So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

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First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

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Disappointment Stings

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Have we not all been there, at one point or another, where disappointment strikes…. and it stings.   We feel the sting of disappointment in ourselves, because we failed to make the right decision.  Or, we may feel the sting of disappointment by others who failed us in some way or failed to live up to our expectations.  We may even feel the sting of disappointment when God doesn’t answer our prayers in a certain matter, despite feeling as if we are being faithful to His word and commands.   There are even times we are disappointed not in ourselves, other people, or God….  but just in the outcome.  Everyone may have done everything just right, but the outcome simply didn’t meet expectations.

When I was a child, I remember asking my mother for a clock radio for Christmas.  I had pointed out the one I wanted several times in store.  It was really cool, to a middle school aged child.  Classic 1980’s bright colors, digital screen, lots of buttons to do a lot of different things.  It was amazing.  This particularly year would be the only year in which I decided to sneak a peak at what my mom bought for Christmas presents.  I can’t recall if she hadn’t wrapped them yet or if I actually went through the process of unwrapping the package… but there it was… a clock radio.  However, it was not THE clock radio.  I was disappointed.  Not only was I disappointed, but I knew it was too late to get the one I wanted.  On Christmas morning, I opened that gift and set it aside.  I didn’t have the reaction my mother expected because I not only already knew what it was… I already knew I didn’t like it.  At that time, I couldn’t really grasp the struggles my mom faced trying to give us what we desired within the realm of what she afford.  I just knew I didn’t get what I asked for.

As a child, I didn’t understand limitations.  I believed you asked for things for Christmas, and you got them.  As we become adults, we must be able to let go of that child like expectation.

My mother did the best finding compromise between what I wanted and what she could afford.

Fast forward a few years, to my sixteenth birthday.  For the better part of the summer, I was working with my mom.  Every day we passed a used car dealership and I saw this beautiful car that I desperately wanted.  I have an affinity for classic cars, and this one was a beauty.  It was a 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback and it was in my favorite color… green.  I knew that my summer job wouldn’t pay for THAT car.  I didn’t expect anyone would buy that car for my birthday either, I knew it wasn’t a “cheap” car.  I did however have an understanding of how much money I would need, and was willing to work for it.  On my sixteenth birthday, I woke up to an empty house.  There was a card on the counter, when I opened it… it read… It is green.  It’s a horse.  It’s in the driveway.  Then tucked in the car was a key that had a Ford symbol on it.  It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out… and I ran out the door as fast as my feet could take me.

However, in the driveway there was NOT a 1967 Ford Mustang.  Instead, there was a 1976 Ford Pinto Station Wagon.  My expression changed, I turned around, went back to my bedroom and cried.   My grandmother called me ungrateful… but she didn’t know about the car I saw every day on the way to work with my mom.  It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the car I was given, or what it took for my mom to buy it for me. In fact, I had not expected a car in the first place.  I grew to LOVE that car.   However, the way the message was conveyed caused me to believe one thing… when something else was delivered.  So, yes, I was disappointed at the time.

Part of being a mature Christian, I believe, is the ability to see the best in others.   Most often others intentions were not to hurt me, but to bless me.

I can see now my mother’s good intentions and how much thought she put into it. She had no way of knowing that my mind would come to a different conclusion than she intended.  Truth is, it had never crossed her mind that I would expect something differently.

By my senior year of high school, I had interviewed and auditioned for a major scholarship.  I really wanted it, worked really hard to get it, and came in second place.  I was disappointed.

When I was nineteen, I auditioned for a pretty big deal that would have landed me a summer job doing what I loved.  I made a miscalculation that cost me the job.  I was disappointed.

Into adulthood, I’ve worked on cultivating friendships that have fizzled over stupid things… and I was disappointed.  I’ve asked for specific things, prayed for specific outcomes, tried everything in my might to work things out in my own strength… and I’ve been disappointed.

Do you know what happens, to people who constantly feel disappointed?  They make one of two choices.  They choose to believe the world is out to get them, that nothing ever good will come there way, and they simply give up and stop trying.  Or, a person can choose to go another route.  She will continue on with life, doing what she has always done, to the best of her ability, not allowing disappointment to keep her from moving forward.  She will learn to expect nothing, and eventually she stops being disappointed and moves into a place of being pleasantly surprised by what goes right in life … and not focused on what goes wrong.

That is who I have chosen to be, and how to live my life despite a sea of disappointment.  I choose not to give disappointment power over me because I know there are hundreds more things that are going right and working out for me (and I may not even realize it).

We can choose to become women who work in all things as if we are working for the Lord, not for men.

Colossians 3:22-24

Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically,[h] as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.

Recently, there was a moment where disappointment started to rear it’s ugly head and I was starting to feel that sting in my heart.  His Word burned in my heart, and I was reminded that whatever I am doing is for HIS glory and not my own.  Whatever the results are, they are the exact results HE needs for His plans … not my plans.

Even when…. my prayers are not answered the way I want.

Even when…. those you expect to come through don’t.

Even when…. the outcome looks totally different than you expected.

Even when…. I can point the finger of blame at myself, or others.

Even when…. I cry out to God because I don’t understand why….

Because I know that His ways are not my ways.  His understanding exceeds my understanding.  I may see the big picture, but He sees the Kingdom view.  And I can trust that His ways are good and beneficial, that He always holds true to His promises, and that He cares for me more than I could ever comprehend.

If we can hold on to these truths… disappointment doesn’t need to sting but instead open our hearts to knowing something bigger is in motion.

On Teens and Social Media…. What I’ve Learned

MBA

When you read an article about teenagers, phones, and social media… the above picture is probably similar to what has accompanied the articles. This is what we see from an adult perspective.  Kids who have their noses deep in their phones, ignoring each other, even when in a group of the peers.

This is what the media tells us is wrong with society today.  But, I wonder… who are these experts and where did they come up with their findings or opinions?  Are we just adults who don’t understand the technology?  We don’t get it, so it is wrong?  Have any of these people spent time talking to teens about WHY their phones are so important?

Somehow, even people in my generation, have this nostalgic idea of what family was like or should be like.  We envision the days of past, where everyone was gathered around the television or radio.  Doing family together.

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The reality is that even back then, people had their noses buried in things.  The people and their tendencies haven’t changed, just the vessels that have their attention.

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Our faces were buried in newspapers and books, jump further in time and we were listening to the news on portable radios with headphones.  Then we were listening to music and reading magazines.  Kids began to have toys that were kept in the car to entertain them while driving on long trips, this eventually evolved in to DVD players built into our vehicles.

Is it really anything new?

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Even the idea that families were totally engaged at home, is a bit of a stretch.  It was common for dad to sit in his chair and read the paper or take a nap on the couch.  Mother would be sitting in her chair knitting or working on cross stitch, repairing buttons and socks, reading magazines that interested her, etc. Kids would play games with each other, play with the dog, color with crayons, build with blocks, or even were sent out side until the street lights came on.

Many of us live the idea of a nostalgia that really didn’t exist.

If you spend a few minutes talking to a teen you learn quite a bit about WHY social media and their phones are so important to their lives.

  1. They are BORED or UNCOMFORTABLE, it’s the thing they do with free time or in situations where they are uncertain how to engage.
  2. This is how they CONNECT.   Even when they can’t be with their friends, they can bond over the experiences of shared photos and excitement.
  3.  This is PARALLEL to the things we did as a kid.  Texts = Passing Notes, Selfies = Exchanging School Photos.  Apps allow them to doodle, write or read stories, or be just as silly as we were when we used 8008 on our calculators to spell out the word BOOB.

You will also learn some other interesting things like…

They grow out of it.   My teen was big into her phone in middle and early years of high school.  Now?  She barely uses it, can leave it behind in her room and not think twice about it.  Why?

She has a boyfriend.  Her school work is harder.  She has a job.  She has money to spend = places to go.   She just doesn’t have time for the nonsense.

We spoke about this last night and my daughter said that she hasn’t used Twitter in well over a year.  She only texts about 3 people (outside of her parents).  She only uses instagram for her hobby (she collects disney pins, and there is a LOT of that happening on instagram).  She only goes on facebook to keep in touch with 2 friends who are long distance, and our long distance family members.

I asked her if this was just a change for her, or if it was common among the kids in her grade, and she emphatically said it was most of the upperclassmen.

So, that posed a few questions.

Q:  When kids are at the table, nose in the phone, what’s the deal?

A:  They are bored.  You are talking about things we either shouldn’t be listening to, or we don’t know anything about.  It’s not interesting or we just don’t know how to participate in the conversation.  So, we read.

Q:  Then how do parents get their kids to engage in the conversation?

A:  Parents need to engage their kids, don’t just demand they put the phone down and talk.  Instead parents need to talk about the things that their kids are interested in.  Talk with them, not at them.

Q:  What about all of these apps and things that kids are using?

A:  Totally be aware of what your kids are doing, keep up on it.  And be apart of that life, text your kids, sit down and share videos and pictures with each other.  Try to understand the appeal for yourself.

Q:  Kids are spending a LOT of time on their phones, parents don’t like this.  What do we do about it?

A:  Most of it is boredom, so don’t freak out about it.  Instead do stuff with them, giving them something to do other than the phone… and that doesn’t mean “clean your room”.    Go places that interest them, encourage hobbies that are off the phone, give them money to go hang out with their friends, be willing to drive them, etc. 

My daughter really believes that as our kids begin to have a more active life, the phones will minimize.  However, that doesn’t mean we let our kids forget how to be present.  We can’t expect it, but we model it and teach it.  When my kids see that when I am with them that I ignore phone calls, texts and notifications… they are learning presence.  When they see me give their father that same attention, they learn how to be present with their future spouse too.

We just can’t forget that social media also allows our kids to have presence in the lives in their friends as they celebrate exciting things with them, or console them when they are down.    Just like anything, social media is just a tool.  We must shape the heart of the user.

 

 

#Write31Days Challenge – Post 30 – These Three Things

MBA

As a stay at home mom, I felt like my only job was to keep the house immaculate & tend to the kids.  It was the least I could do for the husband who worked all day to provide.  Yet, it was something I failed at all of the time.  I would spend hours organizing a closet, tidying up one space or another, all while trying to take care of my kids.  In the days when the babies would take several naps in the course of the day, it was easier.  When they became mobile it was trying to brush your teeth with oreo cookies.

And despite my best efforts, it seemed like my husband was never happy.  This created a spirit of resentment in my heart, because I felt like I couldn’t ever do enough to please him.  He would complain about simple things while totally disregarding all the work that I had accomplished.  It was absolutely infuriating to me.

One day, I was trying to figure out a more effective cleaning plan for the house.  I had written down a list of every task in the house, categorizing them into daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal chores.  For whatever reason, that day, I decided to ask my husband for his input.  I wanted to know what was most important to him in regards to the general state of the house.

I was shocked to find out that I had been wasting time working on “projects” that meant absolutely nothing to him, and I was skipping over the things that mattered most.   It wasn’t even an issue of “cleaning” either.  I was angry with my husband all this time for disregarding my work.  The truth was, we simply didn’t have clear communication about the subject. I assumed what a clean house would look like, and he had his own assumptions.

For example, something that many of us mothers will do, I would use the foyer area as a staging zone.  I would keep my purse, the diaper bag, stroller, etc  by the front door.  It was where I needed it, and it wasn’t strewn about.  As I began to volunteer at church for various things, I would often stage by the front door the things I would need to bring with me.  Neat and tidy, but yet all in the foyer area so that I would have everything ready to go.

To my husband, this was cluttered.  When coming home from a long day at work, the last thing he wanted to do was to maneuver around my staging area.

That makes total sense.  Yet, he had never expressed that to me.  The words he chose were ones that made me feel as if I wasn’t doing a good job cleaning.  Simple word choice made a huge difference.  At the same time, we had been married for many years… two children born… before I would even ask him about it.

He didn’t care if I vacuumed daily.  He liked the counter clear, so he could put his stuff away.  I was spending time organizing closets, and he would have preferred something entirely different.

Communication in marriage is HUGE and it shouldn’t be just over the big things.  I believe most of our biggest squabbles come from poor communication.

The second thing I assumed was that once I knew this about his preferences, that they wouldn’t change.  Many years passed by of my doing the same things, we moved into our current home.  It never really dawned on me that a new home might result in a change in his preferences.  It never dawned on me that as his job would change, that it would influence his perspective on what made his home comfortable.

Over time, I noticed he was complaining again, but that I had been keeping up on the things that mattered to him.  That would start breeding a familiar resentment.  This time I caught it, and we were able to communicate sooner.  It was through our conversations that I realized that his needs or priorities had changed.  What he really would have appreciated for that relaxed at home feeling had changed.

The foyer was no longer an issue for him.  Perhaps, because it is now a habit for the whole family… it’s never a mess or crowded.  It could also be that where he retreats as soon as he comes home from work has changed.   Before, he would put his stuff in the closet by the front door.  In our new home, he took it all the way to the bedroom.  Simple things like keeping the bedroom chair clear, so that he could have a place to sit and take his boots off … that was a blessing to him.   After working all day in environments he wasn’t always thrilled about, something as simple as having fresh clean towels and a clean pair of socks to change into were

One of the things I have always encouraged new wives to do, is to ask their husband what their expectations are of her (and vice versa).  In fact, it is better to do this BEFORE you get married.   Seventeen years later, I know that this is not a one time deal but an ongoing process.  I recommended revisiting it every time there is a major shift in the family (new child, quitting job to stay home, moving to a new house, etc).  If those things are staying pretty much status quo, make a point then to revisit the topic every 3-5 years.  Don’t assume things won’t change for him, or for you.

These Three Things

Begin by writing down everything that is a chore or task that must get done, starting with your daily duties.  Sit down with each other, and put a star next to the three things that are the MOST IMPORTANT (chores/tasks) to each of you.   These are the three big deal items that you like to have done daily/regularly that make you feel relaxed and comfortable in your home.  You now have a daily task list of just six things that are your MUST do items for the day, or at least on a regular basis.

Go through this list and talk about each item, do you LOVE this chore… or do you HATE it.  What about your spouse?   For example, my husband finds sweeping cathartic.   I actually like cleaning off and wiping down tables.  I hate sweeping and mopping, because as a mom… I know that it is going to be dirty with in seconds of the kids coming home.

This simple task will help you identify what is important to each other.  These six things need to become the priority in your daily to-do list, at the same time you are also identifying WHO will complete the task.  If you hate it, but your husband loves it… then let him do it!  And if you love doing it (or even don’t mind)…  then take that one for yourself.

Both hate it?  Take turns.  Both love it?  Do it together.

After you have established your daily must do list, go through the rest of your list of chores/tasks.   Skip choosing priorities, and instead identify your love or hate for the chore.  Put a heart next to what you love, and an X next to the chores you just hate doing.  If you don’t care, leave it blank.

Then begin to evenly distribute those chores between the two of you.  If you are both working, this is equitable. If one of you is staying home with kids, the load should accommodate for their schedule.  We can’t expect our spouse to accomplish a task that can only be done during their working hours.  The list may not be evenly split in the end, but it will still be a fair list.

The great news about this process?  As you have kids, you can renegotiate the distribution as they reach milestone ages where chores become age appropriate.

It is a great process to start the communication between spouses about expectations, eliminating assumptions.   When I know what is important to my spouse, that becomes my priority.  The rest can wait.

Some other things to consider, outside of household chores include:

  • Repair/ Maintenance Appointments for the Car (If you hate dealing with the mechanics, sales people, etc. this could be a great one to hand off to your spouse.)
  • Attendance to Family Events (You could find that Easter is more important to his family, and Christmas is more important to yours.  This info eliminates trying to fit everyone in on a single day.)
  • Planning Vacations (Perhaps you are limited to one vacation per year, list your three bucket list destinations, and your spouse does the same. Alternate year to year on the destination from that list.)
  • Major Purchases/Decisions (When buying a home, selecting a school, etc. you can each list the three things that are most important to you.  Use that list as your buying guide or litmus for making the decision against.)

These are just a few other ways the “Three Things” process can help you communicate better with your spouse. Clear communication of clear expectations puts everyone on the same page, dissolves assumptions, and sets any couple up for success.

#Write31Days – Post 16 – In the Word’s of Elsa, Mom… “Let It Go!”

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Confession Time:  I can be a bit of a perfectionist.  I once had a friend refuse to let me into her home because it was a mess.  She insisted on talking with me outside.  I never realized the pressure my perfectionist qualities could put upon other people.  For whatever reason, she assumed that because I was a bit of a perfectionist… that I required it of those who befriended me.  Let me assure you, that is far from the truth.

Confession Time #2:  Right now, my house is a complete and total disaster.  I don’t want to say that I am totally ok with it, because I am not.  At the same time, I am not as neurotic about it as I once was … many, many years ago.

People who are perfectionists, or who have OCD tendencies, can often live on a pendulum.  Either everything is 100% to their liking (no room for error) or they can swing the opposite way and not care at all.  It is the epitome of “my way or no way”.

We can also expect these same tendencies from our spouse or children.  Which is funny to me, because we extend a lot more grace to those not related to us.  Perhaps it is because we have an expectation that those who share our DNA also share in our crazy.  Those expectations can cause us to be helicopter parents who are hovering over our children constantly expecting them to be just like us.  Organized. On time. Working ahead of schedule.  Clean/Tidy.   We tend to excel at so much that failure is just not part of our vocabulary.

However, children will challenge every bit of that thinking.

Mom just cleaned the house?  Awesome, let’s bring every toy we own out into the livingroom.

Project due for school?  No worries, I can tell mom about it at 9pm the night before it is due.

Failing Math?  It’s no big deal that I will get kicked from the team.  I’ll just run to mom in a panic three days before report cards come out.

These kids live in a whole other plane of thought.  As perfectionists we can’t deal in this plane… not at all.  We hollar at the kids to return the toys to their room.   We stay up working on the project for them because we can’t let their grade get docked for tardiness, nor can we let them turn in a project that is less than acceptable just to be on time.  We will implore the teacher to allow them to make up the missed work, spending ridiculous amounts of money on tutors to ensure the ace the exam.

Why?  Because deep down the perfectionist believes that their child’s choices reflect on us as their parent.  If they fail, we fail.  If they are late, we are late.  If they make a mess, we are a mess.  We try to control their behaviors because frankly we don’t want people to think less of us as parents.  Preventing their failure is more about saving our own face, than ensuring their success.

Let that sink in for just a second.

The thing is… we need to let them fail.  We need them to understand what accountability and consequence are BEFORE they are adults and the wages of those poor choices are much higher.  We need to teach them how to fail, how to process that, and how to get back on that horse.  Not only do WE need to do that for them, THEY need to learn it for themselves.  If we want our children to be successful as adults, we cannot come to their rescue.

We also have to accept that their choices belong to them, and are in no way a reflection on us as parents…. assuming we have done our best.  Plenty of children were raised in the “perfect home” and yet walked away and lived a contrary life.  Plenty of children were raised in less than idea environments and rose to the occasion, choosing to live a better life and being a positive contribution to society.

They are not us.

So mom, in the words of Elsa… LET IT GO.

I spoke to a friend who is older than I, and she shared about her perfectionist mother.  Every weekend, the entire family was cleaning the house.  Her mom was a collector of many different things, and it became the responsibility of the kids to help her maintain the cleanliness of her collection.

I wonder, how often I have burdened the kids with the responsibility of caring or tending to the unnecessary things I have chosen to bring into the house?  It reminded me of the turtle my husband brought home to the kids, that they didn’t ask for, but then he expected them to care for it’s needs.  Unfair responsibility.

I wonder, how often have I expected my children to have the same love of learning that I have?  Expecting their grades to be high, their projects to be done with excellence, and for them to have the same drive to start early as I have always had.  Then I reflect on the fact that I never actually TAUGHT my kids to be organized from an early age, I just assumed it would come naturally to them.  It did to me.  I wasn’t taught to be that way by my parents.  I just was.   Unfair expectation.

I wonder how many times my kids have missed out on fun or being children, because my priorities were different?  I wonder why I am not ok with a “passing grade” in a subject they hate.  I wonder how many times I pushed my own ideas on them, instead of allowing them to explore their own?  I wonder how many times I was controlling a child who wanted to be free to be there own selves?

It was time to stop.  It was time to let it go.

I’m not suggesting to throw caution to the wind and be a hands off parent.  Instead, I am suggesting that we stop trying to mold them into clones of ourselves.  Let them live, let them learn, let them grown.

So, I stopped hassling the kids about keeping their room to perfection.  They know the consequence is that no one comes over to play unless it is picked up.   That’s the consequence, and I stick to it.  I have found a compromise between what they think is clean, and what I think is clean.    I don’t get upset that they bring the toys out all over the house to play.  The consequence is that they know they need to clean it up, so don’t bring out more than you are willing to carry back.  I’m not helping you.

I don’t hover over their grades online every single day… but I check in.  They know the consequences of getting poor grades.  I no longer loose my mind over a “C” on the report card.  We reward good grades.  Consequences for poor ones.  I allow them to make the choice of how much effort they are willing to put in, and they know they will contend with the consequences if they drop the ball.  I have learned to accept their best, even when that best is a C- in math.

Doing their best is not being perfect.

My middle schooler is a very limited excelled program for Middle School.  If her grades drop, not only will she be removed from the program… she will have to go to another school.  She chose to be in the program and she’s knows that her longevity in that program is entirely up to her.  She can lose that spot, and I’m not going to rescue her if she drops the ball.  She knows that her ADHD is not an excuse either.

What I want is a child that grows into an adulthood who:

  • understands that her choices will impact her future, no one else is to blame.
  • is not an excuse maker.  there are no excuses in life, except the ones you make for yourself. 
  • understands they choose their consequences, becuase every choice has a consequence, good or bad.
  • believes doing your best is always good enough, even if it isn’t perfect, but who never underestimates their ability & is willing to be challenged.
  • can make mistakes, learn from them, and move forward.  there is always time to become more, become better.
  • will let go of the things that don’t really matter, and focus on what is important.

I do this by being an example of this for them.  Which means that today, when my 8 year old asks me to play with her at the dining room table… the dishes can wait.  When my 16 year old wants to watch a movie with me tonight, the mopping can wait.  When my 12 year old wants to go to the book store, my errands can wait.

My house will not look like a museum, but a home with a family of people who live there instead of existing there.  It will be clean and pest free, but you may find a pile of toys in the foyer.   I will happily spend an hour snuggling on the couch over scrubbing the kitchen.  My children will see me put friends and family above chores and to-do lists.

When you come over, things won’t look perfect anymore.  But, the cups are clean and the coffee is hot.

Being a perfectionist comes with a cost, and it is one I do not want my children to pay.

 

#Write31Days – Post 12 – Offending the Offendable

offendable

It was well over twenty years ago, when I would I would dye my hair bright teal.  For the record, I knew that it would get some judgmental stares.  I fully anticipated it, and I also didn’t care in the least.   A few years later, I would walk into a tattoo shop and walk back out with black ink permanently embedded into my skin.  I knew that some wouldn’t appreciate the art I had etched into my body, but I didn’t care what people thought as a whole.  As of today, I have a few more tattoos.  Even though they have become more mainstream than fringe, I am aware of how others still view them.

I recall sitting in a woman’s home, having coffee, as we talked about the world.  I’m not sure exactly how it happened but the subject of people with tattoos came up.  She was very judgmental of anyone with tattoos, stating that if someone from the utility companies showed up with tattoos all over … well, she wouldn’t let them in the door.  I chuckled to myself as I debated if I wanted to take off my sweater and expose my tattooed arms, or if I would save that expose’ for another day.

Here’s the thing, when I choose to do something that is outside the norm, that is considered edgy or fringe, or that is socially disapproved… I am not only choosing to do what ever that thing is.  I am also choosing to live the consequences of that choice, including how others perceive me.  I will never scoff at their remarks or stares because, that’s their problem not mine.  I am not exactly sure where we got the notion that the world has to tolerate our idiosyncrasies.  Certainly I am not going to advocate for rudeness, discrimination, et’al … it is NOT OK.  I’m simply suggesting that one can’t go against the grain and expect zero negative response at worst… or curiosity at least.

I was watching a television show on people who are “fringe” and what was interesting is that so many of the people who had tattoos spoke of an unwritten rule that we don’t ask about each others tattoos.  Not only was I unfamiliar with this rule, I didn’t get it either.  I see every tattoo as a piece of art, it has meaning and purpose for me.  So please, ask me about it.  I’ll happily share what it means to me, or answer your questions (even the absurd ones).

Questions Like:  Did it hurt a lot?  (Um, yes.)  What does it mean?  (Glad you asked…) What if your weight changes? (Kind of personal, but I considered it…)  How are you going to feel about that when you are 80?  (If I make it to 80, pretty sure my tattoos will be the least of my worries…)   Or, the big question:  Doesn’t the Bible forbid tattoos?  (Let’s sit down and talk about that one… )

There are a lot of things that any person (Christian or not) could do that is considered against the grain.  And, when we make such decisions we should expect that someone is going to question us about it.  We should expect that we are going to get stares, and that not everyone is going to understand our decision.

Have a large family? Or a family of blended races?  That’s unusual for many areas.  Expect the questions.

Decide to dress ultra conservative?  Someone might ask you why you are wearing a long sleeve turtleneck, in Florida, in July.

Choose to wear a headscarf at church, or in your every day life?  Expect someone is going to talk to you about that.

Make a major switch in your life (in one direction, or another) and people will notice.  Anticipate they are going to be curious as to why you made that decision.

Decide to sell off everything you own and follow Jesus into full time missions?  You better believe that someone is going to think you are crazy!

Where I have noticed a growing trend is that when people make these “fringe” decisions, that make them stand out against the norm, they get offended when anyone questions them about it.  You can’t be IN the world but not OF the world, and go unnoticed.  In fact, the whole point of it is TO BE NOTICED.  That our lives become a living testimony to the changes that God has done in our lives, our families, etc.  They see us as different, they want to know why.  This not the same as putting on an act of righteousness, boasting,  and showing off how holy we are.  I’m talking about real, genuine, every day living the life that God called me to, type of different.   Where we are not putting on a show for others, but just living out our every day in a different way.

The questions that we are being offended by, and offering a slew of snarky retorts in response to … are INVITATIONS TO SHARE.

Yes, these children are all mine.  Yes, some are adopted.  Yes, we are fostering a sibling group.  Why did we make this choice?  Because, the Lord pressed upon our hearts that we had enough love in our home to share.  There are so many kids in our foster system just looking for someone to love them, a place to call home.

Yes, I do have a few tattoos.  Sure, you can see it.   Yes, getting one does hurt, some areas more than others.  What does it mean?  Well, this anchor represents the fact that I am anchored by my faith, the compass reminds me of where I have been & where I am going, and the dove represents the hope I have in Christ.

Yes, we are moving to another country.  It is hard to leave our home, but we realized it was just a building.  Our hearts are not here… they are a long plane ride away.  No, not everyone is called to do this.  We prayerfully considered it and brought others in to the fold to pray along with us.  God continually affirmed the calling with his provisions, blessings, and divine appointments.

We could be offended by everything, or we can look at it is an opportunity to share.

I can be offended.

~ OR ~

I can be inviting.

Consider… if a person can’t ask you a simple question… about the size of your family, the way you dress, or about the ink on your skin…

What can they safely ask you?

When you have been snarky and responded to their questions with contempt, disgust, or curtly…   Do you really think they want to talk to you about the big stuff? Raising children?  Adoption?  Abortion?  Gay Marriage?  God and salvation through Jesus Christ?

Your quick off the cuff retorts are not inviting them into conversation.  Instead you are pushing them away, you are letting them know you are not a safe person to talk to.

And if that is how you are responding…. What kind of light are you shining in this dark world?

Ask me anything.  I won’t be offended.  I will answer your questions.  Sometimes a question is just a question, a curiosity.  Sometimes a question is an attempt to understand a person, situation, or belief better.  BUT… sometimes… a question is an invitation into a bigger and better conversation.

#Write31Days – Post 4 – The Big Picture

soapboxIf someone were to come to my home right now and look in the snack basket on top of my fridge, they would be shocked.  There are approximately thirty packages of chocolate pudding.  They would wonder why I would let my kids have that instead of healthier options.  How irresponsible of me as a parent, right?  I should be teaching my children better eating habits.

However, they would be wrong.   What they don’t know is the whole truth, they didn’t see the big picture.  The truth is that I put in thirty packs of pudding and thirty packs of fruit cups packed in water, not syrup.  My kids have been choosing the fruit over the pudding.

I would be judged on what someone thought I was giving them, not realizing that they were actually seeing the option my children rejected.  This is what happens when we assume based on what we see, without having more information… without the bigger picture.

We can apply this same idea to the scriptures when we are not looking at them as a whole.  The truth is that the scriptures are filled with harsh truths and loving compassion.  We are judged by what others see, not what they don’t.

If all we throw at the world is judgment, condemnation, and “tough love”, that is what the world sees.  We give them rules to adhere by, a long list of do and don’t commands, and set an expectation of my way or the highway.  Then, the world sees God as a looming ogre, unable to be satisfied, angry, wrathful, unmerciful.  No wonder, they wouldn’t have anything to do with Him.

If all we throw out into the world is Gods’ love, mercy and compassion, that is what the world sees.  They see a God that lets people get away with sin, because He loves them so much.  They will see no need to change who they are, to no longer conform to the world because God’s love is easily given.  No wonder we see people filling our pews, but no sign of change in them… nor taking God seriously.  This is where we are judged as hypocrites because we call our selves Christians, but we don’t act like it.  There is no evidence of it.

God is not fully represented to the world if we are only giving them half the picture.  We can’t only show a harsh and demanding God, just as much as we can not only show a gentle and loving God.  Neither of these views encompass God as a whole.  They do not reflect the overarching story of the scriptures.  They eliminate parts of God’s character.  We have to share the full measure of God in order to have a real affect on people’s lives.  We need to know that God loves at the same time as being called into obedience.

We need the healthy doses of scripture that help us make better decisions, avoid temptations, and long for holiness in our lives… just as much as we need the sweet encouragement of a loving and forgiving God.

If we are only representing a portion of the scripture, we are being irresponsible with The Word and with our witness to others.  We are living half of the life God calls us to live, believing half of the Truth we’ve been entrusted with.  We are also giving to others a half truth, half story, that doesn’t fully reflect our wonderful and marvelous God.