Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Isn't it hard enough?" or Why I Think We Shouldn't Judge One Another as Parents,
Part 1

Parenting is hard.  And it just keeps getting harder.  (I’m learning that is the way with most things in life.)  We have 4, soon to be 5 children.  In the process of raising them, we have had to make some tough decisions and had to have some tough conversations.  We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve made mistakes, we’ve tried to follow the Spirit, and mostly we’ve just worked every day to let our children know they are loved.

Last Spring, we went through a tough parenting period with the decision of where to send our son to middle school.  We live in a very diverse school district with a lot of school choice options.  It was an interesting experience for me to talk with other parents who were simultaneously engaged in the school selection process.  I enjoyed sharing perspectives and ideas, but I also found that some parents felt strongly that they needed to offer some corrective advice.  There were also those that felt they had to fiercely justify their school decision because we were choosing a different path.
The process made me reflect on why we are critical of one another as parents.  Seriously, isn’t it hard enough?!  I know that as a new parent, I was quick to make assessments.  The words, “I’m never going to do that with my kids”, may have been uttered.  I think I was also quick to offer my newly found parenting wisdom and advice.  But those years are LONG gone.  I have grown a lot as a parent over the past 12 years and along the way I have learned some valuable lessons.  The combined take-home message from those lessons is that we really shouldn’t judge one another.  We should love, support, laugh, listen, pray for, and cry with one another…and recognize that we all are doing our best to help our children become the best they can be.
I want to share just a few of the lessons I’ve learned and the reasons I think we should all show some charity and cut one another a little slack as parents.
Lesson #1:  We are different people.
Would you raise my children differently than I do?  Absolutely!  You are a different person.  I’ve learned this lesson so many times over in 12 years that it is almost laughable.  I think most of us go through the stage early in our parenting when we read a lot of books, imitate parents around us, and take a lot of advice.  In the end, we learn that what works for us is what mostly aligns with who we are innately.  I am my best as a parent when I am being my best self.  When I am taking advantage of my personality, talents, passions, and strengths, parenting is more workable, enjoyable, and successful.  I’ve been given some incredible advice from some incredible parents that completely bombed in our home.  Why?  It just wasn’t me. 

I remember just after baby #4 was born, I had two women in my family call to offer some reassurance and support.  These two women are some of the most phenomenal mothers I know.  They are creative, patient, and accepting in ways I can only hope to someday attain.  Both of them talked about pairing down life… “Don’t worry about routine.”  “Don’t bother taking your other kids to school/preschool.”  “Just make sure everyone gets fed.”  I couldn’t do it.  In fact, it was the opposite of what I needed to do for who I am.  I needed a return to routine and normalcy to get back on my feet physically and emotionally.  Was their advice bad?  No.  Would it work for me as a mother?  Absolutely not.
As I have gotten older and more secure in my “me-ness”, I’ve really enjoyed seeing how my friend’s personalities flavor their parenting.  I love my laid back friends who can ignore the mess and engage their children in an activity.  I love my ultra-organized friends who can run 6 children to many different activities and not get flustered.  I love my patient friends who are phenomenal listeners and can drop everything to talk with their children.  I love my fun friends who can turn a normal day into a super cool spontaneous adventure.  And I love knowing that I am not them and that is okay.  They are not me.  We all get to bring who we are to the table.

Personality absolutely spills over in how we choose to manage our children’s behavior.  We all have different perspectives and priorities.  I do STRONGLY believe there are traits and skills every parent should strive to develop and demonstrate:  love, kindness, patience, gentleness, consistency, to name just a few.  I also believe we can strive to emulate the best in one another.  Every so often, I do something spontaneous with my kids.  Occasionally, I manage to ignore the mess and let them take over my kitchen.  But every single day, no matter what, I do my very best to love them the best I can.

Lesson #2:  We are parenting different children.
While this sounds like a “no-brainer”, it was a hard one for me.  I spent years beating myself up because my children wouldn’t behave just like our friend’s children.  I had one dear friend in Ohio who would line up her 5 children on the bench at Church where they would politely (and quietly) sit and color for the entire meeting.  That has NEVER happened on our bench.  I don’t have those kids.  I can’t make my kids that way.  And most importantly, God doesn’t expect me to.  I truly believe that God sends our unique children to us for a reason.  He has sent me a whole batch of smart, dynamic, emotional, strong, and LOUD children.  I don’t know why.  I do know that it isn’t easy.  My kids are challenging, but they are mine and I love them with everything I’ve got. 

I have had a lot of painful parenting experiences dealing with this lesson.  (We’ve had a couple just recently at Church.)  Every so often we will encounter an adult who has never had to deal with a child like ours.  Those adults are often critical and impatient.  I have watched them blame my children and I have felt their judgment towards us as parents.  It hurts and it isn’t fair.  I’ve shed many, many tears over the things I have had said to me about my children.  My kids aren’t broken or bad because they are passionate and intense.  Likewise, your kids are broken or bad because they’re quiet or shy.  God sent us different kids.  On purpose.

We all should feel confident making our parenting decisions based on the unique needs of our children.  I have developed deep respect for several families who have chosen to home-school their children because they were inspired to know that it was the right thing for their children.  Doug and I spend many hours seeking out specific coaches, teachers, and mentors who we feel will understand our children and show them the love they deserve--even on their most difficult days.  

No one can know what it is like to be me, dealing with the children I have every day.  Conversely, I can never know what it is like to be you…in your home with your children. What we can do is seek to love and accept one another’s children.  We need to recognize that each of our children is a child of God on their own personal journey of growth.  They are in different places learning different lessons.  When I taught middle school, I dealt with over 200 adolescents every day.  Before each day began, I took a moment to stop and reflect that every child who walked through my door was a beloved child of God—the happy ones, the angry ones, the disobedient ones, the helpful ones, the disorganized ones—every one of them.  And they all deserved to feel His love through me.
It is lesson I try to continue to live each day.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

In Absentia

I’ve been out.  Sorry about that.  The first few months of pregnancy are pretty rough for me.  There has been nothing extra done at my house in a long time.  In fact, we are lucky if the essentials are addressed.  (Please don’t ask when the last time was my kitchen floor was mopped!)  I felt really bad about not blogging for so long and then I noticed that a professional blogger I occasionally read hasn’t blogged in for a month or two.  She’s also pregnant.

I have gotten lots of questions about this pregnancy, so here are some answers…

Was this a surprise?
The snarky answer I sometimes feel like giving goes something like this:  “Well, I’m a biology teacher and my husband is a doctor--we’ve got a pretty good grasp on what causes pregnancy.  (Especially since we already have four children.)  I think it is probably safe to assume that this was planned.”

The real answer is that we thought and prayed about this for years.  We knew 5 years ago that it was time to take a REAL break from having children.  We had four children ages 6 and under and Doug had 6 more years of medical training.  We were financially, spiritually, physically, and emotionally exhausted.  We felt strongly prompted to focus on the unique (and sometimes incredibly demanding) needs of the children already in our family. 

Things have changed.  We are in a different place financially, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and educationally.  When this baby is born, Doug will have 5 months left of training.  Our children are in different places in their growth and development.  We felt very strongly that we needed to be open to having another child if that was what our Heavenly Father wanted for our family.  We believe in families and we believe He will guide our lives if we were willing to submit to His will.  So this was not a surprise.  Although, I will admit to being surprised I got pregnant so quickly.

How are you feeling?
Not so great, but that is normal “pregnant” for me.  I kind of hate to talk about it because I know there are people out there who have it MUCH worse.   I had moderate morning sickness until about 16 weeks and had to use several medications to keep myself functional during that time.   I’m still trying to get off all of them.  The nausea is gone, but I have back problems and tachycardia to keep me uncomfortable now.

I’m still completely exhausted and will remain so for the rest of the pregnancy.  It is a huge blessing that my other children are in school and I can get some rest each day.  This is probably the biggest challenge for me since I am normally such a high energy person.  I get frustrated at how little I can do in a day and then I start to feel overwhelmed and discouraged.  Thankfully, I am married to an incredible man who is good at reminding me of what matters most!

Are your kids excited?
They are super excited!  They each had a unique reaction to the news and they each have unique ways of showing their anticipation.  I think I am most excited to have this baby for them.  They were so close in age to one another that they never got to truly enjoy and experience a baby. 
Can you safely have 5 C-sections?
I can.  The doctor who delivered #3 and #4 said there was very little scarring and we’d be fine to have another if we so desired.  My doctors now don't seem concerned.

What do people say when you tell them you are having a 5th child?  Especially in the South?!?
I’m sure plenty of them think I we are crazy and maybe they say so behind our backs, but I have yet to hear an unkind word.  Many of my friends right now are not members of our Church, but they have a great deal of respect for the fact that we are trying to do what we feel God wants us to do.  A few have expressed that they wish they had been able to have more children or had done so when they were younger.  Mostly my friends and acquaintances are thoughtful and considerate.  Many strangers express delight that we are being “so blessed”!

I will leave it there.  I do feel blessed—crummy, but blessed.  We’ll have another 4 ½ months of a not-so-clean house, random meals, and barely keeping it together.  But, at the end of it all there will be a new little person to love and it’s more than worth it.



Saturday, May 11, 2013


I feel somewhat bad that I haven't taken time to write in a few months.  I'm disappointed that I haven't done a better job of following through with my goal of blogging.  The reality is that I haven't had much time or much heart for anything but getting through life day by day. 

It has been a long school year for our family.  Sometimes we get to this point in the year and I feel like we just started...I can't believe it is almost time to move on.  Not this year.  I look at pictures from a few months ago and I can hardly remember what happened.  I feel as if we have struggled our way through one day at a time.  I'm exhausted.  Fully spent.

I've always been a hard worker.  I've always been efficient.  I've had many people express their amazement at how I can "make things happen" and "get things done".   But even I am amazed at what I managed to do this school year--Be the wife of a medical resident, mother four children, PTA President, 20 piano students, substitute teach 2-3 days a week, care for our home, help friends, coach a Science Olympiad team, play for the school choir, and so much more.  I realize that I've had a lot of sustaining help from angels--heavenly and earthly--this year.  I really couldn't have done it alone.  I couldn't have done it at all.

I also realize there are a lot of things I haven't done.  There are opportunities and experiences I have missed because I have been so busy.  (Or so exhausted from all my work that I had no desire left to do much of anything.)  I have done a horrible job on my Church service which has left me carrying a huge load of guilt and frustration.  I haven't read to my kids at night.  I haven't practiced instruments with them.  My house is messy.  I forgot to color the milk green on St. Patrick's Day.

I'm filled with both pride over what I have accomplished and grief for opportunities lost.  BUT, the reality is that I know I was supposed to carry this heavy load.  It was my burden for this time.

It was the right thing for me to be the PTA President.  I know that I have been blessed to help support our family by teaching piano lessons for the past 12 years.  There are experiences my own children could not have had if I hadn't sacrificed my time with them to teach others.  I also know that it was very important for me to substitute at the elementary school.  I have needed that experience to help me answer some personal questions, make valuable friends, and gain much needed insight.

And in just the same way I knew I was supposed to pick all these things up, I know it is now time to set them down.  I feel strongly inspired to pull in and reset. I need to re-center my life on my home and my children.  There are people and activities I will miss about my crazy life, but I have an overwhelming sense of peace when I think about simplifying and slowing down.  The burdens are no longer mine to carry.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Winter of Discontent

This year I can’t wait to see winter go.  I make a real effort to not wish away seasons of life, but I’m ready to move on.  By necessity, I spent much of this winter “in my head”…wrestling with questions and concerns about our lives.  Maybe some of the insights I’ve gained I’ll share.  Some of it is still too tender and fresh.  I feel as if I have been trapped in a cocoon and now I am aching to be set free.  I want sunshine.  I want flowers, leaves, and blossoms.  I want to put on my flip-flops and a t-shirt and step outside into the warm Southern air. 
I want signs everywhere that cold, dark, confusing times end and spring comes. 

Friday, February 8, 2013


In the past two months we have been right with our dear friends for two very important moments.  We were at their home when their husband & father had to be rushed to the hospital.  That night we prayed that his time on this earth would not end.  Then tonight at 8:00 p.m., five weeks early and completely out of the blue, they called to see if we could watch their children  She had unexpectedly gone into labor.  Tonight we pray for the little life that will soon begin on this earth. 

It has been a rough month for me internally.  We have a lot of decisions to make.  I've been struggling to make sense of it all.  But in reflecting with our dear friends, I'm remembering that there are things that matter and there are things that MATTER.  My perspective has changed.  And that is a good thing.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Simple Gifts

I love to give gifts.  Not big and expensive gifts, but thoughtful and timely gifts.  I like to remember the little details about people that can turn into a fun gift later--a teachers' favorite soda, a friends' secret weakness for fruit snacks, a sisters' wish for something beautiful.  I love the reaction of a loved one when they receive an unexpected, but "just right" gift.  I love letting people know that they are remembered and appreciated.

The night before my kids went back to school after Christmas vacation, I knew I wanted to send a gift to their teachers.  We are so blessed to have great teachers who love and appreciate my brilliant, yet quirky children.  It has been a hard year to be a teacher at our elementary school.  There have been a lot of unforeseen personal challenges within the faculty and switching to Common Core has left everyone feeling like a first year teacher all over again.  I just wanted to wish them well...but with what?  It was way too late to start homemade bread and I was almost out of Bath and Body Works Foaming Antibacterial Soap (gasp!).

I decided to visit my Pinterest boards to see if there was anything I could do with what I had on hand late on a Sunday night.  I had to do some creative adhesive substitutions and teach myself how to make a fabric flower, but within two hours, I had these sweet little bookmarks all ready to go.  I promised my sister I would include the link if you want to make a bookmark of your own:

Snow Day

Friday was a snow day.  School was cancelled.  We just stayed in.  All for about 1 inch of very slushy wet snow.  By noon it was already well into the 40's and any evidence of a storm was mostly gone at our house.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  I commented to Doug how I had been entertained by the reaction of several "newbies" to the state who thought it was crazy for school to be cancelled for such a minor "snow event".  Doug's reply surprised me...

You see, four winters ago, we made similar comments.  We both grew up in a snowy mountain valley and I don't remember school ever being cancelled for snow.  We had shovels, snow blowers, ice-scrapers, and snow tires.  Every family member had snow clothes.  Part of learning how to drive was learning to drive through snow.  It wasn't so different when we lived in the Midwest.  BUT, our first winter in the South, we thought it was absolutely ridiculous for them to be so cautious about every little snow storm.  Delays, cancellations, warnings, and advisories abound.

Doug turned to me and said "I think it was probably a good call."  He said that the longer he lives here, the more he realizes that there is wisdom in their caution.  "There is no infrastructure to manage the snow,"  he said. "We aren't well-equipped."  He's right, of course.  There are very few plows.  Most households don't have shovels, ice scrapers, and snow clothes.  And don't get me started on Southerners driving on snow packed roads.  It's terrifying.

It made me think a little bit about how I react when there are other types of storms in my life...when something hard or challenging comes my way.  I tend to just plow on through life and not let things slow me down.  I throw on my theoretical "snow clothes", grab a shovel, and deal with it.  This method has mostly served me well.

But, I'm learning that there are times and circumstances that facing the challenge head on isn't the wisest thing to do. Perhaps the wise person is the one who recognizes when they aren't equipped to deal with a particular demand or challenge and they choose to take a "snow day".  They pull inside, spend some time with their family, and wait for some of the drama to melt away.  Looking back, I can see times when I actually made things much harder for myself and my family by acting too quickly.  I dealt with storms that if I had simply waited patiently, I wouldn't have had to deal with at all.

"There is wisdom in caution."  Nicely said Doug.  Perhaps I will get better at taking snow days.