Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Category: Parenting (page 2 of 9)

When Parenthood Gets Lonely

Some things are easy to ask advice about. When your kids are young and they hit, bite or throw a tantrum you can post on Facebook to get ideas on what to do. Johnny keeps blowing raspberries while you are feeding him his baby food? Your neighbor might have some suggestions. Susie won’t keep her diaper on during nap time? The mom in your playgroup may have some experience.

When our kids are young, it’s not such a big deal to share stories about their shenanigans. In fact, the stories are often amusing after the fact, even if their defiance makes you livid in the moment. However, as they age, the difficulties you have with them maybe aren’t so humorous. You hesitate to tell other people for fear they will question your parenting skills, or not let their kid hang around yours anymore.

The baby, toddler, and preschool year are exhausting. Our bodies may ache physically at the end of the day from running around so much and lack of sleep. Potty training may wear on our last nerve.

When kids enter the teen and tween years, the physical nature of parenting lessens, but the emotional nature ramps up. Every day seems like there is a new dilemma to face. What movies can they watch? How far away from home can they go on their own? What friends do you trust enough to allow your child to go to their house alone without you?  And on, and on, and on.

The day comes where your child commits a major infraction. Suddenly, you can err in two different ways. You can share the story too publicly. You see, as your children age, their stories become more of their own. These stories aren’t really for you to share anymore without their permission. Or, you can err on the side of being so fearful to share due to shame that you neglect to get the help and advice you need to deal with the problem. You feel your best friend who always gave such great advice might not understand the fact that your daughter sent a sext message to her boyfriend.

I have discovered now that my oldest is ten that parenting suddenly feels a bit lonely at times. My ideas for blog posts wane a bit. My boys have always encouraged me to share their stories here. I think I inadvertently led them to believe that sharing them on here makes them somewhat famous. Ha! Now that my oldest is ten, I know there are stories that might potentially embarrass him that I now keep to myself.

Here are a few pieces of advice. Honestly, I’m writing them primarily for myself. Telling you simply helps me process them.

  1. Remember that as your children age, their stories become more of their own.
  2. Never publicly demean your child through social media for their choices/decisions.
  3. Work even harder to find trusted friends or mentors to share the burdens of parenting with.
  4. Offer grace to your children as they begin to make more of their own decisions.
  5. Offer grace to your friends and their children when they share burdensome moments with you.
  6. Look for ways to encourage other parents of tweens and teens. If you see their kid doing something awesome, let them know.
  7. Let your child know their stories are safe with you. They will certainly clam up if they know you run to other family members or friends with tales of every offense they commit.
  8. Pray for other parents, and for your children.
  9. It’s okay to admit parenting this age is hard, but look for every opportunity to build your child up at home and in front of others.
  10. Remember that this stage will pass just like all of the others. They don’t stay tweens/teens forever (thank goodness)!

If you are feeling a little like an island in your parenting endeavor right now, I understand. One of my most recent battles was over a book I wouldn’t let my son read. It took place smack in the middle of the library. At least when he was a toddler I could pick him up, drag him out, and strap him in his seat. We don’t have that luxury anymore when they are nearly our size. Suddenly a screaming fit from a two-year-old doesn’t seem so horrendous anymore!

Remember:

Children are a gift from the Lord;
    they are a reward from him.”

Psalm 127:3

Blessings,

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Choose Kind

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“If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary—the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.” ~R.J. Palacio Wonder

Laying in my bed discussing my son’s first day of school, I asked him who he was sitting by in class.

“Well, (name I can’t remember now) and this other (long pause) kid.”

“Why the long pause?” I asked.

“Well, she’s a girl, but she thinks she’s a boy. It’s weird.”

I probed him to tell me more.

“So, she dresses like a boy, and cuts her hair like a boy, but she’s a girl. When the teacher called the roster, she answered, but told everyone she wanted to be called by a different name…a boy’s name.”

Now this was certainly uncharted territory. Before me was an opportunity to teach an extremely important life lesson, but how would I convey it? I didn’t think I had the words.

“First of all, let’s not use the word ‘weird.’ Maybe unusual would be better.”

“Unusual might be nicer, but weird is more accurate,” he insisted. Sigh.

He proceeded to have lots of questions, all of which I felt inadequate to answer. I told him honestly when I didn’t know how to respond, and answered the ones I could.

I concluded with this: “Here is the bottom line. Sometimes boys feel inside like they are girls, and girls feel like they are boys. I don’t know why this happens, and there are a lot of theories. I know for you it’s super hard to understand. Think of how confusing that would be, to not feel quite right in your own skin. I know it’s unusual, but God created everyone special and we need to treat them like that.”

After I left his room, I decided to turn to Google to see if it had any suggestions. I typed, “How to talk to your child about transgender” into the search box. People, this is an important question in our day and age! The results were seriously lacking. The first result was an article by Focus on the Family that made my toes curl, suggesting I teach him about sin and how this girl needs saving. I just don’t think this is what my 10-year-old needs to hear. How about how this child needs loved???? Nothing else was remotely helpful.

Parents, we are living in a time that has never existed before in our country. A time where things that were previously unacceptable have become acceptable. Regardless of our personal feelings about these matters, the individuals that fall into these categories need to feel worthy and purposeful. It is a basic human need, and one that we should honor.

The theme for my son’s grade this year is from the book Wonder: Choose Kind. How appropriate, and what a critical life lesson. “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” – Dr Wayne W. Dyer included in Wonder. There are a lot of choices we can make, but kindness can rarely be the wrong one.

One of my friends posted this quote from the book Spirituality of Gratitude by Joshua Kang on Facebook this morning: “Likewise, we must see our brothers and sisters with respect in order to recognize God’s glory reflected on their faces. In The Weight of Glory, CS Lewis reminds us, “There are no ordinary people.” Imagine what we might miss out on when we simply mark someone off as weird.

I am anxious to see my son’s growth in this area of his life this school year. I’m grateful he has an opportunity to exercise this concept from the very first day. And most importantly, I hope this sweet student feels seen and worthy of others’ kindness this year.

Please, share any advice or thoughts you have. Parenting is so hard, especially when it comes to topics that are relatively new.

I also highly encourage you to read Wonder. It’s one of my all time favorites, and I would recommend reading it with your child (maybe 9 and up)  in order to discuss it together.

Blessings,

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Bad Theology and Forgiveness

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Exasperated, my son spewed at me, “Why can’t you just be like God?!”

Well, isn’t that a loaded question. Hmmm…would I want to be? In many ways yes, but I certainly wouldn’t care to hold the role of the ultimate judge and director of the universe.

This comment occurred in the middle of the process of me doling out a consequence for a small infraction. Deception had been involved, and luckily the perpetrator acknowledged his offense, which definitely eased his punishment. However, he was still offended that there had to be any kind of disciplinary action. My forgiveness was supposed to be enough since he recognized his offense and was sorry, according to him.

I gently tried to explain that while God always forgives our mistakes, we still have to suffer the consequences of our poor choices.

He insisted I never have to face any punishments for my actions. If only he knew!

I tried to point out the “F” I got on a paper when I cheated in 8th grade social studies in a moment of sheer desperation. (Those of you who know me may be shocked and appalled, but we all have our moments of weakness). He assured me that example didn’t count, because it was the teacher who punished me, and not God.

Clearly, I wasn’t making headway in this conversation, and clearly my son is going to be a lawyer when he grows up.

I love that my sweet boy sees God as the ultimate forgiver. But, what he was missing is that God is also the ultimate parent. He allows us to suffer consequences. He wouldn’t be a very good parent if he rescued us from every situation. I saw parents who did that for their children when I was a teacher and the results were not pretty, trust me!

Scripture tells us:

“And have you entirely forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, his children? He said, “My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined. If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all. Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:5-11
If you have children, and you’re like me, you don’t enjoy disciplining them. But we do so knowing that ultimately it will be for their own good.
I have been deeply troubled by the events surrounding the Duggar family lately (TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting show). I’ve read a lot of things that I feel are bad theology regarding this controversy. I feel this is one example where forgiveness becomes a tricky issue. My sense of justice collides with what I know about forgiving seventy times seven and not being judgmental.
God forgives. We should forgive one another, which is easier said than done for life-long victims of sexual abuse. But that does not mean consequences shouldn’t be suffered. And sometimes those consequences are long term, and sometimes they come back to haunt us, especially in the eyes of the public.
So, back to my son’s original comment. Why can’t I be like God? Because I’m human, life is messy, and it is my job to parent. Thank goodness I only have to figure out the punishments for those who live under my roof. And thank goodness there is a way for me to be forgiven, no matter what I do.
For a good article about forgiveness, I recommend this one by Brene Brown: Imperfect Parenting – Forgiveness.
What are your thoughts on the topic?
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