To The Parents In the Trenches

I’ve been thinking about parenting. This week a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while asked how things were going. I gave some short, glowing reports about my children. A sense of well-being flooding me. My kids are doing so great!

Then I thought about a couple different friends of mine who are struggling with their teens. And I thought about how my glowing reports might not be taken so well by parents who are currently in the trenches with their own offspring.

When we are struggling we tend to look around us at how everyone else is doing. If our friends are doing better than us we feel condemned, less than. If our friends are doing worse than us, we feel validated, superior. If they are in the same boat as us, we feel encouraged, we’re not alone!

For those of you who are on the battlefield right now with your teen, I want you to know that you are not alone. I would guess that most parents of older children have fought those battles. We don’t talk about it much. We can’t. We can’t gossip or malign our own children. We can’t air our dirty laundry because it affects their lives too, not just ours. We can’t betray their confidences, their privacy. So, we mostly suffer alone. Privately. Perhaps sharing only with a very close friend. It is very lonely.

I want you to have hope. Not all problems with teens automatically mean that they are going to end up homeless drug addicts, wandering the streets. A big percentage of those kids conquer their problems. They move on to become productive, wonderful adults. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to cry and feel like I’ve completely failed as a parent. Bewildered at what colossal mistake I must have made to make my child act this way. Not sure if this child and I can live in the same house together much longer. Pondering how much boarding school really costs. Could I get a loan to cover that? Can I legally kick an underage kid out of my house?

Even though it is lonely in that we can’t share our troubles with the world at large, I really encourage you to seek help. Pastors, teachers, doctors, psychologists, prayer warriors…There are people that it is appropriate to share your troubles with. People who have seen it before. People who might have some wise counsel or are just willing to stand in solidarity with you. People who are willing to go that extra mile or one hundred miles and come pick up your teen and take them away for a couple days so that everyone can have a cool down period.

Here’s the thing…one day, you notice things aren’t as bad as before. And then a while later, you realize, things are actually getting better. And then one day, you look at your teen, and you swell up with pride because they have actually become someone you like.

Yes, there are many stories of parent/teens who don’t make it. It ends ugly. But, maybe, even for those horror stories we hear, maybe, down the road many months, years, possibly decades, peace happens. Reconciliation. Where there is life, there is hope.

I’ve only been in this parenting game for eighteen and half years. During that time I’ve had some pretty amazing highs and some heart-wrenching lows. I have a two year old. I am nowhere close to being finished. As I look at my large brood, I’m pretty sure we’re going to have some rough years ahead for some of them. It seems to just be part of growing up for some kids.

I hope you know that when I brag on how great my kids are doing, I’m just telling you the highlights. We have to stay positive after all. I’m not free to share all the crazy episodes I’ve had, but maybe you’ll feel better knowing that I’ve had them, and that you’re not alone. Here’s praying for all you parents in the trenches. May God give you peace and wisdom and hope. You are not alone.

 

 

A Little Bit of Hope

It’s Spring.  Winter is losing its hold on us and I feel this little thing budding up inside of me. Hope. This winter has been a struggle for me in my fight against depression. I feel like I fought well, kept picking myself back up and trying to find solutions again and again. Exercise. Try this diet. Write out my thoughts. Talk to people. Get involved. Get a Happy Light. But, no matter what I did, I kept finding myself in my chair, struggling to do the simplest chores.

Several weeks ago, in my Fat Fridays Post I said that if I could find a diet that would cure depression, I would go on it. Two days after posting that, I received two different emails from trusted sources telling me to watch an upcoming webinar by Jonathan Otto on Depression Anxiety and Dementia. It seemed like God was giving me a big nudge, so I went and watched some of it, read their free e-books. It talked about inflammation aggravating mental health issues. One of their first steps they recommended in their little book was to change your diet to fruit, vegetables and nuts. No grain, no animal products. I was desperate so I decided to give it a try. The first two weeks were really hard as my body was in shock from this drastic change. And then this Monday happened.

Monday morning, the first Monday back to school after Spring break, I woke up before my alarm went off, somewhere around 6 am. Wide awake. And happy. I got up with my little boy and fed him and dressed him and then went and got the other kids out of bed. Drove the kids to school, came home, and instead of collapsing on the couch, went and washed the dishes that had accumulated over the weekend. I then puttered around, getting the boys and I ready for our day at the homeschooling co-op where I’m teaching a couple piano lessons. Had a great day at Co-op, felt cheerful all day long. Then left co-op, went and picked up kids from school, came home and cleaned up the house, played games with my little girls, and read books to children until it was time to make supper. (Usually on Mondays co-op wears me out and by the time I get home I just want to hole up in my room with the door closed.) I felt almost giddy. Wow. This is what it feels like to have energy. hope

This morning I woke up with a pounding headache and was very tired. I’ve taken it easy today, but despite not feeling well, I haven’t felt dragged down in my mood. I’ve still managed to get chores done, spend time with my kids, and even practice the piano. And maybe this lightness of mood will become my new norm. hope

I’ve also stepped out in faith in a couple other areas. I’ve been lamenting lack of community, but at the same time not had the energy or drive to invite people over to my house. Well, we had some changes with our house church and Andy and I took the plunge and volunteered to host house church at our house, twice a month, Sundays after church. Bring enough food for your family and we’ll potluck lunch and then have a meeting. We’ve decided to take it a step further and tell everyone that our house is open every Sunday after church. Potluck and hang out. First steps to building community. I’m a little scared about making such a big commitment, but also feeling excited. hope “

My last big step of faith was to schedule a Musical Evening at my house, the beginning of May. Everyone is welcome. Just let me know you’re coming. The point of the evening is to make music accessible and fun for everyone, but especially children. I’m going to play a couple pieces, my kids are going to play music, maybe my husband will sing. Everyone who comes is invited to contribute to the music. We’ll all bring food to share too. Have a party. This is a step of faith for me, and a challenge because I’ve committed to playing music in front of people. Yikes. I haven’t done that in quite a while. I only have two children left who aren’t in school and I’ve started thinking about what I will do when all my kids are in school all day. My old dream of being a piano teacher with a bunch of students has slowly risen out of the ashes and I’ve started taking small steps towards that goal. For me, to be a serious piano teacher means I need to be getting back into music myself. So, this musical evening is a step towards my dream of teaching. hope

Aside from all these wonderful things, I have found my mind turning more and more to God. Being curious. Mindful. Wondering. Having Conversations. It feels like a hibernating part of my soul has woke up again. hope

It’s early spring yet. We still have cold mornings and plenty of drizzle-filled days in between the sunshine days. But, there is an unspoken promise in the air. The trees are putting out buds, the days are longer, there is a certain fresh smell of earth and plants when you step outside. We know that summer is just around the corner. And maybe good health, a sound mind, energy for life. Hope.

 

To anyone interested in my new diet, here’s the link:

 

www.depressionanxietyseries.com

Fat Fridays: Week 4 First Things First

This year January first came and went and I never started up on a new diet. You know that saying that goes something like, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results..” . Well, that’s how I feel about diets. Years of starting diets have done me very little good over the long term. I have decided this year that instead of jumping on the latest dietary fad wagon, I wanted to get to the root of why I am overweight. Why do I overeat? Why do I turn to food? Why do I constantly fail at adopting a healthier lifestyle? Perhaps if I can understand these things, I can change the base behavior that has brought me to this state. Writing the Fat Fridays blog has been a good step in this direction as far as starting to analyze why I do what I do, but I still have felt like I needed a plan, something to actively be working on.

This past Sunday in church we had several different people give words of encouragement, words of counsel, words of wisdom, and the theme I kept hearing over and over again was, you need to get off your devices (phone, internet, kindle) and give more time to God instead of submerging yourself in entertainment.

This has been nagging my conscience for a while. I have definitely developed a really bad phone addiction. I would see all these memes trying to show people just how bad their phone addiction is and I would cringe because I knew that was me. How did this addiction develop? Well, I would say that I had a real desire to not be “present” in my surroundings. It was a way I coped with depression…don’t think, just read books…don’t think, just get on Facebook…don’t think, just read some mindless articles on the internet.. It has become a full-blown addiction. Subconsciously I knew this, but I didn’t want to deal with it so I tried not to think about it.

So, this was the message I felt like God was telling me, the path he was leading me down…You want to lose weight? Ok, disconnect from your phone.. Deal with that addiction first and then you’ll be in a better place to deal with your weight loss issues.

On Tuesday I laid down the law. No more than one hour a day on the internet. Only get on my kindle when I’m exercising on my elliptical or when I have to wait in a doctor’s office or some such place as that.

It’s Thursday night and I can tell you that this has been extremely difficult. That one hour seems to disappear really quickly. I’ve done twice as much exercise because my book got really good and I didn’t want to stop reading. I went over my internet time a bit yesterday and felt guilty about that. Disconnected from the world-wide-web, I find myself just thinking, pondering things instead of automatically trying to find something to read or look at. I find myself talking to my children more, being a bit more present. I find myself getting more projects done as I have a restless energy to keep myself occupied. This has been difficult and necessary and exciting. Difficult because breaking any kind of addiction is hard. Necessary because it’s hard to assess your life and habits and make changes when you’re completely tuned out of your life. And exciting because I feel like I turned off the background noise and suddenly I’m hearing the birds singing again, and the wind blowing in the trees and I find myself thinking about the future and dreaming and imagining and feeling hopeful again.

I don’t know why, but getting space from my device is making me happy. And I find it a lot easier to tackle weight loss problems and challenges from a place of happiness than from a place of depression.

I don’t know what the next step is going to look like in this weight loss journey, but I’m feeling optimistic.