Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Will it mess up my kids?

August 6th, 2018

As we’ve added to our family and as our family has grown older, I’ve discovered that my parenting toolbox is pretty limited. I’ve tried to add to that toolbox by doing some reading on parenting.

Many of the resources I’ve read have offered helpful tools to add to my toolbox. For that, I am grateful. But almost all have come with a healthy unhealthy helping of guilt.

Do it our way, they say, or you’ll mess up your kids.

You’ll mess up your kids if you spank. You’ll mess up your kids if you spare the rod. You’ll mess up your kids if you do time-outs. You’ll mess up your kids if you do star charts. You’ll mess up your kids if you don’t teach them to sleep on their own. You’ll mess up your kids if you let them cry it out.

And every time I read these books, I wonder if I’ve been doing it all wrong. In particular, they make me wonder if the specific parenting choices I’ve made at one time or another are wrong.

Are my children going to struggle for the rest of their lives because I sleep-trained them?

Are they going to struggle to connect with others because I sent them to their room to be punished instead of bringing them close for a cuddle instead?

Are they going to internalize the idea that they’re bad people because I’ve spanked them?

The doubts rise and then I push back. Yes, there is a such thing as abusive parenting. There are better parenting techniques and worse ones. But I reject the premise that every problem in our adult lives is a result of our parents’ doing (or not doing) x.

And then I realize that the real problem with the guilt the books are giving rise to, the real problem with feeling guilty over sleep training or time-outs or spanking – the real problem is that I’m letting the debate over technique distract me from the real issue in parenting.

The real issue, nine times out of ten, is my own heart.

The issue is that I am unloving, impatient, lacking in self-control. It is that I am vengeful, irritable, and selfish. It is that I am ungrateful and unforgiving.

And this issue cannot be solved by just snuggling my kids more or by resolving to not put my kids in time-out. This problem cannot be solved by healing the hurts of my past or by psychoanalyzing my parents.

This issue can only be resolved through repentance and reliance upon God to change my heart.

Rachel Jancovich’s Loving the Little Years is serving as a helpful tool to pull me away from these side issues and to bring me back to my own heart.

“As you deal with your children,” she writes, “deal with yourself always and first.”

I’ve summarized her thought in a single word that I’m reminding myself of frequently (and attempting to put into practice):

Repent.

Because the issue isn’t whether I’m going to mess my children up. The issue is my heart.

You have to have something for you

July 30th, 2018

In our recent conversation about homeschooling, my mom stated that “you have to have something for you”.

Then she elaborated. “Intercessory prayer was that for me. And when you all were very young, Agape Handmaidens.”

That was about the extent of that bit of advice. But don’t let the brevity distract you from the wisdom.

Mom was telling me not to forget self-care. This is good. This was good for me to hear from my mother. Because self-care is a buzzword in today’s mommy-world and I’m often quick to dismiss it (out of distrust for anything popular in the parenting world).

But Mom’s elaboration also emphasized the difference between the popular conception of self-care and Mom’s conception of it.

Popular self-care involves manicures and pedicures, massages and spa days, hotel stays. Lots of money. Lots of time. Lots more money for babysitters.

Mom’s self-care was intercessory prayer: spending a couple hours a week praying for others with others, while we kids were babysat (when we were very young) or played independently in our pastor’s basement. Agape Handmaidens? One morning a month the ladies of the church got together to work on hand-work while the children were babysat. Mom often brought laundry to fold while she chatted with the other ladies.

That’s it. That was her self-care.

For this time-starved, uber-frugal mama, that’s exactly what I need to hear.

I do need to have something for me. Taking the time to prepare for and go to Tuesday Connection, our ladies’ Bible study at church, is important. Having that conversation with adults? That’s important.

But I don’t need to feel guilty that I’m not spending lots of money and lots of time doing those things that seem to me like pointless indulgences.

More what?

July 25th, 2018

We were having plums for lunch, so it was perfectly reasonable that Tirzah Mae started to chant “More nectarines!”

I gave her a slice of plum. “Here is some plum.”

Then Louis began the chant. “More Macarena!”

I sighed. “Yes, you can have more plums.”

And then Tirzah Mae began again. “More macaroni and cheese.”

I give up. The silliness index is off the charts.

Separating “I wish I could have” from “I wish I had”

July 18th, 2018

When I was in Lincoln last month, I asked my mother about homeschooling. Specifically, I asked her what advice she would have given twenty-seven-year-old her as she embarked on her homeschool journey.

She had a hard time coming up with an answer because, she told me, “There are things I wish I could have done, but they just weren’t possible.”

She wishes she could have taken more field trips with us. But she had seven children in ten years – and taking those field trips just wasn’t possible.

She wishes she could have provided more opportunities for certain of my siblings to follow their interests more. But those things just weren’t possible in the circumstances she and we were in.

So she did what she could.

Even though that statement wasn’t advice, per se, I found in it a useful principle.

It’s valuable to separate the “I wish I could have” from the “I wish I had”.

Maybe I wish I could do x, y, or z but time, money, or energy makes it impossible.

I wish I could have taken my older littles to baby storytime at the library – but they were NICU babies and needed to avoid other kids.

That’s a clear cut one. Others aren’t so obvious, but they’re there anyway.

I wish I could do more outings with the children period – but I’m a homebody and I get really crabby at my children if I’m running all day. In this season of intensive mothering, limiting our time outside the house to two days during the week keeps me sane and enables me to manage myself and treat my children with compassion (most of the time).

Sometimes, I need to let go of the things I wish I could have done. I need to let go of the dreams I had of being this or that sort of mother.

I need to do what I can, not be forever regretting what I can’t (or being a terrible mother in the now because I’m doing something I really shouldn’t).

Side note: Lest you get the wrong impression, 27 is what my mother would have been (give or take) when she was in my situation child-wise. I got started quite a bit later and am definitely *not* in my 20s any more :-)

Learning to say “Please”

May 4th, 2018

Tirzah Mae and I just happen to be learning the same lesson these days. Now that she is three, and now that I have three children, we’re learning to say “please”.

Tirzah Mae is learning to say “please” as an alternative to making demands. I’m learning to say “please” as an alternative to “No, I’ve got this.”

For Tirzah Mae, learning to say please is about reorienting her natural ego-centrism that thinks the world should jump at her beck and call. Instead of “give me some water”, she’s learning to say “May I have some water, please?”

For me, learning to say please is about reorienting my natural pride that thinks I should be able to be self-sufficient. Instead of, “No, thanks, I can handle everything myself”, I’m learning to say, “Yes, please, I can’t do it on my own.”

So, when the nurse offers to push the stroller when I’m rounding up the children for our doctor’s appointment?

Yes, please.

When the library assistant offers to continue checking out my books while I take a newly potty-trained little one to the bathroom?

Yes, please.

When a fellow library patron offers to put my books in the bag so I can soothe the baby that’s beginning to fuss in her sling?

Yes, please.

When the lady at the grocery store offers a hand when I’m juggling kids and groceries and a phone call?

Yes, please.

It’s a lesson I think I’m learning just in time – because three is becoming four. We’ll soon have a little guy joining our family, for as long as he needs us.

Which means I need to step up my “please” game and ask for help instead of just accepting it.

Please pray for us as we open our home and our hearts to this precious little one. Please pray that the gospel would grow deep in our hearts and in his as we seek to practically minister the gospel to him.

Mornings at Prairie Elms

April 20th, 2018

There’s a baby giraffe and a baby hippo on the side patio, which makes today the perfect day for Louis to finally be strong enough to open the patio door. I shut it tight and hold it while trying to decide whether I should call the zoo or animal control. Who does one call when exotic animals are loose?

Tirzah Mae flicks on the overhead light, awakening me from my dilemma. I fear she’s also awakened Beth-Ellen – but Beth-Ellen’s belly is still full from her dawn feeding a half-hour prior, so she settles back down in her bassinet after a few kicks to make sure mama’s fully awake.

I get out of bed to turn off the light – and lead the naked Tirzah Mae to the laundry room for some clean panties. “There aren’t any panties in my drawer,” she gave as an explanation for turning on my light. “And the music is off.” Technically, the “music off” rule is for rest time – she’s supposed to stay in bed in the morning until the sun comes up. But morning comes earlier to her east-facing bedroom than to my north-facing one, and I see that she hasn’t broken the “sun-comes-up” rule.

Louis lets out a single pitiful “help” and I get him out of his crib. He and I head back to my bed, where Tirzah Mae joins us as soon as she is dressed. Why do I persist in getting back to bed once they’re up, I wonder. It’s not like I’m going to get any more sleep.

While I’m fumbling with the key to get out my medicine, they’re arguing over who gets to be next to mama.

By the time I’m done taking my medicine, Louis has moved on to repairing the headboard with his “impact driver” (a small water gun). Unfortunately, the repairs that need to be done are directly over Tirzah Mae’s head, which is currently nestled in my right armpit – and under Louis’s foot.

I start to intervene with the usual “don’t step on your sister” rule when the impact driver drops below the bed.

“Saved!” I think, as Louis moves to the side to find something else to do with his relentless energy. But then Tirzah Mae begins to cry. She really wanted the impact driver herself and now it’s gone.

Five minutes later, I’m putting a mallet in time out because it was being naughty and hitting someone’s head.

I give up on trying to take my blood pressure and get out of bed instead.

Louis had not yet started trying to open the little plastic packages mama keeps in her bedside table. We were ahead for the morning – best to get out of bed and keep it that way.

A tale of two batteries

April 12th, 2018

I clicked on the mouse.

Click. Click.

Nothing.

I turned the mouse over to see if it was turned on.

Rattle. Rattle.

That’s not normal.

I opened the battery slot to discover…

that Louis had taken out the mouse’s AA battery and replaced it with the baby monitor’s AAA battery.

He’s been using the baby monitor as a clothes iron.

Heart outside my body

February 5th, 2018

Elizabeth Stone (whoever she is) once said that “making the decision to have a child… is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.”

Most of the time, when I read this quote on a pretty background while scrolling through Pinterest, I roll my eyes. That is everything that is wrong with parenting these days, I think. Parents are just too absorbed in their children.

And then my baby gets her first cold.

All my children

I remember it with Tirzah Mae, a few weeks after she came home from the hospital. She was snuffling and gasping and we’d been trained into terror of RSV by the NICU staff.

We took her to our doctor, who smiled indulgently at these first time parents freaking out about a simple cold. He described the warning signs of something worse than just a cold and sent us home (thankfully, he didn’t /doesn’t subscribe to the “give a baby antibiotics just to ease troubled parents’ minds” line of thought.)

Even knowing that Tirzah Mae’s cold was just a cold, I still felt with every labored breath that my heart was rattling outside my chest – and that said heart was just about to break.

Somehow, it doesn’t get easier. Beth-Ellen was a term baby. Her objective risk of serious complications of a cold is lower than the other children’s risk was. I’m a more experienced mom and have weathered dozens of colds.

But when Beth-Ellen got a cold this weekend, at just shy of six weeks old, my heart was out there coughing. And when she lost her voice and could only squeak instead of screaming? My heart, oh my heart, squeezed until it’s crushed. And when she started wheezing with every breath in and out? I was sure she was dying – and that I was dying with her.

And just as I’m about to wake my husband and tell him we need to head to the ER (but am worried because, for some reason, it seems like every time we go to the ER, the problem resolves while we’re there and I look like a fool) – anyway, just as I’m about to wake Daniel and head off to the ER, I remember where my heart actually belongs.

My heart doesn’t belong in my children’s chests. It doesn’t even belong in mine. My heart belongs to God.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 ESV)

Sure, I’d prayed for Beth-Ellen at our evening devotions, and earlier when she’d come up in my prayer app. But during all this worrying? I hadn’t been entrusting her to the Lord.

I stopped. I confessed my lack of trust. I prayed for healing and for wisdom to know when to have Beth-Ellen seen. I entrusted my daughter to God’s care, entrusted my heart to him.

And the labored wheezing settled, the noisy breathing calmed, the restless sleep eased. My daughter slept in peace.

And I did too, my heart still walking outside my body, but this time walking with the one who holds it – and my daughter – so tenderly.

My heart and my daughter can find rest in God alone.

To paraphrase the Psalmist: Why so troubled, O my heart? Put your trust in God!

Family worship (or, quit complicating things so much)

November 9th, 2017

We knew even before we had children that we wanted family worship to be a thing in our household.

We also knew that the thought of family worship was overwhelming and intimidating. We knew how hard it could be to be consistent in personal devotions – and how many times we’d stopped and started at attempts to spend devotional time together as a couple. How on earth could we do family worship?

It just so happened that we have children who don’t do a great job at sleeping – and I started reading Tirzah Mae a Bible story from The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories by Mary Batchelor (which my mom gives a story a baby shower gift) every night before putting her to bed.

Then, last Advent, I got out the Advent wreath and we made a point to light the appropriate candles and sing a Christmas hymn after supper each evening.

As we got ready to put away our Christmas decorations, it struck us that we’d been complicating the idea of family worship overmuch – and that we were missing out on a great opportunity to train our children as a result.

We combined the Bible story I’d been reading with the hymn we’d made a habit of singing, added a time of family prayer at the end – and now we have family worship almost every evening.

It turned out to be that simple. We get the kids in their jammies after supper and then choose a hymn to sing. We read from a story Bible (we’re actually reading through The Ology by Marty Machowski right now, having gone through the Old and New Testaments in story form twice now – we plan to alternate going through the storyline of Scripture and doing something more theological/doctrinal like this.) Finally, we pray together – Tirzah Mae and then mama and then papa (Louis isn’t quite talking yet.) Then it’s kisses and toothbrushing and off to bed.

Simple and totally doable, now that we quit complicating things so much.

Priceless

June 12th, 2017

Tirzah Mae peeled the barcode off her new water bottle and affixed it to her shirt.

I noticed it on our way out of the grocery store and began to tease her.

“We need to find a scanner so we can see how much you cost.”

“Are you a bargain or are you pricey?”

I contemplated adding the numbers I knew, the ones I’ve quoted to others.

Half a million dollars.

That was the sticker price for her first twenty-nine days outside the womb. (Neither we nor our insurance company paid the sticker price.)

I thought back to my question: “Are you a bargain or are you pricey?” Yes.

I didn’t quote that number to my daughter, couldn’t quote that number.

Instead my daughter listened and watched, a bit baffled as her mother choked out the words: “You’re neither. You’re priceless. Because you’re made in the image of God.”

So she is. And so are you.

Am overwhelming truth.

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