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.’

Advertisements

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.

Who doesn’t appreciate a good sense of humor?  Who doesn’t enjoy a good, hearty laugh.  Who doesn’t envy (at least just a little bit) the guy or gal who has that quick wit?  I know I do.

Humor is powerful.  Humor is a gift from God.  Humor can be amazingly effective it diffuse tense situations – especially as a mom.

I am (slowly) learning to effectively implement humor in ways that bring correction without escalating the situation.

Just a few minutes ago at lunch today my girls were sitting next to each other.  Annabella whines, “Abigail just wiped spit on me.”  I looked at Abigail and could tell she was guilty of something, but it isn’t like her to wipe spit – Annabella would be more likely the culprit of that crime.  Abigail confirmed that she did not wipe spit on her sister, it was sauce.  [ahh, much better.  sauce]

What to do?  It was all in good fun, kind of.  Abigail knows better.  No one is hurt.  No one is crying.  Abigail was unkind, Annabella is prone to get upset easily and could quickly turn to crying.  The offense does need to be addressed, but how?

“That’s so she can eat you later when your sleeping.”

Smiles all around.  Annabella – the offended – laughs.  Abigail’s guilty/scared face fades away as she sees that Mama isn’t going to berate her, and she smiles.  Even the 2-year-old thought it was quite funny.

With everyone laughing, I’m able to remind Abigail that she wasn’t kind (which she already knows).  She is able to hear and receive the correction without her pride getting in the way.  A melt-down is averted (always a good thing), and I get to pretend I’m so witty for a few moments.

Problem solved.

 

 

How many times have one of my children asked me a question that could have been answered with a yes just as easily as a no? How many times do I simply say ‘no’ because it’s easier, because I’m too tired to actually listen, because a baby is screaming and I cannot listen?

Far too many times.

My oldest has a tremendous ability to find the worst possible time to ask me such questions – as soon as my eyes open in the morning. As soon as will pull into the driveway as I am mentally running through all the people and things that need to be brought into the house. Right before the daily post lunch quiet time when I have already mentally checked out, etc.

I don’t do well when I’m hungry, and I don’t do well when I’m tired. The result is a simple question such as, “Mom, can we watch Dora” and a response that is a grumpy NO. I sin in anger and the questioner usually sins in response to my sin with her own anger and disrespect, thus creating a sinful downward spiral of civility.

So I’ve instituted what I call the “10 minute rule” with my kids — mainly with child #1. When I am asked a question at a time when I will not give it a fair answer, I say, “I need 10 minutes. In 10 minutes I will ask you, ‘okay, what did you need to ask me?’ fair enough?”

This has been so very helpful. It lets he know that I understand she has a request and that I will get to that request, but also lets her know that I need a few minutes to gather myself. If she asks in that moment, she will automatically get a ‘no’ response, so it is in her best interests to wait.

There has been considerably less friction over the past few weeks as I have begun to use this 10-minute rule.

If this is something you struggle with at times, I challenge you to create your own 5-minute rule, or 10-minute rule…or whatever length of time you generally need to regroup.