Category: Parenting

Thoughts on Motherhood: Crossroads

Crossroads Square

I had to have the first sex talk with my son when he was 4.

Call it divine inspiration but we had just had a lesson that day in Sunday School about how to teach our kids about morality. Coincidentally, that night at the dinner table, my son said something that blew both me and my husband totally out of the water. We looked at each other, I said a silent prayer, and I said, “Misa, we need to talk about that but not at the dinner table. We’ll discuss it later ok?”

He could probably tell by the look on my face that I was horrified by what he had just told me. He kind of sunk down in his chair and I said, “It’s ok buddy, I know you don’t understand all about that stuff and it’s ok because you’re still little. We’ll talk about it later tonight ok?” He said, “Ok.” 

After continually praying until “later” came, I finally sat down with him and explained a few things, obviously very basic. I tried to keep it at a 4-year-old level but really? Is there even a 4-year-old level when it comes to sex? From our little discussion I discovered a couple of things.

First, his friend who is barely a year older than him, is where a lot of this was coming from. 

Second, it was reinforced by things that he passively saw on TV.

Kids playing2The reason I bring up this story is because I want to point out some differences in parenting trends over the years. 

Recently I read a couple of blog posts about how parents are getting the raw end of the deal and how we are doing too much and worrying too much about our kids. While it’s a great read and I totally agree with most of the points, there are some things I want to point out.

If we compare how we parent to how we were parented, we can probably see a change in trends. Back in the day, even before my childhood days, children were to be seen and not heard. Most of them learned about life through the hard knocks and most of them turned out fine. Now our generation is being ripped apart because we’re all helicopter parents and we’re ruining our kids from becoming competent adults. We’re too soft and we shelter them too much.

I grew up with responsibility. I get it. This whole “entitlement” thing is definitely a problem. Helicopter parenting is definitely a problem. It’s kind of like we’ve swung from one side of the pendulum to the other. From letting our kids raise themselves to not allowing our kids to learn anything for themselves. The problem, I think, is in the extremes. 

The truth is, we can’t allow our kids to roam the streets all day with no idea of where they are or what they’re doing. The world isn’t the same as it was 30 years ago. We can’t allow our TV to play constantly as background noise and not pay attention to what it is teaching our kids.

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We can’t let our kids learn about sex from the media because I guarantee you, it will be a very warped version of it. Pornography and sex are everywhere. You don’t even have to look for it. If a 4-year-old, who was uncomfortably open with me, can be aroused by something as “innocent” as cable TV, then we have a problem folks. 

So no, we can’t parent old school. You know why? Because our world isn’t old school anymore. We have to learn and adapt, sometimes by trial and error. And that’s a painful process. 

I have this constant dilemma in my head about whether I’m doing enough or too much for my kids. Every situation is different and I try to be strategic about every teaching opportunity.

I’m still not cemented in my parenting approach because there absolutely is no “one size fits all” approach. Every situation is different, every season is different, and Heaven knows every child is completely different. 

However, I have found something that has given me a little direction and just “feels right” when it comes to how I want to approach parenting.

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He stood at the crossroads all alone, The sunlight in his face;
He had no thought for an evil course, He was set for a manly race.
But the road stretched east and the road stretched west,
And he did not know which road was the best;
So he took the wrong road and it lead him down,
And he lost the ace and the victor’s crown.
He was caught at last in an angry snare
Because no one stood at the crossroads there
To show him the better road.

Another day at the self-same place a boy with high hopes stood;
He, too, was set for a manly race; he was seeking the things that were good.
And one was there who the roads did know,
And that one showed him the way to go;
So he turned away from the road leading down,
And he won the race and the victor’s crown;
He walks today on the highways fair
Because one stood at the crossroads there
To show him a better road.

by Sadie Tiller Crawley

A leader in our congregation has shared this poem many times with us. He did it again a couple weeks ago and I saw it, for the first time, as it relates to parenting.

We don’t have to run the race with our kids. We don’t have to be there every step of the way, in fact, we can’t be. We don’t need to argue with the judge of the race if our child chooses the wrong path and loses.

But we certainly don’t have to sit at the finish line and just hope they make it there somehow. We can stand at those places where we know they might make the wrong choice, where maybe we made the wrong choice at some point in our life, and show them the better road. Then all we can do is hope they trust us enough to take it.

I vote for an involved style of parenting that still allows margin for our kids to grow. I vote for parents to be teachers. I vote for kids growing up with someone to guide them, not to do it for them, but also not to leave them alone to figure it all out for themselves.

My hope is that we can continue to evolve as parents and find a happy medium between doing everything for our kids and not doing anything. 

Times have changed my friends. We are parenting in a world our parents never even imagined possible. Heck, we never even imagined possible. I thought sex talks were for pre-teens getting ready to go through puberty, not 4-year-old boys who still wear batman capes.

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What is your opinion on the best approach to parenting?

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5 Lessons On Service I Learned From My Mother

Service SquareI’m not going to lie when I tell you that I have my mother on a pedestal. We have been through a lot together, both good and bad, and she is literally the best friend I’ve ever had. I know not everyone can say that about their mother and I feel overly blessed that I can. 

She has taught me more than any other single person in my life and I know it hasn’t been easy. Contrary to popular belief, I wasn’t always an angel. When people tell me about their difficult children, I feel like giving them my mom’s number. She needs to write the book on raising a strong-willed child.

Apart from channeling her strong-willed child’s determination into mostly positive outlets, she also taught me about service. My mother has never been across seas to do humanitarian work, she’s never opened her own non-profit or raised millions of dollars for a good cause. However, she has lived a life of consistent and selfless service to countless people and along the way, instilled that desire to serve in me. 

Here are 5 lessons she has taught me, without hardly saying a word.

1. It doesn’t matter your circumstances, you can always serve

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My mother has been single most of my life. She sometimes had to work 2 or 3 jobs to keep us fed and clothed and yet she was always serving in one way or another. She taught me from a very young age the importance of helping other people, no matter your own circumstances. 

It’s so easy to get caught up in our own problems and lack of finances. Whenever I feel a desire to serve but the logic in my brain tells me I don’t have enough money or time to spare, I try to think of my mom and her shining example of not having enough and doing it anyway. 

Since exiting her child-rearing years and becoming a little more financially stable, she has become even more generous. I often hear her say how she wishes she could help more, do more. Her personal goals have a lot to do with helping other people. Service is an attitude and she wears it every day. 

2. Anonymous service is the best kind

One Christmas, when we were still in elementary school, my mom told my brother and me about a little boy who probably wasn’t going to get much for Christmas that year. I don’t remember the specifics of the story or his situation but I do remember he lived up the street from us.

I remember the excitement we felt as my brother and I carried a big box full of food and presents and a bike to their front door. It was Christmas Eve and it was dark and cold but we were bursting with emotion as we left the box and the bike, rang the doorbell, and ran through the slippery ice and snow to hide. 

The amazement on the boy’s face was absolutely priceless and I remember we both cried when we saw how excited he was and how excited we were that we could help in such a small way.

All kinds of service are great but anonymous service is the most exciting because you get to keep a special secret. My mom provided many of these kinds of opportunities for us and still to this day, nothing gives me quite a rush like doing an anonymous service.

3. Giving service makes you appreciate receiving it more

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My mom was always on the lookout for a family to help, especially at Christmastime. However, because of some tough times we had experienced as a family, and the fact that my mom was struggling so much to make it raising her kids alone, we were sometimes the benefactors of others’ service. 

I will never forget the Christmas that we had during our short-lived move to Salt Lake City. We came from a small town to the big city in hopes to start over. I was in the second grade that year and by the end, I had been in 5 different classes. We moved a lot during those months.

My mom wasn’t used to all the extra expenses of living in the city and between daycare, high housing costs, and gas money to get from place to place, our finances were stretched to the absolute limit with no leeway at all.

One night, only a few days before Christmas, my mom snuck in my room of our small basement apartment. She woke me up and said, “You have to get up and come see what somebody brought us!” We ran into the kitchen and she showed me a beautiful basket full of gorgeous fruit. Then she pulled out an envelope, opened it, and immediately tears rolled down her face. She said it was money. Christmas money. 

By that time, I was old enough to understand our situation. Christmas would have been very sad for us that year had it not been for some generous people who, hardly knowing us, had been moved upon by God to help. It wasn’t just the fact that Santa could come that year, it was the fact that we were not alone and that God was aware of our circumstances. 

Because I had experience with helping people, I was so much more aware and sincerely grateful for the help we received. The experience has stuck with me my entire life. Other similar experiences have only fueled my fire to help even more.

4. Service isn’t only about Christmastime

Although many of the specific stories I am sharing had to do with Christmastime, that isn’t the only time my mother has served. She is the first one to raise her hand for almost any kind of volunteer opportunity.

If you come to her house in the evening, you will probably catch my mother crocheting. She rarely sits down but when she does, she is crocheting. Sometimes she makes dish rags and puts them in wedding gifts. She has been known to make gorgeous table cloths and baby blessing dresses. But she is famous for her baby blankets.

If you know my mom and have had a baby, you have most likely received one of her gorgeous baby blankets. She gives them to people she hardly knows. 

She gives wedding presents to people she hardly knows. She’s always giving gifts. No matter where she goes, she’s bringing back gifts for everybody. My mother is truly the best gift-giver I’ve ever known.

She pays for people’s groceries at the store and their meals in restaurants. She gives to every fundraiser or good cause that comes her way. She puts her name on almost every sign-up sheet that comes around at church to offer meals or other support to people going through a difficult time.

My mother inspires me, everyday, to look harder for ways to help people and to make them feel loved and important. This is her super power. 

5. Service is the best anecdote for getting through tough times

Best friends

We knew the first Christmas we brought my brother home from the hospital was going to be difficult. His girls were still only 9 and 11 years old and Christmas would never be the same for them. 

My mother was still adamant that we were going to help another family for Christmas. We picked some angels off the angel tree and went about buying small gifts, clothes and shoes to fit these kids. 

Christmas morning brought a hilarious surprise when the people who delivered the angel tree presents came to our house to deliver gifts! Apparently someone had put my nieces and nephew on the angel tree. My sister said, “I’m afraid I picked my own son off the tree!” 

Nothing could bring my brother completely back to us, like he was before, but turning our attention outward and looking to help other people made Christmas that year all the sweeter. 

I know there are many women out there like my mom who sacrifice every day to help other people. I don’t know if my mom was aware of the impact she was making in my life when she performed these acts of service. I don’t know if she was even thinking of me with the intention of teaching a lesson. My suspicion is that she did it without thinking of the example she was providing for her kids. She did it because it felt right and she knew how much she appreciated help when she needed it.

These lessons on service also apply to my role as a mother. When I look back and see all the sacrifices she made for us, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Motherhood is one big life of service. I learned from the best because she not only served us, she taught us how to serve others.

The Lord teaches that, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” What a beautiful thing to think about when it comes to a mother’s service. Happy Mother’s Day!

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What did your mother teach you about service? How are you teaching your own children?

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Thoughts on Motherhood: I Sometimes Forget I Have Dandelions in My Hair

DandelionsSquareMy kids love to bring me dandelions and there is no shortage of them in our yard. Despite the fact that they are ugly weeds, I always do my best to show my genuine gratitude that my kids are showing their love for me.

The other day, after a particularly plentiful dandelion gathering, I had probably 6 dandelions tucked behind my ears from both of my kids. We walked into the store and I saw an old guy friend from high school. I just smiled, waved and kept walking, totally ignoring the look on his face. It wasn’t until later, when a couple of the dandelions fell out that I even remembered they were there. I realized how ridiculous I must have looked to him with my wind-blown, sweaty hair filled with dandelions. And I promptly realized I didn’t care.

Becoming a mother has changed me in so many ways. I have become more assertive, more observant, and more grateful for tiny miracles. I have become less concerned with what people think of me and less critical of others. In short, I don’t care much for how the world sees me anymore. I care much more about how my children see me.

The dandelion incident is one of many where I was aware of how my children’s happiness and well-being was much more important than how anybody else saw me. 

When my daughter was still a baby we were on vacation in Texas and went to the zoo in Houston with a friend and her son. My kids were not used to the 90 degree weather and 100% humidity. The poor kids were dripping wet the entire day and we quickly realized it was a huge mistake to think we could enjoy ourselves at the zoo in the middle of June with the rest of the sweaty population.

When my daughter became fussy because she was hungry I found a quiet spot, as away from the multitudes as I could find, and began nursing her with my nursing cover on. It only took a second for me to realize this was not going to work. I was almost delirious with the heat and she was practically suffocating under there! She kept trying to rip it off and I finally took it off myself. 

Breastfeeding2

I had never nursed in public without a cover and you know what, in that moment I didn’t care. I did my best to cover up what I could but feeding my daughter became a higher priority than what other people thought. I knew my husband was uncomfortable, my friend was uncomfortable, and there were several people who walked by and shook their heads. It seemed ironic to me that there were several girls wearing bikini tops walking around with just as much, if not more, breast showing as me but nobody seemed to notice.

Before I had children, I would never dream of showing any amount of my breasts in public. I’ve always been a very modest person and frankly a little judgmental about women who nursed in public. But this day, I realized that sometimes you have to compromise in order to be a good mother.

When I’m running through the Walmart parking lot like a crazy person with a cartful of kids yelling, “Faster mommy, faster!” I don’t even look up to see what people’s reactions are to my immature behavior. When someone makes a comment about how weird it is that I let my kids kiss me on my mouth, I turn a deaf ear. When my kids spill their fruit snacks on the floor at church and then pick them up and eat them, I don’t pay attention to the people who I know are silently criticizing me. It’s just not worth it.

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Am I a perfect mother with no need of anyone else’s counsel or advice? Clearly not. Is it ok to let kids eat food off the filthy ground? Probably not. I’m trying to take this motherhood thing, which has turned out to be the most challenging role of my life, one day at a time. That means that I’m going to screw up. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m probably going to have to pay for my kids’ therapy one day to get over whatever I end up doing that screws them up emotionally.

Despite all my faults and screw-ups, I can honestly say that I love these little humans more than any other on this planet. The love I feel for them is unmatched and my desire to be a good mother for them runs deep. I hope they remember that I wore their dandelions in my hair with pride. And I do. In fact, sometimes I completely forget they’re there.

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What are some of your experiences where you realized your children’s happiness was more important than how other people saw you?

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Quit Your Job as the Maid: 4 Step Training Process

***This is the fourth post in a series called Quit Your Job as the Maid. Post 1Post 2, Post 3

Train Square

My 4-year-old son has this…we’ll call it an issue…where he wants to change his clothes a thousand times a day. You can bet that doesn’t go over well with this Laundry Slave. The other day he wanted to wear one shirt to school and then bring a different one to change into after school. I gave him a flat “no” and he continued to insist. I finally said, “When you’re ready to do the laundry, you can change your clothes as often as you want…” He cut me off and said, “Ok, I’m ready for you to teach me.” ? I hadn’t realized I had offered an invitation.

Here’s a 4 step training process to help you follow through once you’ve invited your kids to learn something new.

1. Acknowledge

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While studying to be a teacher I learned about all kinds of ways to motivate children. There are sticker charts, verbal praise, silent praise (such as a high-five), rewards in the form of treats, toys, and privileges. There are all sorts of extrinsic (or external) motivators. But what really struck a chord with me is what Vicki talks about and comes from the psychologist Rudolf Dreikurs, which is intrinsic (or internal) motivation. That is, doing something because you know it’s right and it makes you feel good on the inside. It is very unlikely our young children will develop this if we continue to reward them with praise or treats every time they do something right.

From the time my son was very young I would say, after cleaning up a mess, “Awww. I love it when our house is clean. It feels so good! Don’t you think?” I would try to draw attention to the internal feeling that we get when everything is put away and cleaned up. I would point out, “It’s so nice to be able to find our things because they’re put away where they should be.”

Before I knew it, he started pointing out the same things and feelings. He actually appreciates the feeling of a clean house. That doesn’t mean he’s always clean, but neither am I. When it’s time to clean up though, he’s all about putting things away and making everything look nice. He genuinely likes the feeling he gets afterward.

In order to fuel their intrinsic motivation we can’t keep giving an empty, “good job” every time they do something right. We don’t want to teach them to do things only to please us, although it may start out that way. It is far more effective to show them that we noticed what they did, point out the benefits, and let them know we appreciate it.

Not only does this teach self-motivation but it also helps instill a sense of gratitude in our children. If we not only acknowledge their effort but then express gratitude for it, in a specific way, it will help them to feel that sense of contributing to the family. It helps them to feel like they matter and are important and depended upon. They are also likely to mirror that gratitude and be more appreciative of others’ efforts.

We can do this by:

  • Acknowledging their accomplishments: by saying something like, “I see that you picked up your dirty clothes and put them in the hamper this morning.”
  • Bringing attention to their abilities: such as, “man, making toast can be hard sometimes but I see you did it all by yourself.”
  • Asking them to talk about how they did it: by using questions such as, “How did you know how to do that? What did you do first? What was the hardest part? What did you do to solve it?”
  • Once they master a task, moving on: there is no need to keep discussing it once they’ve mastered it. Bring the attention to the new task at hand.

2. Build

By looking at the information you collected during the observation period you will notice the things your child can do but doesn’t always do on a regular basis without reminding. You can bring up this list and invite your child to pick one thing from that column to work on next. Brainstorm ways to help her remember to do it or make it easier to accomplish. This step of the learning process is much easier if you start with something the child already knows how to do but doesn’t do it regularly. It is less stressful and instills confidence in the child to be able to accomplish more difficult tasks in the future.

3. Teach

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This process is very similar to the teaching model I learned while studying elementary education. It is “I do, we do, you do.” This gradual approach to handing over the reins helps children develop confidence in their ability and excitement to try new things on their own.

First, we model how to do something. Then we invite the child to do it with us. Eventually, we allow them to try it on their own. You may consider ways to accommodate her if a step is too difficult. For example, I had to move the hooks lower for my son to be able to hang his coat up by himself.

It is also helpful, if it is a task they already know how to do, to do kind of a pretest. Ask the child to show you how she does it. You may notice that she knows most of it but is missing a couple of steps. Acknowledge what she does right and then model the parts she needs to work on. Break it down into small, manageable steps. Allow time for her to practice and master the skill. Make sure you’re consistent and have faith that she’ll develop the habit.

Habits 

It is especially helpful, when developing a new habit, to have what experts call an anchor. It is something that happens right before the habit that will serve as a built-in reminder. For example, we brush our teeth after we eat. The act of eating is a reminder that we need to brush our teeth. We put our dirty clothes in the hamper after we take them off. Anytime you can point out an anchor and associate it with that new habit they’re working on, they will be that much more likely to remember.

Systems

My first job was at a burger joint called The Malt Shop. I was only 14 and felt a little overwhelmed during the training process because I felt like there were so many things to remember. It was reassuring to know they had systems in place, especially when it came to starting and ending a shift. There were certain steps to take and it was all written down. If I was ending my shift and was in charge of cleaning the shake area, I had a written list of all the things I had to make sure were stocked and cleaned before I could leave. For the first few shifts I had to look at the list constantly. Over time, I got into the habit of doing everything on the list without having to look at it.

I believe we can easily implement these systems in our homes and it will make the training process so much easier for both us and our kids. If our kids can read, make a simple checklist for them as they learn certain skills. If their job is the bathroom, keep a little checklist under the sink that shows all the parts of cleaning the bathroom: put everything away, scrub the tub, scrub the toilet bowl, wipe down the counter and sink, wipe down the toilet, wash the mirror, vacuum and mop the floor. If your kids are too young to read, make a list with simple pictures of each step. My 4-year-old son has a list of things he needs to do every day before we leave the house. They are 3 simple clipart pictures I printed and taped to his door. They are a boy making his bed, a girl putting her dirty clothes in the hamper, and two little kids putting away their toys. 

4. Maintain

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This step is one of the hardest because it requires ongoing commitment and consistency. We tend to want to step in for a couple of different reasons:

1. When we’re in a hurry.

Keep it in perspective and do your best to patiently stay put and watch as your child continues to master these skills. Get in the habit of allowing extra time so you don’t feel pressured to jump in and help.

2. When we realize they do a lot more than their peers.

Our children are running their own race and there is absolutely no reason why we should ever look at our kids’ friends and wonder if we’re expecting too much. Remember, this isn’t just to help us out, it helps our kids develop their own sense of worth and confidence. They’re fine, I promise.

And there it is folks, the last step to quitting your job as the maid. Just think about how much your kids are going to benefit from learning to do all these things and the freedom you will have once they master it all!

Know that this training process is an investment you must make in the beginning. It takes time to teach our kids new skills. However, once they’re taught, we don’t have to worry about it anymore. If we help them develop these habits when they’re young, we can look forward to many years of enjoying more time with them and being more emotionally available in order to develop a close relationship. 

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Where are you starting with your kids? What part of this process do you think will be the most difficult to implement? How will you overcome that?

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Because of Him

Because of Him

My 4-year-old son has become preoccupied with the thought of death lately. He tells me all the time that he doesn’t want me to die and that he doesn’t want to die either. The other night we watched a movie about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I tried to explain the most grandiose and complicated event in all of history to my preschooler, praying that it would give him hope when it came to the thought of death.

I know he has many years ahead of him to try to understand the meaning of that matchless sacrifice. It gives me comfort and deep gratitude to be able to explain to this impressionable little boy that death is not the end. That if we strive, every day, to make good choices in this life, we will be together again.

With Easter coming up, it is always a special time to reflect on the most important part of our lives here on this planet. The most important person who ever lived, and the most important message to share with our children. It is because of Him that all of this is possible.

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Happy Easter everyone! Don’t forget the real reason we celebrate and find a way to share that with your children. It’s more than just a mutant rabbit who lays and hides colorful eggs. 

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