What makes a good Mommy?

It is interesting to see how people define what makes a good mom.

A good mom cooks three meals from scratch each day.

A good mom breastfeeds each infant until they self-wean.

A good mom co-sleeps with her babies and never lets them cry.

A good mom homeschools all of her kids all the way through high school and gives them ALL a stellar education.

A good mom does crafts with her children, creating lovely works of art with them.

A good mom stays slim, exercises an hour a day, (with baby in a backpack) and does it cheerfully.

A good mom…..

Fill in the blank.

We all have these ideas in our heads about what it takes to be a good mom. We put so much pressure on ourselves to perform at ridiculous levels.

We worry that our children will be overweight if we don’t cook them a tasty, nutritious dinner each night and have them in 2 sports every season.

We worry that our kids will flunk out of college and live in our basements for the rest of their lives if we don’t kill ourselves teaching them algebra in the fifth grade.

We worry that our colicky babies will grow up damaged if we gently set them in a crib alone for 5 minutes so we can go to the bathroom and get a grip on our emotions.

Where do these expectations come from?

It seems that moms are really hard on themselves these days. Perhaps it’s the Pinterest/Facebook generation. But for whatever reason, we feel that we have to prove to ourselves, to our kids, to the world that we are good moms.

Here’s the truth of it. Here’s how to be a good mom.

Do the best you can.

Love your kids.

Listen to them.

Don’t let idealogy and parenting experts run your home.

Do what’s best for your kids and your family.

And most of all.

Pray. Read the Word. And trust Him “who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” (Jude 24)

Don’t let unrealistic expectations rob you of the joy of motherhood. Parenting is easier than you think.

 

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Modesty–Eeek!

In Christian circles, no discussion can get more contentious than the modesty debate. And yet, I am going to wade right into it. This is a minefield, and I hope I don’t blow it!

Modesty discussions make me want to scream.

There are two extremes generally presented. One extreme (this is a slight caricature!) goes: Men are hormonal creatures, who, when presented with the image of an unclothed (partially or fully) female form, lose all control of themselves. While many times, they may never act out on these impulses, their brains replay the visual and they fall into lusting constantly. These ladies, to try to help their Christian brothers with their proclivity to sin, wear long skirts (pants outline the legs which may cause lusting) baggy tops and never show bare arms, anything close to cleavage, etc.

These women take responsibility on themselves for the thought lives of others and worry about tempting someone else all the time. I understand the angle at which they are coming, and I appreciate their consideration, but I do not agree that someone else’s thought life is my full responsibility. I also fear that young ladies raised in this mind set can be overcome with guilt if they accidentally have a wardrobe issue or are sexually harassed or even raped.

The other extreme of modesty (another caricature) is “Wear whatever you want. Heck…go naked if you like. Let other people worry about their own sin and you enjoy yourself.” This view is the opposite extreme and I feel is a little inconsiderate and somewhat unrealistic. Of course, people can be distracted by our clothing. This is why in professional environments, there is a dress code for men and women alike. Also, this view can set up, in Christians, the idea that we have no responsibility to those around us, to portray ourselves as God-honoring people.

And yet, in my own family, the idea of “modesty” as a reason to choose or not to choose a certain item of clothing just doesn’t register very often.

Thankfully, my daughters have plenty of sense when it comes to how they dress. We do have a few issues here and there, but it’s not because of “modesty” per se.  Generally, it’s due to my middle school aged kids figuring out what works for their own bodies and what items of clothing are both cute and functional.

See, that’s one thing that frustrates me about “modesty rules.” Different body types look different in certain styles. What works for the tiny, 5 foot tall skinny girl, looks totally different on a curvier, taller, more mature body form.

Here’s another problem with “modesty rules.”

My daughter gets very frustrated at the summer swim rules at Christian camps. She wears a tank top type swim top with board shorts. Nothing in her midriff ever shows, and she’s covered from shoulders to mid-thigh. But because her swimming attire is two pieces, she has to wear a t shirt over it. However, a young lady in a traditional one piece swimsuit doesn’t, despite the fact that more skin is showing.

Ladies sit near the community swimming pool: Fort Lauderdale, FloridaRules don’t take common sense into account. They don’t take individual body types into account.

Modesty rules can’t make a person with a lustful, flirtatious heart pure.

Modesty rules can’t keep men from lusting.

Modesty rules can make young ladies ashamed of who they are and how they look.

Modesty focus helps men (and women) avoid their responsibility to “not look”  and avoid the blame for their own undisciplined minds.

Modesty rules make people judge the hearts of others without getting to know them, based solely upon the clothing that they wear.

And most modesty rules focus solely on women and how they dress, while permitting guys to dress however they want. They deceive women into thinking that lust is only a sin that guys commit.

This is why I steer away from a set of “rules” about modesty.

So how does it look in my family?

We try to dress appropriately for the activity. Jean and tees are for around town or working on the farm. It’s not modest to climb fences and ride horses and jump on a trampoline in a dress. Swimwear means we wear clothes that work well in the water (a wet, clingy tshirt is not any more modest than traditional swimwear). If we took ballet or gymnastics, we’d wear clothing that was appropriate to that activity. Trying to cover up with yards of fabric at an activity when everyone else is wearing something form fitting draws more attention to oneself than just wearing the appropriate attire. (of course that is a generalization, I know. Use common sense in this area)

We value comfort.

Prom dresses= no strapless. We’ve been to weddings and parties where we’ve noticed ladies continually pulling up the tops of their strapless dresses and that’s just tacky. So we find something that won’t fall down when my girls move. And we don’t throw out our common sense about our clothing just because it’s prom season.

We wear long tanks under certain shirts because nobody wants to see back/crack. We wear tanks so when we bend over so people aren’t flashed. Skirts—When you cross your legs, what shows? When you bend over, what shows? If you’re going to be onstage in a skirt, you need to wear a longer one, so the audience won’t see up your dress.

When we choose clothes we think past just “Does this look cute when I’m standing in front of the mirror?” but also, “How does this look when I move like most normal people move?”

I focus less on “modesty” or “messages we send to guys” as I do on what looks lovely. What works for the activity. What portrays respect for those around me and for my own body. What’s comfortable without having to be constantly tugging. What won’t be distracting to others. (Including both guys and girls because too much of anything showing on a male or female body is distracting to everyone) What will help others take me seriously as an intelligent person.  And here’s my biggie: What is flattering? Because many styles, while they are stylish, just aren’t flattering to most body types.

So that’s my take on modesty. It’s not only about certain types of clothes. It’s really about the heart.

Challenging Kids and Schoolwork Meltdowns Part 2

Learning to accept mistakes and failure has been a LONG process for my dd. I mean YEARS of work. There’s nothing that I’ve done that was an automatic home run. It’s taken many many years to come as far as we have.

One thing I’ve had to model was my acceptance of my own mistakes. “Rats. I burnt our supper. That is so annoying. Ugh. (sigh) Okay. I guess we will have grilled cheese tonight. It’s okay!”

You see, my kid was constantly comparing herself to an adult who (in her eyes) always does everything right. However, she can’t see the years of practice it takes to get good at stuff. So verbalizing my own mistakes, and failures and modeling how to gracefully accept mistakes helps.

With regard to school, I had to change from the mindset of “doing it over and over” to “We’re a team. Let’s (me and you) work through this together and find the problem” I had to come alongside her and help her. Markerboards are great because if you mess up, the mistake is wiped away. However, I have to approach helping this daughter differently. Any expression of frustration, any irritability on my part, and emotion other than cheerful helpfulness (and it has to be genuine! She can spot my faking it!) just multiplies her emotional response to failure.

So, when we work together, I stop and check my mindset. Am I stressed? Am I annoyed that she’s whining or frustrated yet again? I’ve got to get that under control before I can be an effective teacher. It’s okay to say, “Sweetie, I am having a hard time today. I would love to help you but you deserve a teacher who can be patient with you and I’m just not there right now. Is there any way we can come back to this in an hour?”

Next, I try to reassure her. “Hey, this is hard. It’ll be okay. We can get through it.” Gentle hug on the shoulders. Help her take deep breaths. Remember it’s just ONE lesson on ONE day. “If we don’t get it today, we’ll try again tomorrow. No big deal.”

I often hand her a few chocolate chips or a peppermint to suck on as I look it over. Sometimes, especially if I am working with my other kids I say gently, “Hey, I know you don’t want to be interrupted, and I want to give you my full attention. Is there any way that you can move on to something else for a bit and we will tackle this with fresh eyes in an hour?”

So we sat down with a marker board. I tried to explain as best I could. I definitely tried to avoid “talking down” to her. Things went best when I could keep it on a peer-to-peer type tone to the explanation.(I know I am still the mom, I’m just explaining how things work best.)

For us, things went best when I could break stuff down into microbits and make sure she got one step down pat before we moved on to the next.

Also, in math, for very tricky concepts (especially word problems with fractions!) I tried to demonstrate it with small manageable whole numbers and then once the understanding was there, we tried to apply that to the complexity of fractions.

Remember, I’m a mess too. So often, I forgot to do all of the above and we had a huge breakdown that was partially caused by my being in a hurry or my own frustration.

Another thing that I wish I had done when my dd was younger was to be more in tune to age appropriate materials. See, she’s really really smart and just zipped through material in the first and second grade. By the time she was 8-9 years old she had the assumption that school was supposed to be easy. Then when the materials ramped up in complexity, she didn’t know how to handle it. Also, she probably sensed my own foolish pride at having a child who was working so far ahead of grade level.

I also didn’t take into account that materials written for the average 5-6 grader assume that the child has the maturity to sit down for  a longer, more strenuous lesson. The lessons had more problems with more complexity. When my 8 yo was given these same materials, she was frustrated because she didn’t have the EMOTIONAL maturity to sit down and concentrate that long on the subject. So I should have been more conscious of the fact that while she could understand the complexity of the topic, she was still very much 8 years old and she probably needed more than one day to tackle a typical lesson for an older kid.

Also, I’ve learned to very wisely choose my battles. As long as handwriting is legible and reasonably neat, I don’t say too much about it. As long as she’s doing her work well, she can work with classical music blaring. As long as she’s doing well, I don’t care if she’s slouched on the couch or sitting at the table.

These kids really need autonomy and respect. Giving her the freedom to choose how to learn certain things shows her that I respect that. And I try to phrase it in a way that says, “Hey, as long as it’s working, we’ll do it your way. If it stops working you and I will figure out a better way.” The key is to make sure that she’s in on the solution to finding that better way, rather than me dictating stuff to her.

Homeschooling an intense kid is not easy at all. However, it is possible. There are many ways to figure out how to make it work. These are just some suggestions that worked for us. If you’re a parent of an intense, easily frustrated child and you want to homeschool, it is possible.

Challenging Kids and Schoolwork Meltdowns!

One of the most difficult parts of homeschooling my intense child has been working around meltdowns related to schoolwork. It’s practically impossible to teach a child who is crying, screaming, or throwing things.

Intense kids have very low tolerances for frustration, and this means that the instant something is difficult, they may fall apart. Some kids may lash out in anger, while others melt into a puddle of tears. Either way, you can’t make progress on your lessons when the second that something is challenging, your child melts down.

For many years, I was unsure how to handle these events. I tried punishing her. I tried making her redo shredded or wadded up papers. I tried being slow, calm, and patient, which only seemed to infuriate her more.

Eventually, I had to start considering things from my daughter’s point of view and I began to understand some things about her.

I had to realize that my dd has insane expectations of herself.  She is totally a perfectionist and totally can’t accept failures and faults. She believes that she should instantly know everything that she doesn’t. She bristles at the idea that parents might know more than her.

You can call it arrogance or whatever, I think it’s mostly immaturity. Remember when as a teen you thought that your parents were ignorant? You didn’t understand about life and the real world. You didn’t respect that they had experiences that you didn’t.

All that to say this: I took the mouthy argumentativeness way too personally. Most of her problems with school stemmed from her immature inability to accept help and her own limitations. Of course, she WAS being rude, but by thinking about her mindset, her terrible expectations, I could see that she was expecting WAY more of herself academically than I EVER could. That’s why “being right” or being unable to gracefully accept correction became such an issue. She took those red Xs on the page completely  personally. She saw them as a personal attack on her intelligence.

My fussing and fuming over her rudeness and arrogance was missing the point. I had to find a way to help her see that failure isn’t the end of the world. That asking for help wasn’t a failure. That she was valuable and loved even with flaws.

Now stay with me here. I’m not into that parenting paradigm that says, “Nothing is a child’s fault. If they feel loved and accepted they will not behave badly. Bad parenting is the only reason that kids struggle.” I promise that is not what I am saying.

But the point that I am trying to make is that unless I could look deeper and get to the root of why she was so hard on herself and why she had such dreadful expectations, I could expect the melt-downs to continue. If I could help her understand more about the learning process, the struggle to get things right, and that naturally some things are going to be hard, she might eventually be able to not take failure and struggle so personally.

I can gripe at my dd for being rude and arrogant, but until she grows into the realization that her value is not related to her academic success, I’m fighting a losing battle. She will still react badly to failure until she gains the maturity and insight and the confidence that she’s going to be okay even if she screws up.

I’ve had to try to stop punishing and isolating her for poor reactions due to this. Instead, I try to be proactive and change the way that we do school to help her gently accept correction. I’ve learned that traditional school methods (marking things wrong and expecting the child to correct them or redo them until it’s right) will just lead to her feeling more down on herself. She interprets them as a personal attack. I’ve had better success changing the way that I approach schoolwork and corrections and asking for help.

Even when an intense kids seems old enough to be able to tackle lessons on their own, I learned that things went better when I sat with my daughter as she worked on difficult lessons. I could keep an eye on her progress and her mental state. If she seemed to be getting worked up, we could tackle the problem together before the meltdown hit.

I also had to be super careful not to get frustrated or act bothered by her requests for assistance. If I could keep it together, we stood a better chance of getting through the snag without falling apart.

I’ll go on to part 2 with some concrete examples and more practical advice on school work meltdowns in a day or two.

 

Grumbling, Complaining, Thankfulness, and Joy

I hate snow. I hate winter. I hate illness.

We’ve had plenty of the above over the last few weeks, and I’ve noticed my attitude souring greatly. I grew up in Florida, and I guess I still have the tropics in my blood. In winter, it’s hard for me to keep my attitude cheerful.

This morning I was reading my Bible, and I’ve been reading in Exodus about the nation of Israel in the wilderness. God had done many mighty, wondrous works for them. He rescued them from Egyptian slavery and kept them safe as Pharaoh’s army pursued them to the desert. He did an amazing miracle as he parted the Red Sea for millions of people to cross on dry ground.

A beautiful song of praise is recorded in chapter 15. Two of my favorite verses are Exodus 15:2, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. This is my God and I will praise him. My father’s God and I will exalt him.” And in Exodus 15:13, “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed. You have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.”

And yet, in the very next chapter, we see an ugly episode. The people began grumbling and complaining about the food. They forgot that God had taken them that far and would continue to sustain them. They took their frustrations out on their leaders, Moses and Aaron. Moses answered them in Exodus 16:8, “Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”

And this is so true. Any time I begin complaining about my lot in life, I am shaking my finger in the face of the Lord and saying, “This is not good enough for me. I don’t like what you are doing here, Lord. All of your blessings are not enough for me.”

I’ve learned something lately. My grumbling and complaining only hurts myself. It sucks the joy right out of my life. However, when I cultivate a thankful heart, the joy just flows right through me.

Yes, life is hard. It sWinter 2015-2016 010nows. I’m trapped in the house for days at a time with children who also are not always so pleasant. My outside work is made more difficult and time consuming by the weather. However, I have a lovely home that keeps us warm on cold days. We have enough to eat, and other than some colds, coughs, and sore throats, overall, we are a pretty healthy bunch. I can choose to focus on the negative and make myself and my family miserable. Or, I can be thankful, joyful, and cheerful and bring a whole lot of happy to my family. The choice is all mine.

Smile Lines

I celebrated my 36th birthday in September and as I look into the mirror, I can see the signs that age is showing a bit on my face. There are a few grays that I’ve recently started covering up, my eyes have a few fine lines, and…well, I could go on. But, most women who get closer to 40 starts looking into the mirror a little more closely and scrutinizing themselves for signs of the inevitable. You all know what I mean.

I find myself studying the faces of older people, men and women alike, to see how they are faring in the age department. I’ve begun to notice something. The lines on people’s faces reflect so much about their inner person.

The older folks who have sweet, cheerful personalities sport happy lines around their eyes and indentations around their mouths that prove to the world that they’ve spent a majority of their time with a lovely smile pasted on their faces.

However, there are people whose lines betray other, less admirable traits.

Those who’ve spent a large amount of time pursing their lips in disapproval, have tiny etchings around their lips.

Those who have a generally unhappy outlook have droopy jowls and sagging lips, permanently creased into a bulldog mouth.

The grumps have large creases between their eyes as they’ve spent hours frowning at others.

Of course, I know there’s usually more to it than that, and I am spending a stupid amount of time judging people on their appearances, but I’ve noticed a huge correlation in the relation of the inner person to the appearance of the outer person.

Perhaps if the grumps began cultivating a heart of joy, their faces would begin to reflect what’s going on in their hearts. Perhaps if the grouches began counting their blessings, their skin would relax into new folds of happiness on their faces. Maybe if the old crabs began reflecting on Jesus more than the behavior others, those tiny lip creases would not be more noticeable as the face is more often stretched into smiles.

I don’t know,

But what I do know is this. I want my face to reflect a lifetime of joy, happiness, and contentment, even when we have a rotten day, week, or year. If I’m going to get lines (and I have to face it that I can’t afford cosmetic surgery to tighten loose skin and wrinkles) I want them to be happy lines.

As we come to the end of 2015, I am resolved to smile more. This year has been a difficult year for our family for many reasons (and I plan on posting about that in a few days) But, I still have so very much to be thankful for. I have a genuine source of joy that cannot be touched by my circumstances. My face should reflect that, even in the midst of frustration, grief, and annoyance.

Image from page 98 of "Fall River, Massachusetts, a publication of personal points pertaining to a city of opportunity" (1911)

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