A Letter to My Teenaged Son

The week before you were born I had my first pedicure. It was a Mother’s Day gift from your Dad.

I didn’t have to see my feet to know they were terribly swollen.

I begged my doctor to induce me early–not because I was miserable, although yes. But mostly because I wanted to meet you.

You are my only son.

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And in that one heavy statement- you have already met and exceeded every joy I thought might come with being a boy Mom.

Except for the dirt. There’s been a lot of that.

The years have been short and you become a teenager this week and with that comes a little more freedom, a lot more responsibility and big lump in your momma’s throat.  Thirteen years old. I can’t keep the pantry stocked or your pants long enough. I can’t keep the girls from taking a second look at your lean body and adorable grin and I can’t keep you from flying away.

When I asked you to kiss me on the cheek for a Mother’s Day picture, you blushed and laughed and said, “I don’t really know how to kiss.” I think I will hold onto that moment forever (and try not to bring it up when you show up with a girlfriend on the doorstep in a few years).

A Letter to My Teenaged Son

You are changing daily. You keep more to yourself. You are quiet where you used to be loud. Your wit is razor sharp. You are growing into a man in front of me and there are some (more) things I need to tell you.

Son, there’s a part of me that would keep you young and innocent forever. But that would be selfish. Healthy things grow and you’ve got the growing up part down. The world is a difficult place to navigate, but now that you are a teenager, I have to start letting you try.

I want you to always:

Choose people over technology.

Understand that 6 out of 10 of your classmates will look up porn on the Internet to learn about sex. Don’t be a statistic. As hard as it may be, ask us.

Know there will be times you don’t like me very much. But I’m your mom and you have to get over it.

Remember when a pretty girl whispers she loves you one day that your momma loves you more.

Say you’re sorry when you need to.

Be quick to forgive and slow to anger.

Choose kindness before popularity.

Understand that girls you may be tempted to look at are somebody’s daughter or sister.

Remember social media is a powerful weapon or resource. Your choice. Use it wisely.

Know that ownership is not a right; it’s a privilege. This means your future phone and car and well, everything, is actually mine and your dad’s and we are letting you borrow it.

Have an escape plan for when you feel tempted. Joseph ran from Potipher’s wife and that’s always a good place to start.

Serve other people before you serve yourself.

Be cautious when sending a text message, a picture or replying to one that you wouldn’t want me or your Dad to receive.

Remember you can always tell your Dad and I anything. Everything. Always.

Wait for sex. Some days it will be hard. Other days harder. But wait for it. God has an order and when we stick to His plan, there is a lot of peace and fulfillment. When we get things out of order we end up carry a lot of extra baggage.

Know that God is with you every moment–in joy, in sorrow, in love and life and death.

Extend grace and forgiveness. Especially to yourself.

I love you,

Mom

The Truth About True Beauty That We Must Teach Our Daughters

She tried on every dress in her closet.

And then she moved to mine.

Nothing looks good on me, she said near tears.

The Truth About Beauty That We Must Teach Our Daughters

I wondered how we could both be looking at the same reflection and see something so different. I saw a beautiful teenager getting ready for the luncheon I was speaking at, but she saw much less.

She’s growing into her own skin, discovering what she likes about herself and learning to accept things she can’t change.

It’s hard to be fifteen.

“Honey, that dress looks great. You look beautiful.” It didn’t matter how I said the words, if she didn’t believe them.

I kept checking my watch. I didn’t want to be late, but I really wanted her to go with me like we planned. It wasn’t just clothes, it was imperfect hair and make up and just a bad day.  The harder she tried, the harder she was on herself and the clock was unforgiving.

“Mom, I really want to go with you. But I don’t feel good about myself today and I don’t want to make you feel bad about yourself.” Sometimes the hardest part of motherhood is knowing what to say when your kids hurt. Especially when there just aren’t words to take away their pain.

I tried to comfort her, but eventually, I had to leave. Puling out of my driveway with her standing there, a single tear trailing down her cheek was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Her choice made both of us sad, but I understood it. I still have days when I don’t like me.

I pulled over at the next street and texted my husband, “Be gentle with her.”

But he didn’t see my message because when he heard her bedroom door shut, he was there, lightly tapping on it.

He waited. She didn’t answer.

So he quietly opened the door without saying a word. She was sitting with her back against her wall, torn by her decision. My husband sat down next to our firstborn and put his arms around her.

She put her head on his shoulder and cried.

He held her and never said a word.

He didn’t have to say anything because he already said everything.

By the time I got home, she was in comfy sweats with her hair pulled back and they were baking a cake together. Tears were replaced with teasing and I could tell she was feeling better about the day.

They say beauty is only skin deep, but they probably weren’t freshmen in high school where every day is like a Pinterest fashion show. Our daughters our growing up in an image-obsessed world.

And it can be tough to feel beautiful in a filtered world.

Later, I kicked off my heels and propped up my tired feet and scrolled through Instagram. I clicked on my daughter’s account and scrolled through her images  like I do occasionally and what I saw there took my breath away.

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Pure beauty. The kind that has nothing to do with a bad hair day or clothes that don’t feel right. The kind of beauty that isn’t found in how we feel about ourselves, but instead how we love others-– (which ends up making us feel good about who we are)-that’s what I want my daughters to see in the mirror.

That kind of beauty doesn’t come with a great outfit, a perfect complexion or shiny hair. It is found deep within.

Pulling her aside I showed my teenager the picture. “Honey–this is the first time I’ve seen this photo you posted while we were in Africa at Mercy House. Look at it. You don’t have makeup on. You’re jet lagged and probably need a good shower. But I’ve never seen you look more radiant.”

Bad days are part of life and we don’t always feel good about what we see in the mirror. We have to remind our daughters that this has very little to do with true beauty. They need us to emphasize inner beauty as much as the world emphasizes outer.

She looked closely at the picture of her selfie with her African sisters. I saw her remember how loving others feels. She was reminded that these girls who live on the other side of the globe didn’t care about her outer appearance. They simply loved her for showing up and being their friend.

“You are beautiful,” I said again.

And this time, I think she believed it.

This is the Most Important Thing You Can Do For Yourself This Mother’s Day

I’m no parenting expert, but one time my child did say that I was the best mother she ever had.

So, there’s that.

I love being a mom. At the end of the day–no matter how many mismatched socks are in the laundry pile or how dirty the van is or how many kernels of corn are under the kitchen table, I am glad I said yes to motherhood.

But it’s no surprise that motherhood is hard.

Hard like crying yourself to sleep. Hard like second-guessing every decision. Hard like someone else’s bodily fluids on your person. Difficult mothering days are like a suckerpunch in the gut. And like a mood swing gone wild, the next day is beautiful and tender it takes your breath away and makes you want to do it all over again. And again.

Moms do it all.

We fish the icky things out of the dark scary disposal.

We sniff diapers.

We clean and trim other people’s finger and toenails.

We give up the other half of our bagel so our child can have a second breakfast.

We smell socks to determine if they are clean or not.

We wait for hours and hours and hours in car lines, doctors offices, at dental appointments, practices, rehearsals and recitals.

We clean up messes we don’t make.

We give up our bodies, our beds, our figures, our very lives for other people.

We sacrifice something we really want for something our kids really need.

We say yes.

And then we say yes some more.

We say yes without getting anything in return.

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Because that’s what moms do.

The most important thing you can do for yourself this Mother’s Day: remind mom (even if she’s you) that what you do is important. The unseen, unknown hard work of motherhood is changing your kids’ world.

Even if no one recognizes it. It matters.

Small service may feel small, but size doesn’t matter. What you do matters. It has long-lasting, eternal significance.

And there isn’t anyone else in the world who needs to hear this more: Mom, your small daily acts of service, your mundane–it matters so much more than you think it does.

Because when we embrace our yes–as messy and undervalued as it may seem some days it gives us the passion to keep saying yes every day.

It reminds us why we love being a mom:

We love that our teen daughter wants to borrow our clothes (Keep telling yourself it’s the highest compliment).

We love it when their feet are no longer the same size as ours though. Whew.

We love that our son who will be 13 next week, still grabs our hand when we are walking together.

We love that he mumbles sorry when he drops it quickly-just in case anyone’s looking.

We love that our baby still acts like our baby. But not to be confused with acting babyish. Some things are not meant to be loved.

We love the handmade cards and the small collection of homemade pottery.

We love the noisy car filled with arguing, fighting kids (everywhere we go). Ok. we don’t really love this.

We love the hope that one day our kids will sleep in on Saturdays (This is also when you know that you have ARRIVED).

We love that our children don’t hold grudges and are easy forgivers.

We love that no matter how hard of a day it’s been–no matter how much we yell or mess up, our kids still want us.

On this messy parenting road, we can always find something good to be thankful for. No matter what. Always.

Because deep down, we know one day there won’t be anyone asking to borrow our clothes, reaching for our hand, making us handmade cards, filling our car, our home, our lives with noise, leaving a trail of mess and mayhem in their wake.

We love that even though we don’t love every minute, every phase, every hard mothering day that leaves us weary and wondering if we are doing it right–we love that God chose us to mother our kids.

And that makes even the hard moments, so good.

 

 

[Click to download the above 5×7 Mother’s Day Printable]

edited repost from the archives

Because Sometimes Being the Meanest Mom Might Also Make You Mother of the Year

You’ve probably seen it by now.

The viral video of the Baltimore mother in bright yellow beating the hell out of her rioting teenaged son in the middle of the street.

She’s being called “mother of the year” by some and abusive by others.

And whether you’re cheering her on after watching the video or wanting to call child protective services, I’d bet a dollar her son has called her the “meanest mom in the world” before their very public moment.

Listen. I’ve been called it for much less.

because sometimed being the meanest mom might also make you mother of the year

If you’ve ever told your child no to protect or provide for them, followed through on a consequence with your teenager, or refused to give into their demands, you probably have the battle scars that come with the Meanest Mom title, too. If they are too young to say it, just wait.

I love my kids and my kids love me. But they have tried to manipulate situations, move my resistance, maneuver their way around the truth and mistake my compassion for weakness.

Motherhood is not for wimps.

When my kids think I’m at my meanest, they are really seeing my fierce love for them. They just don’t recognize it for that. 

When I was 16 years old, I misjudged the time and realized I was going to miss my curfew. This was long before cell phones and so I did what any other new driver would do, I sped. Just as the policeman was pulling me over a few blocks from home, my parents showed up.

I’ll never forget their words, “We will take it from here, Officer.”

They didn’t think twice about marching my butt home and if there had been a TV camera, they probably would have waved.

I was never late again.

(I’m about to sign my daughter up for driver’s education and Hey, Mom and Dad–I totally get it.)

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Life teaches hard lessons. And if we let our kids learn them, they might just learn from them.  Sure, we can protect our kids from consequences, but should we? They might just miss the lesson if we rush to make everything okay. Maybe they will think twice before they make the same mistake again.

I go toe-to-toe regularly with my kids. And it’s not because I like a good fight.

It’s because of love.

These are some of the non-negotiables in our house that earn me the Mean Mom title. They are of course, sandwiched in loved, bathed in grace and taught consistently (most of the time):

1. Lose it or break it and it’s lost or broken. (We might help you with it, but if you expect it, we definitely won’t).

2. Our family goes to church. You will go, too.

3. People who live in our house, do chores.

4. We apologize when we hurt people.

5. Your email, pictures and Internet history will be looked at by your parents. (Remember we agreed to this when you received access?)

6. If you don’t take care of your stuff, you can’t borrow mine.

7. If you want something, save your money.

8. Sometimes you have to fail at something to later succeed at it. (This is why I quit reminding my kids to do their homework, check on that missing paper, turn in that extra credit, etc)

9. Eventually, you will run out of clean clothes if you don’t do your laundry.

10. If I go out of my way to help you and you’re rude, the next time you ask for my help, I will say no.

11. We will always forgive each other, no matter what. Love conquers all of the above.

Does this list make me a mean mom? Probably.

Life has a funny way of teaching the best lessons–if we let it. Sometimes the very best lessons are in the consequences.

I hope one day my kids will look beyond the words and rules, and they will understand the deep, abiding love for them that sometimes makes me seem mean.

I know I did.

And who knows, they may even see a glimpse of Mother of the Year.

5 Things My Daughter Is Teaching Me About Changing The World

I emailed the principal at the high school and asked him what he thought about my daughter missing a little more than a week of school to go to Africa with me.

It will be life-changing, he said.

Yeah.

I thought of all the reasons it would change her perspective, remind her what really matters and shift her awareness.

Parenting is funny.

It turns out these are the exact things she is teaching me during this journey. I’ve learned so much about my 15 year old this week and mostly, from her. She’s more compassionate than I thought, more selfless than I imagined, more genuine than I dreamed and she has challenged me to be a better me. She has been to Mercy House many times, but with 6 flights this week to not only visit Mercy House, but also Fair Trade Friday partners in other places, it’s stretched our limits.

It’s like you pour love into your kids their entire childhood and then at the right time and in the right place, they overflow it on others.

Here are 5 things my daughter is teaching me about changing the world:

1. Selfies are okay when they focus on others | I’ve never been a fan of duck lips or selfies. I’ve taught my teen to know there’s a time and place for both. But she chose the right time and the right place because she turned a selfie into something about others and these girls, her peers in so many ways, fell in love with their girlfriend from America. I watched her put them first over and over again and I learned that sometimes selfies aren’t so bad.

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Don’t take yourself too seriously | We have shared a lot this week-a bed and a mosquito net, bottles of water and the same Kleenex a time or two. We’ve traded sweatshirts and soap and a good attitude when things go wrong and a nudge in the side when we needed it. If traveling across the world with your daughter will teach you anything, it’s this: don’t to take yourself too seriously. She reminds me when I’m too proud or frowning. She’s raised her eyebrows at my sighs and impatience. She tells me to smile more and give more. I’ve watched her hold hands and hug dirty children and wipe away a tear or too. She gets it.

Remember to have fun | Sure kids need to be rescued and loved and sponsored, but they also need to have fun.  My daughter is a child-magnet. They flock around her like flies. She’s always ready for a quick game to play. I laughed so hard at the Kenyan chanting slap game the Rehema residents spontaneously played in Kenya.  I stood back and watched, but my daughter jumped right in the middle of a popular game in a different culture and nearly won the bag of Skittles up for grabs.  She’s half little girl and half woman and she’s a constant reminder for me to loosen up and have a little fun.

You’re never too old to try something new | The minute the coffee ceremony started, so did my worry. The black liquid gold filled to the rim and I knew I would need to drink what was offered. My daughter eagerly sipped and nudged me. “But I like tea,” I whispered to her. “Mo-om,” she said. I took a drink and the sweet warm coffee tasted different than I imagined. I took another drink. “I love it,” I whispered. “I told you,” she said. I’ve watched her cross cultural boundaries in fearless abandon. We’ve stepped over rotting oxen heads and legs on dirt roads (the only parts Ethiopians don’t eat), passed out live chickens, and eat a wide variety of different food (turns out lamb is a new favorite for her), but we aren’t big fans of fried termites (yes, we tried them.) I want to be this brave when I grow up.

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Nothing matters more than people | I’m a doer. I’ve always got my nose in a book trying to figure something out or answering an email. More than once my daughter has reminded me to put away my resources and tools and live in the moment. It’s a powerful lesson and she’s a good example.

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Our kids will teach us so much.

If we let them.