HOW PARENTING MAKES ME INSANE
Posted by Sarah Anderson
Sundays, in our family, are our home maintenance days. It’s the day we do piles of laundry that have accumulated over the week, pick up the stray Legos, put away a clean dishwasher, or load a dirty one, do the grocery shopping and assemble backpacks for the coming week. And by Sunday evening, when my husband and I finally sit on the couch it feels good that 80% of the socks were matched, there are no visible Legos in my line of sight—though my bare feet will certainly find them in the middle of the night—and the kitchen as close to “spotless” as it will ever be, it feels good. Really good. I can go into the week ready to take on the world.
And then Monday morning hits. And the shirt that wants to be worn is still, somehow, dirty— crumpled in a wrinkled heap in the back corner of a closet. And the Lego creations that I thought were meticulously picked up, were somehow left out, and stepped on by a very uncaring mother who should have known better than to actually walk directly in the room because this was the perfect place to keep said Lego creations. And the kitchen so nicely picked up only looked good for less than 12 hours, because then there were two different breakfasts to make—and lunches to be packed, and coffee to be inhaled, and when I finally get to closing the door behind the SLOWEST WALKERS ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET, I see the disaster that is my house, and I want to cry.
In one whirlwind of a morning, it was all undone.
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. If that’s true, most parents I know are certifiably insane. Every week I have my routine, and I do it, fully aware that Monday is coming. I grit my teeth and clench my jaw and get. the. laundry. done. even if it kills me, even if I know the pile of unmatched socks is slowly growing larger than the pile of matched ones. And I unload the dishwasher in denial that as soon as I’m done the dishes in the sink will fill it right back up again to be run. Again. And I do what I do every Sunday in spite of knowing the window of happiness it brings is actually very small. And that the sense of settledness I have when I do it, doesn’t last nearly long enough. I do it.
Because I am insane.
In science, there is a thing called “the framework problem.” I’m not a scientist, but as best I understand, the framework problem basically means we, as humans, aren’t very good at recognizing boundaries—or frameworks. For example, when Henry Ford made the Model T, he thought he was inventing something that would improve transportation. And it did—but there was a framework problem. Because that wasn’t all it did. The boundaries people had in mind were too small. It revolutionized modern society. It changed the way cities were built. It changed the climate on the planet.
In the same way, when the television was invented it was seen as an additional form of entertainment. But there was a framework problem. People never expected it to change the dynamic of the family. People didn’t anticipate how central it would become to culture in the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st.
We’re bad at boundaries. We had a framework problem with the car. We had a framework problem with the TV. And I think, sometimes, we have a framework problem with parenting. We think the mindless, but demanding tasks that keep our house running and our children functioning have only an effect on the here and the now. We think the clean house matters only as long as it stays clean. The cleaned up Legos, are only about the cleaned up Legos.
But they’re not. And in fact, I think the happiest, healthiest, and most well-adjusted parents are the insane ones. Who do it over and over again knowing it won’t stay that way. But doing it anyway. Because they aren’t just insane. They are hopeful. They are resilient. They see much farther into the future than Monday morning.
Because here’s the thing. When you are in the throes of parenting, doing the painstaking labor to keep the house in livable conditions, you need to believe the framework problem is a real thing. That the work you know will be undone in a matter of hours was still worth it, because it’s pushing boundaries you can’t see. You need to hope that it matters, in some small way, in some yet undetected sense. You need to know that even if you can’t see it, even if you don’t understand it, even if it sounds crazy, you need to believe that the laundry is about more than the laundry. The dishes are about more than the dishes. The matched socks about more than just matched socks.
We need to believe that one day, when our kids grow up they will look back and they won’t remember the insanity of our routines and our rhythms, of our endless cleaning, and folding, washing and stacking. They will remember that in the ways they can’t quite pinpoint, in the tasks they didn’t ever really notice, in the—what seemed to them—intangible ways, we made a childhood for them. A life. An actual life.
We didn’t fold laundry. We communicated care.
We didn’t do dishes. We communicated attention.
We didn’t pick up Legos. We loved.
And we did it over and over and over again. And that may make us insane. Or that may make us the biggest believers, dreamers, and hope-ers around. In other words, that may make us exactly what our kids need us to be, but don’t even know to ask for.
And if that’s true, I’m okay. I’ll do it all over again, every Sunday. And watch it fall apart again every Monday. And repeat. Because there’s a framework problem. I’m counting on it. I’m hoping for it.
In fact, I’m sure of it. And if that makes me insane, so be it.
YOUR CUE: This week, every time you pick up the legos (or pry one out of your foot), remember the things you do over and over again matter more than you think.
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. Read more from Sarah on her blog,
THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR KIDS IS LEAVE
Posted by Ted Lowe
If you’re married and raising children together, the best thing you can do for your kids is leave . . . for the night . . . and go on a date with your spouse.
We all love our kids and want what’s best for them.
We sign them up for activities and sports, which is good.
We want them to have time with friends, which is good.
We want them to make good grades, so they will get into a good college, so they will get a good job, so they ___________________________.
We all want to fill in that blank with good things.
But if we are not careful, we might forget to do the thing our child needs most: love our spouse.
The best thing you can do for your kids is leave for the night and go on a date with your spouse.
THE THING YOUR KIDS NEED MOST
Philip Cowan, Ph.D., a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied families for decades with his wife, psychologist Carolyn Pape Cowan, Ph.D. says, “Kids whose parents’ relationship has cooled are more likely to have behavioral or academic problems than kids of happy couples. Even if you can’t see yourself going out on a date for yourselves, do it for your kids.”1
My wife and I go on a date almost every week. We take a few hours each week just for us. We work out together, see movies, have a meal, we talk, and ask each other silly questions. We have uninterrupted time to re-connect. Dating lifts our heads from the chaos of kids and work and allows us to see each other.
It really matters, but not just for us, for our kids. Carol Ummel Lindquist, Ph.D. and author says, “The irony is that a strong relationship with your spouse is one of the best things you can do for your kids. You and your spouse are modeling a good relationship, which sets your children up for better marriages themselves when they grow up.” 2
But what if you don’t have a great relationship right now? Or what if you are navigating the complicated world of step parenting and blended families?
You now have an incredible opportunity to work through the messiness and model for your kids what it looks like to fight for your relationships.
Start by making fun and connection a priority in your marriage, even when it’s hard or it seems there’s not enough time or never enough money. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Just leave for a little while—without the kids—and go on a date with your spouse. It’s one of the best things you could do for your kids.
Free Resource: Spend Less Time Planning and More Time Dating (4 Free Date Ideas)
For more on creating a great marriage, check out the book Your Best Us by Ted Lowe at YourBestUs.com. Four easy to do, easy-to-understand habits for anyone who wants a better marriage. You can also read more marriage building articles at MarriedPeople.org.
1 Robinson, Holly. “Happy Parents, Happy Kids.” Parents, Jun 2009
2 Bettina, Teri. “How to save your marriage from your kids.” CNN, Jul 29, 2009.
About the Author:
Ted Lowe is a speaker and the director of MarriedPeople, the marriage division at Orange. He served for almost 10 years as the director of MarriedLife at North Point Community Church. He lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with his four favorite people: his wife, Nancie, and their three children.
COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF CONTENTMENT
Posted by Liz Hansen
“Gracie gets super excited when her big brother comes into the room and calls out ‘bubba!’ Plus she says ‘doggy’ and ‘book’ and ‘ball’ and ‘milk.’ She’s just so bright and never stops chattering!”
My Facebook friend was enthusing about her 9-month-old.
My 15-month-old son was currently stuck on “dada” for everything. Even “mama,” which had shown up for awhile, had dropped out of the rotation.
I gritted my teeth and scrolled down past another friend’s professional family photo shoot in a sunset meadow.
We may have a gazillion photos of my son—but only a scant few iPhone snapshots of the three of us together. My husband, a filmmaker, hates being in front of the camera.
It didn’t help when yet another post in the feed showed actual modeling shots of an out-of-state friend’s toddler.
My kid is seriously cute. But his cry face (which rivals Claire Danes’ on Homeland) isn’t going to be selling overpriced fruit and quinoa puree pouches any time soon.
I finally did what I should have done ten minutes before. I closed Facebook, took a deep breath, and tried to assess the unsettled knot tumbling around inside me.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
“Comparison is the thief of contentment,” is equally true.
Before becoming a parent, I was continually tempted to compare myself to others: My writing, my run times, my interior decorating (or lack thereof), my homemade pizza. I could always find a quick shortcut to discontentment.
Now, as a parent, I face a whole new set of temptations to engage in comparison.
MILESTONES: those stony, immovable pillars of speech and motor skills and pretend play. Stop eating those wood chips, kid. Don’t you see the other toddlers climbing the slide on their own? I mean, you’re deep-sixing a full-ride scholarship to college right now. And that’s bad news based on the state of your college fund.
If you’re going to be a musical prodigy, you should be able to pick out tunes on the piano by now. Your cousin was singing do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do at 18 months. And please, you have to sit at the piano, don’t stand on the keys!
This is the church toddler room, not Alcatraz. See all the fun toys? And look at the other babies. They’re all happy and smiling because they love Jesus. They want to play nicely until their mommas come back. They aren’t howling and clinging to anyone’s leg.
My son starts pre-school in a few months. (How is that even possible?) While I know it’s important for him to spend time learning to get along with other kids, I’m painfully aware it will open up many new avenues for comparison.
What if he doesn’t behave as well as the other kids?
What if my room snacks aren’t Pinterest enough? (Not to mention his lunches…)
What if I don’t look as good as all those moms in the drop-off line who are ten years younger than me?
Comparison is the moving sidewalk you wander onto, the one that whisks you 50 yards away to a bad place before you take a step. It’s always right there, just one tiny thought away, ready to slide you silently, deeply into a mire of discontent.
Contentment, simply speaking, is choosing to be happy with what you’ve got. It’s relying on God to give you the power to control your thoughts. To recognize comparison when it creeps in and to rip it up by the roots before it can grow. It’s learning to live in a state of gratitude for even the smallest things.
I still want my son to be an early and avid reader, a musical prodigy, an enthusiastic young hiker, an independent spirit. But aside from teaching him to love God and love others, the greatest gift I can give him is to model contentment. If he can learn to see and find joy in even the smallest, simplest things God has given him, he’s found something of far more value than performing a cello recital by age three.
And when I see him fully absorbed in a dandelion or mesmerized by a trail of ants… I think he may already be further along that path than I am.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Hansen has worked as a script writer and story developer for Orange since 2011. She holds an MFA in screenwriting from Regent University and writes for Feature Presentation, Get Reel, FX, and more. Elizabeth and her husband, David, write and produce films through their company, Arclight Studios. They have one son and live in Canton, Georgia.
ONE SIMPLE WAY TO DECREASE YOUR CHANCES OF RAISING A BRAT
Posted by Holly Crawshaw
My husband and I just got back from taking our girls to Hilton Head, South Carolina for a long weekend. There were bike-riding adventures, hot dogs on the beach, and early bedtimes (thank you, swimming, for exhausting my children like no other activity) – a great time was had by all.
It was not all sunshine and giggles.
All the whining.
ALL THE NEEDS EVER IN THE WORLD.
What is it about staying in close-quarters that brings out the neediness in people? The most impatience in people? The most downright SQUALORYLY nature in people?
I realized, on this vacation, that if I’m not very careful, my children (Lilah, 8 and Esmae, 4) could easily become entitled brats.
No, you may not have another 74-gram-of-sugar-laden snow cone.
No, we will not be renting this movie for $18.99. We didn’t pay that much to see it in the movie theater.
No, you may not go to the pool now. We’ve been at the beach for 15 seconds, and I’m sweating like I stole something.
No, you may not purchase this $45 boogie board that we can buy at home at 5 Below.
No, you may not pout at dinner when your grilled cheese has brown on the edges of the bread.
(FURTHERMORE, DO YOU KNOW WHAT I WOULD GIVE TO BE A 5-YEAR-OLD EATING A GUILT-FREE, GOOEY GRILLED CHEESE?!)
MY KIDS ARE ALWAYS WANTING SOMETHING.
Now, this isn’t the first time this obvious tidbit of knowledge has settled uneasily on my consciousness. But it is the first time that I looked in the mirror and saw a major contributing factor . . . ME.
Newsflash: One of the main reasons my kids can act bratty is that I, myself, have a fair amount of bratty tendencies.
Of course I “mask” my entitled behavior in a far more socially-acceptable way than pouting and yanking on my mother’s skirt, but it’s there.
It’s there when I grumble under my breath (or not-so-under) when the server walks by me for the third time without acknowledging me. (I keep insisting it’d be more efficient to simply give me an IV tap of Diet Coke, but the world has yet to acquiesce . . . )
It’s there when I needlessly shift my weight from foot to foot no fewer than thirty times when I’m waiting to check out at the hotel market.
It’s there when I complain about how long it takes for the valet to bring our car around. (I cringe to write that—I mean, in a world where I have the privilege to have a car BROUGHT AROUND FOR ME . . . I am genuinely ashamed.)
I am not openly selfish or entitled. But just subtly enough. In traffic, at the grocery store, around the house. I have an underlying attitude of ‘what’s-best-for-me’ that grosses me out.
Here I am, trying to zone out and enjoy the sun and sand, and life hands me an existential crisis.
Newsflash, self: If I want my kids to grow up to be generous, patient, joy-bringing people . . .
I’M GOING TO HAVE TO BE A GENEROUS, PATIENT, JOY-BRINGING PERSON.
I didn’t grow up with a lot. My parents divorced when I was in middle school. I’ve had a job since I was 14 years old. I used scholarship money and waited tables to put myself through college. I have bounced a check. I have counted change to pay for gas. I have eaten Ramen noodles more times than I can count.
And yet—I know, relatively speaking, that I still have had many, many advantages that others are not afforded. Why can’t I live—on the surface and beneath the surface—out of that truth?
My challenge to myself this summer is live like I need nothing more. To live patiently. To live generously. I want to bring joy, wherever I go, regardless of what’s happening around me.
I want to model the behavior I expect from my girls—giving them a front row seat to a summer of gratitude and thanksgiving.
(Which would genuinely be easier with that IV tap of Diet Coke . . . but . . . I’ll manage, otherwise.)
About the Author:
Holly Crawshaw is a wife, mother, and writer who eats sour candy and laughs at her own jokes. She served on staff with North Point Ministries for six years, the latter of which was spent as Preschool Director. She and her husband, Ben, are raising their two daughters, Lilah and Esmae, in their hometown of Cumming, GA.