Mornings Are Hard. Parenting Is Harder.

Have you ever had one of those mornings that grabbed a hold of the song in your heart and every good intention, crammed it down the toilet, threw in a few unmentionables, and flushed…repeatedly…?

Asking for a friend.

No? ok then….

Well, mornings around our house are typically borderline mayhem. People shouting, clothes flying, dog barking…the works. If you happen to be walking past our house, just keep on truckin because there is nothin’ to see here!

Every school year, we vow to be better; and every year, the first week is all cupcakes and daisies then it’s straight downhill from there. And although I consistently try to do everything I can the night before to make things more manageable, it always seems to be next level. It’s a wonder we make it to school on time.

But every now and then, mayhem isn’t good enough.

No…no, we are overachievers and have to amp it up a notch.

Or ten. And by the time we leave for school, the dog is hiding under the bed, somebody is crying (or somebodies), and we’ve made fourteen trips back into the house for things forgotten.

Bless.

Unfortunately, this morning happened to be one of those. The really bad ones. It’s been awhile since we’ve gone down that road; and frankly, I thought we were past it. So this one blind-sided me. Threw me for a loop. Drop-kicked my fresh devotions and prayer time right out the window, and I spent the rest of the day trying to climb out of the funk it created.

It all started with an outfit.

Yes, an outfit. Yes, I have boys. Are we sufficiently confused yet? (some of you may remember the last time I wrote about this involved an outfit as well. When Mornings Suck.)

Jesus take the wheel.

But this wasn’t about just any outfit. It’s Spirit Week at school, and I have to say that I like Spirit Week even less as a mom than I did as a teacher. We spend the whole weekend before trying to plan out the attire for each day, and then I try not to spend a million dollars in the process. Hard to do when you have little ones with big ideas, but somehow we managed.

So my 9-year-old had his outfit all set out the night before, ready to go, and he was pumped.

And although he usually struggles with mornings and tends to be a grouch, I was hoping the excitement of Spirit Week would inspire him to be more pleasant. A girl can dream.

BUT…

Nope. Wrong. Not even close.

In fact, it was so bad that I think it wins for the all-time worst. And that’s quite an accomplishment for us.

Mr. Sunshine finally woke up after numerous attempts, copped an attitude because how dare we wake him….and suddenly the outfit wasn’t good enough, he didn’t want to wear it, and threw a fit.

And what did I do?

Of course, I calmly reminded him that….psh…yeah, right.

No, I lost it. For real. Even broke a hair brush on the bathroom floor. You can judge me now, because I deserve it. 

Back and forth we went, a battle of wills, until I finally told him to go change into normal clothes, because I was not going to drop him off at school in tears. (We moms have an image to uphold, you know.)

So here’s the thing. Was he wrong? Yes. Absolutely. And he lost some privileges and earned an earlier bedtime as a result. Something I should have done a long time ago.

But I was wrong too. Not only for losing my temper but for letting this morning routine go on for as long as I have.

What you allow will continue.

Rather than nip it in the bud, I have just dealt with it and picked up his slack all in an effort to get out the door and to school on time. Then by the time we return home, I am too tired to rehash the wreckage that was better off left behind. But that’s not fair to anyone, including him.

So why do I do it? 

Because consistency and enforcement is hard work. But if you think about it, so is this. We do no favors by being inconsistent. In fact, we create more work for ourselves in the long run and ultimately produce children who cannot face real life.

Contrary to what we may feel at times, children crave boundaries and consistency. There have to be consequences for their actions, even if it inconveniences us at the time. This creates a secure environment in which they know what to expect.

And if we are honest with ourselves, we already know this deep down inside.

Hey, tired & stressed out mama. I see you. I hear you. I AM you.

Being a parent is hard. There is no greater challenge and no greater blessing than being a mom.

We are going to mess up. A lot.

We are going to yell, and cry, and sometimes break hairbrushes.

We are going to ask forgiveness…from our children and from God. Many times over.

But we are going to be blessed for our faithfulness. 

We are going to be rewarded for our consistency.

We are going to be loved by our children in spite of it all.

So hang in there. Don’t give up. Keep being consistent. Don’t be their “friend.” Know when to give tough love and when to extend grace. Surround yourself with mamas both in your season and in the season ahead of you. Learn, read, ask questions, PRAY. Be willing to admit when you get it wrong and celebrate when you get it right.

We are all in this thing together, my friends. So just keep swimming.

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭

Monday: Before healthy boundaries. (The outfit that launched a thousand tears.)

Wednesday: After healthy boundaries.

Now to keep it going. 

We can do this.

 ________________________


 

What If I Don’t Always Love Being A Mom?

When we are afraid to admit it isn’t always that great……

March marks two important anniversaries for me…

The day I became a mom and the day I gave birth for the very last time.

As you may know, we have three children (four, if you count their father…and sometimes I do); and two of the three have birthdays this month, the oldest and the youngest. Like bookends, they mark the beginning and end of a bittersweet season in my life as a mother.

And just as birthdays often do, they’ve made me a sappy mess. Lingering a little longer at bedtime, looking at pictures of days gone by, and crying over silly things that shouldn’t make me cry, I once again reflect on those early years of motherhood when everything was new and exciting, yet terrifying just the same.

I’m not going to pretend I enjoyed pregnancy or giving birth, because I didn’t. And for a long time, I thought that made me inadequate for the job. I didn’t glow and gush like other moms I knew; so obviously, I had taken the initiation test and failed.

But then I realized it wasn’t a prerequisite to motherhood. One didn’t have to love the gestational period to actually love her children or be a good mom (and my husband seemed to love it enough for the both of us). So I embraced “not loving” the process because I knew that I would adore the result.

And I did.

But not every second…or even every other second. In fact, there have been many seconds I haven’t loved. And just as I felt like a failure for not loving the swelling, bloating, peeing, sickness, moodiness, and  exhaustion, I once again felt shame and defeat for not loving every dirty diaper, spit-up stain, and sleepless night.

Because what good mother doesn’t savor every precious moment?

I felt like I had to be the only one who struggled with forming sentences after another exhausting night and frantically searched for a shirt that didn’t bear the mark of an upset stomach or snotty nose. And certainly, I was the only one who blindly tossed crackers in the back seat to stop the blood curdling wail or drove around the block a few more times to prolong a much-needed nap (the kid’s…not mine). I had no doubt I was the only one who struggled with breastfeeding. And for sure, I was the only one who cried…a lot.

So I felt guilty.

I felt guilty for not loving it all in spite of the mess.

I felt guilty because I had experienced the heartbreak of losing a sweet, precious life before meeting him…or her. (So shouldn’t I just be thankful to have a healthy child to wreak havoc on my life and heart?)

I felt guilty because there are other women who cannot have children yet so desperately want them.

I felt guilty because there are moms who have experienced the joy and pain of childbirth only to lose that same child shortly after or far too soon.

I felt guilty.

And that little sentence pretty much sums up motherhood.

We feel guilty….

For all of the seconds we don’t love.

For all of the moments we miss because we have to work.

For all of the lost tempers, forgotten promises, and “not right nows”…

For all of the unhealthy meals served simply out of convenience.

For all of the things we said we’d never do as parents.

For pretty much everything.

And while I wish we had a magic pill that could take away that guilt, we don’t. But there are no perfect parents who love all the moments either. We are not alone; and the more we share our struggles, our frustrations and fears, the more we will realize just how “not alone” we are.

Thank the good Lord, some precious women came into my life that helped me see this. Had it not been for their “realness” and transparency, I don’t know what I would have done during those early years of motherhood. And He continues to send just the right people to encourage me throughout each new and challenging season.

But it starts with having the courage to share what we feel is unsharable. Instead of pretending we have it all together and are loving every second, let’s admit we don’t and ask for help. When we strip away the stigma that struggle means failure, we open up the pathway to healing and strength.

Satan would love nothing more than to convince us that we are a mess. He wants us to quit before we even start. He tells us that what we see on social media is everyone else #winning….except us.

But he’s wrong.

All we see is what everyone else wants us to see. The highlight reel of their lives. The beautiful, “perfect” moments…..that took 537 pictures to get it right. Nobody posts the wet bed, the gum in the dog’s hair, the sassy mouth, or the knock-down-drag-out they had on the way to church. The hundreds of moments we absolutely do not love.

Nobody.

And that’s ok. But we have to remind ourselves that what we are seeing is not the full picture and to stop comparing.

God doesn’t want us to live a life full of shame and self-loathing. He made no mistake when He made us the moms of the children we have. But oh, how precious it is when He blesses us with those little special moments….the ones that remind us why we do it all.

Our job isn’t to be perfect parents and create perfect children. Our job isn’t to make others think we are amazing.

Our job is to lean on Jesus and do our best, plain and simple. And if we can help others along the way by sharing our struggle and unloveable moments? That would be pretty awesome too.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in my weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

 

An Open Letter To My Teenage Self…

“Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Dear Preteen/Teenage Me,

First things first…

I know that this may come as a complete surprise to you, but you do not become rich and famous, marry Bret Michaels, or live in Beverly Hills. You finally meet him one day, but that’s as close as it gets.

It is for the best.

And contrary to what you may think at this moment, 42 is not one foot in the grave. I know it’s hard to believe; but you are actually going to love your late 30’s & early 40’s, and I mean that with all my heart. The confidence you gain through experience and maturity will help you grow more comfortable in your own skin, and it is liberating. There is a freedom with age that cannot be duplicated in youth.

That being said, you are living some of the best days of your life, and you don’t even know it. Hindsight is 20/20, so here are a few thoughts I’d like to share with you on your teenage years…

1. Enjoy school. While it may seem hard at the time, it’s the easiest thing you will ever endure. Yes, it’s boring. Yes, you have tons of homework. No, you will never need to know the hypotenuse of a triangle to change a diaper or land that dream job, but it’s a rite of passage so suck it up and endure. A roof over your head, good food in your belly, and no bills to pay. Stop wishing those days away. You will have the “opportunity” to work the rest of your life. Good grief, don’t rush it!!

2. Appreciate the skin that you are in. Be thankful your parents won’t let you wear makeup at 12. You don’t need it!! Your skin is glowing and without wrinkle. Why cover it up? There will be plenty of time and money spent on beauty products in the years to come, not to mention, tutorials galore on which makeup is best and how to contour until you are unrecognizable.

Stop trying to look like the girls on TV. Your body is going through numerous changes right now. Give it time. You will grow into those curves you hate so much, and freckles are not a curse. You are beautiful just the way you are.

But please, for the love, use sunscreen!!!

3. Wear what is flattering not just what is fashionable. All fashion trends do not look good on all people, and this is true no matter the decade. If it doesn’t look or feel fantastic, just don’t…or you will look back on pictures one day and wonder why you did.

That.is.all.

4. Quit worrying about boys. There will be plenty of time for boyfriends and relationships someday. Your worth is not measured by what a boy thinks of you. Jesus thinks you are precious and beautiful, and that’s all that matters. Spend these days making memories with family and friends, and stop wasting emotions and tears on boys who are hormonal and lack maturity and common sense.

It’s a proven fact that the brain of preteen/teen (sometimes older) boys goes through an enormous amount of change during these years causing them to say and do stupid things. (I know, I have two of them right now) So bypass this stage and catch them on the upswing! It will save you a lot of heartache.

5. Cherish your friendshipsRecognize good, healthy friendships and hold them close. Nurture those relationships and make the effort to keep in touch even when life takes you separate ways. If not, you will reconnect years from now and mourn the time you’ve lost and the memories you could have made.

And while we are talking about relationships, learn to extend grace to struggling friends but cut ties with toxic people. Neither of those become any easier as you grow older, but both are extremely important. Knowing the difference is key.

Find your tribe and love them hard. 

6. Be kind. Popularity is fleeting and matters very little in the grand scheme of things, so don’t waste your time, money, or energy trying to keep up with that crowd.

Instead of dwelling on your own problems, look for those who are sitting by themselves and join them. Let them know that someone sees them and that you care. You have no idea how far a kind word can go to lift the aching spirit of a lonely soul, so open your eyes to those around you and listen with your heart. It could significantly impact a life. Not only theirs but yours.

7. Listen to your parents. They actually do know what they are talking about and don’t say “no” just to make you miserable. Believe it or not, they love you more than life itself and desperately want to protect you. Let them.

Someday you will thank them. Someday you will want to talk to them every day even though you live 13 hours apart. Someday you will want your mom by your side when you are sick or having your first…second…and third baby. Someday they will be the first people you call when you need a listening ear, a comforting word, sound advice, or prayer. Someday you will realize they were right.

And you know that list in the back of your journal? The list of things you will “never say or do to your own children”?

You say and do them all. 

8. Chase your dreams. Don’t settle for what is practical or makes sense. Most successful people don’t follow the safe route. They find what sets their souls on fire and pursue it with every ounce of their being. So do that. Don’t wait. Start now.

If you are passionate about what you do, you will never work a day in your life.

9. Seek Jesus. Every day. Don’t just go to church and check boxes. It’s not about following a list of rules. Dive into His Word, and seek Him daily. Build a relationship with Him stronger than any other relationship in your life, and you will never regret it.

Will it always be easy? No. Will life be perfect? No, God’s not a genie in a bottle. But no matter what happens, you will always have Jesus and the peace and comfort that only He can give. He will see you through whatever you may face…and that’s a promise.

And lastly, but certainly not least….

10. Be thankful you don’t have social media!!! You have the wonderful opportunity of screwing up without the whole world watching. Don’t take that for granted! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

The bottom line is this. Life is hard no matter how old you are. Pros and cons accompany any age, but the key lies in what you do with them. Embrace every stage and live it to the fullest or you will look back and wish you had.

We get one chance at this thing called life, and we need to make it count.

So buckle up, buttercup, and enjoy the ride.

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” ~ Emerson

What Do My Reactions Say To My Children?

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction…and a parent’s overreaction.

He met me at the door, eyes wide and brow furrowed. I immediately knew something was up, because the only one who meets me at the door these days is our 7 pound, 4-year-old toy poodle. Not our 8-year-old who typically has his eyes glued to a computer screen watching cats jump three feet in the air at the sight of a cucumber, painful football injuries…or people opening Christmas presents. (I didn’t even know that was a thing.)

No, it couldn’t be good.

As I opened the door, he launched into the horrific tale of walking into our master bathroom to use the restroom only to find a wet spot on the wall by the toilet. (gasp)

Right.

His delivery needs work, but it was good for an amateur.

So I began my usual line of questioning. What kind of wet spot? What color is it? Did you smell it? Are you sure it was already there and not just bad aim?!?

He quickly assured me that it was already there and that he had no idea how it happened…but that I should see for myself. So I went to investigate the crime scene with him trailing close behind.

Sure enough, there it was. A wet spot, still dripping, directly next to the toilet. So I did what any seasoned mom would do and bent down on hands and knees to smell it.

Perplexed that my keen supermom-senses did not detect any bodily fluids, I sat back on my heels and began to survey the room around me while Hayes stood there anxiously wringing his hands and repeating, “I have no idea what happened…it’s just weird.”

Right.

That’s when I caught sight of faint specks of red on the floor underneath the wet spot and a wad of wet toilet paper by the sink.

“Did you try to wash something off of the wall?”

You’d have thought I had accused him of grand theft, and he was getting 10-20 in the slammer.

Denial, tears, blame (it had to be the brothers…or the dog…or BOTH) ensued while I tried not to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

I wasn’t even mad, at least not about whatever had happened there. I just wanted him to tell me the truth, and I told him so. But the more I prodded him to come clean, the more the frenzy escalated until I finally just sent him to his room before I lost what little patience I had left and said something I would regret. (been there done that…too many times to count)

After a few minutes in the think tank (he does not like to be alone), he came out, sat at the kitchen island, and stared at me.

“Yes?”

Then came the tears, “But I don’t want you to be mad at me.” 

“I’m not.”

“But you are! You have the mad face!”

Sigh….“Ok, a little…but not because of the wet spot or whatever happened with the wet spot. I’m upset about the lying. The wet spot can be fixed easily; the lying is the real problem. That’s harder to fix.”

And that’s when the dam broke…and through the tears and the sniffing (lots of tears and lots of sniffing), I pieced together the sad tale of an 8-year-old who had a bloody nose, ran to the closest bathroom, made a mess on the wall, then tried to clean it up before anyone knew what had happened. How nobody else in the house knew all of this was going on, I will never know.

But in that moment, my heart broke a little.

Don’t get me wrong. He was still in trouble for lying and had to listen to my “Why it’s always better to tell the truth” speech. After 15 years of parenting, it has been fine-tuned and well-rehearsed, so I wasn’t about to waste it.

But what broke my heart was the fact that he was afraid to tell me the truth. Not because it was horrendous. Believe me, all three boys have done worse. Not because of the punishment. He knew he deserved whatever happened. I didn’t even play the “I’m disappointed in you” card, so it couldn’t have been that.

No, he was afraid of my reaction.

How many times have I completely flipped out over a spilled cup, a scratch on the car, a rip in a new pair of pants? How many times have I lost my mind over something little just because I was having a bad day? How many times have I made my children feel like something material, something replaceable, was more important than they are?

Like an arrow to the heart, I realized that I had failed in creating a safe space for them to come and share their mistakes and failures.

Oh sure, they talk to me about all kinds of things. They tell me all about their friends at school, what’s going on in their lives, who is doing what; and I pride myself on being the kind of mom who has an open line of communication with my children.

But when it comes to things like this, things they’ve done wrong and mistakes they’ve made….let’s just say my reaction has been less than inviting.

If they can’t come to me with the little things, how can I expect them to come to me with the big things?! It doesn’t mean there won’t ever be consequences or punishment. Those are part of life, and we have a responsibility as parents to see those through. They know that and expect it, but sometimes they just need a soft place to land when they mess up regardless of the consequences.

I want to be that soft place. I want to be approachable in the little things so they will feel safe enough to come to me with the big things too.

It’s not easy when life is hard, and busy, and stressful. Our nerves are frayed and our tempers are short. The last thing we need is one.more.thing. 

But in the grand scheme of things, what is really more important? Fixing a broken door or fixing a broken spirit?  We all know the answer, but simply asking the question puts it into perspective.

And it doesn’t become easier as they grow older, only harder. So it’s time to create that safe space for my family, that soft place to land. It’s time to show them that their feelings are important, and I love them more than things.

It’s time.

And…

It starts with me. It starts with my reaction. It starts now.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” – James 1:19, 20