Parenting: Why It’s More Important to Be Wise Than Generous

“But, Mom, please

I knew what my answer had to be.

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But it wasn’t going to be easy.

Sometimes right before I tell my kids no, that split second before the word comes out of my mouth, I am afraid.

I am afraid to be strong.

I am afraid I can’t follow through.

I am afraid of what will happen when I say no.

I think every parent knows this fear.

Because it’s often easier to be generous than wise.

Lately, it seems the harder we work at raising grateful, hard working kids that put others first, the harder the job gets.

And when kids resist chores and grumble about dinner, slam doors and argue constantly with their siblings, it makes a parent feel like a complete failure.

We had all of the above going on at the same time the other night.

My husband and I left our kids to clean up dinner dishes and locked ourselves behind our bedroom door. And we asked questions we couldn’t answer: Why is parenting to hard? Are we doing this right? Do we have wine?

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We reassured each other with these truths: It’s okay for children to be temporarily unhappy and their resistance doesn’t mean our failure.

But it’s not going to be easy.

Easy is saying yes to cultural norms.

Easy is giving in to demands.

Easy is being like everyone else.

Sticking to standards, saying no, choosing wisdom over generosity is hard.

I think parental generosity comes naturally. We want to give our kids what we didn’t have, we want to see their faces light up. We want them to be “happy.”

But when we give in too early, too soon or too much, or just because standing our ground is tough, we lose more than we might think. When we cower to an unsatisfied child we both lose.

I’m sure that’s why there are triumphant toddlers leading the shopping trips at Target, young kids playing teen-rated video games and high schoolers in brand new Mercedes. AmIright?

But generosity like this–born out of fear–can be dangerous. Because when we give too much, too soon, we exchange hard work and the hard knocks of life for the easy road. And sometimes the easy road, is also a dangerous one.

And this societal norm of giving kids what they want is causing destruction.

Generosity is great. It’s freely giving to our children. But wisdom is more important because it gives us the insight when to be generous and the courage to say no when our world is saying yes, more, now.

Back in the kitchen, I answered her question. “No, I’m sorry. You’re grounded for the day, remember?”

I braced myself and stood my ground and calmly suggested another day.

When I returned later, that same child was humming in the kitchen, making dessert for the rest of the family. There wasn’t pouting. The anger was long gone. She didn’t ask again.

Sometimes our kids ask for something or demand their way, not to get us to say yes, but to see if we will stick with no.

And sometimes our wisdom begets their generosity.

Moms, don’t give in.

But mostly, don’t give up.


25 Summer Hacks For Moms

We went swimming yesterday.

Which also doubles as bathing.

Because summer.

And we had popcorn, which obviously counts as dinner.

That made me think of all the great shortcuts summer allows.

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And then I asked the brilliant moms in my Facebook community to share their summer hacks.

So, I give you awesome:

  1. Leftover birthday cake is breakfast.
  2. Toweling the floor after a bath equals mopping.
  3. Playing with your kids counts as a workout.
  4. Raisins double as vegetables.
  5. Waking up a little later every day, so instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner, we’re eating just two larger meals each day. With snacks like yogurt, string cheese, trail mix etc, when needed.
  6. Make-Your-Own-Breakfast was such a hit, we added Make-Your-Own-Lunch.
  7. Getting to the library semi-regularly equals the homeschooling structure you were going to keep over the summer.
  8. Playing in the rain or with a hose counts as bath time. It also waters the yard.
  9. Let your boys wear just their underwear to bed. Less laundry!
  10. Or dress in shorts and t-shirt to bed. Already dressed in the morning.
  11. Sandals! No washing socks!
  12. More outside time means less messes created inside to pick up.
  13. Berry picking farms….kids stay busy, they leave full – on fruit, no less! and you have dessert for a few days with some ice cream or cobbler-making.
  14. Visit Costco or Whole Foods when they are passing out samples=free lunch!
  15. Watermelon for lunch.
  16. PJs -> swimsuits -> PJs. Repeat the next day.
  17. Ice cream sundaes once in a while for dinner=happy kids &  “Mom of the Year” award. Win-win for everyone!
  18. Having the older kids read to the youngest to “practice” their reading.
  19. Swim naked in the backyard. Less laundry.
  20. Put soap in the baby pool=bath
  21. Trade screen time for kids for house cleaning chores.
  22. Spirited running through sprinklers = Homeschool PE.
  23. Cereal: a meal or snack.
  24. Jammies all day .
  25. After swim lessons, walk through public shower, put on pj’s, fall asleep in car on way home! No bath, no fighting bed time, no “just one more story, pleeeeeeease!” Grand Slam!

What would you add?

 

*Photo by my friend Taylor Handfelt


5 Things I’m Learning in This Dance With My Strong-Willed Daughters

I see the anger before I feel it. Her fists clench at her side and her dark eyes flash.

I brace myself because I know what’s coming.

Some times it happens when I say the word no or when I say you can’t.

Her passion erupts and she fights hard for what she wants.

She’s not the only one.

I take deep breaths and try to remain calm, controlled.

But she pushes. And I push back.

Words and attitude can be daggers to a heart.

Hers and mine.

I take the bait.

We battle.

I have two daughters, both strong-willed. Both like me.

girls.

Wavy hair. Olive skin. Dark brown eyes. Same nose. We even share identical birthmarks.

But our similarities run much deeper. We are short-tempered. Passionate. We want life to be fair and just. We are fighters. We want our way. We long for control.

And in those strong-willed moments–when daughters demand their way–their strength amplifies my weakness.

Some days we laugh and push through the tough moments. Other days are filled with harsh words and regret.

And I know as I certain as I stand in my kitchen arguing with one of my strong-willed daughters, there will be no winners.

In moments like these when we fight for what we want, we both lose.

When we put our will above all else. we leave a wake of casualties.

Battle-weary, we find a place of peace and talk through the damage of our words. We say our “I’m sorry’s” and we end up stronger in our weakness. I am not her captain or her companion, I am her cavalier, her company and we are on the same side. We are not enemies. It is not my way or hers.

I’m not a teacher on this strong-willed dance floor. I’m a student. Here’s what I’m learning:

  1. Not everything is a battle–but it can be if we make it one. If we are in constant battle about the same things–messy rooms, laundry and attitude, we might win a few, but it might cost us a relationship. Leave the small things, small. That’s not to say we let them have their way all the time, instead we focus on what really matters.
  2. Not everything is personal–but it can be if we take offense. That eye roll or audible sigh–it’s normal. That doesn’t make it right or less frustrating. But most words flung are coming from a hurt or misunderstood place. If we choose to be offended by every word or action, we are choosing something much bigger. Look past the words and get to the heart of the hurt.
  3. Not everything can be won–and if we try to win it all, we will ultimately lose. We are raising, unique, one-of-a-kind girls who will surprise and satisfy us. We have to step back and let them learn and grow and mess up. Most of all, we have to help them find the beauty in every place, especially the hard ones.
  4. Not everything is eternal–but everything is significant. Things in her world might seem small to us. And they probably are–that zit, that boy, that mean girl, that first B on her report card. But if we make what’s important to her insignificant to us, we wound.
  5. Not everything is understood and that’s why listening is the best gift. We may not always understand the drama, the emotion, the passion over the trivial. And that’s okay. We can offer them what they really want and need–it’s not a fix to their problem, it’s a listening ear. Some times the best thing we can do is close our mouth and let them talk.

I’m raising strong-willed daughters. And I’m discovering their passion and determination are the very things that carry them through their toughest times. I’m watching them deflect the world, stand against cultural norms and leave a mark on those they impact. They shine.

And more than ever, I need to remember what the fight is really about.


What I’ve Learned About Motherhood

  • Motherhood has taught me a lot about messes. I only thought toddlers eating spaghetti in a high chair and first graders painting a picture were messy–their art pallets are contained, controllable. Then I had a 12 and 14 year old and their room became their masterpieces.
  • Motherhood has taught me never to start a war over a mess. In the end, it all cleans up and the words and anger hashed over untidiness do more damage than dirty clothes on the floor and mud pies.

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  • Motherhood has taught me to never give up. For years, I’ve carted my kids to lessons and practices, tutoring and rehearsals. I’ve taught them to try and try again and when they don’t know what else to do, I’ve taught them never to give up. It’s a universal lesson of motherhood and I’ve witnessed it this week with young mothers in Kenya–no matter how hard the going gets, there’s always reason to keep trying.

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  • Motherhood has taught me to listen to my own words.
  • Motherhood has taught me to appreciate humor. I only thought my kids were funny when they were little. They have always had a knack for sharing every family secret to every stranger they met. And now they are quick-witted and sarcastic. And I find it brilliant.

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  • Motherhood has taught me to laugh at myself.

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  • Motherhood has taught me to believe in something I cannot always see. I direct my children down a narrow path. I cannot always see the curves and turns ahead and I don’t know what obstacles will be in our path. But we aim our lives and travel together. I believe in the best in them–even when I don’t see it.

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  • Motherhood has taught me the best will come when I least expect it. For me, it was a couple of Wednesday nights ago. It had been a very hard day, with unexpected news that had me needing more of Jesus. And when we made ourselves go to church, I looked down the aisle and saw each of my children, eyes closed, hands raised, singing to God. We took Communion together, and I understood the holiness of motherhood
  • Motherhood has taught me about hope. I have met mothers all over the world –some with nothing, not even clean water or enough food for their families for the day–and I see the same thing in all of them: Hope.

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  • Motherhood has taught me a lot about me. I’ve learned how to forgive and be forgiven. I’ve learned when to offer grace and when to receive it.
  • Most of all, I’ve learned that love  matters most.

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 What is motherhood teaching you?


Dear Moms: Let’s Stop Being Mean To Each Other

Earlier this week, I wrote a letter to my children explaining how summer is going to go down.

It’s been read over 1,000,000 times.

That doesn’t surprise me..

Because we are moms. We have kids. It’s summer. And there is boredom.

 

What did surprise me was the mommy war that battled in the comment section over education choices.

Huh? 

That’s what I was thinking, too. Because maybe I missed the point of my own post?

It started with one mom criticizing another and then retaliation ensued.

But if you dig deeper, it’s pretty clear this battle wasn’t about homeschool, private or public. This wasn’t about summer, boredom, entitlement or education.

It was about respect.

Good, better and best concept

Listen, motherhood is hard enough. We are bombarded with countless choices we make for our children and ourselves. And we often spend hours and days and years second-guessing those decisions.

Breast or bottle? Wean or not? Tummy or side? Schedule or not? Cry it out or rock them to sleep? Organic or processed? And that’s just a small part of the first year. We will make thousands of decisions-right and wrong, good and bad-in the the next 20 plus years. We live. We learn. We get it right; we get it wrong. But we don’t get to decide for others.

(We let our kids use slip and slides and we deal with the consequences. Ahem).

What we must stop doing is attacking other moms when their decisions are different than our own.

We don’t have to always agree; we won’t. We can stand firm in our personal conviction. But we can do so in kindness.

 

There is only a battle when there are two opponents.

 

Putting others down for their choices is really just a way to make us feel better about our own. And if we’re honest, do we ever really feel better after we’ve attacked someone else?

I think most of us want to raise God-fearing, productive kids who are respectful of others.

And that might just start by being kind to those who do things differently than we do.

That’s a decision we can all make.