Seasons Change

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So we’ve had like five nice days here in Michigan this year.Yesterday it got up in the 80s and I couldn’t believe how many people I heard complaining about the heat. Does nobody remember the seemingly endless piles of snow we just got done shoveling? Maybe I’m the only one driving a car that gets stuck at the end of the driveway if there’s any mention of snow. All I know is that I’m thankful for the heat, grateful for this change of season.

Isn’t it just like us to wish away a season though?

Because in the midst of every season, there is some sorta something that makes us unhappy. It’s too hot, too cold, too humid, too snowy, too sticky, too rainy, too dry. We’re never happy.

It’s like this in life too. We’re never happy in our season. Some other season always looks better and we want to be there. If I could just be in that other season, THEN I’d be happy.

I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I got married young, started my family…and almost immediately started wishing away that season. Babies were a lot of work, they always needed something. I couldn’t take a shower or go to the bathroom alone. There was always someone knocking or fingers under the door or somebody crying on the other side. I remember trying to take a bath one night, I had a book to read and candles lit and was ready for this much deserved break from my two tiny boys. And I remember starting to cry when they wouldn’t stop pounding on the door and crying and screaming and fighting. I thought to myself  I just want them to leave me alone. I can’t wait until they’re older. Now they’re 18 and 20 and what I wouldn’t give to have them beg me to read them one more bedtime story. But they’re all grown up and moving on and I wish that I had enjoyed that season a little more. I wish I’d have seen what a blessing it was to have little ones that couldn’t stand to leave this mama’s side.

I’ve had lots of seasons that couldn’t have gone fast enough. I’ve wished and willed and prayed them out of existence like it was my only job. Because every season has it’s struggles and when we’re in the midst of it, sometimes that’s the only thing we can see is the struggle. But that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing that’s there. I promise you that there is also a blessing…even though sometimes it’s a little tough to find. But it’s there because God doesn’t allow pain without a purpose.

I’ve recently endured some pretty rough seasons. Seasons full of ice and snow and lots of cold. Seasons that I didn’t know how I’d survive. Seasons of caring for my own kids, and other people’s kids, and loved ones and friends that needed help. And there was a season of caring for my dad and if you’ve cared for a cancer patient, you know. And if you haven’t, I hope you never know.  It was a season full of struggle and trust me when I say that I almost always focused on that and almost always missed out on the blessings. But there were times – quiet times in the hospital watching my dad sleep peacefully; visits with my kids when he was feeling up to playing rummy; even when I couldn’t sleep because he’d have “Little House On The Prairie” up as loud as the T.V. would go, but it reminded me of the days we watched it together when I was a little girl. The blessings…they were there in the season too, I just had a hard time finding them in the midst of the struggle.

You may not see the blessing in this season, but you’ll see it in the next. You may not be the first person to see it, someone may have to point it out to you, but you’ll see it eventually. You may not ever want to relive that painful season, but you’ll be able to use your experience to help someone else live through a similar one. And when you do that, it’ll give your pain a purpose and that season won’t seem so bad after all.

I recently read a brilliant quote that said “The days are long, but the years are short”. Isn’t that true? Some of my days are so long they feel as if  they’ll never end. But then I think back on the years that have flown by and I wonder where has the time gone? Where are my toddling children? How can it be that they are taking jobs in other states and flying far away from me? Didn’t I just finish wiping the spaghettios off their little faces?

What’s your season right now? A difficult job? A wayward child? An ailing parent? A scary diagnosis?  I hope you know that it is just that – a season. It’ll pass, as they always do. And although you may have a hard time seeing through the struggle in your season, work hard to find the blessing. It’s there. I promise.

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I Was Spanked As a Child…And I Really Am Fine

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I have a lot of kids.  Because of this, naturally,  people tend to ask me for parenting advice.  This is a riot, because I’ll be the first to admit that I have no clue what I’m doing and never have.  Any success I’ve had in parenting is by the grace of God, and any failures…well, they make thankful for God’s grace.

One of the topics that seems to come up fairly often lately is that of “spanking”.  Now, I actually don’t have a strong opinion either way about spanking.  I know, weird.  I tend to be pretty opinionated about almost everything.  But not on this.  And the small opinion that I do have on it, I’m going to keep to myself.  But I wanted to share an article that I read yesterday about the topic that I found simply absurd.

This article, “5 Reasons You Aren’t Fine if You Were Spanked As a Child” might be one of the most ludicrous pieces of parenting “wisdom” that I’ve ever come across.

I would definitely fall into the camp of parents who would make the claim that “Yes, I was spanked as a kid and I’ve turned out just fine.”  Did I enjoy being spanked? No, of course not.  But come on.  These claims?  Am I the only one that thinks they’re ridiculous?

“1. Spanking makes kids more aggressive. Like I said, this is what the latest findings on spanking conclude. According to Elizabeth Gershoff, who studies parental discipline and its effects at the University of Texas at Austin: “Kids who were spanked as 5-year-olds were slightly more likely to be aggressive and break rules later in elementary school. Spanking models aggression as a way of solving problems, that you can hit people and get what you want.””

Ok. In all fairness, I guess this one makes sense.  Kind of.  I can see how kids that are spanked would possibly mimic that behavior towards other children.  But to use this as an argument that I’m not fine as an adult?  I personally don’t recall ever hitting other kids.  And I certainly don’t walk around hitting people now because I was spanked as a kid.  As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that I am one of the least aggressive people that I know.

“2. Spanking leads to language problems. The same study that found that children who were spanked at least twice a week by their fathers at the age of 5 were more likely to score lower on vocabulary and language-comprehension tests.”

You see, this is where it just gets silly.  Hmm.  My father was the sole spanker in my house.  And most weeks, I probably got spanked at least twice a week.  I’ll count it then as a miracle that I repeatedly won spelling bees, have always enjoyed vocabulary and have excelled at language and reading comprehension.  I bet those kids that scored lower had way bigger issues than being spanked a couple times a week by daddy.

“3. Spanking leads to cognitive impairment and long-term developmental difficulties.According to a 2012 study conducted at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa,spanking “may reduce the brain’s grey matter, the connective tissue between brain cells. Grey matter is an integral part of the central nervous system and influences intelligence testing and learning abilities. It includes areas of the brain involved in sensory perception, speech, muscular control, emotions, and memory.”

Wait.  What?  Cognitive impairment?  From spanking?  Clearly, we have different understandings of what a spanking is.  I can assure you that the spankings that I’m thinking of don’t “reduce the brain’s grey matter”.  I think that the author is mistaking “spanking” with “child abuse”.

“4. Spanking may lead to depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. Another 2012 study concluded that “being slapped, pushed, or hit as a child leads to an increased risk of mental illness.” The study, which was published in Pediatrics, claims that “adults who reported such treatment as children were reported as 6 percent of respondents who had higher risk of mood disorders, anxiety, and alcohol or drug abuse.”

Again.  Come on.  I feel so bad for new parents who read this kind of thing.  Now, I have no research to back this up, but in my (not so) professional but very much experienced opinion, I’d say that the increase in depression, anxiety and alcoholism in our nation has little to do with getting your butt swatted as a toddler.  (It’s much more likely that people are anxious and depressed because they stumble across articles online that tell them how badly they’ve screwed up and ruined their kids lives by spanking them)  And again, I have clearly defied the odds and survived spankings without any permanent psychological disorders and have never used or abused alcohol or drugs.  On the other hand, my younger sisters (who were NOT spanked), regularly use drugs and alcohol, and without an official diagnosis, I would place money on the fact that they suffer from any number of mood disorders.  I’ll bet you my parents just wish they’d have spanked those two girls way more often!

And my favorite…

“5. Spanking children may lead to adult obesity and a host of other diseases. If mental effects aren’t enough to sway parents away from spanking their children, perhaps physical ones will. According to a Canadian study done earlier this year, childhood spanking “can put children at higher risk of suffering cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and adult obesity.”

What a relief to know that I can now blame my weight issues on my parents and not on my love for Reese’s peanut butter cups.  And it’s good to know that I don’t need to bother changing my diet and exercise habits because I will inevitably end up with a myriad of diseases due to those spankings that I endured 30 years ago.

I don’t want to debate the rights or wrongs of spanking.  Like I said, I don’t actually have a strong opinion either way.  But am I the only one that feels like I was spanked as a kid and I turned out just fine.  No, really.  I am just fine.

 

 

The Measure of a Mom

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I wonder if there is any greater pressure in life than to be a good mother.  As a mom, it can feel like pretty much everything you do is measured by how good, or bad, you are at this job.  And the standard of how good or bad you are…well that changes constantly and there are a million variables that go in to figuring that out.  But the measure seems to be mostly dependent on who is administering the test (aka judging you).  When you think about how many interactions you have in a single day, week, month…that’s a whole lotta judging going on.  And that means a whole lotta pressure to be good at, well, everything.

If that’s not enough,  you’re also judged on the behavior of your kids and how good they are at everything.  If your child has a tantrum at the grocery store, that’s a forgivable offense for them, but you’re docked double points in the mom category, because first of all why is your child such a little monster? And second, why can’t you control them when they decide to have a melt down in aisle five?

As a pretty imperfect mom myself, I’d love to say that I’m not guilty of this unfair judging.  But that would be a lie.  When I see a child misbehaving, I have perfected “the look” that I give to my own kids as we walk past the uncontrollable brat.  And after many years of this look, I don’t even need to say a word, the kids say it for  me. “I know, you would kill us if we ever did that.” Yep.  I sure would.  Because I have enough trouble earning good mom points on my own, I don’t need you lowering my score.

I don’t really want to measured by whether or not I attend every baseball game or PTO meeting.  I don’t want to be scored by how well behaved my children are, how smart they are or how old they are when they started walking/talking/potty training…etc.  What level they read at when they’re 6 years old shouldn’t be a factor and it shouldn’t matter how many activities or sports they participate in.

I can’t imagine any other area in life where we are judged almost solely based on someone else’s performance.  Besides, I know some really great moms whose kids just aren’t there yet and may never be. What I’ve realized as my kids have grown into adulthood is that I can only do what I can do,  but ultimately their choices are up to them. And truly,  their behavior isn’t necessarily a reflection of how well I’ve done as a mom.

So what is the measure of a mom? How do I know if I’ve done my job and done it well?  I’ve decided on these few things as a measuring stick for myself.  This list might change or be added to over the years, and it might not be a standard for anyone else, but this is how I’ll be measuring myself.

  • Do my kids know that I love them? Now, I’ve learned that just loving a kid doesn’t necessarily make you a good mom, even really bad moms often love their kids.  I want my kids to know that I love them with the kind of unconditional,  selfless, I’d do anything for you…but your “happiness” is not my main concern…kind of love.
  • Do my kids know that God loves them even more than I do?  For me this is a big one.  Because I will fail my kids.  Often.  And I want them to know and to understand that I am not their ultimate authority.  Only by understanding the depth of God’s love, will they be able to extend the same kind of love to others.  And for me, that’ll be a big win.
  • Do my kids know that there are consequences to their actions?  As a mom, our natural response to our kids getting in trouble is to bail them out.  This often means that when our kids do something really stupid that deserves to be punished, we rush to their defense and don’t let them face the consequences that they’ve got coming to them.  If my kids realize that good choices equal good consequences and bad choices equal bad consequences, and that sometimes those bad consequences really hurt, I’ll be doing alright.
  • Do my kids understand the value of working hard?  My kids don’t own their own computer or ipad, they were never given a car and I’ve never paid for a spring break trip.  Why?  Because that stuff is expensive and they can’t afford it.  I supply my kids with their basic necessities.  If they want the extras, they have to work for it.  Giving them a handout now does not teach them the importance of hard work, which they will eventually have to learn. ( Unless of course, you plan to allow them to live in your basement and play video games their whole life, in which case, better you than me.)  I want my kids to know the value of a dollar and to realize that dollars don’t grow on trees.  I also want them to experience the satisfaction that comes with working for something and then obtaining it.  They will never get the same sense of satisfaction from a handout.  

And maybe most importantly,

  • Do my kids know the importance of character?  I’m a huge fan of good old honest Abe, who once said “Reputation is the shadow, character is the tree”.  I want my kids to know that their character will reflect who they are.  And that who they are, especially when nobody’s looking, is really important.  And I want them to know that things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are always admirable traits to have. 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Not-Quite-Perfect Mother

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Today has been one of those days.  Not a good day or a bad day…just a day.  But a day that seems like it’s been going on for years.  It’s 7:15 p.m.  I just put little B down for bed.  It’s 45 minutes before his normal bedtime but thankfully he doesn’t know the difference.  He’s been tired and fussy since I picked him up from childcare which is the worst because I miss him all day and then I finally get to him…and ugh. And then he yells and cries all the way home, no manners at all. “Use your inside voice” I say, forgetting that he’s only a year old and has no idea what I mean.  So he refuses to listen, and I turn up the radio hoping to drown out the crying and in the end I get a headache from Miley Cyrus instead of BenJovi.

But today didn’t start out this way. This morning while I was driving Corey to school, he told me that I should write about being a perfect mom.  I laughed and told him that’s silly, because nobody’s perfect.  To which he replied, “I know you’re not a perfect person…but you’re a perfect mom”.   I thanked him for thinking so, but assured him that I’m nowhere near perfect.  And he looked at me, unconvinced and as serious as could be and said “Maybe you don’t think so, but you don’t get to decide because I’m the kid and I decided that you’re a perfect mom”.  Well, alright then. Who am I to argue with his nine year old logic?

How can it be that he thinks I’m perfect, or even good, when right now I’m sitting here with a sink full of dishes, bath toys still in the tub and I’ve put the baby to bed early just to catch a break.  My sleeve is still soaking wet from giving Ben a bath because I can’t even manage to control a toddler and keep him from splashing.  My kids ate sandwiches for dinner since I didn’t have time to cook when I got home from work because we had to rush out of the house for play rehearsal and Jiu Jitsu class. The laundry that I started this morning is still sitting in the washing machine and the 87 loads that still need to be done are clearly not getting done today. Toys are still covering the floor which hasn’t been vacuumed and I should be packing lunches for tomorrow, but I still have to go back out to pick up kids again and all I really want to do is go to bed.

And then it occurred to me that my kids couldn’t care less about all of those things that I haven’t gotten done today. Nobody does. All of the expectations I had for myself today that I didn’t accomplish, I’m the only one disappointed by them.  All of the crazy pressure I feel to juggle everything perfectly, never dropping the ball on anything…I’m the one that’s putting it there…and it’s okay if I stop doing that to myself.  It’s probably actually even good for me to stop it.

My kids love me simply because I love them and they know it. And today is just that…a day. It’s one day which is just a tiny little dot in the big picture. It’s going to be over shortly and tomorrow I’ll get to start all over again.  Being a not-quite-perfect but not-all-that-terrible-either mom.