Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lessons Learned from Olivia

Each week I try to encourage parents to parent from the heart; loving unconditionally and seeing their children for the gifts of life they are. In sharing my life’s teachable moments with you, my intent is to encourage you to make the most of the teachable moments you create and fall into with your child.

This week, however, I’m going to take a different approach. This week, in honor of my daughter Olivia’s birthday, I want to share with you just a few of the life-lessons she’s taught me over the last 26 years in hopes you will acknowledge what you've learned from your children. And believe me, she’s quite a teacher!       
  •  In trying to come into this world 4-5 months early, she taught me that I would do anything and everything to keep my children safe.She also taught me that doing anything and everything to keep your children safe is completely worth it.
  • She reaffirmed (many times over) that it is never okay to fill someone else’s grocery cart with random items off the shelf…even if you are an adorable toddler and that when apologizing to strangers about retrieving said items from their carts is easy, you need to make a lasting impression on your adorable toddler.
  • I now know that when your child wanders off in a department store your child doesn’t feel nearly as stressed and frantic as you do.
  • She taught me that you can define yourself rather than allowing other people or your surroundings to define you…that you can be a graceful ballerina AND a girl who pulls her weight working sheep and hauling hay.
  • When she said “When I grow up I want to be a teenager” she was teaching me that reaching smaller, more attainable goals is what most of us need in order to keep making goals at all.
  • When she broke out in song in the middle of Walmart at the sight of a nun wearing a habit for the first time (“How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria), I learned that the world won’t stop turning if you do something a bit unconventional. I also learned the rumors that nuns never smile and don’t have a sense of humor aren’t true.
  • She taught me that one of life’s greatest blessings is to be both mother/daughter and friends.
  • She taught me that I’m not always right—that it’s not possible to pick blackberries without getting chiggers no matter how much bug spray you put on.
  • She taught me that bad choices and hard times don’t last forever if you keep on loving and praying.
  • She taught me that when you realize God is all you have, you’ll also know that God is really all you need.
  • She taught me that the labor pains of adoption are far worse than anything any of us who give birth naturally would ever experience.

·        And the lessons just keep coming…
  •      She teaches me that strength and perseverance is more about what you think and how you feel than it is how far you can run.
  •      Because of her I know that daily phone calls from your child are a blessing that should never be taken for granted (even when I tease her about it).
  •     She recently revealed that when I’m least expecting it she will surprise me by being more like me than I ever imagined.

Happy birthday, Olivia! I love you and am thankful I am both your teacher and your student.

Now my question to all my readers is this: what have you learned from your children and are you putting what you’ve learned to good use?


Momma D


Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Turtle Named Erin

Last week I said goodbye to several teenagers I’ve watched grow up—wishing them the best as they get ready to leave for college, encouraging them to remain true to their faith and relationship with God and promising to stay in touch. As I was doing so, though, a mental picture of my daughter Emma and her pet turtle, Erin, flashed into my mind…

I don’t remember the exact circumstances of how we found Erin. What I do remember, though, is how much Emma loved her tiny little pet. And with a shell diameter of not more than three inches, she (we assumed it was a she) was the smallest turtle I’d ever seen other than the ones they sold in pet stores years ago.

Erin’s box house immediately took up residence next to Emma’s bed. She was fed vegetables, her water was kept fresh and said house was kept clean and odor-free. In other words, Emma’s skills as a turtle’s ‘mom’ were first-rate. But a little more than a year later Emma’s love for Erin took a right-turn down the road of unselfishness when she made the choice to do what was best for Erin. Emma announced it was time to let Erin go back to her natural environment. She wasn’t bored with taking care of her turtle or wanting to rid herself of the responsibility. No, with all the wisdom a little girl of seven or eight could have, she just knew it was time for Erin to live life as a turtle was meant to.

So with the help of Elizabeth and Olivia, Emma (with tears streaming down her face) carried Erin to the edge of the woods, said her good-bye’s and watched Erin take off for the great unknown. She only watched for a minute or two, however, before running back to the house crying.

When a fair amount of time had passed and Emma was still crying and wishing she had Erin back, Elizabeth and Olivia told me they were going to go find Erin. Yah, right, I thought. Like that is going to happen? But I didn’t say that. I just told them to be careful and to not get their hopes up because Erin was most likely a lot farther away than they were allowed to go. Wrong! The girls weren’t gone any time before they came running back in…carrying Erin! It turns out Erin wasn’t so crazy about being all alone in the world. That silly turtle was actually in the yard heading toward the house! I don’t need to tell you what happened next. J

One of the most bittersweet moments of being a parent is the moment in which your child leaves home for the last time as a ‘kid’; on their way to becoming an adult. We are happy, excited, thankful, proud, worried, sad, melancholy and possibly even relieved (hey, honesty is the best policy). We want them to be productive, happy and self-sufficient—that’s what we raise them to be. But take it from me—that still won’t make those tugs on your heartstrings hurt any less.

So what’s a parent to do? Let them go and wait for them to come back on their own. When you parent from the heart; loving, nurturing and teaching your children to be their best possible self, they will leave. They need to leave. But the same things that gave them the power and desire to leave will bring them back again better than ever!


Momma D 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bring Back the Lost Art of Manners

Elizabeth and Olivia never liked playing with Barbie dolls. They didn't even own one. They preferred to play with their Cabbage Patch dolls, dance and flip around the yard and the house and playing all sorts of make-believe games. That's why I held my breath when one of Elizabeth's friends gave her a Barbie doll at her 8th birthday party. The games had been played and the goodies had been eaten when Elizabeth (with her friends and little sister gathered around her) started opening her gifts. When she pulled the box containing the doll from the gift bag, I held my breath for a second--hoping she didn't a little girl's feelings by expressing dislike for the gift. But a second was all it took, because without missing a beat, Elizabeth looked at her friend and smiling said 'thank you'.

Teaching your children to have and use good manners is an essential of parenting. Not only are you giving your children good social skills, you are giving them the ability to respect and to be respected. You are instilling in them the truth that says "I am not better than you. We are all special and unique and deserve to be appreciated."

So how do you raise your children to be mannerly? By being that way yourself. Don't demand things from them. Ask nicely. Say 'please' and 'thank-you'. Knock before entering their bedroom (once they reach school age) to show you respect their privacy and personal space and remind them to do the same for you. Insist on everyone using proper table manners and phone etiquette. Teach them to make eye contact when speaking to someone, to hold the door open for people in public places when treat others they way they themselves want to be treated.

The use of proper manners is something we don't see much of these days. Instead, parents make excuses for their child's rude behavior. The problem, however, is that there is no excuse. Instead, there is a reason. And the reason so many children have such bad manners is that they've not been taught any differently. So live and teach good manners. After all, actions speak louder than words.

Momma D

P.S. After the party was over, Elizabeth asked if she could exchange the doll for something she would play with. I was more than happy to oblige.


Friday, July 11, 2014

A Valentine for Marge

As parents we try to raise our children to be kind and honest and to respect themselves and others. One way John and I did this was by giving our children the gift of elderly people in their lives.
Now before you start thinking I’m being insensitive or disrespectful, let me explain. We were always conscious of making sure our children knew the older people in their lives—not just by looking at them from across the room or grinning and bearing up under a few cheek-pinching extended family members. No, we really encouraged them to view the older people we knew as friends.
Over the years I’ve been blessed to receive a number of compliments from others as well as affirmations from our kids that we’d been successful in this endeavor, but one particular incident is especially dear to my heart…

Emma was three years old and excited to be scribbling her name on the back of her “Little Mermaid” valentine cards just like her siblings were. On the Saturday before Valentine’s Day that year, they were filling out cards to take to their friends at church the following day. Emma was telling me who she wanted to make cards for and at the top of her list was Marge. Marge was a sweet little lady who was in her eighties. She barely spoke above a whisper and was really a bit on the shy side, but she loved Emma and Emma wanted to make sure Marge knew the feeling was mutual by giving her the brightest, most sparkling card in the box.

I can still see Emma running to Marge to hand her the card and the hugs and smiles that followed after she opened it. In spite of an eighty year span in their ages, these two were truly friends.

Giving your children the gift of older people in their lives should be a priority to you. In doing so your children are exposed to the wisdom of those who’ve lived longer. They enjoy the fact that older people often have time and patience to be with children. Children are seen as a welcome breath of fresh air and energy by many older people. Your children learn endurance, integrity, the value of commitment and responsibility from the older people in their lives as well as a number of other character traits we should possess. And it all happens just because two separate and very different generations walk the common ground called friendship.
I know they can learn these things from you, too. And they should. But there’s just something about different generations spending time together—forming an actual relationship—that plants these life-lessons deeper within our hearts and minds.  

Momma D

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Presence vs. Presents

Thirty years ago I experienced one of the greatest moments of joy in my life as I stood on the front porch with two year-old Zach as John pulled into the driveway with a swing-set on the back of his truck. When Zach realized what was happening, he put his little hands to his face and with those big brown eyes shining, he asked, “Is that fo me? Just fo me?” (Yes he had a little trouble with his r’s, but that made it all the sweeter).
It wasn’t Christmas or his birthday. We just wanted our little guy to have a swing-set to play on and it was the time of year they were marking them down to make way for fall/winter merchandise. Neither were we in the habit of buying him gifts ‘just because'. We couldn’t. That swing-set took a big bite out of  our little budget, but it was something we really wanted to do. It made our hearts happy to be able to make Zach happy.

One of the joys of being a parent is to be able to give our children (at least some of) the things they want. It gives a whole new meaning to ‘it’s better to give than to receive’, doesn’t it? But for all the pleasure and happiness these things may bring, there’s one present our children want more than anything in the world that can’t be ordered from Amazon or stuffed in a gift bag. It’s the present of presence…your presence.
That swing-set survived a move more than half-way across the state and brought countless hours of joy to Zach, Elizabeth, Olivia and Emma. And there have been other gifts given to each of them that have elicited shrieks of excitement and a barrage of ‘thank-you, thank-you, oh, thank-you’. But when my kids talk about their childhood, they don’t talk about the things John and I gave them. They talk about the time we spent with them…

  • Games of hide-n-seek followed by catching lightening bugs to go to sleep by
  • Fishing trips, camping trips and deer hunting
  • Herding wayward goats (I hate goats) off the highway
  • Making never-forgotten memories working together at church camp
  • Sledding behind the four-wheeler
  • Losing our voices cheering at soccer games and cross-country meets
  • Building fence, weeding the garden and taking care of baby lambs
  • Watching and waiting for our beloved milk-cow to have her calf
  • Church Christmas programs, youth group and mission trips
  • The county fair
  • Putting up hay
  • Butchering chickens, gathering eggs, learning to make butter
So while there is nothing wrong with giving your children presents, don’t ever let these presents be a replacement for your presence in their lives…an active, constant, loving and reliable presence.

Remember…it’s the most valuable gift you can give and it’s all they really want.

Momma D