Kids and Resolutions

Resolutions involving kids usually have to do with one’s desire to in some way be a “better” parent. They often are something like the following:  I will read aloud more to my kids, I will be a better listener, I will be more patient with my kids, or I will do a better job of monitoring screen time.   I propose a different kindof resolution for 2018.

Goals, Smarat How about a family resolution? Together, make a plan that is S.M.A.R.T.  (see goal setting chart).   School age children (5+) through teens probably will be willing to participate in such an experience.   Start the exercise with some brain storming where all ideas are recorded and none are evaluated.     After collecting all the ideas begin to evaluate and eliminate.    Try to shrink the list down to two or three that everyone agrees upon.  Then further examine those to discover if each is truly a S.M.A.R.T. goal.   If your family is a democracy, then vote.  Perhaps parents could each have two votes so that the children don’t overrule.

A secondary idea is a family focus or theme for the year.  This is not my original idea, but I really like it.  This could also be chosen through the family brain storming and elimination method.    The possibilities are endless.  Here are a few ideas: Year of Joy, Year of Gratitude,  or  Year of Grace. “Grateful, Thankful, Blessed” is a popular saying.  Perhaps it could be a springboard for ideas.   The theme does not have to be a character trait or a virtue but could be something fun such as, the Year of Color or  the Year of Running.

kids-running

Once the theme is chosen, a placque or banner could be created to be a daily reminder.   Perhaps a scripture could be chosen to be memorized.   Play an on-going game of who can most quickly identify references to the theme in music, movies, audio books, sermons . . . .    Commend each other for living and practicing your chosen theme.  Plan some activities, adventures or experiences to understand and apply the theme.

Use your creativity to discover ways to incorporate the theme in your family life.  Establish some fun reminders to keep everyone on track.  Don’t become rigid or legalistic.

January is a great time to establish a yearly family theme or resolution.   But they can happen at any time. Some other “start” times might be the beginning of summer, a new school year or school semester, any holiday, the first of any month, or whatever time works best for your family. January is not the only time we can begin something new.

We all appreciate a fresh start or a do-over sometimes. I think this is the appeal of a new year.   God, by his grace, gives us this when we confess our sin and He forgives us.   A tangible way to demonstrate this to our children is to forgive or do away with the punishment our children deserve. Yes, it is important for them to learn about consequences and be responsible for their behavior. But, I also believe that somewhere in their learning there is a prime opportunity to offer forgiveness so that their hearts can be softened rather than become more rebellious. This could happen in the Year of Grace.

May this be a great year for your family.

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Best Eight Steps to Get Past Failures

Have you wondered, what is going on? How long has it been? Why has it been so long?  I will try to explain.  Even explaining is extremely difficult.  The last blog I posted was in July 2017.  I had intended to write again at the end of August, but I was completely occupied with four of my granddaughters. Then September came. I was blasted with criticism.  The criticism led to discouragement and discouragement led to fear of more criticism, which led to self-doubt, which eventually spiraled downward to paralysis fueled by excuses.

flat

Critics abound in life.  But when the critic is someone we love, then the criticism has extra punch. When the criticism is over something we are passionate about it is powerful.  I have been struggling.  My life is not in shambles. Many excellent things have happened.  My hurt and struggle is in the area of parenting.  Parenting is the topic about which I write.  Or wrote.  Is it all in the past?  Am I done?  Or, is this just a set back?  How do I recover and go on again? How do I recover from failures?

Here are the steps I am implementing:

  1. Admit failures (we cannot change the past)
  2. Seek forgiveness where and when possible
  3. Recognize that I cannot control the perspective or response of someone else.
  4. Recognize that people who hurt others are people who are hurt themselves.
  5. Evaluate and find the truth in the criticism
  6. Apply the truth
  7. Re-evaluate goals and passions
  8. Pick up the pieces and take a step forward

travel back

This blog post is my step forward.  I am tired of feeling the way I have been feeling—like a defeated failure.  I am ready to return to writing about parenting.  It is a topic I am passionate about and still learning much about even though my children are all adults.

 

Dare to say NO to your children

Is it harder for you to say No to your children than it is to say Yes?  It can be extremely difficult to know when to say which.  The best answer is sometimes what is best for the parent, but usually it is what is best for the child.  Sadly, many parents’ lives revolve around their children and “making them happy”.   Have you seen households where the child’s schedule controls the parent or where the child’s activities control the finances?

IMG_3988Happiness is not achieved by having all our wishes fulfilled.  Do you know any CEO’s, professional sports people or entertainers who have stopped receiving a salary because they have enough or too much?  Are they the happiest people on the planet?   Have you ever met a thoroughly spoiled person who was happy and content?

The following are a few times to say NO:

Say NO to unlimited snacks between meals (https://dianesergeant.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/snacking/)

Say NO to unrestricted media

Say NO to Disrespect

Say NO to Disobedience

Say NO to begging, chanting, whining and fits.   Parents when you say no, hold firm to your no.  Do not cave in to begging, whining, chanting, or fits.  When bad behavior is rewarded with giving the child what they demand, then that bad behavior is reinforced.  If the bad behavior is ineffective and even brings about negative consequences, it will cease. However, if a child presents a reasonable and calm argument, then the topic can be reconsidered.

Say NO to bending the dating rules.  Our eldest son tried to convince us to drop the rules at age 17.5 which would be dropped when he turned 18.  He asked why not.  I answered because he would be 6 months older and wiser then.  It was the right decision.

Say NO to immodest clothing

Say NO to buying everything requested

Say NO to spending money you don’t have is outside the budget, and you can’t afford

Say NO to computers in bedroomsmoney can't buy

Parents or grandparents who overly indulge may be creating ungrateful monsters.  We are all more thankful and appreciative of items for which we have had to wait or for which we have had to work.  Children who receive everything as soon as they ask for it will become demanding.   Sometimes over indulgence is compensation or guilt driven.   Address the true issues, don’t spoil.

Our children need to be told no.  They need to learn to accept that they will not always have their own way.  Remember the long-term goal is character development.   A diva may be cute to watch on the silver screen, but she s miserable to live with.  Narcissists are not happy people.

Balance your use of NO with frequent the use of YES.   See https://dianesergeant.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/say-yes/

Always keep in mind the well-being, needs, abilities, character, protection and nurture of each child when making YES and NO decisions.   Maintain room for the compromise when possible.  Do not put wants and desires as the first priority in decision making.

butterfly on blue flower

Adjusting to Seasons of Life

I received a letter in the mail. In our online, internet world actual letters are few and far between.   I thought it strange that my daughter’s new mother-in-law should write to me or send me any mail.  She is a delightful woman and I am confident she will be a grand mother-in-law to my daughter.  But why write to me?  I opened the envelope and out fell a short note not from my daughter’s mother-in-law but from my daughter.   Every time I see her first name with her new last name I have momentary confusion.  I guess I am still adjusting.

centerpiecesIt has been a month since the wedding.  The rehearsal, ceremony and reception were all wonderful.  It flowed smoothly minus difficulties.  I loved each part of it.  Tasks were well delegated and everyone’s assistance was greatly appreciated.  My daughter was not a bridezilla.  My tears flowed as I watched my husband practice walking our daughter up the aisle during the rehearsal.   During the ceremony the bride and groom each had their moment of tears, too.

The day after the wedding there were still some non-wedding family celebrations to enjoy.  But then it felt like December 26th.   All the planning and excitement had come to fruition, but it was over and done.  I was a little sad that it was all over.   The season of wedding preparation had ended.

D and D

my daughter and I 

Even clean-up was quick and easy.   Within a week everything borrowed had been returned and a few items returned for refunds.   All the bills were paid and a couple of deposits were returned to us.

Life is filled with seasons and new norms.  We adjust or we don’t.  Not adjusting is emotionally unhealthy.  So let us adjust.  Changes happen all the time.  Long ago I adjusted to being a married person.  It was an easy adjustment.  Then the children came and one by one we adjusted.  Of course there was a time when I wondered if I would ever stop changing diapers.  That season lasted for 9 years and then after an 8 year hiatus it returned briefly when our bonus child arrived.  I clearly recall times when it seemed sickness was in the house for months at a time.  One child would get a virus and it would be shared with all the family.  Sometimes it went around twice.  But even that was a season.

We endured and loved the season of having teenagers.  It was fun and exciting and always changing.  It was also excessively busy.  Then each following the other they prepared to go away to college, and away they went.   They went on to their own adult adventures and lives.   We adjusted.

 

When one has little children and may feel they are drowning or barely surviving the demands of parenting the season may seem interminably long.   Just as a crawler becomes a walker and then quickly a runner and climber so the seasons quickly pass.   Our children grow and change and mature and that is what we desire and needs to happen.  So we too must change and adjust.   My secret to adjusting is the following:

  1. Always be thankful for the present and don’t wish it way hoping for an easier or better future.
  2. Be thankful for the past. Allow yourself to reflect on it.  Record it in a baby book, journal or a scrapbook.   If the past includes sad emotions, allow yourself to be sad for a while, but don’t’ stay there. We can’t change the past but often time does change our perspective or understanding of it.
  3. Be thankful for the future and new adventures.
  4. Don’t begrudge changes but acknowledge that when changes happen they may include a loss of something or someone previously important.

scrap

I have hundreds of photos from two showers, the rehearsal, wedding and reception waiting for me to put them in a scrapbook.  I don’t have to release all the wedding joy just yet.

Still Letting Go, part 2

D. French ClockI am thrilled, excited and emotional again.  It is only eleven days away.  I hope I am ready. Thinking about it makes me tearful.  I have lists of tasks and I am confident each will be accomplished.  But will I be ready?  I have my dress, matching shoes and purse, jewelry, new suit and tie for hubby, all the items for the reception table decorations, and only a few small items left to purchase.  But will I be ready? This is a really big event.

As I reflect upon my own wedding on May 29, 1976, I note some differences.   The biggest difference is that we had a simple church reception with cake, mints, nuts, coffee and punch.   It was served by a few of my aunts.  My mom and I shopped together for the cake and the flowers, but I ordered and mailed the invitations, made my own dress and don’t recall ever having a conversation about a wedding budget.  There were a few things my mom and I disagreed about but she let me have my way.  I hope I communicated as well with my parents regarding the details of the wedding as my daughter has done with us.  I am thrilled to be a part of her planning.

I was confident in my choice of a husband despite my young age of almost 18 years old.  I am confident in my daughter’s choice too, because I trust her judgment. entry to shower

As a minister I have officiated weddings. I have created check lists and timelines for other couples.  Three times I have been the mother of the groom.  I understand the details and mechanics.  But will I be ready for my only daughter to be a Mrs.?   My future son-in-law has begun to call me  “Ma”.  And in some unexplainable way it is helping me draw him in as one of mine.

Our daughter lives three hours away from us.  But as she likes to remind me, we moved away, not her.  I thought that was my final “letting her go”.  She loves to travel for fun and for ministry, yet she lives and works in the same community where she grew up.   She and new hubby will continue there.

It has been my joy to attend two wedding showers for my daughter.  They were elegant and idyllic.  I am confident her wedding day will be as delightful.  My little clutch purse will be packed with lipstick, my phone/camera and tissues.

I will be ready (I hope, I think, I pray).  I will have tissues  just in case.

Deb and I

Moms’ Camp

I only went once, but it was awesome.  It was so hot we had to stop at the showers to cool off on our way to the pool and then back to the showers between the pool and the cabin. The cabins were primitive.  In my bunk I felt like a hot dog wrapped in a bun, which was the thin mattress.  It wasn’t the Hilton, but it wasn’t at home either.   No one asked me what was for dinner.  No one asked me where their shoes were or could they have another snack.  In fact all my meals and snacks were prepared for me and I didn’t have to do dishes.  We called it Mom’s Camp.  Women from ages 20-65 years were attending.  Actually the University of Illinois Extension Office ran this event.  This Mom attended camp to retreat from her 2, 4, 6, and 9 year old children.

sleeping personIt was wonderful to choose my activities at camp based on my interests.  I awoke and went to sleep at my choosing, not when little hands were prying open my eyeballs or shaking my shoulders to ask an urgent question.   I felt free.  It was a temporary freedom from my daily responsibilities, but it was a breath of fresh air which allowed me to better love and nurture going forward.

Everyone can benefit from a retreat.  We all need to be refreshed.  A retreat is different from a vacation.  One takes their family with them on vacation, but not on a retreat.   To survive my wonderful blessings I took a small retreat every day.   While the little ones took their daily naps, the older children and I each retreated to our individual rooms.  Be Quiet was the rule.  No talking at all. Rest, read, play quietly alone, or look at books on your bed. perspective

Life has come full circle. Our children are now adults and they have blessed us with twelve grandchildren.  My house is quiet on most days.  Now I host “camp” for my grandchildren.  The four oldest boys and then the four oldest girls each come to our house for planned fun and activities.   The minimum age is four so that the child is well potty trained, doesn’t require daily naps and will be okay without mommy and daddy for a few days.  All our children live three hours away in three different directions.  This little camp is a good retreat for the children and probably for the parents too.   It is fun for these grandparents and the cousins are happy to be with each other.

madhouseParents, try to provide little retreats for each other.   We all need time to unwind, relax, think and dream. I once heard the following formula for retreating: One weekend a year, one day a month, and one hour a day.  Most of us would struggle with even the one hour a day. Hunt for and seek mini retreats every day.   As we gain mental, emotional and spiritual strength we become better individuals, parents, spouses and friends.

 

My husband offered to let me attend Mom’s Camp again . . . . . just as soon as all the children were big enough to take care of themselves.   The kids agreed with him.   I only went once.  Now I sometimes go to my children’s homes to give them a break.

bronze children

Fried Okra

Far too late, I realized today, that I was not the best example to my children. They are all adults and between my three eldest sons there are twelve grandchildren. I have a second opportunity with the next generation. Since I only see any of them occasionally I will have to be quite intentional.

I don’t really know exactly how I started on this path. It was not a New Year’s resolution, but sometime in January I decided this was the year to try new things.  This morning I wrote a note in a birthday card to a great niece wishing her fun and encouraging her to try new things. As I did this, the thought of my own failure hit me.  I always encouraged my children to be brave and try new foods. But they did not see me trying new foods.  I ate a far greater variety of foods than any of them did, but I was always asking them to not let appearances or even scent make a decision for them. As chief cook, I prepared food that I liked.  Well, I recently dared to eat cottage cheese and blue cheese.  In my mind they are both quite scary looking. I was a hypocrite. I asked them to do what I was not willing to do.

H and S in the garden

My husband with our youngest son in our garden pruning “suckers” off the tomato plants. 

I have been trying new things, mostly new foods.  In addition to the above mentioned cheeses, so far this year, I have tried Belgium endive, leeks, spaghetti squash, collard greens, fried okra, kombucha tea, and coffee.  I liked the coffee, squash, endive, and fried okra.  I plan to give the cottage cheese a second chance as I discovered my container was far past its expiration date. With food tasting, one only has to be brave very briefly.   Water washes away most tastes.

A willingness to try new things has extended to other areas.  I am trying yoga in the privacy of my home thanks to you tube.  This would be far too embarrassing to do in a pubic setting.  I think children might also benefit from trying something new in a private setting and not before an audience, even an audience of friends or family.

I have also been experimenting with new hairstyles.  I have long hair and I think I can learn to do much more with it than I do.  Here, too, I have gone to you tube for instructions.   Doing something new takes practice.  The first time is often messy.  First attempts at learning new skills can turn out badly and that is okay.  A friend who taught me how to knit gave me instructions for “easy” bootie slippers.   When completed, one slipper was at least 3 inches longer than the other.  Oops.  I have had much greater success with crocheting, but even that takes practice.

Sometimes we forget how long it took us

This “new things” quest has got me thinking about other areas to explore. Perhaps I should try a new genre of music, movies, or books.   I might make a very enjoyable discovery. This summer I hope to try zip lining.

I have always considered myself a brave and adventurous type, but my spirit of adventure was limited.  This is my year to expand my horizons.   What new foods or things are you willing to try?   How do you help your children be brave and adventurous?

976 Elephants

976 elephants.  That is how many Great Aunt Doris had in her collection.  She had all sizes and shapes. They were made of a variety of materials.  Some came from exotic locations around the globe.  She had elephant everything from earrings to end tables.  But isn’t 976 too much of anything?   Many were simply packed away in a trunk (pun intended).  What’s in your collection?  What does your child collect?

shakers

some of my salt and pepper shakers

Step one in having a collection is discovering what we are interested in or what we prefer.  It is a valid discovery.  I recall as a child being challenged to find things I uniquely enjoyed and not just parroting my older sister.   Having an identified interest makes gift giving easier and more fun for others as they shop for us.

Step two is managing that collection.  How do I use it? How do I incorporate it into my life and my space?  Is it usable or is it just something to display and admire?  What is required of me to take care of my collection?

Step three is to not broadcast your interest too loudly or loosely lest you be inundated with too much of what you love.  This may cause one to reconsider their chosen item.   It is okay to let family and friends know that you have enough of ______________.

Dear Great Aunt Doris lived to be 105 years old.  That is a very, very, long time to collect elephant-bowlanything.  I believe she never tired of elephants.  I am thankful to have inherited a single elephant bowl from her.  I keep it filled with fruit on my counter and it reminds me of her.

As children grow and mature, naturally their interests will change.  The Polly Pockets which were completely thrilling at age six may have no meaning to a twelve year old.   The toddler who adored penguins later as a teen may find them rather boring and even smelly.    Allow your child to cast off old interests and embrace new ones.  You might encourage your child to find ways to share their old collectibles with others.    There is a time and a season for everything.   One of my sons assured me baseball cards are timeless.

I have seen adults try to start collections for children.  This rarely works well as each person needs to discover for themselves where their interests lie.   We also need to allow our children to decide for themselves when they are ready to move on to something new.

One more challenge with collections is the trap of discontentment.  If we always think we need more of something, then we must ask if our collection is controlling us.   Try a reverse collection.  I love banks, but I don’t need banks.  I have a few. It is enough.  I routinely give banks as a new baby gift.  It is sort of my signature gift. I give what I enjoy and hope they will enjoy it too.     Do you have any ideas for signature gifts or reverse collecting?12509089_1210792845603492_6949928042686141160_n

 

Fat Momma Syndrome

Fat Momma Syndrome, or FMS.   You will not find this syndrome on any medical list.  You will not find its traits or characteristics described anywhere but here.  This label is my creation based on years of observations as a youth pastor.   Caveat;  I am not attempting to criticize any woman’s size. That would be the pot calling the kettle black.   I am labeling a parenting temptation.

I believe the syndrome begins long before the teen years, but that is when I saw it reach its peak.  I am referring to the teen years of the daughter, not the mother.   As she enters her teen years, her mom is entering her mid-late thirties or maybe her early forties. Momma no longer has the youthful figure that she had at 15 or 20 years of age, but she remembers. perfect-parent

 

Her daughter is beautiful and shapely.   Momma is proud of her.  Rather than helping her daughter to learn to dress tastefully and modestly, she allows or even encourages her to dress in ways that attract attention to her body.   I have many times been shocked at the alluring outfits that mom helped select for her daughter.

I think psychologists might use words such as transference or projection.  Others might say mom is living vicariously through her daughter.  However it is described, it is sad.   It is sad that mom is putting so much emphasis on outward beauty, which she knows changes and does not last.   It is sad that mom is passing along to her daughter her own inner struggles with self-image.

My own daughter was more sensible than I in this area.  I am proud that she dressed more modestly as a teen than did I as a teen.   As an adult, she has my permission to speak to me about my clothing if I wear something unflattering or too aged or too youthful or immodest.

 

Moms, no matter your size or shape, help your daughters to sail into womanhood with grace and style.  Perhaps together you could learn about fashion, styles, body shapes and discovering what looks best on each of you.  Teach your daughters to be discriminating and individuals not controlled by fads.    Hygiene, personal grooming, make up, and hair care are other areas that need to be taught.   Learning to do these well will instill personal confidence, which is very attractive.

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Still Letting Go

I surprised myself.  I thought I was ready.  I had prayed for years and years for this very thing.  And then when it happened, I wasn’t ready.  My emotions were conflicted.  I do not enjoy being emotional.

I thought I had “let her go” long ago.  She went far away to college for three years and then she returned.  She moved out of our house and then we moved away.  She is a fully independent adult.  Yet, I realized there was one more way in which I had to “let her go”.

little-dOur only daughter has found a wonderful man who cherishes her and they are planning to marry.   Why was I feeling sad?  He is a fine man.  They love each other.  I struggled with these feelings for several weeks, even as we went bridal dress shopping and began talking about wedding plans.  These are exciting plans and I am thrilled to be involved.  Yet, the sadness persists.

She is not our only child.  No, we also have four sons.  Three of them have been married for more than ten years.   They have given us three amazing daughters-in-law and twelve wonderful grandchildren.   I have been through weddings, young marriages, and in-laws before.  This is not a new experience.

BUT, I have never experienced this with my daughter. Until now.  I realized there would be more changes. Changes we make ourselves are easier to handle than changes made by others, which affect us. I realized my sadness is selfish.  I have to share her.  She will have less time for me and for us, her parents.  I am not just sharing her with her future husband but am also sharing her with his family.  Holidays and birthdays will be divided between two families.D and D

I am whining and being a bit ridiculous.  But the feelings are still my feelings.

I also know that I will adjust and be okay. Talking (and writing) about this is helping me. I have told countless parents that they will be okay when their adult child makes a life transition and so will the child.  This is still true. So I am trying to apply my own advice.  I can adjust to changes.

I am thankful for the close relationship I have with my daughter.  We have had some wonderful adventures together. New adventures await us.  Onward we go with the wedding plans.

P.S. Yes, she will read this because she is my writing editor.

at lunch

Editor’s Note: From my perspective, you have been nothing but excited and supportive. Thank you. Thank you for feeling the saddness, and yet choosing to making room for new. Thank you for loving my fiancé. Thank you for graciously coming along side without taking over as plans come together for the wedding. However, no matter what you do, never let me go! Not really.  I’m 31 years old and I need you and Dad in my life. Circumstances change, and priorities shift, but our relationship will always be important to me. I love you, Ma!