Dear Children: Let Me Explain This Thing Called Summer

It was an hour after she got home from Vacation Bible School.

One hour after Water games! Snow cones! a Slimy Craft! Dancing and Singing! The Best Day Ever!

We were in the second week of summer. The second week of sleeping in and she was slipping and sliding

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towards boredom.

Walking around the house, whining about nothing to do.

Kicking her foot and waiting outside the bathroom door. (I wasn’t hiding, really).

Sound familiar?

Go. Find. Something. To. Do.

She gave me an empty stare and then I realized she was waiting on me to tell her what to do, to do something with or for her.

And there it was again, this “You Owe Me” mentality that is wrecking our culture. We do so much for our kids- camps and classes,  back and forth to lessons and events, we spend money and fill their lives with stuff and you’d think they would be oozing gratitude, but we are taken aback when they just want more.

More activities, more fun, more stuff.

More.

And honestly, I can’t really blame my first grader. Because for a long time, I provided The More. I bought into this lie that it’s my job to make my kids’ childhood magical and fun and everyday an adventure all about them.

I have fed the entitlement beast and when it rears it’s ugly head, my children aren’t the only ones to blame.

Our children need to be bored. They need to kick their feet and wait outside of bathroom doors, unanswered. They need to be sent outside or to their rooms to play. They need to turn over the bag of tricks and find it empty.

Because that’s when they will discover they don’t need stuff to fill their time. They don’t need a plan for entertainment.

They can create their own. And that’s when summer gets magical.

I pulled my little one aside and got down on eye level and I said, “Let me explain summer to you, honey.”

“There will be fun days! We will check boxes off your summer bucket list. We will play. We will work. We will serve. We will have great times. But there will also be a lot of unplanned days, there will be empty hours. There will be days when you’ve watched enough TV or we won’t be leaving the house for something super fun.

At first, these days may seem boring or like there is nothing to do. And that’s okay. Because after you whine and perhaps, cry, you will have to make up your own fun. You’ll get into that book from the library. You’ll draw doll furniture and cut it out and give your paper dolls a good home. You will figure something out. I love to see you having fun, but I will not, I cannot make every day fun. It’s not my job to make every moment The Best of Your Life. But it is my job to teach you that the days that aren’t fun usually end up being the best ones of summer.”

She ended up with a bucket of Legos and spent a couple of hours creating the coolest flying space car ever.

Sometimes we have to just wait for our kids to remember just how fun boredom can be.

C’mon, moms! Who’s with me?

Read more about how we are trying to conquer entitlement in our home in Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly Safe Faith is No Longer Enough.

4 Conversations We Need to Have With Our Tweens

A long, long time ago, I taught one year of first grade.

It kicked my butt.

It was hard and I realized not everyone who likes kids should be a teacher.

I loved recess the most–like most of my students. I loved it because the kids would get out their pent-up energy. And the 6-7 year olds loved it because it was free time. It was also the time they would talk. And by talk, I mean share. New words were learned and stories were told.

The playground is where my daughter first heard the words french kissing. Which is obviously kissing in Paris. And before you think this is why we don’t send our kids to public school, a homeschool friend explained the word porn. Because kids.

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There is education and then there is education. We need to talk to our kids about things kids are talking about. I don’t want my kids believing everything they hear, but if I’m too embarrassed or too shy to brooch the subject, then I’m having to reteach something they already have an opinion on–likely from George on the playground who has a big brother or Sally who watches too-mature movies.

4 Conversations We Need to Have:

1. We need to talk about sex and all the words we don’t want to say out loud: Y’all. Playgrounds have moved way beyond our memories of it…like when we heard you could be pregnant by kissing in your bathing suit. Kids are exposed to so much more with apps and iphones, unlimited freedom and our sex-crazed culture. Don’t be afraid to ask your kids what they’ve heard. But more importantly, teach them what is right and wrong from God’s standard. And start by listening. When we are quiet, waiting for them to talk, often they do.

2. Address the boyfriend/girlfriend thing: It took all of 9 days of the 6th grade before a girl was asking my son to be her boyfriend. He was shocked and slightly offended. His classic answer, “I’m just a kid. I’m way too young for that. Thanks, anyway!” We have a society of aggressive girls who aren’t afraid to chase our sons. Some parents my expect their tweens and younger teens (under 16) to dip their toes in the “dating” waters, but we don’t encourage boy/girl stuff. At all. It’s not cute or funny. There’s a time and place for it, but it’s not now.

After some probing after an article I read, I asked my 8th grade daughter if anyone ever did “slap ass Friday” (where boys will slap girls on the butt in the halls, while lockering, etc). She said she had seen it going on, but the school was very strict to stop it. “Plus, Mom, boys know I would turn them in so quick! They wouldn’t dare.” We often don’t say anything because we’re afraid we’ll expose our kids to things too soon. We can’t buy into that anymore. If your child is in public or even private school–or frankly, around other kids their age, we need to begin these conversations.

3. The importance of not fitting in: There is a lot of pressure to be like everyone else. I would say it’s even overwhelming pressure at this age. If your kids don’t have church or positive community within or outside of school, they are going to feel some pressure to comply with culture norms. This isn’t always terrible. It’s part of growing up. There is a part in all of us that longs to fit in, but we need to remind our kids that it’s okay to be different.  We need to be talking with our kids about it and praying for good, Godly friends to be a part of their lives. There is a lot of experimenting in tween and teen years. If you’re raising your kids in a with Godly ideals, don’t be afraid to set boundaries.

P.S.  Clothes start becoming a big deal. My son never cared about what he wore to elementary. The first day of the 6th grade changed that. It was a pretty easy shift for me to buy him athletic shorts instead of Osh Kosh (sorry, he’s my baby). I just didn’t know until he told me his preference. And It’s okay to say no to things or fads that aren’t in your child’s best interest. Just because it’s being sold in the stores and “everyone else is wearing it” isn’t enough reason for us to jump on a bandwagon. Modesty is a thing, too.

4. The conversation where we don’t say anything. This is the season where our kids often clam up and stop telling us everything. I think it’s probably because it’s the season parents talk a lot.We list the rules, we nag, we remind, we speak before we listen.  But I’m learning the less I say, the more they open up. Instead of asking “how’s your day?” and waiting for the trite answer, if I’m quiet, they often tell me much more. This might be one of the most important conversations of all.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about anything. They are waiting for you to, whether they know it or not.

Read more about my unexpected journey of wild obedience in Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly Safe Faith is No Longer Enough.

The Problem With Not Having Any Losers

My first grader announced she was trying out for the end-of-the-year school Talent Show with a couple of girls in her class.

They had rehearsals at recess. And she practiced at the kitchen table. And outside.

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I didn’t voice my surprise at this announcement. But I was surprised. She can be shy in front of other people. And she doesn’t usually love that kind of attention.

But I signed the permission slip, encouraged and reminded her that no matter what the outcome, to have fun.

The group did the Cup Song (inspired by first graders who did the same song the year before).

Only my little girl’s cup rolled off the table. Twice.

She seemed a little worried, but nothing that a cookie after school didn’t fix.

When I picked her up the next day, she told me her group didn’t make the Talent Show.

She was disappointed. There wasn’t a ribbon or trophy. No stage or recognition.

We talked about something unique she could do next year. She’s already planning.

Because here’s what she did win: she learned something by losing.

And that made her want to try again.

Losing is a good part of life. It helps us define what we win even in loss. It builds character. It makes us work harder.

Because in real life, not everyone can win all the time..

And that’s why letting everyone win is a big problem.

the problem with letting everyone win

The participation trophies and the we-can’t-pick-winners-because-it-will-make-losers-feel-excluded are nothing more than a temporary reward for our kids. Making everyone feel like a winner is actually creating a culture of people who don’t know how to lose.

And it’s not just in sports and talent shows, last week a school actually called off their annual Honor Awards Ceremony in exchange for low-key recognition that didn’t make the rest of the kids feel left out since honor ceremonies are “exclusive” in nature. Seriously, I thought that was the point. Let’s not reward those who’ve had exceptional grades because it might make those who didn’t feel left out?

Here’s the problem with letting everyone win: When no one loses, it doesn’t make everyone a winner. It robs our kids of a chance to learn through failure or being excluded.

Letting everyone win empowers entitlement. It gives our children the false sense of security that we are owed something just for showing up. Letting everyone win doesn’t really make us work harder. That’s mostly learned through losing.

Participation does not always equal success.

And losing doesn’t make failures.

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” Elbert Hubbard

So, the next time your kid loses or is excluded or doesn’t get picked, hug them. And remind them the real reward is in trying.

Because there’s always next year.

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P.S. Celebrating my book

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13 Things I’m Doing to Prepare (My Kids & Myself) for Summer

Memorial Day.

It’s the day to remember our heroes.

It’s also the day that means summer is right around the corner.

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I love summer.

What’s not to love? There’s unstructured freedom and fun activities, swimming and popsicles, family time. There’s boredom, mildewed towels, sticky floors and arguing siblings.

We have a busy summer since we are heading back to Africa in a few weeks (please pray for peace in Kenya right now), but I’ve discovered summer is better with a bit of preparation and planning.

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Here’s what I’ve got:

  1. I’m unplugging alarms: My kids are tired. I’m tired. It’s been a long school year and we need rest (thankfully, none of my kids want to sleep all day). But it usually takes a good week to catch up and find our stride and we all can’t wait for this one.
  2. I’m creating a list of chores: I’m particularly excited about this one. We usually clean house, do laundry on the weekends, with work and school occupying so much of our weekday time. For summer, my kids will have a couple of daily chores starting at the beginning of the week to complete and then keep up with their laundry and rooms. I’m a firm believer in B (fun) doesn’t happen until A (work) is accomplished as a general rule. It’s a great motivator for kids.
  3. I’m sending one kid at a time away for a week. I’m signing my kids up for church camps at different times throughout the summer. Having one kid away changes the entire dynamic and it’s a great opportunity to spend time with kids at home.
  4. I’m adding service projects to our calendar: Every other Friday, my kids will be going with me to help with the refugees I work with an hour from our house. I’m looking forward to serving withe them and I know this regular dose of perspective will help keep our summer balanced.
  5. I’m buying a local family pool pass. Because Texas heat.
  6. I’m zip-locking the heck out of my pantry and fridge. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve cut and chopped and sorted healthy snack choices in an attempt to feed my family better. They love it and so do I. I think having snack-sized portions sorted out will keep us eating healthy during the summer.
  7. I’m researching summer reading lists-We are big readers, so it’s time pay off old library fines and get reacquainted with the library.
  8. I’m allowing screen time on equal parts reading time. We’ve done this the last several summers: if you read an hour, you can watch TV or have screen time for an hour. I’m more lax on screen time in the summer (school year I’m mommy dearest), but I still like to keep it balanced. Usually my kids will get into a great book and won’t be able to use all their screen time. And it doesn’t roll over.
  9. I’m changing the wifi and Netflix passwords  See #2
  10. I’m putting one child in charge of dinner one night every week, including making a shopping list and menu. I’m looking forward to trying this. I have a rotating helper in the kitchen every night, but I want them to not only learn the “how to’s” in the kitchen, but I think it will help with appreciating how much work goes into a family meal.
  11. I’m having my kids write a summer bucket list (so that when they cry boredom, they can create some fun).
  12. I’m getting up before my kids do to work 6:30-9am because it’s quiet and peaceful.
  13. I’m hiring help for Mercy House. This will be the 5th summer of trying to balance Mercy House and three kids home all day. Uncle.

What are your plans for summer?


7 Lessons Motherhood Is Teaching Me

7 lessons motherhood is teaching me

On a Monday, motherhood might completely baffle me.

On a Tuesday, motherhood might amaze me.

On a Wednesday, motherhood might make me eat a lot of chocolate.

On a Thursday,  motherhood might make me smile–all day long.

On a Friday, motherhood might hurt me.

On a Saturday, motherhood might heal me.

On a Sunday, motherhood might exhaust me.

Every day is different. But every day, motherhood teaches me something.

7 lessons motherhood is teaching me

Seven lessons I’m learning:

1. Motherhood will never be easy (for long)-parenthood is surprising. It doesn’t matter how young or old they are, kids surprise us. Whether it’s poop in the tub or a hug in front of their junior high friends, kids have a way of keeping us on our toes. Just when we think we’ve got them figured out–or motherhood down, they keep us humble. Just ask your mom if she understands you. No matter how kids are, moms still mother.  And our children keep us guessing. They keep us up at night. They keep us on our knees. They keep us.

2. There is no such thing as normal- or perfect or good. The secret behind those 3 magic words this is normal, is the truth, that there is no such thing as normal or right or perfect mothering. Some breastfeed. Some don’t. Some co-sleep. Some don’t. Some cook from scratch. Some don’t. Some work outside the home. Some don’t. When we look past our differences, we discover we are a lot the same. We love our children. We don’t always know what we are doing. We long to know we are doing okay. We are okay and that’s enough.

3. Laughter really is the best medicine-We educate, we motivate, we create. We worry, we fret, we stress. We work so hard at this mothering thing. At the end of a long day, with dirty laundry spilling over and a sink full of dishes, and the mediocre progress report we might give ourselves, laughter fills in the gaps. When a giggle turns into a belly laugh and the whole family joins in and tears stream and you catch your husband’s eye, you know everything may not be perfect, but everything is good. And that’s enough.

4. It’s okay to eat cake for breakfast (sometimes)- Motherhood is teaching me flexibility. I am not a new mother, but I am a slow learner. I like order. I like lists. I like control. I like to do things a certain way. And children like to jump in the puddles instead of walk around them. They like to hide in their sister’s room and jump out and scare them half to death. Regularly. They like to eat cake for breakfast. And every once in awhile, it’s good to let them. Because life isn’t a set of rules or a list of do’s and don’t’s. Some of the best day are the ones that go wrong.

5. We don’t have to have it all figured out-I live in this chapter of motherhood. I don’t always know what my kids need. Does my teen daughter need a hug or an extra chore or both? What’s best? What’s next? What do I do? I have more questions than answers. I am learning. I am making mistakes. I am asking questions. I am okay with what I don’t know today because tomorrow I will be one day further in this journey.

6. We can’t do it alone- Nothing makes me need God more than motherhood. As we parent our kids, God parents us, often teaching us both the same lessons–patience, forgiveness, steadfastness. We need the community of other moms, too. We need to be reminded we aren’t alone. Or crazy.

7. Every day is the perfect chance to begin again- Motherhood has consisted of a lot of new mercies for me. I get it wrong about as often as I get it right. Motherhood has taught me that my children forgive me more quickly than I forgive myself. Today is the best day to be a mom. It’s the perfect chance to start over.

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Whatever kind of day you’re having- an amazing Tuesday or a chocolate-filled Wednesday, look for the lesson.