Thursday, April 24, 2014

Which One Are You

I recently completed ghostwriting a book on the dangers of being a 'toxic' parent; meaning a parent whose actions and attitudes bring as much or more harm to their child as good. The book was written from a practical and technical point of view--not my usual style, but hey, that's what they wanted so that's what I wrote. But in doing so, I really started thinking about the fact that there's a world of difference between being a parent and being a mom or dad.

Parenting is defined as the "process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood". Nothing warm and fuzzy about that, is there? And did you notice there was no mention or even insinuation of love or of being nurturing and sacrificial? How sad is that...for everyone involved!

But like I said, it made me ask myself which one I was when my children were growing up. Was I a parent or was I a mom?

A parent supplies their children with food, clothes and a place to live. A parent makes sure their child has the necessary school supplies. A parent drops their child off at church. A parent buys what they think their child will like for September, and then sighs with relief that the job is done. A parent asks "how was it" because they don't take the time to go to their child's games, programs or other events. A parent makes sure their child receives the medical care they need. A parent allows the obligatory dog or cat, but that's it! A parent's involvement in their child's school is usually nothing more than dutifully attending parent/teacher conferences (maybe). A parent says things like
  • Let me do it so it will be right.
  • I'll do it myself so I can get done quicker.
  • Getting a C in math isn't acceptable.
A parent feels they deserve their child's gratitude for 'all I do for you'. A parent loves their child but often makes direct or implied stipulations or conditions on that love. A parent misses out on the very best reasons for having children.

A mom or dad bakes cookies with their children and doesn't mind the peanut butter being smeared down the handle of the knife and packs their child's lunch for school because they don't like school food. A mom or dad feels their heart will break when they can't afford the shoes or jeans the rest of the kids are wearing and hope no one makes fun of them and that someday they will understand. A mom or dad's efforts go into making a house a home instead of being concerned about the square footage or the address. A mom or dad does without so their children can have new backpacks, "Hello Kitty" folders and money for sports fees. A mom or dad worships with their child; living the religious and moral beliefs they want their children to have. A mom or dad exchanges a doll three times in a month so Santa will leave the right one under the tree and hopes with all their heart that the gifts they give will put a smile on the face and heart of their child. A mom or dad rarely has to ask "how was it" because they were there to greet you at the finish line or broke their lawn chair bouncing up and down with excitement at the game. A mom or dad goes without sleep for days on end and lets the cares of the world care for themselves to see their child through an illness. A mom or dad digs out empty jars to house tadpoles and lightening bugs and doesn't mind that sometimes the house feels more like the zoo for wayward mice, frogs and salamanders. A mom or dad attends school events, volunteers at their child's school and checks to see if homework is done. A mom or dad says things like
  • Help me do this so you'll know how.
  • You dust the chairs while I do the picture frames.
  • I know math is hard for you, so as long as you do your best, that's all that matters.
A mom or dad sees their children as blessings and gifts from God. A mom or dad loves unconditionally with that 'just because' kind of love even if it's not easy or not returned. A mom or dad feels unspeakable joy and pain in raising their children and wouldn't have it any other way.

I'd like to believe I was (and still am) a mom and not just a parent. What about you?


Momma D

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Miss Congeniality

How many times did your mother tell you that inner beauty is more important than what you look like on the outside? Okay, so maybe it wasn't a coincidence that she said it every time your hair frizzed or you had a pimple in the middle of your forehead...on school picture day.

Now I'll ask you how many times you've said the same thing to your children?

There's a reason we say that, you know. We say it because it's true. The Bible tells us in 1st Peter 3:3-4 that...Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

As parents we do our best to impart these 'pearls of wisdom' to our children, but sometimes we wonder how well we are getting the message across. I know I have, but there have also been plenty of times when my heart was happy, happy, happy knowing the message had been received loud and clear...

Being a farm family, one of the highlights of our year came each August--the county fair. The kids looked forwrard to watching fair-goers came through to view their sheep and cows and to competing with their 4-H friends for ribbons and prize money. But one year, 14 year-old Olivia decided to participate in an additional competition...the one of "Fair Princess".

I have to admit I was surprised when she announced she wanted to participate in the pageant. Not because I didn't think she was pageant "worthy", but because Olivia wasn't what you would consider a girly-girl. But since we were going to be there anyway and it wasn't like she was going against the moms or girls on "Toddlers and Tiaras" John and I told her to go for it.

It was obvious she was having a good time and was keeping things in the right perspective. I say obvious, because whenever I picked her up from pageant practice, she was always talking and laughing with the other girls. She didn't view them as competition. She viewed them as friends.

So on the night of the pageant when it was time to announce the winners and runners up, we couldn't have been happier or prouder when the pageant director explained that the title of Miss Congeniality was voted on by the contestants themselves and that the winner, Olivia Noble,  had received the vote of every one of her fellow contestants. 

Olivia was a beautiful girl who has grown into a beautiful young woman. But the brightness in her eyes and her smile aren't just pretty. They are a reflection of the beauty inside her heart and soul.

As parents you need to be on guard against the world's perception of beauty; protecting you children (especially girls) from being caught up in the lies and deceptions that what they look like on the outside is what makes them beautiful, loveable and valuable. Affirm the characteristics that make them truly beautiful--compassion, kindness, respect, sincerity, honesty, integrity.... And proclaim them to be the Miss Congeniality(ies) of your life each and every day.


Momma D

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Chronicles of my Heart

As I sat rocking two day-old Olivia, I was overwhelmed with the need to tell her how thankful I was that the three months of bed rest I'd been on resulted in her coming ‘only’ one month early. I wanted her to know how thankful I was for her perfect and beautiful being and how full of hope I was for the life she had ahead of her. But she wouldn’t have understood, so I just held her close hoping she would feel my love.

Across the room, 5 year-old Zach and 1 ½ year-old Elizabeth sat playing. I wanted desperately to let Zach know how much I appreciated his willingness to play with his little sister and to share with him my feelings of pride, excitement and apprehension in regards to his entering kindergarten in the fall. I wanted him to know what a joy it was to watch him help his daddy in every way possible. I wanted to tell Elizabeth how proud (and relieved) I was that she had decided on her own to be a ‘big girl’ and use the potty all by herself and praise her for knowing her colors and being able to recognize the letters in the alphabet already. I wanted to tell them what a great job they were doing in welcoming their new baby sister to the family. But anything beyond “Good job, honey.” or “I’m so proud of you!” would have gone right over their heads. So I just smiled and told them I loved them.

But my heart kept telling me that wasn't enough, so while the girls slept peacefully and Zach was diligently hauling countless loads of dirt and gravel around the yard with his dump truck and tractor, I conveyed my thoughts to them the best way I knew how-I wrote each of them a letter. As I finished the last letter, I decided these letters would be the first of many more to come. I decided that throughout my lifetime I would periodically write letters to my children; letters that would provide insight as to what it was like to be their mother. I wanted my children to have the chronicles of my heart.

The number of letters I wrote increased to four when Emma was born, but that was fine-I had plenty to write about! Over the last twenty-five years my letters have disclosed  the joys and disappointments (yes, our children do disappoint us at times) their lives have brought into mine, the pride I feel in who they are and the ache in my heart that matched (or exceeded) the ache in theirs when they were hurting. The letters I have written contain words of encouragement as well as chastisement and have served to preserve memories of the special moments in their lives. The little things they said and did that often fade from our memory when the moment is past are forever recorded for their sake as well as mine.

I sometimes wonder what effect these letters will have on my children. Will my words bring smiles and happy tears to their faces the way they did mine? Will their questions be answered as to why I did the things I did? Will they commiserate with me when they read my words of worry and concern because they are feeling the same in regards to their own children?

There have been times I have contemplated not writing anymore letters and letting my children have them, but I know now that isn't going to happen. I’m not finished writing yet. I am still breathing, so I am still their mother. It's not much, but their letters will be a part of their inheritance-a legacy of who they are in their mother’s eyes. I want their letters to serve as a window to their childhood-an affirmation of how loved and valued they are just because they get up each morning and take a breath. I want the letters to serve as tools of accountability to live their lives as the man/women of God they were raised to be.
Zachery, Elizabeth, Olivia, and Emma wake up each morning in their own homes and live their own lives. But they also wake up knowing they are loved to the fullest. I have never used my letter writing as a substitute for letting my children know how precious they are to me. But these letters-the chronicles of my heart-will be the proof they can hold on to long after I am gone.

So if you don't want to risk letting another memory fade with time or want to explain why you did what you did, but knew it would fall on deaf ears; ears unable (or unwilling) to comprehend, I encourage you to pick up a pen and paper and start writing. It doesn't matter if you write a lifetime’s worth of letters, or just a few. What matters is that you leave your children something tangible to cling to when you are gone.
Momma D


Friday, April 4, 2014

What NOT to Feed a Kitten

How many times have you heard someone say something to the effect that kids today are smarter than they used to be? You'll usually hear this in reference to matters of technology, pop culture and society in general.

It's true. Today's children are more in-tune to what is going on around them, but knowing what is happening does NOT mean they understand what is happening. No matter how smart you think your children are, they are still children and have a child-like perspective on things (as they should have)...

Years ago, John and I, along with Zach, Elizabeth and Olivia, lived with my Granny for about two months while our house was being made ready to live in. But we did not come without a few other 'family members'-including our barn cat and her kittens. evening Granny fixed chicken and dumplings for supper. She took a bit of the broth containing small bits of chicken in it; something she'd done countless times over the years and gave it to the cats to enjoy with their supper. But as luck would have it, there was a bit of gristle in it and one of the kittens choked on it and died. But wait, it gets 'better'.

The kitten just happened to be 3 year old Elizabeth's favorite. Being raised on a farm, none of my children were immune to the fact that things die, but when we explained that the kitten had choked on its supper and died, she asked what it had eaten. Granny, who felt bad enough already, was deeply apologetic when she revealed that it was the chicken she had given them for supper (which Elizabeth thought was 'so sweet of Granny' at the time).

Elizabeth shed a few tears and talked about the kitten off and on throughout the next day, but after that seemed to be fine. On Sunday, however, Elizabeth's Sunday school teacher could hardly contain her laughter when she told Granny, John and I what Elizabeth had said in class earlier. When she asked the children what they wanted to pray about, Elizabeth said she wanted prayers for her kitten. The teacher asked what was wrong with the kitten and Elizabeth matter-of-factly said, "Granny killed my cat."

Today's children are exposed to so much more than I was as a child and that's saying quite a bit since my childhood was spent in the midst of the Kennedy assassinations, the Viet Nam war, the Civil Rights movement and the era of 'free love' and the hippy culture. But exposure to grown-up matters doesn't guarantee a grown-up perspective of things.

As parents it is essential that you:

1. Do not overload your children with adult information. Let them be children for as long as possible. They have plenty of time to deal with life when they grow up.

2. Ask your children what they think and how they feel about the situations they are exposed to unavoidably. Knowing their perspective on things will help you help them.

Children are not the mini-adults we sometimes try to make them. I know as a parent I have been guilty of doing this at times. It's easy to do, but it's just as easy to let them stay little for a little while longer if we will only will.


Momma D