Lessons from Teenagers on Friendship

Friendship

Most of you know that earlier this month, my older daughter spent four days in the hospital with meningitis. I blogged about the change in perspective it brought here.

While we were in the hospital, though, I learned something else. I knew my daughter had some great friends. I knew that they enjoyed all the fun, silly things that teenagers do. What I didn’t know was that these kids had mastered the art of friendship in the tough times.

Being a teenager is hard. Navigating through relationships of all kinds is difficult at any age but especially in the teen years where kids are just learning how to be a friend.

But while my daughter was in the hospital, we discovered that these teenagers — these 13-, 14-, and 15-year-old kids — had mastered friendship in ways that a lot of adults I know have not.

We weren’t out of the ER before some of my daughter’s closest friends had shown up with snacks and flowers. Those same friends were in her hospital room every single day we were there — watching movies, making up silly games and just hanging out. They even threw my daughter a birthday party on the day hers was supposed to be, complete with cake, balloons and party hats. It’s summer. There are an awful lot of things that teenagers can be doing, but those kids spent hours in a hospital room entertaining my daughter.

On top of the visitors, my daughter received cards, posters, texts, Snapchats, prayers and phone calls. Her friends that couldn’t come to the hospital because my daughter’s visitors were restricted wrapped her up in love every way they knew how without physically seeing her.

Because these teens have learned something important. They have learned that love shows up. Friendship means more than just hanging out and having a good time. It means jumping in with both feet when something goes wrong. It means wrapping your friend up in love when they need it. It means showing up and offering a hug and a shoulder to cry on.

Those teenage kids were Jesus with skin on to my daughter. They loved her through those days in ways that I could not. And I am so very grateful that God placed those kids in my daughter’s life. I’m in awe of the depth of friendship that these teenagers have created. A bunch of 13-, 14- and 15-year-old kids showed they truly understand the words of John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

For nearly a week, I watched these kids lay down their lives for my daughter, and I learned a lot about what God’s picture of friendship looks like. And I am inspired to make my friendships look the same.

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The Measure of Success

Success1

I turn 41 today. And to be honest, I’m having a really hard time with this birthday. I didn’t have any trouble at all with turning 40 last year. I’ve always had the opinion that age is just a number. But this year, I think I’ve let the world’s definition of success creep in and derail my ability to be content.

To be honest, I feel old. I have a daughter who started driving last week and who is going to high school in the fall. I’ve been thinking about what my 20-year-old self thought life would look like at this age, and the reality is very different than the ideal. I have a great life. I have two fabulous kids. I have a husband who loves me. I have friends who are there in the good times and the bad ones. I have the important stuff.

But today, I’ve gotten caught in the trap of looking around and comparing myself to what the world considers a success. I don’t have tons of money. This little blog doesn’t get millions of hits a day. I haven’t written a New York Times best seller. I’m a mom. I write a little blog. I teach writing to homeschoolers. I clean house, make meals, run the Fairchild taxi service and offer homework help. And sometimes that doesn’t seem like enough.

When I look around and see other blogs that are bigger, when I see other moms who have high-powered jobs, when I find myself wondering what it would be like to have the time and energy to pursue those big writing dreams, I wonder if my reality is enough. I wonder if this really is what God planned for me or if I missed the turn I was supposed to take back when I was 30 or 35.

As I ponder all of this with not a few tears in my eyes, God reminds me of something important. It’s not the big stuff that matters. Maybe I’ll still write that New York Time best seller. Just not right now. Maybe someday this little blog will get millions of hits a day. Just not right now.

Because right now, success is measured in putting one foot in front of the other on this path — the one I’m walking right now. The one that has a child on either side. Because yesterday, I took four teenagers to Starbucks and we studied what it means to thrive and not just survive. We talked about God’s plans and dreams for their lives. And that hour in Starbucks mattered. It solidified friendships. It dropped some Truth into their lives. It let them know they are loved by adults other than their parents. And that mattered.

Today, I’m writing this blog post that won’t get a million hits, but it just might be read by another mom struggling with the same emotions. And that will matter.

This fall, I will teach writing to a bunch of kids with a dose of love and Jesus on the side. And that will matter.

Tonight, I will pray with my kids and kiss them goodnight, and that will matter.

Because God doesn’t call all of us to do the big things. We’re not all going to be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or New York Times best-selling authors. But our actions, the things we do every day, matter. They matter to the lives we touch. They matter to God who asks us to do them. They matter in ways that getting a million hits on the Internet does not.

So, if like me, you’re struggling to see the significance in what you do because the world is busy telling you that success is measured in dollars and fame, remember that God sees you. He sees the smallest things you do. And those things matter. Because success is not measured in dollars and fame. It is measured in lives touched as you walk the path God has laid out for you.

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A Change in Perspective

fragile

We’ve had a rough start to summer around here. My older daughter spent the first week of June in the hospital with meningitis. It was a long, scary week that fortunately for us ended with a healthy kid.

But I discovered during the past two weeks that there’s nothing like a sudden crisis to put everything in perspective. Before my daughter went into the hospital, her biggest concern was the fact that her coach was moving her down a team in soccer. That news rocked her world. She was sad, frustrated, and angry. Many, many tears were shed.

I’m not denying that it was a big deal to my 14-year-old. Soccer is her world. But two days later, after a trip to the doctor for antibiotics to treat a persistent sinus infection turned into an ER visit where we sat and waited for the results of a lumbar puncture to see if she had meningitis, she and I both got our perspectives shifted. We went from worried about a game to worried about her long-term health.

In the past two weeks, my daughter has learned that while God definitely gifted her with some soccer skills, He doesn’t want that to be the most important thing in her life. Four days in the hospital moved her focus a bit to be able to see the things that really matter — God, friends, family, health.

We were all reminded that life is fragile. Things can change in a moment. And while our passions and talents are important, they can’t be all-consuming to the point that we lose our perspective on what’s important.

Don’t get me wrong, my daughter is still driven to play soccer. She still wants to improve and regain her spot on the higher team. But she also knows that not making the team is not the worst thing that can happen. She knows that God has plans for her even when she goes through the tough stuff. She’s aware that there are more important things in life than the game she plays.

I wish it hadn’t taken four days in the hospital to shift our perspective, but I am thankful for the opportunity to refocus our household’s attention on the things that matter most.

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A Birthday Prayer for My 14-Year-Old

Birthday prayer

The child who made me a mom turns 14 today. I’m not really sure where the years have gone. It’s hard to believe the amazing young lady standing in front of me today is the same pixie-haired, wide-eyed toddler of just a few years ago. She has become a young lady that I am proud to know — one filled with a love for Jesus and a huge heart for others. Even as we sometimes struggle through the ups and downs of the teenage years, my love for this child just continues to grow. So, here’s my prayer for her this year:

A Birthday Prayer

I pray that you will always know you are loved.

I pray that you will never lose your joy for life or your reason to smile.

I pray that you will always chase after God as hard as you are chasing him right now.

I pray that you will have wisdom as you make difficult decisions.

I pray that you will be a light to other people.

I pray that when you get knocked down that you never lose the determination to get back up.

I pray that you will approach each new challenge and experience with confidence and a spirit that never gives up.

I pray that when you are feeling down that you will be surrounded by friends who will pick you up.

I pray that you will always look up when things are tough.

I pray that you will know more laughter than tears this year.

I pray that as you embark on these last four years before college that God will direct your steps to lead you on His path for your future.

I pray that you will never have to walk the path of life alone.

I pray that you will have fun and make memories that will last your whole life.

I pray that you will continue to grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

My precious, precious child, you are so very loved. You are the child I prayed for and have loved from the moment I knew about you. Happy, happy birthday, sweet girl!

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When Parenting Just Stinks

stinks

Sometimes, being the parent just stinks. Watching your kids walk through difficult circumstances, watching their hearts break, watching their dreams shatter — none of that is fun.

My mom once told me that something I was going through hurt her more than it hurt me. I didn’t believe her then. But after doing this parenting thing for almost 14 years, I do believe that when our kids hurt, our momma hearts break as well. When we watch our kids work hard and chase their goals only to fall short, I think we may shed as many tears as they do. We may do it behind closed doors where they can’t see, but our hearts are breaking, too.

But then we wipe those tears away, open that closed door and pick up the pieces of our shattered kids. We remind them it’s not the end of the world. We let them mourn what they lost. Then we point them in the direction of the future.

But it is so hard, and it is so not fun. These are the parenting moments I hate the most — the ones where I have to find the silver lining when for the most part all I see is the clouds, too. But we do it — because we’re the moms, and that’s what our kids need.

I know that many of life’s most valuable lessons are learned in the hard stuff, but sometimes I wish I didn’t have to convince both my kids and myself that the hard times are what make us stronger, teach us the most and force us to rely most heavily on God. I wish these teachable moments weren’t so very hard.

I want so much to protect my kids from hurt and disappointment, but that isn’t how the world works. Tough stuff happens. Things out of our kids’ control cause problems that they can’t fix. They make mistakes that have consequences.

And they learn. Oh, how they learn. They learn the world isn’t fair. They learn that despite working hard you don’t always achieve your goals. They learn that sometimes you fall down and the climb out of the pit you fell into is higher and steeper and harder than you ever thought it would be. They learn that there are people in this world who may never be able to appreciate them for who they are and that they may never get along with.

While I know my kids need to learn these lessons, the learning process is, oh, so hard. So excuse me while I shut my door, shed a few tears and have a long talk with God. Because on this long road of parenting when my momma heart breaks, there’s only one place to go to have that broken heart healed. The only way to get through these tough moments is to trust that God has it all under control. He loves my kids more than I ever could, and He knows exactly what they need. He even has enough strength and wisdom to get me through the tough mom moments.

It doesn’t change the fact that sometimes this parenting thing just stinks, but it does help to know that we’re not alone on the journey.

Categories: Motherhood | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Living Summer Day by Day

Summer2

My kids got out of school last Thursday, and we left town for the Indy 500 that afternoon. We got home yesterday, which makes this the first real day of summer my kids have had. My younger daughter is currently lazing around in her pajamas, and my older one is still asleep (and probably will be for quite some time).

This whole family has been looking forward to summer for a while. The stress of the school year winding down and all the end-of-season activities have kept us on our toes. We’re all looking forward to some time to just be lazy.

But summer is about more than just being lazy. It’s a time for me to reconnect with my kids. It’s a time to work on some things that we’ve glossed over during the school year. It’s a time to make memories and have fun. It’s a time to strengthen friendships and have new experiences.

Usually I have a pretty specific plan for the things I want us to do during the summer, but this summer, I find I’m winging it. My girls are most interested in hanging out with their friends and having some time to recoup and refresh. And that’s OK. We’ll find some time to have a few adventures and work on some life skills. We’ll make the time to dive deeper into what God wants for their lives.

But mostly this summer, we’re going to relax. We’re going to take it one day at a time and do the things that fit. That probably means I’m going to have a house full of kids all summer. It probably means I’m going to be feeding kids and taking them places. It probably means some lazy days at the pool and some teenage movie nights. It does mean lots of giggles and a bunch of late nights.

But as I ponder our summer, I’m reminded that these days are fleeting. My older daughter goes to high school in August, and the moments will fly by. So this summer, I want to make as many memories as possible. I want my kids to look back on this summer with joy. I want them to have fun, dive deep with God and cement friendships that will see them through these next few years.

So, while there may not be much concrete on the calendar at the moment, I have high hopes for a summer that’s lived day by day.

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The Teen Years Don’t Look Like I Thought They Would

Teenager

The other day, a boy told my older daughter that she’s beautiful. I don’t disagree with the sentiment, and I like the boy. But when I heard that, I looked at my daughter, and I wondered where the days went.

I wonder when this young lady standing in front of me grew up. I wonder when she went from a toddler with a pixie cut to this tall girl with waist-length hair standing in front of me. I wonder when those blue eyes went from being mischievous to being windows to her soul.

To be truthful, this stage doesn’t look anything like I thought it would when she was that toddler. I assumed that when she was a teenager, we there would be solid rules around her about things like dating and curfews. I figured there would be more drama and less conversation.

I’m discovering, though, that while there are boundaries, parenting this teen is a lot more fluid than I ever dreamed it would be.

I’m learning that a lot of the ideas I had about how to parent a teen simply don’t hold water. Because she’s not that little toddler any more. She’s a young woman with hopes, dreams and ideas of her own. She often makes valid arguments and forces me to see a situation differently.

And I’m deciding that that’s OK. Because I’m also learning that to parent effectively in this stage, I have to lean even more heavily on God’s wisdom than on my own. Because she is her own person, and she needs to be able to make decisions on her own.

I’m learning that every situation she encounters doesn’t fall into the nice little box of rules that I’d like to make and that we have to make decisions based on where she is in that moment. I’m discovering there’s less “Do this because I said so” and more open conversation about making good choices and learning life lessons.

All this means I’m learning how to rest on the Holy Spirit’s wisdom. I’m learning to let go of my hard and fast ideas of what the teenage years should look like and deal with what they really do look like. That means I spend a lot of time praying over my teen and her friends. It means I spend a lot of time seeking out wisdom from people who have already walked this route.

God is teaching me that we need to set larger boundaries but that we need to seek Him in the individual stuff. We need to drop it in His lap and let Him lead the way instead of me leading the way.

We’re learning that if we deal with the situations she faces individually within some clearly defined boundaries, it gives us a lot more flexibility to parent her well. It gives us a chance to teach her to make good decisions on her own instead of forcing her to make those decisions within a rigid set of rules that we set for her.

Because teaching our teens to make good decisions is what it’s all about. We’re not always going to be there to set the rules for them. They need to be able to choose the right path on their own.

So, while this teenage thing looks different than what I thought, it is teaching both her and me how to seek God’s wisdom first. It’s teaching us how to communicate with each other effectively. Some days, it’s hard. Other days, it’s a whole lot of fun.

But I still wonder where the time has gone.

 

Don’t forget to check out my new book Everyday Truth: Teaching your kids about God during life’s everyday moments. Available in paperback at Amazon.com.

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Why We Shouldn’t Fight Our Kids’ Battles for Them

battle

A couple of weeks ago, my older daughter chose to have a very difficult conversation with her soccer coach. She was struggling on the field, and she felt like if her coach made a few changes in the way he was coaching her that it would make a big difference in how she played. But she had to tell him.

We talked through the situation over and over and over again. She knew that she had some issues she had to own both on the field and in the way she was mentally approaching the game. But she needed help, and she had to ask for it.

Now, my daughter is an introvert and not a fan of conflict of any kind. She did not want to talk to her coach. I offered to do it for her or to help her, but she decided it was something she had to do on her own.

So a few weeks ago, she did. She stayed after practice and talked to him. She got in the car frustrated with herself. She had cried while she was talking to him, mostly because she was so nervous. She wasn’t sure she had made her points well, and she was worried about how her coach would respond.

The good news is her coach is a great guy. He listened to her and made a few small changes. The even better news is that simply having that talk gave her more confidence on the field and off.

She identified a problem, handled the situation with as much grace as a 13-year-old can muster, and learned that she can handle even the most difficult situations on her own.

And I learned something, too. I learned that when we let our kids fight their own battles, we see them grow right before our eyes. My daughter has played better on the soccer field in the past three weeks than she’s played all season. Some of that is attributable to all the hard work she has been putting in. But some of it goes back to the confidence she gained from talking to her coach, from knowing that even when the situation is difficult, she can handle it herself.

And that confidence has translated into other situations off the field she’s had since then. She feels like she has learned how to talk to anyone in any situation. She’s gained confidence that she can tackle a tough problem and solve it.

My first instinct as a mom is to step in and help my kids. Especially if one of my kids is struggling, and I know the answer to the issue, I want to fix it. But when we do that, we rob our kids of the opportunity to gain confidence in solving their problems themselves. We take away a teaching opportunity.

Make no mistake, there are situations where we need to step in as parents, but there are many situations when we step in way too soon. Instead of letting our kids learn to be advocates for themselves and engage in simple problem-solving, we solve the problem for them.

The truth is that it’s our job as parents to equip our kids with the tools they need to deal with difficult problems. If we solve the problems for them, we’re not giving them those tools. We’re simply removing the problem. Our kids need those problems. They need to learn that life is full of problems that have to be solved. They need to learn to look to God for wisdom and answers to their problems. They need to learn how to identify and resolve issues on their own.

And we, as parents, have to step back and let them do that. We can and should offer advice. We can and should show them how problem-solving is done. We can and should offer any type of support they need. But when push comes to shove, there are an awful lot of situations that we need to let them take a stab at solving on their own.

Because learning to solve problems is an essential skill in life. And when our kids solve them on their own, they gain confidence that we can never give them any other way.

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Beautiful Together

beautiful together

Her sweet little hand grabbed tightly onto mine as she brought a piece of paper right up to my nose and said proudly, “This is me and you, Mommy. You are making me all better.”

“From what?” I asked.

“From this, of course,” as she shoved a little thumb in my general direction and pointed to a red mark the size of a pin prick. I smiled with a “Looks terribly serious.” She nodded a bit and sighed, “So do you like the picture, Mommy?”

I squished her a little and then looked down into her big, brown eyes while I melted into my reply, “I think it’s beautiful, sis.” To which she scrunched up her button nose, looked up at me and said, “Yep! It’s just you and me being beautiful together.”

And just like that, off she skipped…and there I stood, taking in an all too familiar inventory.

My dirty yoga pants. My newly drawn surgery scars. My less-than-lovely purple toenails.

My this and that. My what and what. My blah to the blah, blah, blah…

But something kept tapping at my heart…it was her little voice echoing in my mind with such unabashed certainty, “Yep! It’s just you and me being beautiful together.”

No hesitation. No pause. No time for inventory.

In her eyes, I was beautiful. Not because I was sporting a new pedicure or a perfect body or a fabulous new pair of jeans. I was beautiful because I loved every single bit of her.

Be it in kissing a nonexistent boo-boo or cutting the crusts off her sandwich or taking her to the bathroom at Target four times in thirty minutes. Be it in squishing her close when she cried or playing the Cinderella game 20 times or taking the 10 outfits she’d tried on in a day out of the dirty laundry. Be it in anything so utterly mundane that the world might find it unimportant.

For her, it meant everything.

And somewhere in all that complete and total love, she found beautiful and made me see beautiful too.

For a mama’s beauty isn’t a put-together, perfect picture, chasing-youth kind of a deal. A mama’s beauty is in her broken—be it her body, her heart or her laugh-lined face. It grows beside hospital beds and sleepless nights and broken curfews and shattered little dreams. It is often forged in tears and exhaustion and the precious effort to put one blessed foot in front of the other. It is not reflected in something so insignificant as a mirror but rather, it is most clearly seen in the eyes of Jesus as she faceplants at the foot of His throne.

Mamas, it is this kind of beauty that our sons and our daughters need from us. So that when he endeavors to love the mama of his children, he sees her dark circles and worn out body as something breathtaking and precious. And so that when she looks at her stretch marks, she does not wince or retreat, but instead she sees beautiful.

So. That. When.

Years from now, as she comes to me frayed by the daily of mamahood, I can sit her down, look deeply into those big, brown eyes and say, “Let me tell you the story of a little girl and a picture. Her mama with bouffant hair and she, with googly eyes dancing. Let me tell you about her scrunched up nose, her sweet little hand and the words that changed it all. Yes, my sweet love, let me tell you a story…”

A story of just you and me being beautiful together.

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out.
Categories: First Friday, Guest post | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

What Defines Your Child?

Value

If you’ve read this blog for very long at all, you know we’re a sports family. Both girls are heavily involved in sports, and they take up a big chunk of our time and budget.

I love that my girls play sports. I truly believe that being on a team and competing has huge benefits — especially for girls. But sometimes those sports can cause a whole lot of agony.

My older daughter has had a rough soccer season for a lot of reasons. She’s been really frustrated, and there have been a whole bunch of tears. It’s become all-consuming for her. How do I get better? How do I communicate effectively with my coach? What if I lose my spot on the team? These are conversations we’re having almost daily around here.

And it’s not healthy. Soccer had gotten to a point where it had really overrun everything else in my daughter’s life. Don’t get me wrong, I want my kids to be passionate about what they do. I want them to go hard after what they want. I want them to give anything they do their best effort.

But when something surrounding that thing they’re so passionate about goes wrong, I don’t want it to consume their lives. I don’t want them to be so miserable that it’s hard to find a smile at all. I don’t want it to be the only thing they think about.

So, the other night my daughter and I were at dinner by ourselves. We had a long talk about where soccer belonged in her life. We talked about how it’s important to want to solve the problems she’s having, but it’s not OK to let it affect every aspect of her life. And then I said to her: “Soccer is something you do. It is not who you are.”

Because we had let soccer become something that defined my daughter. Her identity, her self-worth, her entire world was wrapped up in this sport. And that’s not OK. Because while she loves to play it and she has some talent for it, it isn’t the only thing in her life. We needed to put soccer back in it’s appropriate slot in her life — as something she loves to do. Because nothing she does or doesn’t do on the field makes her any less of a person. It doesn’t change her priorities or who she is.

When we let the activities our kids do define who they are, their self-worth gets tied to a score or a performance instead of being tied to their intrinsic value as a child of God.

In this world where we’re told our kids need to find the thing they love and they need to follow that thing wherever it leads, it’s up to us as parents to remind our kids that their worth as a person isn’t found in anything that they do. They are loved and cherished simply because they are God’s creation. God does not care if they are a soccer star, a straight-A student or a prima ballerina.  He loves them because He made them.

Our kids should absolutely pursue their passions. They should chase their dreams. They should work hard and give it everything they have. But they shouldn’t let what they do define them. They shouldn’t let the things they are involved in be the measure of their self-worth.

That means sometimes we have to help our kids examine the pressure they are putting on themselves. We have to ask them the hard questions about where they are drawing their identity from. We have to help them keep the things they do in their lives from defining who they are.

Last night, my daughter played her best game of the season. She walked on the field with an entirely different attitude. She looked like she was having fun. She looked confident. But that confidence didn’t come from anything she knew she could do on the field. It came from knowing that no criticism could take away her value. It came from understanding that failure on the field wouldn’t make her any less important to us or to God.

Sometimes we need to step back and assess the value our kids are placing on their accomplishments and failures. Sometimes they need to be reminded that their identity is not found in what they do but in who God says they are. Because when they know and understand that, everything else will fall into place.

Don’t forget to check out my new book Everyday Truth: Teaching your kids about God during life’s everyday moments. Available in paperback at Amazon.com.

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