Friday, June 27, 2014

Not a Bad Egg in the Bunch

When Elizabeth was seven years-old she found herself in the position of being faced with the fact that people’s opinions are often based upon outward appearances—even when they shouldn’t be…

It happened at County Achievement Day; a day in which 4-H members exhibit the projects they’ve worked on over the last year. Additionally, members of the community are invited to serve as judges; speaking to the children individually about what they’ve made/done and awarding them the ribbons they feel each child deserves.
On this particular day Elizabeth proudly entered a dozen eggs she’d gathered from her hens the night before. They were uniform in size, the shells were ‘healthy’ (no soft or veiny spots) and thankfully the nests were clean so the eggs were, too.

Now I know what you’re thinking…that all she would have had to do was wash the eggs. But washing the waxy coating off eggs exposes them to more bacteria and will greatly diminish their shelf-life by making them more susceptible to spoilage. Elizabeth knew that and just assumed everyone else did, too.
So when the judge criticized Elizabeth’s eggs for not being washed bright and shiny clean (like the other two dozen other kids had entered) Elizabeth tried to explain her reasons for not doing so, but to no avail. She was awarded a 3rd place ribbon. Elizabeth’s feelings were hurt and she didn’t understand why she’d basically been punished for doing the right thing.

I’ve thought about that day many times over the year—not because I want to dwell on what happened, but because I think there’s a valuable lesson to be learned from it all. And it’s a lesson I worked hard to pass onto my children. The lesson is this:

·         No child (or adult, for that matter) should ever be viewed as a 3rd place ribbon.   
I’ve thought about how like Elizabeth’s eggs, people are looked down on for not having the ‘right’ brand of jeans, shoes or t-shirt. Or how about the kid who has a learning disability, a noticeable birthmark, a scar, a lisp or whose dad made the six o’clock news—and it wasn’t because he was man of the year? Who talks to ‘those’ kids? What place do they take among their peers?

Elizabeth’s eggs may not have been squeaky-clean and snowy-white, but she knew what she had and when all was said and done she didn’t need a blue ribbon to prove it. As a parent, you need to make sure your children are equally confident in who they are.

As parents it is imperative that we teach our children to be genuine, sincere and wear their integrity with pride. Equally important is the fact that we love and affirm them for who they are on the inside so that when they are judged by the label on their clothes, the brand of shoes they have or the backpack they carry (and they will be) they will see these judgments for what they are…the opinions of people who don’t know what they are talking about.

Momma D                                              


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Do we have to????

As a law enforcement officer, John worked all different shifts...days, evenings and nights. There were both advantages and disadvantages to the different hours, but one disadvantage was that he sometimes had to miss the kids' evening activities. While it usually wasn't a problem for me to take them one evening in June of 1995, it was particularly chaotic and stressful. It was the evening of our monthly 4-H meeting, our family was responsible for snacks for the evening, Emma was a couple of months old and had gotten her first shots earlier in the afternoon and we'd had to stop at Wal-Mart to get drinks to go with the snacks we were taking to 4-H.

Because we were running so short on time, we ate supper at the McDonalds inside the store. I still remember telling my 12, 9 and 7 year old to 'hurry up and eat so we wouldn't be late'. And I still remember feeling bad about rushing them. It wasn't all that often that we ate out (yes, eating at the Wal-Mart McDonalds was eating out back then), so they were enjoying this special treat. After the third or fourth 'quit talking and eat', 12 year-old Zach asked with all the sincerity in the world, "Why do we have to go?" Well, it's 4-H and you're in the club and... "Do we have to be in 4-H," he asked.

Are you kidding, I thought? They loved 4-H...or at least I thought they did. "Don't you want to be in 4-H anymore," I asked. A resounding -'no' was the reply.

They liked the other kids and they liked what they did, but they didn't like being rushed and hurried. They were tired. Zach and Elizabeth rationalized that not being in 4-H wouldn't make them any less of a farmer. Who would have thought they'd be thinking more clearly than I was? I plead excess tiredness due to just having had baby number 4. But they were making perfect sense. So right then and there we decided they would quit 4-H until they decided they wanted to re-join (if they decided to re-join).

I explained that it would be rude to default on our responsibility to take the snacks that evening, however, so after smiles, sighs of relief and allowing the kids to finish without shoving their food down their throats, we went to our last meeting for many, many years.

To all you parents out there who are tempted to sign your children up for every possible sport and extra-curricular activity, I say DON'T!

Don't think you need to fill every hour of every day of their lives. You don't. Children need a good amount of time to just 'be' and to play like a kid (because that is what they are).

Don't try to live vicariously through your children; using the excuse that you want them to have the things you never did. Instead, let them be their own unique selves.

Don't press them to become skilled and devoted to a sport or activity in an attempt to put them at the head of the line and on the road to college scholarships. That's placing far too much pressure on a child and it's just not good parenting no matter how you try to justify it.

Children are going to get excited (initially) about anything that looks fun and they are going to ask you to sign them up. Don't cave. They don't know what they are asking. Instead, be the parent...the sensible kind of parent who limits their child to church and one additional activity. Trust me, that's all a child needs to be allowed to participate in. If you don't believe me, ask yourself this...when is the last time you had time to be silly with your kids, snuggle with your kids or just be with your kids...without saying, "We've got to hurry or we'll be late for..."?

Momma D


Thursday, June 12, 2014

There are Just Some Things You Have to Learn for Yourself

Somewhere along the way John acquired a tiny green canvas tent that was also old and a bit musty-smelling. In spite of all its 'charm', though, every once in a while the kids would get the ‘brilliant’ idea to set the tent up in the back yard so they could spend the night in it.

Now you need to keep in mind this wasn’t a pop-up tent that went together easily. This was an old-fashioned tent with poles, stakes…the whole bit. It wouldn’t be easy for them to put up and I knew without a doubt that once they got it put together it would be too hot and smelly to sleep in.

But did I tell them that? No. Every single time they asked to camp out in that raggedy little tent I told them to go ahead—but that when they were done they had to put it away and that we’d leave the back door unlocked when we went to bed in case they changed their mind.

And without fail, come bedtime, they’d opt for their beds over the tent. Well, there was a time or two they started out in the tent, but it never lasted very long and in they would come.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I could have saved a lot of time and trouble by saying no to the whole tent saga after a couple of aborted missions. And you’re right, I could have. But do you know what the rest of my day would have been like?

“Why can’t we put up the tent?”

“We promise we’ll stay all night this time.”

“We will take it down…we promise!”

“Just tell us why you won’t let us.”


Over and over and over again. Why would I do that to myself when I didn’t have to? And why would I miss the opportunity to let the kids come to their own conclusions and figure things out for themselves?
Letting them repeatedly put the tent up and down:

a)      Gave them something constructive to do that required cooperation and problem-solving (Even though they did it often enough they pretty well had the process mastered.).

b)      Allowed them to make a choice or decision on their own rather than having me make it for them.

Allowing your children to figure things out for themselves rather than being the dictator in their lives is an invaluable gift every parent needs to give their children. Yes, it would have been easier to say no than listen to the chatter and chaos and arguments over how the tent was going up. And yes, it would have been a lot easier to say no than to have a ‘rescued’ field mouse on the loose in the house so they could learn some animals just don’t make good pets or to let them figure out the ‘hard way’ why they need to punch tiny holes in the lids of their lightening bug jars instead of big ones or no holes at all instead of arguing with them over why.

Yes, it may have been easier and less chaotic, but I wouldn’t have been doing them any favors and I wouldn’t have been preparing them for making bigger and more difficult choices later on.
Trust me, there are going to be plenty of times you will have to step in and say no. And there are going to be times when you wish you could, but can’t. But by giving them the chance to choose and make decisions (and live with the consequences of these choices and decisions) while you can be there to advise and offer a buffer of protection if necessary, your children will be stronger and wiser and more capable of making good choices and decisions later in life instead of acting on impulsive whims.

I honestly don’t know what came of that tent, but I am inclined to believe that Zach made the decision to make sure it disappeared after having to sleep in it a few times on camping trips. Sorry, Bub!

Momma D

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Lessons from a Three Year-old

One afternoon when Elizabeth was three and Olivia was one, I took them both to get their pictures made to commemorate their recent birthdays. As we were driving to town Elizabeth was ‘reading’ a story to Olivia and Stacy (Stacy the Cabbage Patch Doll went everywhere Elizabeth did). All of a sudden she stopped, smoothed out her skirt with her little hands and said…
“You know what I’m going to do when I get to heaven?”

Without waiting for me to answer she continued, “Me and Stacy are going to climb up on Jesus’ lap so he can read us this book.”
“That’s nice,” I said. “I bet he’ll like that.”

With that the conversation was over and Elizabeth went back to ‘reading’ to Olivia and Stacy.
I’ll never forget the way Elizabeth made her little ‘announcement’. She was excited, matter-of-fact and hopeful all at the same time. I’ll also never forget that for just a split-second I thought, “No! I don’t want you to be thinking about going to heaven yet—you’re just a baby!” As soon as that moment had passed, however, my heart was full. I was thankful and happy to know that even though she was only three, Elizabeth already knew what it was to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

Now I know as parents we’re the ones who are supposed to be doing the teaching, but in that brief amount of time Elizabeth was the one doing the teaching. In her unassuming innocence she reminded me that Jesus is someone to turn to rather than be afraid of and that he can be trusted to take care of even the littlest things in life (like reading a book) as well as the big things.
Do you let your children teach you? If you really watch and listen you’ll learn when your children’s irritability is a way of saying they need you or don’t feel well instead of just being naughty.

If you really watch and listen you’ll learn when their moodiness is saying they are in trouble or stressed—not just being a troublesome teenager.
In my thirty-three years of being a parent, this is only one of many times my children have taught me, rather than me teaching them. As a matter of fact, just about every time I consciously stop to watch and listen, I still learn something from them.

As a parent you can and should be both a teacher and a student. Are you? What will you allow your children to teach you about life today?
Momma D