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Tag: Struggling With Discipline

Don’t Fight Naked

Don’t Fight Naked

I don’t know about you, but I struggle at home. Whether it’s a little girl who just loves to pee on the floor or a red-headed genius six-year-old who is never satisfied or a middle child who laughs at all the rules (especially the rules of gravity), my head is spinning by sunrise every day.

By nap time, I am done and everyone ends up crying themselves to sleep. It’s really fun.

In her post titled, “The Scientific Reason Moms Hate Screaming,” Rachel at A Mother Far From Home says that “This is why moms are so dadgum tired. Taking care of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers is like having heart attacks, hypoglycemic attacks, and lion attacks all day long.” She is speaking specifically about the noise that comes with small children and how that affects a mother’s brain, but I would add that there are lots of things about small children that make our heart race and our blood pressure rise. For me, the noise is definitely hard to deal with but it’s only one of a page-long list.

Just a few hours before I read Rachel’s post, I was praying The Armor of God. Part of me wants to cringe just saying that because I grew up in church and The Armor of God has become kind of like Nickleback was at that time in my life: way overplayed. But in high school, I thought it was hilarious when my youth group leader spoke on Ephesians 6:10-18 and said, “Don’t Fight Naked.” I wrote that on the back of one of my notebooks and today my four-year-old uses that notebook for handwriting worksheets. Good thing he can’t read yet because the word “naked” is already hilarious enough without having it written on one of his prized possessions.

When I was in youth group, The Armor of God wasn’t yet too much for me. It wasn’t until college when I stopped going to church and started doing lots of other things that I began questioning all the overplayed words of my growing up.

Today I’ve come to realize that a lot of those verses are overused because they really do help our lives. The verses of “The Armor of God” are something I’ve known for a long time, but I’m a kinesthetic learner so I guess I needed to have some use for it.

Like having children, maybe. Isn’t being a mom the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life? But I’m thankful for these reminders, for this help:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,

with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

~read the whole thing: Ephesians 6:10-18

Could this possibly relate to motherhood? Yes, I think so. And it’s not so we can win the battles of discipline. It’s so we can realize there is more at stake. We are fighting for our family. We’re fighting with our family. We’re not fighting against them.

What a great reminder that, when I struggle at home (and I know I’m not the only one!), my struggle is not against flesh and blood.

Among all the questions, would a belt of truth help? Yes, please.

What about a breastplate of righteousness to protect my heart from all the veiled lies that come with the uncertainty of motherhood? Absolutely.

At nap time, could feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace be the answer? Bring it on.

A shield of faith to to extinguish attempts to ruin the joy of raising children? Yes!

Motherhood (and all parenting) requires armor because as moms we’re not just keeping kids alive, but guiding them into the kind of lives that will also require armor.

It would be easy to settle here. As in, Oh yeah, that’s true. I’ll remember that for next time. But I’ve grown up a little since high school, and I know this isn’t a piece of information to simply remember. We have to put on armor now because we know there will be a battle later. (How do you put on the armor? Pray it. Speak it. Over and over.) Once my kids start screaming and begging and hitting each other with plastic swords, it will be too late to get dressed. If I’m naked, I can’t help anyone. (Except maybe my husband… TMI? 🙂 )

Small Ones

Small Ones

As I write, I know I’ve failed. In so many ways. Inconsistencies everywhere. Disappointments. Rolled eyes. Mine and theirs and probably yours.

Yet hope remains at the core. Every day, hope that the next day will be better. Right now, the disappointments of this day grip and need refreshment.

Right now it is nap time. It is mostly quiet. Mostly calm. I am sitting on my bed, legs covered. Leaves sway outside my windows, caught by sunlight and shadow. Waving. Dancing. Ferocious. Caught by the wind but stuck to their tree.

How I made my children sit and wait. How I scolded tiny curious hands and big adventurous spirits. I stood at the edge of the kitchen counter, caught by the wind of frustration but stuck to walls of reality, where small fingers held globs of butter, where lunches were being eaten quicker than I could make them. What’s the big deal? My kids were gobbling carrots. I can’t even remember why I was so angry.

Can disappointments be kindling for new fire? I hope so because here I am and though I see beauty and greatness in my young-mother season, I also see an army of chaos and noise marching to the disappointments of my own unwarranted reactions.

Who was it that said we should celebrate the small victories? That, as mothers, there are always millions of things going on. Work and friendships and laundry and dishes, trying to keep up with spousal dates or even just time alone. Then, hobbies, those things that we are drawn toward. Our passions, our gifts. We are constantly working on things for our own lives and also in the lives of our children. Is there ever enough time? Though one child might throw meatballs at lunch, all the other children clear their plates with glee. That’s a small victory.

We are constantly demanding, “Stop hitting.” “Quiet your voice.” “Stay in your room.” “Choose kindness.” We are always tying shoes or digging out splinters or wiping noses or bottoms or asking for a path to be cleared to the beds. There is always more to do, more to work on, more to demand. Yet the small victories are the ones we will only see if we sometimes slow down and watch. If we sometimes remember.

Small victories always add up to one big victory.

None of my kids can tie their shoes yet, but they can untie their shoes and get them on and fill their own thermoses. Small victories. Baby steps. Like when my six-year-old’s nose started bleeding a few weeks ago, it splattered on the ground and made a hilarious spray of a mess on the floor. I was trying to help the nose but also didn’t want the other children’s feet in the mess so I said (probably yelled) that the two non-bleeding children should stay in the kitchen. As I gave tissues to the bleeding son and took wet wipes to the floor, my four-year-old hugged his little sister and said over and over in the most sure and calming voice, “Stay with me.” And she replied, just as sure,”Okay.” The floor still had to be wiped clean and the nose still needed pressure, but that calming voice of small victories rang.

Perhaps all my frustration is just a result of misplaced expectation. I want too many things and I think I can have them all right now. Instead of being stuck to the visual reality of this every day life, maybe get stuck to the idea that wholeness sounds more often than it looks, remembering that here is where the wind of small victory catches.

Oh, I remember now. Small Victories is the name of Anne Lamott’s newest book (which I have not read but want to because I love her!). But I also read it somewhere else, from someone who was speaking of mothering small children. Perhaps it was Rachel Jankovic. Just trying to give credit to the original.

 

ON TRAINS AND TRAINING AND THE “I WANT!” MONSTER

ON TRAINS AND TRAINING AND THE “I WANT!” MONSTER

I had a friend in college who used to say that she wanted to be an elementary school teacher because she loved kids. Then she would clarify that she actually only loved kids who sat and listened. She loved nice kids, the kinds of kids who practiced the art of the inside voice, kids who only used their hands for hugging and giving. Kids who would never hit or pinch or pull hair and didn’t tap your shoulder every five minutes asking for lunch. Kids that never said mean things like “Shut up you stupid head.” Kids who would never talk about butts or junks at the dinner table, not even on a triple dog dare.

In other words, she wanted the yoga body without doing the downward dog. She wanted a garden of roses without getting down in the dirt. All the benefits of well-behaved children without the work of training them.

My friend knew this was unlikely, albeit impossible. But I suppose one can dream.

The reality is, children rarely act how my friend dreamed. Children have to be taught (and they will be taught something no matter what!) Children have to be trained to be functioning adults.

Train: To guide the growth of. To guide the mental, moral, etc. development of; bring up; rear. To instruct so as to make proficient or qualified. To prepare or make fit.

ttt

 

Perhaps my friend was somewhat justified. It is not necessarily the teacher’s job to guide a child’s life. At least not solely. Teachers are mostly supposed to teach. Though I believe with all my heart that teachers can be highly influential people, really, kids need parents.

Wait just a minute…

I’m a parent.

So you’re telling me that I have to train my kids? That they’re not going to sit quietly and only use their hands for nice things unless I train them to do so? You’re telling me that I have to train my kids? What does that mean? I didn’t sign up for this. I just wanted to go to story time, to snuggle and play dolls.

Yeah. I know. And I don’t have the answers for how to do this. I am figuring all that out for myself. But I do know it’s important. I know that a parent who does not discipline is a parent who does a disservice to their children and to society. I know that, even if I told you how to discipline your kids, it probably wouldn’t make a difference unless you spent time with your kids, observing who they are and what their specific issues are, figuring out exactly what kind of training works for them.

One thing that we are dealing with at my household is the “I WANT” monster. He comes out almost every time we do anything. For example, yesterday when my kids got up from their naps, I offered a slice of apple dipped in caramel sauce and crushed up nilla wafers. I said, “Come over here! I want to show you what I made while you were napping.” And I took a slice of apple and dipped it in sugary goodness and handed one to my 3 year-old, who ate it with gladness. Then I did the same for my 5 year-old, who immediately screamed and cried “I wanted to do it myself!” Which spurred lots of nasty reactions and eventually brought me to explain to him that when someone gives you a gift, you say thank you and you take it. You don’t cry because of how the gift was given. You simply, and graciously, say thank you.

Hold on. My kids are each a gift, so does this little lesson apply to me to?

Maybe. Just maybe it does.

Though my children (and yours) were given wrapped in nausea and discomfort, then with sharp pains, with goo and crying and squirming about, they were a gift. Though they were, and are, much more needy than generous, they are a gift. So I shouldn’t whine about the requirement of training them. Maybe the training is even a gift.

Do you think so?

Can we choose to call our children blessings, even when they are screaming at the good things given them? Even though every single day they hurt us and their siblings and they break everything their hands touch?

The same friend I mentioned in the beginning of this post would initiate a game called “I want.” It went like this: while driving, or while lounging around in our dorm rooms, she would say, “You know what I want? A doughnut from Dunkin’ Donuts,” and we’d sit around just like that for a few minutes coming up with increasingly improbable wishes.

I should probably tell you that, at that time, the closest Dunkin’ Donuts was 30 minutes from campus. It was not an impossible desire, but it was not easy to meet.

Truly, the “I WANT!” monster is a monster of destruction. A monster who is never satisfied, never thankful. This monster breeds the opposite of joy. That’s mysery, discouragement.

Lately, when the “I WANT!” monster grabs my 5 year-old by the teeth, I try to stop and look at his face. I try to remember to think about what is happening in his heart (though, truthfully, at least once a day I just erupt and send him to his room because I get tired of training kids). I try to ask, “Do we always do what you want, or do we operate by what is good for the family?” This usually gives him a chance to think about what he’s asking. Sometimes, even if his request is reasonable, it’s just not doable because there are five people in our family and we have to think about the good of the whole, not just what the individuals want.

I guess the conclusion of all this is that we are to train our children, not to throw them off the train, no matter how slow the one-locomotive, two-locomotive, three-locomotives are moving.

And I know from personal experience that these trains can be painfully slow. But they’re never stopped. Not completely. And I’m one of them, too.

FROM LONELINESS TO FULLNESS: THE STRUGGLE IS REAL

FROM LONELINESS TO FULLNESS: THE STRUGGLE IS REAL

Last week, I was on vacation with my family. We were visiting family and lifelong friends, staying near the beach, and celebrating an anniversary. It was a refreshing and beautiful time. But while we were out of town, we missed some events that happened at home. Events that all my very best friends are still talking about.

I know we can’t be everywhere all the time. Sometimes we miss out on things because of prior commitments. Yet, since I’ve been home I’ve been hit with the weight of everything I missed here.

Though our vacation was purposeful and plentiful, I feel separated, weary, incomplete.

While these feelings stomp on my heart and make me simultaneously wish that I was still away and that I had never left home, what I’m remembering is that these are only feelings. I admit that feelings have purpose, but I don’t believe we are to live in our feelings. Feelings allow us to have empathy for others, but too often we call our feelings fact and use them as an excuse for selfishness.

Feelings are not facts, and my particular feelings are brought on by lies.

These feelings are trash.

But how do we rid ourselves of trash-lies when they have gripped us and plagued us and seemingly made their homes on top of our chest, so that every time we breathe we only get enough air to sustain our life?

It is not good enough to just sustain life.

I recently heard a woman speak whose life has been transformed by a stroke. She is learning to live a new kind of life and is joyfully doing so, but one thing she said is, “Well, I’m alive.” Those words struck me deep because I say them too, but I say them differently. As in, “Well, life sucks right now, but at least I’m alive.”

Truth is that, though life can be wonderful, it also often brings troubles. As in, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome this world!” (from John 16, msg). Since God gives good things and only moves in His purpose, we have to know that life is good. God overcame the world of darkness so that we can walk in His light.

Yet I still feel terrible when my children are disobedient. I still feel lonely when I watch others have grand excursions and I’m stuck in my apartment with three children who just won’t quit. I still feel the pangs of heartache when I am not included, for whatever reason. I still reel when I take a step back and realize that I have acted in rash.

My life has been transformed by children, similar to how that other woman’s life has been transformed by a stroke. Children are blessings, but they are mysteries, too. They are problems. They are troubles, at least for me. I know there are some moms out there who always know what to do, but I can barely figure out breakfast, let alone how to home school and discipline in love.

Then, there’s Jesus, just hanging around my apartment, sitting at the table and watching my family wander around in this world of troubles. And he’s saying “Take heart! I’ve overcome this.”

Very gently, He’s reminding us that He is the gate to fullness:

“Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~John 10:7-10

you-are-simply-the

I have heard the voices that say I’m not good enough. Have you? Have you heard the voices that say you’ve missed it, that your dreams are silly and unreachable?

Jesus says these are the voices of thieves and robbers. This is trash trying to clog up our lives of fullness. Throw it away. Right now. Because what else should we do with trash but throw it in the dumpster so it can rot away?

God doesn’t speak in lies. He doesn’t speak in heartache. God speaks in love. He speaks in mercy. He wipes every tear.

No matter where we are or who we’re with (or not with), can we recognize the lies that seek to destroy, before they actually do? Can we see the gate to fullness, and enter it, instead of standing outside and just watching everyone else have fun?