Posted in Family, Motherhood

Every Parent’s Never-Ending Battle

It starts early:

Should we PUT DOWN our four-month old (let him “cry it out”) or PICK him UP when he is fussy? Holding him tends to calm him. He sleeps better. He stops crying. He is basically happier.

It continues: 

How about the daily battle of knowing how much to help our budding adult children (pick them up when they are “fussy”) or let them figure things out on their own (many times painful and uncomfortable)? Helping them tends to calm them. They sleep better. They stop “fussing.” They are basically happier.

It never ends:

What about an aging parent’s battle about how much to help their youngest son with the care of his children? He lost his wife about a year ago and the situation is complicated. They are 84. He is 56. Helping him calms the situation. Everyone sleeps better. The “fussing” is abated. He is basically happier.

No matter how old our child is, the battle of whether or not to PICK UP or PUT DOWN is one we will fight until our last breath.

It can be teaching a baby to sleep by themselves, driving a forgotten homework assignment to school for your elementary daughter, purchasing a car for your new driver, allowing an adult child to live at home rent-free for a season, watching grandchildren for your middle-aged son, the list goes on and on.

The questions are basic:

How much do I “PICK UP,” help, console, “save the day,” when my child has a need or even a want?

How much do I let them “ride out the storm,” figure it out on their own, “PUT them DOWN” so to speak?

Where is that line drawn?
When is that line drawn?
How is that line drawn?

What choice should we make so that we are promoting emotional health and good boundaries, yet making sure the other feels safe and completely loved?

We fight this battle on the daily, no matter how we old we are or how simple or complicated the situation is.

Our hearts burn with this question:

“What should I do in “X” situation with “such-and-such” child? Do I PICK them UP or PUT them DOWN?”

If I “PICK them UP,” the voices in my cute little brain shout loudly.

You are doing too much.
Your boundaries are too lax.
They need to learn for themselves.
This is unhealthy.
This is bad.

If I don’t help and PUT them DOWN, I hear opposing and equally noisy voices.

You aren’t doing enough.
Your boundaries are too rigid.
They need to feel loved and not alone.
This is unhealthy.
This is bad.

Ugh. Double Ugh.

So what do we do when we feel trapped in this impossible and never-ending battle?

  • We remind ourselves that even though the questions seem easy, the situations are complicated. No two are the same and rarely is there a quick answer or fix.
  • We recognize that this dilemma is part of being a parent, period. There’s no getting out of it.
  • We realize that other parents are in the same boat. We all need each other, not to judge and give solutions, but to listen and give grace.
  • We stop asking ourselves if the decision is right or wrong, black or white, good or bad. Rarely are decisions that we make all one way or the other. That’s an exhausting treadmill and only promotes fear, guilt and shame. Either decision will have both difficult and wonderful attached to it. Usually it’s some combination of beautiful and messy.
  • We ask these questions instead: What do I really need? Why do I want to help? What do they really need? We can take the long-view and dig a little deeper.
  • We allow ourselves to change our minds if we need to. We give ourselves permission to re-evaluate and get counsel from others. There is great freedom here.
  • We show ourselves boatloads of grace no matter what we decide. We remind ourselves that God loves both of us and He can come in and provide all that’s lacking no matter what decision is made in the moment.
  • And lastly, we ask God for wisdom because He gives it GENEROUSLY and FREELY to all without finding fault, and we trust that will be given to us (James 1:5).

Do not forget, my friend, that we are in the same “mom boat,” paddling along, trying not to sink and, at the same time, enjoying the big, bumpy, beautiful ride together.

From my heart to yours.

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood

It Wasn’t Pretty

It wasn’t pretty.

What started out as a kind gesture on my part turned into a knock-down, drag-out fight with my teen.

On a summer day, as he slept in, I snuck his keys and took his car to the coin-operated car wash and vacuum place around the corner.  I wanted to surprise him with a clean car full of gas just to send him a mom/teen son “love note.”

As I opened his trunk, that sweet, knowing fragrance that I had often smelled in my brother’s car wafted to my nose.  POT.  It was P-O-T.

My mom heart did flips of fear, anger, shock, and shame.

What if he gets caught?  What if he ends up in jail?  Is he dealing?  How often is he using?

How dare he?!?!?!?  After all we’ve done for him!  Just wait until I get home!!! This is the end of the line!  This car is not going anywhere for a long time!  Neither is he!

What in the world?!  How did I not know?  He’s such a great kid!  This just isn’t happening.  UGH.

What am I doing wrong?  I must not be _______ (fill in the blank) enough.  What if they find out at church?  Or almost worse, on his team?  What will they think of me?  And him?

As I finished up the vacuuming and slid the wet wipe over the final seat, I drove home still flipping through all of those emotions, my eyes wet and my heart pounding.

I raced up to his room, threw open his door, and began to yell.  I mean yell.  He woke up dazed and confused.

It was NOT my finest parenting moment by a long shot.

All my fear, anger, shock and shame came tumbling out in words and threats I don’t care to share.

He fumbled back with excuses and “relax Mom.”  Needless to say, that didn’t help at all.
After I was done with my rant, I made my way to my bedroom closet and just sobbed.

What am I going to do?  How can this be fixed?  How can I make him stop?

At first, my controlling, black-and-white, formulaic parenting reared its head.

FEAR was beckoning and overtaking my mind, my heart, my soul, and even my spirit.

He is grounded.  He can’t have a door to his room.  No more car!  I will drug test him every week.  He could really mess up himself, his future, and us!  I am going to fix this!!!

Guess what?  My natural, very unhealthy, unwise, go-to way of parenting did not work.

I couldn’t control him.  I couldn’t fix him.

I was at an absolute loss, one of the first times in all of my motherhood journey that I couldn’t figure out.  Or solve.

I needed something.  Something different.  Something new.

A friend began to pray for me.  I began to pray.

Not prayers that sound fluffy and happy and like I have it all together.

More like prayers that were filled with curse words and “help me” and guttural sobs on my knees.

One day, a still small voice spoke to my heart.

“This isn’t about him, my Sweet Mama.  It’s about you.  I am here to help you.  You are not alone.”

I sat right there and cried.  This time, not the tears of despair, but ones of hope.

“I am the Lord, your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”  (Isaiah 48:17)

I paused.  Listened.

I sought counsel.  From my friends.  From my spiritual mentors.  From a counselor.  And from the Holy Spirit, the most trusted Counselor of all.

In fits and starts, fear raging back at times and supernatural peace overwhelming at others, I got HELP.

HELP in the form of wisdom, not having it all figured out, and all my controlling ducks-in-a-row.

HELP in the form of guidance, being provided only the next right thing to do on any given day with this sweet child of mine.

HELP in the form of comfort, knowing that God can reach into those places in his heart that I have never been able to, no matter how much I have wanted to.

Lastly, HELP in the form of a beautiful, soul-resting, peace-bringing thought, one for my beautiful, but hurting mom heart:

Even if my ‘brain-hasn’t-fully-developed’ child makes a wrong or foolish choice that seems life-altering in all the worst ways, God can weave it into their story so that when it comes down to it, it’s the “right” one. He’s just able to do it.

This has not been an easy road. It’s been an up-and-down, twisty-turny one.  It’s been one that I wouldn’t have chosen.  But it’s one that I’ve needed and has allowed me to grow into a much larger space with this God who loves me and loves those I love even more than I do or ever will.  I am truly grateful.

So today, my friend, remember that God’s got you, no matter what crazy and hard road you are traveling right now.  He’s got your child.

Take a long, slow, deep breath with me, resting in His tender and loving arms, knowing that He is WITH us and FOR us, and we are not alone.

**first published on Liquid Church Family Devotional**

Posted in Childhood, Family, Grief, Motherhood, Thanks

Two Spoons

I could see that she was holding back tears as she walked down the steps of the school bus and into the passenger seat of our family minivan.

The words came tumbling out like a waterfall, “He broke up with me at lunch.”

My heart sank as I watched her body curl into a ball and her head flush against the window, tears flowing freely now.

“Oh honey. I’m so sorry. I know how much you liked him.”

I laid my hand on her arm for a moment and she wrapped herself further into a ball. Silence ensued for the rest of our drive home.

She bolted into the house and to her room, shutting the door. I followed her up the stairs, and as I rested my head on her closed door, I could barely make out muffled sobs.

My heart sank even more. My girl was hurting. And no matter what I did or said in that moment, it probably wouldn’t help at all. She was suffering the normal heartbreak that comes with first kisses, first crushes and first rejections.

I would just let her be for now, alone with her own heart and all the feelings that were new and confusing and downright difficult. It was the best and only thing I knew to do. It seemed to be what she wanted and needed the most.

I meandered to the kitchen, not sure what to do with myself. I wanted to run right back upstairs and wipe her tears away with a kiss, a hug, an emotional bandaid, an “I love you” or one of the other many mom tricks I had up my sleeve. Not this time. Instead, all I could do was pray (and I sure did) and feel awkward and start to make dinner.

Time seemed to march ever so slowly that afternoon, normal when pain is loud for us or someone we love. Time feels achingly long and almost cruel. Why can’t it pass quickly so that we are on the other side of loss and grief and back to our hopeful selves?

How I wished that for her that insufferable day.

Right before dinner, there was a knock at our front door. Odd at that time of day.

I glanced through the window and right in front of my own teary eyes, one of my daughter’s best friends was anxiously standing there, carrying two spoons and a huge container of my girl’s favorite ice cream flavor.

I opened the door, gave her a quick, thankful hug and whispered, “She’s up in her room.”

I heard another knock, footsteps, a door open and then shut again.

Talk about strange and hard for my mama self, yet somehow wonderful and what I hoped for all at the same time.

What I couldn’t do anymore as a mom (as much as I desperately wanted to), her friend was able to do. Listen. Relate. Comfort. Eat ice cream out of the container right before dinner.

All so normal for that season of her life.

I kept milling around the kitchen, gratitude welling up inside of me for this friendship that my daughter had.

The kind that goes to the grocery store instead of her dance practice.

The kind that shows up instead of stays away.

The kind that hangs out with the tears instead of just the laughs.

I heard the front door close and a car pull away.

In what seemed like only a few moments, her friend was gone again, just like that.

Had it been enough for that very miserable afternoon?

I wondered what would happen next.

Only moments went by when I heard the familiar creaking of my girl’s door opening and loud footsteps down the stairs.

She bounded into the kitchen, hair a mess, eyes all puffy, but the next words out of her mouth were priceless.

“I’m going to be okay, Mom, even if I’m not right now.”

She threw her arms around me and we hugged for a long time and as I held her close, I knew deep inside that it had all been enough.

“What’s for dinner?” she quietly asked.

As we unwrapped ourselves, I whispered one last thing into her ear, “I made your favorite.”

Posted in Family, Motherhood

I’m Glad I Will Never Know the Answer

Adventure (noun): An experience or activity that is unusual and exciting, typically hazardous.

Motherhood is one of the great ones. The feeling of trepidation as we rubbed our burgeoning bellies and yet the happy butterflies inside of them is still almost palpable for us.

We are thrust out of the safety of our personal space into the great unknown.

We’re stretched into all things NEW.

A NEW person entering into the landscape of our very existence.

Many NEW ideas about how life actually works.
NEW and completely surprising experiences never known before.
Seriously. A whole NEW life for us.

We don’t know what’s ahead, or just around the corner.

It might be something scary or a huge happy surprise.

It could be “the” dreaded phone call or a simple unexpected “I love you” text from our child.

The not knowing freaks us out and ushers in hope all at the same time.

We come to know that it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, but it’s also not all monsters and mean girls.

It runs the whole gamut, all the feels, and all the things.

The different scary, joyous, disappointing, tear-laced, hilarious, exhausting, and love-filled things.

Yet somehow, we wouldn’t it trade for the world.

It’s a wild ride, but a wonderful one.

Even if it we cried looking at those two lines on the pregnancy test and wished it wasn’t happening, motherhood has woven together the larger story that makes us us.

Who would we be without it and especially without the one who took us on the adventure to begin with?

I am glad I will never know the answer.

Posted in Faith, Motherhood

A Six-Letter Word That Changes My Life Every Day

BLACK OR WHITE!!!

Do you hear me???

BLACK OR WHITE!!!

Good or bad.
Wrong or right.
Yes or no.

How much do I love these?

They make life so much easier.
I know what to do and what not to do.

It’s clear cut.
No weird subtleties that confuse others and me the most.

GRAY?
Good enough?
Wrongish?
It depends?

How difficult are these for me?  They make all my decisions so much harder.
But easier is NOT always better.  By any stretch.

We’ve seen enough of that in our homes, in our neighborhoods, at our workplaces, in church and especially on social media.

CHOOSE ONE OR THE OTHER!
YOU HAVE TO!!!

CHOOSE SIDES.

One is 100% wrong and one is absolutely right!

And if you don’t choose what I choose, you will be disowned.

Kicked out.
Not talked to.
Cancelled.

UGH!

There seems to be a huge missing factor in what I love and what can be easier, but not better.

It’s a little six-letter word called WISDOM.

W.I.S.D.O.M.

Wisdom says it’s not always black and white, good or bad, right or wrong, yes or no!

Wisdom allows for the whole possibly-hidden story behind what’s outwardly visible.

Wisdom often brings a third out-of-the-box thought, path, or decision.

Wisdom isn’t simple or easy much of the time.

It can nuanced and difficult.

It requires grace and patience and seeing things from many angles.

Wisdom is the way of Jesus.

He’s all about it. He doesn’t get caught up in the ALWAYS this or ALWAYS that.
He’s all about the SOMETIMES.

Sometimes it’s the right thing to walk away and shake the dust off of your feet.
And others it’s the right thing to stay and lean in and heal those in your path.

Sometimes it’s the right thing to break hard and fast man-made rules.
And others it’s the right thing to follow them closely.

Sometimes it the right thing to turn water into wine in celebration.
And others it’s the right thing to turn wine into a symbol of grief and remembrance.

*************************************************************

TRUE STORY:

When our son was a senior in high school, he and his classmates went to a very sketchy (to say the least) beach hotel for the weekend after prom.

This mama white-knuckled it on her knees through those 48-hours.

When he came home, he shared a crazy story.

A boy in his “suite” (if you can even call them that) had brought some heavy-duty drugs with him and was using them openly.

Our son did NOT want to be involved in the slightest and needed to figure out what to do, where to sleep.

Guess what he chose: to sleep in his friends’ room on the floor.

That sounds simple enough, but it’s not. His friends were girls.

Normally, this mama would never have praised her son’s choice for sleeping in the same room with four bikini-clad, beautiful members of the opposite sex. I would have freaked out just a little (okay, a lot).

But I did just that. “Wise choice!” I said to him. “I’m so glad you came up with that option and acted on it.”

How crazy is that?!?

After he walked out of the room, I breathed a quick thank you prayer for not only God keeping him safe that weekend, but granting him wisdom in the middle of not-the-greatest of options.

I was stretched out of my own black-and-white thinking in a way that still surprises me now.

*************************************************************

So today, when the rubber meets the road and I find myself tempted to fall into the easier way of doing life, I hope to choose the much much better way of WISDOM.

It might be more work and I might be hugely uncomfortable, but it will be worth it.

For me. And for the people around me.

Posted in Family, Motherhood

Nervous-Wreck Mom

Once upon a time, there was a mom who was a nervous wreck.

She didn’t quite know what to do.

She wanted to have “the talk.”

Not the one about the birds and the bees.
Not the one about just saying no.
Not the one about the future.

It was a completely different, way more nuanced and complicated one.

The kind that might make her big kid get defensive.
Or shut her out.

The kind where she went through all the scenarios in her head.

When should she do it?
How should approach the subject?
What should she say?

This or that or the other thing?

Her mind raced and looped and her stomach got all knotty inside.

She loved this big kid so desperately.
She had worked so hard on keeping her mouth shut and her opinions to herself.
She did not want to do anything that would hurt this kid or their relationship.

But this was one of those times when talking was really important.

It couldn’t and shouldn’t be swept under that rug where the pile grows and then there is a huge bump that no one can get over or around.

This was one of those times when talking was scary, but oh so necessary and really good.

For her big kid.
And for her.

She got up the gumption after a few nervous-nelly days to say, “Can we take a walk just by ourselves?”

When the answer was “I’d love to Mom,” she said a little prayer for help, mustered up her brave mom heart, put on her cute white shoes and took the first step out the door and into what might end up horrible or wonderful.

At first, she asked lots of questions that had nothing to do with anything about anything.

She was hoping to make it feel like she didn’t have this weird mom agenda that was about to pounce.

Next, she talked about all the beautiful sights on the walk, the tulip trees in bloom and how the neighbor had shaved her dog in the strangest of ways.

She was avoiding.

Finally, in the most normal, not awkward mom way she possibly could, she carefully tiptoed her way into “the talk.”

She tried so hard not to “set her big kid straight.”
She tried so hard to listen and understand.
She tried so hard to share her thoughts and concerns from a place of love and not fear.

And guess what?

It went better than she could have imagined.

What could have gone sideways, upside-down or completely backwards went mostly straight.

What could have ended in tears, slammed doors and broken hearts ended in a hug.

It wasn’t because this mom did it all perfectly. That is not true, not true at all.

This mom actually does not really have any idea why it went so well.

Maybe it was because the Tender Lover of both of their souls softened their hearts.

Maybe it was because they had slept well and eaten a good breakfast.

Maybe it was because they just loved each other and had worked really hard to do these kinds of talks better than they had done a million other times.

Maybe it was none of those things.

Who really knows?

But this mom does know a few things right now.

She can take a deep breath and her tummy can unknot.

She will offer a huge prayer of thanks.

She is not a nervous-wreck mom anymore. She is a glad one.

Posted in Anxiety, Family, Health, Motherhood

the craziest, bravest, most out-of-the-box thing

There was this mom who had four kids not in diapers, but not quite teenagers yet.
One early summer day, her left leg collapsed.
 
After one bajillion tests for all the things related to left legs collapsing, the doctors were flummoxed.
 
In the meantime, this mom of four kids, during all the thousands of tests, freaked out on the inside.
She was sure she was going to die.
 
She was sure she was going to leave her four kids without a mom.
 
Her brain took her to places that she’d never even knew existed before.
 
Scary, fear-mongering, awful awful places.
 
She could barely get out of bed.
Her four kids ate the “snack that smiles back” for breakfast.
They did NOT do their summer transition homework.
She felt like she was watching her life from a blurry distance.
 
Her husband didn’t know what to do to help her.
 
One late summer day, she mustered up some gumption and went back to the doctor.
 
“What is wrong with me?” she begged while sitting on the crinkly, sweaty paper.
 
The doctor told her words she had never wanted to hear and thought she would never hear. “I think this is a simple nervous breakdown and some serious anxiety.”
 
She did not like that answer. It was the worst. She was strong. She was capable. She was smart. She had her “ducks” and her kids in a row.
 
But she felt weak. And unable to cope. And helpless. And her ducks and her kids were not even in the same area anymore, much less in a row.
 
One day in the early fall, this mom of four kids did the craziest, bravest, most out-of-the-box thing she had never ever done before.
 
She got help.
 
Did you hear me???
 
She got help.
 
This help-everyone-else, never-need-help mom GOT HELP!!
 
She nervously picked up her phone and dialed a strange number given to her by a friend. She said words she never thought she would say.
 
“Hello. I have four kids. I am not okay. I need help.”
 
The kind and gentle voice on the other side of the phone uttered,
“That’s what I’m here for. When do you want to come in and talk?”
 
One day lots and lots of weeks (maybe even months) later, after lots and lots of talking and learning and her sweet husband praying his guts out (because she was having a hard time there), and also getting some meds (imagine that), this mom of four kids began to heal from things she didn’t even know were broken and she began to actually live inside her beautiful and messy mom life again.
 
For lots of more years, she kept talking and getting help and, one day sitting in a grocery store parking lot, she realized it was not the worst thing that had ever happened to her.
 
In fact, it was the best.
 
P.S. She still gets help when she needs it.
Posted in Celebration, Family, Grief, Motherhood

Mustangs and Paper Chains

Once upon a time, a mom of an 18-year-old made a paper chain.
Just like the ones her kids made in preschool, but this one tucked neatly in her head.
She almost made a real one, but thought it would cause a ruckus in her home.
Why? Why? Why the paper chain?
Because she was counting down the days until her son left for college.
It all started in the middle of the winter.
This mental paper chain. 180 days.
It wasn’t because he was horrible, disrespectful teen
OR
that she was a terrible mom, even though she felt like it often (she had a paper chain after all).
It wasn’t because he was breaking curfew every day and doing all kinds of god-knows-what
OR
maybe she was just clueless…which is more likely.
It wasn’t because she didn’t love him, because moms just can’t help themselves and she loved this kid especially
OR
that he didn’t have friends or wasn’t enjoying high school.
It wasn’t because he bought a Mustang convertible and got in an accident with his younger brother in the back seat during the aftermath of a hurricane
OR
that she had told him not to go out more than a couple of times.
Why then? Why? Why? Why the paper chain?
It was because he was fighting to be himself, a grown-up
AND
she was confused about that and didn’t quite know what to do. And she was tired of the fighting.
It was because he wanted to be with his friends more than he wanted to be home for dinner
AND
that made her pretty sad and sometimes, even angry.
It was because he wanted to explore new scary out-of-the-box adventures
AND
she was freaking out inside and maybe it would be easier for her if he was out of her sight, not so much in her face.
It was (REALLY) in the end, because he was spreading his wings to fly on his own
AND
that she knew he would soar (or maybe fall to the ground, get back up again and then stumble along until he took flight).
It wasn’t very long until those 180 “circles” of paper were ripped completely off, with none remaining.
They were scattered all over the floor of her memories.
He left. She cried. She cried some more.
She went home and made another paper chain.
This one counting the days until he came back home.
Posted in Faith, Family, Health, Motherhood

3:39 pm

Nine years ago, I was a mom of a 19 year old, an 18 year old, a 15 year old and a 12 year old.

My husband commuted to a job 90 minutes away.

I was in the middle of some of the hardest and busiest times of my life.

Trapped in a mile-long to do list.

Trying to SEE God, but constantly pulled in a thousand directions, especially at 3:39 pm.

Sports.
Exhaustion.
Homework.
Mom Guilt.
Groceries.
Tuition Bills.
Church.

Anxiety.

I must have read this quote somewhere.

It struck me enough that I stopped and posted it on Facebook. At 3:39 pm.

It was probably exactly what I needed at that specific time and wanted the world (or my little Facebook Friends world) to hear it.

To soak it in.
To bask in its freeing and life-giving truth.

God SEES me.
God loves me.

Right in the middle of the mayhem.
Right where I am, not where I “should” be.
Right at 3:39 pm.

He SEES me.
He loves me.

Maybe that day, I got a little glimpse that held me up when I needed it the most.

Maybe I blasted some music on my iPod, headphones tangled around my neck.
Maybe I stopped and danced around the kitchen with dirty dishes piled high in the sink.

And maybe today at 3:39 pm, I’ll need another peek at the never-ending love of God.

Maybe I will throw on some worship music.
Maybe I will dance freely around my office.

And maybe nine years from now, this will all happen again.
At 3:39 pm.

I hope it does. I sure hope it does.

Posted in Family, Motherhood, Thanks

S-T-R-E-T-C-H Marks

One day, a girlish woman looked down at her big burgeoning belly and she had little red lines.

She freaked out a bit.

“Those are STRETCH marks,” her very own mama broke the news. “They will always remind you that you are a mom.”

What seemed like both three days and 75 years later, her big kid, yet still-her-baby, was taking one more step to new-found freedom. Away from her. Out into the world.

She glanced in the mirror that night, tears staining her cheeks, and those little red lines, albeit mildly faded, spoke gently to her about all the ways she had been and was still being

S

T

R

E

T

C

H

E

D.

Before she was quite ready. Often taken-aback by what was in front of her.

To her limits. In…………….all……………the……………..ways.

In her thinking. More open-minded. Less judgmental.

Above and beyond. The call of mom duty.

From the inside out. Just like the burgeoning belly. Bringing new life.

Beyond her imagination. Who knew? There would be all this s–t–r–e–t–c–h–i–n–g?

By her child. Of course.

B

Y

 

H

E

R

 

C

H

I

L

D.

 

She took another hard look at her now mid-life, bumpy belly and she gave thanks for those little red lines.

For all the s–t–r–e–t–c–h–i–n–g. That had happened and was still happening.

Not just on the outside. But on the inside. On her heart. On her soul.

“Those are STRETCH marks,” she whispered to herself. “They will always remind you that you are a mom.”