Archive of ‘parenting’ category

on the magic of summer (or: let’s all just chill out a little, mkay?)

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?

Exhaustion.

Unmet expectations.

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?

Everything.

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.

a letter to my kids on the eve of the inauguration

pexels-photo-129112Dear kids,

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.

Love,

Mom

Back to School (or, Alllll By Myselllllllfff) (or, I Think I’m Alone Now) (or, IT IS SO QUIET WITHOUT KIDS)

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.

Ha.

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…

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IMG_1026We 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.

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IMG_1035And 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.

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IMG_1081It’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.

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A Prayer For The Mom Who Thinks She’s Screwing Her Kids Up Forever

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.”

Y’all.

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.

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on loving them big and sending them out

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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.

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29 days. Let’s do this. (Or, Unanswered Questions with Mary Grace)

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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.

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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?”

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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.

Godspeed.

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It’s all coming back. It’s all coming back to me now.

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:

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and we’ve got this:

IMG_0051This:

IMG_9642And this:

IMG_9649Fun! And excitement!

IMG_9679And, ladies and gents, dazed and confused and exhausted.

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As I said, wondrous + challenging.

IMG_5267But we do the best we can.  We live and learn.  We rest.

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And we go.  And go.  And we go.

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Celine, you are spot on.  There are moments of gold.  And there are flashes of light.

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But then there are those things we’d never do again (but then they’d always seemed right)…

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Ah, summer.

It’s all coming back, it’s all coming back to me now….

Baby, Baby.

week one of summer. or, that time I thought I’d be hospitalized for exhaustion.

 

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.

IMG_9393Flash 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.

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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.

In this family, we struggle. And we fail. And we do hard things.

“Hey mom.  Do you think you’re gonna pee in your pants when you’re up there talking to those ladies?  Cuz, when I’m in front of people, my eyes start watering and I ALWAYS feel like I’m gonna pee.”

Mary Grace always knows exactly how to encourage my soul.

Or something.

“Man, I hope I don’t pee in my pants,” I responded.  “Because this is kind of hard for me!  It makes me nervous and doesn’t feel comfortable.  But we have a really big God, so we can do hard things.”

We can do hard things.

If we had a family mantra, this would be one of them.  Right along with, “FOR THE LOVE.  Put the lightsaber DOWN.”

You see, as a mom, I want my kids to see me struggle.  I want them to sit at the dinner table and hear their imperfect parents wrestle over decisions, over scripture, over all the things that we just don’t understand.  I want them to watch us fail and ask for forgiveness and get right back up.

The last thing I want is for my kids to view their parents as some impenetrable force who has this life all figured out.

I want my kids to see me struggle because I don’t want them to view me as a hero.  I want them to see me flounder and push through the hard so that God’s strength can burst through my weakness.

I have heard parents buck against this.  They deliberately conceal their weaknesses and failures out of a desire for their children to “feel secure.”  In an attempt to reassure their kids that their parents are strong!  That they’re able!  That WE ARE ALL OKAY!

But the truth is that we are not all okay.  And if my kids learn to look to us as the strong ones- as their saviors- well, just go ahead and stamp FAILURE on my forehead.  Because my chief goal as mom is to continually, almost-fanatically, train my kids to look to Jesus as the Strong One.  As the only One who saves.  As the One through whom we do the hard things.

Parents, it is OKAY for your kids to see you struggle and wrestle and question and (gasp) even fail.  It’s okay for me to tell my daughter that, “man, I’m not really feeling that brave right now, and I really hope I don’t pee in my pants.”  Because this following-Jesus-thing is not always a cakewalk.  It’s hard.  There’s sacrifice.  There’s that whole, “take up your cross, and follow me” deal that Jesus threw out there (Matthew 16:24).  Sometimes, following Jesus looks a lot more like battle than anything else.  But the best news of all- the news that we better be speaking over our children day in and day out- is that we already know who wins.

So, yes.  We, Allisons, can do hard things.  We can love others when they’re unlovable.  We can go when we want to stay.  We can speak up for those who have no voice.  We can push past our fears and get up on that dang stage.

We can do hard things.  Not because we’re omnipotent, omniscient, fearless little mini-gods. But because we have a Savior who is.

And for the record, that same child- darling little Mary Grace- approached me a few days later and asked, “If I’m a mom one day, will it be a hard thing?”  To which I replied, “YEP.  It’s amazing and worth it but it is a REALLY HARD THING.”

“Well then,” she said.  “I’m not gonna be a mom then.  Cuz I do NOT like to do hard things.”

We’re working on it.

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a few words to my preschool grad and all other children of the world

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Once upon a time, Matt and I thought we knew exactly how to parent.  We knew the best discipline methods.  The best kind of education for our children.  The best way to get our kids to sleep and learn and behave and be.  We were experts.

This was all pre-kids, of course.

We were so very cute back then.

But then, we wised up.  Realized we had no flippin’ idea what we were doing after all.

It seems as though all parents go through this at some point- that lightbulb moment in which it all becomes crystal clear.  When you realize that, oh hey, parenting is actually mad hard.  That kids change everything.  That all of your parenting theories and noble ideas and book knowledge make ZERO SENSE once that new baby or nutso toddler or sassy big kid is actually in YOUR house.  Under YOUR roof.  Their wellbeing in YOUR hands.

We hit that moment shortly after baby #1 came around.  Then, if I wasn’t shell-shocked already, #2 burst into the world with all of her passion and fury.  Finally, in the midst of that, we brought home a little girl who had been through a lot.  A lot a lot.  Which just sealed the deal.  We needed help.

So, last fall, Matt and I took ourselves to a counselor.  To hold our hands and walk us through how to best parent our sweet Elizabeth.  And she did just that.  Held our hands.  Walked us through it all.  Offered us all kinds of wonderful insight and advice.  But perhaps the biggest game-changer was her insistence that we get Elizabeth back. in. preschool.

“But it’s not in our plans!” we said.

“Get her back in preschool.”

“It’s not in our budget!”

“Get her back in preschool.”

“This website and that blog and allofthosebooks said to keep her home!”

“Get her back in preschool.”

So we did.  And she was SO RIGHT.  It has been a truly fantastic year.  Our girl has grown by leaps and bounds.  Kindergarten is right around the corner, and we’re all feeling ready.  Excited.  We’re all in a completely different spot than we were in the fall, and I’m abundantly, overwhelmingly grateful.

And so, as Elizabeth bids adieu to her preschool career today, I have a few pieces of advice for my tiniest graduate.  And for her brother and sister.  And all of the other children of the world.

  1. Counselors are awesome.  There will come a day in which you will say to yourself, “Huh.  I think I should really go see a counselor.”  LISTEN TO THAT VOICE.  Go.
  2. Counselors are smart.  They go to school for this.  They study.  They read lots of books.  Like, scholarly books.  Not just Parenting Magazine and Facebook Mom Groups.  Ahem.  Listen to them.  Do what they say.
  3. Counselors are not scary people.  It’s unfortunate that I even have to say this.  But the truth is, people have all kinds of weird vibes about counseling.  Lemme just put it to you gently: that stigma is whack.  I’m convinced that everyone needs a good counselor every now and then.  Even if you think you’re the epitome of “normal”, “healthy”, or “just fine.”  Whatever.  You need counseling too.

That’s it.  Sure, I’d love you to work hard and shoot for the stars and all of that jazz.  But I’d also like you to get yourself in a counselor’s chair some day.

So, dear Elizabeth.  Congrats on this day.  This day that almost wasn’t because PRESCHOOL WAS NOT IN OUR PLANS.  You made it!  You learned so much.  You made gobs of friends.  And you’re pumped and ready for kindergarten.

Phew and praise Jesus.

In your honor, not only will we go celebrate tonight with your dinner of choice (corndogs), but we will also start a fund for all three of you darling children.  The “We-Will-Probably-Mess-You-Up-As-Parents-In-Some-Way-or-Another Allison Children Counseling Fund”.  You’re very welcome, sweet girl.

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