Monday, March 19, 2018

You're Judging Me...

When my son was a preschooler, he hated to have his hair cut. He said it physically hurt him. So we let it go for awhile before we finally took him to a barber. He was a big boy for his age, and the barber was decidedly harsher than he should have been when my son flinched and squirmed. I had to reiterate to the barber more than once that my son was still only 3, even though he looked to be over 4 years of age. The barber was frustrated by my son's sensory issues, didn't approve of my parenting, and we didn't go back.

When my youngest child was an infant, she didn't sleep well. I co-slept with her until she had her tonsils and adenoids removed at 2 years of age for obstructive sleep apnea, which I wouldn't have caught if I hadn't co-slept. All the while, my fellow mothers criticized me, telling me all the ways I was failing as a mother.

When that same child was toddler, I was the mother ignoring a screecher in her buggy at Target, because waiting for her to be in good spirits to do my shopping wasn't an option - she didn't like being restrained, and the bright lights and noise of the store bothered her, so there was never a good time to shop, and the shopping had to get done. My husband had a hard time dealing with her because she was so needy and demanding. You saw me in the store, and I knew you were judging me, but I didn't have much choice in how I handled the situation, so I tried to ignore the shaming looks and just buy the doggone diapers and groceries I needed to make it another few days.

When I decided to homeschool my children, people in my family and friend groups made gross assumptions about my motivation, criticizing my parenting, ridiculing my choice, and even grilling my oldest child about her lessons whenever they had the opportunity (which was whenever I wasn't around - shame on them!). Their constant interrogations made my daughter feel stupid and led her to wonder if I was a bad mom, if she wasn't learning enough... because, why else would all these grown-ups question what I was teaching her?!

When my health took a bad turn and I had to give up eating wheat, everyone was suddenly a nutritionist! I heard it all: it was just a fad, it was all in my head, I was being brainwashed, I was trying to get attention, my doctor didn't know what she was talking about, etc. And if that wasn't bad enough, people who were supposed to care about me and my health regularly made me ill with the wrong food because they just didn't take my restrictions seriously. I was afraid to eat anything I didn't prepare myself because, aside from the judgment, the vertigo and migraines I would battle for 24-48 hours after letting someone else decide how important my diet was to my health just wasn't worth the risk.

Y'all.
Why are we so hard on one another?
Does anyone have it all together? I certainly don't!
Does anyone ever feel like they have it all figured out? Not me! I'm winging it most days!
Where is the compassion, the tolerance, we claim we all need to learn to have for one another?

Freely give grace,
Sparingly give criticism,
Flee from condemnation,
And love with reckless abandon.
Assume the best in everyone around you,
Learn something from those who disagree with you,
And bite your tongue more often than not when you feel the need to tell someone else how to live.

Because does anyone really have the right to tell you how to live your life? Does anyone else really understand your situation? Of course not! So what do we gain by judging one another? Because now, we're fighting some undisclosed battle AND feeling inept while we do it!

Resist the temptation to judge someone else's life by yours.
We do not all have the same life experiences, talents, trials, and challenges.
We are not all fighting the same battles or learning the same lessons.
Your story is different from mine, and my story is different from yours. And that is okay.
Breathe. Smile more. Judge less.

Monday, March 12, 2018

"Adulting" Our Way Through Conflict

As busy adults, we can easily resort to communicating via text message. Need to see if someone has a book your child needs to read for school? Text 'em! Want to know if your friend can get together Friday for coffee? Text 'em! Checking in on a friend with the flu? Text 'em!

It is great for quick thoughts, simple questions, or making plans to get together. What texting is NOT great for is authentic communication. Too much is lost in print, too much room for things to be misconstrued, and too much temptation to be more harsh than you might be in person. Even the experts on proper communication agree that any serious conversation needs to happen in person. I am not making this up, this is not just my opinion, but I have definitely experienced this and found it to be true.


However, it seems our Microwave Society, hooked on the instant gratification of texting and social media messaging for communication, has lost interest in personal communication, in face-to-face relationship. We're too busy, too important, and too impatient.


When I have tried to plan a face-to-face with someone to have a touchy or difficult conversation, people often go on the defensive (therapists and relationship experts believe that defensiveness shuts down any attempts at effective communication). Or worse, they go on the offensive (the best defense is a good offense, right?). The meeting doesn't generally take place because things are said via text or message system that are too hurtful to overcome - or one party just plain doesn't want to meet. Maybe they feel backed into a corner.... Maybe they feel threatened. Maybe they don't value the relationship enough to actually carve time and energy out to get together.


Whatever the reason, we are losing something truly valuable: the ability to navigate conflict well, disagree with grace and love, and improve our relationships through true intimacy. And if that isn't enough of a reason to figure this problem out (and QUICK!), we are not doing a great job of raising the next generation to be very good at it in the process!


My oldest daughter has had some really messy situations to deal with due to handling concerns/conflicts via a message system. When I have stepped in to help guide the situation, I noticed that a lot of parents aren't well-equipped to help their teens navigate conflict well. (Side note: I'm not great at it either, but I am willing to keep trying until we get it figured out!) How can we expect our kids, with under-developed brains and immature emotional intelligence, to navigate the intricacies of interpersonal relationships well if we adults cannot lead by example?


The temptation to handle everything via the written word, dashed off quickly and without thought to how it will be interpreted, is great, I'm not going to lie. And I am not without fault in this area. But we don't have to be so stubborn that we cannot learn from our mistakes, right? How many of us have had someone say something hurtful in writing that we are pretty confident wouldn't have been said to our face over a cup of coffee? [raises hand] And how many of us have regretted something we said in writing because we didn't intend it to be interpreted the way it was? [raises hand]


It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. I, for one, do not wish to be insane; I've made it this far without losing my mind. ;)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

You Can Keep Your Boxtops; I'll Keep My Spoons

Life as a suburban mother is tricky. Because, Mommy Wars.

  • You don't breastfeed? Inconceivable! Your baby needs your milk, you selfish hag!
  • You exclusively breastfeed? The horror! How dare you flash your sex objects here, you shameless hussy!
  • You homeschool? [eye roll] Overprotective much?
  • Your kids go to public school? {gasp} Aren't you afraid of all the bullying, gangs, and drugs?
  • Your children don't play sports? They're going to be fat and lazy!
  • Your children play a sport EVERY SEASON?! You are setting them up to need constant busyness in their lives! Don't you know children need to experience boredom?!?
  • Why do you let your kids play video games? They're going to grow up to be murderers!
  • You don't buy exclusively organic food? All those chemicals are going to give your children diseases!
  • Why do you even buy organic? Don't you know it's all a farce to make idiots like you spend more money?


I mean... really. Are we trying to make ourselves nuts?
So, it comes as no surprise that I have stumbled upon yet another way I fall short of the Perfect Mother: Boxtops.



They look so innocent and cheerful, right??
Yay for education! Hooray for Boxtops!




Y'all. 
I'm already reading labels to avoid GMOs, gluten, and Red40.
I'm already breaking down my boxes and recycling them. Because, the Planet.
And now? I have to clip those stupid Boxtops off the box before I recycle it?


Oh! And if that's not bad enough, I have to keep track of them?? And send them to the school?

I mean, I'm not mocking the system. I'm not. I am passionate about the schools. I love that this is something we can do to help get more funding to the schools. Seriously. I do.

But some days? I am drained by a shower! And brain fog? It's a thing. Like, the crumbling, unpredictable foundation of my life. Where are those boxtops again? Wait, did I turn them in? I know I clipped a bazillion of them last year... did I ever send them to the school?? Oh! Found them! Wait... Expired..? Ugh.

As a suburban mother living with Auto-Immune Disease, I have learned to live by the Spoon Theory. (Read more about that here.) Some days, those Boxtops can be tackled and I can totally remember to tape them to the little paper the school gave me to help me keep track of them. Other days, though, it just feels like an insurmountable task. To a healthy person, this can seem weird, even appearing lazy. But anybody living with the fatigue and brain fog of Auto-Immune disease understands. And the pressure to do it all only adds to our pain. Because failure to measure up hurts.

So, I am handing in my resignation.
I will not attempt to be the Perfect Mother.
I am not going to serve a homemade meal every single mealtime, every single day, and my linens won't get changed weekly. {gasp!} 
My children will play video games, and my floors will get dirty. {shocker}
I feel pretty confident that your opinion of me will not give me any more energy to do what I am already trying my darn'dest to do: be the best I can be with what I have to work with.

So, you can keep your Boxtops.
I'll keep my Spoons.
We both win. :)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Over-Pruning

Have you ever seen a shrub that was shaped so many times that it no longer looked attractive? Or a hack-job on a tree or bush that was clearly outside the realm of what would be the natural growth pattern of that particular plant?

We used to live in a little house that was over 20 years old when we moved in, and the original owners had planted holly bushes in the front of the house between the walkway to the front steps and the house. At one point, it probably looked great nestled into that spot, just under the living room windows. Sadly, by the time we moved into that house, the shrubs had been cut down to fit into that space so many times that the bushes had bare spots where greenery didn't grow anymore and the stalks of the shrubs were thick, rough... and highly visible. From the street, it looked like dead patches. But we, as the tenants, knew better. We lamented those bare spots every time the holly bushes got a trim - which we needed to keep up with per the landlord and the boundaries of the front walk and the living room windows.

When I purchased my first shrubbery for my first home, I went to the nursery and looked at all my options. At times, I would ask about a particular bush or tree - and I would always inquire about the plant's expected height and width at full growth. The nursery worker was surprised and said how many times people buy what they like and say that they will just "cut it back to the size and shape they want" forever. That made me incredibly sad! That particular tree or shrub was meant to grow a particular size and shape, and by perpetually cutting it back, it actually gets uglier as time passes and the roots and stalks and branches continue to thicken and grow to support what would otherwise be a larger tree/shrub. Eventually, it will be cut down because it either is too ugly or it will become diseased because it isn't healthy anymore.

So, I never bought a tree or shrub that was going to grow to be larger than the area I wanted it to live in, and I never trimmed more than was necessary. This drove my landscaping neighbor bananas at times because I didn't want him to cut back my laurels as much as he was trained to do, and I never wanted him to trim my gold-mops. It was a hilarious battle between us each year, and he was delighted when we had to trim it all up to put the house on the market. Score 1 for the landscaper! :)

But as I raise my teens, we have dealt with a variety of issues, and we have talked to other parents about many of those issues, and it has occurred to me that many of us view our role as parents in much the same way the average person views bushes: I'll just prune them how I like them - forever.

Friends, over-pruning is a sad reality - for shrubs, trees, and teenagers. We want them to have room to grow, but only inside the boundaries we are comfortable with. We want them to spread their wings, but only within certain safe places. We even encourage them to step outside their comfort zones, but often only within the zones of our own comfort.

I'm not saying it is altogether wrong to prune and shape your teen into their proper place. God calls us to be the gardeners in charge of our young sprouts! It is a most honorable calling, and not one to be taken lightly. But God also knows our children best. And He has a plan for each young person's life. And here's a secret: we may not know what that plan is!

I know, I know. That's probably why we over-prune! We over-prune out of fear.
Fear that this child is going to be hurt.
Fear that this child will turn away from our wisdom.
Or worse yet: fear that this child will turn away from God's wisdom.

Yes, we want to protect them. We want to control all the things so that we can keep them safe! I get it! I really do!

But here's what I believe: if we spend so much time and energy cutting our children's branches back, will they reach their full potential? Or will their growth be stunted? I have personally watched my children learn really tough lessons because of the freedom I have given them. That hurts. That hurts in a way that is altogether different than my children getting hurt despite being on the job, protecting them, keeping them safe. It becomes so personal, and the guilt can choke me! But they tell me they wouldn't trade those lessons even to avoid the pain of what they went through. They tell me how much they appreciate the room to make some mistakes and figure things out on their own. They tell me how much it means to them that I respect them enough to let them challenge the safety of our little bubble.

And let me be clear: I'm not talking about 5-year-olds. I'm talking about teenagers. Teens who have been raised to know the truth, to understand the consequences of their actions, to have a handle on what is expected of them. Young people who are almost to adulthood and need some practice within the safe and forgiving bounds of teenage-dom, and within the loving environment of home.

So when you are struggling with a decision to let go of the reigns a little bit, I want you to picture that mangled tree or bush that was pruned beyond it's prime, left to eventually be dug up and thrown away because it no longer lived within its designated purpose or it got sick and died. Is that what we want for our teens?

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6

Saturday, January 27, 2018

F.E.A.R.

I struggle with fear. And I mean struggle. Fear knows how to get into my head, despite my efforts to ignore it. I try to tune it out, and it works... for a time. I attempt to rationalize my way out of it, and that, too, has some success. And as a Christian, I endeavor to turn my fear over to the Lord and let Him take care of things His way.

But fear returns.

And we grapple.
Sometimes, fear gets the upper hand.
Other times, I conquer it.
But in every instance, fear reminds me that it is always capable of - at the very least - interfering with my day and wrecking my peace.

So I struggle with fear.
Because giving into it is not an option.
It might be like a muscle: the more I exercise my strength over fear, the stronger I get, and the easier it will be to vanquish.
Maybe it's like bitterness: the more I practice turning away from the whispers of fear, the quieter the voice becomes.
Or perhaps fear is like a broken relationship: it has come into my life and left its mark, but it has taught me something valuable in the process, and so I am better for having been acquainted with it.

Sometimes, when good-intentioned people tell me to turn away from the fear because "God has not given me a spirit of fear," there's a small part of me that wants to scream, "maybe not, but He has let me experience things that are truly terrifying - hence, my fear!" Not such a godly response, I know. And I swallow it down like stinging bile because I am not my base instincts. I am better than that. And I know they are right because Scripture indeed points to the same truth. But it is in those deepest parts of my being, where memories lurk to remind me of the darkness of this life, ignoring fear seems so impossible.

That's where my faith comes in. Faith is believing in something I cannot see. Faith is trusting in God when bad things happen. Faith is knowing that whatever comes my way will be bearable with Jesus by my side, the Holy Spirit in my heart, and the Good Lord on the Throne.

So yes, I struggle with fear. Because I'm still alive, and I'm still imperfect, and I'm still bound by my fleshly body in this fallen world. But I will continue to struggle against it. Because faith is something fear cannot steal from me. Faith isn't logical, so it isn't bound by reason. Faith isn't even really debatable. It's a belief, a coming to acceptance of something bigger than myself.

Fear is a feeling.
Faith becomes an action.
Faith helps me re-frame fear.


F.E.A.R.
Faith
Even
Amidst
Reality

When reality sucks, I have another opportunity to let my faith re-frame my fear.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hello Stars: Lena in the Spotlight [a book review]

The Littlest Drama Princess and I received a book to review this month. I am pretty sure my oldest child and I have read one of the other "Faith Girlz" books before, so when the opportunity came up to read a new one, I jumped on it! This book is the first in a series, if the number on the spine is any indication.

Lena in the Spotlight is a book series about a young girl who auditions for a part in a movie, and Hello Stars is the first in the series. Lena is finishing up the fifth grade when she auditions for the movie, and the book follows her journey through the anticipation, potential rejection, and inevitable acceptance into the strange and exciting new world of filmmaking! Lena's story is peppered with stories and quotes from the Bible since her parents are raising her to lean on and trust God. Making a movie isn't all fun and games, though, and Lena has a few bumps in the road, but the authors always bring it right back to leaning on God and His Word.


While the story has a great foundation on Christian values and takes young readers through the application of God's word to their lives, I found the physical structure, layout, and editing to be distracting. There were times when the sentences were choppy, others when they were too repetitive, as well as instances when the commas didn't make sense. There were breaks in the main character's day without breaks in the paragraphs or chapters. It was as if someone was writing the story like they talk, and it was not within what I consider the formal bounds of written language, although many would probably think I am being too critical (and I might be!). I almost hesitate to mention these issues because they are not about the story at all! However, my daughter is homeschooled and finishing the fourth grade, and reading chapter books is one way I expose her to the written language and all that it entails: punctuation, capitalization, vocabulary, sentence structure, and word use. Sadly, this book was a bit of a disappointment as far as that goes. If you aren't a grammar fanatic and your child doesn't need the book to help teach language arts, you likely won't notice any of that! :)

Now, back to the story. :)
I liked that the story kept circling Lena back to trusting God. They prayed often and about everything. There was no sibling disrespect as we often see in today's fictional families, so that was a huge plus! And when Lena messes up, there is grace demonstrated by others in her life. We sure need that message in our house with three strong-willed children! {wink}

I am not sure we will read any more from this series, but it really is a delightful story, and it appears there is more of Lena's romp to stardom to come. Based on the back cover, it might even be loosely based on a real story.


Disclaimer: I received this book for free with the understanding that I would read it and review it. No expectation of a positive review were given, and this review is my own personal opinion.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Statistically Speaking

I love statistics. My favorite math classes in college were statistics classes. Statistics can be quite helpful. And they never lie.

Did you catch that? Statistics never lie.
But.
People do.

We are quite capable of taking in numerical information and manipulating it to align with our personal platforms. You see, a statistic is just a number. It actually means nothing all by itself. We have to evaluate it to determine a meaning.

For example, if i were to tell you that statistically, you are more likely to be overweight if you eat at McDonald's, you might consider that to mean McDonald's equals weight gain.

You + McD's = weight gain

However, that is not the case. Even if that statistic is true (i'm totally throwing that out there without any knowledge of validity), it doesn't really prove anything.

See, statistics are tricky. In the right hands, statistics help us understand trends, evaluate the effects of set variables on a set population, and interpret research findings. In the wrong hands, statistics will lead us astray... take us down a rabbit hole of misinterpretation that can ultimately lead us to believe something that is just not true.

So, while "9 out of 10 dentists" prefer XYZ toothpaste "over the leading brand" is, for sure, completely accurate, that doesn't tell you much, does it? I still have unanswered questions:
- which toothpaste is the "leading brand?"
- were these dentists new to their profession or retired, highly-experienced dentists?
- what did they prefer about it, specifically? Was it because it prevented cavities better than the "leading brand" or because it was just more readily available nationwide?

(I discovered in one of my statistics classes that "leading brand" really just applies to generic! Shh!)

So you see, statistics are helpful, but they are tricky. They are practically weapons of partial information.

Here's where it gets personal for me....

I was born with a tongue tie. It was never discovered by my parents or doctors because I had no issues with feeding or talking. I discovered it myself in my teens, far too old to worry about correcting it.

Two of my three children have developed something most people have never heard of: Transient Synovitis. It is when a virus settles in the hip joint and the child loses the ability to support his/her own weight on that leg. Oftentimes without pain. Not dangerous, but not exactly common.

My youngest child was born with the most uncommon form of congenital hypothyroidism. Her bloodwork told a story her development didn't support. Still, we saw specialists and confirmed. Medication was prescribed and she'll have this condition forever.

This same child developed obstructive sleep apnea at 12 months of age. We saw specialists and confirmed. We were told by the specialists at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital that "we don't usually see kids this young with this condition." Surgery corrected the condition, but her recovery was a bit abnormal compared to the other patients. She just didn't fit the norm.

Same child develops not one but THREE separate reactions to vaccinations. Highly unlikely. Unrelated coincidence, the doctor tells us after the first round, then again after the second reaction. After the third one, which was by far the worst, we found another doctor.

Fast forward several years. She is very small in stature. We're beginning to worry about her growth. X-Rays of growth plates are taken and the diagnosis is that she will be a late bloomer. Fairly uncommon. She doesn't fit the norm. Again.

Last year, my dog was very sick and we thought he was dying. After trying everything and being about to give up, we sought a specialist who discovered that our dog (who is a house pet and walks with my husband around the neighborhood) had contracted a canine form of MRSA. A couple of months of exhausting treatment saw great improvements, and we eventually beat the bug. But still. MRSA?!

I love statistics. Really.
But when someone looks me in the eyes and says anything is "highly unlikely" or "statistically unlikely" or not something i should worry about because it isn't common, i feel less than relieved. In my world, statistics are just really fascinating numbers and we often fall outside the norms.

And somebody has to be the minority.
Statistically speaking.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Getting Stuck

Getting stuck is a real pain.
Getting un-stuck can be a worse pain.
But can getting stuck ever be a blessing?
I believe so....

Sometimes, i get stuck in a rut. That rut becomes distasteful enough that i look around and realize i'm stuck, then i do something about it. Climbing out of a rut always teaches me something about myself.

Sometimes, i get stuck on a problem. That problem becomes so overwhelming that i'm unable to move in any direction. So i pray about it and ask for direction. Many times, a new solution comes to mind or enough time passes that it becomes obvious i'm not intended to solve the problem. So i can move on.

Other times, i may be stuck in an internal struggle. When this happens, i turn inward and resort to worry and fretting, which is always so helpful, right? ;)

But if i'm stuck in a battle with myself or my emotions, it's often harder to see the way out. I'm learning to focus on the little things i can do right now. And i'm learning to give myself grace. One unfortunate side effect to growing up without the emotional support or loving connection of a parent is that i became 'accomplishment' driven. I tried to earn favor, love, and attention. I still get stuck in that pattern sometimes, but the worst of it is always when i'm fighting myself.

So, i'm learning to treat myself with kindness, forgiveness, and grace - much as i would treat my children. And it helps get me un-stuck most every time.

Getting stuck is a pain, no doubt.
But getting un-stuck is where the real lesson can be found.
So the next time you find yourself stuck, pause and look up, look around, look inside, and find the lesson God is trying to teach you. When you move through it, that's when getting stuck becomes a blessing.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The False Socialization of Social Media

In the homeschooling world, we get asked a particular question A LOT:
"But what about socialization?"

And we answer it as kindly and compassionately as possible, because it isn't that person's fault that we've been asked that particular question 1.3 million times before she asked it. ;)

However, since i am frequently dealing with that question, i find that my mind pays attention more to socialization issues than perhaps the average adult. And it is in this attentiveness over the past few weeks that i have noticed something quite upsetting:

Social media is actually harming the way we socialize.

Hear me out.

The idea of social media is to connect with others, whether it be friends or family who live some distance away, or within communities of like-minded or similar beliefs as us. And when you hone your followers or friends, you can achieve a pretty good balance of that.

The problems that i am seeing come in the form of inflammatory posts made to divide us into boxes. Oh, you know, the ones that start with "Republicans believe..." or "Democrats think..." or the ones that go something like this: "For all YOU who believe..." Because, you know, all people in those groups are exactly alike and all that.... :-P

The issue, too, is that there seems to be no filter anymore to anyone's internal dialog. I get the honor of being privy to your inner-most generalizations about a particular group of people. And the sad thing is, sometimes i am in that group of people. Things that you would likely never say to my face if we were sharing a meal somewhere are now blasted with the most harsh speech imaginable over social media. And i'm sure i made these mistakes in the past, too. Hopefully, i have learned to temper my thoughts and not use social media to rail at the world around me.

But i won't lie.... It's changing how i feel about some people. Not because i am judging them based on their views, but because i now wonder how they TRULY feel about me. The next time we sit down at the Christmas dinner table, i'm going to be uncomfortably aware that you think i'm a heartless, bigoted, morally-confused, high-and-mighty idiot. And the next time you call and invite me to coffee, i may decline. Because now i know how you feel about me. Sure, not me specifically, but "people like me." And frankly, that is not that different. That's why i believe social media is actually killing relationships.

I love a great many people who are very different than me. And i respect their uniqueness and their zest for life within the bounds of what they believe. And i truly do cherish differences, because honestly, a world full of people just like me would be a complete and utter disaster! We need variety. God is painting a masterpiece, and we all play a part!

But i am growing world-weary with social media thrusting in my face the black-and-white nature of some people i thought i knew. The hateful speech over hot-button issues from people who i thought were open-minded and loving. The finger-pointing and judgment from people i thought were welcoming and sweet-natured. It's all too much for me lately.

Sure, i could cancel my account and never engage in the craziness. But there are so many benefits to me for some social media sites that i have not decided to walk away. Yet.

Does anyone else see social media degrading our social interactions with one another?
Have you put distance in any relationships because of social media posts?
I'd love to hear from you on this issue. :)

In the meantime, remember:
There's a person on the other side of social media.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Vast Wasteland of Distractions

Do we even realize how much time we spend on electronics? I am seeing a terrible trend, and i am fighting against it in my own life, and it worries me for future generations. I am reminded about something i used to say to my husband in the early years of our marriage: there will always be something interesting on the internet; you have to know when to walk away. And that was before Smart Phones!

Now, we have the internet at our disposal at all times. And there will always be a video clip, an email, a Google search, or whatever, that we can spend our time on. But suppose the following....

Husband A comes home from work. He changes his clothes, goes to hang out with friends, comes home to eat the dinner his wife prepared, then goes to a club to watch a band play with friends. He gets home after the littlest child's bedtime, doesn't tell her "goodnight" or tuck her in, goes to the garage to fiddle with various hobbies, and then goes to bed when he's tired. During this time, his wife and children have taken care of themselves and gone to bed as well.

Does Husband A represent a dedicated spouse? An engaged father?

How about this one:
Husband B comes home from work and goes for a walk with his earbuds in, listening to various podcasts on his smart phone. He comes home, eats the dinner his wife prepared, and goes to sit down somewhere in the house with his phone or tablet. Sometime later, he might change to his desktop computer or play video games online with friends. When he has decided he's tired, he takes his phone to bed and listens to podcasts and watches videos until he's ready for sleep. During this time, his wife and children have taken care of themselves and gone to bed as well.

How do we feel about Husband B?
It is not that different than the Husband who isn't physically present, but it is so much easier to be mentally absent these days!

Here's another scenario:
Mommy A takes her son to the park. While there, she chats with friends or neighbors and her son plays alone. After the park, she takes him to a fast-food restaurant for lunch, where he eats in silence while she chats with some of the other adults around her. Mommy A takes her son home and puts him down for his nap. After his nap, she takes him out for a walk in the wagon, chatting with a neighbor while they walk around the block. When they get back home, she sets him up with some crayons and makes dinner while talking on the phone. During dinner, daddy and son chat about their day and Mommy A watches television. After dinner, Mommy A gives her son a bath and lets him play in the tub while she works on a hobby nearby. After her son's bath, Mommy A puts him to bed and kisses him goodnight, then dashes off to watch another television show.

How well is Mommy A engaging her son? How do we feel about Mommy A?

Imagine all of those friends and neighbors and telephone calls and television shows and hobbies are her smart phone. Not really different.

There will ALWAYS be something interesting on the internet, and we ought to remember that the temptation to tune out will always be there. Will we rise above it, or will it become our master? I don't want my children to grow up and say, "Mommy was always around, but she was always distracted by her smart phone/computer." :(

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Homeschooling Introvert

I am a homeschooling mother.
I am also an introvert.
This was easier to balance when my children were smaller. Naps were relished, early bedtimes eagerly anticipated, and play-dates with friends who had small children a veritable delight of socialization for everyone involved.

However, my children are in high school, middle school, and middle elementary now. And it is much, much harder to find that quiet solitude that once came more naturally. While i was in the trenches of that toddler to preschooler stage, i falsely believed that it was the hardest time for mamas who are introverted. And, may i say, if you don't go on to homeschool your children, this may very well be the case! But as i serve as teacher, lesson planner, curriculum researcher, grade reporter, activities director, and high school adviser, i find my days much fuller and my brain strained at a deeper level than when i was teaching the alphabet, table manners, or colors.

Add to that the nature of the high school activities calendar, and this introvert is a puddle on the floor at the end of each day! My husband dare not ask me anything of any substance during the school week, and i do most of my catching up with family and friends over the telephone while running errands or driving home from some event i've dropped a child off to participate in.

I am an introvert.
I need quiet.
I need stillness.
I need alone time.
And i need it all at least daily.
But, surprisingly, it is not getting easier to meet those needs as my children get older, since the academics get so much more daunting! My poor extended family and friends must think i vanished into thin air... or that i don't care to spend time with them, and that just isn't the case! I really must find the balance.

That being said, i do not look forward to my children leaving home, so i guess that makes me a glutton for punishment! :)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Human Experience

This morning, my family and i attended a gymnastics meet for The Littlest Drama Princess. She and her fellow gymnasts were a bit more nervous at today's meet than they were at the last one, and that was hard to watch - and harder still to try to push them through it to overcome the butterflies and near-panic. In the end, each child tackled her own nerves and stomped on them as she walked through the struggle to the other side. Accomplished. Take that, fear!

One of the greatest moments i have ever experienced in my life thus far happened during that battle over nerves this morning. You see, when we go to these meets, there are 4-6 different gymnastics facilities represented. We have parents and coaches and teams from all around our area, people we have never met and will likely never see again. The girls in each team have 4 different events: Uneven Bars, Vault, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise. Each event happens at all times, so the teams are rotated through the events in an orderly fashion, but nevertheless, all of the events have gymnasts performing - simultaneously.

So, as you can imagine, we move around and get the best view of our own child when it is her turn, we cheer on our home teams, and we leave room near the other events for those parents/families/friends. Pictures are taken, cheers are raised, and there is a lot of applause for each event, so it can seem disjointed when you are focused on one event and there is cheering and applause for another.

However, at a pivotal moment for one of our team's littlest and newest gymnasts, as she took the floor to begin her routine, she froze, panicked, and then... covered her face and began to sob. As we sat helpless in the stands, gymnasts all over the competition were still performing their routines in their events. We waited with bated breath, watching, whispering prayers for strength for this 4yo during her first-ever competition while the music carried on without her... and finally, the coach walked up to her and bent over to talk with her.

As the coach spoke to this precious child, still, the rest of the place carried on. But i was focused. "Lord, help that sweet child!" i whispered. "You've got this!" i tried to *think* across the rows of chairs and gymnastics mats to her frightened little brain. The coach spoke briefly with the judges and they agreed to let her start over.

She took her place. She squeezed her eyes shut. The music began. She marched out those steps in the beginning, eventually opening her eyes and waging that war with her fear, staring it down as she nailed the second, then the third, then the final segment of the routine. The music rang out its final notes. She saluted the judged. And the crowd went WILD. WILD, i tell you! EVERY parent there, every grandparent, every coach, every child, the WHOLE PLACE erupted in applause and cheers.

it.was.awesome.

My oldest daughter and i teared up, ready to hug every living soul in the room.
And my faith in humanity was restored.
There is still good in the world.
At heart, we care deeply, even about other people's children, whom we'll never meet.
And when terrible things happen, we get to glimpse that side of humanity as neighbor comes to the aid of neighbor. And when we see a child struggling with her fear, we cheer her on as if she was our own. That, friends, is all part of the human experience.