

And while I packed lunches and wiped up spilled milk and tried not to cry over it, I wondered for the 100th time in the last month if I’m doing this parenting thing right.

My husband and I are constantly learning on our kids and just when we get the hang of one phase, a new stage leaves us reeling, wondering what just happened.We try to look past our children’s behavior and see their heart. Why are they so angry right now? Why are they so defensive? What is really going on in their heart? 

Before my husband left for work, we talked about it for a minute.  “We have amazing kids. Some days though, I wonder how we should handle things. Maybe we need help or something?” I could hear his frustration because I felt it, too.

And with each new parenting phase, I wonder Is this normal? Are we normal? Are we doing this wrong? Do other parents deal with this kind of thing? I wish I could ask someone who’s been here before.

I thought about digging into the parenting books on my shelves and googling for answers. I thought about the hard morning and whispered a prayer for help.

An hour later, my doorbell rang. It was a friend coming over to volunteer to send out packages for the Mercy Shop (in the building in our backyard). We started off just chatting and she said something about her four daughters, all but one grown and out of the house.

I sort of jokingly said that I could use a parenting mentor and then I did something I wasn’t planning on:  I poured out my heart standing right there in my kitchen.

And she let me.

I told her how inadequate I felt, how one day I was mom of the year and the next day I was mom getting kicked in the rear. I told her how I hurt for my kids and how some days we hurt each other. I told her that my children were going to change the world, but some days they rocked mine.

I cried.

And then my friend said three words that were better than anything I could read in a parenting book written by a PHD. and more relevant than a counselor’s couch or a magazine article.

“This is normal, Kristen,” I breathed in deeply.

This is Normal - 3 words that can revolutionize motherhood

“You are normal to feel this way. Your kids are growing up and this struggle is normal, too.  I’ve been through it with my kids and it will get better. Keep loving them. Keep being consistent,” she encouraged me. She told me her own crazy stories when her kids were at home and with each one, I felt more relieved. She told me how beautiful and strong her daughters were today and how they could laugh about the hard days. And with every word, I let my heart believe This is normal. We are normal. It’s going to be okay.

And maybe my normal isn’t really all that normal? What is normal anyway? But that’s not really the point.  She could have easily said I have no idea what you’re talking about or my kids never acted that way.

She could have made me feel worse by saying nothing at all.

Instead this older mom who was further down the road listened to my struggles and patted me on the arm and her simple response encouraged me not to give up. This is normal was another way of saying you’re not alone. This is normal is saying this too shall pass. 

Because it really will.

And you know what? What you are facing today –those sleepless nights, that baby that wakes up every hour, the flailing tantrums, the angry foot-stamping, the smelly socks, the lost homework, the food battles, the bad attitudes, the drama, the really awful family fight you had yesterday on the Lord’s Day (ahem) –that’s all normal, too.

Even your child who refuses to wear clothes and runs down the street naked, likely normal (and if not, doesn’t it make you feel better to think it might be just a phase? Or knowing that it will be okay and you’re not alone?)

These three words can revolutionize motherhood.

When we see another mom struggling with something we’ve already endured, conquered, survived, we can change their day by whispering these three words in their ear. I said it to a lady at Target the other day and I watched her sigh at her mismatched child lying in the middle of the school supply aisle.

Because it’s not a mother war we need to fight.

We don’t need more competition; we need collaboration.

We can encourage and empower our sisters with the gift of our words. Look for a mom behind you in this parenting journey and instead of quietly judging her misbehaving children running through the store or staring at her head-banging toddler, or saying nothing at all–smile with her and let her know it’s going to be okay.

Because this is normal.


It Turns Out We are Crazy Cat People and Other Half Truths

1. So, if you follow me an Instagram, you know we got a kitten a couple of days after Christmas.

2. For the kids, or course.

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3. To which, someone responded, you really are THAT family.

4. Let me explain: We had to put our 7 year old dog to sleep a couple of months ago, which left our one year old cat, Tinkerbell, and our youngest child completely distraught because they were the 3 amigos. My daughter cried like the baby of the family that she is and looked at me with such sad puppy dog eyes that I was completely manipulated into a replacement pet.

5. Replacement pets are never a good idea, neither are pet-altering decisions the day you are helping your dog  die. Oh, hindsight. My child reminded me everyday, practically every hour afterwards, tapping my arm over and over “Mom, remember what you said. Mom. Mom? MOM!?!” Until I screamed DON’T TOUCH ME AGAIN. OKAY? Ok. Let’s get a cat.” What can I say? She’s totally the boss of me.

6. We rescued a cat from a home we found on Craigslist that also needed rescuing if you know what I mean. It was overwhelmed with more than a dozen people and enough stuff for three dozen. But that’s a story for the anonymous blog I don’t have.

7. The kitten was free. So there’s that.

8. But it had flees, so after kitten flee treatment, please disregard #7.

9. We (and by we, I really mean the 7 year old child of the family) named the precious 8 week old kitten Periwinkle  (sister of Tinkerbell for all Disney Fairy Fans) and presented her to our one year old cat and she sniffed her head and then slapped her across the face twice with an angry paw.

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10. So, that went well. And then they fought like cats and cats for two weeks.

11. During this time, we discovered the kitten was a thief. Two mornings in a row while I was making lunches, my kids entire sandwiches disappeared. I found empty bags with claw marks and the crusts of the bread (just like my daughter) in a corner of the house. LOVELY, huh?

12. What we have here is a Cat Burglar.

13. Bam.

14. And then one day, the cats were friends. And lived happily ever after. But not really. Tinkerbell is in charge and lets us all know that.

15. Sidenote: Did you know research proves that cats who live with  you think you’re just one big cat? My husband shared that tidbit he read online the other day. Warning: cute sleepy kitten photo ahead

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16. The day after my husband shared that fact, he reached down to pet Tinkerbell and she slapped him across the face and actually drew blood. It was ugly. I tried not to giggle when I said, “You know, she does see you as a big cat. And you just had your first cat fight.”

17. He was not amused and she is currently in a bag.

18. Just kidding. I really just wanted to say he finally let the cat out of the bag.

19. I’m here all week, friends.

20. Is it just me, or does she kind of remind you of Darla from Nemo?? (Don’t shake the bag)

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What Our Kids Really Hear When We Yell

On the day after Christmas, we shoved three days worth of clothes into overnight bags for a trip to my in-law’s farm. We had enjoyed every bit of Christmas Day and put off packing until the next day.

And then the morning of our trip, we overslept.

While my husband loaded five duffle bags and a box full of gifts for his side of the family into the back of the van, I barked the last few orders at my kids.

“Someone needs to feed the cat.”

“Brush your teeth.”

“Get your boots for the farm.”

“Take this out to your Dad.”

I locked the doors and opened the van door. I was met with some pretty nasty morning breath by one of my kids. “Did you not brush your teeth?” I asked in disbelief.

All three of my kids answered no and I about lost my mind. Because. This is not the first or tenth time. You know what I mean moms? I pointed them all back towards the house and ranted, “Why didn’t you brush your teeth? This is not optional. You do this every day, do you hear me?” I yelled as I dug thru a bag for toothpaste.

My girls climbed back into the car after they brushed and I found my 11 year old son still looking for his toothbrush.

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Oh, frustration, we meet again.

“Son, where is it? You should have already taken care of this…I am not going to like it if you have a cavity….” I huffed and puffed.

After he’d finally finished and was heading back out to the car with me following, he stopped and looked at me. “Mom, I know I should have brushed my teeth. I’m sorry. I forgot. We were hurrying… But why are you so angry?”

Do you ever have those parenting moments that feel like a kick in the gut? I stopped long enough to realize my heart was pounding and I was gripping the toothpaste with white knuckles.

While I thought I was lecturing about dentists and hygiene, responsibility and obedience, all my kids heard was an angry mother.

I hate that I yell. I try not to. But some days, I do.

I remember the first time I got angry with my oldest daughter. She was just a toddler when she totally defied me and ran towards the street. My anger sort of shocked me. I was scared to death. I don’t know a mother who hasn’t been angry at her kids for something. It sort of comes with the job.

But this was hardly a life-threatening situation, even for plaque fighters. I started thinking about why I was so angry and when I peeled back the layers, I realized I was fighting for control. I want things done my way. Or at least done. Most of the time, I lose my cool because I’ve lost control: I can’t control my child’s actions and I don’t control my temper.

But I know there is a better to communicate with my kids and encourage them to make good choices. I struggle in this area. I’m not an expert, but  I truly believe it comes down to self-control.

Here are 5 things I’m trying to do when I feel like I’m about to lose my temper: 

  1. Walk away for a couple of minutes. Take deep breaths. Think about this post :)
  2. Ask God for self control often. It’s a gift of the spirit and He loves to give gifts.
  3. Pick my battles. A lot of the time, I’m irritated over messes and things that really don’t matter.
  4. Remember I’m the role model. My kids take cues from me.
  5. Wait to discipline until my anger passes.

When I think about what my son was really hearing–anger instead of instruction, I’m reminded that lecturing and losing my cool isn’t accomplishing anything. It only makes it worse. With God’s help, I’m going to do better.

Do you struggle with this? 


4 [New Year] Goals That Can Radically Impact Your Family

We let the stack of breakfast dishes sit sticky and we stayed around the table… for three hours. What started out as conversation evolved into an epic board game battle while my daughter and I knitted scarves and I’m pretty sure my son refined his noise-making skills. Oh, junior high boys, you are a mystery.

It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t entirely peaceful.

There were arguments with winners and losers and tangled yarn battles and annoyances.

So, basically, you know, family life.

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But there was laughter and love and the one word that has impacted our home more than any other the past few years. Togetherness. There was intentional purpose to make time to be together.

I think in a perfect world, we equate togetherness with peace. But if your world is anything like mine, reality is often chaos. There are tears and fears and giggles and grumbling. It’s a hodgepodge of emotions. But through it all, we choose to be together and that has strengthened us.

We visited House Church (think midweek Bible Study for families) and we ended up at a house without children. The leader offered a TV to my kids, but I asked if we might stay together, study together. My children sat still as church mice on the leather couch in a stranger’s house, quietly listening and I could only think how bored they must be. But as soon as our van door closed, they all talked at once how much they enjoyed the Bible Study and declared being together was the best part and could we please do that again? I smiled wide in the dark car on the way home because I couldn’t agree more.

The world will pull our families apart if we let it. It will divide and separate us and interrupt dinner and encourage us to live for yourselves and forget others. It will tell you to buy into the American Dream for your family and move out of that starter home and build your own little Kingdom of worldly possessions.

But our culture won’t tell your family breaking bread and breaking your life and giving it away is the way to really keep it together.

If you want to change your family, the world, do it side-by-side. It doesn’t have to cost a dime or even that much time. It’s about getting back to the basics and getting back together.

Go to church together. Ride bikes together. Play games together. Clean the kitchen together. Look for opportunities to bond as a family in your every day life and a new year is the perfect time to start.

My kids are getting older and I feel a pull to draw them back in. My one word for this new year: Together

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Start with one or two of these four goals that can radically impact your home:

  1. Eat Together at Home – This is as simple as it sounds, but it’s not always easy. And it’s definitely not a priority in many families (especially as kids get older). When I had toddlers around the table, I just got through many nights. But I did it because it set precedence and one day, your meal will last longer than 9 minutes. As children grow, the demand to move away from the table is strong with practices and rehearsals and games. Fight against it.
  2. Read Together –I don’t have to tell you that reading to your children will change their life. But so will reading with your kids. Several years ago, we moved from reading to our kids to reading books with them. You can check out some recommendations here (I’ve updated the list). Pick a book and read one-page-at-a-time until you’re done. You won’t regret this kind of togetherness. A perfect time to do so is at the dinner table (and a chalkboard table helps busy hands).
  3. Serve Together –By far, this has changed our family the most and kids are never too young or too old to give to others in some way. (I have a huge list of ideas here). After making this a priority in our lives, I’m beginning to see that my children are becoming servants. Start with one or two opportunities a year; it doesn’t have to be about quantity to give quality to your family and others.
  4. Gratitude Together – Get in the habit of sharing the highs and lows of your day together, write down your thanks. Keep a record. Thankfulness and giving our children opportunities to work hard are great ways to defeat entitlement in our home and stir up grateful reflection. I LOVE this for kids: My First Gratitude Journal: A Write-in, Draw-in Gratitude Journal for Kids.

Goals are just that –goals. We don’t eat together seven nights a week, four weeks a month, twelve months a year. But we try to. We don’t schedule things during dinner. We look for opportunities to serve; we practice gratitude. We don’t always hit the mark, but we aim for it and hit much higher than we would if we led life lead us instead of the other way around.

Together.


We are THAT Family’s 10 Most Popular Posts of 2013

2013 is one of those years that was heartbreakingly beautiful.

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Thank you for reading and for being a part of my life. I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.

Top 10 (Reader’s Choice) Posts:

  1. Raising Daughters in a World that Devalues Them: 7 Things We Need to Tell Them
  2. Raising a Pure Son in a Sex-Crazed World
  3. What Every Son Needs to Hear
  4. Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World
  5. An Open Letter to Mothers of Preschoolers
  6. Counter Culture: When Your Kids Feel Different
  7. The Real Family Rules
  8. How to Stay Married in America
  9. The Kind of Fight Every Marriage Needs to Have
  10. 5 Signs Kids are Struggling with Entitlement

2013 in 15 seconds in (Instagram) pictures: