The Post I Secretly Hope No One Notices

Fix It

In the five months this blog has been alive, I’ve had two goals. Inspire others to overcome everything that holds them back from living out who they are. And don’t make anyone mad.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way human nature works. We stay stagnant until someone is brave enough to slap us in the face and wake us up from our stupor.

So, here’s to making people mad. If it inspires even just one person, I’m ok with the rotten tomato brigade.

Today, I will stop trying to live by the popular Pinterest saying: “Be brave enough to tell your story, but polite enough not to tell the story of others.” Our lives as humans are so tightly twisted and mangled together, that that’s just simply impossible. You can’t tell a story of triumph without speaking of the darkness. But you can’t tell of the darkness without speaking of the person who caused it.

I’m on a journey to break through the darkness of a hostage identity. The one holding it hostage was my mother. She really messed me up.

“Yeah, well none of us had perfect parents,” you say. “At least you had a mom. At least she wasn’t a druggie prostitute living on the streets.”

Both of these statements are true, but there’s fallacy in the thinking.

If we’re honest, we don’t shrug our shoulders at our parents’ mistakes out of kindness, but out of fear. Fear of confrontation. Fear of drama. Fear of rejection. But mostly, fear of responsibility.

If we acknowledge their parenting failures, we’re forced to act upon that acknowledgement. We’re forced to confront the “messed up” parts of our life and fix them. We’re forced to take action to prevent making the same mistakes they made.

But here’s the rock solid truth: If you don’t stand up and acknowledge how your parents messed you up, no one else will. If you don’t fix what’s messed up, no one else will. Your parents cannot do that for you, no matter how many times they anguish, “I’m so sorry. Forgive me. I only did the best I could.”

So today, I’m taking my stand. I’m standing up on the wooden soap box in the park to say…

My mother made mistakes. These mistakes messed me up. It doesn’t matter if the mistakes were huge or small. What matters is I’ve spent the last 9 1/2 years trying to fix what’s messed up, and I’m not done yet. That’s huge.

I’m messed up because I spent every waking hour of my first 25 years of life doing exactly what she wanted, when she wanted, and how she wanted because it was my job to make her happy. It took me 9 years to even realize that this emotional control had polluted my thinking.

I’m messed up because my mom taught me that every.single.man had only one thing in mind: sex. And that they will take every opportunity to get it from any female body. She would stop our homeschool afternoon and drag us with her to my dad’s job site to make sure he wasn’t messing around. I struggle with trusting my husband a lot… I mean like beyond the normal trust things that come up in a marriage.

I’m messed up because my mom decided our family should join ATI. My dad went along with it to make her happy. She gave herself to following Bill Gothard and conservative family Christianity. She set up “standards” we had to follow so we could be Gothardy. I resisted, then fell for it, then resisted, then fell for it. Funny thing was, the only time I resisted was when I was away from my mother. The only time I began to fall for the legalism and strict authority focus was when I was home with my mom. Even in my 20’s, I submitted like a child to her rules and wishes, because Mr. G said that’s what a godly daughter does.

I’m messed up because my mom abused me physically and psychologically. She became the dictator, in the name of parenting. It’s made me so confused in my own parenting. I hate the concept of authority because of it. The recent realization that I am a teacher, and have no reason to even try to be a dictator, has been the most freeing thing to me as a parent. I’m so relieved. ‘Cause if being a mom means being a dictator, I can’t do it.

There’s many more ways I’m messed up, but that’s enough to get the point across.

woodcrates

I can’t just shrug my shoulders and excuse her with “she did the best she knew how” and “she was probably messed up by her parents too”. Excusing it doesn’t address the problem; it simply shrugs off responsibility.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not a blame game. I’m not throwing mud. I’m not lashing out. I’m just being honest and shouldering the responsibility to do something about it.

Now that I’ve realized it, stated it, and believe it, I have the power to change it. I see where I’m messed up. I realize why. Now, I can take the action to fix what’s broken and do my darnedest to mess up my kids a little less than the previous generation.

So stand up on your soap box. Admit how your parents messed you up, so you can fix it.

 

*photo credit

How the Search for Myself is Changing Our Parenting

mykidletsThat night as I held my new born baby for the first time, I never dreamed parenting would be so complicated. What’s so hard about feeding a baby, changing diapers, and teaching a child to obey?

I found the baby and toddler years to be fairly easy. Exhausting, but not complicated. You teach the child to eat well, sleep well, play well, and listen well.

Then it hit… those preschool years when they’re three and four. And suddenly, they’re not typical toddlers anymore. They’re their very own bundle of person with their own desires, own feelings, own will, and own mind. And by golly, they’re going to use them to their greatest benefit. This is where things got a little shakey for me.

How do you validate your child’s own personality, feelings, and will, while teaching the important concept of authority? Especially when you’re so adverse to the very word: authority. Quite honestly, I still hate the word.

I floundered along as each of my four children passed through this stage. I doubted. I hesitated. I second guessed. Sometimes I was strict. Sometimes lenient. But mostly just so darn confused. I guess I thought if I could just manage to make it through that stage, the next one would be easier.

I know. I laugh at myself too. There’s no such thing as parenting getting easier. But I think there just might be such a thing as parenting getting smarter and kinder.

With my husband’s help, I’ve spent several month evaluating my parenting. Why the doubt and aversions?

And you know what I found? The worst part of my entire childhood was that I had no personal identity. I obeyed because my mom said to. If I didn’t, bad things happened. My mother’s parenting was about conformity and control. I’m sure she meant well and did the best she knew how, but it’s not what I wanted for my kids.

Turns out I was opposed to various parenting methods, because I felt so many of them focused solely on conformity and not on guiding your child into finding and loving the person they were created to be while mastering respect and responsibility.

As I’ve learned to love who I am, I’ve realized that my children are incredible creatures of tremendous powers and abilities. Who am I to steal that from them?

parenting

I began to realize that parenting isn’t about “authority”; it’s about education. It’s not about rules and consequences; It’s about presentation, repetition, and practice. We are teachers, not dictators.

We teach them life skills (respect and responsibility) the same way we would teach them motor skills or educational skills. We present the lesson through our conversations, our activities, and by example. Then we rinse and repeat a thousand times, and practice, practice, practice. Cause that’s how the human brain learns.

These days, my husband and I travel a new parenting journey together. We punish hardly ever and teach mostly always. And our home is happier because of it.

Irritable Mom Syndrome

irritable

I was reading through some old blog posts that I had over at Unsolicited Advice where I used to blog haphazardly. I came across this gem and realized I’ve come a long way the last couple years. I thought I’d revise it a bit and repost it.

“Mom!”

“Momeeeeeeee!”

“Hey, Mom?”

That’s it! I’m changing my name to Bob. If my name were Bob, and not Mom, then I could ignore every demand addressed to Mom, right?

I have a headache and a sore throat. It seems all I’ve heard all day is whining and fighting. If we had a dog, I’d literally kick him out the door. It’s probably a good thing we don’t.

The school day is only half successful. I do my best to teach Cherith while Ethan complains and whines because I won’t give him a third glass of chocolate milk, or let him carry around the entire just opened box of cereal, or let him draw on the table with a marker, or drag more toys out of the closet to add to his already huge mess, or watch a “Mommy/Daddy movie”.

I do my best to teach Cherith and deal with Ethan while Faith was climbs all over me and all over the table. She pushes everything off the table, and closes Cherith’s books while she’s using them.

Daryn stands beside me and excitedly tells me all about the new contraption he just made. I loose my patience and tell him he’ll have to wait. The poor kid is visibly crushed, all excitement flushed away.

And that’s when the guilt kicks in. I give him a hug, tell him I’m sorry for snapping at him, and ask him to tell me about his contraption. He says he forgot what he was going to say. I kiss him and repeat how sorry I am.

I pull Faith off the table for the hundredth time and tell Ethan to turn off his whiner siren or he’ll end up in his room by himself.

I turn to Cherith and tell her to read the words in her book. At this point, she is just as frustrated as I am and cannot even think straight enough to remember how to read.

I sigh and tell her it’s recess time. We only accomplished five minutes of schoolwork in the past forty-five.

As she runs off to the living room, her siblings in tow, a heavy weight settles upon me. I am the most important person in their little lives right now. Today, more than anyone else in the world, they need to know in their deepest of deepest that their mother loves them. I’m pretty sure the last 45 minutes did nothing to confirm that.

The thing is… this wasn’t just a rare, bad day. Days like these happen more frequently than I’d like. There’s always something that makes me feel irritable with the very people I live for. I guess I have a case of Irritable Mom Syndrome.

This diagnosis was met with great regret and fear over two years ago. I was caught in a never ending cycle: Feel stressed. Bark at kids. Drink Dr. Pepper. Feel Stressed. Bark at kids. Drink more Dr. Pepper. Maybe if I could just throw a wrench into the cycle, it would trip it up enough to throw me out of it, but I didn’t know how.

Hindsight provided insight. Here’s five things I learned along the way to keep the wretched Irritable Disease at bay.

5 Tips for Irritable Mom Syndrome

1. Be realistic. You can just about bet your life savings on the fact that the day your house is completely clean, your children are happy and quiet, your table is set with a home cooked meal, and you feel giddy inside as your husband walks through the door all simultaneously is a rare day in history. These days just aren’t realistic. So bring your expectations down a notch or two. Let go.

2. Put priorities before the clock. Some days you will need to keep appointments. But in the day to day, don’t let the clock rule your heart. Children rarely need us when it’s convenient. Even when their needs pull you from your projects, do not treat your kids as annoying interruptions. They will begin to get the message: “Mommy’s work is more important than me.” If there are things that need to be accomplished without their interruption, it may be time to find a babysitter once a week, or to get up before they do, or schedule in an hour after their bedtime.

3. Embrace grace. I used to hate that word… grace. But now that I’m grasping its full meaning, it washes over me in every area of life. God’s grace does not just refrain from giving punishment when deserved; it gives us way more than we could ever deserve. It doesn’t just withhold; it gives. If God pours this kind of grace out on us, how can we withhold it from our children. Don’t just keep yourself from yelling at them. Give them way more adoration and love and time than you think they deserve. Pour the grace out onto them as if you have a never ending supply. Because you do.

4. Respect and Responsibility is not just for the kids. We parents tend to forget that as we teach our children the virtues of life, we need to ensure we are practicing them. Are you begging your child to be attentive to you… to stop ignoring you… to look at you when you give him instructions? Then ask yourself… Am I attentive to him? Do I look at him and listen intently as he explains every detail of his latest drawing? Are you begging your child not to interrupt your conversations? Then ask yourself…. Do I interrupt her when she’s speaking because I think my words are more important?

5. This too shall pass. I cannot believe how quickly the baby and toddler years passed. My youngest is now 3 1/2. How did that happen? Where did the time go? I’ve graduated from the sleepless nights and endless nursing sessions. And now… I miss them. Sometimes, I want to go back and start over. Hold them a little longer. Kiss their pudgy toes once more. But I can’t. Yesterday never comes back. Today is yours only today. Tomorrow comes sooner than you think.

Relax.

Embrace this moment.

Meet the needs of right now.

Don’t let this opportunity to pour out grace slip through your fingers.

Sleep. Rest. Laugh. Love. Take a deep breath. And drink a Dr. Pepper (if you really need to).

 

*photo credit

Just Let ‘Em Be Them

TotallyEthanToday, Grace for Moms is sharing a post I wrote on letting our children just be themselves. It starts with a story I told my daughter…

…I watched the wheels turn in my daughter’s head. “But now you’re your own person, and you can wear make-up if you want,” she stated emphatically.

Her words hit me like a slap in the face. She caught on to an underlying theme of my childhood. I was not allowed to be my own person.

And it made me question. . .In all my striving to find myself, do I allow my children to be themselves?

Be sure to catch the rest over at Grace for Moms. And check out a few other posts too. Many of the posts there have given me the chance to ponder life and how true grace is intertwined within it. A few of my favorite posts are:

Redeeming Negative Life Events by Donald Miller

Since Becoming a Mom, I’ve Lost Myself by Kristy Chowning

Grace, More Than a Word by Christa Ashworth

 

Eureka! Authority Now Makes Sense.

authorityPeople, please don’t laugh. In all my 8 years of parenting, I always, ALWAYS have questioned, “What right do I have to tell my kids what to do? They’re people just like me. We’re equals.”

I know the easy answer is: Kids left unattended will act like they’ve been handed a venti mocha frap and bitten by a rabid dog.

But I struggle with the deeper reason. Seriously, who am I to boss another human?

Monday, I met with a veteran mom whose kids show the proof of wise and balanced parenting. At one point, their family was active in the ultra conservative ATI circle (think Duggars), but then turned their backs on it, as they saw the damage that the excessive standards were causing in their children’s hearts. It was not long, however, that they realized they could not turn their backs on teaching children to display character that was responsible and respectful. So, with her confidence in the need for teaching basic virtues, I began a search for a way to do just that.

I can across We Choose Virtues today, and after placing my order, found this blog post about authority. “Oh great,” I thought. “I could use a little help figuring out how to keep my eldest from being so bossy.” And while it did help with that issue, it also connected the authority dots for me.

Suddenly, it all made sense. I had no idea how to lead because I did not understand authority, where it comes from or how to handle it.

Growing up, I was taught (through its misuse) that authority was bossing people around for personal reasons and yelling at them (or beating on them) when they didn’t do what you wanted them to. It was this kind of authority that demanded ridiculous standards of “holiness” – wear only homemade clothing, watch no TV, date no guy, talk not to the other gender, cut they hair no shorter than shoulder length, etc. It was this kind of authority that demanded I serve my mother in whatever way she demanded.

I grew to resent it. I obeyed on the outside, but hated it on the inside. I vowed to never treat my kids in such a way.

But when motherhood arrived, I had no idea how to use authority, only an idea of how not to, so my parenting has lacked a presence of authority altogether. Of course, this leads to me being frustrated in my children’s disobedience and disrespect and other childish behaviors I’ve left unaddressed. And sad to say, sometimes that frustration leads to yelling.

On the Virtues Blog, she points out that authority belongs to God and is on temporary loan to us as parents. She then talks about how to temporarily give authority to your kids. I thought through the steps she listed as if it were God giving me temporary authority over my kids (because He has) and it all began to make sense.

I “boss” my kids because God temporarily handed me authority over these kidlets until they reach the maturity to make life’s decisions without a go-between. This authority is only given to me for His representation.

And this authority is limited to their good – to teaching my children to be mature, responsible, loving adults. It is not a cover all. It is not for choosing their life path. It is not for deciding their beliefs. It’s not for my personal gain, and it’s not to use for manipulation.

Ultimately, those under my charge answer to Him. But I also answer to Him… for the way I lead, and also for the way that I follow Him. Because I cannot lead if I cannot follow.

I think I get it now. I think I can do this authority thing. (Or at least try my darnest.)

 

*photo credit

I’m not Mom. I’m Me.

crackedegg

Although Veggietales are not my favorite characters in the world, they seem to generally make some straight forward, valid points. So, we watch them from time to time. However, as I watched one of their newer episodes, Ever Wondered What Happened to Humpty Before He Cracked?, I couldn’t help but think the lesson they were getting at is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Humpty is the mayor of Gooseville (a town of nursery rhyme characters) and is fed up with the constant demands of the townspeople. He decides it’s time to take a vacation where the only person he needs to help is himself. While he’s gone, chaos ensues, and in the end, he realizes he is being selfish and he should be willing to help each and every person with their every petty complaint.

It just conjured up all sorts of pictures of my own kids whining at me to help them with everything from tying their shoes to wiping their bottoms to breaking up their fights. It’s not selfish to call a time out. It’s not selfish to just help yourself. It’s a good thing to take a break. It’s not a good thing for the pressure of every request to increase the size of the crack in your shell.

I’m not being selfish. I’m just saying that yes, a mom should give sacrificially, but a mom needs to remember that they are also people with needs. When you feel the cracks growing, it’s time to meet your needs.

Mayor Humpty is not Mayor. He is a person with the job of mayor. I am not Mom. I am a person with the job of mom. Taking a break to help only myself provides me with a chance to breathe, to think, to recuperate… to just be me.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.