Do you ever feel tempted to play God? To take over? To make something happen the way you feel strongly it should happen? To get involved in the “how” of something that you feel confident in the “what” or “why” of? You have!? Want to be best friends? I am tempted to do this on a regular basis.
I once took a strengths assessment and discovered that one of my greatest strengths is my sense of responsibility. That sounds good, right? Don’t you want to have people in your life who have a strong sense of responsibility? Who won’t bail on you in the middle of something? Who will take ownership over a task? Who will not drop the ball? Who think ahead and count the cost before committing? That sense of responsibility has served me very well these past 39 years – it helped me get good grades in school, complete my college degree, be a faithful spouse, a devoted mom, a dedicated employee. It has helped me stay on top of finances and keep the housework from getting completely out of control. Not a bad strength to have!
So what is lurking on the flipside of the coin of responsibility? For me, it is a tendency to want to control things that are either beyond my ability to control or exceeding my right to control. As a responsible mother, I want to raise my son with attention to detail – I don’t want any character issue, health need, spiritual discipline, or mental aptitude to go unnoticed or unattended. Why? Yes , because I love him, but also because I feel responsible. The danger comes when I take my responsibility to far. I stop focusing only on my responsibility to do the right thing in a given situation and, in addition, take on the responsibility for the outcome of the situation as well.
To be responsible for myself: my actions, attitudes, and words; is a wonderful thing. To take on the responsibility for anything beyond that is where I start to get into trouble.
In a scientific research environment, experiments are conducted to arrive at conclusions that can lead to helpful solutions to difficult problems. Lots and lots of experiments are conducted before the solution is reached. In order to get the specific desired outcome that they are looking for, scientists isolate all the different variables that could have an effect on the outcome of the experiment. They do this in a sterile environment where they control every possible variable. That way when they complete an experiment, they know exactly how and why the result was achieved and they can replicate it.
My overreaching sense of responsibility would LOVE for life to take place in a controlled, sterile environment. I don’t know about you, but in the complex world I live in, I can do all the right things and still end up with a result that is riddled with the effects of all the variables I couldn’t control along the way… variables like other people’s actions, attitudes, and words, my own limited understanding and perception, and the effects of an unseen spiritual war that is going on all round me at all times.
Repeat after me: “I am only in control of myself! I cannot control any other person on this planet without eventually hurting them. I cannot control every variable. I cannot control other people’s priorities or their desires. I cannot control the outcome of any situation, only my role in it.”
Responsibility is a wonderful attribute, but taking responsibility for things that are clearly God’s responsibility is, at best, setting me up for frustration and, at worst, paving a road that leads to deception and destruction. I think I need to create a pin board somewhere in my mind for my “Junior God” badge. Any time I find myself overstepping my bounds, I’ll remind myself to head to that pin board and hang that badge back up where it belongs. There is no such thing as a Junior God, but there is such a thing as a “dearly love child of God,” and that is the badge I want to wear instead.
How about you?
"Are you parenting to survive the next 20 minutes or to enjoy the next 20 years?" - Julie Richard
I heard this quote during the "Leading & Loving It" webinar this afternoon and I thought it was worth pondering and passing on. I think every parent of a toddler or young child has been guilty of "parenting to survive the next 20 minutes" at some point, if not on a regular basis! Those are difficult years, to be sure. When our son was that age, Jason and I read a book that referred to the toddler years as the "first adolescence," and encouraged us to stand our ground and make sure that we established ourselves as the consistent leaders of our home during that time. The book suggested that if we did so, the second adolescence (the teen years) would go much more smoothly. Well, the second adolescence is just about upon us, so I'll have to let you know how that plays out.
So what does parenting to enjoy the next 20 years look like? I don't have all the answers, but here are the first few things that came to my mind as I reflected on this idea:
1. Avoid overreacting.
2. Parent out of faith, not fear.
3. Choose your battles wisely.
4. Focus on character development.
5. Extend grace.
What do you think? How do you avoid survival parenting?
Yesterday my son went with his youth group to volunteer with Target:Dayton. They served a meal to the people who came in need of one. Some were homeless, others barely getting by. Timmy was in charge of the coffee.
As we drove home, after the bus dropped him back off at our local church, I asked him about his experience. These are the 3 simple things he shared with me and the profound lessons I learned from him:
1. Tim's quote: "Not everyone there "looked" homeless." Mom's lesson: Not everyone I meet today who could use my help or encouragement will "look" like they need it. That doesn't mean I should withhold it. Target:Dayton provides their services indiscriminately and lets each individual decide whether or not they need them and want to receive them. I should be so generous with my time, resources and attention.
2. Tim's quote: "I didn't know there were so many people in Dayton that were homeless. There were so many of them." Mom's lesson: The need in the world is greater than I realize or have ever actually seen with my own eyes. If I saw it all at once, it would likely overwhelm me and paralyze me. The need is great. I would be wise not to forget that.
3. Tim's quote: "There was a lady who worked there who came up to me and told me I was doing a good job." Mom's lesson: It helps to know when we are on the right track. Serving others isn't easy and when I see someone doing it well, I should tell them so. We all secretly wonder whether what we are doing is making a difference and whether we are "doing it right." Words of encouragement are precious gifts that keep the givers giving.
One bonus lesson I learned: The first time our children (or any one else for that matter) experience something, we need to pay attention to their reactions and descriptions. When we have "been there and done that," we forget the power of a first experience and the unique perspective that comes with it.
A few days ago, my son and I went on an early morning walk to the local coffee shop. Well, I walked anyway. Timmy rode his scooter. To his credit he stayed with me most of the way, and when we reached a long stretch of smooth sidewalk, I gave him clearance to leave me behind and enjoy the ride. As I walked along by myself, I noticed that I kept passing these tiny little black insects on the sidewalk. They looked like miniature caterpillars. Every few steps I would pass one, slowly making its way across the path. I had to be careful not to step on them. In the half mile I walked, I probably passed 50 of them!
Eventually I caught up to Tim who was waiting for me at the street the coffee shop was on. We went inside and enjoyed some time together, sipping our drinks and chatting about the day ahead, and then we started the trek back home, hoping to make it back before it started to rain on us. As I walked and Tim rode his scooter, I asked him how many of those black caterpillar-y bugs he thought he had passed on the ride to the coffee shop. He had no idea what I was talking about. One by one, as we walked, I started pointing them out to him as we passed by them. "Look! There's one. And another! And Another!" He was shocked that he could have missed them. I explained to him that he was going so fast, that their movement was undetectable to him, so he probably just saw them as tiny black lines on the sidewalk, if he saw them at all. I was going slow enough that I could take notice of them, perceive their comings and goings and realize what they truly were.
Before I knew it, Timmy was off again scootering toward home. I was left thinking about how much of life I race by every single day, and what I am missing in the process.
Today I read an article on CNN.com entitled, "To Spank or Not to Spank, Where Do You Draw the Line?" Talk about a controversial topic that will not go away! The article was written to draw attention to another CNN.com article summarizing a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics about the effects of physical punishment on mental health. Whenever and where ever this topic is brought up it sparks strong opinions and heated debate.
In the past, I have worked in social work settings, public schools, and for nonprofit agencies that work with young children. As such, I have been a mandated reporter of child abuse for many years out of my life. One social work program I worked for had a sign on the wall of their building that said, "You have entered a NO SPANKING zone." In many people's minds, spanking (of all manners) is equated with physical abuse of a child, and witnessing it would be a reason to call Child Protective Services. I remember once when my son was close to 3 years old and I took him to see our family practitioner for a rash that he had developed suddenly. He had never had a problem at the doctor's office before, and I had no reason to expect that he would COMPLETELY FREAK OUT on this particular visit... but he did. He didn't want anyone touching him, talking to him, or even looking at him. He went so far as to kick (hard) and scream. I was flabbergasted and distressed. I had NEVER seen him react this way and I was more than a little bit stunned by his uncharacteristic behavior. In the middle of my son's kicking and screaming fit, the doctor calmly said to me, "How do you discipline him at home?" "EXCUSE ME?!?" I said, over my son's shrieks. "When he misbehaves at home, what do you do?" the doctor persisted, calmly. Completely taken aback, I mumbled something about time outs, while inwardly, I was reminding myself that this doctor was a mandated reporter, and that I needed to be very careful about how I answered him. His next question floored me, "Do you ever use force to correct him?" he asked in an elevated voice to be heard over the wails. "I think we are done here," I said emphatically, "We are leaving!" and I picked my son up and took him outside. At this point I was shaking inwardly and outwardly. I was shocked at my son's behavior and more than a little concerned about him, and I was also shocked at the doctor's words. What was he implying?!?! I didn't want to strap my son into his car seat while he was still making such a fuss, so I stood outside the doctor's office talking calmly, but firmly, to him about both the doctor's office visit, AND his inappropriate behavior. As he was calming down, the nurse came out, apologizing and joined us to look at my son's rash (as he started screaming again), and she quickly gave me some basic medical advice and I thanked her and got the heck outta there. I got home from that visit and put my son down for a nap. I called my husband at work in hysterics and anger, and described to him the doctor's visit. He said he would handle it and we hung up the phone. Later that night, around 6pm, well after the doctor's office had closed, I got a phone call from our physician. He said that my husband had called him and then the doctor surprised me by profusely apologizing for the incident. He explained to me that in that moment, while my child was kicking and screaming, he felt that a good swift spanking would have worked wonders, and while he couldn't recommend as much, he was trying to subtly give me the option to be able to say, "Yes, I occasionally discipline him by spanking and if you'll just give us a moment alone, I think we can handle this and get on with this visit." What a miscommunication! I was convinced the doctor felt like I was probably physically abusive at home and that my son wouldn't be reacting that way if I didn't have a history of beating him. Meanwhile the doctor was thinking nothing of the sort, rather he felt that at my son's age and with the way he was behaving, a swift physical reprimand would be best.
Let's just clear the air:
As a child, I was spanked on more than one occasion, both by my parents and by a teacher at my public elementary school when I misbehaved. It wasn't the only method of correction I experienced, but it was one of them.
As a mother, I have spanked my son. it isn't the only method of correction I have used, but it is one of them.
There, the cat is out of the bag. You know my spanking history and my opinions about the topic - OR DO YOU? The word "spanking" means different things to different people. It conjures different images based on people's past experiences. Is spanking wrong? Well, what do you consider spanking? If you believe that flying off the handle and hitting a child in anger over their frustratingly bad behavior is spanking, then I will tell you that by your definition, spanking is abusive. That is NOT, however, how I define spanking, nor is it how I have ever treated my child. Spanking, in my vocabulary, is a swat (one or more) on the backside that a child knows is coming and knows why it is coming, followed by an embrace and sincere reassurance of love. It is not done in anger, and it is not done without careful control on the part of the parent. It is not done without first discussing the willful disobedience thoroughly with the child. Just like any other negative consequence for bad behavior, spanking is to be carefully thought out and used as a tool to correct and restore a child - not to shame or berate them or harm them in any way. If that is how you define spanking as well, then I will tell you that spanking is not abusive in the slightest.
The study published by the Journal of Pediatrics relates things like slapping, hitting, grabbing, pushing and shoving of a child (by a parent, as a form of discipline) to a 2-7% greater likelihood of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and personality disorders later in life. This description has nothing to do with spanking as I know it and define it.
Bottom line, the study had nothing to do with spanking as I know it and everything to do with out of control parenting. Parenting is hard work. No. Doubt. About. It. If the world is going to go the way of CNN, then I hope the Christian church does NOT. Let's focus on supporting parents and giving them tools to better shepherd their children's hearts, and stop throwing around poorly defined, controversial topics in an effort to garner a reaction.
Galatians 5:22-23 NIV "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things THERE IS NO LAW."
Happy Mother’s Day! Thank you for welcoming me into your family and into your heart when I became your daughter-in-law 14 years ago. I once read about the mother/daughter-in-law relationship that, “Over time, wise women will come to value and appreciate the role of each other in the life of the man they both love.” I hope we are on our way to that place. It hasn’t always been easy. I know that I am not always the easiest person to get to know. I can be quiet and withdrawn at times and withhold things that others might readily share. I already had a strong support system in my life when I met you and maybe I haven’t depended on you as much as other young women would have. I don’t know if up to this point we have had the kind of relationship that you hoped to have with a daughter-in-law or not. I do know that divorcing your son is not a desire or option in my life and never will be so, Lord-willing, we have many more years to figure all this out!
Thank you for raising your son, my husband. Thank you for your devotion to him over the years and your commitment to see him succeed and be happy. He is the love of my life. I am his wife, the one he has chosen to bring into this family, to spend the rest of our lives together. I know that our life will be a journey and that it hasn’t always been (and won’t always be) easy, but I want you to know how much I love your son and how “worth it” it is for me to work hard to make our relationship a blessing to each other and to those around us. You didn’t give up on him along the way, and I want you to know that I never will either. I will fulfill my vows and continue meaning everything I said to him on our wedding day, and then some.
Life in Christian ministry is exciting and challenging, rewarding and draining. I know that this may not be what you had in mind for him when you were raising him, but you have taken pride in his decision to follow after God and walk this path and that is a beautiful thing. It would give us no greater joy than to share more of this part of our lives with you, but we will never force that. If you ever want us (or me personally) to pray with you or for you, or have questions or thoughts about the Bible or Christian life that you want to share with us, please don’t hesitate. Why should we share this most deep and meaningful part of our lives with the world and not with our own family members?
Just in case I’ve never mentioned it, I want to say thanks for several ways that you have blessed me over the past 14 years:
1. You have made a point to get to know me. You read my blog and my Facebook status updates and you always respond to my emails and voice mails. You ask me questions and want to hear the answers. You have done a much better job of this with me than I have done with you. I have noticed. Thank you.
2. You are very generous. On Christmas at your house, I feel like the belle of the ball! Seriously spoiled. I don’t think you have ever visited our house that you haven’t called when you get close to town and ask if I need anything from the store. There are many examples I could give, but when you and Jim were some of the first to sign up to financially support us when we became missionaries, that spoke volumes. “Thank you” doesn’t say enough.
3. You do not harass me for my shortcomings or point them out unnecessarily. I am not the perfect daughter-in-law. No surprise there, I am sure. I forget birthdays and anniversaries. I sometimes hoard my family to myself and don’t share them with you as much as I could. I don’t always strike up the most exciting conversations. I know these things because I am self aware, but not because you point them out or make me feel guilty for them. Thank you for that.
4. You will drop everything to help us if we need you. I fondly remember the days we spent together taking care of Timmy and not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE foster children for a week while Jason was out of town!!! We were the dynamic duo! Just your presence there was what it took to make the week not just bearable but enjoyable. Sometimes I wonder if you wish I needed you more. I’m a pretty independent lady, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t treasure the knowledge that if/when I do need you, you would be there! Thank you.
5. You do not criticize the way I do things. I am not as good at keeping house as you are. My baseboards are often cruddy and window sills are frequently lined with dust. Yours aren’t. The bathrooms are rarely pristine and my kitchen cabinets are less than organized. Yours are. I do not always parent my son the way you would. I throw away things that you would keep. I misplace things or damage things that you have a system to keep track of and take care of. There are many things that I do differently than you would do, I am sure. I know this because I’ve gotten to know you and spent many hours in your home, but not because you make a big deal out of our differences. You don’t. Thank you for that.
I am publishing this letter to you on my blog rather than just printing it out and mailing it to you for two reasons: 1. To celebrate you publically, and 2. No one is perfect, but you have done a lot of things right in this whole mother/daughter-in-law relationship and I think other mothers-in-law would like to hear the things that have stood out to this daughter-in-law most over the past 14 years. There is no manual you get at your son’s wedding telling you how to go about loving his new wife well, so we have to help each other out along the way.
I love you and thought you should know (and so should the rest of the world). HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!
I love my son. I would love him even if I wasn't his mother. I just think he is a fun kid... and a funny kid. He regularly makes me laugh and he surprises me more than anyone else on the planet... just when I think I have him figured out, he shows me he is still growing and changing and learning new things. Do you think that God gives us the delights of 10 and 11 year old boys so that when they are 12-17 year old boys we don't completely lose our minds when their rooms stink to high heaven, and they take uncalculated risks, and they make questionable friendships, and they want to get tattoos of weird things, and they learn how to drive and joke with their mothers about how fast they got the car up to the night before, and they fall in love with a girl and start acting funny, and they choose to play violent sports like football and hockey and lacrosse instead of tennis and golf? I do.
Here are some of the things my Timmy has said and done lately...
1. His screen saver on his school laptop is currently a painting of a primitive house with a sod roof. (Normally it is a Pokemon character or a picture of a dog or cat doing something cute/funny.) If you ask him about his unique photo choice, he will tell you that he is learning about homesteaders in school and how they used what they could find on the land to build shelters and that "that's cool."
2. "Mom, what do you and Dad DO after I go to sleep anyway?!?" (said upon his realization that we don't go to sleep for sometimes hours after he has gone to bed each night).
3. He waved to a stranger (to me anyway) as we walked down the street yesterday. Apparently, the guy is a regular at the local coffee shop where Timmy bartered with the manager for free milkshakes and cookies in exchange for his lego collection (which he felt he had outgrown, sigh).
4. When we left a recent school field trip to the bowling alley, he held my hand and said, "That girl was really nice, Mom." He was referring to a sweet young lady with mental retardation who came right up and introduced herself to him when he arrived and even though she ended up with the lowest score of the day and never seemed to really grasp the rules of the game, seemed to have a great time just being with people. "Yes, she was nice." I'm glad he noticed. I am glad THAT was what he noticed.
5. "Do you think I'm old enough to go on a mission trip, Mom?" Heaven help me! I don't know if I am more excited that he is thinking about such a thing or that he still wants to hear what I think!?!?
6. "Mom, for finals week, I think I want to make a batch of homemade ice cream and just give it away to the college students instead of making them pay for it."
7. He walks the dogs almost everyday for fun and fancies himself quite the dog whisperer.
8. Each morning we ask him how he slept the night before and he'll say things like, "Pretty good, I only got 9 hours of sleep though." or "I was up until like 9:50!" *yawn*
9. We went through the Dairy Queen drive through the other day for a quick surprise treat BEFORE lunch and he asked for a small blizzard. I ordered him a MINI blizzard instead and he said, "Mom, I wanted a small!" "Well," I said, "I guess we could just cancel our order and go straight home for lunch..." Timmy immediately changed his tune: "What was I thinking?! A mini will be just right. Who would want a small before lunch anyway!? Sheesh that would just be silly."
10. He regularly begs me to stand back-to-back with him or put my hands or feet up to his so we can determine if he has grown or if he has gotten any bigger than me in some way. (His feet are bigger than mine and he's got about four inches to go before he looks me square in the eye.)
I don't want to forget these days of innocence and growth spurts and easy laughter and quick forgiveness and tween boy fun. I want his smile and giggle and funny sayings to be burned into my memory. This season will be gone before I know it and we'll be on to new and different things. Each stage with Tim is an adventure, but I think that I'm going to look back at this particular part of the adventure as one of my favorites. :)
Matthew 18:1-3 (ESV) - "At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, 'Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'"
Today I saw one of those cute printables on Pinterest. You know the ones I'm talking about. This one had a list of 21 questions to ask your kiddos. I should have glanced at the questions before I started asking Tim, but I didn't. As I made my way down the list, I realized every question had to do with ME... what he thought of me, his perceptions of me, etc. Oh dear.
Well, it certainly could have gone worse. Some of his answers were actually very sweet and even encouraging. Others were a bit too accurate, if you get my drift. Here are the results:
1. What does your Mom say to you all the time? "Do your chore sheet!" (I'd like to think I say it a little nicer than that... perhaps not? hmmm.)
2. What makes your Mom happy? "Food." (I'm working on that one, maybe by this time next year he will say something like, "the stairmaster.")
3. What makes your Mom sad? "When I do bad things." (Awww, I guess it does make me sad, but I wish he would have said something like "people living in poverty" or "seeing people hurting" or something more big picture and less day-to-day. C'est la vie. I suppose I don't show him what saddens me much of the time... I'll have to ponder that one.)
4. What makes your Mom laugh? "Funny TV shows." (That's a gimme.)
5. What did your Mom like to do when she was a kid? "Ummm, cheerleading, I think?" (Did I ever!!! I also liked riding my bike around the block in our trailer park, pretending it was a horse... ahhh, the weird old days.)
6. How old is your Mom? "You are 37, right?" (Right.)
7. How tall is your Mom? "Five Foot Four." (Wrong.)
8. What is your Mom's favorite thing to do? "Hang out with people." (I like this one.)
9. What does your Mom do when you aren't around? "Go on a date with Dad." (Yup! I'd like to think that this answer means we are communicating volumes to our son about the joy of marriage and our commitment to each other... in actuality, who knows what he's thinking!)
10. If your Mom was famous, what would it be for? "I have no idea on this one." (Thanks for the vote of confidence, Son.) ;)
11. What is your Mom really good at? "Writing." (Awww. Thanks!)
12. What is your Mom NOT good at? "Jumping." (Okay, weird answer, but okay.)
13. What does your Mom do for work? "Nothing now." (Correct-a-mundo! Unless you count laundry, cooking, vacuuming, dishes... but what almost-11-year-old boy counts those things? The DNC Advisor didn't even think that those things were work for Ann Romney and she had FIVE sons!)
14. What is your Mom's favorite food? "Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory." (Krazy Kraig's Carrot Cake Cheesecake to be exact, and their Santa Fe Chicken Salad is equally divine... well, maybe not equally.)
15. What are you most proud of your Mom for? "That she is a good Mom." (I'm not makin this stuff up, folks! Can someone hand me a tissue?)
16. If your Mom was a cartoon character which one would she be? "Umm, that smart girl from Scooby Doo. Velma?" (Well, its no Wonder Woman, but it could have been worse, I do wear glasses.)
17. What do you do with your Mom? "We watch movies... eat... go places... I don't know!" (Hmmm, time to add a bit of variety to the routine, perhaps.)
18. How are you and your Mom the same? "We both have blonde hair." (True enough.)
19. How are you and your Mom different? "Um, I'm a boy and she's a girl." (Thank you, Captain Obvious! I thought about pressing him for a different answer on this one, but I suppose that gender is an important distinction.)
20. How do you know your Mom loves you? "You tell me so." (And I always will.)
21. Where is your Mom's favorite place to go? "France." "Tim, I've never been to France." "Oh. Then Disney World!" (Well, definitely in my top five anyway!)
Ask a kid in your life these questions and see what you find out! You never know unless you ask.
Now I think I will sit down and answer the same questions about my Mom and send my response to her in her Mother's Day card. :) I wonder how tall she is these days...
Tonight Jason and Timmy were watching a movie together while I was wrapping up some things around the house. When I finally finished, I wanted to join them and my favorite seat is always right between my two guys. So, I said, "Timmy, move over, I want to sit by Daddy." Timmy snuggled up close to Jason and said, "But I want to sit next to Daddy. Besides, you get to SLEEP next to him!" :) This made us both smile.
Earlier in the day while Tim and I were at the mall looking for a few new sweatshirts for him (I can't believe how fast he is outgrowing everything!), Timmy would casually reach over and hold my hand as we strolled through the stores. It was so natural for him to do so, and so precious for me.
I am currently reading Priscilla Shirer's book, The Resolution for Women and the first chapter is about contentment. I have to say, on days like today, it is pretty easy for me to be content. What a wonderful stage in life! I am blessed to be walking through it. :)
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!