Archive of ‘parenting’ category
I think it’s time we had a little chat. You’ve been going to church for a while now. Since, well, birth. You’ve heard the gospel clearly articulated. You’ve earned your Awana badges. You’ve sung WAY COOLER songs than the Psalty the Singing Songbook gems I was raised on. You’ve been around the evangelical church block a time or two in your relatively short lives, and I’m grateful.
But as thankful as I am for the solid, Christ-exalting churches that we’ve been a part of over the years, it’s come to my attention that maybe we’re missing the mark in one particular arena. We do a great job teaching you Bible stories. We push hard to get those “memory verses” in you. We talk to you about quiet times. We talk about true love waiting. We talk and we talk and we talk. But as I’ve watched the news and listened to the voices and followed the social media (ohmygosh, the social media) over the past months, I’ve wondered if we’ve actually spent so much time and energy talking and teaching you how to be “good little boys and girls” who don’t wear this and don’t say that and don’t sleep around and don’t don’t don’t that we forgot how we DO treat one another. I think we’ve forgotten to teach you to be brothers and sisters and co-laborers.
So, kids, as we strive to do better and as you grow up and dream of your future, I have some of my own hopes and dreams for you as your mom:
Let’s start with you, girls.
I’m going to waste zero time and cut to the most crucial piece of advice I could possibly offer here and then work back from there. Because I know it may feel out of place, but trust me- you get this one right and so much will follow:
Girls, study God’s word. Read it. Learn it. Historically, so many of the theological heavy lifters have been men, leading countless women to position themselves in the shadows- with a cursory, anemic understanding of Scripture- assuming that they simply couldn’t understand what the seminary trained theologians could. FALSE. If you learn anything from me, it’s that you, my girls, are more than capable of studying Scripture for yourselves. Full stop. This is critical because the way you understand Scripture will completely shape how you view God and, in turn, His redemptive narrative and His creation.
Because you, girls, are a vital part of this narrative. A narrative that all points back to the Creator and King who deserves all of the glory and praise. But sometimes people get this confused. Sometimes people start to get tiny tastes of power and glory, and they become intoxicated. And with that power, they might start to relegate others into boxes that feel comfortable and non-threatening. That’s why you see so many strong, brilliant women within the church stuffing their God-given gifts. Because the message that’s been conveyed to them for years has sounded a lot like, “You know? You’re just a little too much.”
When those moments arise, girls, I need you to keep your eyes and heart locked in on Jesus and His infallible truth. Stay humble. Remain teachable, receiving Godly input well. But. After that. Don’t be afraid to shut the negativity out and run hard in whatever lane God calls you- whether that’s in the home, church, or marketplace- without guilt or condemnation. God gave you those gifts and passions to use for His kingdom and His glory. Get after it.
A final word of warning, girls, and this is important. Protect yourself from becoming jaded. These days, there is a lot of heated dialogue surrounding men versus women in the Church and the world at large, and rightfully so. A lot has happened, and a lot of women have been and continue to be profoundly hurt. Tragically so. But hear me: men are not the enemy. Sin is. Look around you as you grow up and notice the multitudes of men surrounding you, affirming your gifts, having your backs, and cheering you on as you run hard after what God has called you to. See the men who are tirelessly combating the lies the world may be shouting about your worth. See them, girls, because they’re your brothers, and we need them. Let’s do our part to build up this brotherhood and sisterhood within the Church.
Which brings me to a word to my son.
Son, if I could offer up one piece of advice to you, it would be this:
Remember the brotherhood and sisterhood. Remember your family.
No, I’m not talking about your biological family here. I’m talking about all of the people- male and female, black and brown and white- that you’ll come across in work, play, and worship throughout your days. Because the sad truth is that some Jesus-following guys just get… weird… around girls with time. Don’t be the weird guy. Girls don’t have cooties and they certainly don’t need to be feared; it is indeed possible to work alongside them, learn from them, and be led by them without lightning striking you dead.
In all seriousness, I pray that you would have eyes to see the kingdom of God as a family of brothers and sisters rather than temptresses and threats. I pray that you would be able to approach the family of God without prevailing feelings of distrust and suspicion. Oh how I pray that you would unapologetically and without hesitation stand up for those who might not be in power. That you might use your platforms, power, and privilege for good and for God’s glory. You need your sisters in the church, and they need you. Because when we work together, each with our individual gifts and in our given lanes and within the bounds of Scripture, yes- that’s how the Church is supposed to function.
And a final word to all three of you:
God has created men and women with equal value and dignity and worth. In his perfect design, He has created us with different functions and roles, but don’t you dare let anyone try to tell you that different equals inferior. If you settle on an inaccurate view of the worth and value of your brothers and sisters within the church, I fear you’re settling on a woefully incomplete view of God. And for this the Church will indeed suffer.
Because that, you guys, is what this is all about. Not about puffing out our chests with all of the power we can possibly exert. Not about the issues we champion or the camps with which we march. It’s not about our identities as strong women, faithful employees, husbands and fathers, movers/shakers/world-changers but about our identity as beloved children of the God who deserves all of the glory. Our greatest goal, therefore, is not in proving ourselves to the watching world but in professing Christ to a world who desperately needs something greater to watch.
We can do this. Let’s start small, and let’s start with us. And one by one, we can link arms with brothers and sisters ready to get on with this. There’s work to be done, and we’ve wasted enough time bickering, competing, and silencing. Are we a family or what? Okay good, I thought so. Onward.
A lot has gone down over the past few months, huh? You packed and repacked bags, crated your bikes and baby dolls, and sold whatever was left. You said goodbye to that backyard fort you worked so hard to construct, to the school that was such a great fit for our family, to a life that seemed to work just fine. You said goodbye to consistency. To “normal.” To dance. To the only church you’ve ever known. To our dog. Oh my word, our dog. You have done some really hard things, kids.
I’m so, so proud of you.
But let me shoot straight with you for a second, okay?
Things are about to get even more crazy.
In just a few months, you’ll board a plane here in America only to land on African soil with all of its foreign smells and language and customs and just about everything. And there you’ll stand, a stranger in a foreign land, expected to assimilate and adjust and find home in all of the strangeness.
In just a few months, junk is about to get real. FAST. And, if I’m straight up with you, I have no clue how all of this is going to go down. How will your first day of school go? How will that first holiday away from cousins and grandparents and normal be? Will we catch on to the language? There’s no telling.
But here’s the thing, you guys. I know life seems to be shifting in seismic ways right now- and I recognize that it can be alarming that your parents don’t have all of the answers (SHOCKING, I know)- but in this season of unknowns and drastic change and more-questions-than-answers, I want to assure you of a few things that I know for sure and forever.
1. You’re not God’s ultimate gift to this world.
People are people. And kids are kids. Sin is sin. And we all need rescuing. Including you.
We do not love others- and we will not serve and love our Malawian neighbors and friends- from a pedestal. We’re not moving halfway across the world to swoop in as Americans who know better. No, guys. We’re going to link arms with our brothers and sisters in Malawi. To learn from them. To be the church. Together.
There is no us versus them. There’s just a we. A “we” who might do things differently at times. Who might speak different dialects and who might prefer varying cuisines. Who might do school and sports and free-time differently. But nonetheless, a humanity-wide “we” navigating this broken world together.
So, open your eyes wide, kids. There’s a beautiful and messy world out there waiting for you. A world filled with people who are more like you than different. So, love big. Serve extravagantly. And as you do so, just remember that you’re not God’s greatest gift to this world. Jesus is.
2. God’s presence will always go with you.
Jen Wilkin aptly says, “When we trust [God] as fully present everywhere, we are finally free to be fully present wherever he has placed us.”
You guys, there will surely be times when life just kind of stinks. You might be lonely. Afraid. Sad. You might feel like throwing a fit and slamming every door and screaming, “How and why did I end up here?”
And that’s okay. You can feel these things and have these days and still know that God is right there with you in the mess. You will never, ever be alone.
You can go in confidence because God himself goes with you. You can do hard things- things like moving and selling and saying endless goodbyes- because God is with you. And when you walk into that new school in a new country for the very first time, you can walk in knowing that he is right there with you. WITHIN you. Comforting you. Guiding you. Strengthening you.
Kids, you have been jostled around enough to make anyone dizzy over the past few months, and honestly? The jostling is only about to pick up more speed. But I pray- man I pray- that God’s constant presence and unshifting goodness can provide the stability that your dad and I can’t promise right now. We can be fully present anywhere he places us because he is always and forever fully present with us.
3. God’s glory is always worth it.
If I sit down and think about it, I could come up with one heck of a laundry list of reasons why we shouldn’t pick up and move to Africa. Kids, I know you could too. I’ve heard plenty of them already anywhere.
But pitted against a thousand and more reasons not to go, declaring and spreading God’s glory is going to win out every. single. time.
If we believe- like REALLY BELIEVE- that “from him and to him and through him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:36), we’ve gotta live like it. We have to live like “all things” means all things. And when things that fall under this umbrella of “all things” happen- language faux pas, difficult relationships, lonely holidays- we can remember that he’s in complete control, and his ultimate aim is to be worshipped. For his name to be made great.
Ultimately, he’s going to get his glory, guys. There WILL be a day every nation, tribe, and tongue is around his throne worshipping. The cool thing is that he lets us be part of this. And man is he is worth it.
4. You are not mine.
Alright, you guys. This one is harder for me than you. Here we go:
Carson, Mary Grace, and Elizabeth- ultimately, you are not mine. You’re not mine to have and hold and keep forever. You’re not mine to coddle and place in an iron fortress of protection. You are gifts- some of the greatest, most precious gifts imaginable- given by God above.
A while back, our pastor, JD, got all up in my business when he said, “When God designs a child to be shot out like an arrow—and instead we treat that child like a piece of furniture that we plan to keep in the house—we not only stunt their development, we also discourage them from finding God altogether. In protecting them from all of life’s challenges, we show them a picture of our faith that is dismally boring. And where your depiction of faith is boring, they will drift toward more interesting things.”
You guys, there is nothing- not one single thing- that is more exciting than following God. Hear me, though- exciting does not always mean safe. It certainly doesn’t always translate to comfortable or easy, and as a mama, this is sometimes difficult for me to stomach. But, at the end of the day, God created you for to be shot out as arrows into this broken world. I love you something fierce, but God’s love is unimaginably fiercer. You’re some of my greatest earthly blessings, but earth is not your home. Heaven is.
So, dear kids, this is all exciting and challenging and beyond anything any of us are capable of. YOU DON’T GOT THIS. Nor do I. Be encouraged.
I love you guys. Let’s do this.
So, we’re going to Disney World. Not in the immediate future, mind you- no, we’re talking months down the road. But apparently planning a Disney trip is a LEGIT THING these days, people. When I was a kid, I’m certain we just rolled up to the theme parks without one iota of planning, aside from which color fanny pack best coordinated with our poofy bangs and neon hair scrunchies.
I could post photographic evidence of where I landed with these decisions, but I have a sense of self-dignity. And 80’s bangs + fanny packs transcend all of that.
Anyway, Disney trip. I’m planning. For an October trip. And while I may sound like I’m complaining, I’m really not because THIS IS WHAT I WAS MADE FOR. I can research and plan and spreadsheet like it’s going out of style. Some people may call me a control freak…. and, okay, so maybe they’re right.
But in all of my dutiful planning, I have stumbled across a recurrent theme that I would like to discuss for a tiny bit. It’s this thing that Disney People like to call “extra magic.” Allow me to explain. Apparently, spending All Of The Dollars on a trip to the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH isn’t quiiite sufficient. And so, these adorable parents plan extra daily gifts and surprises and treats for their children to unwrap. At Disney World. Magic upon magic upon magic.
Americans, y’all. We crack me up.
So, I was thinking about this and getting a good chuckle over the whole notion when it occurred to me: CRAP. This is exactly what we’ve done to summer break! Our kids are handed a glorious three month vacay, and we 21st century parents start spinning our darling little wheels trying to finagle the most perfect, magical summer ever.
We pump up expectations and raise the bar sky high. We keep trying to generate magic upon magic. But you know what I have discovered over time? You know what happens when you combine sky high expectations with long, hot, endless summer days?
Whining. Oh my gosh, the whining.
So it goes in the Allison house at least. But maybe we’re just an anomaly.
But in the event that we’re not…. in the event that you, too, feel overwhelmed with the prospect of manufacturing and orchestrating the most magical, memory-filled, entertaining summer ever… if you happen to be the type that stresses over devising Magical Summer Bucket Lists… allow me to save you some stress and Pinteresting. Go ahead and draw nigh my friends. This is important. Y’all ready?
SUMMER IS ALREADY MAGICAL.
You know what summer has going for it?
No school. Fireflies. Pool days. Water balloons. Popsicles. Netflix marathons. Marsh-like backyards from hours of running through sprinklers. Neighborhood kid Nerf gun wars.
Do you know how difficult these things are to execute? Not. Zero difficulty. They just happen naturally. BECAUSE SUMMER IS MAGICAL.
Parents. Listen. If elaborate, sparkly “Summer Bucket List” posters and plans are smack dab in your wheelhouse, then that is SO AWESOME. Go big, and have fun. This is your moment to shine, so get at it. I am so proud of you.
But if that’s not you… if the thought of adding “extra magic” to your kids’ already magical summer makes you twitch, then here’s my official permission to pull back. For goodness sake, let your kids be bored out of their minds from time to time. Because do you know what’s birthed out of utter summer boredom? MAGIC. (Also, sometimes mess and whining and a variety of other shenanigans. But I am focusing on creativity! brilliance! magic! here, mkay?)
Let’s stop raising the bar so impossibly high. Let’s stop making life so dang exhausting for ourselves. Let’s be content to sit our behinds in a lounge chair by the pool or in our backyards with our neighbors. Let’s feed our kids an insane amount of cheap Red Dye #40 laden popsicles and lock their sticky bodies outside ’till the sun goes down.
Let’s give our kids the gift of free, unadulterated, unchoreographed time. Time to sit and think and be. To wonder and to wander. To fight and work it out. To be hopelessly, tearfully bored and then to push through. Or maybe not. Maybe they’ll stay bored. And they’ll realize that obladi oblada LIFE JUST GOES ON.
I don’t know, y’all. I kind of wonder if we’re raising a generation of kids who are perpetually on the hunt for “extra magic” while the real magic is right in front of their eyeballs.
I’ve seen all of the gut-wrenching, eye-opening posts drawing our attention to the whole “eighteen summers” thing- to the reality that we, as parents, are given a finite span of time before they leave the nest. Admonishing us to make it count! Live it up! And I totally get it; I’m all about experiences and memories and living it up.
But I don’t know. Maybe we all just need to chill out a little.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: go big or go home or go however your family best goes. But if you find yourself sprawled out on your front yard doing ordinary things on the most ordinary of days, and you hear your kid proclaim this to be the “best. summer. ever.”…. well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
No extra magic required.
As you know, tomorrow is a big day for our country. Donald Trump will be sworn into office as the next President of the United States of America. Occupying that same big, white house and following in the footsteps of such predecessors as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson, all eyes will be on President Trump over the coming four years.
That’s the thing about leadership, kids- it’s a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. People watch their leaders closely. People listen. People mimic. Leaders set social mores and solidify cultural norms within their sphere of influence. It just so happens that the presidential sphere of influence is deep and wide.
But, guys, listen. As a new president steps into the oval office this week, and as we stand witness to the inevitable change he has promised over the coming weeks and years, I need you to know something. I need you to know that even the most powerful human in the world would have no bearing on your own moral code. And I need you to hear me when I say that our family will never be swayed or defined by behavior and attitudes deemed “normalized” by our society.
Kids, here’s the deal. This is how it’s going to go down tomorrow:
You’re going to wake up, and you’re going to get dressed and go to school. It’s going to be business as usual. You’re going to work hard and obey the rules and show kindness to your classmates. And then, you’re going to come home. And when you do, we will have a new president. And you know what? The American flag will still be flying, and our God will still be in control. Truth will still be truth. Our hope will continue to be firmly rooted in Christ. And our family’s rules, expectations, and norms will be completely unchanged.
Because, in our home, we will not live in fear of any leader or policy or perceived threat, for we know our Keeper, and we know that He alone is sovereign.
In our home, we will not place our faith in promises of economic change and prosperity, for our God is the manna-provider, and we believe in radical generosity no matter what.
In our home, we will throw open our doors to those on the fringes of society, knowing that those are the very people to whom Jesus gravitated. When the world’s eyes are closed to the outsider, our eyes will lock in and say, “I see you.”
In our home, we will be slow to speak and quick to listen. We will speak the truth in love and will use our words for good and not evil.
In our home, we absolutely will not support the normalization of anything that goes against scripture, no matter how counter-cultural this may be. We will live by the norms set by Christ Jesus Himself, chiefly love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
In our home, we will respect others. This means that we will respect our elected officials and those who voted for them. Likewise, we will respect those who stand in adamant opposition and who are mourning the transfer of power. We will look around and see our peers, colleagues, family, and president through the lens of the gospel, recognizing that we are all broken sinners in desperate need of grace and mercy. And that not one of us can be saved by our own merit or goodness.
Listen, kids. Learning to lead well is so very important. Still, our lives do not rise and fall based on the power of any earthly ruler or authority. And no role model, no matter how charming, competent, or smart, is worthy of our complete allegiance.
So, in summary, I guess my message is this: Don’t be like Donald Trump. Or Abraham Lincoln. Or Rosa Parks or Malala Yousafzai or Steph Curry or Beyonce. (Though, let’s just be real. If you’ve got pipes like Bey… I claim lifetime first row seats at your concerts.) Don’t strive to be like Moses or Peter or Paul. And if you have your mom and dad on some pedestal, I hereby give you permission to knock us down. Because, you know what? Every one of us is deeply flawed, and we’ll all ultimately lead you astray.
Carson. Mary Grace. Elizabeth. Hang with me; this is important.
In our home, we will always, always point you back to Jesus. You’ll see plenty of leaders and influencers come and go. So, go ahead and take note of the good. Of the ways in which they lead with excellence and model what is right. Meanwhile, don’t forget to learn from the bad. From their mistakes and missteps.
But, at the end of the day, remember- any good you see in this world is found in its fullness and completion in Jesus. And kids, no person is ever, ever too broken for His mercy.
There’s only One who keeps His promises every. single. time. One who loves perfectly, no matter the sacrifice or inconvenience. One whose kingdom will never, ever fade and who will be worshipped by every nation and tribe, color and dialect.
And I have one clue for you: it is certainly NOT our president.
So, let’s land there tomorrow, kids. And every single day that follows.
Well, friends. This week marks the beginning of a whole new era in the life of the Allisons. Six and a half hours a day, five days a week, my kids are out of this little nest from which I type. They’re all in school, leaving their mother to wallow in this now-oh-so-very-quiet nest.
Y’all, I love my kids something crazy. But I also really, really enjoy quiet sometimes. And school. And teachers. And quiet.
So, the stats.
We have a third(!) grader(!) who was VERY ready to get back into the swing of schedules and predictability and learning. Last week, he told me that this past summer was the best yet. When asked to elaborate, he said, “Well, vacation was good but not TOO long. And we went to the library a lot. And I really, really loved that calendar you made me.” The kid may look like his father…
We have a first grader who was not quiiite as stoked to return to the classroom but who, fortunately, can easily be lured into the school building with the promise of rectangular pizzas and corn dog nuggets from the school cafeteria.
And we have a kindergartener! Elizabeth went to one full day of school last week for her staggered entry day. And today, she’ll be with her full class for her first day of for-real kindergarten. She’s equal parts excited and nervous and is armed with her much-loved locket. And her equally-adored (and adoring) big sister who (hopefully) walked her into her classroom this morning.
It’s a big year. A school-year that has been long-anticipated and prayed over. Things always seem to be shifting and changing around here. This year is certainly no exception, and I’m pretty pumped to see what God has in store for us.
But for today? Today, I’m pretty sure that His plans (or, ahem, my plans) involve sitting and resting and drinking an extra celebratory cup of coffee. In silence. Blessed, glorious silence. That is, until the clock strikes 3:45. Then, all bets are off.
The other day, I had a moment. This particular “moment” actually may have lasted a few hours- perhaps a day or two- but whatever. We’re mincing words here. The general theme of my freakout sesh: OMG AM I SCREWING MY KIDS UP FOREVER?
Now, my friends. This question has been a long-standing theme in my eight and half year tenure as mother. In fact, this question taunted me even before my first child took his first breath:
“The guy at the gym actually told me I shouldn’t be stairstepping while pregnant! OMG AM I SCREWING MY KID UP FOREVER?”
“I just chugged a fully-caffeinated latte like nobody’s business, and now my unborn child is surely maimed for life. OMG AM I SCREWING MY KID UP FOREVER?”
Once he was born and that warm, snuggly, always-crying-never-sleeping bundle of joy was in my arms, the doubts just grew louder as I navigated the typical quandaries of young motherhood. Breast or bottle? Work or stay home? Cry-it-out or pick-him-up? Everyone had an opinion. I was overwhelmed. And all I could gather was that I was probably wrong and that OMG I WAS SCREWING MY KID UP FOREVER.
Flash forward a few years, a couple more kids, and a whole heckofalot parental second guessing, and you’ll arrive at my most recent freakout moment: our school choice.
A bit of background. I live in a county with an insane number of school choices. Private and charter and magnet and homeschooling and year-round and modified-year-round. And then. Then there’s the standard, run-of-the-mill, traditional neighborhood public school, where we happen to send our kids. (OMG. Am I screwing my kids up forever?)
Another crucial piece of info: we absolutely love our kids’ school. The teachers, the administration, the families, the culture. It’s been a great fit for us, and I am very, VERY grateful. And yet, there was that fateful night recently in which I lost my ever-loving mind.
“What are we even doing? So-and-so is learning a dozen languages in first grade! They’re probably learning rocket science while our kids are just learning normal things like reading and math! Normal! My snowflakes are going to be normal! And the test scores!! Maybe we should be looking more at test scores!! Because COLLEGE! Don’t we want our kids to go to college one day? Also, scholarships and jobs! They need those too! And we’re ruining their chances by sending them to a just-average school. Oh my gosh they’re going to be NORMAL, and WE ARE TOTALLY SCREWING THEM UP FOREVER.”
Here’s the thing. We live in a day and time in which everybody’s business and opinions and perfectly-filtered-lives are constantly in front of our eyeballs, and that can make things… tricky at times. But you know what I’ve found? That maybe the so-called Mommy Wars are actually settling down a bit. That I’m not surrounded by an angry mob of judgey-pants moms after all. That the judgement is typically coming from within my own messy heart.
Because the other night when I was doubting all of our parenting choices- when comparison got the best of me and my pride clouded out my view of God’s faithfulness- I was the one at fault. It was my sin at play. My eyes darting around, taking notes on everyone else’s lives. My silent declaration of “God, not thy will but MINE be done. Or maybe those people over there… their wills look pretty great too.”
So, before we demonize social media for adding fuel to the Mommy Wars fire and point blaming fingers at everyone else, maybe we should stop to check our own selves first. Because I can talk a big talk, but you know the truth? Many days, I seek man’s praise more than God’s. And, more than I desire God’s will, I want to measure up. My KIDS to measure up. I try to match the omniscience of our all-knowing God by researching and analyzing every decision until I can pat myself on the back and declare, “Mama knows best.” I compare, doubt, second-guess, and fret. Oh, I fret. And I walk around with a white-knuckled grip on my kids’ lives, completely sold on the lie that the buck stops here. That my kids’ futures lie in MY hands. That my excellent decisions will yield perfect children. That it all comes down to me.
Say what you want about the Mommy Wars. But all that right there? That seems like a much more legit battle to be fought. Because until I can see our God for who He is and put myself back in the right position (read: NOT ON HIS THRONE), the Mommy War that is dangerously waging in my own heart will never cease.
So, for today at least, my battle cry looks a lot more like a prayer of surrender:
Hey God, this parenting thing is crazy hard. In a world with so many voices and platforms and Instagram accounts, I pray that your voice would be the loudest. Your Word the truest. Your faithfulness my anchor.
Although I spin my wheels and bust my butt to know-all and be-all things for my kids, I acknowledge that all sovereignty, knowledge, and power actually rests in you alone. Forgive me for trying to steal your glory by exalting myself up as Sustainer of All Things rather than pointing my kids to You, Lord. Because the truth is- apart from you, I am not enough. My power is insufficient. And my wisdom is faulty at best.
But you have given us your infallible Word and your guiding Spirit. You have promised that your love is everlasting and your grace sufficient. So, when my eyes start darting around as they tend to do, comparing notes with every other parent out there, may they ultimately rest on your goodness and sufficiency. May your truth guide me.
And in those moments when I cry out in desperation, “Oh, my God! Am I screwing my kids up forever?,” may your love and mercy wash over me as I am reminded once again that I have never had that kind of power over my kids’ lives anyway.
And thank you, God, for that.
Elizabeth had spent weeks studying the hotel’s website. Daily, she’d pore over stock pictures of the mediocre-to-most hotel breakfast. “So you’re saying I get to eat ALL THE BACON I WANT?” she’d confirm again and again, completely mesmerized by the notion. She rehearsed the details and the plans. Shopping. Food. Pool. Friends. Food. Nails. Food.
Over the past few years, The Kindergarten Trip has become quite the beloved tradition in our home. This all came about when Matt took a cue from our church’s phenomenal counseling pastor, Brad Hambrick, who had started a similar tradition with his sons. His purpose? “Defining special occasions and major lessons with a memorable trip.”
We loved this idea of celebrating specific rites of passage with concentrated one-on-one time with our kids. Sure, we were in it for the fun. In Elizabeth’s case, we would shop! Swim! Eat all of the Hampton Inn bacon her little gut could handle! (Oh my gosh.) But we also desperately want to grab ahold of these golden opportunities to speak truth into our kids’ lives at pivotal moments. To press pause on the crazy at home and to carve out the space and time to invest in relationship. To insert ourselves, as parents, into some of the biggest transitions in their lives and to create positive memories surrounding these moments.
I know this might sound really Pollyannaish to some, but it really comes down to this- we just want our kids to know to the core of their being that they are loved in a no-matter-what kind of way. Because they WILL screw up. They’re going to run into tough situations in school. There will be hard questions and big conversations and bad days. And we want them to know that our house- imperfect though it may be- is a place of grace and mercy and truth. We want our kids to know that they can run to us with all of their everything. And when they do, we’re going to point them right back to the One who loves perfectly. Because, while I am known to roll my eyes and grit my teeth in frustration, His patience never runs dry. His grace is perfect. And his strength is limitless.
I want to teach them to run to us so that, ultimately, they learn to sprint to Him.
I want to surprise them with grace and to love ’em big and, then, to look in their eyes and say, “You know what? There’s a love that’s even greater!”
That’s the goal. And if a one night trip a few hours down the road to Charlotte gets me one step closer to accomplishing this, then we’re on the right track. Because this parenting thing is a marathon. And sometimes we’re just lucky enough to get “really spot on” (Elizabeth’s words, not mine) hotel bacon along the way.
I love summer. I do. The lazier mornings. The looser schedules. Hair that’s turned straight-up crunchy from chlorine. That elusive moment the cry of “I’m booooored” succumbs to creativity and unplugged play.
The other day, I found all three kids outside creating some wobbly structure out of discarded toilet paper rolls. Those moments are pure magic.
Unfortunately, summer also seems to bring out the crazy in me. I mean. I guess fall can bring the crazy out in me in equal measure. As can, oh I don’t know, winter and spring. But SUMMER. I feel all of the pressure to do all of the things. Right now. Really well.
Gotta make those memories! Gotta be a “fun mom”! But just don’t go creating a generation of self-absorbed, all-about-them kids!
Lazy days at the pool! But, oh wait! Don’t forget the chore charts and workbooks pages!
Rest! No, play!
Go! No, stay!
Let ’em be bored! No, give them enriching experiences!
Parenting is hard work, y’all.
And if these intrusive thoughts are not enough to get me all flustered, the steady stream of kid questions and musings stand ready to DO ME IN.
For example. Last week, the kids were watching Planet Earth. Naturally, I was feeling pretty good about my mothering because, while some children were frittering away their hours with Pokemon, mine were learning biology. Ecology. Lots of ologies.
Then, it came. “Mom. What’s SPERM?” she yelled. “Sperm, mom, the SPEEEERRRM. What is that?”
Ohmygosh. So much for education; give me Disney Junior. GIVE ME POKEMON.
Later that day, we found ourselves at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Again, I’m feeling pretty smug at this point, patting myself on the bat for having children who could tiptoe around priceless pieces of art without wreaking complete havoc. Children who were interested enough in the artwork to carefully sound out the descriptions of each painting. (Children who now know that “sperm help make babies.” Because we’re very well-rounded around here.)
We wandered through gallery after gallery. We saw mummies. Ancient artifacts. But there was one burning question of the morning that Mary Grace just needed answered.
“Mom. Mommmm. What’s a…” and she pointed at the word in question. “Virgin,” I whispered. No, mom. Let me read it! And she sounded it out. Carefully. Slowly. Loudly. “Vvvviiiirrrginnn. What’s a VIRGIN?”
Y’all. Art galleries are quiet. Art galleries do not generally seem accustomed to young children. Art galleries can hear everything. So, you can imagine that my daughter’s newfound interest in the immaculate conception felt particularly… deafening.
I’m telling you. Summer is exhausting.
So, we’re on the homestretch. T-29 days to be exact (but who’s counting?) 29 days of fun/games/amusement/excitement. 29 more days of unstructured, lock-’em-outside-until-dinnertime play. 29 more days of crunchy pool hair and popsicle-stained mouths. 29 more days of “mommommommommom” on repeat all the day long. 29 more days ’till my countertops are overrun with backpacks and homework and papers to sign and date and return.
We’ve got this, moms of summer. Let’s finish strong.
Though, if I’m completely honest, yesterday’s question du jour (“How do babies get in mommies’ tummies anyway?”) made me a tiny bit doubtful that I can swing another 29 days of Q&A.
“Well, Mary Grace,” Matt said, “God just puts them there.”
“Ew. That’s SO GROSS,” she yelled.
Summer. It’s winding down. So, may these final days and weeks be filled with equal measures of fun and rest. May the hard days be punctuated with easy, early bedtimes. May the easy days linger on as you enjoy the small things. And may you have the good fortune of evading questions that you’re JUST NOT READY TO ANSWER thankyouverymuch.
In the words of the great Celine Dion, it’s all coming back, it’s all coming back to me now.
Why does summer feel so wondrous and yet so… challenging… in the same moment? Why do I feel a constant tension in work versus play? Relaxation versus GoGoGoing?
Because, oh yeah, KIDS. Three kids with three completely different personalities and three wildly varied levels of energy.
We’ve got this:
and we’ve got this:
Fun! And excitement!
And, ladies and gents, dazed and confused and exhausted.
As I said, wondrous + challenging.
But we do the best we can. We live and learn. We rest.
And we go. And go. And we go.
Celine, you are spot on. There are moments of gold. And there are flashes of light.
But then there are those things we’d never do again (but then they’d always seemed right)…
It’s all coming back, it’s all coming back to me now….
This picture was taken exactly one week ago. Last day of school. We were all bursting with enthusiasm and expectations for a summer filled with excitement! Adventure! General merriment and awesomeness for now and evermore. Or. At least, until school was back in session.
Flash forward to two nights ago when I excused myself from the dinner table at 7pm. To go to bed. AT SEVEN PM. Because I was convinced I was dying. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. My body hurt. My ears were ringing. I felt like I had been hit by a mack truck. And Matt’s only response was, “Uh, kids. What did you DO to my wife today?”
I woke up the following morning feeling like a new human and mentioned to Matt that I identified with those celebs who wind up “hospitalized for exhaustion.” He looked at me skeptically and was all, “So. You’re calling yourself a movie star?”
NO, husband-of-mine. I’m calling myself exhausted. As in the hospitalized-celebrity brand of exhaustion.
And, looking back on our past week, I just can’t even figure out why.
These little people of mine? They can’t stop, won’t stop. They’re MACHINES, y’all. And maybe they will land me in the hospital after all. (But hospitals have WiFi, right? And cable? And food served to me on little trays? I MEAN…)
So, to all the parents of children on the first days of summer break, I stand in solidarity with you. Dear mom hiding behind her sunglasses as she dozes off while “watching her kids” at the park, I salute you. To those who substitute chlorine for shampoo and lemonade for servings of fruit, keep on keepin’ on.
We can do this. And when we can’t, there’s always Netflix.
Or 7pm bedtimes.