Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Helpful Prayer

My boys were making me crazy.  My husband was out of town for a few days and they were at each other's throats.  Every two to three minutes someone was yelling, crying or tattling on the other one.  I had had enough.

I put them on separate couches in the living room and asked them not to talk for a few minutes.  I told them I was frustrated with them and I needed a few minutes to calm down. I went to the laundry room to throw clothes in the washer with great force and release some of the tension.  I plotted all the things I would say.  Things like, "You will LIVE in your room for the rest of the rest of your life!" and "You will never play with that toy you are fighting over again.  In fact, it's going to Goodwill!"  Then I took a few deep breaths and felt my shoulders begin to relax.  There had to be a better way to handle this.

I decided to ask God what to do.  My ideas were obviously not filled with much compassion so I asked Him to give me some direction.  I sat quietly and felt a small quiet voice telling me to pray with them.  Really?  Pray with them?  It seemd incredibly awkward. I didn't even know how to begin.  But if I have learned anything in this walk of faith, it's that you have to obey.  Good things happen when you do what He says even if it doesn't really make much sense.  I decided to give it a shot.

"Luke, why are you so upset with Drew?" I began.  He proceeded to explain how his brother kept screaming and crying about "everything" and it was driving him crazy.  I asked Drew the same question and he said that he was tired of Luke yelling at him.  "It sounds like you both have things to work on.  Drew, you can work on using your words to explain why you are mad instead of screaming. Luke, you can work on speaking kindly to Drew."  I took a deep breath and tried the next part.  "I think we should ask God to help you guys with that.  Come here to hold my hand."

I closed my eyes and opened my mouth to begin the prayer.  Then something amazing happened.  My three year old began the prayer.  "Dear God, please help me to use my words and not scream.  It's so hard, God!  Will you help me?"  My oldest picked up where he had left off.  "And God, help me to stop yelling at Drew.  I don't want to hurt his feelings anymore.  Amen!"

I felt tears welling up in my eyes.  These kids are normally very defensive and accusing when we have these conversations.  It is always the other one's fault.  But as they prayed, they were so very real with God about their struggles.  They didn't blame anyone else - They recognized their own faults and asked God to help them overcome them.  And guess what?  They didn't fight for days after that prayer.  Truly amazing.

I wonder sometimes if I am that real with God.  Do I openly admit where I am failing and ask him to help or do I complain about all the bad circumstances in my life?  Do I spend my prayer life blaming or admitting and asking forgiveness?  My kids reminded me that God is an amazing friend that will never judge me.  He will always be there to help me overcome.

What can God help you to overcome today?  Get real with Him today and watch the amazing things that happen.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Bad Dream

My boys were making plans to stay with their Granny and Papa.  My oldest has done this sleepover successfully plenty of times but my three year usually bales out around 9.  My mom wanted to be sure that he was comfortable with trying again.

"What do you think, Drew?  Do you want to stay all night or would you rather have Mommy pick you up at bedtime?" she asked over the minivan bluetooth speaker phone.

"I am ready, Granny!  I can stay all night!  Can I sleep in your room?" he yelled.

"Of course!  We'll bring your pull out bed in there and you can sleep in Granny and Papa's room," she assured him.

"Granny!" my oldest yelled from the back seat.  "Granny!  If he has a bad dream in the middle of the night, just curl up in bed with him until he falls back asleep then you can go back to your bed.  You'll know if it's a bad dream if he's crying. That's how I know."

"Is that what you do when he has a bad dream?" she asked him tenderly.

"Yeah and that helps him to go back to sleep," he explained.

"You are such a good boy, do you know that, Luke?"

"Yeah," he said with a quiet smile on his face.

I didn't have any idea that my three year old still had bad dreams.  I certainly didn't know that his brother went in to comfort him afterward.  I felt my heart filling up with the deepest sense of gratitude.  They have each other and they always will.

I remember having such nervous thoughts about having a second child.  Would my oldest still get all the attention he needs?  Would I be able to love my second son as much as I loved my first?  Now, as I take in these moments, I can't believe I ever worried. They have an incredible friendship and deep love for one another.  They give each other more than I would have ever been able to give them individually. And as for the love I feel?  I am overwhelmed by it.  Simply and completely overwhelmed.

How are your children there for each other?  In what ways can you continue to foster that strong bond?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Swimming Lessons

My oldest has just joined the swim team at the YMCA and so, rather than dropping him off, I decided to swim with my other two while he practices.  We have a great time splashing around but we have been learning a lot more than just the freestyle stroke.  Especially about manners.

"Her booty is hanging out all over the place!" my three year old yelled as he pointed at a 60 something woman in a bikini.  I looked over and she was bent over, packing up her stuff in her beach bag.  Her booty was, indeed, hanging out.  
"Bud, please don't point.  It will make her feel uncomfortable."

A few days later, an overweight and self-concious teenager climbed into the pool with his t-shirt still on.  "Look Mommy!  He has a big fat belly!"  The teenager blushed and looked away, pretending he didn't hear.  
"Drew, that makes people feel bad.  You can't talk about other people's bodies.  That's a private thing."  I tried to decide whether or not to make him apologize but I worried about embarrassing that poor boy even further.  

As we climbed out of the pool, an elderly woman was climbing in.  "Look at that old old lady!" he shouted.  I cringed.  Apparently I wasn't making myself very clear.

"Drew, come over here," I said, trying to buy myself a few seconds to come up with a plan.  "You are right.  She is old and that kid did have a big belly.  You are just telling me what you see, right?"
He started kicking the puddles on the pool deck and I knew he was waiting for the other ax to drop.
"Yeah, Mommy!  Why can't I say her is old?"
"Well, what if somebody called you ugly?"
"That is MEAN!"
"What if that kid said you were dumb?"
"I would be MAD at him!" He kicked the puddle extra hard to drive the point home.
"Exactly.  Let's not say things about other people's bodies and make them mad at you, okay?"
"Okay, Mommy.  You are so beautiful!" he said as he wrapped his little arms around me.

I don't think he even knew he was being mean; he just was being matter of fact.  Still, I had to teach him that it isn't right to point out people's differences.  It made me realize that exposing him to different types of people may be the very best thing for building his character.  If I only surround him with people who believe what we do and dress like we do and talk like we do, how will he learn to embrace all of God's people?  While I'm not looking forward to the next finger pointing session at the YMCA, I am hopeful that he will slowly learn about beauty coming in a million different packages.  If I can do that, that, then swimming lessons will be a grand success.

How do you deal with your kids when they point out that teenager with a pink mohawk or that guy in a wheelchair?  How can you show them that different is good?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Extremely Normal

My six year old is constantly peeing.  Constantly.  I'm talking five times an hour.  I started to worry that something was really wrong.  I asked him about it and he got very squirmy.  "I don't know, Mommy! I just have to go.  I have to go all the time!"  I decided to look up some information online and here's what I found:

"Frequent urination sometimes reflects emotional tension. It means your child is under pressure. The symptom is involuntary, not deliberate. The urinary frequency may begin within 1 or 2 days of a stressful event or change in the child's routine. You can make the problem worse by worrying about disease. Punishment, criticism, or teasing also worsens the symptom."

I took a mental inventory.  What has changed?  We had to put the dog down and that has affected him.  He also started on the swim team and that has changed our routine.  I have definitely pointed out the frequency and asked about it, openly worrying that something was wrong.  But when did it start?  I remember it happening when we took an aptitude test a few weeks ago.  He went to the bathroom every ten minutes or so while he took the test.  

I decided to tell him a quick overview as we drove home from the store.  "Hey bud, I looked up the some stuff about going to the bathroom all the time and it said it is very normal for kids your age.  It also said it might be happening because you're worried about some things.  Anything on your mind?"

He told me he felt like things had just been too busy and that he hadn't had enough time to play.  He also said he was worried about how mean he has been to his brother.  We said he has been praying that God would make him a nicer person.  My heart broke a bit on that one.

"You were so smart to talk to God about what was on your mind.  I want you to know that you ARE a good person.  God knows that, too.  Even the best people do bad things sometimes.  If you say you are sorry and mean it, it's as if it never happened.  Always remember that you are a wonderfully kind person," I told him.

"I don't always feel like that when you or daddy get mad at me for being mean to Drew," he said.

"We only correct you because we love you and know all that you are capable of.  And we always forgive you.  Always," I said, trying to reassure him.

"Oh...That's good."

When we got home, he saw my mom and said, "Granny!  Guess what?!  I am peeing all the time because I've been worried but it turns out I am a good boy and we shouldn't worry because, guess what?!  It's extremely normal!" 

I guess he was listening.

Our kids are talking to us all the time.  Sometimes it is verbal, sometimes it is non-verbal.  It's not always easy to pick up the cues but when we do, it never hurts to ask them.  Maybe they aren't old enough to articulate what is going on.  Maybe they are ashamed or embarrassed.  But if we keep reaching out in different ways to say, "I'm here.  I believe in you.  I want to know what is in your heart," they will eventually believe us and let us in.  

Do your children share their stressors with you? What non-verbal cues do your kids use to tell you they are overwhelmed or stressed?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Protecting Rosie

I wonder sometimes about the amount of violence little boys reinact.  Is it normal?  How should I deal with it?  I have read some books that helped enlighten me about this topic and my favorite is Wild at Heart.  It is a beautifully written book that shares all that God has designed men to be.  It is counter cultural in some ways because it encourages men to be adventurous, to overcome obstacles, to do things that make them feel like they are experiencing an element of danger.  It also directs their propensity for violence toward protection.  Men were designed to want to fight because they would have to defend their homes and their family and their land.  Today's modern man has to seek out the adventure - It is no longer part of his daily routine and yet the drive remains.  I see this with my little boys all the time.

"Let's sword fight!" my three year old will yell out.  I will look up to see one of them holding a mini baseball bat and the other holding a stick.  They bash it back and forth until one of them cheerfully announces, "Ha ha!!  You are dead!"

I worried about this until I read Wild at Heart. Now, I see it as an opportunity. "Oooh!  Who were you protecting?" I will ask.  
"Mommy!  We weren't protecting anybody!  We were just fighting!" one of them will say.
"Oh!  Well you must be fighting to protect something, right?  Who did you save?" I ask.

Their eyes will begin to sparkle as they think about the possibilities.  Should they protect me?  Their trucks?  Their Legos?  Should they be saving the world from aliens?  They spin off into a whole game of saving the day from something.  And I think this role playing has paid off.

We were at the pool for my six year old's swim team practice and my daughter was playing with a group of younger siblings.  A mom had given her a light up toy and she was happily dropping it and making it flash.  My oldest climbed out of the pool after practice and saw another little girl swipe the toy from his sister.  He was immediately by her side.  "It's not nice to steal things from little babies.  That's my sister and you are going to have to give that back to her," he said firmly, locking his eyes on the tiny thief.  
"But it's MINE!" the little girl retorted.
"It's not yours until she's done with it."
The little girl backed down and handed the toy back to my daughter.

I wrapped my arms around him.  "You did a great job protecting your sister, bud."
"I wasn't going to let her steal from my baby," he said with a sureness in his voice that was beyond his years.

God has given our boys and men a tremendous gift.  It is tempting, as a mom, to want to tamp down behaviors we don't understand.  But if we do, we will lose so much.  Our boys are meant to learn how to protect, to serve, to fight and to be willing to face danger.  It is our job to show them the appropriate ways to use these God given gifts.  We have to direct them toward adventure and give them opportunities to use their boundless energy for good.  Even if it means we have to endure a sword fight or two in the living room.

Do you ever struggle with your little boy's need to fight?  I challenge you to reframe it and think about how you can help direct their natural inclination to protect.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Handling Disappointment

We had a grand adventure planned on Monday.  We were going to LegoLand.  My six year old absolutely loves building with Legos and one of our homeschool groups had gotten an amazing group rate for a day at LegoLand.  We couldn't pass it up.

I packed snacks, laid out clothes and set my alarm so that we would be up and ready to go by seven.  My mom offered to watch the baby so that I could play with my boys all day and my dad came with with me.  As we drove east toward Winter Haven, the clouds started to roll in.  Rain fell so hard that we could only go 40 MPH on the highway.  We checked the weather map and it looked like the day would be filled with thunderstorms.  I asked my dad to text the field trip organizer to ask if we could get a rain check on the tickets.  No go.

We decided to tough it out.  We would buy ponchos and enjoy the short lines.  We would make the very best of it.  I walked up to the group ticket counter and gave her the group name and my ID.  She shuffled the papers uncomfortably and then asked a coworker to come look at the list.  "Ummm...what is the name of your group organizer?"  I gave it to her and she looked up at me with wide eyes.  "She didn't tell you she rescheduled it?  Because of the rain?  Your tickets are not valid until April 13th."

My heart sank as I looked at my two little boys.  They were brimming with excitement and talking about all the things they were going to do.  I thought, for a moment, about buying another set of tickets.  I looked at the prices and realized it would be $350 - Not an amount I was willing to spend to spare them the disappointment.  I just had to tell them the truth.

"Guys, it looks like our tickets were cancelled for today.  We aren't going to be able to get into the park for another few weeks.  But I promise we'll come back and do all the things you are excited to do."

They looked at me, shrugged and said, "Well, do you think we could at least buy Legos?  Or at least look at the new Lego hotel?"

I asked a Lego employee about shopping and she told us how to buy a one hour shopping pass.  My dad and I looked at each other and started giggling.  What else could we do?  We drove two hours to buy Legos!  If the kids were okay, we might as well make the best of it.  We ran into the big Lego store, spent some birthday money they had been saving then went around the carousel once.  We ran to guest services to make sure we were out by the one hour mark then made our way to the car.

My oldest looked back at the huge LED screen showing kids smiling ear to ear riding all the rides.  "Look Mommy, there's all the things we didn't get to do today." 
My dad chimed in.  "Actually, those are all the things you will get to do when we come back in a few weeks, right?"
"Yeah, you're right, Papa," my oldest said.

We took them to Chik-fil-A to play on the playground and eat lunch and as my three year old ate his ice cream he said, "This has been the best day ever."  

My dad and I talked on the way home about how well they handled the disappointment.  We talked about how tempting it is as a parent to want to shield your children from all disappointments.  But what service would we actually be doing if they didn't learn how to handle it now?  Wouldn't it be a shock to them to experience it for the first time as an adult?  They wouldn't have the tools to know how to respond.  I hated disappointing my kids yesterday and yet they surprised me with their great attitutudes and ability to bounce back.  Maybe your kids will surprise you, too.

Do you find yourself trying to shield your kids from disappointment?  How can you help guide them when they do feel it?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Power of Oxiclean

Have you ever watched the kids channel called Sprout?  It has cute little 15 minute shows that are broken up with commercials for as seen on TV products and Oxiclean.  In fact, I think Oxiclean spent the majority of their ad buy on the unsuspecting mothers that watch Sprout alongside their preschoolers.  Still, I didn't realize the power of this ad until recently.

I was giving my boys a bath and noticed a stain on the grout.  I started scrubbing it and my three year old said, "Mommy, you just need The Power of Oxiclean! It can get any stain out, even dried on spaghetti sauce!"  I gave him a blank look then giggled.  "That's true, bud.  Maybe that would work."

A few months later I was with my oldest at Lowe's. We walked by the detergent aisle and saw the Oxiclean stain remover.  "Mommy!  We have to get that for Drew!  He loves Oxiclean!"

"Really?  Okay...I need stain remover so we will just try this kind."

When we got home, my oldest burst through the door yelling for his brother.  "Drew!  You won't believe it!  Mommy got you Oxiclean!"

"Really?!  I can't believe it!  Thank you so much Mommy!  Do you have any stains I can spray?" My three year old asked.

Due to my baby girl's messy eating habits, I always have a pile ready to pretreat.  "Of course.  Here's a pile - get to work!"

That night I heard him say to my husband, "I can't believe mommy got me Oxiclean.  That is so awesome."

I have absolutely no idea why this kid wants to be a stain fighter.  My only guess is that he's been exposed to the ad enough times that he finds the whole thing exciting.  Maybe he thinks the bottle holds a super power - who knows.  But it does give me a wake up call about what he is exposed to.  He will buy into anything at this impressionable age.  I don't think that means I should completely shelter him but I do know that I should pay close attention to all that he watches, plays and hears.  And if anybody knows any catchy ads about how fun it is to scrub toilets, let me know.

How impressionable are your children?  How do you monitor the media they are exposed to?
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