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.

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.