Monday, November 25, 2013

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

I think I have become old and crotchety. At least that's how I feel sometimes. Usually when I am around children aged 5 and below. I love babies...until they are about 2. I don't want any part of tantrums, toilet training, and tattling. We have a long-standing rule in our house that goes like this: Unless someone really hurt you or you hurt them, don't tattle. No, that doesn't mean your brother accidentally bumped into you. No that doesn't mean because you don't live in my house you can tattle. It means don't tattle. Period. I don't play.

My parenting style is far different than the kinder, gentler approach that many young parents take. I'm not going to ask a child to behave. I am going to tell them to behave. I'm not going to please and thank them for doing what they are supposed to do as if it was some favor to me. "Thank you for picking up those blocks you threw across the room when you were frustrated." "Please stop poking your baby sister in the eye!" For Real? I believe in teaching manners, just not like that.

I'm being completely real, friends: Bad. Kids. Get. On. My. Nerves. Come on, parents, we gotta do better! Did your parents discipline you? Do you love them still? Your child is not gonna stop loving you if you discipline them. However, your kid is not gonna respect you if you ask them, "Please stop slapping Mommy in the face; that hurts Mommy's feelings, and makes Mommy cry when you do that." Seriously? That makes me wanna slap myself in the face.

Don't be scared to put the fear of God and MOM in your kids. One time, I walked around Walmart with Lily screaming her head off because, "I told you if you were sassy you couldn't have a sucker, and guess what: YOU WERE SASSY AND YOU ARE NOT GETTING IT." I didn't feel bad for Lil, though I did cut my grocery shopping short because we were disruptive to any people who may have been enjoying their shopping experience.

I got lots of dirty looks, and she got many sympathetic smiles, but it wasn't about me being judged as a mother--I don't care--it was about being a parent and teaching my child that I mean what I say. She may have learned that I was shameless and didn't care about shopping with a screaming, snotty, slobbering 3-year-old, but she also learned that she wasn't gonna get her way with tantrums. And that, my friends, was the LAST fit she threw at the store.

When I see people post articles about tough parenting, I want high five them. We NEED to be tough parents. There's a generation of people walking around with soaring self-esteem and absolutely no reason to feel that good about themselves. Few baseball moms like me because I refuse to say, "good try" to a 12-year-old who misses an easy ground ball. No. GET YOUR GLOVE ON THE GROUND! I don't believe in beating kids down. But I also don't believe in letting them beat us down. And I do believe in keeping it real. Good tries aren't enough in the real world.

My 19-year-old daughter is my very best friend. But I am her mother. I was her mother through some tough choices and bad decisions and guess what: She knows every bad choice I made. My kids know that my love isn't conditional, but if you make a bad choice I'm going to let you suffer some consequences. My little ones know the paths that their dad and I traveled. When we punish them for making wrong choices, it doesn't make us hypocrites, it makes parents who want better for our kids.

And speaking of wanting better: Don't feel guilty if you go to work, it's okay. I worked full-time until my son went to Kindergarten. You know what my older kids remember? The fun stuff we did. The stuff we could afford to do because I worked. And if you stay home? Don't feel guilty about that either. I stayed home with Lily, and she is the least materialistic child I know. Giving your child the gift of your time and attention is better than the latest toys. Those toys will end up in the garbage someday anyway, but your child will carry the gift of your love around forever.

We need to stop giving our power away. We let people's opinions of us keep us from doing our job--raising respectful, compassionate adults who will contribute to this world in a positive way. So yes, I am old and crotchety, and every positive parenting choice I make stands on top of 100 mistakes from which I am still learning, but let me encourage you young parents today: Stay strong. Do your job. Your child will still love you if you discipline them and even better, they will respect you too.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I'll Do Better Next Time.

We got a hot tub a few weeks ago. It is perhaps my most favorite thing we have ever owned. Mostly because one of my most favorite things to do is nothing, as evidenced by my repeated pleas, "Can we just sit and BE?" My babies are antsy, though, so that is usually met with, "That's BORING! Can't we do something fun?"

There is not much you actually can do in a hot tub. Granted the kids manage to kick each other, splash, steal seats, turn off all the jets, make amazing light shows, play charades (the only mom-approved hot tub game), turn water bottles into guns and projectiles, and so forth. Occasionally, though, they sit and look at the stars or try to catch snowflakes on their tongues. Occasionally, they are able just to sit and be.

I treasure those rare moments.

When we were young and naive and had Chloe, every experience was new and fun. Parenthood was like being a kid in a candy store. Again with Peyton, even though we were older and more experienced, trucks and dirt and boy stuff was delightful in a whole new way. Now, I've mentioned a million times that Lily was a surprise baby. And despite my love for babies, I planned to love them from afar.

A funny thing happened though. Chloe grew up and moved away and taught me how fleeting childhood is. I am so grateful to have another little one. A couple more years of school parties, tooth fairies and Christmas magic. Chloe taught me how to be a mom. She was my guinea pig. I did so many things wrong and made so many mistakes, but she didn't know because I was her only mom. One time I read somewhere that if you just love them enough...if you just love them enough it makes up for those mistakes. I think that's true because she's all grown up and she's my best friend.

Course it could be that she's super-forgiving, having secret intensive therapy, or writing a Mommie Dearest kind of tell-all. That's cool too.

Anyway, I still make too many mistakes, but I believe that Peyton and Lily are blessed for the mistakes I made with Chloe. I believe all my kids are blessed for the mistakes my parents made. I believe that mistakes aren't for making you feel guilty and inferior but for helping you learn. I believe in owning your mistakes--not just saying you're sorry but meaning it and doing better.

It's interesting when I consider how God answers my prayers. If I pray for patience, He gives me strife so I can learn...what? Patience. If I pray for strength, He guides me through difficult times and reminds me of the source of strength. When I pray for forgiveness, God shows me so many opportunities to give it.

As long as we are on this planet, we will make mistakes. People we love will make mistakes. Each time we have choices. Guilt or grace. Forgiveness or resentment. During this month of gratitude, I'm grateful for millions of mistakes and the opportunities they bring to do better.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

This Is Not My Home.

After my dad died, I cried every morning in the shower. It is safe to cry in the shower. No one hears you. You're wet everywhere so no little hands reach up to wipe tears. The tears mix in with the rest of the water. Your eyes are red because you got shampoo in them. So careless. I could cry without anyone trying to care for me, feel sorry for me, pity me, fix me.

My morning routine started by slathering Preparation H around my eyes to conceal the shower crying. Friends, here's an awesome beauty tip: Hemorrhoid cream does wonders for eyes puffy from crying, not sleeping, drinking, allergies...whatever. For real.

I have been through tragedies, but this time, I had three people who were relying on me not to fall apart. When my first brother died, I completely fell apart. I could. I was 16. No one relied on me. The people around me held me and worried about me and picked me up. Unexpectedly losing someone you think is invincible makes you feel really small and vulnerable.

When my good friend died of cancer, it wasn't as bad. I am not minimizing her death, but I had months to get used to the idea that she was going to die. I could say goodbye. I told her I loved her a million times. We talked about how bad it sucked and how unfair life could be sometimes. And we cried and we laughed, but we prepared.

When my second brother died, it was the worst. Suicide is the worst. No preparation. No conspiracy theories. Nothing left but a big pile of regret and guilt and questions. People said that I would be mad at him. How could I be mad at him for being in so much pain? I was mad at lots of people, but he wasn't one of them.

For a long time, I felt a sense of safety in pain. Well, at least it can't get any worse. But don't say that or think that or God forbid allow yourself to believe that because it can. It can get worse. It couldn't get any worse than my brother dying unexpectedly until my other brother chose to die. Well, it couldn't get any worse than...Yes. Yes, it could.

I have dealt with the pain and the questions and the stages of grief more times than I can count. Grief, pain, tragedy have become like my hometown. I don't live there anymore, but I visit from time to time. I remember the streets and can still find my way around. Lots of things look the same. Some places have changed. Some people have moved away, but some still live there.

It's a choice. It's my choice. It's your choice. You can stay in your hometown. You can give in to grief. You can let abuse or neglect or grief that you suffered stunt your growth and keep you mired in shame, regret, and self-pity. Or you can move. It doesn't mean you forget. It doesn't mean it didn't happen. It just means that you are choosing not to let what happened to you dictate who you become.

I have a big family. People are gonna die. My mom is 82--today. I'm gonna have to visit that place many more times. But I'm not moving back home.


Monday, November 4, 2013

One Heart at a Time

Here's my unfortunate experience with church people: They are fake, judgmental hypocrites. The people who were most revered in my growing up church beat their kids, cheated on their wives, gossiped, judged, hated, and looked down on people. Ain't nobody got time for those folks and their God.

At The Movement, I encountered different people. Loving, accepting Christians who had kind non-judgmental hearts. However, even some I thought of as my kind of Christians show me their humanness if I mention hot button topics such as: Brad and I drink alcohol, my brother committed suicide or my sister-in-law is a lesbian. They don't judge me to my face. Honestly, if I weren't observant of body language I might miss their judgment. See, it is so subtle: an averted glance, an uncomfortable shifting in their seat, a quick, "Excuse me," as they hurry away from me.

Honestly, there is a part of me that kind of enjoys making people uncomfortable. Not because I'm sadistic, but because I much prefer those who are just right out in the open with their hate to those who pretend to be loving and accepting. So, when I tell you my feelings about homosexuality and suicide, I'm probably trying to gauge if we have any chance of being friends, and I'll know very quickly based on your reaction.

I am an open book. If I'm mad at you, I will tell you. If I think I offended you, I will apologize. If you say something that I don't agree with, I will listen to your point of view, but I probably won't change my mind. If you say something outwardly hurtful to me, I will be hurt, but I would rather be attacked to my face than gossiped about behind my back.

I try every day to be kinder, to be more patient, not to say unkind things about anyone, but I'm a work in progress, and I mess up.

This weekend, people showed up in a church in a bar not knowing what to expect. People who might have felt judged or looked down upon in church because of their clothes, past, or sexual orientation. But I think they felt loved and accepted. I saw them smiling and sharing their stories with others that they may never have met if not for a church in a bar in downtown Warren.

Some people mock God, church, and me, but that is okay, they're works in progress too. They might have been raised to believe that God is vengeful and punitive, and Christians are phony. We're all works in progress. But, I'm super grateful to a crazy redheaded pastor who trusted God enough to trade good for a chance at great. I'm grateful to my pastor/brother-in-law, who is the first Christian I ever met who loved and didn't judge. I'm grateful for my sister-in-law, who in her quiet unassuming way is gonna change the freaking world.

I'm outrageously blessed that I get to love and be loved by my beautiful family every moment. But today, I am overwhelmed by the opportunity to bring love to a community one heart at a time.

P.S. I don't really know how to spell judgement or judgmental, so I have relied solely on spell check and apologize for what I'm sure is a lot of inconsistency. Also, I promise this isn't a passive aggressive dig at any person. If you feel called out, it might be because God is telling you to check yourself. Follow my blog with Bloglovin