Friday, December 2, 2016

Fluffy Blog Posts

Just so y'all know, I have nothing of real substance to offer. I just feel like writing.

It's Christmas time! It's also cold here. Cold-ish. Chilly and not hot. I'll take it. I can wear scarves! Boots! Plaids! I'm slightly bummed by the cliches that surround all of the fall love lately, though. It's kind-of a buzzkill, no? All of the you're-such-a-basic-white-girl-I'm-sure-you-must-drink-PSL-and-wear-a-top-knot-messy-bun. I sometimes wish we could embrace fun customs without making them a joke every single time. Anyone else feel me? I will drink my coffee and adore my fall leaves and rock my boots and sweaters and plaids all I want - even if you make it a cliche, thankyouverymuch. So there, internet. So. There.

In other unimportant happenings of late, I've recently become fixated on the amassing of a digital movie collection. I'm so weary of the VHS>DVD>Blu-Ray>3D>4KHD constant need to upgrade your movies or have nothing on which to play them. Black Friday found me combing specials for nice additions to our fledgling collection -- movies we love that come on DVD and/or Blu-Ray WITH digital copy, specifically iTunes. I hope this isn't a mistake. I hope digital movies don't become inaccessible. I hope I don't hate myself for this later. 

On this mission, I have observed a few things.

- Disney movies with digital copy do not go on sale all that much. I mean they kinda do - like three titles rotated through all of the ads on Black Friday and the following weekend. We grabbed Finding Dory. But overall, Dreamworks rules the discount movie circuit.

- With the impending move toward digital movie collections, phones and tablets are going to need to come with more memory in even the more basic smartphone options for those downloads saved for offline viewing. Borrrring, Candi. But it's true. *affectionate glance toward 128gb iPhone*

Next subject! Thanksgiving was what I would call a low-key riot. We spent the whole day waiting for the arrival of a new princessy niece of mine! She kept teasing us, making us all think she was coming so soon, then getting comfy again. I'm sure this was certainly harder on those of us in the waiting room perfecting the mannequin challenge than it was on baby's mother who was doing the actual work. Certainly. :-P

At one point the nurses and a lone security guard were watching our rowdy fam play a pretty entertaining round of Heads Up (or some similar iPhone charades game). They said we also did some singing in the waiting room but I'm sure that didn't actually happen. Ahem.

It was absolutely a Thanksgiving we will never forget. Pecan pie served up in the waiting room on the very cheapest of paper plates that we found at one of the few stores that were open. My two youngest kids were such troopers through the day in the waiting room (big brother was with other family at dinner). I'm sure their behavior was helped by the endless spoiling that comes from being stuck in a room with a load of your biggest fans. Hard life, they have.

After this eventful weekend, I found myself in my seat at church Sunday morning next to Joe, who was holding Thor and Iron Man. Waving Thor, Joe spoke for Thor, presumably to Iron Man, "Hey dude, what are you thankful for?"

Well. Iron Man is a smart-alec and didn't say much, but we're thankful for new babies, memorable holidays, people who put relationships above all else, and of course... digital movie collections.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Christ and the Chronically Broken

Your love is like a waterfall, waterfall
Running wild and free
You hear my heart when I call, when I call
Deep calls to deep

Have you guys ever had a preconceived idea shattered and turned upside down, dumped, shaken out, and then slowly reassembled?

I feel like that has been the journey of my understanding of Christ over the last several years. 

Am I the only one who has had something so dark, so ugly, and heavy that they didn't know how to bring it to Jesus? Because Jesus is the polished, perfect Son of Holy God, right? I can surrender battles to him when I crack the code of offering them in a tidy, well-constructed prayer sprinkled with the right scriptures that "claim the promises" He has offered... right?

So what happens, one has to wonder, when we try so hard to surrender a broken part of ourselves, and it stays at least partially broken? What does that mean?

What if you find yourself coming to grips with the fact that God's plan is more about mobilizing people than strictly moving supernaturally? His plan to rescue foster children isn't a hallmark movie... it's just through the calling of flawed foster parents. Feeding the hungry may pull from our very own pantries. His plan for changing the world looks frighteningly like a plan to change... us.

What if the rescue He has for us is a hand in ours through every step of scary places? What if it is friends who show up at just the right moment, baskets of food on the doorstep, clothes for your kids shared by friends, an urge to check on a friend who is in a vulnerable and fragile place, a change of heart that causes us to be willing to educate ourselves about the special needs in our church/home/family/community? A new neighbor who somehow has experienced exactly what you are walking through?

The more I learn about Christ and His Body the more I understand that a faith community looks a lot more like a woven tapestry than an army or a club. Arms of need reaching out for help as arms of help reach out to give it - some of us being both needy and generous at once, in different ways.

In the past, this kind of talk seemed a lot like an attempt to offer God a free pass on all of the bad in the world. That's a cynical perspective, yet one that is common. But I have to tell you, it's hard to buy that after you have been on the receiving end of lavish grace and love from Christ's church at a time when no one but God could have known how badly you needed it. 

Depression is my story. Life-long. Sometimes worse, sometimes better. Never gone. Fear of being misunderstood as a pathetic and sad person when really sometimes I just was more like a person who felt pain or nothing at all. The nothing only brought more pain because it felt so inhuman. 

Go ahead and just imagine a long diatribe here about the stigma associated with chronic mental illness and we'll call it good. I'm going to fight the urge.

The miracle of God looked like me finally, after decades of struggle, sitting in a doctor's office with a handful of kleenex asking for help and receiving kindness and understanding. It looked like a load lifted when I left. It was found in understanding with the few people I shared it with (until now, hi, everyone else). It looked like no one assuming that I was dangerous because my brain was short on a crucial chemical. 

Sometimes it looked like the right information coming across my path - an urge to try a new schedule or routine, understanding and love from my husband, saying no to some things and yes to others, the blessed freedom to know that rearranging your plans in order to get enough sleep was absolutely A-okay. 

Sometimes the healing God offers is the freedom to start focusing on what is working and stop trying to look like you have it all together.

It's coming like a flood
I'm dancin' in the rain
I lift up my hands
Your love never changes

Christ is not the figure who is politely and semi-patiently waiting for you to have your act nailed down so that you can serve in the full expected capacity at the church. No. He values you as a member of His Body - and His Body is The Church. Your story is unique, but also blessedly, wonderfully common. This whole mobile, reaching, saving, feeding, clothing, sheltering Body is full of chronically broken people. Praise be to God for His kindness and for the unmatched diversity within His family. 

You are uniquely and also not-so-uniquely called and qualified to be here. Your particular variety of brokenness may be chronic. It may never be fully healed like the cripple or the man with the withered hand, but it can be redeemed. There is no ill that does not give you a unique variety of empathy for another hurting soul or group of souls.

So my prayers have shifted and instead of begging for physical healing they sound more like this.

Jesus, You are welcome here.

God, use me.

I need you right now.

Please be near me, Lord.

Father, speak to me and help me help someone who needs You today.

Direct me, Lord, in this need that my child has.

Give me wisdom in all of my decisions.

Holy Spirit, you are welcome in my heart, my home, and my decisions.

And on the ugly days, a simple, "Father, I need your help" may be all that I can say. I treasure the presence that I have experienced in my days in moments that are so beautiful and lovely that I cannot help but see kisses from Heaven in the sunshine or the perfect patter of a soft rain. Just as blessed are those days that find a grown woman sitting on the floor seeking strength for the next moment and the next decision. 

Christ is not afraid of your chronic brokenness. He is running toward you without waiting for a perfectly-phrased invitation. An open invitation is all it takes.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hallelujah You Are Good

Nothing streamlines my thoughts like music.

Sometimes I see reality as a montage set to music. I see beauty in the form of melodies dancing behind a beautiful moment I remember from the past.

But I love it when those montages bleed through to current moments - or moments that sit in the recent yesterday instead of the yesteryear.

You are with us
You are good.

My son is worrying me, guys. It's not because he has reached a critical point, it's because I have started to worry and play possible futures over in my mind and I just worry. I'm his mom. I just want him to be okay and I want him to be able to go to a mainstream school and function well socially, and sometimes I worry about tomorrow before I should.

And when faith gives way to fear
I will trust Your heart
I will trust Your heart
When I cannot feel You near
I will trust Your heart
I will trust Your heart

The truth is that I've been in a place of grief recently. I have invalidated our own struggles more than I should have. I didn't know that you grieve over every loss in a special needs family, even when your losses feel so insignificant. My son is physically healthy, but neurologically different.

I feel grief over the fact that my older kids lose my attention sometimes. I feel grief over the field trips I can't accompany when it's too much for my youngest child. I feel loss when I know my kids can't sit through a puppet show unless there is another adult who can take Joe because for now it's still too much.

There is guilt for all of the screen time that I allow because if I don't have enough quiet, I won't make it. Every ideal that used to play out for real in my home that's been cast aside somewhere along the way.

In the ashes and the dust
in the sorrow and pain
lies the promise of His word
and the power of His name

I grieve over potential losses that aren't even here yet. I don't understand this process. Or rather, I didn't. I didn't think that having a child with sensory differences would allow me a small peek inside the world of special needs families. I keep telling myself how different our journey is. Josiah doesn't have Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, learning delays, or even ADHD. But special needs, no matter how high functioning, will change a family. The burden of need may be smaller, but the burden of life's expectations will rise to compensate for everything that your child is still able to do. And that means that the struggle is valid, regardless of the location of a family on the special needs spectrum. Understanding that has taken some personal concession on my part. Yes we are a special needs family. Yes we do need some accommodation sometimes, no matter how much I want that to not be our story.

I'm learning that the burden of the future sometimes lands squarely on today, and it requires us to constantly deflect it. No. Tomorrow can't have me today. I am staying here.

You are with us
You are good

Today I'm putting my glasses on my nose and leaving them there - the right ones, not the rose-colored ones or the shaded ones. I'm remembering everything I have seen so far and I'm keeping my eyes open for whatever is next.

There's a message being written through the morning sun
And a new song for the broken
Death has lost
Love has won

Maybe someone else will read these words at some point when they need the reminder.

I have tasted
I have seen it
You are good

I am grateful for every God-breathed step forward, every person who has come across our path with love and understanding, every doctor, therapist, friend, child-care worker who has decided to love us and all of our kids. Every friend and family member who has checked on us at the right moment. I have tasted. I have seen it. We are not forgotten. He is good.

I remember
I believe it
You are good

Monday, August 8, 2016

On Teaching Kids Not To Obey

I am not a parenting expert. I'm a mom with an opinion. Lets get that out of the way right now. I'm not going to try to list my qualifications, because aside from the fact that I'm the second of eight kids (lots of big sister hours logged here) and I have three kids, I have no real credentials.

But I want to talk about kids and obedience.

Growing up, I never thought the subject of obedience was a controversial one or worthy of much discussion, because I was taught to obey my parents. As I've grown to become an adult, then a mother and an auntie and a human being who lives in society, I've seen and heard a few things that cause me to ache inside. If you're expecting me to say that I hurt because "kids these days just aren't taught to miiiiind authority" then this isn't the blog for you.

No, I hurt because I have seen and spoken to adults who were once children who were taught to obey with absolute and unwavering compliance and it hurt them deeply. If you were taught to obey and it never caused you any harm, I hope you'll keep reading.

I started hearing moms ask, quite seriously, "Should I make my kids obey me?" And at first I didn't understand the question. I thought the answer was an obvious yes.

See, I expect my kids to obey me. I expect them to obey their dad and I expect them to obey their grandparents, and for the most part, their aunts and uncles and Sunday school teachers/small group leaders and their bus drivers and school teachers as well.

When a child of mine comes home in a huff about any of those persons in authority over them, I will side with the authority figure 99% of the time. Kids are kids with brains that are still developing, and they are, of course, immature and usually uninformed about the facts of many situations. I unapologetically consider myself a "straighten up and fly right" sort of mom. 

But I don't just talk to my kids about obeying authority these days. I am so thankful for the precious, willing, healing people who have shared personal stories that have taught me that there is more.

Now I also talk to my kids about when they should say no to authority. When they should kick up a fuss and make as much noise as they can and refuse to obey. I tell my kids that when authority is hurting your body or touching you in any way that is inappropriate, you stop listening and you tell someone that you trust. I tell them that it doesn't matter who it is. It doesn't matter if it's someone I like, love, or respect. It doesn't matter if it seems minor or silly, you can tell Mom and Dad. I have learned that these conversations have to happen early, and then I hope and pray that that information is never needed by my kids. I drill them from the time that they are toddlers on which parts of their body are "only theirs" and we recap often.

And sometimes I think we forget that the parents in our society are often wounded people. We tout that if only spanking made a real comeback, kids would learn respect. I'm not here to open that can of worms. But I want to turn our eyes toward the fact that if you or I have the blissful privilege of thinking that discipline is the only element lacking from society's parenting ideals, then we are so blessedly ignorant. 

I always knew that there were hurting people in the world, but I didn't always know that it is so many of us. This generation is not unique in that way - people have always been hurting each other - but the exposure and judgment are at an all-time high.

What if the mom with the wild kids is really scared to teach her kids to wordlessly obey? What if her biggest fear in all of life is setting up her children for the kind of hurt that she had to endure? If you think I'm pinning an entire world of poor parenting on extreme situations like abuse and molestation, let me assure you that I understand that that isn't the case. Maybe it's much simpler and no one ever modeled good parenting for the aforementioned mother? But I would also implore you to understand that there are more people in your circle who have lived through abuse than you will probably ever know.

So I guess this is the point of my blog today. Lets teach our kids to obey authority, but lets not be shy about teaching them when to say, scream, declare a confident "NO."

Friday, July 29, 2016

This Is Me Now

I have realized something about this point in the summer - sometime in July, maybe half(ish)way through. This is when summer gets old, I think. Maybe that's not you - maybe it's the toll of a sensory kid plus two big kids who don't always get along, maybe it's just this season of life, but I've felt it for the last two years.

Whether we're homeschooling that year or doing public school, around the middle or end of July, the unstructured structure gets old. Our loose routine has to be tightened up or we just won't make it. Most of the scheduled summer events are over and we can settle into more routine until school starts again.

I think this guy is ready to know what he can expect from life again.

This was Josiah last night while I was cooking. This is why I hate cooking right now. Once a big interest of mine, now I dread it and love pizza nights. Notice the splat of spaghetti sauce on the worn linoleum - I don't even know when that happened during the frenzy.

During the evening, this guy is winding down and needy and cranky.

Sensory differences can be so hard to explain to other people. I mean, they're easy enough to explain from a technical standpoint, but the complex factors and effects on a family's life are oddly difficult and unique to every home.

Sometimes I'm not sure how to explain what it's like to have weeks where I have to leave the house for a while in the evening one or more days simply because he has been so needy. I have to let Daddy take over because I can't handle being grabbed, rubbed, climbed on for another second. My ears and brain can't listen to any more too-loud conversations, overreactions, or tears. In the photos above, Josiah just wanted me to hold him. Easy enough if everything could always stop and no one had to eat.

For Joe, it's like having an itch that someone else has to scratch for you. He doesn't know how to fill his own sensory tank just yet. Shortly after these photos, Daddy took him to play in the living room. Often a rough wrestling session with Daddy is exactly what he needs, and he loves it. Being (gently) thrown around, (gently) shaken, rolled, getting to throw punches at Daddy's open hands and yell loudly - it scratches those itches that he still can't always identify.

Also, this is me right now.

Mama, can I honk you nose?

When he isn't honking my nose, he's rocking back and forth on the couch, sliding down the side of my body, grunting, scratching the underside of his nose, tapping my feet with his hands or feet, bouncing, etc. While this is normal three year old behavior, it just never stops. Ever.

Add in the meltdowns that come from being too tired, too hungry, or hearing something that is too loud, and a day can be taxing.

But gosh is he sweet, too. There is little that upsets him more than someone else crying - it borders on panic.

Also, this is me right now.

All of these gymnastics are not for lack of training. Oh guys. Only God knows the effort. Now he's clacking his teeth together and listening to the sound it makes. Also, he wants to look at wolf costumes. And he wants ice cream. He is sweetly and creatively expressing his wants while tapping me on the chin. 

Jesse and I were discussing Josiah's stress level yesterday. I was listening to a child development expert talk about children who come from difficult places - and sensory kids fall into this category. She talked about how she gently places her hand on the chest of a child while speaking to them - to create connection, but also to feel their heart, which is often racing. 

It's interesting to place your hand on a toddler's chest and feel their heart race frantically when it shouldn't be. Seeing and feeling their agony creates a brand new set of lenses through which you see their life, and suddenly, everything shifts. Protective instincts override exhaustion (most of the time) and you stretch and adapt. Sometimes that means saying no to things, and sometimes that means needing grace and assistance from others in order to show up.

There's nothing quite as powerful as parents who get this at the same time. I don't know how sensory parents cope when one parent isn't informed or on board. Watching my husband recite the favorite Good Night Moon to a little boy wrapped in his favorite blanket who can't stop crying, even though he wants to? It's a powerful picture for a wife and mom.  

So now it's time to move toward the school year and plan some ways to fill Joe's sensory tank while his siblings are at school. He will miss them, and then he will enjoy the routine again. I sit here watching him bang on the wall with an inflatable bat and try to think of good activities for this fragile tornado. Maybe a hamster wheel. :)


This is me now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Humble and Kind

I deactivated my Facebook today.

I didn't make any announcements about it beforehand, which led to a couple of confused conversations with friends, but yes. It's down for now.

I wasn't mad at anyone. It wasn't one thread that pushed me over the edge. To be honest, it was just a difficult day, and I realized that Facebook is one more thing that I just don't need right now.

tea party with special guests

Pinky Pie with a bracelet-turned necklace, surrounded by dominoes

Do you ever wonder what they will write about us in twenty years? I foresee more books and studies all about The Social Media Effect. I don't know, y'all. I sometimes wonder if we'd be better off if all of our internet friends and real-life friends didn't overlap. If maybe we talked to our online friends online because there was no other way to connect with them face-to-face. If we talked to our real-life friends in person where we could more attentively notice how we talk to them. I wonder if we know way too much about our real-life friends anymore, and it's becoming harder and harder to like the people in front of our faces because of all of the overshare.

All of these thoughts were rumbling around in my brain when I came across something that reminded me of this country song

A few people had asked why I was slipping away from my primary social media site. I wasn't sure - I just knew I needed it. But I think I knew why when I pulled up the song and listened to it again. 

I'm weary of the things that chip away at my kindness. I'm weary of things that compete with true humility. I'm through listening to people try to scare me out of my humanity and ability to be humble and kind. 

Hold the door, say please, say thank you
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you got mountains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind

I wonder if fear is like fire. We know that fire needs oxygen and fire needs something to consume. I wonder if it is consuming our humility and kindness. I wonder if the constant bombard of all of the worst things happening in the world is feeding it. I think there is immediate, fight-or-flight fear and I think there is fear that slowly changes you over time, and this is the latter.

This season is ugly, isn't it? Are there any of us who aren't worried about really big things - from the future of our country to the safety of our children? I am. I'm worried. But I feel like all of us worried people maybe need to stop getting together so often just to worry about things - and I think that's where social media is hurting us. 

Mommy & AJ

I need it to stop for a minute. I need to not see fear-mongering posts with hundreds of "likes" and political posts with dozens or hundreds of comments between only two or three people. 

We are all scared and we're acting like it. But you know what? I'm saying no. I'm not letting fear change me if I can help it. I can't fix the entire world, but I can shut off every voice that tries to intimidate or scare me and choose to focus on being humble and kind.

brothers enjoying a milder summer evening - decorating the car with sidewalk chalk

I know the photos from our humble life my seem oddly scattered through this disjointed post, but they're not. These moments were happening while my brain formulated this post. 

This isn't my appeal to you to abandon Facebook - I'm sure I'll be back. But whatever is weighing you down, scaring you, slowly changing you and not in a good way - maybe you can somehow turn that off and embrace the simpler aspects of the community around you. We can't fix the world by painting it in broad strokes, but we can make a mighty change if we're willing to embrace kindness and humility. 

Feel free to say hello here in the comments! I'd love to know that you stopped by. <3

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Oddly Specific Moms - AKA All of Us

I am up too late.

I'm often up too late. I don't fall asleep easily, but I love to sleep. Sleep. Coffee. Chocolate. Is that basic? Well, I do like Starbucks.


I'm up late because 1. I'm not sleepy enough to sleep, and 2. I just finished prepping for Sunday a little while ago. And I decided, I want to talk about this. I'm a mom, and there are basically forty bazillion articles floating about the wide web targeted at me. Probably a good chunk of them would remind me to go to bed early and wake up early so that I'm ahead of the game, and ready before my kids open their eyes. That is such a good idea. It is. I'm not mean-girling here, that is really just solid stuff.

Here's the thing. That's one piece of advice that doesn't actually work so well for me. I don't fall asleep easily, no matter how tired I am - it's something I have struggled with for my entire life. I've tried a variety of over the counter solutions to help, and I do have one that's fairly reliable, but I don't want to take it every night in order to do what the mom blogs say. So, I reserve it for when I feel I need it.

Is there a point to this oddly detailed dissertation on your sleeping habits, Candi? Why, yes there is. I am so glad you asked.

I guess I wish moms who are just a little newer at this whole thing than I could have someone tell them that sometimes really good advice is going to fail. It can be solid guidance that is absolutely essential for your BFF, and it might fail miserably for you.

It's acutely cliche to repeat this - but there is no one like you. You are also oddly specific. You have weirdities (it's a word because I say it is, stand down spellcheck) that I cannot know or "get" or account for. And while life cannot accommodate all of our odd specificity and personal nuance, you will be a better person if you take the time to know yourself well.

I'm up late because I soaked in a long bath - a favorite indulgence of mine. I put off the dishes to do it. But I knew that if I left the dishes in the sink, I would feel stress as soon as I saw them tomorrow. Tomorrow (now today) is Sunday, and church starts at 9am. I don't like 9am. I don't like dressed and present at 9am, I should say. But I love going to church, and I love Sunday, and I need to not wake up at ugly-o-clock and feel stress when I'm already probably angryish at my husband for waking me up to begin with. Yes, you can feel sorry for him. Yes, I can set my own alarm. No, I'm not going to do it.

I know that staying up to have a clean kitchen tomorrow is, for me, much more valuable than going to bed early. I know that I can probably take a nap tomorrow (thank God we've reached that phase of life). I tried the "embracing the mess" route, and it was a short route and I hated it. That's not for me, although I would gladly hire someone else to do the chores if life allowed for that at this juncture.

I know myself, now, well enough to know that I can palpably feel my stress level drop when certain areas of the house are tidy. I've also learned that sometimes I need to just close the kids' bedroom doors and not worry about that at the moment.

Having been a mom for almost nine years, I've learned some of my own stress triggers, and I'm still learning. It took me way too long to realize that life doesn't need to look like a commercial, but I do need to be healthy.

If I could give you an assignment right now - from a still-young mom who is easing up on 9 years at this, it would be to listen to your involuntary stress responses right now, and think about what you can do to address them. When you feel that little ping of stress or you feel that weight creep up in your chest, what caused it? These triggers are some of our personal, specific nuances, and knowing them is absolutely invaluable. Here are a few of mine:

I don't watch crime shows anymore if they are too detailed or involve children - they get in my head. It affects me. It's a trigger.

I don't leave my bed un-made. I make it quickly and imperfectly because I know that looking at a messy bed makes me feel messy. It's a trigger. I avoid it.

I have learned that if my home smells good, I am significantly more relaxed - so I own an essential oil diffuser and several wax warmers. They are worth it. 

I don't bathe my kids every single night, unless they really need it. I have a life.

I don't sort my laundry into colors anymore. So far, I haven't ruined anything. But...

I don't leave unfolded laundry lying anywhere except a small basket reserved for unfolded things or folded towels. Piles of laundry are, you guessed it, a trigger.

These are some of my specific nuances. These are, by no means, an attempt to tell anyone the right way to do things. These are a few ways that I get by as a mom and as a human being and manage life and stay sane. Some of them mean more work for me, and some mean letting things go.

And as I said before, you too are oddly specific. It is worth your time to learn what affects you the very most, and creatively address those things. It may mean giving up an area in which you feel you have to conform to an ideal Mom Persona you've manufactured in your mind.

There are competing voices all over the internet - some telling you how to accomplish life more effectively, and some pushing you to loosen up and let go. There is so much value in both of those things, but it's an impossible mission unless you start by knowing yourself and your family and what you actually, truly need.

Well, y'all, I am finally going to bed - signing off to the hum of the dishwasher, and I hope to wake up to the smell of roast slow-cooking to perfection in the crock pot. Happy, Happy Sunday.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Radical Listening

My heart is heavy. Talking feels hopeless. Looking around at the dialogue flying back and forth, I want to hunker down and wrap my arms over my head. I want to tuck my family into the foxhole with me and create a safe haven, insulated from the noise and flying debris. That’s what my brain is telling me. It’s time to hide. Run. Don’t say anything, just flee.

But in my heart, I think I know what actually needs to happen. I think part of that instinct is correct. I don’t think there’s all that much to say (ironic that I’m writing a blog, then, right? Well, aren’t you a smarty-pants and I probably like you for it).

I think it’s time for some radical listening. I know everyone is screaming for you and I to take a stand, but I think we’re failing on a much simpler level.

See, the people we think we’re standing up to? They aren’t hearing us. Picture the entity you are most frustrated with. Go ahead. Is it a politician? A movement? An organization?

Let me ask you – when is the last time they responded to your Facebook rants? When is the last time that they nodded and listened, looking thoughtful while you shared your frustrations? Maybe you’re 100% correct. Maybe you have all of your facts straight. Maybe you are angsty and itching to do something.

I hear you.

May I make a timid observation?

Are we actually shouting at the wrong people?

Who is hearing us every time we speak?

It’s the people in our own circle, friends. Sometimes we feel free to post whatever makes us grunt in agreement because we operate as if only the people who agree with us can hear our words. It’s much like the way we interact with our siblings in the comfort of our parents’ home. We make jokes we absolutely would not when in other company. We may even openly laugh at someone, because everyone in the room knows we don’t “mean” it – we’re just pointing out humor that is obvious to a group of people with such similar backgrounds. Those inside jokes are funny, and mostly harmless because they are based on the fact that everyone in the room a) understands no malice is intended and b) will never repeat those conversations outside of the safety of those home-walls.

Home is the place where you get to be, frankly, kind of insensitive. Or even a lot insensitive at times? I won’t ask and you don’t have to tell.

But that’s not the whole of us. We actually do care what other people think and how they perceive us, and we care if we hurt them.
I am suggesting that maybe we allow ourselves to slip into a place of too much comfort when we blast our views on social media. We may believe we have all of the facts, but we absolutely do not have all of the perspectives.

I guess I’m wondering what would happen if we called a moratorium on taking to social media when we are upset. What if, when upsetting things happened, we refused to be used? We refused to allow anyone to harness our fear as energy for his or her own political or social agenda.

What if we got willing to be vulnerable with others and ask questions that make us feel uncomfortable? Instead of mega-phoning our opinions because we can, we intentionally sought out another perspective to check ourselves.

I remember a time when my ego was so large that I felt victory when I managed to shut someone up. These days when a conversation moves from deep and serious to placating and polite, I feel my heart sink. When someone stops speaking honestly to me, it likely indicates that I don’t seem safe and open to them anymore.  That feels like failure to me.

I don’t want to summarize the problems of society with silly memes that oversimplify complex issues. The whole of society is not within my purview. So I’m not going to rail as if the whole world can hear.

I’m going to spend my time on the people who actually hear me talk, see what I share, and take part in my life. And I’m going to start by listening. It’s your turn to talk, friend.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Truths That Shape My Parenting

If I had to summarize the last few years of my parenting journey, I would probably simply say, “Steep, steep learning curve.”

With the birth of my third child, changes came hard and fast. I delivered a baby without surgery for the first time in my life and I felt that something was finished, and as much as I hate cliché – it was only the beginning. My perfect, rotund baby cried and didn’t sleep and instead of acclimating to us and us acclimating to him, he continued to scream and cry for years. Actual years. My husband and I finally clued in to the fact that Joe has some sensory issues that manifest in a variety of ways, and that’s a great blog for another day. The bottom line? It changed me as a parent.

I don’t think I’ve ever been a “bad” parent in the sense that I wasn’t a good parent, but I think at times I’ve been a less-than-kind-on-the-inside parent when it comes to comparisons and priorities. I’ve since learned that there are about a million and one reasons why a little one could be having a breakdown in the store. I’ve learned the difference between a meltdown and a tantrum. I’ve learned that unclipped toenails aren’t a sign that a mother neglects to groom her child; maybe her kid feels like he is in pain when anyone tries to clip his nails. I’ve learned a whole host of lessons.

Like always, the writing bug hits me suddenly with very little warning, just a stream of thoughts that feel like they merit documentation. And so here’s my little list of things that I consider truths that shape the parent that I am and/or try to be right now.  This isn’t a comprehensive list and it’s certainly not a how-to. I feel humbled when I learn little things and look around and realize that many parents who are much “greener” than I have known them for a long time.  Others are truths or principles that I have tried to live by since before I ever had children.

Maybe I’ll enjoy reading these again someday.

1.     Don’t throw your kid under the bus. When something is your fault, don’t blame your kid because you can. It stings. It undermines trust. It embarrasses them. It’s not worth it.

2.     No one’s opinion is more important than your relationship with your kid. If they don’t like what you let your child wear or do, it only matters if it actually matters. People who love you and your children will approach, not attack, and they won’t rehash old issues over and over.

3.     Similar to point two, you don’t need friends who do not respect your children. I do not carry the expectation that others will constantly coddle or placate my children. If my child is being rude, bullying, having a tantrum, or acting in destructive ways, I fully expect that they will receive a response and I will support that response 99% of the time. What I do not accept under any circumstances? Personal remarks, overreaching physical punishment, mocking, degradation, and public shaming. People who love you and your kids will not engage in these things even when your child has made them angry. Keep those friends who can encourage your child toward good behavior with a heart that says, “I know you are better than this” or can even speak a firm truth to them without allowing a moment of bad behavior to affect their long-term relationship. Friends who don’t genuinely care about your kids are not your friends at all. Anyone who constantly brings up your child’s struggles or taunts them to the point of real hurt is not a person that you need in your life.

4.     There are things we will never logically understand unless we walk there. Respect them anyway. Special needs are at the very top of this list. My opinion about your autistic/ADHD/SPD child does not matter. Sometimes our opinions just don’t matter. My respect (or lack thereof) for you and the road you are walking is where my character will show. I don’t need to fully understand what you are going through to care and show up for you. I should not require constant explanations in order to believe that your struggles are real. This place of trust and empathy is where friendship lives. There is so much beauty in this, guys. In just caring, asking genuine, interested questions, or crying along with a struggling parent. Asking “stupid” questions in love is rarely offensive. Taking the time to care and become invested is a rare gift that is always, always heartwarming. 

5.     Don’t let your kids stay “in trouble.” When a child has earned consequences, administer them and let the matter go. I cannot keep my child’s heart open to me if I am constantly pushing them away. “I know you will do better.” “I have seen you do this well before.” “I know you are having a hard time, but I promise things will get better.” “Is there anything you are looking forward to doing tomorrow?” “Is there something you would like to do today?” These are the kinds of phrases I really try to use often. I often fail. I’m an introvert who is also a verbal processor, which means that I have a lot to say and I don’t always feel like listening. My mind is always running at a furious pace, and I always feel “busy” even when I’m not. Slowing down and taking an interest in where they are doesn’t always come naturally.

6.     Surprise them with humor. My 8 year old has a habit that drives me crazy. Honestly, it does. I don’t love it. Sometimes I place a moratorium on this practice when I just can’t take it anymore, but here it is. Micah finds it hilarious to call out random foods in the middle of a conversation. His top two shout-outs are “HAM!” and “BANANA!” I just cannot even with this, guys. I’m not a fan. But occasionally when the mood strikes, I interrupt him with one of his weird, beloved food words and it slays him. Dumb humor is the language of eight year olds, for whatever reason. So there’s that. Do with it what you will.

7.     Let your kids talk you into things sometimes. Oh, this has been hard. I’m one of those moms – you know, the “no means no” and “you need to obey the first time” mother. I am unapologetic in the latter, but the former has evolved a bit. I’ve learned that allowing my kids the chance to make a case for things that they feel strongly about is good for both of us. Sometimes it requires time that I don’t really want to take, or brain cells that I don’t feel that I have at the moment (I don’t like to listen, remember?). But I’m learning a lot about this, and I have come to realize that I cannot expect my children to feel free to talk to me “about anything” (as I always tell them) if I won’t listen to them in the things that matter to them right now.

Well, this is scattered, and a bit random, but it feels good to peck out my thoughts here on these black keys.   I’m not rewriting this, so feel free to overlook grammatical errors. :-P

Have a good Thursday, y’all. I’d love to hear your long-standing or brand new principles for parenting. What are your cardinal rules?