Today, I welcome Kelsey Scism to the blog. She shares her words on parenting today. Please go over to her site later and give her some love by reading more of her words.
Even as the wheels spin, ruts are forming – Encouragement for the struggles of parenting
One day as I rushed into the van headed for school already feeling worn out, a chorus of “he did this” and “she did that” rang out. I backed out of the driveway thinking, “Man, I am just spinning my wheels with this whole parenting thing.” I feel like every day (multiple times a day) I cover the same things with my kids: show love, don’t blame others, don’t repay wrong with wrong, be nice, be quiet, and on and on. Yet it doesn’t feel like we are making any progress, the wheels just keep spinning. In moments like these, frustration and hopelessness seep deep into my heart.
Driving down the smooth, solid surface of the highway, I started thinking about my wheel-spinning problem. I realized something about those spinning wheels: on a mud road, they create a rut. A rut worn deep into the ground seen by passersby days later or sometimes decades later. I remember hearing stories about the ruts in the fields near my grandpa’s farm having been made by the covered wagons on the Oregon Trail.
Maybe spinning my wheels isn’t such a bad thing if it’s creating ruts that will last a lifetime.
Wheel spinning can be a lonely endeavor, though. We feel like our kids are the only ones who fight, or act unruly, or can’t sit still, or talk back. It seems we’re the only ones without the answers. The truth is, even when we feel alone, our own Father, our Heavenly Father is right there with us. “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Parenting takes strength and courage – saying no, setting boundaries, disciplining. These things don’t come naturally, at least not for me. Sometimes, we think love is about satisfying, giving our kids what makes them happy. In reality, though, love is having the strength and courage to give our kids what they need but not everything want.
Love is teaching our kids the right way to do things by giving consequences when they go the wrong way. “For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12). When it is time for correction, sometimes we need the courage Moses speaks of in Deuteronomy. As we say no, set boundaries, discipline, and use consequences over and over again, we create ruts. And though it feels like we are getting nowhere, the ruts we are forming in our children’s hearts will eventually produce self-discipline and a willingness to submit to God’s will and calling.
Teaching our children to follow the Lord may have us spinning our wheels, but that is what He has called us to do. He created our children with us in mind. He chose YOU to be that little boy’s, or that little girl’s, mom long before you even dreamed of having kids. The God of the universe knit that little baby inside the womb knowing that he or she would end up in your arms. He destined that child for you. “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3). When the wheels are spinning, it may be hard to consider the struggles of parenting a gift. In fact, sometimes parenting feels more like a punishment than a reward, and Psalm 127:3 might be recited through gritted teeth as we remind ourselves that our children are gifts. Ultimately, though, we recognize the blessings that they have been created to be.
In the frustration of spinning your wheels, it is hard to to keep going. It feels like the best option is to put it in park and wait for someone else to come along and help. We may feel like we are failing our children on a daily basis, but as Deuteronomy 31:6 says, the Lord will never fail us. He is already beside us, urging us to keep spinning, keep going, keep trying, keep working hard.
Even as the wheels are spinning, the ruts are forming. The ruts that will reach deep into the hearts of those gifts we call our children, ruts that will shape them and their futures. Ruts that can reach into the next generation and the one after that. Keep on spinning those wheels, friends, because ruts that reflect the Lord will last into eternity. Have courage, don’t be afraid, the Lord is there, He sees you spinning, and He promises never to leave.
Lord, thank you for being the perfect parent. For loving me through my mistakes, for sacrificing the perfect gift of your Son to save me from my sins. Father, this parenting thing is hard, and I need you. I need strength and courage. I need to be reminded that you are with me even when my wheels are spinning. Thank you for the power and encouragement of your word. Thank you for the gift of my children. Help me to raise them for you and with you.
Kelsey is a former language arts teacher, mother of four, principal’s wife, and most importantly a Christian loving our Lord. As a teacher, she loved inspiring and encouraging her students. Today, she finds inspiration in the everyday moments as a stay-at-home mom and hopes to encourage others along the way. You can check out more from her at https://lovingourlord.com or follow her on Facebook and Instagram @lovingourlordtogether.
Upon giving birth to my first child, I was determined to be “that mom”-the one whose children would never fall prey to the sneaky dangers surrounding them. The phrase “My kids would never do THAT” found a place in my mind.
What is “THAT” exactly?
Electrical outlets? Covered (nevermind the fact that I once found a way to stick my finger in one as a toddler). Cords to the blinds? Well, we don’t have any. Toxic substances? Locked away in the childproof cabinets that I can’t even open sometimes. As a new parent, I scoured the lists for precautions to make sure my child would be safe. Of course there were some things that I didn’t worry about because in my mind, “What kid would really do that?”
Like plastic grocery bags? The ones that my child would never put over his head? Yet, in his state of natural human curiosity did it anyway?
Like toilet screw covers? Those small white caps that just happen to fit the size of a toddler’s mouth perfectly? In fact my daughter managed to fit one in her mouth (don’t go there) while I was in the bathroom getting ready to preach at church. As she looked up at me gagging, my instincts sprang into action. Fortunately, I noticed and quickly resolved the situation. And then it was on to leading worship an hour later.
Ahhh, the naivety of parenting. Actually, there is good reason for that.
We’ve Never Done it Before
A toaster comes with a manual. In fact, even a Happy Meal toy comes with one. But parenting? Nope.
Sure there are books out there to help. Social Media groups beckoning you to join their posse. Conversations with people who have “been there.” But, ultimately, there is nothing to prepare you for the moment by moment process for raising a human-one whose DNA is unique from any other. Add in family history, genetics, personality traits, lifestyle….and it is a learning experiment. We hope and pray for the best.
In a sense we all become “That Mom.” Most of us truly want what’s best for our kids. We become schooled in how to keep them safe; trying to keep a balance between not being concerned enough and being accused of being a helicopter parent (I’m afraid of heights so that probably wouldn’t describe me).
Just when you think you have prevented catastrophes, some other strange quirk pops up and catches you off guard.
Prolapsed rectum? Yep. Experienced that.
Body suddenly covered in hives? That too.
How about Teen onset Epilepsy? Mental illness? Cholesteatomas (I had to look that up too) in the ears leading to chronic ear infections and destroyed ear bones? Triple yes.
It’s Not All About Us
What we learn as we parent is that we can set our eyes on being the most competent parents ever, yet we are not in total control. That demands perfect people or robots.
The beauty is that God has trusted us with a most humbling responsibility. We get to participate in it while resting in the assurance that no matter what happens these are God’s children (Psalm 139:13-14, Jeremiah 1:5).
Upon leaving the hospital with my firstborn, I remember thinking, “I really get to take him home?”
There is nothing that can fully prepare you for this journey. And that’s O.K. Because this parenting thing isn’t all about us. We are partners with their Creator; the One who also created us and knows us intimately.
We will make mistakes. Unexpected circumstances are a given. You are not alone. In the words of a once popular song from a teen Disney Musical, “We’re all in this together.”
Once upon a time, (which didn’t seem so long ago), my husband and I snuggled and watched “our” shows together after putting the kids to bed.
Truthfully, we watched about a half an hour of shows before we feel asleep too.
There was a pretty clear line between the content of the shows that our kids found entertaining and what we enjoyed. Dora, Diego, Wordgirl are fascinating….to a preschooler. But growing older, non animated characters and talking animals no longer hold our attention. (although, I still find my self belting out “We Did It!” at unexpected moments of conquest).
Our kids were not just plopped in front of a tv as a babysitter (most of the time..). I would usually try to fold laundry or accomplish some other small task while watching television with them. The goal was 1) to know the actual content before their eyes and ears and 2) find ways to engage them in conversation from the subject. I’m sure you are familiar with the subject matter-kindness, respect, friendship, wonder of nature, understanding your emotions. These topics are core values for most families-they are tenets of our society. And they reflect basic characteristics which, we as image bears, “wear” as God’s children.
The infusion of God’s word into our hearts and minds comes about both through intentional discussion as well as those teaching moments that occur in the daily moments of life as a family. One way to engage your older kids/teens in conversation about the intersection of faith and choices? Watching tv together.
The idea really isn’t as unrealistic as you may think. Because, there isn’t just a one size (or show) fits all method.
So what to do?
There are three questions that you may be asking:
1)How do you decide what’s appropriate? What you choose to watch is a decision based on your family’s dynamics.. What we feel comfortable letting our kids watch may not suit your family’s comfort level. There are so many factors that affect your decision. I trust that you are seeking discernment from the Holy Spirit in your parenting journey.
2) How would I ever get my teen to watch tv with me? Getting teens to watch a show with you may be like pulling teeth. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t need to be planned. Teaching moments often come through unexpected moments. We are fortunate because our one tv is in the living room- the gathering space where our kids hang out with their electronic devices. Yes, they do watch some shows on their laptops but they prefer the big screen. I know their favorites. Become familiar with a few. Catch a couple episodes with them. (It’s a great time to “pay bills” or “fold laundry” in front of the screen). When I notice that they are engaged in a segment of a show, I can utilize a few bytes for discussion at the time or later.
3)What could I say to my child that will elicit an actual response (not an eyeroll)? Sometimes nothing. Stories can speak for themselves. One of the shows my kids like is “The Middle.” The plots speak lessons for themselves. Who hasn’t wanted to crawl in a hole after experiencing something thoroughly embarrassing at school? Yet, everyone must face the choice in how to respond to those moments. Another one that my daughter and I used to enjoy is “Girl Meets World.” Yes, it can be a bit cheesy but the lessons are significant and address character in a way that hits home.
Take advantage of historical presentations
For our family, the miniseries “Roots” provided a visual account of slavery in a way that no verbal description could match. Admittedly, the graphic events were difficult to watch. But this is history and the events were real. The discussions that took place were initiated through my kids’ observations. Furthermore, we could engage them in identifying the effects of those events today.
The show “Timeless” (NBC) provides a fantastic opportunity for interaction. Set within the context of time-travel, the characters go back in time to various events in order to alter details which are seen as “destructive.” The twist is that the characters’ present lives are unknowingly affected by the outcomes as they are changed-and sometimes the tragedy still happens but differently. In the midst of it all, they are fighting against an antagonist who is seeking to destroy America by showing up at the same events and bringing about greater catastrophe. Not only does the show give you a real life glimpse into the complexities surrounding the events but the viewer is challenged to wrestle with the ways history impacts the present.
Though the values portrayed on some shows differ from those that we have instilled in our now older children, there is a point where kids must realize values, struggles, injustices, tragedies and consequences of choices in the world around them. The characters and stories emulate real life. Relationships are complicated, we all make choices we regret, tragedy can occur at any moment. How do you respond?
Engaging with our kids about these “glimpses” of the world around us offers opportunity to reinforce where hope is found, why following Christ impacts our choices, and how God’s Word navigates us through the wind-y paths of life.
It’s a modern context of the conversations between parents and kids that took place long ago:
” 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
What conversations popped up as a result of your recent viewing?
It happens every year around July 5th…..As we walk into a store, the former 4th of July/Seasonal section transforms in the blink of an eye to shelves filled with notebooks, markers, crayons. Fall beckons even though the temperature bathes us in swelting heat. And the dread begins. School will begin soon.
For some parents, the reminder of the school season brings relief. Structure helps us all. For kids, boredom has set in and the opportunity for new friendships, learning environments and knowledge provides comfort. The issues of safety, school provided meals and childcare make the school year welcoming. Furthermore, I think we can all attest that, by August 1, the sibling fighting season is coming to a “point of no return.” The lure of soon-to-be peaceful hours on the homefront presents itself. I laughed when I saw that Trader Joes hosted a “back to school” tasting party for the parents on the first day of school. I’d love to say that I felt such a sense of exhilaration but I didn’t.
For me, the sight of school supplies on July 5th, brought very mixed emotions. My daughter struggled in school. While kids excitedly found out the names of their teachers we felt a lump in our throats. Would he/she see the beauty in my child that I see? While other kids frantically called up their friends to see who else shared their teacher assignment, the school suggested placing a familiar student in her class so that she would perhaps engage socially.
For us, it meant hoping that her teacher(s) would cooperate with the IEP easily so that I didn’t have to spend time at night emailing them about assignments. My other kids tired of being pushed aside in order to help my daughter complete her homework. We’re talking long tension filled hours which resulted in exhaustion for my daughter as well as my husband and me. Those days seemed to resemble a scene from the movie, “Groundhog Day.” I actually loathed going to sleep as I knew that the events of the day would all play out again the next day.
Getting my daughter to school proved to have its own challenges.
How do you manage to get a child to school on time when the clutches of anxiety/depression attempt to pull your child away from your hands ?
How do you move on with your day after dropping your child off at school after an hour long battle? Her eyes, swollen and puffy, her demeanor signifying defeat?
Don’t get me wrong. Summer is not always a picnic either when you have a child with behavioral/mood disorders. The lack of structure, the full on presence of everyone at home, everyday, and the lack of respite for the parents (and siblings) from the unpredictable outbursts make Summer days tedious at times. Yet, the beauty is that the child is in a familiar environment, and we can shape the schedule and activities around her needs.
These last few years, the approach of “back to school” season has not brought on the dread as much as in the past. A few years ago, we made the decision to home school our daughter. It was the best decision for our family. This choice presents its own set of challenges but we have developed a routine that works for us. I realize that homeschooling may not be the best solution for everyone.
So for those of you who are familiar with the dread of which I speak, keep on keeping on. God knows how much you love your child and that you want the best for them. What can you do?
Ask for help. You are not a bad parent because you cannot manage this school thing alone. Utilize your school village: social workers, resource teachers, aids to help your child navigate the learning environment. Furthermore, know your child’s legal rights for education. If necessary, seek advocacy outside of the district. There are some lawyers who offer services pro bono (search for local resources).
Let your vulnerability speak of your journey. I remember one phone call with my daughter’s resource teacher in which the tears came so quickly and so fiercely, that I could barely speak. Sometimes, others really do not understand the depth of the frustration and pain you feel for your child.
Most of all, know that God has created your child for a purpose. A sacred purpose. No one can take that away.
What can you do If you are reading this post and do not face the dread posed by “Back to School” season? Consider the little things that can make an impact on our families in a big way. Providing meals (even a gift card), extra affirmation to the siblings and generally listening without judgement speaks love into their souls. Pray for them.
These days can be hard. Sometimes, the words to form our prayers are just not there. But remember this: “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. “(Romans 8:26, Msg.)
I am not pregnant! Let’s get that out of the way first. Having a child at 51 years old is not on my bucket list.
The title of my post comes from my mantra, “That (insert any unexpected child rearing moment of perplexity) wasn’t in the book!” The book of course is the popular, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Like many would- be parents, I bought the book. I even remember the moment. In April 1997, having just had my first pregnancy confirmed by the Dr., I excitedly ran to the big box bookstore nearby and purchased my copy. It was a pinnacle moment as I felt I had entered a long sought after season of life.
During the next nine months, the book became a constant companion of advice and knowledge concerning my changing body and, well, what to expect. Admittedly, there were parts of the book that touched on areas of pregnancy that no one wants to really encounter: the signs of a failing pregnancy/fetal distress. But, I didn’t focus on those parts because that vision didn’t fit with my expectations and the visuals portrayed in T.V shows and photographs. For me, I held a picture of giving birth to this God created human being on whom my husband and I would love. The three of us would adapt to life together. Giggles, snuggles, walks, celebrations of milestones would mark our new journey.
The picture I held of our life together remained similar to the information in the book. The sleepless nights were hard (I shudder to think how I functioned at work on a few hours of sleep), the feeding schedule (every two hours for six months), and the pumping were an awakening for me.
However, throughout the years, more and more situations surfaced that result in my re-evaluating just what was it that I was expecting?
Sickness (requiring a trip to the E.R or 24 hour drugstore for medicine)? Sibling arguments (that make the WWE look lame)? Didn’t see that coming. Pulling a cap covering the toilet screw from my 2 year old daughter’s mouth while getting ready to go to church and preach? Writing a sermon in bytes while alternately cleaning up after my son who had a stomach bug? The harsh reality that it is not uncommon to lose a pregnancy (I had two ectopics)?
Fast forward to the recent moments: realizing I ran out of bread in the morning and choosing between running to the store or counting change for hot lunch, getting a child who isn’t a morning person out the door without missing the bus, the diagnosis of disorders/medical maladies that I never knew existed, some I wish didn’t (mood disorders, epilepsy), some you would never believe either). What about the run of the mill fever, stomach bug or sore throat-those were NOT IN THE BOOK!
The realization, of course, is that if parents were given a complete vision of the future, a drastically reduced population would probably result. Truthfully, the response would be, “there’s no way I can do this!”
But, that is exactly what God, the Creator of our children, wants. For our sake and that of our children, the call to parenthood begins with a glimpse of what we can expect. Parenting involves humility; realizing that we don’t know all the answers. We need discernment, strength, and wisdom from the One who Created them (and us). We function as God’s image bearers and vessels as we walk alongside our brothers and sisters-sometimes staggering. laughing, crying, conversation, praying, supporting, advocating…..
In the midst, we experience God in a way that we never “expected”-it’s beyond our expectations.
God has always called His people to tasks that seemed overwhelming-Moses, Noah, Abraham, Mary, Joseph-just to name a few. Yet, they obeyed (some reluctantly) with just a little information given to them. They had no idea what was in store but trusted in the God that called them.
I will continue my mantra, “THAT WASN’T IN THE BOOK,” as it reminds me, often humorously, that I’m not in this parenting thing alone. Come to think of it, that goes for life in general.
I wonder what surprise awaits me tomorrow?