Tag Archives: Parenting

Helping Children Soar

Yesterday, we got to church for our weekly groups early enough that my younger daughter had much-loved time to play on the playground.  She wanted me to support her across the monkey bars.  WOW, did that test how well my knee rehab is going!  (Quite strong and stable, given that I was standing and walking backwards on loose beach-type sand holding 45 pounds.)  My daughter loves to swing, and, sure enough, she hopped on the swing, asked me to push her, and informed me, “I want to go high!”

I pulled her back and gave her the initial pushes.  As every parent knows, though, when you’re pushing a child on the swings, there’s not but so high a parent can push their child.  The parent can start them, but then the child has to pump her legs, and truly, her height is completely up to her at this point.  The child pumps and rises, eventually getting to the point where the chains start to go slack and she can see over the bar at the top.  She can lean back in the swing, letting her hair flow back and down in the breeze, or the more adventurous can decide to jump out of the swing at this point (with hopefully no broken bones).  The point is, though, once the child takes responsibility for her own swinging altitude, she can then choose what to do with it.

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On her way to the sky

As I stood with my daughter, watching her swing, I thought about a situation a friend is going through with his daughter.  The daughter’s mom think she’s “keeping her safe” by doing everything for her, way more than a near-teen needs to have done.  As a result, this young lady is lazy and slack about her self-care, especially pertaining to her medical needs.  You see, this mom doesn’t know that it’s time to stop pushing and time to trust her daughter to pump her legs.

Watching a child getting crazy-high on the swings is a bit heart-stopping:  Will she fall?  Will the chain mysteriously snap?  What happens if she loses her grip?  Answer:  She’ll get hurt, but likely survive.  In the meantime, there are squeals and giggles carried on the wind, fading and growing with the Doppler effect as she goes back and forth.  There’s the memories of exhilaration of being a girl on the swing, feeling that “oh my gosh!” as you remember seeing the chains go slack and feeling like you were so high.  And you realize, you just can’t take that away from her, because this child will likely never fall out of a swing, but she’ll experience a million moments of soaring thrills as her legs pump her higher and higher and higher and she leans back to feel the wind in her hair.

Sure, a child is safer being kept close under mother’s protective wing, but she’ll also never learn what she can do on her own.  That child will swing as long as she’s in mom’s reach, but she’ll never soar if mom won’t let go of her.  Sadly, the child will never learn she actually can soar.  As parents, there has to come a time when we let go of our children, trusting them to hang onto the chains, but only as long as they want to.  This is the only way we will empower our children to rise up to be all that they possibly can be.

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Discipline is Hard!

Discipline isn’t easy, because discipline done correctly leads to teaching subordinates of some sort (i.e., children) how to do things correctly or better.  I don’t care for the definition that aligns discipline with training using punishment as a consequence of misbehavior.  To me, discipline requires patient teaching with the end goal of the recipient of the discipline growing and learning something new.  There are consequences of not following the teaching, but it’s important to be clear about these from the beginning.  That way, they are the consequences of choices, not knee-jerk punishments.

Given that discipline requires patience, consistency, and love, then it follows that disciplining someone is a fairly challenging task.  As parents in particular, we risk dealing with push-back from children, the pouting, the drama, the pain on both parts.  Well, we generally know that the pain of discipline usually rests solely on the shoulders of the parents (“This will hurt me more than it will you.”), but children will convince us that they’re mortally wounded because we want them to play outside instead of playing video games, or we’d rather they read than watch TV.

Some other ways we discipline our children is by setting appropriate boundaries on their behavior.  This has to be immediate; otherwise, they’re just not going to get it.  “That doesn’t go in your mouth!”  <whispered> “No, you’re not ready for Communion, yet.”  “You need to hang your wet towel up, because if you don’t, the cat will pee on it.”  We know that these are simple boundaries that will have lasting consequences; they lessen the risk of putting bad stuff in their mouths, they’ll wait and go through the spiritual growth necessary before taking Communion, and they’ll learn to hang their stuff up (we hope).

But, heavens, doesn’t it seem to go on forever?!?!  “Don’t leave your colored pencils strewn across the living room floor.”  And didn’t I just tell her that 37 minutes ago for the eleventh time today, and it’s not even lunchtime, yet?  Wouldn’t you think she’d learn after doing it so many times that it’d be habit?  But, no.  Consistency, but then comes consequences.  “Daddy, you broke my pencil when you stepped on it!”  “Well, sweetie, would Daddy have been able to step on it had you picked it up and put it away when you were done?”  Damn Mommy logic!

Discipline means risking the anger and tears.  I have a friend who suffers a lot of unnecessary headache because he doesn’t want to deal with the anger from disciplining his daughter.  He just doesn’t “want to get into it with her.”  She is learning she can get by with a lot that doesn’t seem to bother her but that only irritates her dad.  My eldest can dish her own anger and attempts at manipulation.  Just today, she was reading something and asked, “What does ‘venerable’ mean?”  I replied, “Find the dictionary and look it up.”  “But it’s the first day back to school!  It’d be nicer if you’d just tell me what it means.”  Sure, I could’ve done that, avoided the drama, and she’d remember the definition until…  Oh, right around lunchtime.  If I’m lucky.  I grinned and said, “No, I’m not spoon feeding that to you.”  She huffed and dramatically flung herself out of the chair and strutted into the office, slamming the door behind her.  Ahhh…  Tween drama.

What is so hard about teaching children how to behave correctly and guiding them as they learn what it will take to grow into responsible, productive, happy adults?  Oh yeah.  It’s work.  Hard work.  Seemingly never ending work.  Work with no time clock, no paycheck, and certainly no vacation or sick leave.  But the results are invaluable.  Just the other night, my eldest told me all the way home and through dinner and after dinner about the opportunities she has this summer to break out of her comfort zone and do something different and independent and for others.  Two of these somethings cost money, but she didn’t even think to come to us to ask for the money.  (OK, so she’s having to ask for the deposits.)  She immediately started coming up with a SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timeable) plan for earning the money.  She’s driven and excited, and these events will mean even more to her, because she’s working for them.  Our work is far from done, but we can and will enjoy the small reward.

 

Motherhood and the Journey Into Hell

For my “light” (haha) summer reading, I’m reading Dante’s Inferno for the first time, fabulously translated by Robert Pinsky.  Pinsky’s translation illustrates Dante’s reactions to some of the people he encounters along his journey through the circles of the underworld.  The traveler recognizes people he knew from above, and knowing their sins, he feels their judgment and resulting punishment is just.  Yet, at the same time, seeing their eternal torments, he feels compassion on them for the torturous pain they must endure.

This morning, my older daughter left for camp.  She’d worked all weekend getting her clothes and other things together, and come 5:00 this morning when her Daddy was ready to roll out to take her to church, she got into the car, raring to go.  Then from my warm, snugly bed, I heard the front door open and close again.  Then suddenly, lights.  Bathroom light turning on.  My daughter’s lamp turning on.  The lit screen of hubby’s cell phone sweeping around the room.  What in the world???  My daughter.  Had lost.  Her glasses.  It would be deucedly hard for her to hit that coveted archery target if she can’t see it.

Finally, it was time for them to leave – the absolute latest moment they could still make it to church, so she had to go without her glasses.  At around 5:05 (yes, in the morning), she’d asked me where her old pair of glasses were.  I had no idea.  We promised we’d overnight them to her if we found them (STILL no luck in that department).

My daughter’s sweet, myopic self was off to camp, sans glasses.  Because of their delay in leaving, they couldn’t stop at Walmart to get her a disposable waterproof camera as she’d hoped.  Being sight-limited is going to make camp less fun than she’d hoped, less fun that she’d anticipated.

She’s reaping the consequences of choosing not to be responsible  for keeping up with her glasses, just like the “shades” in Dante’s Divine Comedy are reaping the consequences of their choices in life.  Like Dante, I feel compassion for my daughter, sad that she’s having to go through this ordeal.  Unlike the “shades,” though, she has the opportunity to learn from this experience and make better choices when she comes home.  It’s hard watching this, but we’ll both be OK – and maybe the glasses will turn up tomorrow.  We can hope.

Teacher? Or Counselor?

Friday presented one of those situations in which the mom who is also the homeschool teacher experienced tension with mom who is also a counselor.  I’d given my daughter an assignment out of her spelling book:  Write about something you learned how to do.  Whereas usually writing is cause for distress and drama, she instead announced, “I’m going to write about learning how to wrap presents without a box!”

I affirmed her choice and she was off.  About fifteen minutes later, she announced she was finished and I looked at her work.  She’d gotten distracted from her plan and instead had spent the majority of her paper on visiting the counselor, why she’d gone and how she’d felt.  *sigh*  The teacher thought, “I need to either really take off points or have her rewrite this to fit the assignment.”  The counselor (and really, that side is strongest in me, anyway) determined that, if she needed to write about her counseling, then she needed to get that out.  In the end, I praised her for writing in her newly discovered voice, commented on what I’d noticed and gave her a B-.

It raised a dilemma, though.  It also made me realize that I’m never “just” teacher or “just” chaplain/counselor or “just” mom.  I am often all these things at one time.  Did I handle this the right way?  I’m confident that I did, given my daughter’s needs.  What would you have done similarly or differently?

A Time for Hugs and a Time for Muffins

If you’re a mom and you’re reading this, what I’m about to say won’t come as any surprise to you:  Being a mom is hard work!  This morning as my daughter and I were preparing to begin our homeschool day, she threw a drama fit.  “I don’t want to brush my teeth!  I don’t like my toothpaste.”  Then came “I don’t like my hair!”  Followed by “I don’t like homeschooling and I’m not going to do it!”  The fourth drama fit came after I assigned her a writing assignment:  “I’m not feeling the love here.”  Four drama fits in under two hours.  Whew!  How exhausting!

Somewhere between drama fits three and four, we were sitting down in the living room and I broke through her tears to ask, “Honey, what in the world is all this drama about?”  She told me she’s still scared.  We talked about that for a while, with me asking the right questions and giving her the right assurances.  And just to prove she’s a counselor/chaplain’s daughter, after I said, “Being scared doesn’t feel good, but it’s not wrong to feel scared.  It’s OK to feel that way,” she replied, “I know it’s OK to feel scared.  I know it’s not bad.”  I was beaming on the inside when she said that.  My husband, when I told him, just rolled his eyes and grinned.

Magic wand with stars. Transparent background.

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I still don’t know how to take her fear away.  I can’t.  I can give her a million reassurances and tons of hugs, but there’s no magic wand I can wave to make those bad feelings go away.  And isn’t that just a kick in the keyster?

She gave me a huge hug after our talk and we snuggled for a bit.  Then she wanted to sit right beside me while we did our morning homeschool routine, all except for her spelling test.  Even then, we weren’t more than two feet apart.

The morning passed successfully and we got through lunch and moved on to math.  Two extremely ripe bananas demanded my attention before I was forced to throw them away, so my daughter and I decided we wanted to make muffins out of them.  I dragged her white board into the kitchen so we could work out the math for doubling our muffin recipe.  She’s been introduced to fractions, but she’d never done things with them, like adding, converting or reducing.  With just one explanation, she got it!  We were both flying, because she finally had a challenge in math, she was still learning it quickly, plus we now have a bunch of yummy whole wheat banana muffins for breakfast.

Repeat After Me

 

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“I am a fabulous mom!” Go ahead, say it! Sure you might feel funny talking out loud to your computer, but go ahead and say this. Now say it again, but with conviction this time.

Hard time believing it? Try this. Are your kids well-fed, dressed and reasonably clean? Do they sleep pretty well at night, secure in the safety of your love and home? Can they laugh, sing, dance and share their love with others and you? Then you’re doing a GREAT job as a mom!

So, one more time. Shout it! “I am a fabulous mom!” With feeling this time! “I AM A FABULOUS MOM!!!”

About This Blog

Mother hen with chicks02

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All of us, men and women, need regular doses of encouragement and support.  We need someone to look at what we’re doing well and say, “You are great at that!”  So often, we receive a shopping list of “areas of improvement,” either from someone else – like bosses – or in our own minds, usually in someone else’s voice.  Rarely do we hear what our areas of greatness are.

That’s what this blog is for.  While titled for Moms and geared toward them primarily, certainly we know that Dads often need words of encouragement, too.  Ladies, when’s the last time you told your husband or significant other, “You’re a fantastic dad!” or “I’m lucky to have you in my life, because you’re wonderful at ______”?

Not only will this blog offer words of encouragement and insight, I’ll also be inviting you into my life.  What does my life look like?  I’m a wife, mother, small business owner and a homeschool teacher.  I’m behind by two loads of laundry, my bedroom has clothes scattered everywhere, there are dishes in the sink and I’ve got purple circles under my eyes today.  In short, while I’m doing a lot, I’m hardly doing it perfectly.  And you know what?  That’s OK, because I’m created to be used as God wants to use me, not as people think I should be.  My children know they’re loved, they’re going to have delicious leftovers for dinner and at least one load of laundry will be done by the time I turn my light out tonight.

I’ll be honest.  I have days where I think I fail as a mother.  Do you ever feel like that?  I bet you do once in a while.  How do you get out of that?  What helps me is when someone besides my husband tells me, “You’re a great mom!”  I’ve got friends to lean on and I enjoy reading well thought-out articles written by some down-to-earth parenting experts who are parents themselves.  I’ll post links to those articles from time to time.   I will try daily to remind you, “You’re a good parent,” because we really do need to hear that on a regular basis.

If there are any topics you wish for me to cover, please let me know.  I’ll admit, I don’t know a whole lot about parenting teens, as my two are 7 years and 14 months; if you’d like to guest post, absolutely let me know that, too!  We’re all on this parenting journey together.  Let’s have some fun with it!