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.
HOW TO MAKE GOOD MEMORIES WITHOUT GRUMPY SIDE EFFECTS
Posted by Sarah Anderson
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. We’re on the cusp of all things holiday and fun. The festivals. The fairs. The pumpkin patches. And the promise for more parties and holiday spectaculars just around the corner. It’s the kick off to a magical—if not insane—season, made all the more magical—and insane—with kids.
Not more than a few weeks ago, I was reminded of how magical/insane this time of year is.
Our family had planned and attended so many “fun” things that particular weekend we turned into tired, cranky, sugar-assaulted people of no use to each other or the world.
We wanted to be the fun parents. And to create memories. I wanted us to be able to look fondly back on weekends like this and hear my kids say things like, “Thank you!” “That was awesome!” I didn’t want us to be grumpy and short with each other. But with so much “fun” planned, we started running on less and less, our fuses getting shorter and shorter until it didn’t matter what we were doing. We were too exhausted to enjoy it.
And that’s when it hit me.
When it comes to making memories, my kids are taking note of the emotions that come along with them.
They see a stressed out mom.
A tired dad.
And they are living in sugar strung out bodies.
I’m learning if I want to create good memories that last a lifetime, then I have to do more than just plan for the fun. I have to be at a place to enjoy the fun. And they do too.
What that means for my family is something different than what it means for yours. For ours, it means for us to be at a place to engage fun in a positive and healthy way, sometimes we have to say “NO”. . .
To some birthday parties.
To some festivals.
To some fairs.
To some holiday shanningans.
Not because we are boring and straight-laced parents. But because we are learning ourselves. And we know to get the most out of an experience, we have to bring the most into it. Our best into it.
When my kids remember their childhood. I want them to remember fun experiences. But I also want them to remember happy parents in those experiences.
A mom who is at peace.
A dad who is present.
A family where stressed out wasn’t the norm.
Emotions make great memories. And to have the right kind of emotions, sometimes we have to say no to some things to make room for the emotions we want to last a lifetime.
I want my kids to remember…
Those only come when you give them space.
We are sowing “no’s” now so we can reap the kind of memories we want to have later.
We can’t do it all, which means not every memory can be made. But that’s okay. Because when we push ourselves too hard for too long for the sake of making memories, the only memories our kids make are of tired and grumpy parents who just need to sit down for a minute.
So figure out what matters to you. When we start to pare down our crowded calendar, we’ll start to get a clearer idea of what actually matters—and not just entertains us.
As we are on the brink of a season celebrating gratitude, peace, joy and connection with the people we love, we have the opportunity to dictate whether our calendars will rob us of those very things, or whether we will call the shots.
We can’t do it all. We don’t have to do it all. Don’t be afraid to say “no” this season so you can say “yes” to the sort of memory-making you want to go the distance in your kid’s lives—memories of a fun experience and happy parents.
Because when they get both, everyone wins. And mom and dad won’t need a nap.
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, www.sarahbanderson.com.