Category Archives: Parenting

What makes a good parent?

What makes a great parent? Or even a good one? It’s a question that I have asked myself many times over.

I used to know the answer…before I had kids.

Oh yeah, it was so clear to me back then. Good parents set boundaries, loved fiercely, read nightly, kept to a routine, played lots of classical music, prayed with their kids, helped with homework, disciplined, modeled values, and showed up. And in return they had well-behaved, polite, kind-hearted, honest, hard-working children who loved the Lord.

I’m now in my 15th year of parenting. I have honestly done all of those things on the “good parent” list more than not (well except maybe the classical music part). Sometimes some of my kids exhibit some of those qualities I thought would come in return, but never do all of my kids exhibit all of the qualities at once. And so I have also yelled, cried, pleaded, threatened, hidden in my room, bent the rules, changed the rules, and completely checked-out.

The end of the school year is both a relief and a bit of a regret. Another year down, another year closer to when these chickies leave the nest and there are glaring reminders all over of how imperfect my kids are — the awards ceremonies, the report cards, the standardized tests, the calls home from teachers and administrators, etc. And the thing is, it’s not the fact that my kids are imperfect that bothers me — I expect that and know that — it’s that it all feels like a recrimination of my parenting skills and choices.

Surely the mother who beamed proudly as all of her children received one academic award after another knows something I don’t. Surely the father whose son not only received the Christ-like behavior award, but prompted an impassioned speech from his teacher about this wonderful young man’s character, has done something I haven’t. Surely the friend who gets phone calls from the teacher just to tell her what a joy it is to have her children in his/her class has this parenting thing down to a science.

I tell myself this and I really want to believe it. I need to believe it. Because if it’s true, then it means that I have the ability to raise “good kids” and to be a “good parent”. I just have to figure out the right formula.

Of course the flip side is that it also means that in 15 years of trying I haven’t found it yet and I’m running out of time. My kids are closer to the age of leaving home than not and they are still making really bad choices. Choices that break my heart and scare me. They seem hell-bent on learning lessons the hard way, and not always learning the lesson the first, or second time around. Sometimes I feel like we are living in one bad after-school special after another and walking on the fringes of that one mistake that will change their lives forever.

So here I sit with this question: what makes a good parent? Because I really, really want to be one. More than I’ve wanted to be anything else in my life I want to be a good parent. This is the most important job I have and God has entrusted these three lives to me. There are no do-overs, and I desperately want to get it right.

But you know what I want almost as much? I want a friend to say, “You are not the only one. I know exactly how you feel.” I want a friend who comes alongside and says, “my kids did all of those same things and they made it, they turned out great.” I want a listening ear without judgement, and advice without recrimination. Because the hardest part of being a mom who feels like she isn’t getting it right is having the rest of the world agree with you.

Every well-meaning friend who has offered unsolicited advice or lectured one of my children in front of me, is a confirmation of “you don’t know what you’re doing, so let me take it from here.”

Every teacher or church-leader who has said, “why don’t you have your kid do xyz, it will be a good influence on them,” is recrimination that I haven’t provided enough good influence and my kids really need some more.

Every person who has come up and said, “let me tell you this funny story of this thing your kid did yesterday,” and then proceeded to tell me a highly unhumorous story of what my kid did wrong, is a reminder that I’m raising kids that make poor choices, not in a vacuum or in the privacy of their home, but front and center with the rest of the world watching and judging.

So yeah, I really want to know what it takes to be a good parent — and if you have figured it out, please tell me. But until then, I desperately just want someone to love me and love my kids in all of our imperfection, without judgement.

photo credit: Darren Johnson / iDJ Photography Mother and Son via photopin (license)

What do we say to the parents?

Yesterday was a hard parenting day for me. In particular late last night I experienced something I’ve never dealt with before and hope to never deal with again. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say my son, who has depression and an anxiety disorder, went to a dark place and was almost swallowed up by it.

As I lay with him in my bed, helping him to calm his breathing and slow his tears, I whispered words of comfort and Truth in his ear. I told him because he had God in his heart, he would be protected. Then we prayed together. I prayed for God’s protection and strength to surround my son. Together we denounced any evil that might try to take over his thoughts or compromise his safety.

And friends, I believed — still believe — with my whole heart that those words I said, the prayer we prayed is true. I believe that God loves my son and will protect him and keep him safe.

But then this morning.

This morning I turn on the radio and hear the updated information from Florida. Seventeen dead.

And I think of the parents of those 17 children. Did they pray the same prayer?

Did they believe with all of their heart that God would protect their son or daughter and keep them safe?

I don’t know for sure, but I would bet some of them did, if not most. And I’m left wondering how we come to terms with the knowledge that 17 innocent lives, lives really just beginning, were taken?

I’ve grappled with that question all morning. Asking myself how I can have such great faith and trust that my son will be protected, while knowing children are dying every day in senseless, tragic ways.

I don’t really have an answer for that. You can call it blind faith. You can call it naivety. You can call it illogical or unfair. You can call it luck or privilege.

Call it what you will.

I guess if I had to choose one word to call it, it would be Hope.

I know deep down that every day is a gift. I have lost loved ones too soon. I have attended the funerals of children. I have sat in hospital rooms with my husband waiting for test results, wondering if we would both leave the hospital. I do know that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. None of us. Including my son or daughters.

I also know God loved us so very much He offered us free will and with that free will the devil schemes and takes advantage and sometimes, yes sometimes, he wins the battle. It can happen to any one of us. Any one of our children.

But yesterday I also watched friends and neighbors support my daughter and her efforts to raise money to go and do missions work in the Dominican Republic. I saw people loving on and caring for my Grandma. I had a conversation with a teacher who expressed such deep love for my child and my family it left me in tears. So while evil was attacking my son last night, hope was there, too.

While evil was taking lives in Florida and around the world, hope was there, too.

Hope sat with the teacher who hid students in a closet and kept them safe.

Hope sat with the police officers, first responders, and hospital staff that worked so diligently to evacuate and secure the school property, apprehend the gunman, and care for the wounded.

Hope sits with all of us who wipe our eyes, raise our fists, and shout “Enough!” While we rally together to stand-up and demand change from our elected officials.

Hope is there, even when we can’t see it or feel it.

 

For as much as I love words, I am surprisingly bad at knowing what to say in the face of tragedy, especially to those who have lost so deeply. I honestly don’t know what I could say to the parents of those 17 students or the 1,000s of other children who have lost their lives in senseless tragedies like this. I just don’t know that there is anything that could be said that would amount to more than wasted breath and empty words to their broken hearts.

But we can love them. We can hold in our arms the ones we know personally, and hold up the ones we don’t in prayer.

We can look at the photos and read the stories of their precious children and remember them.

We can refuse to forget, to move on, or to become numb.

We can demand change.

And yes, yes, I know it’s been said and heard so many times it’s beginning to sound trite. But I do believe in the power of prayer. And I believe we are not only fighting a physical war that requires more intervention, awareness, access to mental health care, and restricts access to firearms, but we are also fighting a spiritual battle. One that requires we get on our knees and pray for protection over our children, our neighbor’s children, our community’s children, our nation’s children. It requires we hold on to Hope and to each other.

Satan may have won the battle, but God will win the war.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:24-25)

If you are wanting to take action to stop the senseless violence in America, but don’t know where to start, I encourage you to check out this website: https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/ organized and run by parents who know too well what it means to lose a child to gun violence.

 

 

 

photo credit: BONA LUMA There is Always Light via photopin (license)

 

Why are you so afraid of my child with special needs?

Several weeks ago, my son came home devastated because one of his close friends told him that his parents didn’t want him to be friends with my son anymore. To the little boy’s credit, he told my son he didn’t care what his parents said, he still wanted to be friends. But the damage was done. My son, who has been diagnosed with OCD and anxiety disorders, could not get it out of his mind that there was an adult out there who thought he was not worthy of friendship with their son. That he was so terrible to be around they preferred their child end a two-year friendship. And he kept saying, “But I don’t understand why.”

Honestly, I don’t either, although I have guesses. My son has had a very rough school year as we have processed new diagnoses, struggled to find the right medication, gone through testing and therapy, and experienced all the joy of pre-teen hormones that seem to throw out any predictability of the aforementioned treatments and wreak total havoc on his emotions. He has had multiple incidents at school which resulted in total meltdowns and fits as he struggled with obsessive worry and anxiety. His poor impulse control has resulted in unacceptable displays of disrespect with teachers and conflict with peers.

While I don’t know of any incidents that personally involve this boy (and I’m pretty certain I would since my son’s school is very good at communicating these things), I can only imagine this friend has gone home and relayed stories of my son’s outbursts and meltdowns to his parents and that was enough for them to decide he was not the kind of kid they wanted their son to associate with.

And that certainly is their choice. While my initial reaction when my son told me was heartache mixed with a healthy dose of anger, time has softened my heart and I am left with just sadness. Sadness that my son has so much he is struggling to overcome and how aware he is that he is different from the other kids. Sadness that he feels ashamed of his differences and worries what other people think of him. Gut-wrenching sadness that in the hardest moments he has cried out to us and to God saying he wished he was no longer here on this earth. It’s really more than a mother’s heart can bear some days.

The full article is posted at Her View From Home. Click here to read the rest.

How do we prevent sibling rivalry?

As a mom of three kids, two of whom are twins, one of my biggest challenges is keeping sibling rivalry at bay. I realize that some form of sibling rivalry is inevitable and it’s been happening since the beginning of time (thank you very much, Cain and Abel). My sister and I certainly fought and competed with one another growing up. But I always imagined — before having children – that my kids would love and support one-another, growing-up to be best friends. There were even signs that this might happen when they were very little. My eldest doted on her baby brother and sister when they came home from the hospital, bringing them her blankets and stuffed animals when they cried. When they were toddlers, my twins would waddle out to the playground hand-in-hand, or help each other up when they fell. It was so sweet and heart-warming…and lasted precisely 19 months, 16 days, 3 hours, and 27 seconds.

Now, here I am today with a teenager and two pre-teens. Mornings are torture as they snap at each other, blame each other, and try to boss one another around. Mealtime is filled with arguing over whose turn it is to talk, trying to get one another in trouble, or telling us about what the others did wrong at school that day. And car trips. Oh, don’t get me started on car trips! They are the worst! If I had a dollar for every time I said “no more talking, looking, or breathing at each other until we get home,” I would be able to afford that $30k a year private college my teen is eyeing.

Those pre-children dreams I had of raising three best friends are a distant memory now. Most days I’m just hoping nobody gets pushed down a well or sold to traveling Ishmaelite’s (thank you very much to all of Joseph’s brothers for planting that idea in my kids’ heads)!

I may not be able to completely stop the fighting and bickering that happens between my three, but one area I haven’t been willing to give up on is keeping them from the comparison trap. I never want any of my kids to feel like they aren’t as good as their sibling(s), or that they are expected to be the same. I know that this type of sibling rivalry will only create resentment and separation. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed as they get older this seems to be happening more and more, and it literally keeps me up at night worrying about the impact to their self-esteem, and their relationships.

Despite the many nights spent worrying and praying over this, and my resolve to not let it happen, I can tell you that [spoiler alert] I unequivocally have not figured out a perfect formula to prevent it. But there are a few things that seem to help more days than not, and I’m sharing these with you in hopes you will also share what is working in your family. Maybe together we can create our own play book on how to prevent a lifetime of competition and animosity between our children.

  1. Help them choose goals that are specific to their talents and abilities. This year all of my kids decided to run cross country. The three of them have varying degrees of athletic ability and experience running and if they all had the same goal of coming in first in their age group or running the same time, it would create a lot of frustration, disappointment, and comparison. So I talked to them regularly about what their individual goals were, focusing on improving on their previous times, and achieving personal bests, instead of all vying for the same goals. We do this with grades, too. My youngest daughter has really struggled with her spelling grade, so our focus this year has been on improving that. While my high-schooler has a history of late or missing homework assignments, so our focus has been eliminating those. This way we can celebrate when each child achieves a personal milestone that is meaningful to them, instead of only celebrating who got the most A’s and B’s.

 

  1. Privately encourage the older siblings to mentor the younger ones in specific areas. Now, I realize this may not work in every sibling situation. But my teen is great at making others feel included. She’s always been the kid who seeks out the loners and sits with them at lunch. Meanwhile, my younger daughter has been struggling to balance different groups of friends and the hurt feelings that can come between middle-school girls. Frankly, she doesn’t always like my advice or listen to it because, well I’m her mom – what do I know! So I’ve asked her sister to talk to her about it because my younger daughter looks up to her big sister. It lifts her up to think her big sister is taking a decided interest in her life. Meanwhile, it makes my eldest feel needed and important, instead of feeling annoyed by her little sister.

    If there is something one of your younger kids is struggling with, consider bringing in an older sibling, sharing only what is necessary and appropriate so as not to break confidences, and encourage them to help out. It inspires the older sibling, showing them what an important role they can play, while potentially opening doors to a pattern of siblings confiding in and supporting each other.

 

  1. Never, ever compare one sibling to another out loud. Notice my caveat of “out loud” here. What I really mean is don’t do it in front of your kids. The psychology magazines will tell you we, as parents, shouldn’t compare our kids at all. But just being real here, that’s not easy for me. Always in my head I look at my younger two and wonder how they are twins when they are SO different in every way. I look at my oldest and wonder how it is her sister is so organized and she struggles. I look at my son and wonder why dental hygiene seems to be so much more important to his sisters than it is to him. But I try very hard not to say these things out loud.

    If my children pick-up that I’m comparing them to their sibling and see one child doesn’t quite match another in a specific area, then they start to do this, too. Not only does it become a slippery slope to one feeling inferior to another, but it gives the other sibling a sense of superiority that I don’t want any of my kids to have (ok, well except maybe with the dental hygiene thing – if only my son cared enough about it to be shamed by his sisters!).

 

Those are three tactics I’ve been trying to employ in my house, and have found success, to varying degrees. I would love to hear what works for you and your children!

3 ways to prevent sibling rivalry

The 52 days that gave me strength and hope

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” – Psalm 46:4

Recently I was looking at Facebook and a collection of my “September memories” popped up. At first glance, I smiled thinking about all the joy and special times that had come in September. But the reality is there were also a lot of not-so-great moments, struggles that left me feeling very depleted and scared.

In late-August my son was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and an Anxiety disorder. It came as a shock to us. We had started seeing a new doctor in May to help with medication management for ADHD, which he’d been diagnosed with when he was six. We never expected that the new psychiatrist would tell us he actually did not have ADHD, but instead had OCD and Anxiety.

The last week of August he came off his ADHD medication and began to take medication for OCD and Anxiety. The first week he didn’t sleep for five days straight. It was awful.

By day six he started to sleep and we thought the worse was over. But then he began having these fits of rage and complete loss of self-control. He’s always struggled with controlling his emotions, something that we thought was part of the ADHD and now know is due to his anxiety — but this was different. The first time it happened we were at a playground and he was fighting with his sister so I made him sit down and lose play time. He got so angry he tried to flip over the picnic table and I thought for a moment he might strike me. It really took me by surprise.

Then the next week he had a similar incident at school where he couldn’t gain self-control and ended up screaming at a teacher and kicking over a chair. When I got the call from the school I cried the entire 30 minute drive to pick him up.

It’s a terrible thing to see your child struggling and feel completely incapable of helping him.

But I do believe that God always equips us with exactly what we need to survive the trials and hardships we go through. And it just so happens that the same week we received the formal diagnosis of OCD and Anxiety I had decided to do a 90 day thanks and giving challenge, in the 90 days leading up to Thanksgiving. In fact, it was literally the day before my son started on the new medication that I began this challenge. Two seemingly unrelated things. But I can tell you now, 53 days later, this was not an accident.

Yes, September was hard. I had a lot of fear – fear of not being capable of helping my son, fear of not finding the right medicine, fear of having made the wrong choice to allow him to be medicated, fear we didn’t have the right physician to help us, fear that I was completely unequipped to help a son with OCD and anxiety, fear of how others were watching and judging my son for his behavior, fear we would have to pull him out of school.

Many days I felt completely drained by the time evening came. And in those moments I think it would be easy to stay consumed by that fear, to feel hopeless, and empty. But because I had this need to find something to be grateful for each day or to do something for someone else, I wasn’t able to be consumed by my own fear and hopelessness.

I believe when we actively seek out the beauty, the joy, the blessings in our lives, we are reminded that we not only have a good Father, but we have a God who follows through on His promises.

Yesterday was Day 52 of this journey. We were in church singing about miracles when I felt my son’s hand on my arm. I looked down and saw he was trying to tell me something. This is not unusual, my kids are always trying to ask me something right in the middle of worship. Usually something really important like, “Can I get another donut?” or “Can I go sit with Kaley’s family?” But as I leaned down close to his face to hear what he was saying over the worship music, his words caught be by surprise: “I love you.” Those were the words he had to tell me right in that moment we were singing about God’s miracles, the words that were so important they couldn’t wait till later.

I know our journey with OCD and anxiety, with medication and doctors, with fights over homework and stress about chores is not over. But as I stood there feeling the warmth of my son’s hand on my arm and absorbed the urgency of his words, I felt hope rise up. And as I look at the photos and posts from the last 52 days that Facebook put together, I can see some of the fear, worry, and fatigue that was there, but I mostly see the joy and gratitude I sought after each day.

It’s been impossible for me to lose hope or forget just how much God loves me and loves my son because every day for the last 52 days I have looked for something to be thankful for and every day for the last 52 days I have been able to find multiple things. I have seen how God provides for and protects my family. And I am reassured that His ways are better than mine and that He has a plan for my son, even if I can’t understand what it is.

By living in intentional gratitude, I have been able to lean into God and find hope and strength in Him; I’ve felt the warmth and urgency of His “I love you”.

Psalm 46:4

If you are interested in beginning the practice of intentional gratitude, download this free Bold, Brave & Blessed journal. It can be saved to your computer, or printed to help you recognize your fears, live in gratitude, and put your trust in God.

photo credit: Stuck in Customs LA Photowalk Kid via photopin (license)