I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
Particularly when it comes to parenting, my hubby tends to be a little more adult. Yesterday I gave the kids Captain America ring pops as a pre-dinner snack, because, well, CAPTAIN AMERICA RING POPS! He reveled in the coolness with them, then presented a beautiful, fresh fruit salad. He is just good like that.
Later, at dinner he had a great, ‘novel’ idea. I felt like Homer Simpson letting out a loud “DOH!!!!!!”. Somewhere in the process of gestating, birthing, and raising little people, the concept of teaching them table manners escaped me. This is a pretty sad fact given the effort our parents put into the deal a few decades earlier. My hubby and I both grew up in households where sitting down at the table each night as a family was priority. You gratefully ate what you were given, you were polite, and you didn’t get up until excused. Napkins resided in your lap, elbows off the table, and “OH MY GOD! DO NOT STAB WITH YOUR FORK – LIFT!” echoed throughout our home’s halls.
I’m not sure how old I was when it started, but I know by the 5th grade, I knew the different place settings and what fork to use. I was likely closer to a little adult then a wild banshee at the table.
So, back to giving my hubby props, who, in the middle of tacos last night declared it table manners training session number one. It’s like every other parenting decision. You just have to decide to start. And do it.
Which got me thinking: I don’t see training in table manners come up to often in my flashy family oriented magazines or hear about it on the radio. I don’t think I have ever walked up to another friend and heard them gush “We had the best family devotional on table manners last night, let me tell you about it!” Sadly, table manners is a dying training category falling prey to busy schedules and its art is compromised and simplified to simply feeding everybody something (other than Captain America ring pops :)). Ask any 30 something with young kids the priorities each night and it is likely food, bath, bed. We are in survival mode (of the rich, first world kind).
So, this weekend, I am on a mission. I’m scouring the internet and going to the library to see what resources are out there for teaching children table manners. It’s time this act got cool again. Everybody should be doing it.
It had been a really good weekend. Why then did hot, salty tears decide to fall? It was late and the morning would come soon. Why, emotion now?
Parenting just has that way. Emotions pop onto the scene with little warning. Like that moment where you may simultaneously burst with joy from a fierce/tender love, and ache with an unknown longing.
Our mission is to receive these little beings with a simple assurance that while they don’t come with instructions, with enough love, we can figure it out.
And you have to be comfortable with being a work in process. Because just when you think you may have found your rhythm, something changes again and you learn how to love. How to love more, better, differently, the same. Loving consistently.
And that love morphs and changes. Because they morph and change. And I think I have identified why the hot salty tears.
Tonight our almost 6 year old (going on 16) seized an opportunity: her little brother fell asleep early which left my undivided attention to her. She suggested we cuddle while we watch a movie. “Are you too big to fit in my lap?” I teased. I didn’t really think so, but she did have a wild growth spurt over the recent holiday. It felt like she grew three feet (but more like three inches since summer). “I think I can still fit.” She replied.
But several rustlings later, she really didn’t. “I can’t get comfortable,” she lamented. I understood. And suddenly her dainty twin bed felt just too small. “Oh, okay, we’ll adjust,” I brightened.
Later she sought me out in the worn out recliner and without hesitation climbed up onto me. She still didn’t really fit. But she didn’t care. And I didn’t either. Before long I looked down to see her sprawled across me, fast asleep.
With everybody tucked in, I settled in as well – to the outpouring of emotion. I let the tears fall and soak my pillow and my husband just went with it. I was seized with that panic of what happens if your kids grow up too fast and suddenly one day they are too big to fit in your lap?
That love overflows. It overflows to spill out over your lap and into nooks and crannies that you didn’t know love could pervade. I realized through the swollen eyes and crying onset headache an important truth: when your lap gets too small, your heart grows to make up for it.
And that’s why calling my parents is so important. Because in the process of doing well at raising a really independent daughter, they have had to let their hearts grow to make up for distance in miles and distance in phone calls and emails. Do they know that their love fills in my everyday moments of life and the hobbies that give me endless joy? Their love is why I find a piece of Heaven in a hot cup of coffee and the play of words. I am way too big to fit in their laps now, but their love pervades my life, and is the DNA of the simple truths that make me, well me.
So I have their example to assure me of what happens when our kids no longer fit in my lap, when I lay awake at night, almost fearful of sleep, because I may miss something.
And, I have this beautiful birdhouse. My husband’s grandfather made it by hand, it is beautifully painted with a red chimney and cheerful flowers, and a little sign by the entrance that says, “For Rent, Cheep.” I don’t know what I love more, the attention to details, or the play on words (Get it? For rent, cheep!).
I have never sat on my husband’s grandfather’s lap. I likely never will. But I feel incredibly and magically, and beautifully loved. Thousands of miles separate us, and we don’t talk much. But his love will hang in a prominent place in our kitchen. His and GG’s love have found their way into the nook and crannies of our lives – how that birdhouse will hang and if it could talk, have stories to tell.
I think of Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.” There was always love to give -it just took on different forms, at different times, in different ways.
And I have to believe that our love is enough, growing in increasing measure, to adapt and morph and continue consistently.
When love overflows the lap, the heart grows to make up for it. We must simply keep our hearts and eyes wide open to witness it.
We are ten days into Kindergarten. I didn’t tear up on the first day, but I did on the tenth.
My moment of emotion surrounded a plastic container with chilled water and apple slices – otherwise known as our daughter’s contribution to a glorious classroom event called Friendship Salad.
A few days previously our five year old had suggested she was ready to walk unescorted to her classroom. Fair enough. I value independence. So I walked her to the common areas and wistfully watched her bound to her classroom solo.
And then she discovered the car rider line – the beacon of efficiency whereby parents literally pull up to a curb, someone opens the door, and the cherubs jump out, and walk into the school entirely independently.
She LOVES it, it is a highlight of her morning, and motivation to leave on time. This is a good thing.
But, can I be a tad bit sappy, just for a second? Because just like that, I’ve been cut a little bit more out of the morning routine.
I have read those same “helicopter parenting is terrible” articles like you have. Except I may have been a little more prideful (or willing to admit it) that I read them and think “that is so not me.”
And then it’s the morning of Friendship Salad.
Although “we” have recently discovered the car rider line and the joy of new found independence, I thought that maybe I would walk in with her on Friendship Salad day, you know, given the extra heftiness of the apples.
No. She was set to do it herself. She put together a plan and wanted to execute.
I chewed on my tongue. So many what ifs! What if she trips and apples and water splay everywhere, and there she is scraped and bruised, with no mommy there to pick her up, and clean up the apples, and reassure her that all is okay? What if that container precariously tips and the water goes all down her shirt? What if? What if? FRIENDSHIP SALAD DAY AND MY FIVE YEAR OLD IS SERIOUS BUSINESS PEOPLE!
As I went through the scenarios, and approached the turn that would determine whether we were “walkers into the building,” or “car riders dropping off,” I heard my cue. With our daughter’s calm reassurance that she could do this, I heard it. I heard the gentle whisper to back off. I did the risk assessment – nothing in this was breakable – the containers, the apples, even potential bruises and scrapes heal. I could actually do more damage in not letting her carry the fruit in ALL BY HERSELF than if the worst case did happen. IT WAS TIME FOR ME TO SEE THAT MY BELIEF IN HER ABILITIES WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE REALITIES OF MY OWN FEARS.
Gulp. So I dropped her off and just like that. She was heading into the building with her apple cargo, solo. I didn’t get a call or email of any catastrophe occurring in route to friendship salad. The hard truth though – is that part of my job of parenting is giving her the opportunity to have mishaps and recover from them.
So, I drove on to work sniffling and wiping my eyes. I graciously gave myself time to feel the moment and I realized something powerful. It’s not that I don’t want my kids to grow up. I’m a logical person. Them not growing up is illogical. And, let’s be honest. I really enjoy sleep. Nothing in me pines for the baby days. So, what is it that I was feeling?
To my kids: I don’t mind you growing up, please just don’t grow up without me. I simply want to be present and catch as much of it as possible. And the reality is that as you grow older, I will not physically be there as much. Because you know, you like to walk into school by yourself. It is good for both of us for you to do this. But I can be there for you spiritually – and more specifically – prayerfully. For each time I can’t be there, in person, I can be your advocate in prayer.
And, so, I keep telling myself this, and praying on this.
Can somebody please get me a tissue?
I am excited to be part of the Hope for the Weary Mom Blog Tour with Brooke McGlothlin and Stacey Thacker. You can find out more and join the tour by clicking here
I’m not sure what I was wanting when I thought about a Christian Women’s/Parenting book. And then I picked up this one – intrigued by the title – and THIS IS IT!
Non-preachy, real. Lets’ go beyond saying parenting is hard. Let’s say the scary stuff that we think we aren’t allowed to say because we also call ourselves Christians. Let’s get real, because God is real. And God REALLY wants to help us. Now. Not later, not after we’ve calmed down after that bad attitude or scream fest. Right now, in the midst of that parenting struggle.
What do I like about this book? Vulnerability. Brooke and Stacey, these ladies get two thumbs up. They get honest about the messes they’ve encountered with a very meaningful bonus – God has worked and continues to work powerfully in those messes. They share how God meets them in personal, intimate ways, and how they have had the strength from Him to get back up after feeling knocked down. This book doesn’t read like one of those safe Christian pieces where you aren’t sure if the author really ever had a bad day. These women know they need God and their transparency can’t help but inspire: God has met them in their weariness, and He will in ours too.
In the workplace, I am pretty good at keeping my cool. Why is it, then, that at home, such little beings can so fervently and zealously shoot me out of my comfort zone and leave me on edge? What the? I used to feel guilty when I knew I had lost my cool. A brief moment of monster mommy would wreck and undo all the good that day. Even after apologizing, I felt like scum of the earth, my how the angels must mock me! That great cloud of witnesses they talk about in the scriptures? I’m pretty sure they would boo me. Or at least I deserved it. I appear confident on the outside, and burdened with “you suck as a mom condemnation” on the inside.
This book addresses that – on page 21, “Instead of glorifying our weaknesses, letting them control our lives and break our hearts, we can learn to use them to glorify God, confessing our weaknesses and trusting him to make them into something good” I hadn’t thought of it like this, but when I carry around such negativity then I do glorify the weakness, and let it control me and break my heart. I think I need to earn back my good Mommy status by songs, stories, lullabies, and really awesome crafts. After I do all that, then God will want to help me, find me worthy again.
As it is turning out – God doesn’t want to wait until I “recover” from being blasted out of my comfort zone. God wants to meet me there! Even in those “icky, yucky, I’ve completely lost control, who are these children” moments. As it turns out, God is here all along. And He ain’t afraid of my mess.
Hope for the Weary Mom is a book about letting God meet you in the messy places of motherhood and finding true hope. You can find out more information here!
Our daughter has started a new habit, altogether peculiar and wonderful. The last few nights I’ve checked on her, she is tucked in snugly, sleeping while hugging a small maroon bible to her chest. We had told her to pick out a few books to accompany her to bed, to enjoy looking, as long as she didn’t get up.
It’s nothing fancy, it’s not even a kids version with lots of cute pictures. It is one of those “$4.99 at the grocery store types”- smooth, maroon plastic, gold “Holy Bible” indented on the cover. Why that book, I wonder? She’s four, and while words amaze her, she is not yet truly reading them. Does the cool of the smooth plastic comfort her? Does she run her little fingers within the indented “Holy Bible,” tracing it because she knows that this is something special?
The image of her clutching the book the way she would a stuffed animal brings great comfort. Not because of anything I’ve or we’ve done. This wasn’t a pat on the back on what a “nice, wholesome Christian household” we are fostering. It is a beautiful affirmation of God’s availability and presence. This is a book that is living and active, by a God that is living and active. God can and does come in, bring comfort, and stay a while, whether we are good at inviting him or not. Daily, while I try and figure out parenting, He is here, in spite of my fears, and mess ups, and best tries that fall short.
Sometimes his Word is a living lullaby, for the big and small, letting us know he is here – an ever present comfort who simply wants to chaperone us to rest.
I was at a new crossroads. I had worked on a piece of writing for about 8 weeks from the idea to the editing. It is a mere 500 words, but anyone who writes knows that what even 500 words can do to a brain. I mapped it out, planned, and marinated on it from the end of January, through all of February, and into March. I passed the first week, then the second, and decided, “lets do this.” I polished.
I went back to the website to find that in the last couple of weeks, the editorial calendar had been filled, the open submission session closed, but I could try back in June. Bummer. I really didn’t know what emotion to expect next. My, how anti-climatic. Surprisingly, I was actually pretty cool about it – after I took inventory of how I had spent my time the last few weeks. What was I doing with myself if I was not double checking whether the submission timeline had changed?
A couple of fun trips to the library, a memorable mother daughter trip to the ballet, and celebrating our son’s first birthday. Details, major and minor, had gone into planning and enjoying those moments. I was at peace with knowing while writing deserves priority, parenting gets precedence.
Yes, I missed my writing deadline. There will be more. There are only so many deadlines that can be realistically met. I quietly sighed in relief that I hadn’t missed a parenting deadline.