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What Is An (Introvert) Mom To Do?

What Is An (Introvert) Mom To Do?

Have you heard of Susan Cain? She wrote a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I haven’t read it yet, but I did watch her TED Talk, where she speaks about the book. I realize that’s not the same, but I have a long list of books to read and it only keeps growing. For now, the TED Talk will have to do.

Susan Cain provides a great definition for introversion. She says, “It’s different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. …introverts [often] feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.” 

I’ve never questioned the fact that I am an introvert. But I have always hated that word, and I still don’t like using it. It just has this connotation, you know?

For me, the word creates an image of someone who shies away because of a desire to be inside and alone. It’s a recluse who smells bad and doesn’t know how to form proper sentences. But that’s not accurate. Connotations aren’t whole pictures. (Honestly, though, sometimes I am that weird introvert who just wants everyone to go away. Sometimes I even smell bad and have a hard time forming proper sentences. Okay. Whew. Now you know.)

I am an introvert, but I love people, too (most of the time). I’m even okay in big crowds. And I love going to parties.

But do I actually love going to parties?

Sure, going to parties makes me feel popular, liked, included. But do you know what I usually do at big parties? I sit on a couch. I cling tightly to the people I arrived with. I don’t talk much. Instead, I watch. When I was young, I just thought everyone was supposed to love big crowds. Now, thankfully, I know that I swing more toward small group settings. I can unapologetically say that I really only want to be around a few people at a time, people I can chat with, people I can learn from, people I can discuss deep meaningful things with like the dichotomy of Pinterest: we love it but it also makes us feel like we have a big fat L across our foreheads. That is a deep truth.

Really, I love having people around. I just can’t be around people all the time.

But I’m a stay at home mom, so I have to be around people all the time.

WHAT IS AN

I think all of us, introvert or not, know that since small children require so much attention, there has to be some kind of relief. Most of us don’t have the innate ability to just take care of other people and never do a thing for ourselves.

I know that mothering experts say we need to take time to do things that we love, things that refresh us. We need to step away from the home every once in a while. I also can’t shake something that I heard an elderly lady say to me recently. “When I was young,” she said, “there was no such thing as ‘my time’.” So how did mothers survive back then? I wish I had asked her.

For now, I know that the television is always there for me when I need to shower or read a few pages of great literature (other people sneak off to do that, too, right?) I know that when I feel like my kitchen exploded with cookie dough and our two-nights-ago dinner, I can clean it with the help of “15 minute sibling time” and my type B personality.

Some days I feel crazy. I feel like I shouldn’t have had kids. I feel like I need my kids to go to day care somewhere so I can just sit at home in all my introvert-ness and read and write by candlelight while Beethoven plays softly over the Youtube.

But I have kids. They were my choice and I love them. They were given to me. I was given to them. I am their mother.

One thing I have learned is that taking care of kids, doing housework, making lunches and even grocery shopping can be restful acts.

That sounds crazy, right? But hear me out. Rest is not something we can create. Even candles and Beethoven, a massage, a hot bubble bath, wouldn’t relax me unless I allowed myself rest.

So, while I do dishes, while I sweep the floor, while I pick up dirty socks and two-inch army men, I remind myself to breathe as if I’m practicing Yoga with Adriene.  Our feeling of craziness is so often our mind’s doing.

I challenge you to take it over. Next time you feel stressed out, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Say the words, “I need help right now.” I promise that if you actually want it, you’ll get it. It might not look like you think it will, but you will get rest if you want it and are willing to look for it.

When you feel crushed and useless from social stimulation, take a rest. Take it with your kids if you have to. Just stop creating busyness. Sit down. No matter what has spilled, no matter who is fussing, if you are feeling crazy, just stop for a second. Don’t look at your phone. Don’t turn to the computer. Those things do not provide rest.

Mom, when you can’t find a quiet, low-key environment, rest in the knowledge that whatever chaos is happening will not last forever.

You can, right now, invite your kids to lie down in your bed with the lights off. And don’t mind if they tickle each other or giggle through the whole thing. Sit down in the middle of the living room floor and let your kids find a seat in your lap.

Then, while you are washing dishes and the kids are acting like the world is ending, the soap on your sponge can feel like the bubble bath you think you need.

You’re welcome 🙂

 

Finding Truth in the Midst of Anger

Finding Truth in the Midst of Anger

Do you ever feel so angry that you do something you later regret? Yeah. Me too.

Ever with your kids? Yeah. Me too.

Actually, most people who know me probably don’t think I ever get angry. That’s because if I’m ever angry I’m probably the only adult around. I’m probably standing right over my kids wondering why they are still fighting, still yelling at each other, still pinching and pushing and taking things from each other. It makes me angry when my kids are mean and when they’re disobedient. I know they need correction, but sometimes I feel like they should already know they need to be nice and they need to follow directions. But that doesn’t matter. For me, anger is often a result of impatience.

Training kids takes patience. And patience isn’t always just about waiting an extra ten minutes in line at the grocery store. Patience sometimes means getting up every morning for several years before a bad attitude stops and a “yes mom” is spoken without reminder.

Anger and impatience are daily battles for me. Battles that begin in my spirit and that I have not been able to shake off.

When we allow anger, it takes over.  It’s easy to allow anger in because we want to be heard. We want to be right. We want to be the boss. Anger makes us feel like we’re the boss, but really we’re out of control. When anger is allowed in, it only breeds confusion.

But I feel anger rise when my kids wake up whiny. When they tell me for the fifth time, “I don’t like (whatever amazing, delicious thing we’re eating that day).” When they throw an attitude because I asked them to please put on their shoes, we’re going to the children’s museum.

Who throws a fit about going to the children’s museum? It’s the most amazing place in the world, where you can touch and climb and build and explore everything. But sometimes I think my kids just want to be contrary. I could offer a bowl of ice cream topped with a whole bottle of chocolate fudge and they’d say, “I wanted a popsicle.”

In her book Loving the Little Years, Rachel Jankovic offers the idea of “Cranksters and Thanksters.” She says that she asks her kids, “Do you want to be a thankster or a crankster?” I tried this with my kids and they didn’t get it. They just kind of laughed at the silly words. But the idea is great: look at what you do have, not what you don’t. What can you be thankful for right now?

Maybe it’s that my children are in their own worlds. They are small. They don’t see things the way I do.

Or do I not see things the way they do?

When I am standing, I see everything. I see the inside of the toaster. I see the pile of papers stacked on top of a shelf. I see the dust that has settled on the fan blades. I see that I am bigger than my running, jumping children.

But they see something too. They see something to be excited about. Why else would they be running and jumping and loud-laughing? When I sit down, the room gets bigger. What would I do if I couldn’t reach the top of the fridge? I would have to climb.

Sometimes our kids need to be corrected. Bad attitudes are unacceptable. Yelling and throwing fits need to be monitored. It’s not okay when one of my children hurts another. Selfishness is not permitted.

But sometimes, I think, I need to slow down and look at the world from a small point of view because my selfishness is not permitted either. Sometimes my children are angry because they are actually sad. They don’t want to stop playing with their cars. They only see what is right now. They don’t understand what is coming.

But let’s talk about King Nebuchadnezzar, who commanded that everyone bow down and worship a gold statue and when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t, he got angry.And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in.

“Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in.” DANIEL 3:19-22

So basically, King Nebuchadnezzar was so angry that he was distorted. He was overcome with rage. He let his rage shield him from truth. He didn’t even take the time to understand why Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t want to bow down to a pile of gold. Maybe if he had stopped and listened. Maybe if he had been seeking truth above obedience. Maybe if he had had the interest of his people in mind rather than the interest of his own thoughts and pride. Maybe if he had taken a deep breath instead of allowing his emotions to kill his soldiers.

The soldiers were on his side. They were willing to do his work. But he killed them while the men he hated lived on. But it’s not about hate and it’s not about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It’s about the truth they lived for. It’s about what they saw.

My kids always see the fun in things, whereas I usually see the work in things.

My kids want to go outside and ride their bikes and scooters, but I see that I will have to monitor their impulses to ride too far. My kids want to play checkers, but I see that their little sister will want to grab and throw all the pieces and everyone will start crying.

Truth is that parenting is work. But it’s also fun. If I only see the work, then truth is not upheld. If I only see the fun, truth is not upheld either. Training children to be functional adults requires both work and fun. Requiring that my children bow down to statues that I have built from pride and blindness is not the answer. Getting down on the floor and trying to see what my children see is probably the only way I will be able to help them in their own battles against selfishness and impatience and anger. And it’s probably also the only way to conquer my own battles against the very same things.

 

What Are You Listening To?

What Are You Listening To?

Last weekend I attended the West Virginia Writer’s Conference. It was the first time I’ve been away from my children overnight. And it was actually a two night stay.

Did I miss them?

I thought I would, but no, actually, I didn’t. And I struggled with that.

I know that when we leave our children, we should immediately feel like a piece of us has gone missing. Like we aren’t complete and that if we don’t get home immediately, we might die or at least not be able to sleep or function in some other capacity. (In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m being sarcastic. I don’t think we are “supposed to” do any of that.)

During my stay, I never stopped loving my children. But that brings me to another point. I’ve heard many moms say before that when they first held their newborn babies, they were overcome with love. Maybe they wept or shook or felt like they couldn’t contain their happiness so they burst out in smiles and laughter, surprised when others around them did not.

When my first son was born, I was not immediately in love. I was shocked. I was frightened. I was surprised. Who is this little person? Where did he come from? As if my belly had been growing a hiccuping watermelon.

My husband and I have discussed our initial parenting reaction at length and we think it has something to do with the aloofness of newborns. They can’t smile. They can’t laugh. They can’t do anything really, so it took us a few weeks to feel that immense love that so many people talk about. My second and third babies brought out earlier love, but I think that was due to having seen how lovely babies can be. By then I knew that babies eventually laugh and hug their parents. I knew that babies eventually do silly things like try to grab at mirrors, drink from cup-less straws and look deeply into your eyes as they gurgle on about who knows what.

On my drive to West Virginia, I had a lot of time to think. About 5 hours, actually, which is more time than us mothers ever have alone. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, especially since I had forgotten to bring my c.d.’s and my knock-off iPod, and it took me almost the entire drive to realize that I wasn’t scrolling through the radio stations, but the rental car’s presets. All I could hear from the speakers was fuzz and I thought that was just because I was in the middle of trees. Beautiful trees, though. The most beautiful trees and lands that I have ever seen. I wish I had photos to share, but because I was driving vertical and horizontal zigzags, I couldn’t manage to capture a single image.

Well, here is one image, but it’s not one that I took. It’s a free one from the internet. Pretty, isn’t it?

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At one point, I turned off the radio and silence entered the air. Then, some actual thoughts.

I thought, What are you listening to?

Even in silence, I was listening to something. The noises of tires rotating on asphalt. The whooshing of wind. The occasional swish-swish of my cell phone notifications.

I thought about the sounds of my  daily life.

When I drive around in my minivan, three children chatter on. They ask and they wonder out loud at me. They bring up philosophies of life. They tell me their failures and their successes. “Mom! Did you see that? I jumped so high!” “Mom! I hit that ball so hard!” or, “Mom, I wasn’t really good at that.” That last one comes from my 3-year old son who, today, told me over and over that he “wasn’t really good at” the spray ground, where he was continuously running to our towel to wipe his eyes of water drops. He was just playing in the water, like everyone else, but he apparently kept forgetting to close his eyes when he ran under the showers. “My eyes hurt!” He kept telling me.

What are you listening to?

I usually broadcast K-Love in my van, and it’s not because I like the music. In fact, though I love Jesus and I love worship music and I love hearing stories of God’s faithfulness, it is purely the positivity that I love in this station. There’s enough negativity out there already, and when I have the opportunity to control the words that are coming out of my speakers, I want them to be words of life.

I have started playing worship music in my house, all day every day, and I’ve realized that when I get angry, when I get frustrated, when I get worn out or overwhelmed at the demands of motherhood, the music keeps positivity from leaving. Even if my mind is reeling, I can bring myself back to calm because of the love that pours out through the music around me.

What are you listening to? Do you find that music helps keep you grounded at home, at work, or in your car?

On a Lightly Floured Surface: Relief on the Journey of Motherhood

On a Lightly Floured Surface: Relief on the Journey of Motherhood

When I was pregnant with my first son, I had a lot of mixed emotions, a lot of jumbled up thoughts. It’s okay though. I’m pretty sure that’s normal. Having a life of one’s own provokes a lot of emotion, so it makes sense that having a second life forming in one’s belly would provoke a lot more thought and emotion, right?

I’m the baby of my family, six and a half years behind my closest sibling, and until my cousin started having babies when I was 12, I was the youngest of my entire, extended family. I was never around babies. Not ever. Most of my friends loved babies. They babysat, they volunteered to work in the nursery at their churches, they even took the “early childhood education” class at our high school (a class which might have been created out of a need to provide childcare for all of the teen moms that we had as classmates). But babies really kind of scared me.

I thought little kids were pretty cute, but to be left alone with one? Terror. My husband and I never really decided to have kids. We just decided to stop preventing it. We had a mutual dislike for all forms of birth control and a recognition that children enrich lives. I still believe they do, but in a way that I never would have imagined. It’s in a repetitive, yet somehow surprising, never-stopping, never sitting down, always go-go-go, kind of way that makes you peer inside your own heart and figure out why the constant jumping around and throwing of tantrums bothers you so much. (The answer, I think has something to do with the fact that I have a bunch of emotions and desires that I have not yet laid aside for the greater good of my children’s lives.)

In our case, removing birth control meant that I was pregnant within just a few months. I was somewhat thrust into motherhood, with few ideas of what it would really be like. I found that, when you’re pregnant, most people will tell you about their pregnancies, yet no one knows what it’s like to be you or to have your children or your spouse.

There is a piece of motherhood that is solitary. I wrote a lot about my thoughts on child-rearing, including a list called “Advice to Future Me” where I said, “My belly is like bread and now it is rising.”

It’s true. Bread-making and pregnancy are similar. In both, there is a growing specimen that forms itself and produces unseen things to make its boundaries expand, to make itself rise. When I was pregnant with my first son, I hadn’t made much bread. I think basic white and multi grain are all that I had tackled. Now, after three children and nine years of marriage, I have made bread with carrots cooked inside, with marjoram and chives. I’ve made baguettes, brioche, hamburger buns, hearty oatmeal bread, bagels, soft pretzels, focaccia, ciabatta, pita, and all kinds of pizza dough. Now I mostly make sourdough bread, from a starter that I created with only flour and water.

Two ingredients. Like my children were created from only my husband and me. But it’s not just ingredients that make. There are directions to follow. There is stirring and kneading to do. There is a feeling to knowing when the bread is right. There is waiting to be done, waiting until just the right moment when the oven is hot and the bread has been shaped, and it has risen again. There is an art to making bread, but there is also a chemistry. In my opinion, you have to have the desire for artistry first.

Today I am making brioche for our Saturday night hamburger dinner. This is actually the first time I’ve made brioche (though I did add it to my repertoire above), and it hit me, the line that almost every bread recipe gives: on a lightly floured surface…. 

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On a surface that has been sprinkled with a little extra of that one main ingredient. A surface that has been sprinkled with flour ensures that the bread does not stick to the surface as you form it. A surface that has been sprinkled with flour eases the transition from rising to proofing, from bowl to pan.

Aren’t you thankful that, even though parenting is hard work, we can lay down our parenting fears and trials, all our insecurities and hardships, on a surface lightly floured with wisdom from ages of mothers and fathers who have gone before us, a surface lightly floured with the knowledge that motherhood has been around for centuries, that babies have lived in dirt piles and grassy fields, without television and the internet, without air conditioning, without frozen meals, without Tulas and Ergos.

As we lay our parenting down on a surface lightly floured, our transitions become easier. While we are discovering our true form, we will remain intact.