There are so many things I have found unpredictable about parenting.
The hearing your child laugh and feeling like your whole world just brightened? Never knew that was coming.
That feeling in your chest when you see them sleeping and they look so, preciously, dang perfect? I suspected it might exist but until it happened to me it was an unsolved mystery.
Finding your kid pooped in the bathtub when you wonder what’s all over his hands? That’s another little gem I would never have expected even a split second before it happened!
And yet, there it was, the evening activity: scooping poop from the bath. It was such an exhilarating experience I’m considering adding it to my resume:
Mom. February 2006 – present. Demonstrates problem solving techniques and visible desire for best hygienic practices, particularly when confronted by situations where the poop literally hits the fan. Exhibits flexibility and exceptional management skills while supervising a four-person team prone to sudden mood swings and emotional outbursts. Proven ability to work under pressure with limited resources and minimal rest periods.
What would you add to your resume if parenting skills seemed relevant?
I’m on my second cup of coffee and today is looking like it may very well require multiple pots of that precious elixir.
Here’s the snapshot so far:
Tres is standing on the table in her underwear “showering.” She has commanded no one can look at her or talk to her while she “washes her hair.” I just told her to take the nail file out of her Dora underpants before someone ends up hurt.
Bubby is in the high chair emitting high pitched squeals in practice of his sonar tracking system. I believe he got the inspiration for this super sonic invention during his time communing with bats in the wee hours of the night because sleep is for the weak.
Uno is badgering me to assume ownership of a rabbit that’s half her body weight. She is more concerned with ownership and her rights than Lewis and Clark and the U.S. Government.
Dos is still complaining of “grumpy legs” – which I think are a way of her telling me she’s having growing pains – and wants to see pictures of all her friends on Facebook. This means she lets out a huff worthy of a howitzer blast every time I take my phone away from her because I’m under the crazy impression the phone belongs to the person who pays for it and is least likely to put Pop Tart smeared fingerprints on the screen.
I am, without shame, now hiding with my laptop and a cup of coffee while my husband, the versatile gem that he is, attempts to pull the kid off the table and complete farm animal needlepoint at the same time:
All of this makes me think about how I respond when people ask what it’s like having four kids and also homeschooling them. Chaos like this morning and pain of it all are the images that flash into my mind and I groan and say, “Let us be your cautionary tale! Don’t do what we do!”
But then I think again and remember the pure joy I felt when I met each of these children moments after they emerged from the womb; how just hearing their laughter makes my heart lift; I have a flash of excitement when they are able to read street signs and sound out words — even our showering beauty on the table this morning was hilarious in the midst of complete disregard of all societal norms that encourage us to stand on the floor instead of the location we place our victuals.
When I lump the bad and the good all together (and pray… lots of prayer), I realize I have the courage to try again; to leave the my hidey-hole, and take up the privilege of teaching, mentoring, stewarding these little lives.
So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a table to Lysol and a pig needing some needlepoint completed. I’ll catch you in awhile.
(But feel free to pray for us. It’s gonna be a looonnnnnnggggggg day.)
I’m not one to buy much stock in blanket generalizations, but every once in a while I am reminded that stereotypes become stereotypes because in many cases… they’re true.
Tonight when I found our 1-year-old son standing in front of the window of the front loading washing machine, bouncing up and down, batting at the clothes whirling around inside, and laughing, well, the cliché of men being relatively simple and obsessed with simple pleasures came to mind.
Three other things I’ve noticed after comparing a baby boy to three girls?
Boys bang. This child believes everything is a snare drum, from his high chair tray, the kitchen cabinets, to his sister’s head. The world is his oyster and he’s going to bust it open or die trying.
Automatic watering system. I was warned about the dangers of the male apparatus and urine production, I even got a pee-pee tee-pee as a shower gift, but nothing can prepare you for the directional sprinkler system attached to your masculine progeny. This child could nail a fly on the opposite wall on a bad day… and dampen everything in between.
He’s happy, happy, happy. While we’re getting glimmers of a strong will in this boy as we enter the Era of the Tantrum, in general if the kid is dry, fed, and rested there’s not much that can derail his happiness. He giggles. He smiles. He coos. He’s unbelievably stress-free. This is a direct contrast to our girls, who could visibly be seen multi-tasking and seeking the next best thing even as toddlers.
I can’t wait to see what other stereotypes will be confirmed or denied in the years to come. I’m just praying his easy going nature will continue when his sisters are in the teen age years, Lord knows we’ll need a voice of reason around here!
What differences have you noticed between male and female toddlers?
I just got back from a visit to the doctor for Dos and Bubby. Yes, those lovely check up appointments when you wait for a practical stranger to tell you if you’re doing an acceptable job keeping the children you’ve birthed, clothed, fed, and raised alive and well.
Our doctor told me they are both doing fine but in the 8% and 2% for weight, respectively. She gave me a hard look and said, “I remember your husband is rather tall and thin, too? This is probably normal for them. But you could feed them more cottage cheese, avacados, and – for you – even slather the butter on the fast food chicken nuggets.”
I nodded and told her that, yes, my husband weighed 95 lbs. as a freshman in high school and I didn’t top the century mark myself until my junior year. It was a banner moment for me as I felt I had to apologize for our genetics.
Then, when I was checking out the gal taking our co-pay was astounded to find out we have four kids and I birthed them all. She asked if I was a runner – I laughed, explained I find myself allergic to sweat, and admitted I just really like yoga pants and have made them my outfit of choice, despite the social inhibitions most feel when appearing in public in workout clothing.
These events have given me the courage to share my dirty secret with the world: I know how to lose weight. It’s really quite simple, a four-step process:
Go back in time to become the genetic by-product of a chicken and giraffe. This will produce skinny knees and knobby elbows that give an illusion of thinness. Forget the goal of actual fitness – who says strength training is desirable?!
Acquire a serious bout of influenza. After spending three weeks on my back in February eating only Gatorade and Saltine crackers, I lost all previously acquired baby weight. You, too, could drop massive amounts of weight if you’re truly committed to the illness process.
Switch to a liquid diet. Coffee preferred. But water and Coca-Cola are acceptable substitutes. When in doubt if you’re feeling a hunger pain, just self-medicate with coffee. Lots of coffee. Did I mention coffee?
Allow another human to nourish themselves using your nutrients. Breast-feeding. May not work for all people but I know nursing a baby burns of more calories while sitting on your bum than an hour on a treadmill.
If you can follow these simple instructions and change your wardrobe to yoga pants, I’m sure you’ll find any excess weight you’re sporting will melt right off of you like butter on an ear of roasted corn.
I was in church on Sunday and started crying. Crying is a pretty foreign concept for me in general as I’m a bit of a “suck it up” personality. But Circumstances prevailed and my tear ducts turned on.
I had no options for my tears and ensuing snot than my shirt sleeve and we all know I like to blame the baby when I’m sporting snot, not myself.
At that moment I experienced intense nostalgia for my dad.
He’s of the older generation, just shy of the greatest generation of all: World War II. He’s the strong and gentle warrior.
He always carries a handkerchief in his pocket.
I wish that our generation would carry handkerchiefs. They’re terribly important bits of fabric that can fulfill a multitude of purposes.
I cannot begin to number the times I would sneak up to him and borrow his “hanky” – times I was crying, times I sneezed, when I needed something to hold a cube of ice or wipe up a spill – Daddy always had his hanky.
I have these times that jump up and attack me with a stranglehold of emotion – though my father is still living and physically present he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He becomes disoriented frequently and struggles to get any words out. It’s been many months since I’ve been able to have a conversation with him. This summer has shown a pretty marked decrease in his ability level and he is in many ways a stranger inhabiting a body I adore.
I miss the Daddy who set the standard for the men in my life; a compassionate man who was a jack of all trades, always had an answer or worked with me to find one, a man who honored my mom with the delivery of a single rose on their anniversary or just because (because a bouquet was just too over the top – there was beautiful simplicity in a single bud), and teased us.
My kids will never remember the man who snuck sugar-covered orange gelatin candies to me when my mom wasn’t around, or see the capability of a large knuckled hand that could ably butcher livestock, maneuver a tractor, or wipe away a tear.
I can’t remember him making a decision that didn’t put our family first in his thoughts.
If I said, “You are a great follower!” would you be insulted?
If you said the same to me, my first reaction would be offense.
I don’t want to be a follower! I’m a leader! I’m not a mindless mass without wisdom and knowledge and gumption! I’m special, unique!
I AM NOT A FOLLOWER.
But “follower” doesn’t make you a mindless minion. In fact, being a good follower in this age of entitled know-it-alls, of talking heads and news show yappers, might make you a more attractive leader.
Why would I say such a thing?
I’m reading a book about leadership development and one chapter addresses following. The author couches the information from a leader’s perspective – such as what can you, as a leader, do to make your follower productive, satisfied, and loyal?
But in reading this chapter it occurred to me more should be written about the value of a follower in recognition that following is an important skill that if not acquired, will hinder anyone from long term success.
Think about it –
How do many people learn wisdom from leaders? By following the leader until they’ve proven themselves interested.
Who do leaders enjoy spending time with? Their trusted followers, because they’re pulling in the same direction toward a common goal.
What is one of the most exasperating things to a leader? An unteachable follower who goes renegade because they’re determined they know more than anyone else.
These thoughts make me want to intentionally practice to be a better follower. To me that means:
Trusting. Instead of doubting a leadership decision, armchair coaching, or being a Debbie Downer, I want to learn to trust the judgment of the leaders around me. Genuine trust of an honorable person places a burden of responsibility on that leader to live up to the trust they’ve earned.
Supporting. Too many times I contribute to the common good of a group out of social obligation or with hopes of later recognition. That’s not helpful! I want to support others because that in itself is a worthwhile reward.
Playing. When someone else is navigating the course I have the freedom to play and enjoy the journey without prepping for the next change. That, in turn, makes me much more fun to be around.
Loyalty. I want to be a loyal person. Our culture is not supportive of a steadfast spirit. We are always looking for new and better, speed and energy But I want to be a part of an admirable tradition and someone others can depend upon to be consistent.
I’m becoming more and more convinced that being a follower is an unrecognized skill that we should all master.
What other skills make people excellent followers?
Although this will likely not surprise you, I have a confession to make: I am not June Cleaver.
I am also not Mama Berenstain Bear. Nor any other paragon of motherhood heralded before me in the media.
I cannot explain why this realization was so shocking to me, but it hit me yesterday like a ton of bricks – I’m not a perfect mother and I don’t even portray an image of a perfect mother. I don’t always have the right words to sum up the moral lesson, I lose my temper, sometimes I argue with their father, I hate doing laundry and the corners of our shower are a little frightening to behold.
I’m not perfect. Nowhere close. No paragon of virtue present in this household.
For a long time I’ve tried my best to match up to the examples set by the maternal influences in my life whether my mother, mother-in-law, sister, friend, etc., or the women I see in movies or on television, or brought to life via words from the imagination of authors of books. I’ve read books, scoured the internet for blog posts, and solicited parenting feedback from friends near and far.
The ultimate diagnosis? I’m not perfect. I will never be perfect.
But that doesn’t make me hopeless. That’s the next step in this line of thinking – that lack of perfection doesn’t equal failure as a parent.
Yesterday wasn’t a special day and I’m sure this is an understanding I will have to acknowledge again and again, but saying the words, “I am not June Cleaver” lifted the monkey of perfection from my back for a bit of time. Here’s what I can claim as real instead of perfection (and maybe you can claim it, too):
I am a capable woman who is sometimes overwhelmed by the tirade of emotion coming from children over whether they get a piece of gum.
I am a logical human being who realizes sometimes getting a few hours of sleep is more important than having the floors mopped or socks matched.
I am a caring person who invests in those around her and occasionally that means arguments and temper tantrums – because the opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy.
I am courageous and up to the challenge of parenting because I choose to be present in these children’s lives and live authentically with them.
Oh, how I wish it didn’t take me writing these things down to try to remember them in my most critical moments! But I don’t have to be June Cleaver (and neither do you). I can be me.
Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to model yourself after someone else, or an image that seems too good to be true. Just be you. Do your best every day to be true to your values and then… relax.
Be the best version of yourself, no one else. It’s enough. Rebuke the pressure.
What truth statements do you need to write down so you will remember them in your critical moments?
We have a strict No Blood, No Band-Aid® rule around here and that has resulted in many tears. Our children have been known to ask for a bandage for a bug bite, hang nail, invisible scratch, and an itch. Band-Aids® make it all better. At this point it’s just a matter of time before one of the kiddos will purposefully injure themselves just to get an adhesive stick-em.
I’ve been known to use nicely decorated, latex-free plastic strips as bargaining chips. I’m not above bribery and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Still, the enchantment of these little boogers eludes me. I don’t know why they spend so many waking minutes wondering when, if, and how they can negotiate for a Band-Aid®. The function of this medical tool is obvious and wonderful… but why the absolute fascination with an object they only wear from 4.3 minutes on a good day?
I can’t be the only one with questions about the Band-Aid®, so it’s time for a 10-Spot Ramble so we can learn some trivia about the plastic adhesive strip:
1. The Band-Aid is a gift of love. Earle Dickson, an employee of Johnson and Johnson developed the Band-Aid® in 1920 for his accident-prone wife, Josephine.
2. Early adhesive bandages required crafting skills. When they hit the market in 1920, Band-Aids® were handmade and came in strips that were two and a half inches wide and eighteen inches long. The person would cut the bandage to the specifications they needed. I would not have done well with this test.
3. Band-Aids® and Boy Scouts go hand-in-hand. Johnson & Johnson decided their main clients were families, mainly mothers, so they distributed free Band-Aids® to the people they felt would need them the most – Boy Scouts. After giving away an unlimited number to Boy Scout troops across the U.S., Band-Aid® sales began to increase. Mothers across the continent rejoiced that their sweet man-cubs would be bandaged with sterile strips.
4. Remember the red string? Today’s bandages are opened with a pull apart, but the Band-Aids® of my childhood had a red string. Do you remember it? That red string that used to open the wrappers first appeared on the box in 1924.
5. Barry Manilow was actually referring to Band-Aids® in “Let’s Get It On.” Nope. Fooled you! That’s a lie, but Manilow did compose the famous Band-Aid® jingle (“I am stuck on Band-Aid® brand, ‘cause Band-Aid’s® stick on me!”).
6. Jersey isn’t famous just for its Shore. The Band-Aid® manufacturing plant is in North Brunswick, New Jersey.
7. Band-Aids® glow when pulled apart. Really. Go try it yourself. It’s due to a process called triboluminescence. Triboluminescence is what occurs when a Wint-O-Green Life Saver candy is crushed in the dark, letting off a little glowing spark. When a high enough difference between negative and positive charges is formed, electrons jump across fractures in the candy, reacting with nitrogen, producing a glow. A similar thing happens with Band-Aid® wrappers and postal envelopes. When separating certain sticky surfaces, a similar reaction to that in the Life Savers occurs, causing a light blue flash.
8. We’ve gone through a lot of Band-Aids®. Johnson & Johnson reports over 1 billion Band-Aids® have been sold. That’s a lot of Band-Aids®. In fact, I think it may actually be rivaling the number of McDonald’s hamburgers sold!
9. Band-Aids® and Listerine are kissing cousins. Well, not really. But if they were they’d have fresh breath because it was Sir Joseph Lister, one of the first proven germophobes, who advocated for sterile everything from kissers to bandages. Listerine came from his desire to kill the germs and Band-Aids® came from the idea of sterile gauze bandages. Pretty nifty, huh?
10. A used Band-Aid® is one of the most disgusting items on the planet. It am 100% grossed out by dirty Band-Aids® but it really doesn’t matter if the gauze is nasty or clean – if you get a Band-Aid® stuck to your barefoot you know you’ll be doing the hokey-pokey at a fast pace and practicing contortionist’s moves until you get it unstuck from your foot! Bleh. Gross, gross, gross.
Finally, I came across this little saying as I was researching this post:
“Excuse me, do you have a Band-Aid®? Because I scraped my knee when I fell in love with you!”
Heh, heh, heh.
How much love do plastic adhesive bandages get in your house?
Until today I believed the humane society was a cool place to go and visit animals. I didn’t realize they were blood-sucking, money loving leeches.
Before you get all up in arms and take me to task, let me tell you I’ve been pro humane society my whole life. I volunteered there growing up and I generally enjoy pets and am in favor of what they represent.
But today our crazy dog Sam dug a hole under our fence. I saw her taking off down the road and hollered at her from the kitchen window. Dos and I both took off after her, yelling and she never looked back.
We loaded up the car and drove the neighborhood for 40 minutes, trying to find her. We asked every person in the street if they had seen her. Nothing.
I called and left a message with the humane society, which didn’t open for another 1/2 hour. I gave them my number, a description of the runaway puddle, comforted the kiddos, and waited.
About an hour later I got a call that a dog matching that description had been brought in from our area. And that it would be $162 to get her back.
Ummmm…… that was unexpected.
By my calculations, that’s a little more than $1/minute they had her in their possession.
It’s about 162 times more than we paid to get the dog in the first place.
It’s two times the amount they’d charge me if I walked into the shelter and asked to adopt a small white poodle with a really wacked out attitude and crazy fear of thunder.
I’ve really been under the impression the humane society exists to help animals find their forever homes. And we have a dog whose forever home is now in jeopardy because $162 is two weeks worth of grocery budget for our family.
Seriously?! How can this be good for the pet population of America?! Can someone explain this to me??? In addition to the explanation, I’m taking donations so I can bail the puddle out of the doggie penitentiary. Feel free to contribute if you’d like.
Have you ever had to bail your dog out of the pound and did you have to sell a kidney to pay for it?
I posed some questions we had to answer as a family in yesterday’s Story of Reluctant Homeschoolers: Part Two:
What is the point of education?
Is an education truly necessary? Is it useful for all people?
Each family will answer these questions differently. I’m going to share our answers to these questions by simply talking through what we witness in our own homeschool.
Our homeschool journey is under constant analysis and revision (and I’ve heard that from many other homeschool parents as well). It’s a fluid process for our family: we are constantly wondering how we can scale back or improve.
While my type-A personality hates that fluidity, I’m comforted by knowing responsiveness is a leadership skill and important to practice. I also recently heard most airlines are off course 99% of their flights, that it’s only through constant corrections they find their way to their destinations.
When I don’t keep the long-term vision in front of me, I completely lose track of the destination in the excruciating minutiae of raising four children aged 7-years-old and under; the nobility of this decision to be a full-time educator is completely obliterated in the knowledge there is laundry on the sofa needing to be put away and a suspicious puddle on the floor in front of the bathroom door.
I’ve been known to read popular blogs or peruse Pinterest and completely freak out because we don’t do art or science projects at home; when I attend homeschool conferences it looks like everyone else has their home school better organized operating more effectively than ours.
I struggle with insecurity, with wanting the best for our children; I quiz my kids after they come home from gymnastics or AWANA and ask them if they feel as smart as the other kids? When Uno didn’t pick up on reading at 5 years old – or 6 years old into 7 years old – I was in a panic and certain we were short-changing our children a good education as obviously my best efforts weren’t paying off.
Yet we stuck with it.
When I get my head wrapped around the knowledge the only comparisons I should make are against the priorities we’ve set as a family (and, of course, our state requirements for homeschooling) I realize we do have success happening around our dinner table.
When we stay the course we slowly see fruit being produced in this educational model.
Why do I say that?
Our children treat people who look or act differently than what they’re used to with love. I take them to the play areas in the mall and see them treat strangers with a friendly attitude and look for ways to help. I’m seeing the fruit of character in them.
When we travel, our children are obedient and trustworthy. We rarely have to ask them to do things more than once and we don’t worry for their safety. We’re seeing the fruit of safety in them.
Yesterday we were looking at clouds and Uno asked me how tornadoes formed. Our conversation stretched through vocabulary words: atmosphere, weather patterns, and temperature differentiation. Then it went a step further and we discussed the tornadoes in Oklahoma this past spring and how a weather occurrence impacted everyday living, house structure, emergency supplies; we talked about how to handle fear of unpredictability by trusting in God’s plan even when we don’t understand the “why.” We’re seeing the fruit of critical thinking as our children recognize how our world laces together.
When I ask our kids about their friends they always name their siblings first. They choose to spend time together and they help each other out as a natural process. We’re seeing the fruit of unity in our family.
I don’t share this because I think our kids are soooo special. I share it because I need the encouragement of looking at these items and seeing snapshots of progress. I share it because my kids may not be awesome when we get around to taking the standardized tests… but it doesn’t change the quality of the education they are receiving. (Although I do hope they do well on standardized test. It’s just that in our opinion tests are not the most important piece of their education… or even in the top five most important pieces.)
There’s another point I have to remind myself constantly: You can’t force the fruit.
These children are going to bloom in their own dad-blamed, sweet, meandering time. We plant the seed with knowledge and lessons, but we can’t force true understanding. We can nourish the soil with academic Miracle Gro – for us it’s a program like Classical Conversations and flashcards and conversations and the History and Discovery channels – but the seed will sprout when the seed will sprout. I can’t mold it to my time schedule.
Too often I want my children to pick up on a concept after one explanation. I want them to be experts well before we’ve put in the 1,000 hours needed to truly know something. I want the accolades of smart kids who are perfect and destined for success… because I want the pat on the back as their primary educator.
I want a beautiful, picture perfect, happy family where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” Yet we all know that phrase was a funny monologue of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, MN radio show because it’s implausible… bordering on insanity.
I have to consciously decide – over and over – if I push for my kids look perfect, there’s a reasonable chance they will never be educated.
With that in mind, I’d rather lose the battle of daily perfection (and I do!) but win the war of a well-rounded, high-character child that sees God in every part of their life because it’s never been segmented; to have children that learn about relationships and family through continued encounters with people who can be challenging and aren’t scared of being authentic because they haven’t been pressured to be perfect.
Nothing I’ve talked about in this post says a specific thing about the quadratic equation, spelling bees, or Romeo and Juliet… but these paragraphs have everything to do with our family values about education and what we think education should contain.
At no point can I claim this journey is easy… but because it aligns with our values it becomes doable and worth it.
Does your child’s education reflect your family’s values?
Have you missed a part of the Story of a Reluctant Homeschooler? Here you go, links to catch up!