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,
A PLACE TO FAIL
Posted by Brooklyn Lindsey
Ninety percent of parenting is mental, the other half is physical.
In other words, it takes all of you and a little more.
Parenting is no joke and lends itself to forming humans who can eventually wake up on their own, bathe themselves, sort out tasks for the day, and speak without grunts, groans, or whining. At least, that’s the hope. Right?
When parents come to me, it’s usually not because everything is perfect in their world. (I’ve never met one of those parents.) It’s usually because something isn’t going well and they’ve run out of ideas and electronics to ban.
It can be hard for parents to see how their child’s current crisis can become a positive thing. I don’t like suggesting that pain or failure is good (in the moment), but it’s usually where the conversation leads. I want parents to be able to see how these failures work well for kids.
I want to suggest that this failure, this struggle, this really hard to bear moment is a gift. It’s the chance for you to teach your child truth. It’s difficult when a parent’s heart is hurting to encourage them to say this out loud and believe it every time their child experiences failure.
“Pass or fail, this struggle can be good for you as you’re becoming the adult I’m preparing you to be.”
It’s awkward giving this advice to parents, especially parents of middle schoolers. It’s awkward because it seems ludacris. These kids have a lot going on in the phase of life they’re currently in. This phase alone is enough to keep a parent (and their entire support system) entirely occupied.
So why would we humbly ask a parent for some space on their last nerve to imagine the end?
Because I’ve learned through experience and research that what an adult believes about his or herself controls their biological makeup, that biology controls behaviors, and behaviors determine successes in life. Belief is a huge. Parenting involves helping kids grow into adults with healthy beliefs about themselves, developing confidence.
If you can imagine confidence being a part of a kid’s belief system, then you can also imagine kids needing exercises in confidence to help build their belief system.
Beliefs are formed over time.
Here are some ways you can help coach kids through failures onto a path of confident independence:
There’s nothing more important in a kid’s life than what they believe to be true. Those beliefs will guide them into adulthood and for the rest of their lives. If we don’t give them a chance to exercise the beliefs that they are loved, forgiven, strong, and resilient, they will struggle finding the ability to believe it when they’re adults.
We don’t have to look very hard for places where our kids will fail. They will fail (and we will too). We may have to be a little more intentional when looking for ways to use failure as the best place to teach them about who they are.
Imagine how your kids will react to failure when they are 18, 20, 35. What do you hope they will believe to be true in those moments? That imagination will cue you as a parent to lean in a little closer to the fail when it shows up at your front door. Give your kids a safe place, while they are with you, to help them navigate through it.
About the Author:
Brooklyn has been a youth pastor since 2001. She has authored numerous books and projects and is a youth pastor at Highland Park Church of the Nazarene, her first priority. Second, she is a speaker who loves teaching from the Bible and leading people to live in response to God’s love. Brooklyn, while named after a city in New York, lives in the sunshine state with her husband, Coy, and their sweet girls, Kirra and Mya.
RAISING A KIND PERSON
Posted by Reggie Joiner
So how kind have your kids been lately?
That is one of your goals as a parent right? Along with a good education, health, financial autonomy, faith in God, you hope your kids will be nice, at least some of the time.
That’s because most of us believe life in general just works better when everyone is treating each other kinder. It definitely makes your home a little more pleasant.
Actually being kind, like other positive character qualities, makes you not only happy, but it also makes you healthy. According to one scientist, David Hamilton, kindness changes the brain, impacts the heart and immune system, and may even be an antidote to depression. He also suggests that acts of kindness can even help a damaged heart regenerate faster. (That seemed to be Dr. Seuss’ philosophy too and the medical reason to how the Grinch’s heart grew a couple of sizes in one day.)
But sometimes it’s just hard for kids to be kind, especially when…
a sister ruins a favorite sweater.
a brother eats the last piece of cake.
a friend stabs you in the back.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, (most parents over 40 will understand that cliché), there is one big reason you should remind your kid’s to be kind … God! The idea that we are made in the image of God should be a compelling reason to teach kids they should be kind. Most of the time when a kid asks, “Why?” your answer can be, “because you are made in the image of God!” It’s definitely the answer in this case. Since God created us so we can be nice and because we are created in His image we should value the idea of showing kindness to each other. Maybe that’s why Jesus said…
“Do to others what you want them to do for you.”
That makes a great motto for any home, worthy enough to be put on a plaque, especially since Jesus said it. It’s the perfect line to drop when you’ve been dragged in to referee a disagreement or when you need to silent a vengeful tattle teller. But really, its true. When our kids learn empathy for others, it can have an impact on how they treat them.
I read a blog the other day written by Megan Jordan with a list of questions that she teaches her kids to ask to help them become more empathetic and kind to others. You should try these on your kids, too.
Ask themselves (of others):
How would that make him feel?
How would that make me feel?
Look at her face: What do I think she’s thinking right now?
Is she maybe feeling lonely or left out?
What else might he be upset about?
When fighting ask:
Is it necessary to fight about this?
Is it worth being right or even just winning?
Did I [do something that hurt their feelings] just to be cool?
Are you okay?
Is there anything I can do to help?
Is there anything you need?
Want to play?
So, help your kids learn to start thinking about the feelings of others. That means you have to be intentional about it too, because it can’t be in them if it’s not in you. The absolute best way they will learn how to be kind is when they see you being kind. So be kind to others and be kind to your kids.
Being kind and raising kind people is actually a really good goal to have as a parent, because kind people have better relationships, and they ultimately live a healthier, happier, more successful life.
You can hear more about why and how to teach your kids kindness on this month’s Parent Cue Live podcast.
About the Author:
Reggie is founder and CEO of Orange (The reThink Group). He has co-written two parenting books, "Playing for Keeps" and "Parenting Beyond Your Capacity" as well as other leadership books including "Lead Small" and "Think Orange". Reggie lives in Georgia with his wife, Debbie, and has four grown children, Reggie Paul, Hannah, Sarah, and Rebekah.