My Family Rocks (Even When It Doesn’t)

Friday mornings around my house are hectic.

With one kid in the high school marching band with a football game at night, it means for a very long day. This past Friday was no different, except that my marcher overslept, my son had to be at junior high early and my youngest was still asleep. My husband and I tag teamed it and while I took my son to school in the dark, he went the opposite direction with our girls, one still in pajamas.

There was traffic and a bad hair day and drama in the car and a lot of oh-my-goodness-the-weekend-is-almost-here thoughts.

Our second grader is years behind her siblings and usually takes their schedule in stride. But not on Friday.

What started out as a small thing, quickly grew to a full blown meltdown. You know the kind. At one point, she was so angry, she started spouting off all the bad words she knew, words like dumb and stupid and shut up. And then she let out the big one she read on the wall at the taco bar we visited this summer. The one I hoped she had forgotten. I knew it was a mistake eating there when she read loudly off the wall “The best damn tacos around” as we were ordering. A good reader has its disadvantages.

We hushed her and told her that was a bad word. Our first mistake.

Because when you’re riding in your pajamas, taking your sister to high school and you’re not getting your way, those bad words are the first thing you think of. Oh, sin nature, you do start early.

She used the word completely wrong and it wasn’t funny at all-the whole morning was a disaster, and when I looked down at the shirt I was wearing, I really wanted to laugh.

photo 4

Sometimes I think people think our family has it all together. Childless young married couples have told us, “We want our family to be like yours one day.” Oh, to be a fly on our wall.  Sure, we run a non-profit and we said yes to God and it looks good from the outside…like we are perfect parents with perfect kids. And it couldn’t be further from the truth. We are a big fat disaster most days and that’s why it’s remarkable. Because God uses weak, messy people to change the world.

Two out of three of our kids told us we were mean parents that morning. I don’t know what’s wrong with the third one.

But after taking her consequence like a boss, my little girl hugged us hard and apologized. I chaperoned the marching band on Friday night and thought I saw pride in my high schooler’s eyes. And most of all, I was reminded that my family rocks.

Even, when it doesn’t. Especially then.

We are just [damn] normal.

And I have the t-shirt to prove it.

Get yours here.


The Danger of Protecting Our Kids From Unhappiness

I put the Java Juice gift card a friend sent me on the kitchen counter, thinking it would be a fun after-school treat one day. And every time my daughter saw it sitting there, she asked if we could go. She’d never been to Java Juice, but she was convinced it would be her new favorite place.

We finally had a brief break in our busy lives and piled into the car after dinner for a quick trip. But from the moment we buckled seat belts, the arguing started. My kids love each other, but “liking” one another seems optional some days. The bickering quickly escalated and I threatened them from the front seat. Stop or we’re turning around.

They ignored my warning and continued picking and pestering each other. I warned again and they didn’t stop long enough to listen. A mile or so later, I sighed and gave my husband a questioning look. He shook his head no and I knew we were about to have some unhappy kids.

You know that feeling you get when you’re about to knowingly make your kids mad? I hate that. But I’m compelled to do it anyway. Like that time I told my daughter we were done with Disney Channel sitcoms and all their sassy backtalk and bad attitudes. It was like the apocolypse for 30 minutes. I encouraged her to “get it all out” because I wasn’t changing my mind.  She wailed and whined and then in true Disney fashion let it go. She never asked to watch them again.

photo copy

I actually love seeing my children happy and I don’t set out to make them unhappy. But my husband and I are the authority in their lives. It’s our job to place rules and guidelines in our home. It’s also our job to follow thru on consequences when they are broken. One is a lot easier than the other. And so it happens nearly every day in some way–unhappiness.”Disobedience leads to discipline. It’s not a suggestion; it’s a consequence. We discipline our children because we love them,” Jason Sheppherd.

Because their temporary unhappiness as kids–learning to submit to authority and obedience –is worth it if produces adults who love God and others. 

photo

We live in a culture that is obsessed with not only making our kids happy by giving them everything they want, but also by trying to keep them happy. It’s an impossible, exhausting task. I’ve tried it. Maybe you have to. But instead of making kids happier, it just makes them want more. And more often leads to more emptiness.  Because deep down our kids long for authority and structure. They crave guidelines and rules because that’s one of the major ways they fill loved by us.

But that doesn’t make it easy. As a matter of fact, the tension of doing what’s best for our kids even when it means they are temporarily unhappy is just plain hard. I wrestle with it constantly and actually cried a bucket about it recently. The temptation to fix all their problems, ease all their anxiety and make life easier without difficulty or challenge is real. But when we do just that, we actually make life in the future a lot harder. Letting them experience small disappointments now helps them handle big ones later on. And it leaves me wondering if this question by author and therapist Lori Gottlieb could be true: “Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?” 

photo copy 2

My husband turned his truck around and headed back to our house. It took a minute, but the arguing died down and it got very quiet in the backseat. Then there was a little begging, promises and a lot of regret.

But the beauty of parenting is the grace of second chances. That Java Juice gift card will get used and even better, it will be appreciated more the second time around.

And the temporary unhappiness will be worth it.


Navigating Technology With Our Kids in a Screen-Obsessed World

*Updated with Winners* Congrats to random commenters Tanya and Ami!

My oldest daughter got her first school locker at 5th grade orientation at the new middle school.  She nervously worked her combination and adjusted the books on her white locker shelf and added a mirror on the door. I’ll never forget the day four years ago—not because it was a big deal that she was growing up. Because it was. But I remember it more because of how grown up the other kids around her seemed.

The girl next to her had fake nails, hair highlights was wearing name brand clothes head-to-toe and had was going to take notes on a tablet. And at the locker below her, a girl was texting her boyfriend on her iPhone. It felt more like a scene from high school musical than the 5th grade.

little girl behind a tablet pc

I silently prayed I could keep my little girl little and we could navigate these adolescent years well. And we have so far.

When she asked for certain brands, we talked about budgets and saving and through the years she enjoyed a few. When she asked for a smart phone, we told her high school and thankfully, she hasn’t asked for fake nails or a boyfriend yet.

We recognized along the journey that some parents said yes sooner than we did and others said it later. And that’s okay. Because there’s not a perfect age or stage and we are all doing the best we can. I think it depends on what’s right for your family.

I’m not saying it was easy. It was just plain hard at times. I think my daughter must have asked for something we weren’t quite ready to give her a hundred times during those middle school years. We would remind her of our goal. The requests lessened in junior high.

That’s why surprising her a few days ago before she started high school with her own smart phone was a joy for all of us. She was shocked. But she was ready and the moment felt like victory for all of us.

Along with her phone we gave her this contract. It requires phone etiquette and usage rules and where and when it’s appropriate. We all signed it.

It’s just a matter of time before your child has the power of technology at their fingertips. Whether it’s a game system, a smart phone or a Kindle or a laptop, technology is more accessible than ever and it’s here to stay. Every parent reading this handles is differently.  It’s not a question of if, it’s a matter of when.

I love technology. It’s a huge part of my life and I certainly don’t want to rob my kids of the good things that it offers. But more than anything, I want them to understand the power it wields, the dangers that are a click away and make sure they are mature enough to handle it.

It’s a big subject that changes as fast as the next upgrade and it’s our job to not only monitor our kids, but to live by example.

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane helped us with this decision. This summer I read (and endorsed) this important book and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s like curriculum for parents in our tech-savvy and screen-obsessed world and it released this week!

In my daughter’s cell phone contract, we asked that she wait on a Facebook account until she was older, but gave permission for an Instagram account. After a couple of days, she said, “Mom, I’m going to wait on that too. I don’t think I’m quite ready for it yet.”

And I knew we’d waited long enough. She was ready.

Today, I’m giving away two copies of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World. Leave a comment if you’d like to win.


Parenting Doesn’t Get Easier. But We Can Go Easy on Other Parents

That screaming boy in Target.

That mismatched messy girl in the restaurant.

That eye roll.

I have silently judged, questioned and mentally accused the mothers of these children.

Because I was an excellent mother-

Before I had kids.

And then I became a mom and I discovered just how wrong I’d been.

Hand holding cardboard

 

Because if the world judged how great a mom I was by my well-behaved kids who are styled to perfection without ever displaying attitude or laziness–I would be in deep trouble.

Parenting is hard.

The kind of hard that knocks you off your feet, leaves you gasping for air, and has you wondering what the heck just happened all before 8 a.m.

I used to think if I could just get them to sleep through the night or eat their veggies or stop crying, or pick up their toys, or stop fighting with their siblings, or make a new friend, or get a better grade or stop slamming their doors, or fill in the blank–then parenting would be easier.

But then I realized parenting doesn’t get easier.

It just changes.

I understand now that the little boy is probably screaming in Target because his mom told him no. She is being consistent even though it’s hard. She’s second-guessing herself and she really just wants to cry along with him.

I get the mismatched messy girl at the restaurant because that mom chose her battle. She let the little things go and is just simply doing her best.

I can now appreciate letting teenagers get away with the eye roll. Because you can’t win them all.

Once I heard a exuberant, quirky guest speaker say, “You might think I’m wrong because I do things different than you do. You might wonder why I get excited more than most or pump my fist or jump up and down. You might judge me. Go ahead. Because you don’t know the road I’ve walked. You can’t understand that this fist bump means I haven’t quit. This jump means I will not give up. I may not do things the way you do them, but I do it my way for a reason. And that doesn’t make me wrong.”

The thing is we may never understand why other parents do what they do. And then again, we may totally get it when we reach that next trying and beautiful phase.

But the truth is we all know how hard parenting is. We all try to do our best, hoping we offer our kids mercy or justice when it’s needed most. We all love our children. The last thing we need is to second guess the way someone else is parenting.

An encouraging word, a kind look, a sympathetic smile can change someone’s day. Including your own.

And if your a parent, you’re going to need it.

 


A Back to School Prayer For My Children

Dear God,

School starts today. Thank you, thank you (sincere holy whisper). We both know that momma’s bag ‘o summer tricks is plum empty and hiding in the bathroom while my children argue upstairs is not going to work much longer.

School still life with copyspace on chalkboard

We’ve got brand new school supplies tucked neatly into clean backpacks. The kids each have squeaky new tennis shoes and their first day of school clothes picked out, except for my son who doesn’t care, but you know that already. Thank you for providing every bit of it.

We’ve spent the last couple of days getting ready. And ready or not, it’s time.

There are some jitters, wondering about getting the locker open on the first try, making new friends and who to sit by at lunch. And that’s just me. I know my kids are nervous too. You know I got a little emotional this week as I stepped into their world, walking the halls they will everyday. I have some worries, a few fears because I don’t like the cultural “norms” in our world – many aren’t normal at all in our family.  I am proud of the Godly choices my kids have made but with every new school year, they take a step further away from me and that’s hard for every momma.

Diptic

But you urge us not to worry.  So, instead I’m praying this over them today:

I pray you will be near them when I can’t be.

I pray if they don’t feel your presence, they will seek you and discover you’re right there with them.

I pray you will surround them with peace and comfort in every new situation.

I pray when they are pressured, you will help them stand.

I pray they find one good friend, a brother or sister in Christ because it’s hard to stand alone.

I pray that 6 AM won’t come as early this year.

I pray when they fail, they will forgive themselves and try again.

I pray you will give the school nurse an extra supply of patience and bandaids for my second grader.

I pray my kids will befriend those that are new, lonely or both.

I pray they will not sit next the child who has to throw up in the class trashcan.

I pray they will be a blessing to their teacher and not a curse.

I pray you will bless them with Godly teachers as you have in the past.

I pray they will have fun. But not too much, if you know what I mean.

I pray they will let their light shine, quietly or loudly, but in their own way.

I pray homework will be light and not become Home. Work.

I pray that you will help me to trust their choices, let them go even when it’s hard, and pull them close when they need me to the most.

I pray above all, God, that you would use their challenges, disappointments and victories to draw them closer to you this school year.

Thank you for every gift.

Amen

 

edited repost