There is nothing quite like it. Parent Guilt guts you out and weighs you down. It is the absolute worst feeling when you hurt the ones you gave life. Nothing compares to seeing the pain in their eyes and hearing the sadness in their voices. Then fear rushes in claiming the lies that you’ve forever ruined them and your relationship to them. Panic is quick to follow. The deadly cycle picks up speed, expending so much time and energy that you are even more depleted than when you started. And so who do you take it out on? The kids. And here we are: Back where we started with Parent Guilt.
When I’ve spent myself emotionally and then have to deal with needy kids (this is not negative – all kids are needy in the best ways), I lose it. I’ve got nothing left to give and yet here are four littles who need just about everything. The amount of emotion it will take to love them well feels overwhelming. And so I give into the frustration, the anger, and instead of retreating, I go looking for a fight.
When I take a step back and survey the damage, I fall apart. How could I have just treated my babies that way? What is wrong with me? Why am I such a monster?
I’m broken. That’s how. I’m depleted emotionally from distracting myself from my hurt. Nothing will drain you faster than ignoring your pain. Your trauma. The real source of your anxiety and depression. What seems the fastest way to refill is to dump all of the negative out on those closest to me and who will still need me and want me after: My kids.
But this is so counterintuitive. If we are empty, why do we think an emotional dump – will fill us? The dumping will only deplete us more.
Someone explained it this way: If you have a bucket of dirty water, instead of dumping the water out and now having an empty bucket, stick a hose at the bottom of the bucket and flush out the contaminated water with clean, fresh water.
Emptiness is lonely. It’s scary. It’s unhealthy. It’s dangerous. Instead of further emptying yourself only to discover you’ve filled your heart with more contaminated emotions, flush out the negative with the positive.
Here are the ways I go about regaining a healthy equilibrium:
Circle the wagons.
My therapist taught me this. Back in the covered wagon days, when settlers would travel across country, they would circle their wagons around their camp at night for safety. The wagons became a source of security from the outside world. If we are determined to create safe homes, then when we are in the midst of emotional turmoil we should be able to take time to withdraw from the world around us and to retreat to the people who love us the best: Our families.
That may require us to cancel, say no, rearrange, rest, turn off media, sleep, eat better, drink water, exercise, self care. The best thing we can do is to listen to our bodies – they are crying out for us to pay attention, slow down, and circle our wagons. We live in an unsafe world – we have to learn when it’s time to create some additional margin in order to feel secure again.
When I am struggling the most, I let my husband and children know. I get the most honest with Bryant so that he isn’t caught off guard by my reactions and responses. We make a plan as to how we will intentionally circle our wagons. Then I talk to the kids and explain that mommy is struggling and so sorry for her behavior. She is going to really work to make sure she doesn’t treat them badly.
I commit to whatever I need to commit to get healthy. I slow down – my anxiety and pain want me to keep moving to stay distracted. I commit to hugging, holding, sitting, listening, being present. When I am present with my kids, I am grounded to the moment. It is such a relief to get my mind off the downward spiral of my anxiety and depression. And their love and attention in return is so healing to my heart. It reminds me I am safe. I am okay. It gives my soul the deep breath it has been searching for.
I do the same with my husband. Sometimes we just need to get dressed up and go out. Sometimes we need a few nights away. Sometimes we just need to sit on the couch and watch Downton Abbey. Whatever it is, we need to be together.
Our families should be a source of safety. Replenishment. Reprieve.
I find my Courage.
Some of our homes aren’t safe because we’ve never been brave enough to break the cycles. Maybe your home wasn’t safe growing up. Maybe you’ve been hurt along the way. Maybe you know something’s wrong, but you just can’t put your finger on it.
It takes courage to say, “I’m not okay, but I’m ready to know why!” We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. We can’t change what we don’t know is wrong. But with knowledge comes accountability. It’s not enough to discover the problem, we have to do the work of changing. Talk is cheap and repeated apologies without any signs of growth will only drain our families. Our getting healthy proves to our families that they are worth our best selves.
It takes counseling.
Hurt people hurt people. We know this. So if I am not actively dealing with my hurt, then I am going to hurt my family.
I have been dealing with low-grade anxiety. It started to come to a head the past few days, and one of the tall-tale signs is I have been incredibly impatient with my kids. I am rushing through my day (so I stay distracted and don’t have to deal with the pain), and running over them emotionally. IT BREAKS MY HEART. So it’s time to reach out to my therapist, communicate, commit, get courageous, and circle those wagons.
What do you need to do TODAY to fight against the parent guilt? I’d love to hear what steps you will take to communicate to yourself that you are safe and to your families that they are special.
I love talking all things parenting. I realize I’m no expert – we’ve been at this for only eight years. BUT, I’m no novice when it comes to babies, toddlers, and little kids. So I’d love to share with you some things I’ve felt and learned over the past few years by age range.
I broke up the baby’s first year into three stages. The first year of your baby’s life will more than likely be the longest year of your life, but at the same time, the fastest year of your life. Parenthood ushers in this new phenomenon of time: The seasons where time feels like it’s dragging, it’s actually going by the fastest. It’s the worst part of parenting: Everything speeds past you in a whirlwind. All you can do is be grounded to the moment and do your best to embrace it all! Sandra Stanley says, “The days are long but the years are short.” Gosh, I couldn’t agree with that statement more.
So the three stages of the first year…
0-3 Months: The Dark Ages
I never enjoy any of my babies as newborns. Judge me all you want, but I can’t be the only one. Sure, they are super cute and tiny (the only one of mine that was tiny was Brooke. The boys were GINORMOUS), but they are also angry house guests. They are very unlikable, mainly because you are unlikable, mainly because you are exhausted, hungry, and in pain. Yay you. If you feel overwhelmed and exhausted, you are doing everything right. Realize you’ve only ever been in charge of yourself. Now you have to keep a little human alive who can’t do anything for him/herself and who cannot communicate. So again, yay you. I don’t suggest reading a lot of books and articles. You can begin to feel even more inferior and overwhelmed than you already do. Find some moms who have done this a few times and ask them ALL THE QUESTIONS. We want to be asked – we love this stuff – it’s why we did it so many times (for the most part – insert smirky emoji here). You cannot do this alone. Hire someone to do the cleaning and yardwork and do not turn down any free meals/gift cards. If someone wants to come over and hold the baby while you sleep, the answer is YES. If someone wants to hold the baby so you can fold laundry, the answer is YES.
As far as your marriage is concerned, it will be weird initially, especially if this is your first. It’s only been the two of you. Now there’s this new person who is taking all of your attention, love, energy, and time. That’s usually what we refer to as an affair, and it can kinda feel like one IF you aren’t communicating properly. And how can you – cause your T I R E D. So. Try to make the small, insignificant moments, significant. Bryant and I would have dessert and TV dates during the 2AM feeding. We’d enjoy dinner at midnight. Our entire house became a nursery so that we could be comfortable in order to make her comfortable. Just know, you will come thought to the other side. But it’s hard. You’ll get caught up on a lot of shows, movies, and books. That’s exactly what you should be doing. And hang on to your loved ones and other moms for dear life.
One quick word to those who just had their second child: I had a terrible time connecting with Ryder (at first, relax) because I was mourning all the time I assumed I was going to miss out on with Brooke. I felt so badly for her – believing somehow she would be gipped. THIS IS SO NORMAL. I am going to tell you what so many people told me: Giving your child siblings (if you so choose) is such a wonderful experience for your firstborn. He/she will learn so many great life lessons and you will be forced to be incredibly intentional with your time with your kids. Deep breaths. Again, reach out to moms who have done this before. You’ll feel better.
3-6 months: The Not So Dark Ages
So you start to come out of the fog around four months and then your baby will start to be a lot more fun by six months. You are beginning to develop schedules and rhythms and attempting to re-enter society. I want to tell you something here that has the potential to change your life: Your baby CAN sleep through the night by 3-4 months. The only books I would encourage you to buy are sleep training books. OMG you are welcome.
You are in between maternity and regular clothes and you just feel weird. That’s okay. Your body will get back to normal – it all just take time. So deep breaths. Buy some comfy spandex and cute, loose tops and throw that hair in a messy bun and get back out there, girl. Your first trip into public alone will be scary. It’s okay. Just do it and get it over with and you will eventually gain more and more confidence.
And go on a date with your spouse WITHOUT the baby. It’s time. Love you.
6-12 Months: The Into Everything Age
Shew. It’s a party when your baby gets mobile. And by party, I mean workout…for YOU. But it’s also so fun to watch him/her learn and discover. Buy the gates and baby fences and everything else you need to keep him/her contained. Trust. I broke down and got a baby leash with Ryder. Oh gosh, I judged other moms so hard before and then repented in sackcloth and ashes after. Baby leashes are a must.
Also, that first birthday is not for your baby. It is for you and your spouse. You kept him/her alive for a whole year. This is very impressive! And do a big, crazy birthday only if you want. I went ALL OUT for the first two kids. Then I realized how exhausting and expensive it was and just did balloons, cake and ice-cream for the last two. Ask me which birthdays we all enjoyed more. I bet you can guess.
Andy Stanley says this first year is all about CONNECTING. It’s all about assuring your baby that you will always meet his/her needs and be there for him/her. It’s such a precious reminder of what Jesus does for us when we are weak and incapable of caring for ourselves. He scoops us up and holds us close and reminds us that He will never leave us. He reminds us that He can meet all of our needs, if we will allow Him to. We have to surrender and see Him as our only hope. This is why Jesus speaks so impressively of child-like faith – it’s faith without abandon.
Years 2-4: Do I Laugh or Cry Ages
Legit tho. Kids are so funny during these years – but they can be little demons. Like, you may want to give them away at times. But you will come out of years 2-4 with the BEST stories. I wish I would have journaled more – so make sure to do that. And never apologize for the photos or the posts. Those of us who are moving out of these ages MISS this. It’s wild to admit, but so true.
But this is when you are establishing who’s boss of the house: You or the K I D. Your child is old enough to begin to understand cause and effect. Teaching them to understand “no” early is so crucial. You will second guess EVERYTHING and some days be entirely frustrated. But Jesus gives you the instincts you need to survive AND thrive and you will make it. I so enjoyed Jame’s Dobson’s Dare to Discipline. It was incredibly practical for me during this season.
Andy says that ages 1-5 are all about DISCIPLINE. I say to my kids: “Obedience means safety. Love means trust.” I want them to understand that guardrails keep us in line and from destroying our lives. I’ve always let my kids ask why or disagree RESPECTFULLY (okay, this is a small lie cause I try to allow that, but some days it’s just “cause mommy said so…no more questions.”). Kids have voices and need to know how to use them. But they also have to learn how to listen to and obey healthy authority. The sobering thing is that once he/she turns five, you are pretty much done with the grueling work. So be consistent. Tap out when you need to. Take deep breaths. Seek wisdom. Work with together with your spouse.
But please remember that kids will model what they see, not what they hear. So if you are not modeling respecting authority, neither will they. If you model that they only have to obey when they agree, that’s what they will do. Sobering (I think we all know I am not talking about obeying in dangerous situations that violate our belief and/or our values).
Years 5-6: My Heart is Outside My Body Ages
Omg when they start going to school and social events, it is the scariest time of your life. You realize how little control you have to actually keep them safe. But it is so amazing to watch them develop personalities and independence. You will have to learn when to fight their battles and when to let them fight their own. You will start to figure out what makes them tick and how to get them to open up. I really do enjoy these years.
Andy says that ages 6-12 is TRAINING. They are beginning to realize that there are consequences for their decisions and you have to let go and let them face those. I will tell you, this will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But your kids will be so much better for it.
Year 7-8: The Attitude Years
Idk if I have an 8 year old or a 16 year old sometimes. Geez. Ride the wives. Hang on tight. And have a blast making memories and letting him/her grow. He/She is a mini you. Don’t fight it, embrace it. Realize what drives you bonkers in him/her is more than likely what drives you bonkers about yourself. So as you are giving your kid grace, maybe spare some for yourself.
One thing we try to do regularly is to speak over our kids what we see in them. We never want them to question how special they are, so we just tell them. We list all the intangibles and tangibles that we love specifically in each child. We study our kids so we know how to relate to each one.
We are parenting with the end in mind: We want our kids to want to be around us when they leave the house. Our kids spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational development hinges on whether or not they have a good relationship with us. If we don’t earn their respect and love, then they won’t pursue relationships with us when they don’t have to anymore. So we pray that over them.
Finally, Bryant and I have found that in order to have a good relationship with our kids, we HAVE to have a good relationship with each other. So make sure you take care of yourself (it is possible not to lose yourself – we can address that in another blog) and you get time away with your spouse…just the two of you. I cannot stress how important that practice is. Yes, it costs time and money. But the dividends it will provide to your relationships with your spouse and your children are off the charts.
And always ALWAYS remember: God gave YOU your children. They are just a gift. They are really God’s. But He knew YOU are the best mom for your kids. Be confident in this. He has equipped you – follow those instincts. I promise you, you’ve got this.
(Also, for those wondering…Ages 13-18 are The Coaching Years and ages 18 and up are the Friendship Years).
We were up late last night dealing with a crisis AND a one year old that was extremely constipated and unhappy. On top of that, I haven’t been feeling well and have the looming stress of a busy weekend weighing on me. I’ve also been a bit discouraged by the fact that a few of our holiday traditions have been canceled. And I have a cold.
So. When our alarm went off this morning, I was like NOT TODAY SATAN. Bryant whispered, “Let’s just sleep in and take the kids to school later.” Amen and Amen.
Well, I wish I was that easy going. I had to have a come to Jesus moment where I reminded myself that no one was going to get behind. No deadline was going to go unmet. I wasn’t failing. The house may not be spotless and the laundry may not be caught up and my work may not get done as fast as I want it to, but what’s most important, my and my family’s mental health, was being taken care of. The kids got extra time together. We decided to get donuts for breakfast. It felt so nice to get ready for the day without the pressure of being on time (the only day where we don’t have to worry about time constraints is Saturday…that’s it…so an extra day here and there is so nice).
When I got home, I had to remind myself that I could let certain things slide. Yes, today is the day I usually clean my bathrooms. So what if they don’t get clean? The dishes may need to pile up in the sink and there may be a few extra crumbs for my already fat dog to find. But that is okay. Because by saying no or just not now to some of those things, I’m saying yes to what’s so important: The Right Now.
The past few weeks, I’ve just been stopping throughout my day to really soak in my kids. They are growing at such a rapid pace and I know if I’m not intentional, I’m going to miss it. So I have been disciplining myself to just slow down and take them in. I’ve tried to plan a few fun things for us to do together throughout the week and weekend: Watching Christmas movies, making Christmas cookies, reading Christmas books (see a theme haha), writing letters to great-grandparents, making ornaments, decorating. And yes, some things on my to-do list have to be readjusted so I can make time for these important moments. But what will I regret more…something on my to-do list that didn’t get done or a wasted opportunity with my kids? I think we all know the answer to that question.
I try (try being the key word) to cut off with all work (homework, ministry, housework) by the time the kids are in bed so I have several hours to unwind before I go to sleep. One of the things that helps me the most is to delete Socials in the evenings. Yes, it’s annoying cause i have to reinstall them in the morning. But I will tell you, removing the temptation to be sucked into the vortex of the social world is so refreshing. I honestly can sense a difference when I don’t. But you will need to replace that with something practical you can do to unwind: A book, a movie, music, whatever. For me right now, it’s Hallmark Christmas Movies. Here’s why getting rest at night is so important: I want to be fresh for my kids in the morning and send them off on their days in a good mood and not frustrated with them. It sets me up to be more present and productive.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is what every other blogger is saying during this season: Embrace the moment. Be present. Figure out what you can let slide. Remind yourself that everything doesn’t need to be perfect. Messy bedrooms, piles of laundry, dishes in the sink, dirty floors: They all mean you’ve made time in your day for what’s most important – people. You aren’t a failure for not getting everything done. But you will fail if you miss this season with your family. So decide now – What can go? What has to stay? And how are you going to invest in those people who are most important to you?
I get asked a lot about kids. More specifically, about how to make sure our kids don’t get our crazy…you know what I mean? When we were pregnant with Brooke, I was so afraid that she would struggle with anxiety and depression and Borderline as she grew. I remember talking to Kevin about it in one of our sessions. He encouraged me by saying that more often than not, the parents who are actively seeking counseling for their mental illnesses are less likely to pass those along to their children. Why? Because the parents are healing and are on high alert for any signs that their children may also need extra help in processing certain situations.
I’ll never forget taking Brooke to the doctor when she was around four or five. We had to go to a different doctor’s office due to health insurance reasons (gotta love Health Insurance, #amiright). Brooke was LOSING HER MIND about getting shots (as any child does) and the doctor said, nonchalantly, “You may need to have her seen about her anxiety.” HOLD THE PHONE…WHAT? I was LIVID that a doctor would throw anxiety around like that – especially because I was already on pins and needles about my kids ending up anxious and depressed.
But isn’t that just like the enemy? He wants to hold our labels over our heads and keep us feeling and living defeated – because if he can, THAT way of life WILL get passed on to our kids. For those of you living with the generational baggage of mental illness or brokenness, then you being honest and getting healthy are the first steps to cutting ties with the past and keeping your kids free from the tentacles of the past.
Kids are intuitive. They know when something is wrong.
A few years ago, I had a major anxiety attack on a Saturday morning. I was supposed to go somewhere with Brooke and I got so frazzled trying to get out of the door, I just lost it and left…without her (Bryant was home – I feel like that’s important to mention here. Shew). I just drove around the block and came home. When I walked in the door, she was devastated that I would leave without her. Then I heard Ryder walking around quietly crying and saying, “I burned my hand. I burned my hand.” My curling iron had been on and he grabbed it while it was super hot and when Bryant and I were both distracted with my anxiety. OHMYGOSH. I just fell apart in that moment. I had a daughter who was brokenhearted and a son who was physically hurt – all because of my anxiety. It was an eye opening experience and one that still breaks my heart. But I decided after that day that I would no longer bring my children into my attacks. If I was going to have an anxiety attack (and I was), then I was going to make the conscious decision to safely remove myself from their vicinity until I could calm down enough to not involve them.
Here’s what I will say, though: I am always very honest with them about my anxiety. If I am having a bad few days, I will let Brooke and Ryder and Braxton know (in as much detail as they can handle at their ages). I try to explain to them that mommy is feeling sick inside from anxiety, something that can make her sad and mean, but that Mr.Kevin is helping mommy, as is Daddy and Jesus. I always apologize if I’ve been hurtful or raised my voice. If I get at Bryant in front of them, I apologize for that too.
The other night as I was doing just that – apologizing for the way I had treated them due to my anxiety – Brooke got her big eyes and asked, “Am I going to get anxiety?” I burst into tears as I answered, “No, Baby Girl. Momma’s fighting really hard so you won’t get it.” Geez guys. That’s what getting healthy is all about. Working our tail ends off so we break the chains and give our kids a fighting chance.
The truth is, we live in a broken world and our kids are broken, just like us! Some of you may be concerned that your kids are battling with anxiety and depression, and if they are, THEY ARE NORMAL AND ARE GOING TO BE OKAY. Do not be ashamed to get them the extra help they may need for a season. Can you imagine how different your life would’ve been if your parents had gotten you into counseling?
If you aren’t sure if your child is truly struggling with anxiety or depression, maybe ask yourself these questions:
- Is he/she withdrawing (from friends, family, school, sports, etc)?
- Is he/she sleeping more than usual?
- Does he/she seem distracted or needing to be distracted more often than not?
- Is he/she more antsy and/or irritable than usual?
- Is he/she acting out – like you feel like all of sudden you are living with a completely different individual?
These questions aren’t inclusive. Jesus gives us parents instincts and if they are telling you something is amiss, then get your kid into counselling! We’ve taken our kids before and it has been SO HELPFUL! Sometimes we can’t see what’s right in front of our face. Counselors help us put the pieces together and give us direction in how to communicate and actually be heard. We want to teach our kids that seeking help is normal and good and nothing to be ashamed of!
We will end the stigma of mental illness if we stop hiding behind it. Own your brokenness. Teach your children to own theirs. Jesus shines the brightest in our weaknesses. We learn Who He is when we need Him most. Let’s model this to our children and watch what Jesus does!
I wrote this several years ago when Brooke was 3, Ryder was 1, and I was pregnant with Braxton. However, this whole 24 hours was so epic, I had to share it. Who doesn’t need a good laugh? So enjoy. Solidarity, Momma. Solidarity.
My day started last night. But seriously. We have two kids: Brooke (3) and Ryder (1). I realize now that the “terrible twos” are a myth. Either that or we somehow zoomed right past two and catapulted into THREE. I wish there was a scary font for THREE. Or a sound effect of imminent doom. THREE. Don’t get me wrong, three started out like any other number. But in the last few weeks, I feel like spelling three “H-E-L-L.” My sweet, loving girl has started saying things like, “I won’t” and “Don’t do that” and “You won’t.” My usually submissive child throws herself on the floor when she doesn’t get her way. I spend most of my day disciplining. And crying. Lots of tears. Lots and lots of tears.
We have also entered the “scared of ERRRRRRthang” stage. Thursday morning we went to the doctor’s for a well visit, and Brooke basically had a nervous breakdown. We had several nurses and doctors in the room just to help me manage the situation. It was a blast. By the time we got home, I was crying. “Mommy, are you crying, too?” “Yes, baby. Mommy is crying.”
Yesterday at church, Brooke (and Ryder, he was guilty of this too) spent most of the day avoiding EVERYONE. And not just avoiding…recoiling anytime anyone would get within a few feet’s distance. I understand. I really do. Being a pastor’s kid is no joke, and I want to protect them from expectations and from being smothered. But I think my sensitivity gave way to all-out snobbery. We cannot have kids avoiding people at all costs. And hence my predicament.
So last night, I just lay awake trying to come up with some solutions. Because, friend, we ain’t gonna keep livin’ this way (all the ways). Am I right? I mean, I am four months pregnant (yes, I now agree with you that we are one fry short of a Happy Meal). We have got to get our act together! I came up with the brilliant idea of getting the kids involved in some free activities in the area that will get them out of their comfort zones and around others their ages. So we started with story time at the library. Or we thought we would. …
Because on my way home from dropping Bryant off at work, I ran out of gas. I won’t go into all of the details because he and I tell the story differently (hahaha), but it was great. So that happened. By the time we got that situated, we rushed home, threw on some clothes, and jumped in the car. We rolled into story time just as the first session was ending and the second was beginning. And you know what? It went fairly well. Except the part when I asked if my kids wanted a snack, only to see NO ONE else had snacks, which led to kids asking moms for their snacks, which led to me getting several dirty looks and attempting to secretly slip my children pieces of banana. To my defense, at the last story time we went to at another location, moms brought full-on meals for their kids. So there.
After story time, we headed home for naps. Thank God for naps. Amen?! When I went to get Brooke up from her nap, I came to the realization that she had been abnormally quiet. And as I walked past her room, I also noticed she was busy doing something. Upon further investigation, she was coloring. With a marker. On my Kindle. So that was nice. After another “We only color on paper” chat, we got up to play.
While Ryder and Brooke were playing upstairs, I snuck downstairs to start on dinner. After several minutes, I heard Brooke: “Mommy! Mommy! I have something on my foot!” I told her to come down so I could see. On her way, I asked, “What is it?” Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. She answered, “I think it’s poop!” And it was. Yes, it was poop. Which was no longer on her foot. It was now all down the stairs and across the bottom floor. As I picked her up, I said, “Okay, no one panic!” and I rushed upstairs to figure out what in the wonderful world happened. Well, it didn’t take me long because at the top of the stairs stood, very proudly mind you, my very naked son. And then it dawned on me. I had put a pull-up on him right before nap time because the extra diapers were downstairs and I just couldn’t muster the energy to get them. A pull-up would do. But it obviously didn’t do. It must have bothered him ‘cause when he got up, he was acting very annoyed with it. I figured it would pass. Oh, it did. He just figured he could go without. And that he did. I traced the poopy footprints to the scene of the crime, and I will just spare you the details. I grabbed both kids, covered, and rushed them to the changing table to stop the bleeding so to speak. Then, I threw them in the tub and commenced cleaning up “Poop Mageddon 2016.” Somehow, I was able to see the humor in it all. But only because Jesus loves me and helped me find it funny. Or I was high on the smell. Who really knows.
You know what, though? I learned some things about myself today. I learned that I too quickly tie my kids’ behavior to my identity. I want them to be good so I look good. I want them to be good so my life is easy. It’s sad but true. And, I take myself and life too seriously. I want everything perfect. Everyone dressed in new clothes, eating well-balanced meals, in a clean house, with lots of activities and toys, and no TV (because that’s for the lazy parent — she wrote sarcastically). But that’s not real life. More often than not, we are in faded play clothes, eating cheese sticks and Captain Crunch, watching Doc McStuffins and Frozen amidst piles of laundry. And that’s okay.
Parenting isn’t perfect. But it should be intentional. And that’s what I’m learning. I try to live out my walk with Jesus so that my kids come into it naturally. And instead of getting exasperated the moment they start acting out (like kids), I try to take a deep breath and choose to see it as an opportunity to teach them the correct response. I have found it’s all in the approach. The mindset. But I have to be determined. Or I can slip into self-pity and frustration and forget my littles are people whose hearts need shaped by the Savior.
The Scriptures say children are “a blessing and a heritage from the Lord”; “they are arrows in the hands of a mighty warrior.” And I agree with Andy Stanley that my greatest contribution is not something I do, but the someones I raise. THEY are my legacy. So I’m grabbing hold of this mother thing with both hands and diving in headfirst. Because “the days are long, but the years are short” (thank you, Sandra Stanley) and someday “I’m gonna miss this” (gotta love that country song).
So here’s to crazy, poopy, wild, insane days when we cry more than laugh and fall into bed exhausted. May we be reminded that we have to lean into our Savior. May we glimpse visions of Him through our parenting. May we love on our kids’ hearts, shaping them to see their Jesus in the everyday moments. May we live in the moment.
Cheers to you, sweet Momma! Keep on keepin’ on!
I wrote this a few years ago … and as I was rereading it, I was weirdly blessed by it (I promise I’m not narcissistic). It was just kinda fun to go back down memory lane. So I hope you enjoy this little blast from the past!
I was texting a sweet friend of mine yesterday, and we were discussing kids (seriously though — is that all I talk about these days?). We each have a few. And she told me that she would love to have another baby, it’s just that some days she feels so much like a “momster” she’s not sure she should. Then she asked me if I ever feel that way. Y’all, I just laughed. Errrrrrrday. For instance, I just lost it on my 4-year-old and started yelling, “STOP IT!” because she was crying and carrying on a little bit too much for my fancy as I was putting her down for a nap. Never mind that she had been to three church services this weekend and missed her nap yesterday and was out all morning with me shopping. Never mind that. I just got frustrated that I had to deal with a weepy little thing when I felt exhausted myself. And I yelled. And then my heart broke. And a little voice started whispering that I was going to ruin her and that I’m the worst. You guys, I have a terrible time telling that voice to shove it. But I need to!
Here’s what I think. …
If we truly LOVE Jesus, then we will love our kids deeply. That’s what 1 John 4 is all about. The overflow of our love for Jesus spills out onto other people. And if we truly KNOW Jesus, then we also know that we are just stewards of our children. They are actually Jesus’s. He specifically chose you and me for the kids we have because He knew we would be the best equipped to care for them. Let that sink in. I don’t have your kids because I wouldn’t be the best mom for them. And you don’t have my kids for the same reason. Wild. It’s like He’s sovereign or something (I write that sarcastically, of course). The Psalms say that our heavenly Father also knows we are completely human, and more often than not we are going to get it wrong. And this is the part that’s the most strangely comforting to me: I truly believe that Jesus will fill in the gaps, however gaping they may be. And that doesn’t mean I cop out. Nope. I do what I can to the best of my ability and then I trust Him to flow the grace over what I get wrong.
I love Psalm 4:5 (ESV): “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” I do what I know is right and what I know He’s called me to. And then I trust Him. I trust Him that He will finish the good work He’s started in my life and in my kids’ life. I’m not going to get it right all the time. More often than not, I’m going to give my kids a Chicken McNugget Happy Meal after a morning of TV so I can make some phone calls and a day of running errands all afternoon with no naps and forget to brush their teeth for the third day in a row just to get them to bed somewhat on time with very little crying (from me of course).
So here’s a thought for us young mommas:
Don’t fret the small stuff. If you need to eat out and order in more often than not during certain seasons, y’all, just go with it. I don’t think there is any reason whatsoever to feel like a failure. We have three under 4,and there are stretches of time where home-cooked meals at a certain time just aren’t feasible. But you know what? Our kids love to eat out! And we love to invite their grandparents to join us. We’ve just started a “No Phone Till After the Meal” policy so we get some time to be together. I’m not dismissing the importance of mealtime. Especially as your kids grow up. I’m just saying that we tend to put unrealistic expectations on ourselves, and in the attempt of trying to create the most perfect family times, we run ourselves ragged and are spent and unable to truly enjoy our time together.
Don’t get so caught up in what needs done that you forget who you are doing it for. We try to carve out 15 minutes of alone time with each of the kids every day. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it’s more. Sometimes it’s less. But it’s a goal that keeps us accountable and forces us to slow down. I’m a task-oriented person so adding this to my to-do list may sound cold. But it’s honestly a great way to make sure I stop and BE WITH my kids.
Take a break from social media. Really, does this need an explanation? And here’s another thought: Be real about what you post. And maybe use some discretion? Sometimes, we have an awesome day and I just choose not to post about it. Why, you ask? Because this awesome day was sandwiched between two horrible days that I also didn’t post. And when you scroll through my feed, if all you see is the awesome day in the midst of your horrible day, well, how are you going to feel? So, that’s why. I think we need to keep each other in mind. And just remember, the grass always looks greener on the other side. Doesn’t mean there aren’t anthills.
Take a break from the books. I love reading. And I read 38403820394 books before Brooke was born. And they were helpful. But then they started getting in my head and messing with me and making me feel like a failure. We need guidance. We need wisdom. But every once in a while, we also need to trust the God-given instincts He’s given us and take a deep breath and rest.
Get into counseling. We went through one of the toughest seasons we have ever had with Brooke after Braxton was born. We were honestly at a loss. So we got our butts into counseling. And oh my gosh, you guys. It was so helpful! The counselor met us right where we were and gave us some incredible, practical things to do. We’ve weathered the storm and are on the other side of it. But we have realized how smart Brooke is (she can process things faster intellectually than she can emotionally, which can cause some crazy outbursts). All our children are unique. And some are a little more difficult to deal with than others. NEVER EVER be ashamed to seek professional help. Don’t be embarrassed. Realize that most of the baggage you have is from someone who didn’t quite know how to reach you where you were and help you. What if we could do that for our children? Why wouldn’t we?
Take a nap.
Make some time for yourself.
Get some exercise.
Get in the Word. Y’all, this is the hardest for me. I have battled with guilt for a few years over this. My husband and I were talking about it, and he challenged me to read the verse of the day from YouVersion every morning and then to pray it over my heart. That seemed easy enough. And so I’ve started doing that and it’s made ALL THE DIFFERENCE! I read it, pray it over my heart, and then I actually REMEMBER it because it is one verse. What a blessing this practice has been to me!
Have fun. Remember, you will never ever ever get this time back. So embrace the crazy. Stop caring what everyone else thinks. Stop trying to be in control. Be in the moment.
And older mommas:
Love on us. We need hugs, coffee, chocolate and encouragement. We need you standing on the sidelines cheering us on. We need to know you’ve been there. You get it. We are going to make it. It’s just a season. And that we are doing great! We need your prayers, cards, love. And we need the GOOD stories. Please try never to start a story with, “Just wait till they are …” We don’t need any more anxiety. Give us the “You are going to miss this” stories. Leave us in tears wanting to rush home to hold our babies.
Don’t ever forget. Don’t forget what it’s like to live off three hours of sleep. To have not spoken to an adult for 10 hours. To have a messy house and to be running off caffeine and a stray Cheerio. To struggle through the grocery store with multiple tired, hungry, greedy toddlers. Just please don’t forget. ’Cause we need you in our corner when we feel like the world is staring and judging.
Give us your wisdom. But when the time is right. Some of us feel like failures 95% of the time because we are so tired and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. We want your wisdom. We need your wisdom. But some days we are better at receiving it than others. So just watch and wait. And then give it to us!
Love you all! Remember, as “High School Musical” said it best, “We’re all in this together!” Happy memory making!