Saturday, May 23, 2015

Praying for Daddy

We had a whirlwind of appointments the other day and spent most of the morning in the car.  I have learned that the car is the greatest conduit for conversation because we are cleared of most distractions.  They look out the window and wonder.  They ask questions about the trucks they see, the buildings we pass and the words that they try to read off of a sign.  This time, our conversations surrounded all the people in our life.

We talked about my sister who had her entire brand new basement flooded this week.  We talked about my husband and his search for a new pastor for our church.  We talked about my mom and dad and how much we missed them.  As we pulled into pediatrician's office, I told them that we ought to say a prayer for Daddy because he was just about to go into a meeting about a new pastor.  I opened my mouth to start the prayer when I heard my oldest begin.
"Dear God, please help Daddy as he tries to find a new pastor for our church.  We really miss our old pastors, God and we hope that they visit us sometimes.  Daddy has a big job. A really big job.  Help him make a good decision.  And bring Granny and Papa home cuz we really miss them. Amen."

My three year old piped in.  "But I didn't get to pray!"
"You are always welcome to pray, bud.  Do you have some things on your mind?"
"Yeah.  A few things are on my mind."  He paused then began to pray in his sweet little voice.  "Dear God. Help Daddy in his meeting.  He really need you.  And God, be with Aunt Tessie and make sure she isn't sad anymore and that they can fix their really cool basement.  And I worry about you, too, God.  I worry about how much it hurt when you died on the cross.  I hope it doesn't hurt now that you are in Heaven.  Amen."

"You guys both have wonderful hearts, do you know that?" I asked them.  "God heard your words and he will be with all those people you care about."  I looked in the rear view mirror and saw soft smiles cross both of their faces.  "And Drew, Jesus isn't in pain anymore.  There's no pain in Heaven.  Isn't that amazing?"

"That...is...amazing," he said with gusto.

And it is amazing.  It's amazing to see them understand faith in a way that I have only recently come to know.  It's amazing that they feel the power of prayer and that they embrace all the people they love with their words. I learn so much about what is on their hearts and minds when I hear their prayers.  They trust him with everything and it's a true joy to watch their faith blossom.

What are some of your favorite prayers that your children have said?  If you haven't yet heard them pray, maybe you could try it tonight before bed.  Their sweet (and sometimes funny!) honesty will bring joy to your heart.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I am Dumb

"I am so dumb," my oldest said the other day as I tucked him in for quiet time.
Shocked, I looked at him and asked, "What does dumb mean to you?"
"It means you mess up all the time and nobody likes you."

"Well then, you are anything but dumb.  Sure, you make mistakes but every body makes mistakes.  I see you as loving and fun and I really like you.  I know a lot of other people that do, too."  I paused, hoping that my words had sunken in.

He laid down, satisfied with my response and started looking at his book.

It troubled me all day.  How could my gifted and incredible child possibly think he was dumb?  Am I perpetuating that somehow?  Am I giving him self doubt?  I prayed about the right answer to give him if he said it again and hoped for an answer.

That night I got back to my book, Teach Your Children Well and read a passage about this very interaction.  (God is always one step ahead of me...) It said that kids that say, "I am bad at math" have a much healthier self image than kids that say, "I'm dumb."  One is a category and one is an overall self  esteem issue. It's a red flag that the child (or sometimes a parent or teacher) is putting on a great amount of pressure to succeed. The book mentioned affirming their efforts rather than the results.  Focus on the fact that they are working hard to solve the problem (whether it's a math problem or an issue with a friend) and tell them how proud you are of their persistance. 

I sat back to evaluate and I truly don't believe I put a great amount of pressure on him.  I expect a lot from him but I am constantly encouraging his efforts.  Still, I want to make sure I'm handling this well.
I reached out to his prediatrician who has been an incredible mentor to me.  "Nuetralize it.  Neutralize it right away," she said.   "Tell him how you see him as bright and organized and kind.  Each interaction should be encouraging.  Just keep telling him how much you believe in him."

And so I will.  I will continue to try to ease the pressure he puts on himself and take a look at how I am interacting with him as his parent and his teacher.  

How do you handle it when your child's self esteem is suddenly struggling?  Do you affirm the results (They aced the test!) or their efforts (You studied really hard!)? How can you encourage your child today? 


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rocketman

Music is a central part of our home.  It's always playing in the background and my kids love to dance or sing along to their favorite songs.  I appreciate the soundtrack it provides for our day but I never thought it would create opportunities to learn.

"Why does the rocketman think he's going to be away for a long long time?" my three year old asked me as he ate his breakfast.

I was completely immersed in thoughts about who knows what and it took me a minute to register what he was asking.  "I'm sorry bud, what?  What rocketman?"

"That rocketman!" he said as he pointed to the speaker in the kitchen.

I tuned my ears to Elton John crooning, "And I think it's gonna be a long long time. Til touchdown brings me round again to find..."

"Oh!  He's singing about a man in space.  He is alone and missing his family," I explained, trying to simplify the story.

"How long does it take to get to space?" he asked.

"Well, I'm not sure. Let's find out."

We spent the next half hour going from one question to the next.  How long does it take to get to the moon?  Who walked on the moon?  How do the rockets work?  Why do they fall off as the shuttle launches?  Does anyone live in space?  We watched videos from inside the shuttle cockpit and saw a promotional movie about the first monkey that went into space.  All of this from a song.

There are days when I feel convicted about the curriculum getting done but those aren't the days I enjoy the most.  The best days are when they ask a question and we follow that question down the rabbit hole and let it take us where it will.  

It's incredible to see how many opportunities we have to teach our kids. Our agenda can sometimes get in the way but if we can put it aside, even for a moment, we will be rewarded with children who thrive on discovery.  And we just might have a great time, too.

Pay attention to the questions your kids ask today.  Are there any answers that might be fun to find together?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Drawbacks of One Parent

My husband has had to travel the majority of this month and my kids and I have managed to find our own rhythm.  We have missed him terribly but have adapted somewhat to our altered routine.  I have focused on keeping my little family and home running.  My kids have done an amazing job of going with the flow, even when things don't quite go their way.

I had to get our grocery shopping done and I just kept running out of time.  Between naps and school and swim team, our days seemed to be swallowed up.  Finally, I decided to just bite the bullet and get the kids to the store.  That was the day my six-year-old-that-never-naps decided to sleep.  "Should I wake him up?" I kept wondering. "No, he needs his sleep.  Let him go." 

Finally, at 5:15, he came bleary eyed into the garage where we were playing.  "Hey babe!  Get in the car.  Time to go to Publix!" He looked confused then resigned as he climbed into the back seat.  I buckled the other two into their car seats and we headed to the store.

Our trip was thankfully uneventful until my daughter started to get hungry (she's a stickler for a timely dinner).  I handed her some puffs to buy some time then wrapped up the shopping.  By the time we got home, she was really unhappy.  I sat her down with some watermelon and chicken then grabbed some super nutricious Lunchables for the boys.  I ran back and forth from the car unloading the groceries, all while soothing my screaming little girl.  "AAAHHH!!!  MAMA!!!!" she would yell anytime I was out of sight.  I knew that she was ready for bed but I had to finish bringing the groceries inside. As I sorted through the bags trying to find the refridgerated food, my six year old interrupted my thoughts.  
"Mommy, Drew and I are going to go outside to ride bikes, okay?"  
Frustrated by another thing pulling at my attention, I responded abruptly. "No, buddy.  I have to put away the groceries then put Rosie to bed.  I would need to be outside with you and I just can't be two places at once."
"That's okay, Mommy.  It's just another drawback to having only one parent around.  Daddy will be home soon."

I couldn't believe how incredibly understanding he was with me.  I realized in that moment that I am not the only one making adjustments to the changes.  I knew that they missed their daddy but I didn't realize how much they were helping to make things easier for me.  I thought back to how many times my oldest had gone to get something for me or entertained his baby sister as I tried to do something.  I thought about my three year old trying to handle those big bags of groceries as I rushed back and forth so that it would take me less time.  Somewhere along the line, these children have learned that we are a team, a unit, and we need all the members to function.  If we are missing one, we will pull together and give each other grace and understanding.  What a beautiful lesson for this mother and these children.

I would be willing to bet that your children will do the same for you when things get overwhelming.  The next time things seem to be too much, maybe you could ask for their help.  I'll bet they would jump at the opportunity to do something for you.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Don't Worry

I had gotten my boys some dollar store bubbles and they were happily playing with them in the lanai. My daughter had wandered out to pop them as I did the dishes and relished a moment of quiet.  At least until my three year old screamed out.

"Noooo!!!  She dumped out all my bubbles on her head!!!"
"Rosie!  You can't dump out his bubbles baby girl," my six year old said to her.
I started toward the lanai to ask my oldest to share his bubbles with his brother.  Before I could begin talking, I heard this.

"Don't worry, Drew!  It's okay! We can always make more bubbles.  Mommy showed me how to mix dish soap and water to make our own homemade bubbles.  And they are even better than these bubbles, Drew!  They are even better!  Come on, let's go make 'em."  My six year old took his brother by the hand and led him into the kitchen to make their bubbles.  My three year old's tears quickly dried up and his spirits were restored.  He knew that his brother was on his side.

I will probably get some beautiful flowers or jewelry this Mother's Day.  I know I will get a homemade card or two that will melt my heart.  But nothing compares to seeing the fruits of my labor.  I work hard each and every day to ensure that my children have compassion, kindness and love in their hearts.  When I see them showing those traits to each other, I am filled with more joy than any gift could ever give me.

Today, sit back and revel in all that you have done well.  Watch your children.  See the incredible people that you, with God steadily guiding you, have helped to shape.  Feel the joy well up in your heart.  You have earned it.

Happy Mother's Day to you, sweet Mama!
Kate

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Look at Him

The last few times I have taken my sons to swim team practice, a disturbing thing has happened.

As my oldest swims laps with his team, I take my two youngest to swim at the other end of the Olympic sized pool.  Swimming lessons are happening there for 3 and 4 year olds. We try to stay out of the way by splashing and playing quietly but the parents have begun to notice my three year old's ability to swim.

As their child is floundering with the kick board, concentrating with all their hearts and minds to get it right, my son is jumping and diving down to the bottom to grab rings or whatever else I throw in the water.  The parents keep one eye on their kid and the other on mine, silently comparing.  "How old is he?" they ask.  
"He's three," I tell them.
"He's a really good swimmer," they say with a fear I have come to recognize as, "oh no...my kid is not measuring up!!!"
"Thank you.  He just really loves the water.  Your son is really working hard.  He'll be swimming like this in no time!" I will say to reassure the worried parent.  But they are not satisfied quite yet.  
They turn to their child and say, "Do you see him swim?  He's 3, just like you.   When are you going to be able to swim like that?  You'd better keep working!"  Satisfied, they sit back in their chair hoping for better results.

This has happened five times.  The interaction almost always follows that script.  Are these people bad parents?  Not at all.  I think their motivation is only to have their child succeed. They are worried about their children falling behind in any way and so they are constantly on the look out for what milestone their children should be reaching.  I have certainly felt that fear as I watched another child doing something better than my own. 

But what do our children hear when we say such things? They hear that they aren't good enough.  They hear that they need to be better to earn our love.  Even though our intention is to give them a leg up, we are actually eroding their confidence.  Kids are supposed to try an entire myriad of activities before they know what they are actually good at, right? I know that I am still discovering new challenges to conquer and I am in my 30's.  

I read a beautiful verse the other day about each of us being fearfully and wonderfully made.  God created each of our children, His children, with their own unique set of talents.  Not all of us are made to be Olympic swimmers or Fortune 500 CEOs or renowned artists but sometimes I think we want our kids to be all those things in one.  They will feel that pressure from us if we aren't careful.  They need to know that they are made perfectly in His sight and in ours.  That is truly the only thing that will help them succeed.

Do you ever worry that your child is not measuring up? How can you let your children know that they are unique and beautiful creations of God?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

How Was Your Day?


My daughter had spent the day with my parents as I taught at our local co-op and my sons wanted to know all the details of her day.  They are always concerned that she got to have a lot of fun while they are at "school" and they usually ask me a lot of questions to get a complete picture.  This time, we decided to ask her.

"And how was your day, Rosalie?" I asked my one year old during dinner.  I wasn't really expecting any sort of response but, regardless, I didn't want her to feel left out of the conversation.  
"Pop!" she said.  "Eh hehh...eh hehh."  She faked crying quite believably as she reinacted the scene.  "Mum mum, Mum mum!  Eh heh."

My six year old wanted clarification.  "You cried when Papa got here?  Because you wanted mommy?"

Rosalie, looking satisfied, relaxed in her chair to eat another cracker.  I filled in the blanks for my six year old.  "She did cry when I had to leave her with Papa.  But it was better when Granny got there, right Rosie?" I asked her.

"Up!  Hurt," she said rubbing her belly, making sure I remembered to tell him about her belly ache.  
"That's right - She told Granny her stomach was bothering her when Granny got her from her nap.  I guess she didn't eat much today."

"Hurt!" Rosie added, grabbing her belly once again.  I picked her up to snuggle her then headed to the sink to clean up her hands.  My oldest was still listening, amazed.

"Mommy...She just told us about her day.  She actually did it!"

I was amazed, too. At only 14 months, I would never expect her to be able to communicate an entire story to us.  Even though I already knew what had happened, it was fascinating to watch her reinact the most dramatic parts of her day with emotion using only a few words.  I saw her face light up as we understood what she was trying to say and realized the incredible power of communication.

We all want to be understood.  We all want to be heard.  Even though she is still a tiny little girl, she is a person with things to say and experiences to share.  It reminded me that our children are never too small to want to tell us what is on their mind.  We should always ask and give them the opportunity. Maybe we won't get an answer, but it certainly matters to them to know that we care.

What questions do you ask your children each day?  Are you ever surprised about how much they share?
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