Category Archives: Parenting

Who do you work for?

Do you ever encounter a child who likes to ask “why?” about everything? As in, “why do I have to do the dishes?” or “why do I have to clean my room?” And because you’re tired of giving them your well thought out, logical explanation, you give them the ol’ “Because I said so.”? Or maybe the child doesn’t ask why, but simply responds with a grunty moan, while muttering about how much they hate doing chores.

Do you know a child like this? Or better yet, are you perhaps that child some days? For me it’s a yes, and absolutely yes (some of you may have heard how much I hate folding laundry). So while I have been working hard to change my thinking and learn to just do the things before they get out of hand, I still have my days when my attitude is in the crapper. My kids have those days too, and I find it’s helpful to let them know I understand and can even relate.

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:23-24 English Standard Version (ESV)

The other morning I was reading my devotional and I came across this verse. It spoke to me, and this chore hating procrastinator hiding inside winced a little, but the message stuck. So later when the kids were grumbling about chores, I shared the verse with them, and I hung it on the fridge for all of us to be reminded.

I realize throwing a Bible verse in here may not be relevant to you unless you are a follower of Christ, but I believe the message still has merit. I believe the greatest impact of our lives is not necessarily from the big notable things, but rather a lot of little things added up over time. The daily minutia. It’s like the butterfly effect. If we can wake up daily with the mindset that the small things matter to someone, somewhere, at some point in time, then maybe we can wake up feeling hopeful that if I can just do these mundane tasks with a smile, maybe it will make someone else’s day. Or from a believer’s perspective, maybe I can show the love and relatable humanity of Jesus by doing grunt work without grumbling. Honestly, that’s hard to do unless I truly believe that all of the work I do here at home is not just for my family, but ultimately for the Lord.

I would encourage you to sit down with that inner whiny child and let them know that the little things do matter. Start small. Do the hard things, little by little. It all matters to Someone. Just try it, I dare you!

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Mother fudging

Today it’s pajama day at the school. I was unaware because I sometimes get a little over zealous with the recycling of papers, and there was a calendar. This is according to the three other moms I contacted in a last minute frenzy this morning. Apparently there have been dress up days going on this entire month. Ugh. I don’t particularly care about these things, and I trust my kids will let me know when there is something coming up they do care about. Which they did today of course, only kind of at the last minute. Thankfully it’s a late start day and “dressing up” for pajama day doesn’t require much of a transition. Though I did notice my daughter slept in her clothes last night. What can I say, we’re breaking norms all over the place around here. 

HE KNOWS

I’ve been trying to get back to reading scripture on a daily basis, and I’m glad I’ve been doing it. It’s a great comfort, and God still uses it to speak to me. This morning I was reading in Jeremiah where it talks about the Israelites and how God was angry with them because of their wickedness. That seems to be a common theme in the Old Testament. But after the weekend I had, it really helped me to know that God understands what I’m feeling. See, my daughter had been wanting a mermaid tail for her birthday. I bought her one, but it wasn’t the exact one that she wanted, or rather it was missing a piece she wanted. She was heartbroken and to be honest, ungrateful. It didn’t help that she was at her birthday party, in front of all her friends. I was really upset with her. Then later that night I was trying to help my son get his football uniform and equipment together for turning in the following day, and I was asking him where things were. He had a friend over, so he didn’t like me interrupting him with these questions and told me to leave him alone. So I let him do his own laundry!

But the point is, I had been pretty upset and down about having two children acting ungrateful, after a week spent doing things for them (chaperoning the school field trip, putting together preparations for the birthday party, cooking, cleaning, etc.). So it was really therapeutic and healing to read this morning, and to know that God can relate to what I was feeling. He knows what it’s like to have ungrateful children, and yet He loves us all just the same.

“Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before.” Jeremiah 33:6-7

Reading

When I came to bed last night I found a note on my bedside table from my son. He was asking if we could go to the library the following day, and if so, he asked that I wake him up. That last part is laughable because he’s an early riser – no way am I getting up before him. But I was touched by the request anyway, and super proud that with one week left of summer, my kid wants to walk two miles to READ. 

We had a great time. Luke checked out some Michigan Chiller books he had been wanting to read, and Natalie perused the children’s cookbooks. Then they both put on a couple puppet shows for me, and we headed back, stopping for lunch on the way. 

Nothing super special, but we all really just enjoyed each other’s company and had a good time. These are the times I hope they will cherish and store away in their memory banks for years and years to come. 

Kids and clutter, and the proper spelling of memento

Your Child’s Messy Room is Your Fault – Minimalist at Home

This article is so right on. So many thoughts here. I’m currently feeling a struggle with my daughter (age 6) and her room. While she is actually not opposed to cleaning her room (she’s done it voluntarily a number of times), it’s gotten to the point where “cleaning” it doesn’t make a lick of difference. There’s just too much stuff in too small a space. So as the adult here, I do see it as my responsibility to help her.

I found some smelly and sticky things in her room today. Mementos she had forgotten she saved, because time had passed and they were hidden by so many other “important” mementos. Until now, I’ve been hesitant to take a strong and drastic stance with my kids on the subject, because I do believe that even young children deserve our respect. As parents we teach them to respect other people’s property, so if I were to go in while she was away and throw away half her toys and treasures (which constantly tempts me), that would kind of negate the whole message now, wouldn’t it? We need to lead by example.

You may ask why this is such a hot button for me. Why do I care so much about it? Well, because she is me. I was that little girl holding onto every memorable toy and trinket (and they were ALL memorable, of course), and proudly “organizing” every last item. Only it’s true – you can’t organize clutter. You may think you’re organizing but you’re not, you’re just rearranging. It takes a LOT of time and energy.  And while the end result feels nice for a second, it quickly fades (and quickly gets re-disorganized) and you are still left with the stress of the stuff and who knows what’s growing in it. I didn’t learn to come out of this cycle until my thirties, and I’ll be darned if I’m going to let my children enter adulthood stuck in the same cycle. I want to teach them good and healthy habits and attitudes toward “stuff” and I am in no way interested in a short term solution.

So that leaves me needing to land somewhere in the middle. And this article suggests a fairly simple method for doing that. Yes, this strategy involves the mom doing all the work, but she’s merely taking the blame/responsibility for letting the clutter build over the years, and is using the purge as a sort of reset button. That’s what I’m looking for. A reset button.

“Did they interrogate me about what I threw out? Yep, they did. My reply was to challenge them to tell ME what was missing and then we’d discuss it. Of course, they couldn’t identify a single thing.”

That right there not only makes me chuckle with a snarky sparkle in my eyes, but I suspect that will be exactly what happens with my daughter. So I’m gonna try it! I’ll just take a few hours, lock her out of the room, and pack up everything I suspect she doesn’t care to play with anymore (and throw away the trash in between). She’s in a stage right now where her tastes are changing quite dramatically, so I’ll be sure to have a good heart-to-heart with her beforehand, to get a good idea of what she will still make use of and what she won’t. I think as long as I do this with kind and thorough communication, it can really work. It’s worth a shot, anyway. Wish me luck!

Parenting with grace, and do-overs

Last night the local Parks and Recreation held a daddy/daughter dance. Mike and Natalie were signed up to go. They were both pretty excited about it, and I was excited for them.

And then, our daughter decided to “accidentally” steal two cell phones from the adults at school (one teacher, one parent).

Part of her punishment was that she would not be attending the dance with her dad. And that broke our hearts. It would have been lovely, getting them all dressed up for a real date. Daddy and his precious little girl. She was devastated to learn they would not be going, and we were too. We want to do nice things for our children, and to make memorable experiences. But not at the expense of teaching them they can get away with lying, stealing, or cheating.

I believe this is a lesson – an experience – Natalie will remember for years to come. Of course as a parent you would rather your children  only have warm, fuzzy memories of childhood, but that doesn’t necessarily prepare them for life on their own out in the real world, does it? They will have it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I know there are a million worse things, but right now this feels like the ugly. This morning I saw other dads had posted pictures with their daughters, all dolled up and ready for the dance. My heart broke all over again.

We want to bless our children. We want to give them good things. But when they go and make mistakes like lying or stealing, they ruin it for themselves, don’t they?

This is not a new concept. This theme, this story, has been occurring over and over and over again, since the very beginning of time. Ever hear of Adam and Eve? Wow. God had so much to give them. They were living in paradise. No worries, not a care in the world. God looked forward to blessing them. He wanted so badly to give them good things.

And then they listened to that damn snake.

I think I now have an inkling of what God was feeling at that moment. His heart was broken, just as mine is over my daughter stealing. Dang it girl, why did you have to go and do that? You would have had such a wonderful time at that dance. I’m just heartbroken. And angry. But angry FOR her, not AT her. It’s an anger that comes from a place of deep, deep love. Wanting to give her good things. Just like our Father God. He wants to give us good things, good experiences, and it breaks His heart when we screw it up.

But! We get second chances, and thirds, and fourths, and so on. God’s grace is endless. I am so grateful for that. Do-overs are the best! In fact, we decided to give Natalie a do-over. We are giving her the chance to earn a night out at the movies with her second favorite person: Momma.

On breathing, counting, and alliteration

We’ve been working hard on some behavioral changes here at the Richmond house lately. The problem started small, but very quickly spiraled out of control. Our son was having trouble at school getting along with other kids and following directions during class. But it wasn’t just him. Our daughter was coming home with notes from the teacher for not following directions, and my husband and I were getting very frustrated, and having a hard time controlling our tempers.

Now, you can blame the root of the issue, which I believe is that Mike and I both have hot tempers. He has a short fuse, while I am more of a stewing crockpot. Both are just as ugly and destructive. So we have passed this dangerous temper combo onto our children, leaving us with a house full of hotheads. However, naming the root of the issue does nothing to solve the problem.

After much prayer and discussion, we are learning in a very real way that change starts with us. Just as one person’s anger spreads to the other family members and spirals out of control, one person’s calm and positive attitude can also spread to each other and diffuse a brewing conflict. I am learning to make the conscious decision to react in a certain way when I feel those feathers of fury getting ruffled (pardon the alliteration). I am learning how to breathe, count under my breath if needed, and smile. It’s nearly impossible to yell or scream when you are smiling. I would argue that it’s also nearly impossible to remember to breathe, but with trial and error and lots of opportunities to practice, I am getting there. I do feel like things are changing around here, for the better. Slowly, but surely.

This morning was a prime example. I woke up at 8:08 this morning. About 11 minutes after the bus would have arrived at the stop to pick up the kids for school. I’ll admit, I said “Shit!”, but then I quickly got up, put my ear on, and went to get the children. Luke was already dressed (apparently out of the habit of waking me up to get them to the bus stop), so I quickly woke up Natalie and urged her to dress quickly. While I made sure the kids were ready, Mike was scurrying to get ready for work, and by 8:25 everyone was headed out the door and on there way. As I watched them drive away, it occurred to me that through the entire process from start to finish, from bedrooms to backpacks (I know, I just did it again), no one yelled.

That, my friends, is a miracle. And I am convinced that yelling is an ineffective, horrible habit (sorry!). It only serves to make the yeller feel better for a split second and it teaches our kids nothing about controlling their own tempers. What it does teach them is that it is okay to lose control and disrespect others, not to mention gives them practice at tuning us out.

So this morning was a victory, but it’s just a start. We still have many years of parenting ahead of us, and who knows how many more potential conflicts. We are learning new strategies and honing healthy habits (I couldn’t resist) and habits take time and persistence. We must start each new day with the resolve to make the right choices and take responsibility for our behavior.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
Maya Angelou

Why Yelling Is a Waste of Time and Energy