SHARE YOUR KIDS
Posted by Melissa Thorson
I’m learning that friendship, as a parent, is even more life-giving (life-saving?) now than ever before. And this says a lot coming from a friendship-nostalgia-freak who has a file box of every single note I received in middle and high school organized by name of the sender. (If anyone under 25 is reading this, a “note” is a piece of paper that was meticulously decorated in milky gel pens and folded into the shape of a Chinese star, passed discreetly during Mrs. Lombardi’s lecture on hypotenuses.)
Friendship back then had a narrow span of depth—the easy stuff was choosing who you would go to lunch with on early release exam days. The “tough” stuff came when you consoled a friend who was dumped the week before prom. But now, in the days where many are drowning in diapers and debt and strained marriages and miscarriages, friends can be the lifeblood that help keep us going.
The trouble is, finding time and energy to invest in friendships when your time as a parent is so monopolized by caring for your kids. Amid the constant advice to prioritize our marriages, be present with our babies, and lean into our careers, little attention is given to focusing on our friendships. And truthfully, there’s something about trying to make new friends, as a parent, that seems a little more intimidating. Now we aren’t only putting ourselves on the line of potential rejection, but we feel as though we are being sized up on our parenting styles and children’s behavior.
It’s easier to settle for a second-rate sense of “community.” We can read a blog (ahem, thank you for reading this one) or join a secret Facebook group where we can post our most embarrassing questions about toddler bowel habits or decoding teenage text-speak while we unload the dishwasher in our sweats, ne’er to be seen by a non-family human that day. These connections are a great way to be reminded we aren’t alone, but they can’t replace authentic, face-to-face friendship. The kind that is built on a couch over coffee or a front porch over appetizers.
In our family, we are very fortunate to have doting grandparents and aunts and uncles–so many branches of the family tree that have helped us celebrate and mold our kids. But the blessing of our friends, who we now refer to as “aunts and uncles,” have helped our family tree thrive.
These friends entered the delivery room with teary eyes and beaming smiles within minutes of our babies’ arrivals and were some of the first arms my kids felt loved, though. They’ve shown up with hugs and comfort food and listening ears to help us process the miscarriage of our third child. They’ve been sideline cheerleaders who made our peewee soccer player feel like a FIFA star. They’ve told us they are proud of our children’s character (even though they’ve seen it at its worst). They’ve said “Good job, mama,” when I’ve skulked out of the room with a bucking toddler who needed some correction. They’ve allowed us into their most intimate marital and childrearing struggles and triumphs while loving us through ours. They’ve let us be “aunts and uncles” to their kids, too.
It can feel risky to introduce yourself to the parent wrangling a child into a puddle-jumper at the pool or cheering on the sideline of the soccer field. It can feel burdensome to come up with a menu and hide the clutter in order to invite people over for dinner when you’re just trying to survive the witching hour.
But these initial steps are what build acquaintances who become friends who become family. I’ve never met someone who didn’t want to be noticed and pursued. We are all busy, but someone has to take the first step to build adult friendship and family community.
Invite some neighbors over for a clean-out-the-fridge potluck before going on vacation. Have you child’s teammates and their parents over for hotdogs after the big game. No fancy prep needed–sometimes the more spontaneous and low-key the gathering is the more comfort it builds among the guests.
Aside from gaining our own friends, when we invite more adults into our homes and lives we can also be opening doors for powerful influence on our children. The neighbors you invite over for s’mores today might end up being the sounding board for your angsty teen tomorrow. Now, go text that person you’ve been hoping to get to know better and invite their family over for pizza.
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.
JUST PUT AWAY THE UGLY BLANKET
Posted by Holly Crawshaw
Well, friends. I may have done something halfway decent as a mama today.
Hold your applause, because there’s ample time left for me to mess up my girls to the tune of thousands in therapy costs, but today…today, I actually paused before disciplining my seven-year-old, Lilah.
Now. If you’ve read any of my other posts, especially Just Wear The Stupid Gym Shorts post, you know that Lilah is not a typical kid.
(Which is what most moms would say about their kid, but I’m a mom. So…yeah.)
Lilah is sensitive. She gets very uncomfortable by serious conversations. She brings up things I’ve said years ago. Last year, her teacher told me Lilah is often afraid to try new things because she doesn’t want to fail.
(Sorry about that one, Lilah. You got the wrong end of the gene pool on that one…mine.)
When I discipline Lilah, I can’t raise my voice, ground her, spank her, take away her iPod. I mean, I can and do do those things, but they’re not effective. She just leaves her shoes in the dang doorway the next day anyway.
What effects Lilah most are conversations. She’s a words person. She won the Wonderful Writer Award in Kindergarten. She devours books like most kids devour chocolate.
But who has time to have a ten to fifteen-minute conversations with a child every time discipline is required? I mean, the laundry isn’t going to wash itself.
(Though I often pray it would.)
Okay, enough disclaimers. Let me get to the story.
Lilah has this hideous blanket that zips over her mattress. Last week, I decided to wash it. Before I could put it back on her bed, Lilah started carrying this thing around the house, leaving it everywhere. Seriously. Everywhere I looked, there it was. I felt like it was stalking me.
This morning, she brought it downstairs before school. I took one look at it and said, “Lilah, take that thing back up to your room. I’m tired of folding it and putting it away. If you don’t, I’m going to throw it in the trashcan.”
The next few hours passed in a blur of emails, writing, diet soda, and meetings. When I finally sat down at my desk after lunch, I glanced across the foyer into the dining room.
Guess what I saw.
Yup. The blanket.
Lilah had hidden it beneath the dining room table. (The picture below post is 100% real. And, yes, I am disappointed by her lack of sneakiness, too.)
With a few hours left before school got out, I plotted her punishment. I was going to make her throw it away. I was going to make her refold every blanket in the house just to see how “fun” it is.
Then I sat down to work on the children’s devotional book I’m writing, and the topic is grace.
While researching how to explain grace to a kid, I came across a story that made me think.
See, Lilah has been asking questions about salvation. I know she’s trying to work out how she fits in with the story of Jesus, and I also know Lilah does not understand the concept of grace. Heck, most days, I’m not even sure I do.
So I decided to do something different.
When Lilah got off the bus, I walked her home and into the dining room. Here’s what happened next.
Me: Lilah, what’s under the table?
Me: Hey, look in my eyes. I’m not laughing about this. What is under the table?
Lilah: (Unsure) My blanket?
Me: What did I tell you to do with your blanket?
Lilah: I don’t know.
Me: Lilah, I told you to take this up to your room.
Lilah: I thought you meant later today!
Me: Then why did you hide it? That tells me that you knew you were supposed to take it to your room, but you didn’t want to.
Lilah: I’m sorry, Mama.
Me: Saying you’re sorry doesn’t change the fact that you were disobedient. AND that you tried to lie about it.
Lilah: Are you going to throw it away?
Me, to myself: AH HA! Proof she was listening!
Me: Lilah, you lied to me. And you disobeyed me. Do you understand that both of those things are sins?
Lilah: (Bursts into tears)
Me: I want you to tell me what you think you deserve for disobeying and for lying?
Lilah: (Crying) For you to throw it away. And for you to spank my bottom.
Me: You know what? You’re right. That’s exactly what you deserve. But that’s not what I’m going to do.
Lilah: (Crying) What? What are you doing to do?
Me: (Crying) I’m going to show you grace. I’m going to take your blanket upstairs and put it back on your bed like you want it. I’m also going to forgive you for lying. And on top of all that, I’m going to make you a bowl of ice cream that you can eat right now—before dinner.
Lilah buried her face in my neck and sobbed. “I’m so sorry, Mama,” she sobbed. “I should have obeyed you. I shouldn’t have lied. Please forgive me. Will you forgive me?”
GOOD GRACIOUS, NO ONE TOLD ME PARENTING WOULD RIP MY HEART OUT LIKE THIS!
Lilah responded to grace so much better than she would have responded to thoughtless discipline.
And more importantly, I had the opportunity to tell her that when we put our faith in Jesus, He offers us grace just like that every single day.
DISCLAIMER: Duh, you can’t offer your kid grace every time they mess up. But we also can’t let our discipline become so rote that we forget the point of it: to teach a lesson, to make our kids better. Not as an expression of our anger—which I am so guilty of doing.
I read a quote today by Paul Zahl that said this:
“Grace is love that has nothing to do with you…Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures…[Grace] has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called ‘gifts.’…Grace is one-way love.” (Emphasis mine).
Grace is one-way love. Love that has nothing to do with us. We can’t behave our way in or out.
I pray that sinks into your skin and bone and marrow. I pray it sinks into Lilah’s, too.
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.e
FIVE MANTRAS TO DISCIPLINE BY: HOW ZIPPING MY OWN SMART MOUTH CHANGED MY PARENTING
Posted by Holly Crawshaw
Remember that one time when you swore you’d never grow up to be one of those parents who used “Because I said so” as a defense for discipline?
Remember that time not too long ago when you said those exact words to your kids thirty-seven times in one day?
Yeah. Me, too.
Discipline for me is draining. When I tell you not to use my face lotion to make slime in your play kitchen, I don’t want to explain why Mama needs to diminish her fine lines and wrinkles.
JUST DROP THE LOTION AND RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, KID!
So about a year ago, I realized that I was using the same lines over and over again when disciplining. Not only that, I would often respond with poor explanations, and at times—wait for it—sarcasm.
(I welcome all ridicule because sarcasm is NOT a form of acceptable discipline.)
I was saying things like…
Because I said so.
I’m the mama and that makes me the boss.
Don’t argue with me—just do what I say.
Did you hear me?
Slow obedience is disobedience.
Now, there’s nothing particularly awful about some of these—I still throw that last one in for good measure. But I began to see a pattern that I didn’t like.
My discipline tactics only served to get me what I wanted. They were lazy. They were judgmental. And they weren’t working.
So I decided to come up with five mantras to teach my girls that have changed the way I respond when disciplining:
We’ll be going down the road, and I’ll start asking these questions.
Before bed about every other night, I ask these questions.
And ESPECIALLY when I discipline, I ask whichever questions are appropriate for the situation.
They’re sort of like our family’s own personal chants/cheers.
Here’s what’s happened:
Instead of immediately whining when they get in trouble, the girls have to respond with words they understand AND words that redirect behavior. The entire tone of our discipline has changed, and we’ve all benefited from it.
And besides, who doesn’t love a good cheer? (Sorry, my past as a cheerleader is showing.)
I’d love to hear any good words or phrases y’all have for disciplining. I would love to add to my repertoire!
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.
YOU ARE NOT DISQUALIFIED
Posted by Carey Nieuwhof
Because when you find yourself the villain in the story you have written
So Death Cab for Cutie is a band –just to be clear–one that’s on my playlist a lot these days. As that song played through my earbuds, it hit me that it describes how I sometimes feel about my parenting.
No new parent begins by saying “I hope I mess up my child’s life.” Who ever sets out to be the villain in the story? But at one point or another, we end up there, don’t we?
You leave for vacation but are yelling at the kids before you’re even out of town.
You’re at home most nights, but you’re far too tired to engage.
Your kids repeated patterns of behavior drive you crazy, and you end up resenting them.
Your date night to nurture your marriage starts with an argument and ends with a meltdown
You make empty threats to your kids that would make you wince if you heard other parents make them. But you are all out of tricks, so you threaten anyway.
And sometimes the temptation is to think that our failures should disqualify us as a parent. At least as a good parent. It must certainly disqualify us from being a godly parent.
But when you think that, you would be wrong.
What if that actually puts you in line with a great list of characters God used in significant ways? What if that actually qualifies you?
Peter was Jesus’ best friend, but Peter betrayed Jesus–badly. You would think that would put you out of the running to be a New Testament hero. But Jesus built the church on Peter anyway.
Moses seemed like a fine fellow until he murdered someone. Shouldn’t that push him off God’s short list? Apparently not. God made him into one of the greatest leaders in the Old Testament.
Why? Why does God use people as flawed as that?
I think weakness puts us in touch with our need for God. It reminds us that God is God and we are not. That we need help. That there is a power greater than our natural brilliance (or lack of it) at work in the world. And that grace flows between the cracks in our lives.
God’s strength is most evident when the people He’s working with are weak.Tweet:
What if the very thing you think is disqualifying you right now is actually qualifying you for a new chapter in your life in Christ? What if your weakness was a portal to new strength?
What if you are a parent turning in a brand new way to Christ’s love and you were able to give your son and daughter a front row seat to the grace of God?
I bet your kids would never forget the change they see in you. And you could one day tell them how it happened.
About the Author:
Carey Nieuwhof is the lead pastor of Connexus Church and author of several books, including Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (with Reggie Joiner) and his latest book, "Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow." Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership and parenting. He writes one of the most widely read church leadership blogs at www.CareyNieuwhof.com and hosts the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where he interviews top leaders each week.