Mothering / Family


We are *enjoying* a lecture series by Paul Tripp on parenting in our Sunday School class…and I use the word enjoying loosely.  We are learning a lot, and getting kidney punches each week as we see again and again where we are failing as parents.   It has been a GREAT DVD series thus far, and is reorienting my master plan when it comes to my children.

Listening to Tripp talk about getting to our child’s heart, and not simply dealing with the outward behavior, I am reminded again and again…parenting is H-A-R-D!  It takes T-I-M-E.  It’s not a quick fix on the run.  Good parenting takes deliberate effort.  And did I mention it takes time.

Life is so busy these days and everything seems urgent…especially checking my latest Facebook updates.  But when 2 kids are squabbling, or someone is throwing a temper tantrum, my full attention is needed.

To handle those situations the right way, I cannot be in a hurry.  I cannot seek to manufacture in them the appropriate outward response.  Well, I could, but that doesn’t help with the longterm goal of raising my children to be godly adults.

So, it seems to me, I either pay now or pay later.  I either decide now to take the necessary TIME to talk with my kids, address their hearts, help them see their heart motive behind their poor behavior, and not solely seek outward conformity, OR, I can take the time and heartache later when they are rebellious teens and young adults who have never come to understand their own sinful hearts, and are tired of outward obedience.

I can invest the time now to enjoy a good relationship with my children later.

I can sow into my children’s lives and hearts now so that I can reap the joy of seeing them grow into godly adults, and enjoy a relationship with them that is not only mother-daughter/son, but that they also become my brothers and sisters in Christ.

In our give-it-to-me-now culture, it can be hard to remember that the blessings of good parenting are worth the effort, but are not immediate.

We may have lost something as our economy shifted away from the family farm. Scripture has so many references to agricultural life that most of us cannot relate to first hand.  A farmed plants his crop.  Waters the field, waits patiently, and prays like crazy.  All along, trusting that underneath the soil, roots are being established, and that one day, in due time, the plant will yield its crop.

Our children are those plants.  We water them with biblical truth and biblical parenting, we wait on the Holy Spirit to do a work in our children and we pray like crazy that God would draw them to Himself, all along trusting that their little roots are digging down deep, and that one day they will be strong, godly young men and women who stand firm on the Word of Christ.

Parenting is exhausting.  But just look around at the godly young people you see in your church, and the wonderful, respectful relationship they have with their parents.  I desire that blessing.  I desire that outcome.  By God’s grace, I will sow into their little lives day after day, and by His grace, I will reap great joy in my relationship with those precious children well into their adulthood.

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So often we women try to conquer the world and say ‘yes’ to every request brought to us.  As a result we over commit and stress out.  Creating healthy boundaries and learning to say ‘no’ to things without feeling guilty is an important lesson for us of all.  In the past few weeks, however, I have realized that I need to learn to say ‘yes’ more often…’yes’ to my kids.

Just as ‘yes’ can become the default answer to requests of my time, ‘no’ has become my default answer to my kids.  Saying ‘no’ is simply easier than actually giving the request some thought.

“Mom, can I…”    without even thinking, ‘no’ just rolls off my lips.

If I just say no, then I don’t have to think.  If I just say no, then there will likely be less to clean up later.  No is easier.  But not always right.

There will come a time when my children realize that it is easier to ask forgiveness than ask permission.  There will come a time when they realize that mom is often to busy to actually listen to their simple requests, too busy (read: too selfish) to consider their desires.  I do not want to reach that point.

Similar to the 10-minute rule I’ve recently implemented to combat the same tendency, I’m also [slowly] learning to pause for a few seconds before answer their little requests.  I am trying to give myself enough time to actually HEAR them and to actually consider what they are asking.

Just this morning I heard, ‘Mom, can I play with your flashlight.’

‘No’ flew out of my mouth so quickly.  What about the battery she’ll be wasting? (as if I can’t just get new batteries when needed).  What about the fight that may ensue as the others want a flashlight too? (what an opportunity to teach all of them about sharing, and about coveting.  Another opportunity to preach the Gospel to them).

So after I said no, I reconsidered.  I asked her what she wanted my flashlight for.   She simply wanted to play with it.  No harm there and I’m sure it was fun.

I think I may have just gotten a glimpse into the future, 15-years or so down the road.

My 3 older are playing outside.  Two are coloring on the easel and my oldest is driving around in her little fisher-price buggy.  She came up to the screen door, her poofy pink purse on her arm, to let me know that she is ‘heading out to Costco to order her tires.’ With a smile and a wave she said, ‘bye mom, I’ll be back later.’

15 years from now, when she is driving around in a real car, I may experience some déjà vu.  This time she may be really taking that car to Costco.  And I will think back, ‘I remember when she said that to me in our backyard with her toy car…boy, does time fly.’

This is a post I wrote in April 2010, but never published.  It still applies…

 

I love being a mom.  I left the corporate world over 4 years ago to stay home and be a mom.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  I would take the worst day as a mom over any day at the office, and I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to be the one raising my kids for all the money in the world.  Yet, being a mom is tough work, and often, I make it tougher.

I like lists.  Okay, I love lists.  I have papers and pads with lists and notes everywhere. It drives my husband crazy, but it’s just how my logical brain operates.  I have my grocery list, my to-do list, my project list, my ‘need to buy’ list of non-grocery items, I have my ‘goals’ list.  I have a list of recipes I want to test.  A list of new foods to try. Obsessed much?

On top of that craziness, and well aware of my weaknesses, I am always reading up to learn ways to become a better homemaker and mother.  I read about games to play with your kids.  Crafts to do.  Books to read to them.  One source says that scheduling is key, and gives a sample schedule for every hour of the day, including different activities for different children.  Clearly these people have it all together, I might as well curl up in a ball and go back to bed.

God bless my husband, who is so patient with me, (even though I know he secretly laughs at my ridiculousness), who reminds me that being a mom is hard work, and overlooks the fact that we are having eggs for dinner, again, or cereal, or whatever you can find, because I just didn’t get to it.

I am learning though, albeit slowly.  Learning that lists can have a useful purpose in my life, when I am able to keep reasonable expectations.  As I write my daily to do list, I often just cross off the word “Monday” at the top and put “Tuesday” since it seems like a waste of ink to re-write all the activities on a new page.  And I am reminding myself that that’s okay.  With three small children, there are times when getting through the day with everyone dressed (pajamas count), fed, and without any major bleeding, I count it a successful day.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who makes the difficult job of being a mom that much more difficult with lofty self-imposed expectations….

continued from Tuesday.

It starts with Mama modeling it.  With me kneeling before them after I’ve lost my temper and yelled, saying, ‘I am sorry.  I lost my temper with you and that is not okay.  Will you forgive me?’  I have had to do that more than once.

The great thing about kids is that they are so ready to forgive.  I have never had my child say no to that request.  In fact, they are so quick to say yes, I sometimes don’t even finish my apology.

The next thing is helping them realize their own guilt in conflict.  When one while intentionally offends another, they need to recognize that as wrong.  When one brother wallops his sister, he needs to recognize that as wrong.  We all have that God-given conscience inside of us, and a child’s conscience is often very tender.  Our job is to keep it tender.  To keep them in-tune with that ‘alert system’ that tells them when they have sinned.  Unless they can recognize that hitting is wrong or being mean is wrong, any attempt as an apology is pointless.

Once they can recognize that, I will again walk them through.  My end goal isn’t that they will mimic what Mommy says all the time.  My goal is that they will eventually take the initiative to reconcile with brothers and sisters, and mom and dad, and others, without prompting. But while they are young, and while they are being training, I need to help them know what to say.  They have full license to change the words to their own, as long as the meaning is the same.

So, brother wallops sister on the head with a car — true scenario.  Here is how that conversation might go.

Me to brother: “Alexander, your job as the big brother is to protect your sister, not to hurt her.  Right?”

Alexander: ‘yes. I protect her.’  (his actual words 😉

Me: ‘were you protecting her or hurting her when you hit her?’

Alexander: ‘i protect her.’  (I then give him the right answer and remind him that hitting his sister is not protecting).

Me: ‘hitting your sister is not kind.  God wants us to be kind. What do you need to say to her?’

Alexander: in his ever so sweet voice “I sorry Annabella”

Me: ‘What else do you need to say to her?’

Alexander: ‘will you forgive me?’  If he doesn’t remember this second part, I will remind him.

Me – to Annabella: ‘what do you say?’

Annabella to Alexander: ‘I forgive you.’

It’s important for both sides to be there.  The humbled offender seeking forgiveness, and the humble offended granting forgiveness.

It doesn’t always go this smoothly.  Rarely does the offended refuse to extend forgiveness.  More likely, it is the offender whose heart is still hard not wanting to apologize.  I don’t make them.  I may later decide I’m wrong on this, but I remember being forced to ‘say you’re sorry’ when I really wasn’t sorry.  With a long term view in mind, the goal isn’t getting them to say the words in that moment.  The goal is that 10 years down the road they will say those words without prompting when they realize they have offended someone.

And just a postscript: for a long time, in my mind apologizing was really a chance to justify what I did.  ‘I’m sorry I called you a jerk, but you did….’  And really I was just justifying my sinful behavior.   That is not what I’m writing about here.  A true apology that seeks forgiveness is an owning up to ones sinful actions.  Taking responsibility.  Calling it what it is, specifically.  A proud heart seeks to justify.  A humble heart seeks forgiveness.  And we know that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.

Last week I wrote about how I am trying to teach my kids to handle conflict .  It was something that I never quite learned, and am not trying to learn as a 30-year-old mother of 4.  Yet, conflict is something we all deal with.

Part of conflict is learning how to make a proper apology.  Again, this is something I am just now learning, and boy oh boy, does my pride get in the way here!  To say the words, ‘I was wrong.  I am sorry. Will you forgive me?’ makes me quake in my boots (if I wore boots).  It is a vulnerable position to be in.  I am now at the mercy of that person.  My pride is stripped away, and I am left bare.

No wonder so few people know how to effectively offer an apology.

But, in order to keep short accounts with people, in order to have the deepest and closest relationships, we MUST learn to do this.

We have the silly notion that we should all just ‘forgive and forget’ everything.  Often the one claiming this is the offender who wants to be off the hook for any responsibility for his or her actions.  In my experience, ‘forgive and forget’ means, ‘let’s not address the issue.  Let’s just pretend nothing happened.’

True forgiveness is when the offense if addressed, the offender repents and THEN the offended extends forgiveness.  That doesn’t mean they just forget that it happened, it means they no longer hold onto the incident.  They don’t use it as ammunition in the next conflict.  They don’t treat the offender with an attitude.  It is releasing the offender.

Now, my 5, 4, 2 year olds won’t understand all of that until they are older.  But, they can learn the mechanics of offering and receiving apologies.

It starts with Mama modeling it.  With me kneeling before them after I’ve lost my temper and yelled, saying, ‘I am sorry.  I lost my temper with you and that is not okay.  Will you forgive me?’  I have had to do that more than once.

The great thing about kids is that they are so ready to forgive.  I have never had my child say no to that request.  In fact, they are so quick to say yes, I sometimes don’t even finish my apology.

stayed tuned for part 2.

In the day to day battle of motherhood, it can often be difficult to keep that long term perspective that we all know we should have.  We see each battle in front of us and forget that it’s the overall war (so to speak) that is at stake.  It’s the person they will become in 10, 15, 20 years, not just the monster we see in front of us at that particular moment.

Being a mommy is HARD WORK.

And no matter how hard we try, we all have gaps in our parenting.  Blind spots that will surely appear later in life when they undergo counseling to fix all the things we messed up.

For me, it seems that I often focus the most on the areas in which I personally feel the weakest.   One of those areas is in dealing with conflict.

To say that I do a poor job of dealing with conflict is an understatement.  More accurately, I run from conflict.  I don’t like confrontation.  And on the flip side, if I am pushed into confrontation, it usually gets ugly.

As a result of my own dysfunction is this area, I have been very intentional in trying to walk my children through things like, how to disagree with a sibling (or even with mom and dad) respectfully, how to properly apologize and then [gasp] ask for forgiveness, how to be graceful when others are unkind to you and you really wanna sock ’em one.

All of these things are hard.  The idea of saying, ‘I am sorry.  I was wrong. Would you forgive me?’ was foreign to me up till a few years ago.  We never said that in my family growing up.  The best I ever recall doing in this arena was a snarky, “I’m sorry” simply to fulfill the requirements set by one of my folks.  But just because I said the words, it didn’t mean I was sincere.

So with my kids, I will often walk them through their conflicts, re-playing what happened, and showing each of them what they could have done differently.

For example, (hypothetically of course), child #1 simultaneously grabs her coloring book out of #2 hands saying, ‘HEY. THAT’S MINE.’  #2 responds by holding onto the book.  A tug of war ensues.

I will replay the scenario with them.   First, I address that #2 should not have taken the book without first asking permission.  Then we go back: when #1 sees the book, instead of grabbing I have her say, ‘That is my book, can I please have it?’  I then have #2 respond by saying, ‘here you go’ and nicely hand it to the sibling.

It doesn’t always go so smoothly, but sometimes it does.  Sometimes I have to make #2 pick up the book, and try again to hand it nicely.  Sometimes the words come out with  hint of attitude.  But overall, it has worked well.

I do the same things when the offense requires an, ‘I am sorry.  Will you forgive me.’

My kids are far from perfect, just like their sinful mama.  But, by God’s grace, I am seeing some amazing things in them and between them.  I am seeing spontaneous apologizes.  I am seeing times when they handle the conflict the right way.  I am seeing a tenderness between all of them that is so sweet and warms my soul.

I do not know where my blind spots are as a parent.  When my kids have kids, those blind spots may become more evident.  But I am grateful to God for the inadequacies that I do see in myself, and for His grace in hopefully not passing those on to my precious children.

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