Category Archives: parenting

Yes, I’m Am

Aiden — age three and a half — was scooping flour from the 25 pound bag into the flour canister. I go through a lot of flour when I make sourdough bread a couple times a week.
Aiden loves to do this job and wants to fill the canister any time it gets low. (‘Good initiative’ we say.)
He barely spills any flour. He worked carefully at it while I kneaded a batch of dough.
“That’s good work you’re doing”, I complimented him.
He replied seriously, “Yes, I’m am doing good work.”

I smiled at his confidence.
I feel guilty sometimes. I’m bipolar and there is a chance I have passed on some of my problems. Luke and family have good tooth enamel and good mental health (really crooked teeth though). I feel like my genetic legacy is cavities, good facial structure, and mental illness. But I’m so much more than my genetic legacy alone. I’m a loving mother who is intent on learning. I can look for signs and get help early and teach them coping techniques and learn coping techniques myself. I can explain that sometimes, if I get upset, it isn’t them, it’s that mommy has bipolar and her feelings don’t match what happens sometimes.
I don’t have to pass on all my problems.
So when he replied to my compliment with the calm acknowledgment that it was so, I smiled even more because, while I may not be able to keep him from mental illness or even a nasty inner voice, I can make sure the mean voice doesn’t sound like his Mom.
And I can give him plenty of ammo of truth to use against it.
You are a kind, hardworking boy, my Aiden, and you are so very loved.

Self care thoughts

Self care is something I keep hearing about, and I think it’s important. The best analogy is that parents should put on your oxygen masks before helping their children with theirs. A healthy, peaceful (as possible) mom makes for a healthier more peaceful home.
But, sometimes you might find yourself too busy or too broke to practice self care the way you want too. Then you might end up emotionally beating yourself up over this ‘failure’.

If you are spending your days nursing a fussy baby and calming an emotional and violent toddler, they aren’t gonna end up growing up with problems because you were too busy to shower and too broke for a haircut at the beauty college.  (At least, I sincerely hope that is true!)

When my life is like this, I like to practice self care by taking moments for deep breaths and making sure to eat regularly. Then on weekends I like a long soak in an epsom salt bath while Luke takes care of the kids.

Sometimes you may be too depressed to do even the basics of self care. Then teachings that you have to take care of yourself to take care of others just adds more burden. You might be either too tired or too full of self loathing to do anything for yourself. Been there!
And I think that’s okay. The point of self care is to show yourself care and respect and love. If you can’t *do* anything for yourself, then try to show the most care you can by allowing yourself to feel that way, without condemning yourself for it.
If you beat yourself up stressing over self care, it defeats the purpose of self care.

But for the times when I can take good care of myself, here are some of my favorite things to do:

I made a scrub of coffee grounds, cinnamon, epsom salt, and olive oil, and sometimes I wrap with it (rub it into my skin then cover in plastic wrap for an hour) or just exfoliate with it before a shower.
I bought some cellulite cream and I put that on, and enjoy the smell and the affirmation that i’m worth spending a little time and money on.
Sometimes i prefer to use coconut oil as my ‘lotion’ instead.
If I can, I lock myself in the bathroom and sit in the empty tub when the boys are too loud.
My mother in law takes the boys about once a week right now – I know not everyone has access to a doting grandmother but for those who do, ask to schedule a weekly gramma day!
I take medicines – thankfully. I go to therapy.
When I’m down, I make a dinner I like, just like I would do for Luke.
I play a game on my cell phone when I’m really stressed and need to calm down.
I write almost every day when I can. Writing makes me feel alive.
I keep z-bars around for breakfast every day, so that I don’t have to cook in the morning. Boys eat z-bars, hot dogs, pbj sandwiches, or cheese sticks for breakfast.
I eat dairy free ice cream, which is special because I’m the only one who requires dairy free.
I try to keep frozen foods around to take care of my future-self when I am depressed or sick.

Every little thing I do for me, whether it’s making dairy free ice cream, doing a wrap, putting on lotion, or just eating breakfast, is a way of telling myself I am worth love and care.

And that’s a message I need to hear.

Formula-based parenting

Parenting. It’s a tough gig.

It’s even tougher when you are developing your own style and philosophies of parenting.
But even with my sometimes difficult children and my uncertainty about how to parent, at least I have one big advantage over all the people following a popular parenting guide like To Train Up a Child — I’m not following a formula to get a finished result. I like how Libby Anne put it — I’m just putting in healthy ingredients.

I know many parents stake their worth on how their kids turn out. If the kids grow up to be punks who smoke, date around, have sex outside of marriage — then the parents ‘failed’.

Other parents are stricter: If the kid grows up and reads Harry Potter — FAIL.
Others are more liberal: As long as they still have a good relationship with God, success! If not, FAIL.

It’s a lot of pressure to put on a parent, to believe you have to wind up with a certain kind of grown child or you failed.
I didn’t turn out how my parents wanted. I don’t know all the specifics, but I know that me not being a Christian will feel like failure to them. At other times, far ‘less’ has been called failure — and not just my failure, but theirs. They ‘failed to do it right.’
Did they follow the formulas perfectly? Nah. (Did they follow the perfect formula? Meh.)
Would it have mattered? Probably not.

See, I’m my own person. They succeeded in raising a thoughtful, intelligent, and conscientious person. I’m not a Christian though.

I know that’s important to a lot of people.
But children are not programmable robots or carrot cake or anything that you can just input the right ingredients/tools/steps and get a set result. Children are people, and people make their own decisions. Whether you parent harshly or ‘grace-based’, you can’t expect to get a specific outcome.
I feel bad that I’m going to let down my family by being not-Christian. But I can’t stick to something that I don’t really believe in, just for them. I have to be honest to myself (and God, if he exists). And I have to let my children do the same.

I end with Libby Anne’s plea to mothers who practice Gentle Discipline but promise to love their children ‘still’:

And so I suppose I would simply appeal to these mothers: Please, drop the last trappings of formula parenting, stop seeing their children as something you can program, something you can wind up and set running, and start seeing them as independent individuals who will make their own choices whatever they may be and that’s okay. If your children grow up to make different choices and you respond by draping your relationship with the disappointment of unmet expectations, those children will distance themselves from you. They’ll have to. It will hurt too much otherwise. But if you can start seeing them as individuals early and drop the expectations, if you can instead just focus on being loving and kind parents because that’s what’s right, not because you’re trying to get some specific result, your children—and your relationships with them—will be better for it.

The Great and Perilous Day of Judgment

And lo when they stand before the throne in the great and perilous day of judgment, the judge will separate  them, and to those on his left he will say, you did not spank your children. You did not punish them for throwing a fit when you were at walmart.

And they will reply, ‘but my children were exhausted and we were out too late so I showed understanding’

But he will say to them ‘ I wanted you to teach holiness and provide a witness of perfection. Depart from me for I love you but do not like you right now never knew you.

 And he will say ‘you showed leniency in forcing people to conform to scripture. You accepted homosexuals, and those with gender confusion. You supported those seeking unholy matrimony and put red equals signs on your web pages. Do you not know that to  identify with those who do wrong is as the sin of eating with tax collectors and prostitutes?’

Then he will say, ‘Depart from me for I never knew you.’

And to others he will say, ‘you did not push little children to forgive their abusers immediately and face-to-face. It would be better for you to have a millstone hung around your neck than to allow any little one to delay in forgiving his molestor. Depart from me you stumbling stones’

And they will say ‘But, Lord, we believed in you and followed you”

But he will say, “if you did these things, obviously you were not truly mine”.
And they will depart and burn in Hades forever for their evil deeds.

If anyone does not condemn these sins, he too deserves the fires of hell.

excellent post: This One’s For the Homeschool Moms

I read a thought provoking and insightful post on Homeschoolers Anonymous today, gently warning homeschool parents about getting sucked in to legalistic, formulaic parenting and fundamentalist religion through the homeschool movement, and along the way reminding many readers that their parents were under intense pressure, too.

…the homeschool movement told my mom that they had given her the magic formula to make her children’s lives perfect. They give her a list, and promised her that if she followed the rules that her children would be perfect, Godly, and never experience life’s pain. How could that not be a tempting promise to any parent who cares about their children?

Homeschool moms, I want to tell you that promise is false, and that believing it is going to hurt you. Your child is a sovereign individual, and no matter how carefully and lovingly you arrange every part of their upbringing, education, and socialization, you cannot control their future. You can’t control it because you don’t have total control over your child or other people. If you’re stressing yourself out, afraid you’re doing it wrong, and a constant bundle of nerves, I want you to take a moment and think about whether or not you have set unrealistic expectations for yourself as a parent, and your child as a child. You probably have, and I want to tell you to give yourself a break.Also, a lot of you have commented on these posts explaining that you’re different from the “crazy” homeschool moms, and I do believe you, but chances are if you’re Christian and homeschooling, you and your kids will be interacting with fundamentalists and you may be gradually sucked into parts or the whole of their ideology over time. These are some warning signs that could cause you to be more susceptible or signal that you’re already being sucked in:

via This One’s For The Homeschool Moms: Mercy’s Story.

Link

When I was a kid, there were certain things I hated hearing grown ups saying.

Now that I’m a parent, there are certain things I hate saying to my kids, because I know how frustrated they must feel. But I’m not sure what to say in place of those annoying old phrases, so I default to mother tongue.
I’ve been muddling through trying to think of more constructive ways to communicate things to my kids when i am frustrated with them, identifying the language that is demeaning, blaming, and unhelpful and replacing it with language that opens conversation and empathizes. However, when the framework in your head is full of blaming and combative language (many conservative writers teach a parents vs. kids style of ‘discipline’) it can be hard to know where to start.
But today i found this really great article i’m going to try to commit to memory, “Ten Things Not to Say to Your Kids”
The writer, Brenna, not only shares ten common, but generally unhelpful, phrases parents and other caregivers use, she also shares other ways of wording the important thoughts, and thinking through the problems.

“you make me so mad!” was a terrible thing to hear  – i remember hearing my mom say it frequently and i always felt like such a horrible daughter.

But i catch myself in the middle of saying it sometimes. I know Aiden has a hard enough time dealing with his emotions (heck, i have a hard time dealing with my own). Blaming him for my feelings just dumps more of a burden on him and doesn’t help him behave.  Brenna suggests instead “Train yourself to say, ‘I need a break right now because I am getting upset’ or “I am angry right now”. You can communicate your feelings to your children without placing the burden of cause on them.”

I’m learning a style of parenting that isn’t about ‘winning’ every battle in the name of love – like most christian parenting books and magazines I have read teach. There are other styles of parenting more about teaching children with love and respect (and a heckuva lot of patience), and helping them to learn what is right and how to respect others. My son Aiden is what some people might call ‘difficult’. Mike Pearl says children should be broken. It’s a common theme in many books – child training painted as a battle between mom and son, and you should break that willful child’s spirit. I do not want to break, crush, or defeat my child…  I try to help my rather sensitive child understand himself and his very strong emotions and cope with them in constructive ways. We are on the same team and we are working together to learn to understand him, and to help him understand the world. I do the same for my younger son, Kieron. And one day when they are men, i hope they can face the world with bravery, kindness, and whole hearts.
(for parents who may be coming from a Mike Pearl style parenting philosophy and are looking for an alternative, Tim Kimmel’s book, Grace Based Parenting, was my diving board into a more cooperative style of parenting, and of living life in general.)