Let Them Play in the Mud

Innocence

We spent the weekend at a hockey tournament and are enjoying a little extra rest this morning. Enjoy this post from the archives.

When  my older daughter was nearly 11, she informed me that two kids in her class were “dating.” I asked her what she thought of that. She replied that she didn’t “get it.”

“We’ve got plenty of time for that stuff later. I just want to be a kid and play in the mud. In a couple of years, I won’t be able to do that.”

Where or where did my child gain such wisdom? And why does it seem like the rest of the world has forgotten it?

We live in a world where our kids are expected to grow up in a hurry. Our world pretends to value childhood, but then pushes our kids to act like teenagers before they’re ready. We expect our kids to choose a lifelong sport or activity by the time they’re 4. Stores offer clothing that encourages our kids to look like mini adults. We overschedule our kids from the time they are in preschool, leaving them with little time for creative play.

And, many times, we are complicit in expecting our kids to begin looking at the opposite sex in a sexual way. Oh, we don’t mean to do it, but every time we make a comment about a kindergarten child’s “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” we encourage our kids not to see the opposite gender as a friend, but as a sexual object. This is how we end up with kids “dating” at 11.

My younger daughter has lots of boys who are friends. She probably spends more time with boys than she does with girls. I can’t count how many times someone has commented to me about my daughter’s “boyfriends.” And I always think, “Don’t do that to them. Let them just be friends. Don’t take the innocence of childhood and turn it into something adult.”

As parents, we need to be careful how we talk about our children’s friends of the opposite gender. We need to help our kids hang onto the innocence of childhood for as long as possible. No matter how hard we try, the world is going to force them to grow up faster than they need to. As parents, we need to encourage them to “play in the mud” for as long as they want to.

To do that, we need to take a long, hard look at our own actions and words toward our kids. Children are a heritage and reward from God (Psalm 127:3), and we need to treat them as such. We need to make a conscious effort to not sexualize our kids friendships. We need to be a good judge of what we let them wear. We need to be aware of what TV shows our kids are watching, what movies they are seeing and what books they are reading.

Childhood is precious, and innocence is priceless. Let your kids be little. Let them play in the mud, splash in the puddles and sing in the rain for as long as they can. Because the world will force them to grow up soon enough.

Don’t Miss the Blessing

Blessing

I listened last night as my husband and my younger daughter turned my back door into a nerf-gun shooting range. A dry-erase marker, two nerf pistols and some suction-cup bullets were all it took. As I listened to them laugh and argue over a nerf bullet that sat on the line between two point ranges, I was struck by how blessed I am. And how often I miss enjoying the blessing.

Life is busy, especially in this season. There are practices to attend, parties to plan, tournaments and games to shuttle kids to, trees to decorate, and gifts to buy. There are days that my husband and I might see each other for 20 minutes before we go to bed. But in the midst of it all, this life, this family, this day is a blessing. And I don’t want to miss it.

Oh, there are days when I would give all I own for just five minutes to myself. There are moments as I stand outside at yet another freezing cold hockey or soccer game when I wish my kids would just sit at home and read books. There are nights when I fall into bed exhausted from juggling the roles of mom, wife, freelancer, blogger, and volunteer.

But I don’t want those moments, those times of frustration, to steal the blessing from me. I don’t want my kids to feel like they’re a burden rather than a blessing. I don’t want my husband to feel like he’s just my roommate. I don’t want my family to be overlooked in the midst of the busy.

I want to savor the blessing. I want to enjoy this abundant life that God has blessed me with. I want to look at my kids and see that “children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3). I don’t want to-do lists and schedules to become a replacement for spontaneous trips out for ice cream and nights spent playing cards. I  I don’t want the blessing to become a burden.

So, in this busy, busy season, I’m going to savor the moment. I’m going to enjoy every smile on my kids’ faces. I’m going to focus on the blessing and not the to-do list. I’m going to find joy in the little things. Because I am blessed. And I don’t want to miss the blessing.

It’s Not All Giggles and Smiles — and That’s OK

Before I had kids, I had a rosy picture in my head of what being a mom would be like. My kids and I would giggle and smile our way through the next 18 years. They would be well-behaved. We’d make memories. When one of them did something wrong, we’d have a rational discussion about it, they would see the error of their ways, and we would go back to our giggles and smiles.

I think about those pre-kid daydreams and laugh hysterically. I had no idea there would be days when I would lock myself in the bathroom just to get a few minutes of peace and quiet. I had no concept that a rational discussion is not something you can have with a 2-year-old, and sometimes not with a hormonal 12-year-old. I didn’t envision the fear that comes with every trip to the emergency room or urgent care with yet another injury or illness.

We have plenty of days of giggles and smiles, but we probably have more days where everything isn’t perfect. We sometimes have slamming doors and stomping feet. We have days when I don’t want to play another game of Monopoly or Mario Kart. We have days when I look at my girls and wonder who raised them because the behaviors they’re exhibiting aren’t anything like what we’ve been teaching them.

The truth is, there’s no family in the world that is smiles and giggles all the time. This parenting thing is hard. It’s a constant struggle to know if you’re doing the right thing for the right kid. We often look back at decisions we made and wish we had done something different. We wonder if a different parenting choice would have resulted in a different result for our kids.

I read a blog post the other day about how it’s a lie that we should savor every moment with our kids because every moment isn’t worth savoring. This writer was tired of hearing that our kids are only little for a while so every moment is precious. While I agree that not every parenting moment is worth savoring (if I never have to clean up after a puking kid again, I could live with that), I do think that sometimes the only thing keeping me sane is the fact that I know these moments won’t come again.

Knowing that my girls are quickly growing up keeps me at the table for another game of Monopoly. It keeps me calm (sometimes) when they do something wrong. It keeps me from digging in my heels to battle it out with one of them over something that doesn’t really matter. It keeps us giggling and smiling on days when everything is going well.

So, while I’m not going to tell you to savor every moment (because, really, who savors a 2-year-old temper tantrum in the middle of Walmart?), I am going to remind you that your kids are only yours for a short time. Use that time wisely. Remember that the moments do matter. Remember that even in the tough days, God is in the trenches with you. Remember to grab the teachable moments because they might not come again.

We are each blessed with “full quivers” of children. “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3). Even on the days they may not seem like it, your kids are a reward from God.

You don’t have to savor every moment on this parenting journey but do remember that every moment counts.

 

When the Laundry Has to Wait

There’s a pile of clean laundry at the end of my bed. A big pile. It’s been there since Monday. It needs to be folded and put away.

You know what I did last night when I had time to fold the laundry? I played a game with my family and watched a hockey game with my 9-year-old. When I went to bed last night, I actually added another load of clothes to the pile.

I’ll probably fold and put away all of that laundry today — just in time to do it all again. But last night my family needed me.

My younger daughter usually comes in the door from school and hops in my lap. Yes, she’s 9. Yes, she’s almost too big to sit in my lap. But those precious moments after school are exactly what she needs to recharge after a long day of sitting still and exercising inordinate amounts of self-control. Those moments let her unwind and reset.

We missed those moments yesterday because I was buried under an avalanche of freelance work. I usually try to be done working by the time my girls get home, but for the past two days I’ve had to work through the afternoon and evening. My younger daughter has missed her recharge time. I’ve missed enjoying time with my girls, hearing about their days and building them up for the next one.

So, last night, the laundry got set aside. The rest of my work had to wait. Out came the game. I lost both rounds of Jungle Speed. But we had fun. Everyone’s emotional batteries got recharged. We laughed together. We fought over who was the speediest. We even had to flip a coin to decide a dispute. My younger daughter and I settled in on the couch to watch the Bruins-Penguins game. We refilled her emotional tank to get her ready for two more days of school.

The laundry didn’t get done. And that’s OK because our kids are more important than a load of laundry, having dinner on time, and even work. Sometimes, we just have to set it all aside so our focus can be on what our kids need. It’s not always convenient. It’s rarely ever the way we planned. But sometimes, 20 minutes spent playing a game or reading a book can reset the attitudes in our families and refill the empty emotional tanks.

Psalm 127:3 says “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” Our kids aren’t another thing on our to-do list. They are a reward and a heritage from God. They are a gift to us, one that brightens our days and teaches us to enjoy the little things. Spending time with our kids when they need to recharge is a blessing — even when we think it isn’t. Which is why last night, the laundry simply had to wait.

10 Reasons I Love Being a Mom

Courtesy Stuart Miles

We’ve been working on creating thankful spirits in our house. In this give me, give me, give me world, it’s important to help our kids focus on all the things that God has already given them. Next month, our Thanksgiving devotionals will focus on helping your kids have thankful hearts.

But with all the focus I’ve been putting on getting my kids to be thankful, I’ve missed the boat a bit. I’m thankful for so many things, but at the end of a lot of days, I forget to be thankful that I get to be a mom. After a day of tween drama, tears, homework, fixing dinner, work, giving the dog a bath and helping a child with her hair, I don’t always feel thankful for my job as mommy. I just want to curl up in my chair and forget the world exists. I don’t want to answer the calls of “Mom” from my kids after I put them to bed. Some days it doesn’t feel as if my kids are a heritage or a reward as Psalm 127:3 tells me they are. Some days, they’re just exhausting.

When my kids get to a place where they forget to be thankful, I have them make a list of things they have to be thankful for. We’ve had a lot of drama in our house in the past two weeks. There have been a few days where I’ve put my kids to bed and run and hid. So, today, I’m making a list of 10 reasons I love being a mom to remind me that my kids are a heritage and a reward and that there are so many fun and wonderful parts about being a mom. That way, when the drama comes, I can be reminded that I love what I do and I really am ever so thankful for my kids — even if sometimes I just need five minutes to myself.

10 Reasons I Love Being a Mom

1. I get to hear belly laughs and little girl giggles.

2. My 9-year-old still likes to have snuggle time.

3. My kids ask questions that make me think.

4. Every day, I get to hear my kids pour out the concerns of their hearts to God.

5. I get to do silly things, see animated movies and dance in the rain — and no one thinks it’s weird.

6. I get to build forts in the living room, play hopscotch on the driveway and eat ice cream after a good game.

7. I get to watch my kids try something new.

8. Every day, I get to look at the world through eyes full of wonder.

9. I get to wipe tears, kiss skinned knees and make it all better with the magic of a kiss.

10. I get to listen and advise, hug and comfort, and push my kids toward independence — all while holding a piece of them in my heart forever.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed as a mom, take a few minutes and make your own Top 10 list as a reminder that your children are a heritage and a reward.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Why Being a Mom is Worth It

We’re in the throes of the hormone-induced, cry at the drop of the hat years with my older daughter. We continue to struggle with my younger daughter controlling her tongue and thinking before she acts. Between the two of them, there are days when I just want to walk away. There are days when I wonder if I’m making any difference at all.

Then there are the days like Monday when my older daughter looks at me and says, “I’m so glad you’re my mom.”

Psalm 127:3 says “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” There are a lot of days around here where I forget that verse. I certainly don’t feel rewarded for being a mom. There are lots of days when I wish someone would just say “thank you” or “I’m sorry.” There are days when I feel invisible to the outside world, days when I wonder if what I’m doing is significant.

But then there are the days I know it’s all worth it. So, if you’re struggling to remember why being a mom is a high calling, if you feel invisible and isolated, if you’re dealing with more than you think you can handle, remember that these are the things that make it all worth it:

A hug for no reason

A sticky kiss

The light bulb moment when your child understands something you’ve been trying to teach them

Belly laughs

Words of wisdom from a little one’s mouth

Smiles and giggles

Mud pies

Arms raised in the air after a big accomplishment

Hearing scripture from the lips of your child

Quiet moments on the couch

Reading aloud together

A family meal filled with conversation and laughter

Watching your child be kind to another

Listening to a little one pray

Recognizing a moment you’d like to freeze in time

The look of surprise on a child’s face when they get something they want

Birthdays and Christmas

A quiet conversation that heals a wounded heart

The words “I love you” spoken from a child’s lips

In the midst of parenting, it’s not hard to forget the simple moments and focus too heavily on the work involved. Take a moment today to remember why being a mom is worth it.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.

Reckless Love and a Birthday Prayer

Courtesy Salvatore Vuono

Eleven years ago, I was impatiently awaiting the arrival of our first child. She was five days overdue, I was huge and miserable. I was also a bit scared of what was to come. It was my last day before motherhood arrived.

Tomorrow my firstborn child turns 11. I’ve often said that monkeys could raise her; she’s that easy. She was the baby who never cried unless something was wrong. She was the child that always sought to follow the rules. And she is now the young lady who seeks to create compromise and works to include everyone. But God didn’t give her monkeys; he gave her me.

Before she arrived on June 1, 2001, I thought I knew what it meant to love someone. I had no idea. I didn’t know that motherhood meant that I would hurt when someone hurt her. I didn’t know that loving her would sometimes turn me into a “momma bear.” I didn’t know how hard it would be to let go of her hand on the first day of kindergarten or how many tears I would shed on the last day of elementary school.

In the song “All of Me” by Matt Hammitt, there’s a line that says: I’m gonna recklessly love you, even if I bleed. I had no idea what that type of reckless love looked like until I became a mom. I didn’t know that I would bleed when she did until those bright blue eyes looked into mine for the first time.

As my older daughter stands on the cusp of the teenage years, I pray these things for her:

I pray you always remember that you are a masterpiece in God’s eyes. Never let anyone else’s words take away the power of God’s words.

I pray you continue to seek God’s direction for your life as you begin to make more decisions on your own.

I pray the world will never make you lose the compassion you have for others.

I pray you’ll always have a forgiving spirit.

I pray you’ll never lose your grit and determination.

I pray when tough times come, you’ll always know you’re loved.

I pray you’ll make wise choices when it comes to friends — and, yes, even boyfriends.

I pray you’ll always feel free to be yourself.

I pray you’ll never forget that God loves you — and so do we.

 I know the next few years may be tricky — for both my daughter and me. Navigating the waters of the preteen and teen years is never easy, for parents or kids. I know that she’ll have days where she’s hurt, and I’ll have days where the reckless love of mommyhood means I’ll bleed. But I also know that she’ll always be a “heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3) and I’ll do my best to help her “grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

June 1, 2001, was a day my life changed forever. It was the day I gained the name I’ll be known by for the rest of my life, “Mommy.” And I wouldn’t change it because even though it means tears, heartache and frustration. It also means laughter, fun and joy beyond any I’ve ever known.

Happy birthday, firstborn child of mine.

 

Let Them Play in the Mud

Photo courtesy of Photostock

 

My older daughter turns 11 in a little more than a month. We are firmly ensconced in the “tween” years.

As we drove to soccer on Monday, my daughter informed me that two kids in her class are “dating.” I asked her what she thought of that. She replied that she didn’t “get it.”

“We’ve got plenty of time for that stuff later. I just want to be a kid and play in the mud. In a couple of years, I won’t be able to do that.”

Where or where did my child gain such wisdom? And why does it seem like the rest of the world has forgotten it?

We live in a world where our kids are expected to grow up in a hurry. Our world pretends to value childhood, but then pushes our kids to act like teenagers before they’re ready. We expect our kids to choose a lifelong sport or activity by the time they’re 4. Stores offer clothing that encourages our kids to look like mini adults. We overschedule our kids from the time they are in preschool, leaving them with little time for creative play.

And, many times, we are complicit in expecting our kids to begin looking at the opposite sex in a sexual way. Oh, we don’t mean to do it, but every time we make a comment about a kindergarten child’s “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” we encourage our kids not to see the opposite gender as a friend, but as a sexual object. This is how we end up with kids “dating” at 11.

My younger daughter has lots of boys who are friends. She probably spends more time with boys than she does with girls. I can’t count how many times someone has commented to me about my daughter’s “boyfriends.” And I always think, “Don’t do that to them. Let them just be friends. Don’t take the innocence of childhood and turn it into something adult.”

As parents, we need to be careful how we talk about our children’s friends of the opposite gender. We need to help our kids hang onto the innocence of childhood for as long as possible. No matter how hard we try, the world is going to force them to grow up faster than they need to. As parents, we need to encourage them to “play in the mud” for as long as they want to.

To do that, we need to take a long, hard look at our own actions and words toward our kids. Children are a heritage and reward from God (Psalm 127:3), and we need to treat them as such. We need to make a conscious effort to not sexualize our kids friendships. We need to be a good judge of what we let them wear. We need to be aware of what TV shows our kids are watching, what movies they are seeing and what books they are reading.

Childhood is precious, and innocence is priceless. Let your kids be little. Let them play in the mud, splash in the puddles and sing in the rain for as long as they can. Because the world will force them to grow up soon enough.

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows and Beholding Glory.