January 2011


Food.  The inevitable battle with every child at some point, at least it seems so in my house.  Getting them to actually eat the food, and not just play with it.  Getting them to eat food that isn’t just white.  Convincing them to try new things before declaring they don’t like it.

As babies, my kids each seemed to eat everything.  With a few exceptions, they would devour whatever I put in front of them.  But each seemed to outgrow that a bit, and my middle child is the toughest thus far. On a regular basis she declares that she doesn’t like dinner even before she knows that dinner is for that night.  If she does take a look first, she makes a decision as to whether or not she is going to eat it based on how it appears.

What am I going to do with this child?  How do I get her to eat something other than bread, noodles and pancakes?

I finally realized that the child would not die of starvation, and while her diet was less than ideal, she would survive.  Thinking back on the things I ate as a kid, McD’s once a week, sodas, chips, etc…I convinced myself that she would be okay…and that maybe, one day, as she got older, as I patiently introduced new tastes, she would venture out.

Well, I think that day has finally come.

In our household, we regularly make a variety of fresh juices and green smoothies.  My oldest LOVES carrot juice.  The youngest loves every juice.  My personal favorite is the Dr. Oz green juice.

For the longest time I couldn’t get #2 to even try the juice – any of the juices.  I could understand if she tried it and didn’t like it, but she wouldn’t even try.  Argh.

Well, recently, she decided to taste my green juice.  She loves to help make the juice, but never before did she ask for a taste.  I couldn’t believe she wanted a taste. Amazingly, she kept on drinking.  She actually, genuinely enjoyed it.

My green juice is now a regular part of her mornings.  Amazing.

A while ago we also instituted a rule that you have to try a bite of everything on your plate at dinner time.  This was to combat the ‘I don’t like it’ (even though I’ve never tried it) habit that was developing.  It was a fight at first with both of the girls.  I would literally have to check and make sure that the food went in, and did not come back out.  But lately, Annabella proudly announces, ‘Mommy, I took a bit of the X.’

So maybe they do come around eventually.  Maybe it’s not worth the battle.

I played soccer on an elite team as a youth.  We traveled all over the country for tournaments, and all of us ended up playing soccer in college.  Our summers, and falls, and winters and springs were consumed with soccer, and we loved it…most of the time.  I was blessed to receive private training from our coach on a regular basis.  She often tried to teach me life lessons in the midst of soccer training, most of which meant nothing at the time, but have begun to sink in in recent years.

One such lesson she tried to teach me was to enjoy the process and not obsess so much about  stats and outcomes.  The way she phrased it was, it’s the journey, not the destination.  I understood the meaning of the words, but lacked the mental faculties to actually integrate this into my life.  I mean, it’s all about the destination, the arriving, the winning the tournament, etc.

An episode that clearly reveals my lack of comprehension of this lesson occurred after we had just won the National Championship.  We were in Phoenix, AZ for the tournament, and amazingly won.  We were the best team in the country in our age group that year.  We were at the top.  Any logical person would relish in that for a little while, enjoy the victory, and allow it all to sink in.  But as we walked off the podium after the awards ceremony, my thought was, okay, when do we start training again?  After all, we had just reached one destination, it was time to recalibrate, and begin the pursuit to the next goal.

I now see the wisdom in my coach’s words, but I still sometimes struggle with enjoying the process, and not solely focusing on the end result.

My children, however, have a much different approach to life.  They want to enjoy the trip along the way.

Take lunchtime, for example.  My approach is – goal: consume food so that I can get back to the ‘important’ things…whatever that happens to be at the moment.  My children on the other hand have different plans.  Lunch is a time for fun.  Not throw the food on the walls ‘fun,’ but enjoying the meal.  Enjoying the process of sitting together, talking, joking, having their imaginary friends participate as they tell stories with their food.  Left to themselves, lunch can easily take well over an hour for this very reason.  AND IT DRIVES ME CRAZY.

Just eat your food already.  Let’s get on with the day already.  These are my thoughts.

But today, as my children enjoyed their midday meal, I decided to join in the fun.  I goofed around with my son as he played with his noodles.  I laughed with the girls as the joked with each other.  I tried to enjoy the process of eating a meal together, apart from the end goal of simply checking off that task from my to-do list.

I suspect that if I do not learn to do that more often, as my kids get older, they too will develop a ‘let’s get it over with’ attitude.  The opportunity to sit around the table with them, converse with them, and enter their world may very well cease if I fail to embrace it now.  What a gift to have children who enjoy talking to each other and spending time with each other.  What a shame if I fail to encourage that.  What a shame if, when they are 15, 14, 12 I can’t get them to sit for 5 minutes because I had taught them that the goal wasn’t to enjoy each others company, but to merely finish the task (of eating).

So thank you Sue, for teaching me to enjoy the journey, and not simply look towards the destination.  And thank you for helping me to reevaluate what that destination should be anyways.

This morning, as I slowly gained the motivation to get out of bed and get going for the day, I watched my 21-month-old as he bounced on my bed, threw the two bouncy balls over the side, and bolted down off the bed after them.   He thought this was hysterical.  Playing catch with himself, he was completely entertained.

Climbing onto my bed takes some effort from this little tyke.  It’s like climbing a mountain for him, requiring all extremities to partake in the task.

So when he returned to the bedside with a ball in each hand, he had a dilemma.  He needs both hands to climb up, so what to do?  I watched with eagerness to see his decision.

He initially attempted to climb while holding a ball in each hand, but quickly realized that was not going to work.  He paused, looking at the bed for a moment, calculating in his head the next move.  In an instant, and with such decisiveness, he dropped both balls, and quickly climbed up, only to reach the ‘peak of the mountain’ without his toys.  Realizing that he left the goods behind, he climbed back down and picked them up.

Once again, he stood and looked, contemplating his predicament.  What to do?

This was not a new scenario.  He often faces this dilemma.  Replace the object with Pooh Bear, and this could be any night.

Thoroughly amused at the problem solving skills of this 21-month-old, I offered a hint.  So he placed each ball atop the bed, freeing both hands for the climb.  After scaling the mountain, he resumed the game of throwing them off the bed and chasing after them.

 

 

There is a laundry list of reasons why my husband and I have chosen homeschooling for our children.  One of those reasons has been very evident in the past few days.

My oldest child is 4, and comes up with some amazingly thought-provoking spiritual questions.  You can just see the wheels turning in her head as she tries to wrap her 4-year-old brain around some very large concepts.  I love watching her think through my answers, pondering deeply these spiritual truths.

I had another such episode with her today.  Afterwards I paused and relished in the privilege of answering her questions.  And it occurred to me, this is one of the ‘little things’ that I would miss if I shipped her off to daycare or preschool.

Firstly, she would not have the opportunity to ask me questions like, ‘mommy, what does it mean to repent?’  Could you imagine her asking a preK teacher that question? Could you imagine the answer that might come back.

It’s very likely that such thoughts wouldn’t even cross her mind in those settings. Life is structure all day, a time and a place for each any every topic, and very little leeway for ‘free thinking.’  So even if the teacher was capable of providing a biblical answer, the opportunity would be lacking.

And I would not have the opportunity  to fulfill my responsibility as mom to teach her God’s truth  ‘diligently…when I sit in my house, and when I walk by the way, and when I lie down, and when I rise.’  How can I possibly fulfill that command when my child is apart from me for 4, 5+ hours a day?

You see, most often these questions come up at random times.  Occasionally they are asked during our Bible time, when I teach them scripture memory or catechism questions.  But more often it’s a result of lyrics to a song I have playing while making lunch, or completely out of left field with no external provoking.  These are times that cannot be scripted or planned.  They do not fit in nicely to the 3-5pm time frame, after she gets off the bus.  They occur sporadically.  They occur during daily life. While folding laundry or making breakfast.  They occur while I sit in my house and go for walks outside, during nap time, and when we wake up in the mornings.

These are moments given by God, in His mercy, hopefully for the spiritual benefit of my children, but certainly for my edification.

How often do I make life more difficult than it needs to be?  How often to I unnecessarily add to my work load, create my own burdens, and as a result, set up my own failure and disappointment.

I’m talking about setting myself up as a Mommy Martyr.

When I attempt to make a 3-course meal, with the mindset that such a meal makes me a better wife and mother.  When I attempt said meal with foods I’ve never prepared before, because I feel more ‘June Cleaver’ doing so.  When I refuse to ask for help from either my children or my husband, thinking, ‘they should just know and offer help.’  Refusing to ask for help because doing it solo is more godly, and I should have my act together after all.

I have a tendency to put on this Mommy Martyr persona from time to time.  Most often, my attempt at being a good martyr fail, and the result is that I am frustrated with myself and/or my family.

Do you have that tendency?  Do you try to do more than is reasonable for your current stage of life?  Do you take on tasks bigger than you can handle solo, and then refuse to ask for help on principle?

If so, join me as I (attempt) to shed this alter ego, who doesn’t offer any positive contribution to life.

On Monday I wrote about propriety within the church.  Today I am going address propriety while out shopping with the wee ones.

There is one incident which best summarized my own questions about who determines acceptable behavior.

I was in Costco with my kids (one of our favorite places to go!).  It was the middle of the day during the week, so not very crowded.  I had Alexander sitting in the cart, and the girls were walking.  We usually like to go up and down the aisles to see what sort of ‘neat stuff’ they have – and when I saw ‘we’, I mean me.  I love to look, and eventually get the items we came for.

We were making our way up and down the aisles, and of course mom walks too slowly, so I let the girls run, skip, hop, jump down an aisle, and then wait for me to catch up before we turn down the next aisle.  They were not out of control, at least I didn’t think so).  They were destroying anything, pulling on anything, or otherwise causing a problem.  They were simply having fun, as children do.

The girls were ahead of me as we turned down the next aisle, and with their laughter, skipped around the corner.  I trailed 3 seconds behind them, and turned my cart to go around a man coming the other way.  As I passed him he looked at me and in all seriousness said, ‘you need to control those children.’

I was shocked and speechless at the time.  I just kept on walking.

If I generally fall to one side or the other, I’m much more restrictive than permissive, so to have someone tell me that my kids were out of control, when I didn’t think so, was completely shocking.

I brushed off his comment, but it made me think…who decides what is acceptable?

If I polled the other shoppers that day, what would the consensus be?  And regardless of that consensus, would it matter their opinions?

It can be an interesting study.  Most often it’s other women, mothers and grandmothers, who looking at my and my kids with a smile, and a warm comment.  Rarely, if ever, does a man say, ‘your kids are well behaved,’ but I have had women say that more than once.

So it is a gender thing?  Other mom’s know what real life with kids is like, whereas dad’s don’t usually experience a shopping outing with three kids under 5?

Is it the dad’s that expect the children to be ‘seen but not heard,’ with a stereotypical stoic personality?

Just the other day I was at the grocery store with the kids, after a long day of errands.  EVERYONE was tired, including mama.  We were in the checkout line, and Alexander decided to play with the shopping cart.  He then thought it a good idea to push the cart in front of us, belonging to another lady.  I told him no, that wasn’t our cart, and stopped him from continuing, praying that he would listen because I was just about out of energy.  That women commented positively on my correcting Alexander.  She said it was nice to see a mother correct her child, rather than let him run wild and pretend not to notice.  I was too tired to offer any reasonable response – I still don’t know what an appropriate response to that comment is – but I thought about it the rest of the day.

Clearly, pushing on someone else’s shopping cart was not acceptable behavior.  I had no doubt in my mind, and it seems that this lady would agree.

So what about those gray areas?  Are they gray areas, or am I just oblivious?  Is it okay to allow your child to skip down the store aisle, so long as they aren’t getting in the way of other shoppers?   How about look at clothes in a store while mom does the same?  Not tear things off hangers, but simply look at clothes the same way I do?  (I got the distinct impression once that my girls ‘shopping’ in this way was not appreciated, even though they weren’t creating any kind of mess).

What about looking at game boxes at a kiosk?  Just as I was looking at these board games at a kiosk in the mall the other day, so too were my girls; taking a box down to look at the princesses, or whatever picture caught their attention, before returning the box to the shelf.  The man working the kiosk kind of followed us around in an overbearing way, eventually taking a box out of my daughters hand…that’s a sure way to NOT get my business.

Is it okay for a child to ‘shop’ along side mom or dad?  Or should it always be ‘look but don’t touch?’

Maybe I just think too much on these things.

I have learned to not put so much weight on the opinion of others…a very important lesson for ALL mothers to learn. But at the same time, I do not want to be rude, or raise rude children, in areas that are right and wrong, black and white.  I do not want to offend when it is not necessary.  At the same time, I want to think through such questions so that whatever way seems right, I can act with boldness and confidence, knowing that I and my children aren’t in the wrong.

I have often wondered who gets to decide propriety, especially with regards to children.  I suppose it is a societal consensus, where the majority makes the rules, but even still, is it the US as a whole, or smaller societies of where one lives, or who one interacts with on a regular basis?  There’s the ‘children should be seen but not heard’ philosophy of yesteryear, which surely has gone by the wayside with today’s youth.  Who decides?

Two areas in particular have caused me to ask these questions: children in church and children in stores.  I’ll tackle these in two separate posts.

Partly related to Friday’s post about learning to let my children be children, who decides what is acceptable childlike behavior and what is disruptive, rude or inappropriate.

I’ll start with children in church.  My girls began sitting with me during the church service (as opposed to playing in the nursery) when they were each about 18 months old, and I am now slowly getting Alexander acclimated to do the same.  I am very much the minority in my church on this.  Most parents send their youngsters to the nursery, or to ‘children’s church,’ when they reach that age.  It started with my oldest asking to come with me to church, and has grown into a strong conviction on my part that children belong in church with the parents, worshiping as a family, not separated from the family in some other activity.

So the question becomes, how much wiggling is acceptable?  How much squeaking or noise is acceptable?  Is any?  Is it right and good to expect a child to sit up straight and be still in the same way such behavior is expected from an adult?  How much leeway should be given?

Initially, being the only parent to have my young children with me in church, I was hyper sensitive about how ‘bothersome’ my children were to others around me.  Now, I think it is right and proper to NOT cause a disturbance, which would hinder others from worshiping, but how far is too far?  How much is too much to expect from a child.

In a church culture where it is expected that your child go in the nursery, it often seemed like not much leeway was being offered.  “Why don’t you put X in the nursery?” was a comment I received more than once…and it was hard to gauge whether it was an honest question, since having them with me was against the culture, or if it was a passive aggressive way to say, ‘hey, your kid is noisy, get ’em out of here.’

I did (and do) have standards for my girls.  I limited how much fidgeting was allowed, taught them to ask me questions in a whisper, and tried to teach them what was an emergency (ask me now) versus what needed to wait (mommy, why is that lady wearing blue?).  And I would remove them for discipline when necessary, but the question still remains, how much is too much, and who decides?

For a while I would inquire of those around me if we were too loud that day.  The answer was always no.  Most often, the folks who sat in front or behind us loved watching the girls sway as they held their hymnals, or as they furiously ‘wrote’ in their little church notebooks.  My girls are now 3 & 4 and I rarely have a problem with them these days.  I am starting with Alexander (20 months), who thinks he’s supposed to talk during the entire service (we’re working on that!).

I know there are churches where children IN church is the norm, and I suspect that the background noise of such churches contain babies cooing, little ones fidgeting, and turning pages.  Such sounds are normal, expected and accepted.

So does each church determine acceptable behavior for its congregation?