My son peed on my friend’s pants. It wasn’t an “Ooops!-My-lil’-sweet-pea’s-diaper-leaked-some tee-tee!” kinda-pee. My almost-three-year-old pulled down his pants, set up his aim with precision, and fire-hosed the folded jeans.
Every parent has laughable potty-training stories. But this incident wasn’t just a learning-bladder-control mishap; it was a desperate act of attention-seeking and defiance by the two-year-old tyrant “future leader” that was currently running my life. Everyone else in the room laughed. I stifled tears as I frantically whisked the jeans away to the laundry room.
I’ve heard, “Don’t break your strong-willed child’s spirit.” But my oldest child has come close to breaking mine. I *affectionately* refer to the to the span from when he was fifteen months to three years old as the “I promise he’s not always like this (he’s always like this) years.” During those months, he avoided a concussion, but broke an arm (changing table tantrum); he gave me the *opportunity* to call in reinforcements (teachers, grandparents, pitying-moms) on numerous occasions to wrestle his body into my SUV (car seat tantrums); and he was dragged through the Chick-Fil-A dining room and parking lot (forced-to-leave-playground tantrum) (We were SO glad to learn that our audience at Chick-Fil-A included multiple acquaintances that we’d get to face again.)
Parenting a strong-willed, unpredictable boy has not short-changed me any humbling moments, and there was a phase where I chose avoidance over courage. I found myself declining invitations in case my son would have a “moment.” Some of my hesitations were well-founded knowing my son’s limits. Others were . . . not. Attend a puppet show? “Mmmm . . . better not. My son might drop trou and take aim at a marionette.” Fly to visit grandparents? “No, thanks. We’d like to avoid being added to the ‘no-fly list.’”
We experienced enough “moments” that I feared people might start to dread finding the Thorsons on a guest list. After all, we shattered a patio table at one party, screamed like a banshee during lunch at another party, and decided to blaze our own trail as the group-photo-boycotter at most parties. I became engulfed in self-blame, embarrassment, and its evil accomplice comparison. I began to obsess over wondering if people thought these behaviors were all my fault. “Everyone” else’s lil’ punkins sat during story time, kept food on their plates during meal time, and used toys as playthings, not projectiles, during play time. Meanwhile, you could find me on my hands and knees cleaning up the chicken nugget catapult while my son played hopscotch on the storytime magic carpet.
But a few years into being gripped by parenting paranoia, I began to recognize that my fears of perception were a bigger problem than my son’s behavior. As simplistic as this sounds, I realized that I had very little exposure to toddlers prior to having my own, and I think my expectations for “normal” behavior were skewed. (I might also add that the majority of our play-dates for the first two years of my son’s life were with friends of mine who only had infant girls. I think I began to expect my little Wolverine to act more like Doc McStuffins.)
Once we began to spend more time with other toddler boys, I was able to confirm my son hadn’t cornered the market on limitless energy. Other moms of boisterous boys (and threenager girls) reassured me that they, too, battled public tantrums and days-on-end of discipline. (Although, I’m still holding out to find a fellow jeans-pee-er. Anyone?)
As my son approaches five years old, I actually am seeing that his strong will can be channeled productively: His teacher told me he refuses to join into the “mean” crowd (there’s a mean crowd in pre-K?); he won’t put down the basketball until he ends on a “good” shot; and he recently decided on his own that he’d had “too much sweets” and wanted to wait two more days before having anymore.
So hang on, parents of two- and three-year-old dictators: Celebrate their strengths, cling to yours, and look (listen) for me in the Chick-Fil-A parking lot if you need a little reassurance. Then you can say, “At least we aren’t them.”
About the Author:
Melissa is a former high school English teacher turned stay-at-home mom who traded in the essay grading for diaper changing . . . both of which offer their fair share of crap. She has always loved teenagers and feared little kids until she had her own. 90% of the joy in her life comes from her husband, Steve; her sons, Crosby and Miller; and her amazing extended family and friends. The rest comes from cooking and taking online personality assessments.
Passing Down Faith-Filled Life, Not Trial-Free Life
by Courtney DeFeo
Do you remember the first time your child was in harm’s way? I remember the time my oldest kicked a bright bouncy ball and landed on her head on the concrete. I remember when my youngest got her feelings hurt by a friend and cried real tears, not whiny tears.
I’ve watched my kids hurt many times, and it stinks.
My knee-jerk reaction is to protect, hover, block, or tattle. Basically do anything to prevent my children from feeling pain.
The same goes with their faith. I want them to fall in love with Jesus and frankly never walk away, while at the same time never experiencing hardship. And then I realize I love them too much to desire a trial-free life. I remember my biggest moments of personal and spiritual growth were during my trials.
Bringing faith to life in our home is a great privilege. I’m encouraged that we don’t have to have a perfect life to pass down a faith-filled life. He has got this. Our role is to simply teach them what we already know and to continue learning and sharing more day by day as we grow.
You don’t have to have a perfect life to pass down a faith-filled life to your kids.
You can make a difference even if you’re only one second ahead of your children in your own journey to know Jesus Christ better.
Your fear and your uncertainty can show them God’s grace and mercy.
Your mistakes can teach them forgiveness.
Your strengths can shine a spotlight on God’s blessings and gifts.
Your daily ordinary tasks can become extraordinary opportunities to reach the hearts of your children.
Is anyone with me? Let’s slowly unpeel our grips and give God the chance to show up in the midst of trials. It’s hard to imagine, but He loves our kids even more than we do.
About the Author:
Courtney DeFeo is a popular blogger, the creator of ABC Scripture Cards, which are sold nationwide, and the author of “In This House We Will Giggle”. A graduate of Auburn University, she has a background in marketing and public relations and has worked for Ketchum Public Relations and Chick-fil-A. Courtney and her husband, Ron, currently live in Orlando, FL and are the parents of two young girls, Ella and Larson. You can read more from Courtney on her blog, Lil Light O’ Mine.
Connecting with Your Kids: The Secret Sauce
by Sarah Anderson
In Georgia, we’re approaching the 100th day of school. This being the first year where we have a child in school, this is a big milestone. Not necessarily for our kindergartener, but for us, his parents. School, as turns out, is no joke. I am still waiting on my body to figure out how to be a morning person.
Wake up time aside, the adjustment to having a child in school is a big one. We’ve entered a realm of parenting that has taken, well, 100 days to get used to.
But the biggest change in our family has been our need to be more intentional.
Before school, connecting with our boys was a breeze. They were with us all the time, and when something came up that needed to be addressed, it could be done immediately. If we felt like one of our boys was out of sorts, we figured out a way to connect quickly. But these days, quick and immediate don’t seem to happen. Now, planning and purpose are necessary.
Just a couple of weeks into school, we got in the habit of taking Asher to a coffee shop once in a while for this very reason. We thought, “What better way to connect with our boy, than over a latte (for me) and some hot chocolate (for him)?!?” Seemed like a great idea. That’s how I like to catch up with people and where my best conversations happen. Wouldn’t it be the same for a six-year-old?
Wrong. After school, my son was not in the mood to spend more time sitting, in a chair, at a table, talking. He’d much rather prefer “having time to be silly” as he told me.
But that left my husband and me with some roadblocks because Asher is a kid who processes internally and who has a lot going on beneath the surface. So, in order to really get to the heart of him, we had to get creative. A coffee shop wasn’t cutting it.
Then last week, after another failed after school trip for a peach smoothie, my husband spent some time in Asher’s room building Legos with him. They tackled Star Wars figures, dragons, and snakes and, in the process, something happened.
Asher began talking. As he intently focused on finding the right pieces and following the numbered instructions, he opened up. He volunteered insight into his day, into frustrations he was feeling, but also things that were making him happy.
It was an “aha” moment for us. Legos, or playing with him, was the secret sauce.
Consequently, here’s what we’re figuring out: As life changes, our kids change. What can feel like them pulling away from us can actually just be them maturing and growing up. They aren’t looking to shut us down necessarily; they are inviting us to try harder. To find the way to connect with them in a new way, when the old way isn’t working anymore.
We would be foolish to take every failed attempt to connect as a rejection. We would be wise to use it as a springboard to encourage us to try something new. To get creative. To figure out a different way to reach the heart of our kids.
They aren’t shutting us out, they’re creating new pathways for others to know them. And we get to be the trailblazers.
Maybe a new season of life has left you scrambling, feeling like you don’t know your child anymore. Don’t give up on them. And don’t give up on yourself. To figure out what the secret sauce is for you and your child, ask yourself some questions:
Parenting is going to keep us on our toes. And it should. If we feel like we are always playing catch up with our kids, it’s okay. Because it means we’re in it, we’re still going after them. It’s worth the effort to pursue the hearts of your kids—for lots of reasons, but for us that includes the money we’re saving on lattes.
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson is a writer and communicator who has been involved in ministry since 2003. She is a lead writer and content creator for Orange's XP3 High School curriculum. Sarah lives in Roswell, Georgia, and is a big fan of her husband, Rodney, her two boys, Asher and Pace, and, in her weaker moments, McDonald's French fries.
What Will My Kids Think About Their Childhood?
by Autumn Ward
I know it’s hard to imagine your child being an adult right now when they’re running around in a diaper eating dirt, but it’s going to happen.
They will become adults one day. Adults with thoughts and opinions and something I’m just now thinking about—a response to how they’ve been raised.
Kids don’t have a choice in . . .
who will be their mom and dad.
where they will live.
what happens in their home.
But as their hearts and minds mature, they will be able to look back and decide what they think about their childhood and all that was connected to it. After all, what we do as parents today is what our kids will be talking about tomorrow.
It happened to you. It happened to me. And it will happen to them.
So this is the question I’ve been wrestling with lately:
What will my kids think about when they think of me?
I’m getting to a phase in parenting where my kids can respond to the way I’ve raised them. They have been passed down some good habits and some not so good habits. I’ve given them a strong foundation in some areas and passed on cycles that need to be broken in others. I’ve given them good memories and moments we wish we all could forget.
I guess I hope more than anything that they will think of me as a mom who pointed them to God every day. I’m sure there are countless others who could have taught my kids more about the Bible or prayed more eloquent prayers, but I’ve had something all these years others don’t—and you have it too—parent power.
Yep, there’s just something extra powerful when mom and dad are the ones telling the Bible stories and praying the prayers. With that said, don’t let anything hold you back. Choose to be the one who talks to your kids about God and prays with them. Let THAT be something your kids think about when they think of you years down the road.
About the Author:
Autumn Ward writes for the First Look preschool curriculum and is the Creative Director for Parent Cue Initiatives on GoWeekly at Orange. She is the author of The Christmas Story and The Easter Story rhyming board books, written just for toddlers and preschoolers. She and her husband Chad have been serving in family ministry since 1996. They live in Cumming, GA with their two teenage daughters, Sarah and Anna. Their son, Chad, is a student at the University of Georgia.