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

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?

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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How Long?

Parenting.  When does it begin and when does it end?  Does it begin at birth?  Does it begin with conception?    Does it end at a specific age?   Is it the same age for all?

I think parenting begins as soon as you begin to make decisions based on the well-being of your unborn child.  A decision to abstain from smoking or alcohol for the health of your child is a parenting decision made months before birth.  Parenting involves much self-sacrifice.  These sacrifices may be as simple as choosing not to watch certain movies or shows in your child’s presence.  Or they may be as challenging as making the one thousand decisions per day regarding care, nurture, discipline, meals, snacks, nutrition, recreation, relationships, scheduling, health, education, babysitters, clothing, baby equipment and furniture, naps, . . . . .  this list never ends.

little-boy

The truth is, parenting is in a constant state of change.  The children are growing, aging, and gaining new skills and abilities all the time. Just as we figure out how to handle or resolve one issue, new issues arise.  Of course, we want, our children to grow and develop. Therefore our parenting must continually grow and develop.

Some day we may think, “Ah, they are all grown up.”   This does not mean our parenting is done.  This truly means we are entering a new phase of parenting.   It is called Parenting Adult Children.  It is very different from parenting babies, toddlers, school-age children or teenagers, and each of those is unique too.

The following quote is from an elderly man who recently has passed away.

“You are not done with your kids till you die.”    D.Curry

I liked his words as they express the idea that parenting does not end.   It does change.  Therefore we must change.  And it conveys the message that parenting is highly relational.  Parenting is not just an eighteen year commitment.  It is a life-long relationship.

Our adult children need us in new ways.  They need us to be supportive cheerleaders.  They may need us to be a listening ear and sometimes might even ask for advice.  They need us to be an unconditionally-loving friend.  They need us to be prayer warriors for them.  They need us to let them go and allow them to be independent.

My Favorite Child

Were you the favorite child of your parents?  Did you think they liked you best because of who you were or what you did?   I hope you have had a playful argument with your siblings in whom each one claimed they are the favorite and can even provide anecdotal evidence to prove it.

I also hope you have never had the feeling that you were not the favorite.  Yet, sadly, I know that this happens every day.  It doesn’t make sense.  It is not right.  It is not fair. I think it may not even be a conscious effort.  But it happens and I cannot explain it. I am sorry if this has been your experience and I hope that it will change.

4 kids I do know there were days and times when I was not pleased with a particular child and even had times when I did not “like” one of my own children.  But I still deeply loved them and that is what I clung to when I was unhappy with their (pick any one of the following: behavior, attitude, choices, character, anger, outbursts, tantrums, language, etc ).   I think every parent goes through this struggle at some point because they do not have perfect children and they are not perfect parents.

 

I do know that true favoritism in a family is not good.  It can cause great harm to the not chosen.  It can instigate jealousy and resentment between siblings.  It can permanently divide families.

Last weekend my youngest son, age 21, and I were discussing a Bible lesson he was preparing for some teenagers.  His text was from Genesis 37, which is the introduction to the story of Joseph and his 11 brothers.  Joseph was Dad’s favorite and this nearly cost him his life.  Our discussion reminded me of a poem I read years ago and was able to find.  Thank you, google.

MY FAVORITE CHILD – BY ERMA BOMBECK

Every mother has a favorite child.  She cannot help it.  She is only human.  I have mine – the child for whom I feel a special closeness, with whom I share a love that no one else could possibly understand.  My favorite child is the one who was too sick to eat ice cream at his birthday party – who had measles at Christmas – who wore leg braces to bed because he toed in – who had a fever in the middle of the night, the asthma attack, the child in my arms at the emergency ward.

My favorite child spent Christmas alone away from the family, was stranded after the game with a gas tank on E, lost the money for his class ring.

My favorite child is the one who messed up at the piano recital, misspelled committee in a spelling bee, ran the wrong way with the football, and had his bike stolen because he was careless.

My favorite child is the one I punished for lying, grounded for insensitivity to other people’s feelings, and informed he was a royal pain to the entire family.

My favorite child slammed the doors in frustration, cried when she didn’t think I saw her, withdrew and said she could not talk to me.

My favorite child always needed a haircut, had hair that wouldn’t curl, had no date for Saturday night, and a car that cost $600 to fix.  My favorite child was selfish, immature, bad-tempered, and self-centered.  He was vulnerable, lonely, unsure of what he was doing in the world, and quite wonderful.

All mothers have their favorite child.  It is always the same one: the one who needs you at the moment.  Who needs you for whatever reason – to cling to, to shout at, to hurt, to hug, to flatter, to reverse charges to, to unload on – but mostly just to be there.

09.#25

I suggest we follow Erma’s example for choosing a favorite.  My poem version would be something like this:

My favorite child is the one who brought head lice home.  It is the one who jumped off the roof.  It is the one who totaled their car, the one we left behind, the one that needed to held daily.

My favorite child is the one wearing a cast again or the one whose best friend is moving away.  It is the one struggling to read and the one who is afraid to drive.

My favorite child is the one who just talked with me for an hour or with whom I have had an argument.  It is the one I am with.

Best You Can

Stomach or back?  Which is the best sleeping position for the baby?  The answer will depend on the year the question is asked.  Putting baby to sleep on his back was recommended when my first child was born in 1978. However, seven years later, when my daughter was born, putting her to sleep on her stomach was the new advice.  Yet again, when my fifth child was born in 1995, doctors were recommending back sleeping again.

baby

Our youngest in 1995. Crib bumpers are taboo now.

It is a wonder my children survived their childhood.  They did not see a dentist or receive fluoride until they were three years old.  Now these things are recommended to be done as soon as the first tooth has erupted the gum line.

As a parent, you may be bombarded with many questions.  Should my child sit in a bumbo seat, or not?   Should I bottle or breast feed.  Cloth or disposable diapers?   The August 2016 issue of Parents magazine carries an article titled, “health “facts” you may have wrong”.    www.parents.com    It covers topics such as the BRAT diet, using walkers, drinking juice, cereal, teething, and car seats.   It also covers conventional wisdom changes.  With newer research, come new thoughts and recommendations.

baby

Our firstborn in 1979.

So what is a parent to do?  Do the best you can.  That is a phrase I often heard my parents say.  They did the best they could.  What does that mean?  It means at the time of the decision, whatever it was, using the best information they had, they made a decision.  No one can make a decision today based on information not yet available.  There is no benefit in beating ourselves up today for what we did not know yesterday or last month.

Whatever your parenting style may be, there is probably a book written about it.  We are inclined to discount or ignore the advice with which we think we disagree.  We gravitate towards what we already like and are doing.  However, if your style is not producing the results (behavior and/or character traits) with which you are pleased, then it may be time to consider other approaches or methods of parenting.

Parents do make mistakes.  We are learning as we go.  Every age and stage is a new uncharted territory to explore together.  It is very confusing and difficult when the rules or guidelines or recommendations are frequently changing.   Need proof?  Just ask your parents about the kinds of car seats they used for you.

When you child reaches the teenage years, they may inform you of everything you did not know or do “right” as you parented them.   Be patient.  Their opinion is likely to change when they are parents themselves.  Incredibly, perspective changes our views.

Whatever parenting challenges you may be facing, please be encouraged. Parenting is an amazing adventure.  Yes, much of it is quite difficult.  You can ask the Lord to help you and He will.  Many times He has given me insight and ideas for particular issues and problems.   When my children were 8, 5, 3, and 1 years old the three year old struggled everyday with emotional meltdowns.  I prayed about this and the idea I had, which I believe came from the Lord, was to hold him every day for at least an hour.  Did I have an extra hour?  No.  But, I tried to do this every day.  This extra physical affection made a huge difference to him and became a benefit to our household.  What family wouldn’t benefit from fewer meltdowns?

What part of parenting do you find most challenging?  What do you wish you knew sooner than you did?water lilies

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” NKJV

True Value

My #1 daughter-in-law, Melissa, is my guest writer today.  She recently shared the following with me in a casual conversation.  Her story is powerful.  I think others  will benefit from her insight and transparency.

I struggle with insecurities.  I don’t like it when people point out my weaknesses.  In fact I ponder their critique longer than I would like to admit.  I have struggled with insecurities as long as I can remember, wanting people to like me, approve of me.  Unfortunately, when I became a mom these insecurities didn’t vanish, instead my kids have forced me to face them.  Where does my worth come from?  Where do my children get their worth?  I fell into the trap of competing. Oh, I didn’t say it like that; I just needed one key area that I was really good at…that I shined brighter in than others.  That was my worth!  I got accolades in that area, but deep down it was never enough.IMG_0633

I want my kids to have a good self- esteem.  I want them to know they can do whatever God calls them to.  So the first time one of my kids came to me and said something like, “Susie said I am ugly.”  I thought, “Oh no! She is going to think that she is ugly and get insecure.”  I didn’t know how to handle it so I leaned on my own coping strategies.

Strategy #1: Think of all your strengths.  Compare yourself to her and see how you’re still better.  Look at all the areas you are great at.

Strategy #2: (This one can get pretty ugly, but you got to do what you got to do to keep yourself on top!) Point out their weaknesses and flaws.  “Susie said you’re ugly???  Have you heard her lisp?  Wait, did she say ugly or ugWEE?” (No, I am not proud of it.)

This is what I noticed, my kids were becoming like me, going back and forth between pride and low self-esteem depending on the day.  One night my son called me into his room, in tears, to tell me how another child had hurt him deeply.  They had teased him because he didn’t recognize a word, implying he was a bad reader.  I hurt with him and honestly I was debating on which strategy to use when the Holy Spirit prompted me with a better way. I asked him, “Where does your worth come from?”  He said, “What?”  I asked again, “Where does your worth come from?”  “What makes you valuable?”  “Mom, I don’t know.”  “Son, it’s not in whether you are a good reader.  Your worth is based on being God’s child.  Your worth is not whether or not you are good at basketball.  Your worth is not whether or not you are handsome. You aren’t valuable because others say so, it’s because God says so.  He loves you and says you are enough.”  The distress turned into relief.  A tear slid down his cheek and he said, “Thank you mommy.”

Our children need to know where their value comes from.  They don’t have to earn it.  They are already valuable because they are God’s child.  People shouldn’t be able to determine our value because God has already decided we are worth dying for – John 3:16.13015260_10209088514751835_5337198856708526595_n

My battle against guns

Are you pro-gun or anti-gun?  What about for your children?  My father was a hunter and I had many uncles and cousins who were hunters.  I even had one uncle who was a trapper, he was called Trapper John.  Yet, because of a horrific gun incident in the family just a few weeks after our wedding, I was against having guns in our home. Our compromise was a locked gun cabinet.

Our first child, a son, was born two years later.  We decided guns would not be a part of his playthings. As a pre-schooler he turned every elongated object into a gun. Every stick was a gun.  Every straw was a gun.  A baseball bat could serve as a gun.  Even a piece of toast could be bitten at until it was the shape of a gun.  I had lost the battle against guns.

It was either the water guns or the small wooden rifle which broke the barrier.  We used the wooden rifle to talk about gun safety and to hunt imaginary rabbits in the living room.  I am not opposed to lawfully hunting game for food. I greatly appreciate anyone sharing their venison with me.  I have less arthritis pain when I eat wild caught, free- range meat.

air soft

siblings playing with air soft

Water guns became larger and larger holding greater and greater amounts of water.  Undoubtedly someone would eventually grab the hose and the water play escalated into a battle.

For the cooler months Nerf dart guns were harmless and lots of fun.  Googles were required when our sons delved into rubberband guns.  The entire family room would be transformed for these battles.  All three boys and their sister would play outside with the lazer guns.  These games would spread across the yards of several neighbors.   Lazer guns could be played a night, which was an added bonus for our aging children.

As teenagers and young adults they loved playing with air soft guns and paint ball guns.  They still do.   There is an element of competition and excitement involved in this play.  On the plus, side this play also includes running, exercise and fresh air.

Our youngest son, who is 10 years behind his next closest sibling, did not play with guns quite as much as his older siblings.  But he did have every one of the types of guns previously listed.  He also designed, built and sold some pvc guns for shooting marshmallows or Nerf darts.

I do sometimes wonder if we had had 4 girls and 1 son, rather than the reverse of that, if gun play would have been less of an issue.  I don’t know the answer.  Testosterone did reign in our home.

There is a huge difference in a play gun and a real gun.  A real gun is a weapon and a tool. It must be treated with respect and caution. Always assume a real gun is loaded.  Safety lessons should be repeated in any home for all the occupants where there are guns, even those locked in cabinets.

I am not sorry I lost the gun battle.  All my children have a very healthy respect for guns. We all appreciate our U.S. Constitutional Second Amendment rights to bear arms. It is the criminals who are not lawful or respectful of human life.

Parental Doubts or Troubled Waters

Do you sometimes doubt your own parenting methods?  Ever wonder if you are following the wisest parenting ideology?  When our 4th child was in college, she and I had more arguments, disagreements, and difficult conversations than in all the previous years combined.  perfect parent

I was a college student myself, while she was a student.  One day while I was writing a paper about parenting she looked over my shoulder and sarcastically remarked, “so, you think you have this parenting thing all figured out, huh?”  To which I snarkily replied,   “Actually, you have caused me to doubt everything I ever did or thought about parenting.”

To evaluate or re-evaluate our parenting methods and motives is healthy and productive. It might be painful to realize that they could be self-serving and not rooted in what is best for the child or the family.  An examination could also be encouraging as maturity, development and progress are discovered.  Maturity, development or progress could be found in your child or in your parenting skills.

You will make mistakes along the parenting path.  Sadly, sometimes we allow our emotions to reign instead of wisdom.  Though it is important for husband and wife to be in agreement and support each other, I also suggest we give each other permission to interrupt and privately discuss a situation when either one seems unreasonable.

I encourage you to pray for your children individually.  They have individual needs and God will guide and direct you regarding their needs.  Pray for your spouse and your teamwork in parenting.

Children need consistency in parenting.  They need to understand what the rules are and how they will be enforced.   Consistency provides stability and security.

Fairness in a family does not always mean equality.  Age, ability, and maturity need to also be considered when measuring fairness.  Only one of our five children had a curfew.  He was the only one who needed it.

I once read a short story written by Marlo Thomas titled, Ralph.  In this story a couple named their first child Ralph.  They were determined to be fair to their children so when the second child was born, she was also named Ralph.  To be fair the older Ralph was not allowed to go anywhere or do anything that the younger Ralph could not do.  The situation became only more ridiculous when the third Ralph was born.  One can imagine the struggles.  The first two Ralphs never wanted to be limited by the youngest Ralph, but fair was fair.  Fair is not equal.  And even young children can understand this story’s premise.

I told this story many times to my children when a younger sibling wished to have a privilege which was limited to an older sibling. It is hard being the younger and watching an older sibling be allowed to do special things.  I know.  I am a middle child.

In my young parenting days I found encouragement, wisdom and insight from many sources.  Here are some of them.

  1. My parents and in-laws wisely gave counsel when it was requested.
  2. Friends shared their successes and failures, of which I tried many.
  3. Focus on the Family radio program and resources helped me. Today I would also include Family Talk.                                                                                  www.focusonthefamily.com                          www.drjamesdobson.org
  1. I read Parents Magazine and parenting books. I was also influenced through biographies of great people.      www.parents.com 
  2. The Bible and prayer were critical for me.
  3. Family size makes a big difference. Consult with other families, who are the same size as yours, regarding day to day organization and management.

 

Parenting is a big, big job.  It requires much practice. Because our children are continually growing and changing, our tasks continually change, too.  It is ironic.  As we get better and better at parenting, we need to do less and less of it.

I am happy to report we all survived and safely navigated to the other side of parental waters where we can float along life together as friends.  In fact, my daughter is my blog editor and I trust her. She still loves sarcasm, but is much gentler in her usage of it.

Stealing

Did you ever steal anything when you were a kid?  Have your children ever stolen anything? Have you had anything stolen from you?  What happened?

As a child I was guilty on two counts.  Once while shopping with a friend at the local Ben Franklin I spied a bi-colored colored pencil.  It was red on one end and blue on the other. I really wanted it.  So I simply picked it up and walked out of the store.  Then I laid it on the ground, and after my friend exited the store I pretended to find the pencil on the ground and kept it. But my conscience would not be quiet and so somewhere along the route home I purposely dropped it.ice cubes I do not know the price of the single pencil but I am guessing it was well under a dollar. I had probably just spent that much on candy in the store.  Another time I stole a piece of chocolate candy from a convenience store. It was an Ice Cubes chocolate square (“German Milk Chocolate Ice Cubes Melt in Your Mouth”). I think I ate it quickly before my conscience took over.

I do not recall any stories about my children struggling with stealing.  That just means my memory is lacking, not that they were always angels. One of my sons told me the following story.  “I tried to steal a little green army man from a neighbor kid, just to be mean to him. But his mom saw me out the window and yelled at me so I dropped it and ran home.”

One day our son came in the house with a twenty dollar bill which he said the neighbor boy had given to him. I wanted to know why.  What did he want you to do to be given the money?  Nothing. Something was wrong with that picture. I went to the neighbor’s house and discovered his son had helped himself to all the paper bills in Dad’s wallet while dad was napping.  The money was returned.

When our two middle boys were teens a friend stole some money from their room.  At the time he vehemently denied it and trust was broken. We all felt violated and betrayed.  Years later he confessed to stealing from them. Truth eventually wins.

rough days

Stealing is wrong. It is a punishable crime. Even within our homes amongst family members it is wrong. When discovered, it must be dealt with seriously. Always consider the child’s character and heart when deciding upon appropriate correction. I also believe punishments should fit the crimes. Confession regarding the theft to a family member or a store or other victim can be humbling and a deterrent to future incidents. An apology is suitable. Restitution should be made.  The one who stole should return the item if possible or pay to replace it. Parents should not overlook stealing or bail their child out of facing consequences for their actions. Sparing their child or themselves the embarrassment of confession will be a disservice to them. It is better to deal directly with a problem while it is still a small problem.

 

In the adult world stealing leads to jail time. No one is getting arrested for stealing cookies from the cookie jar at home, but shopping lifting, employees taking home work supplies, tax evasion, and reusing postage stamps is on the rise.  Beware.