Finding the Joy in Parenting


Choices. As a parent you are always making choices. Sometimes your brain is dizzy with all the things you need to decide. You want what is best for your kids and many times it is hard to measure the results. You make a choice. You hope and pray it was the right one. You wait. You breathe a sigh of relief when you find you did the right thing. You feel ill when you find you did the wrong thing. Sometimes you wait years to see if it was the right choice. Sometimes you will never know.

You have information thrown at you from all directions. It is as though everyone knows how to be the perfect parent. Well, until it is your own child that you are parenting. Because, once you look your child in the eye and feel the overwhelming love, you just know there is too much at stake to even try to pretend you know what to do all the time. Once you see your child struggle or mess up, you know there is no cookie cutter way to parent your imperfect and unique child…

How do you ease your weary mind and embrace the joy of parenting? The answer is a little different for everyone. Again, there is no cookie cutter way.

I feel like I do a decent job (most days) at enjoying this sometimes arduous journey. Here are some tips I have picked up along the way:

  1. If it isn’t broke, simply leave it alone. If something works for you and your family then screw what everyone else thinks.
  2. Do listen to advice, though. Some people know more than you. But don’t forget, it is your choice on what advice you follow.
  3. If you don’t follow someone’s advice, don’t feel guilty. Seriously, don’t. You know your child the best. You also know your own limits. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
  4. Honor your limits. Honor your spouse’s limits. Honor your kids limits. Enough said.
  5. Don’t judge other parents. You are not in their shoes. You do not know their child as they do.
  6. Don’t compare and don’t ever compete. No one enjoys being around those who try to compete or get their kids involved in such nonsense.
  7. Allow your child to be who they are, not who you think they should be. This may be hard, but, your kids know themselves better than you know them. (I have to thank my parents for doing a great job at this one.)
  8. Forget the rules sometimes. Just have fun. Sing loud, dance, and get a little goofy with them.
  9. Love them. Figure out how they feel loved. Give it to them unconditionally.
  10. Let them love you. Accept the way they show love and appreciate it.
  11. Most importantly, trust God and His will for your kids. God’s got this, guys. He really does.

Feel free to share any tips I may have missed.

 

Soon You’ll be Forty Years Old…

DSC_0157Matthew,

I cannot believe your fortieth birthday is next week.  When I think of when we first met and then think of our life now it amazes me. I think of all the years in between…everything we’ve been through…wow.  We really are doing this. We really are continuously building a life together, for better or worse. I think we have seen both.  It is inevitable there will be good times and bad.  Life. That is life.

I remember our early days of flirting by tossing pumpkin guts (Is that what you call it?) at each other. Who would’ve thought after all these years that we’d be married with two kids? I’ll never forget the summer we spent at the beach.  We pretty much lived moment to moment.  I won’t share all our memories on here, but those are just a couple that I go back to when life gets crazy.

All I know is that there is no one else on earth who knows me and loves me like you do. Anytime you ask me to write a blog or remind me I haven’t in a while, I am reminded how much you care about me. You are a good person, Matt.  Don’t you ever forget that.

Time seems to speed up the older we get, it really does. It will seem as only a few moments have passed before I am thinking, soon I’ll be forty years old. I don’t like to think about myself as being forty, but as long as you are by my side I will be just fine.

Before we know it, our kids will be grown and forty will seem young.  I cannot wait to see you as a grandfather. Heck, maybe we will even have a granddaughter. How weird would that be to have a girl in our life?

Oh my and then before we know it, we will retire. I’m seeing us as snowbirds for sure.  A nice condo on a beach somewhere? We’ll be walking along the beach and I will turn to you and say, “My dear, soon you’ll be seventy years old.  Where did the time go?” You will lean down, kiss my forehead and say, “I don’t know, babe. Did I take me medicine this morning?”

XOXO

From a Manger to a Cross

fullsizeoutput_e.jpegI apologize to anyone who read my post last year…or other similar ones, but things lay heavy on me and what else am I to do?  I feel there is more depth this year than last and am wondering next year if it is possible to transcend further into whatever it is you’d call it that I feel post-Christmas.

Life starts shifting back to normal. My kids are exhausted. My house is a disaster.  I’m exhausted as well.  I’m a bit of an introvert.  I absolutely love people, I love to be around people. I also need and crave calm and quiet at times.  I need both.  I need time to reflect and get lost in my own mind. When there are many things I need to get done, like before Christmas, it sucks my energy.  I become a bit recluse trying to do what needs to be done.  Plus, this year I was sick and couldn’t rest trying to get it all done. I feel like I need to buy a t-shirt that says, “Sorry, I really do like you, but I’m peopled out.”

I am looking at the heaps of gifts scattered throughout our house and tell myself I’ll organize it later.  I feel grateful for my family and for my husband’s family.  We both have pretty low drama and intact families, at least compared to the norm.  My kids are shown love and it is almost too normal for them to have the best of everything. I do my best to show them how blessed they are for all these things. We give back and I allow the boys to to be a part of choosing where and how we do so.

Obviously, I want to have my good life. Who wouldn’t?  I feel blessed and I thank God for all we have.  But, I feel a pulling inside me that just keeps growing.  When did it start?  I think it has always been there my entire life. It is just that sometimes I feel it to the point it physically hurts. I see what I have and I see what others don’t have and it makes me sad. The older I get the more I see and feel it.

Lately, I don’t think it is enough to just recognize it.  It isn’t enough to donate clothes and old toys.  It isn’t enough to donate money, goats, and so on to the poor.  It just doesn’t feel like I’m dong enough.  No, I’m not going to give up all we have to go wander the streets with my family to make myself feel better.  I truly don’t know what I feel like I should be doing.  I’m in this praying, waiting, praying stage.  I’m practicing what I preach to others.  Give it to God and wait on His answer.

I sit here staring out my window and reflect on the life of Jesus. It began in manger, a feeding trough. It ended on a cross, Him literally nailed to it. Everything in between the two was not a life fit for a king. Yet He is the King of Kings. Through the world’s eyes, no one would ask for such a life. He was not rich or powerful. He lived a life full of sacrifice. I think about sin and how we easily can sin on a daily basis. There are sins we fight daily and it takes great sacrifice not to succumb to at times. Think of all the sacrifices He made to live a sinless life. We know He was tempted. Yet He chose a path we could never.  We are too weak to live a life such as His.

We rely on grace and many times take it for granted.  We chew on the bread and sip the wine.  We know what a blessing and gift it is to partake in. Yet most times, at least to a certain extent, Monday morning comes around and we fall right back into worldly thinking.  We may read the Word and try to teach our kids the best we can. We send our prayers.  We serve in the church. But, we don’t love our neighbors as we should and we surely don’t spread the gospel as we should.  We don’t step out of our comfort to live the life God is calling us to.

The crazy part is God loves us despite all of this!  

We know this because He sent His son to live a life we could never live and to die a horrible death to save us from ourselves. We are saved because of our King who began His life in a manger and ended it on a cross. He lived that life and here I am living my easy peasy one…and it doesn’t quite seem right.

This World Needs You, Oliver.

DSC_0591

We went to a birthday party last night. Oliver wasn’t feeling the party.  We walked in the house, he looked around to the many unknown faces, and plopped right on my lap.  I kissed the top of his head and he gave me his ‘I’m peopled out’ look. I whispered in his ear that it was okay.  Everyone kept asking if he was okay.  It made him cling to me more.  I started to feel self-conscious for him. I began to worry even though my instinct told me what was really going on.

So I whispered in his ear, “Sweetie, are you okay?  Do you feel okay?”

“Yes, Mommy,” he replied.

People kept staring at him, I kid you not, like there was something seriously wrong because he was not running and yelling like the rest of the kids. I almost spoke up, but sometimes it isn’t worth it.  But maybe I should have. I think I will next time.

Oliver is one of the most content people I know. He is laid back. He entertains himself and never complains he is bored. When he is comfortable with you, he is the funniest kid you’d ever meet. He lightens the tone in our house like no other. He isn’t shy and is FAR from being an insecure kid. He just doesn’t need or like to be center of attention.  He is an observer. He easily points things out about people that most young four year olds would never notice. He’s loud and he is quiet.  He is goofy and reserved.

He is a creative old soul…just like his mother. He is a story teller who never leaves out a detail.

He would rather know people before he shows himself to them.  He is selective with whom he does open up to.  I bet it is because he can read people…just like his mother.

He is empathetic. Without saying a word, he feels what I feel. “Mommy, you have a sad look in your eyes.  Don’t be sad, cutie-pie.”  He absorbs others emotions…just like his mother.

I want to raise Oliver knowing it is okay to be the way he is. I don’t want him having to figure that out in his twenties like I did.  My parents loved and accepted me and I was okay with myself…I just didn’t know what being an introvert was.  Back then, people didn’t use the term. The first time I read what it was, I felt free. I always knew I wasn’t shy.  Because to me, shyness stems from deep insecurities which I never really had. I just never knew how to describe myself and for a thinker and analyzer like me…it was dreadful not to know. Huge HUGE lightbulb moment. I’m an introvert, it all makes sense now!

Oliver will have an advantage I (and many others) never had as a kid.  I will be able to tell him about all the great introverts of the past.  The thinkers, the mercy-driven need to change and help the world doers, the inventors, the creators…those who refused to think inside the box. I don’t want him to feel he has to do what everyone else is doing all the time. I will relate to him when he feels someone in infringing on his individuality. I will be able to tell him, I know exactly how he feels.  I will be able to show him what a gift and what a strength it is.

God made him this way for a reason and I am so glad he did. I feel as though I should mention I love my extroverted son, just the same.  Luke teaches me to see the other side of things. I’m just as glad God made him extroverted. I am in awe in the way He designed my boys.  Luke with his Ocular Albinism needs to have the boldness God gave him. He really does. Oliver, needs all of his strengths and sense of mercy. I already see how Oliver cares for Luke. He watches out for him and he accepts Luke like no one else in this world does. This world needs Oliver, Luke needs Oliver. Oliver needs Luke too. Luke pulls Oliver out of his own mind and shows him the other side of life.

They just fit together, they are the perfect brothers. I am moved to tears thinking of how God made them to be brothers. To think, I was scared to have a second child. Okay, I’m done now. The end!

 

My One Prayer

IMG_5670

Everyone has that one thing they pray for the most. You may never share this prayer with anyone but Him. You may believe it will never be answered or at least answered the way you want it to be.  But still, you want it so badly you continue to pray and sometimes beg or try to negotiate a deal with God. Sometimes, if you are like me, you will feel guilty for continuously praying for this one thing.  Because you know you are blessed and things could always be worse.  But yet, you cannot help but to relentlessly pray for it.

My prayer is for my oldest son, Luke, who has Ocular Albinism. I don’t pray for God to take his Ocular Albinism away.  I do pray for his future and his ability to adapt to this world.  I pray people are kind to him because of his difficulties. I pray he one day falls in love and marries a girl who is strongly rooted in God.  I pray for his future children.

My one prayer, though, is that one day his visual acuity will be enough for him to get a driver’s license. At the end of the day, I know the above prayers should have more priority. I just cannot help it. I want my son to be able to drive. It is my one selfish prayer. I want to one day hand him the keys to my car…or to Matt’s car and say don’t be home too late with tears streaming down my face.  I want to see him roll his eyes and say, “I’ll be fine, Mom. I’m just driving down the street.”  I want Matt to place his hand on my shoulder as he says, “Luke will be just fine”.  That is what I want.

Today, driving home from Luke’s eye doctor appointment, I cried a little like I always do. This time, for the first time, the tears were filled with fragments of hope.  Not a lot of hope, but just enough for me to exhale a sigh of relief. Every single appointment, even the first appointment where Luke was diagnosed, the doctor has mentioned that Luke will probably never be able to drive. It is something he knows bothers parents. He always says he doesn’t want to give parents false hope.  I respect that about him.  It can’t be easy. Today was different. Luke’s vision has improved some. He said it is quite possible Luke’s vision will improve enough where he could possibly be able to get a driver’s license.

It took me about ten minutes to process that. In the parking lot after Matt and I got the kids in the car, he pulled me in for a hug.  Yes, I thought, he really did say what I thought he said. It was the first time I left that place without a knot in my stomach. I explained it to Luke when we got home and we talked a bit about his eye disorder. I had never spoken that in depth about it with him. I felt it was time and at the end I was able to give him a little hope. His reaction told me it was the right time.

Hope and possibility are worth holding tightly to, even when there is still a chance things may not end up to your liking. Sometimes all we have in this life is a little hope. A little hope has to be enough.  It is enough for me.  Thank you, Lord.

 

The Light in the Darkness

DSC_0751

Last night my nephew stayed the night.  We let the boys stay up a bit past their bedtimes so we can catch lightening bugs.  As they were running around, I realized it had been a while since I had been outside in the dark. With young kids we cling to the light––we close up shop for the day. Oh my, it was a beautiful night and I was in awe of the dark cloudy sky. A much needed light glimmered through and around me.

I walked around our yard and watched the boys.  I remembered the joys of my own childhood. I pictured my young self standing still and waiting for the small flickering of light. I felt the sneaking up, the holding up of one palm, and then the taking of the other hand to quickly trap the lightening bug. My favorite part was the release. Sometimes they would immediately fly off and other times they would linger for a few seconds.  I would not move until I once again saw their flickering of light in the darkness. Then I was off to find the next flickering of light. I never had any doubt that I would find another.

I began to think of the pain in this world, of the darkness the pain brings. The sun always goes down and the darkness always finds its way. My natural instinct as a parent is to wrap my arms around my kids and pull them close to me.  I want to cover their eyes and shield them from the darkness of this world. I love my children and want to protect them. I can’t though.

Instead of always trying to shield them, I need to show them how to stand in the darkness by always looking to God. One day they will have to stand in the darkness and I will not be able to shield them. I will not be able to shield them. (I have to say it once more.) I will not be able to shield them. What I can do is continue to equip them by:

  • Teaching them the Word.
  • Praying with them
  • Praying for them.
  • Leading by example.  
  • Pointing out the light in the darkness, even if it is just a flicker.  
  • Being their light when I can.
  • Allowing them to be my light when they can.  
  • Trusting God and God’s path for them.
  • Praising, loving, and striving to be more like Christ with them…the only unwavering light in this dark world.

 

I Watched You.

DSC_0928

Yesterday afternoon I watched as you walked up from Golf Camp.  You had a dramatic look on your face, much like the many dramatic facial expressions I too have.  You were the only kid not carrying your golf bag.  I’m sure because you somehow talked someone else into carrying it for you.  I watched as you told the person, “Okay, you can give it to me now.”  I watched as you walked up to me and sighed, “Why couldn’t they just let us take a golf cart.”  One of the coaches was watching you too and he chuckled.  It was in that moment I realized I don’t watch you enough.

I get caught up in parenting.  I love you and you are such a blessing.  But our biggest blessings carry with them responsibility, worry, work, and so much more.  I worry more about you because of your Ocular Albinism.  I know I sometimes worry too much.  I know because when I pull (or yank) myself out of being your mom and just watch––I see that you are going to be okay.

I watched you last night during wrestling.  You are so witty and sarcastic. You had everyone in the room laughing––the kids, the coach, and the parents.

I watched you after wrestling as we left.  You caught up with your friend.  You two talked like grown-ups and us parents watched and laughed.  You like to relate to people just as I do.  You are not big on small talk.  Kid, I’m not either.

I watched you this morning as you dug through your golf bag looking for something.  You were acting like a grumpy old man.  Oh boy, you are stuck in your ways.  You are a very strong-willed child.  I read somewhere that the most strong-willed children usually become the most independent in life.  I need to remind myself of that more often.

I will never stop being your parent.  I will never stop worrying about you.  I will never stop trying to point you in the right direction.  I will never stop trying to encourage you to be the best person possible.

I want you to know hard work pays off. I want you to be accountable for your actions.  I want you to have fun in life too.  I want so much for you because you deserve it.

I will never be a perfect parent.  I realize that is okay.  I promise to never stop trying, though.  I also promise to stop and just watch you more. You are an awesome kid and I am so very proud of you. Happy Birthday, Luke.  I cannot believe you are seven years old today.