Five Gems of Truth for Mothers

Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.

~Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm

 

For years, 34 to be exact, I have believed that the hospital I birthed my first son in, did me a great disservice by letting me walk out the double doors of their institution after my son was a mere one day old. Oh, they took care of me alright. They gave me ice chips during the birthing process. They had all the equipment needed, in working order, to deliver a healthy baby. The pitocin was running properly through the tube and into my system. It was a hard birth but it was a healthy birth.

I slept as well as I could after my baby was born and then the next morning it was time to go home. Everything seemed normal, but little did I know, little did I realize, little did anyone tell me that my whole life had changed the day before and I didn’t even know it.

I had a baby.

Not just any baby. But a real, living, breathing baby that got hungry and pooped and cried did all those things that real babies do. Not like the babies you get for Christmas when you’re a four year old little girl. Babies that don’t make noise and don’t poop and never get hungry. If they do, you just pretend to feed them. You pretend to soothe them. You pretend to change their diaper. And all the pretending works. But not with real babies. You can’t pretend with real babies. Real babies let you know if you mess up. Real babies let you know that their diapers are messy and haven’t been changed. Real babies will want some more to eat so they can fill up that diaper again and again.

As a new parent, you kind of expect all that to happen. That is the reason for baby showers. To prepare the unprepared. To prepare the ones who did and who didn’t plan for baby. Materially, anyhow. For the truth is – you can never fully prepare for being a mom. Or dad.

You can buy every little thing they advertise for the new little munchkins. From pacifiers, to cloth diapers to disposables, to itsy-bitsy onesies, to super soft blankies, to stuffed bears, to baby lotion… you get the picture. You can buy it all, or at least what you think you’ll actually need, and it still won’t prepare you for what is coming. You can read every book on pregnancy and every book on raising children and you will still be unprepared to some degree. But there is one simple fact on your side: you have never been a parent before.

This one simple fact may seem discouraging when it comes down to it. Except, again, for one simple fact: your child has never been a baby before. Nor anything that comes after. Be it a toddler, a preschooler, a kindergartner, a youth, a teenager, or………….

They will have multitudes of ‘firsts’ that will cause you to squeal with delight. Firsts that you have taken for granted and now see again, through their eyes, in awe. Firsts that you will have forgotten what it felt like to experience. Firsts that will leave you dumbfounded, amazed, frustrated, frightened, embarrassed, uptight, proud, and every gamut of emotion in between and beyond.

However, there are a few gems of truth in this life they call parenthood, or mothering, or fathering. Gems no new parent should ever be let out of the delivery section of the hospital (or the office for signing adoption papers) without hearing. Gems that need to be heard by new moms and new dads everywhere, in hopes of saving them moments, that can seem like hours, and hours that can seem like days, and days that can seem like months of discouragement, depression, hopelessness, frustration, anger, despair, and more.

Numero Uno… Remember, remember, remember – you have never done this before. You won’t have all the answers, so go easy on yourself. You get better at changing diapers the more you change them, just as you get better at setting boundaries the more you do it, just as you get better at extending grace the more you extend it – to yourself and to others. Practice, practice, practice. Extend, extend, extend.

Butt paste is hard to put on the first time. You’re afraid you will break baby’s butt by pushing so hard to get it to spread. Once you realize after applying it a few times that baby doesn’t even bruise from said application, it’s easier to do. You’ve practiced, practiced, practiced. You are an expert with butt paste. Just like you will become an expert in other things you once never experienced (in the land of parenthood).

Numero Dos… Your baby doesn’t know you are new at this. So you put the diaper on backwards. And who cares if you gave up on cloth and switched to disposable diapers? If your baby is well fed, is changed at regular intervals and when poopy, and is sheltered, your baby is being loved. And isn’t that the greatest thing, after all? Not what brand of shorts they are sporting, whether their polo shirt has a horse on the chest, if their shoes match their outfit. None of that matters and your baby won’t care.

Numero Tres… Lighten up. Let go of expectations you have put on yourself and (perhaps not realizing) your child(ren).

We spend billions of dolllars trying to make our children into little conformities of our own desires. We try to keep up with the Jones’s and in doing so our children miss out on the one thing they are supposed to be experiencing: Childhood. We are afraid of them getting their name brand clothes dirty in the sandbox. We fret over style when we should be teaching values. Let them be children. Let them get dirty.

Numero Tres... Mama said there’d be days like this. A popular song verbiage that has tremendous value and truth. You may not have heard those words come from mama’s lips, but every parent needs to know, “There WILL BE days like ‘this’. There will be days of frustration, days of feeling inadequate, guilty and ashamed. Days filled with weariness, wishing you could throw in the towel and drive back to that birthing center and ask for a full refund.

But wait.

It could always be worse. It really could. Really. That is not just a cliche.

Close your eyes and count to ten. Slowly. Your kids didn’t set out to make you tired and miserable. They are children. More than likely they are doing what they are supposed to do. Being children. However, they may be in need of some timely guidance. So give it to them, in love.

Without uncontrolled anger.
Without instilling shame.
With discipline that fits the misconduct and is age-appropriate.
With forgiveness.
And in love.

Always in love.

Numero Quattro… Things are not always what they seem, but if they are, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.

Some times, on those harder days, if you wait long enough before reacting, you’ll see the situation for what it really is – funny. When you finally get past the embarrassment of the repairman coming into your living room to your boys’ ingenious raceway made of connected Kotex pads (true story – not mine, however) and step back and look at how creative your boys are – eventually you will laugh. I promise. But, if for some reason you can’t just then and things only continue to pile higher and deeper and you’re not sure you can do another day, you need to ask for help. At the point of a sigh replacing your joy, you need a break.

Asking for help is not admitting you’re a bad parent. It is admitting you are human and you are being honest with yourself. The person too proud to ask for help will only make it harder for her/himself and their family. If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Ask for help. Offer help, if you’re stocked up emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically.

Numero Cinco… One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received was from my first son’s pediatrician. This is what he said…

Dance with your children.”

A month ago I spent a week with my daughter. During the course of that week she gave me a precious gift. A sign that read: “This kitchen is for dancing.”

And that’s what kitchens are for. Dancing with those you love and cherish. With those you have forgiven and those who have forgiven you. With those you have experienced life with. They are for making memories. They are for dancing…

with your children.

A Priceless Gift

a gift from God

comes unwrapped
placed into waiting arms
to be held
cared for
cherished
protected
and loved

time passes
it becomes easier
to take gifts
of any size
shape
or form

for granted

we forget
how precious
how delicate
how beautiful
was that gift
placed in our arms, in our care

we praise in one moment
possibly even praising the very gift itself

but one thing’s certain – 

we can easily
too often,

shatter and break the gift
in the next

without thought
without feeling
without knowing
without acknowledgement
without remorse

and oh – that so precious gift –

if it hasn’t died inside already
is slowly dying inside now

we must
tame our thoughts
tame our words
to bring life
to the gift and gifts we’ve undeservedly been given

a tameless tongue
a tameless mind
both reflecting a tameless heart
could cause that gift to disappear
choosing to run from the dark of night within
and the arms that once overflowed
now reach out in want 

and being raised by a village,
as some say,
we will all have to answer why
for the tears of one

You Just Don’t Know It Yet

Boppa (Grandpa) and Boo (granddaughter) sit on the couch while watching The Little Mermaid together. A scary part comes on and Boo tells Bops to be brave, that it will soon be over, to which Boppa replies, “But I’m not brave.

“You are brave, Boppa,” Boo states. “You just don’t know you’re brave yet.”

In the book, The Help, the main character, Aibileen Clark, a maid, has charge over a little girl all throughout each day. Because the little girl is neglected so often by her mother, the maid tries to instill truth and confidence into the little girl as often as she can. Not a work day goes by in which Aibileen doesn’t say to the little girl (at least once during the day), “You is smart. You is good. You is important.”

Aibileen got it and so did my Boo.

There are good and decent things about each of us that we cannot, will not, or just plain refuse to see, yet we are so very quick to see the negative things in ourselves and to dwell on those quite ‘happily’.

Dr. James Dobson, a leading family psychologist/counselor was once heard to say that for every criticism a person gives to another person, specifically that of a parent to a child, it takes seven affirmations / seven acts of praise / encouragement / positive words to balance out what that one negative comment will do. If this is indeed true, can you imagine what goes through the mind of that child/adult who heard nothing but criticism and negative feedback all through their growing-up years? The child who constantly felt they never quite measured up to their parents’ expectations because they never brought home perfect test scores or made first string on a sports team?

Have you ever been to a child’s Little League or soccer ball game and listened to the parents in the bleachers? There’s three different sets of parents. The ones who come to the games to socialize and they never really pay any attention to the games. The others who come and you know they’re there even if you never see them (they’re always cheering or yelling for their kid). And last, the type of parent who, if they don’t loudly verbalize their disappointment at how their child is performing/playing, you will hear the disappointment muttered with a message (clearly having no regard for the breaking of their child’s spirit) to those sitting near that their child can’t meet their performance standard(s). If it’s muttered in the stands, you bet it’s muttered at home and if it’s muttered at home, you can be sure it’s heard or understood by the child who is listening. And you can be sure they’ve heard every word.

How does a child grow up and feel good about himself when the negative outweighs the positive?

He doesn’t.

It takes someone who’s been there to identify the garbage which that person can’t seem to get rid of. It takes someone who’s been there to show that person they really are of value and worth and how to take the lies they have been fed and replace them with truth.

Not all of us had someone to tell us on a regular basis positive words like, “You are kind, you are beautiful, and you are smart,” like Abileen was able to do for the little girl she cared for. Imagine the child who grows up hearing words of affirmation like that every day, or things like, “You are so compassionate.” “You are so gentle.” “You are so patient.” You are so kind.” A child who hears words of that caliber has a better chance of not only growing up with a healthy sense of self-esteem, but also with a sense that s/he just may have something of worth to offer society.

Look down deep inside of you. 

You are smart. 

You are kind. 

You are beautiful. 

You are patient. 

And though you may struggle with believing those positive attributes – as we all do at one time or another, they are there.

You just may not know it yet.

The Perfect Mother

Be the mom you want them to remember and when they are older, they will be desperately trying to recall the memories made with you instead of trying to forget them.

It’s easy to pinpoint the bad things in our lives when it comes to being a mom. It’s difficult to recall the better moments because we can so easily feel as if we’ve blown it.

Big time.

In so many various and assorted, unique and unintentionally creative ways.

We didn’t get Becky’s uniform washed for her meet this afternoon and while we were busy beating ourself up, we forget to pick up Joey after basketball practice after dropping the 12 dozen cookies we made this morning for the fundraiser tonight at school. We get hysterical. We don’t know what to fix for dinner and we have a panic attack because if one more thing is added to our plate of things to do and places to go and things to see we’re going to lose it. In front of the kids. In front of creation. And it will be ugly.

Very ugly.

So to try and hold it together until we can go to bed and forget about today and hope that tomorrow is just a tad bit more bearable, we go into our closet and scream. Not so loud that the world can hear, but loud enough that God can hear and hope that He will give us what we need to hold on until then.

Ugly stuff. The stuff that punctures a hole in your peace and leaves you lifeless. You have no energy for you’ve spent it on fretting over the lies that you have to be the perfect mother to your not-so-perfect children. And if you should fail to achieve that goal, you beat yourself up some more.

So, what is the perfect mother?

There isn’t one. Never has been, never will be. But, thankfully, we are given some tidbits of wisdom of what a mother looks like, according to God’s word.

  • A mother tells her children of God’s faithfulness. (Isaiah 38:19)
  • A mother is to be respected, therefore she is to be respectable – a woman who is highly esteemed, valued, proper in her words and deeds, and a good example. (Leviticus 19:3)
  • A mother is to be honored, therefore she is to be honorable (a woman who is fair, honest, having integrity when it comes to her beliefs and actions). (Deuteronomy 5:16)
  • A mother doesn’t stop petitioning (praying/interceding/standing in the gap) for her children. (2 Kings 4)
  • A mother teaches her children (Proverbs 1:8; Song of Songs 8:2)
  • A mother cherishes her children. (Proverbs 4:3)
  • A mother disciplines her children. (Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 29:17; 29:15)
  • A mother inspires her children (Proverbs 31:1)
  • A mother impresses God’s truth upon the hearts of her children. (Deuteronomy 6:7)
  • A mother “brings up” (takes care of and educates) her children (Proverbs 22:6; 1 Timothy 5:2)
It says it right there in God’s word. Kinda can make you feel like you’ve slipped up, doesn’t it? Won’t ever measure up? May as well just give up?
 
Hang on. There’s some good stuff to think about.
  • God is God of grace. 
  • A God of second chances.
  • A God of forgiveness.  

He knows we’re going to blow it even before we blow it. He knows we will be heading to the Closet of Losing It because we are in need of finding Him in the midst of our chaos. And when we run to Him for wisdom, comfort, strength, and everything we need to try and be a godly mother, we find grace. We are given a second chance. We are offered forgiveness.

 
We can try to be the perfect mother, but perfect mothers just don’t exist. Trying to be a perfect mother will only lead to despair and create havoc within the family. We can’t be perfect mothers because we are imperfect people. And isn’t that the best way to show God to our kids, by letting them see how wonderfully He loves us by applying His very own parenting techniques to us, the struggling moms He has entrusted His little ones to? For,
  • He shows us faithfulness when we are unfaithful.
  • He shows us the importance of (lifting our kids up in) prayer by example of His son.
  • He teaches us truth throughout His word.
  • He disciplines us because He loves us and wants to protect us.
  • He impresses truth upon our hearts.
  • He teaches us His ways and He cares for us.
  • He is honorable.
It is important to remember that when we become a mother, while we know that this is an area where we are inexperienced, it is also an sea that our children have never chartered before, as well. And it holds true throughout their years of maturing. Each new stage in their life is a new wave of feelings, decisions, opportunities that they must learn to navigate anew.
 
Take those moments of when you feel that you just can’t measure up and throw them out the window. Instead, let yourself go and experience the joy that comes with knowing that God is a God of grace and He allows do-overs. Now, walk out of that Closet of Losing It and live free from condemnation and give yourself a break.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Relationship Killers

You've all seen it – people out for dinner, out for a walk, out for something they're doing 'together' and they all have it. The PHONE. They're all holding one. They're all holding one up to their ear. They're all holding one up to their ear and talking – or listening. They're all holding one and talking – or listening – to the person they are not with.

Say you're on a date – I am not sure if it's worse that we are on cell phones together – both parties or if it's just one person in the group who has a need to answer any and every call that comes in while you're out supposedly spending time 'together'.

I found this list of 'relationship killers' on a website the other day and ironically, cell phones were not even part of those things that 'kill' relationships. Here is the original list:

Insecurity.

Trust Issues.

Facebook.

Twitter.

Tumblr.

Jealousy.

Lack of Communication.

Assumptions.

I suppose the 'author' was shooting for a list of characteristics, but when I saw Facebook, it made me think along a different line. So, here's my version of the things that kill relationships – or can at least cause tension or strain…

Insecurities

Trust Issues

Facebook

Tumblr

Jealousy

Lack of Communication

Assumptions

Judgmental Attitudes

Headphones / Ear Buds

Cell Phones

You may ask, “Why Tumblr? Why Facebook?” You could most likely substitute “Word Press” or “Blogger” or any number of blogging sites/hosts. I would think the originator of the list was most likely getting at the fact that what you say on your blog or website could put a damper on a relationship were it to contain personal information that should not have been shared without permission or something of the like.

The other 'characteristics' in the list are pretty obvious as to why they would put a strain on a relationship. However, think about headphones and earbuds – what do they say to a friend, family member, whoever – when they're always hooked to your iPod or other device and someone is trying to talk to you and you resentfully pull them from your ears? Enough times of that response and you'll be left wondering why no one talks to you anymore.

How do you work on restoring those 'fallen' / failing relationships?

Take out the earbuds once in a while and engage in a real conversation. Eye to eye with a real person. When you go out for dinner or for a walk – go without the cell phone or turn it off or on silent. Don't answer it when in the company of another that you have especially make a point to spend quality time with. (Parents – this is especially important if you have set aside time to do something with your child.) If you've shared on a website something you shouldn't have, remove it and make things right. As for the other items on the list…

Insecurities: Realize your are unique and that you matter and have something to offer. You are the only one like you. That is a good thing because you are the only one who can do what you have been put upon this earth to do.

Trust Issues: If you've forgiven, let it go. If there is a situation that warrants a lack of trust but involves a relationship to valuable to step away from – seek some help from a counselor, a wise friend, a mentor. If you've decided to just not trust someone for whatever reason, the consequences may not be to your liking, but that can be a good thing.

Jealousy: Sometimes we just can't have everything someone else has. Sometimes we just can't be like someone else is like. Sometimes we need to learn to be content with who we are, what we can do, what we've been given and not compare our lives to others.

Assumptions: To assume is to believe you know what the outcome is before you even have proof. That only leads to one thing and it's written in the word itself. To assume is to make an a%$ – out of – u – and – me. And that's not very pretty.

Judgmental Attitudes: Do you tend to judge people before you really get to know them? Have you wasted precious time in getting to know someone because you jumped to conclusions or didn't have all the facts?

We've all struggled with some or all of the things listed above but the good news is that we can change. We can make things better by realizing our shortcomings and work on them. If we choose to. We can either be in the business of killing relationships or helping them to grow.

 

Rainy Day Ideas for Little Ones

It's not summer break, but having the kiddos home from school over the holidays can drive you to insanity. They're excited for Christmas, Hanukka, etc., and you're desperately trying to get the house in order before Uncle Jed arrives with his new dog. To top it off, it’s been raining non-stop for a week. Trying to keep the kids entertained can be mind boggling. If you’re feeling as if you’re at your wits-end, try a few of these suggestions for bringing some activity indoors without losing your mind.

Play-Dough! One item sure to please and you can make it yourself. Incorporate the kids into the process to make it a family affair! You’ll need:

2 cups flour2 cups warm water1 cup salt2 Tablespoons vegetable oilFood coloring

Mix all ingredients together. Stir over low heat. After dough pulls away from sides, remove from heat and cool. Make sure you cook it long enough so it feels like Play-Doh and doesn’t get sticky.

Turn the dough onto clean counter. Knead until smooth. Divide the dough into balls for coloring. Make a divot in the center of the ball, and drop some food coloring in. Fold the dough over, working the food color through the body of the playdough, trying to keep the raw dye away from your hands and the counter. You could use gloves or plastic wrap at this stage to keep your hands clean- only the concentrated dye will color your skin, so as soon as it’s worked in, bare hands are fine. Work the dye through, adding more as necessary to achieve your chosen color. Store in air-tight container or bag.

Tried the Play-Dough and need something a bit more entertaining? Try fingerpainting. Make your own and paint cardboard boxed, grocer sacks or whatever thick paper you have on hand. You could even use a few layers of newspapers. Here’s the recipe:

2 cups white flour2 cups cold waterFood coloring

Put water into a large bowl. Slowly add the flour, while children stir. Once it’s all mixed together, divide into smaller bowls and add food coloring.

Once you’ve decorated those cardboard boxes, put them to use after they’ve dried and let the kids make a fort. Add markers, cut outs, curtains using blankets and more.

For some less industrious activities, have a gym party. Have everyone change into their exercise outfits’ (they choose). Put on some wild up-beat music and lead your little class in sit-ups, jumping jacks, push-ups, running in place and more. Spice it up with using the Simon Says’ game idea, do finger exercises, exercise while sitting in a chair, move from room to room, doing a different exercise in each room. When you’re finished, have a healthy snack of finger carrots and juice.

If it’s lunch time, take the kids on a picnic! Spread a tablecloth on the living room floor and sprinkle some plastic ants on top for effect. Bring out the chips, sandwiches, etc. and read a favorite story together. For a picnic game, try Duck, Duck, Goose’ around the table cloth!

Card games, board games, charades and Pictionary-type games are always fun for kids on a rainy day. Liven it up by writing your own Pictionary ideas.

Something fun that has been around for years and uses up those old crayons is making new crayons! Melt the broken/used ones in the oven, creating new’ colors in paper-lined muffin trays (make sure to remove outer paper on crayons first). After heating on 250 for about 10 minutes, remove and let harden. When cooled, bring out the paper and let the artists in your house draw til their hearts content.

A treasure hunt throughout the house is welcome rain or shine. Plant clues throughout, one leading to the other with a prize at the end. The kids will be kept busier with the more clues you have, so why not keep them going with a basket of goodies at the end filled with new coloring books or drawing pads, puzzles, markers, crayons, etc.

The key to making rainy day’s kid successful is to be prepared before they are here. Keep supplies on hand at all times, with a few treats’ stored away for emergencies. Not only will the wintry, wet days be met with less duress, but also you’ll find some of your best memories will be made indoors!