Parenting Goals

My two year old son is in that wonderful/horrible stage where he imitates everyone around him. His favorite muse to copy is his four year old brother who takes great satisfaction in teaching his baby brother all the ways of life. If the four year old comes running into the room yelling and then strikes a karate pose, you can bet that about thirty seconds later the two year old will also come running in yelling, striking a pose. It can be a real blessing, like tonight, when all my children were thanking their Grandma for their supper and the two year old, hearing this, also chimed in with a garbled, “Thank you Grandma for the good food!” It can be a curse when the four year old throws a tantrum and says “NO!” and the two year old decides he should also yell “NO!” It’s amusing, but it’s also just an amazing way that God made children, to learn by imitating those around them.

The question is, at what stage should we stop imitating the people around us? The desire to imitate seems to be deeply ingrained. I still find myself defaulting to “imitation status” when I have big decisions to make in my life. (We can’t become nomads, it’s just not done!). Or when I’m contemplating new ideas (I don’t belong to that political party, so there’s no way I can get behind that idea!). Or perhaps when I’m making parenting decisions (That really popular parenting book says this is the way to do it!). I find it especially hard when it comes to spiritual matters. There are so many voices out there claiming to know the truth. There are so many people who take a verse from the Bible and just run with it, creating an entire new way of thinking from just one verse or passage. How do I discern who is handling scripture correctly?

There are two scriptures that I think are helpful in the whole arena of imitation. The first is Ephesians 5:1 (ESV)

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Who should we be copying? Jesus. And if our actions are not loving and sacrificial, putting others ahead of ourselves, then we probably aren’t imitating too well.

The other verse that is really helpful is James 1:5 (ESV) that says,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

In the end there is no pat answer for who to trust, who to imitate, who to listen to, when to branch out on your own completely, with no regard for the thoughts or opinions of those around you. There is no way to know, case by case, how to act. We need wisdom. We need God’s wisdom. And amazingly, he says, just ask me, I’ll give you all the wisdom you need! (Of course, the next 3 verses remind you to ask with faith, no doubting!). I am so thankful for God’s wisdom. I have asked repeatedly for this wisdom, and God has not let me down. This is my prayer for my children. That God would give them wisdom. Not just wisdom for a particular situation, but the wisdom to even remember to ask for help in the first place. Wisdom to know when to follow and when to strike out on their own. Wisdom to remember that they are supposed to be imitating Jesus, not their peer group. That is the goal for my children. That they would go from toddling around in their diapers, copying the antics of their siblings, to copying Jesus, relying on his wisdom as they make their way through this life.

Lord, may it be so!

 

Generation to Generation

I was in the kitchen this evening cooking supper. My phone chimed, I checked and my Mom had just texted me. I quickly responded and told her that I had received the “Happy Light” that she had sent me in the mail (since she knew I had been struggling with depression)  and I had used it. It had seemed to help me with my bad mood. She quickly texted me back to give me some quick tips on how to use it. I smiled to myself. Yes Mom. You already told me this. 🙂 Then my phone chimed, my daughter who is off at college was texting me. I had texted her about some mail she had received at our house, asking her whether she needed it or not. And suddenly I felt like I was in a time loop. My mom was texting me because she wanted to help me out, I was texting my daughter because I wanted to help her out, and I suddenly had this Great Understanding. Oh. I get it Mom. This is why you still try to give me advice. This is why you buy special little things for me. In your mind, I’m still your little girl.

I have this overwhelming desire to help my own grown-up daughter in whatever way I can and I am trying to learn as fast as I can how to give her the space she needs to be a grown-up and be her own person and learn how to be independent, but that desire to Mother her is always there. Sometimes I step over the line and I can tell by the tenseness in her face that I need to back down and shut up. But that desire never goes away. I still want her to be well-fed, well-rested, have enough clean clothes to wear, have some good Real friends, be getting satisfaction from her work, know that she is walking after God. I don’t think that desire ever goes away. She’s my little girl, even if she’s 18 years old. And I’m still my Mom’s little girl. Even if I’m 40.

Later this evening I was tucking my four year old son into bed. He was laying on his bunk bed, smiling at me in the lamplight, laughing and telling me a funny story. And I thought about generations again. This particular child looks uncannily like his father’s childhood photos. And I suddenly wondered, is this what my husband was like when he was little? That adorable face and shining eyes and mischievous smile? Was I getting a glimpse into the past? Is this what my mother-in-law saw every evening when she put my child-aged husband to bed every night? I suddenly felt like a door had swung open and given me a peek at my husband’s childhood.

It’s interesting that God created us in this way. Each generation raising up the next. It’s a strange cycle. As a child I remember the urgency, the longing to be a grownup. Why? So that I could marry and have kids of my own, and those kids have a longing to grow up and have kids of their own, and so we perpetuate the human race. Each generation doing whatever they can to help the next generation along.

I am thankful for my parents. Thankful that I still have them close by. Thankful that they still care about me and want to know that everything is going well for me. I am also thankful that I have children that I can carry on the tradition with. Children who I can text on the phone, You doing ok? Want to come home for the weekend? And I am hopeful, so hopeful that one day my children will have children of their own who they will be checking up on even when they are all grown.

This whole generations thing…It feels like the goodness of God. As I sit in my chair, late at night, writing on my computer, all my children are upstairs in their bedrooms, the younger ones fast asleep, the older ones puttering around, trying to not give in to sleepiness till the last moment possible. Soon I will go climb into bed, snuggled warm against my husband. This is life. The life God created and gave to us. A gift.

Psalm 145 vs 4 says,

“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”

So, I declare to my children who read this, to the younger generations that have come up after me… God is good. This life he has given us is good. Marrying, having children, raising families, it is good. Maybe this is why:

“For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100 vs 5

The Family Bed

The Family Bed. Ah yes. Such a lovely thing… Just to make sure we are all on the same page, let me define that for you.

Family Bed: noun. Mom and Dad’s bed. The place where nursing babies, crying toddlers, scared children, and sick children gravitate to in the middle of the night. There is always room for one more. 

(courtesy of Esther Heneise)

I have endured the family bed for 18+ years now. With our first child we were highly influenced by the trend of making your baby learn how to sleep through the night at an early age and if she came to our bed in the night, we took her back to her own bed immediately. Then we had more kids and we just got tired, and we also realized that the time we had to pour out affection on our kids was actually finite and so we just resolved to welcome our children whenever they wanted us. Which for some reason or other, is often in the middle of the night. 

We have had nights when I’ve counted five kids in the bed by the time we hit morning. We have had nights, more than once, when a child walks into our room and says, “Mom I’m not feeling well…” and then promptly throws up on our bed. We have had nights when the abundance of children in our bed has made one or both of us adults abandon the parental bed and go sleep in one of the empty children’s beds. (They usually end up following us though.) Let me say, this doesn’t happen every night, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. My six oldest have outgrown the need for parents in the night and I realize that our time is short. But, every once in a while we get nights like last night where I question my relaxed philosophy.

So, last night my husband and I had the lights out by 11pm. We were fast asleep when somewhere around 2 am I heard the telltale rattle of our doorknob, accompanied by the fretful cry of the two year old. Since this is a regular routine, you would think I would react calmly. But no. Every night, without fail, I jerk awake and poke my husband, ANDY! THE BABY! I don’t know why I do this. It is my nighttime response to anything unexpected…ANDY! DO SOMETHING! Maybe because I know that I am incapable of doing anything coherently in the middle of the night and I hold on to a slim hope that my husband will somehow be better able to cope. Which, he isn’t. He grunts and lays there. I poke him again. THE BABY! OPEN THE DOOR FOR THE BABY! He grunts again. Grumbles, “He can open the door himself.” Which, three out four times he usually can. I’m just always worried about that 1 time when he can’t.

We lay there listening to the door knob rattle and then finally the door opens and we hear the trotting feet of a baby boy. He comes around the bed and climbs in with me. He’s still nursing, which is unusual for me. I have weaned all my others between a year and eighteen months, but this is our last baby and I’ve been dragging my feet about giving up the last tie to babyhood. I let him nurse for a while, then I’m over it and I tell him to go to sleep. He is a hot-natured baby and so he hates to be under the covers. Andy and I both want to be under the covers. This makes for an awkward arrangement, but we finally all settle back down to sleep. (Because taking him back to his bed at this point, is a lesson in futility.)

About thirty minutes later, I jerk awake again. I’m pretty sure I just heard footsteps. I squint into the dark and there is our six year old daughter, hovering by the bed. The kids have learned to hover on their dad’s side of the bed, not mine, since I usually wake up, see a face five inches from mine and scream, which then makes them scream. All very unpleasant. They now hover on their dad’s side of the bed, because he doesn’t wake up. 

My little girl looks like she woke up from a bad dream. Lately she has developed a fear of the dark which wreaks havoc on bedtime. I tell her, Get in your dad’s side of the bed, this side is already taken. She peers into the bed and sees the baby laying next to me. She lifts up the blankets and crawls in next to her dad. Fine. She’s not bothering me. I can still sleep.

An hour later I wake up again. More footsteps. Good grief. Is this an epidemic? There is the seven year old daughter. She shares a room with the six year old and must have woken up, saw her sister was gone and got scared also. I’m not sure what to tell her. We already have four people in the bed. I tell her to go sleep in my armchair in the corner of the room. There’s a lap blanket on the chair that she can use. She hesitates, nods her head and goes over to the chair. Fifteen minutes later she is hovering by the bed again. Apparently the chair is too far away from mom and dad. I sit up a bit, survey the bed, and then point at a small open space in between my husband’s feet and my feet. Crawl in over there, I say, pointing at the foot of the bed. She nods again, lifts up the blankets and crawls in at the bottom. I silently groan. Now I can no longer fully stretch my feet out. There is no way I’m going to make it through a whole night like this. 

Sure enough, a couple minutes later, Andy has had enough. He is squeezed in between two babies and now has another child curled up by his feet. He sits up. “You two girls need to go back to your bed!” Instant crying.  I check the time. 5 am. The girls still have two more hours before I need to get them up for school. It’s time to take one for the team. I crawl out of the bed, grab my pillow and tell the girls to come with me. We all head up to their bedroom and climb into their big double bed. I am stuck in the middle, and since the girls sleep in the bed sideways instead of the proper way, my feet are now hanging off the edge of the bed. I brought my phone along with me because it has my alarm which is going to go off at 6:45 am. I lay there. Wide awake. Waiting for my alarm to go off. 

I’m pretty sure this is why moms take naps during the day. 

Parenting: It’s Not A Competition

The other day I overheard a conversation. Two moms. One was telling the other, while talking about schooling choices and the spiritual good of your children “And of course you would never want to send them to public school!” Which of course I am doing with my kids. I felt my hackles rise and a bunch of retorts came to my tongue, which I of course didn’t say, because the moms weren’t talking to me, about me, or even meant for me to overhear them…They meant no offense. But I found myself mentally defending my parenting choices, and thinking, “I bet your kids aren’t going to turn out terrific just because you’re doing it a different way..” and then my final mental argument, “The proof is in the pudding!” You’ll see! My kids are going to turn out better than your kids and then you’ll know that you shouldn’t have been putting down my parental choices!!! And then I stopped, because by this time my mental defense was getting a bit ridiculous. The proof is in the pudding. What does that mean anyway? Does that mean that if my children all turn out to be law-abiding citizens who go to church every Sunday and marry within their faith and do good works…Does that mean that I get to claim the prize of “GREAT PARENT” ? And then you have to ask, well at what age do you assess your grown children to decide if you were successful or not..20, 30, 40? Ok, so what if you have 10 kids and one of them turns out to be a saint, but another one goes through a really rough period and does jail time? Am I a success or a failure? At what point in time does your children’s decisions rest squarely on their own shoulders and you are exonerated from any blame? Or, at what point in time do their good decisions reflect their own good character and not just the fact that they were “raised right”.

In the Christian circles that I walk in, there is a definite fallacy that we parents seem to hang on to very tightly. The fallacy is that our children are perfect little angels or at least, only mildly sinful, and it’s our job to keep them away from all negative influences, all exposure to evil, and keep them “pure” at all costs. If we do so, and we can launch them into society without a single wrinkle in their reputation, then we are good parents. We have done our Christian duty to raise our children right.

Guys, my parenting journey has taught me very clearly that this is WRONG! I am realizing more and more that I need my children to not be perfect..instead I need them to be aware of just how imperfect they are. I need them to know just how short of the mark they fall. I need them to be aware of just how desperately they need Jesus to come and wash away their sins. Because, they are definitely sinful people. We all are. I need them to see that their natural selfishness is sinful. I need them to see that their desire to always be right is prideful, and that’s sin. I need my kids to realize that just because they live in a church-going family does not mean that they are somehow better than the kids who have never set foot in a church door. I need them to know this about themselves so that they can know how badly they need Jesus and they can learn that He is the only one who is going to bring them forgiveness and peace in this world.

This means that I can’t parent with this idea that if I can turn out perfect children then I will win the parenting prize. No. That’s not the point. The point is to spend their childhood teaching them about this God who loves them, teaching them that HE is the Way the Truth and the Life. Everyone is nodding their heads right now, “of course, we all want our children to be saved..” If that is our goal, then we also need to realize that We can’t save our kids. It’s God who calls them. And he has this really annoying way of doing things in his own time. Not my time. This means, I might have a child leave my home who doesn’t know Jesus personally yet. Can I do anything about this? No. But, I can certainly make sure that they know everything there is to know about God, Jesus, and the Bible before they leave home. And I can make sure that they always feel loved by their family, and I can bring them daily before God in prayer, on my knees, asking him to bring my child to salvation.

In the end, I have to step off the comparison box. I have to remember that this whole parenting thing isn’t about turning out perfect individuals. Me looking around and deciding that my kid turned out better than your kid is just stupid. This is not a competition. We are all raising up the next generation, together. We have the same goal…to raise up children into adults who love God and love people and who will take over the running of this earth after we pass on. We don’t get different colored ribbons depending on how our grown child turns out. This parenting thing is not an 18 year long job. It’s a lifetime job. We will spend the rest of our lives praying for our children, praying that they will grow in their knowledge of God, praying that they will be wise, praying for their protection…

May we resist the urge to compare ourselves with each other, getting worried or defensive when other parents do things differently,  and instead keep the end goal in sight…May we raise up our children to know God and be aware of their great need for him.

Boredom With a Bit of Yoga Thrown In

“Here’s what I’ve learned about raising boys… if you keep ’em busy, they’re fine. You let ’em get bored, they’ll dismantle your house board by board.”

                                                                                                 Kenny Rogers

I saw this quote the other day. It was timely for the kind of day I was having. Now that all my kids are back in school, I am home alone with my 2 little boys, almost 4 yrs old, and 21 months old. I’m still trying to get us into a good routine, but usually I at least try to keep things moving. We all work together and get chores done in the morning. (Ok, I move around doing chores and they follow me, staying in a 2 foot radius at all times). We go outside and play in the yard. A couple times a week I try to load them up in a stroller and we go for a long walk. We have a couple activities we attend once a week where they get to be in a nursery/preschool setting. It’s not a super-busy schedule but it’s busy enough.

This week I have had a horrible cough/cold. The kind that keeps you up all night coughing and completely drains all your energy. It’s also been raining this week. I cancelled all our activities that we usually attend (not going to share this cold with anyone). It is raining so we can’t go out in the yard, and I do not have the energy to take any long walks. Cue boredom.  I have 2 little boys running around the house, trying to amuse themselves. I sit in a chair with a pile of tissues and try to play referee. We start off in my bedroom:

NO, don’t play on my dresser, put down the jewelry box and climb back down off of there!

No, don’t take all my shoes out of the closet.

DO NOT HIT your brother with the toy phone!

Stop trying to play with my computer!

Why did you just pull all the blankets off my bed?

 

I get desperate and I find their 2 big rubber balls: Here! Play with these….

 

No, stop throwing the ball in your brother’s face.

No, DO NOT throw the ball in my face. You will never see the ball again if you throw it in my face!

Stop throwing the balls at the windows, you’re going to break something.

LOOK what you just Did! No more balls.

 

I decided to relocate. Let’s go play in the living room…

 

No, we’re not going to put on a tv show, we already watched one.

No, don’t take all the books off the bookshelf, I just organized that bookshelf! All the little kids books are on the bookshelf upstairs, go upstairs and get your books! Do you want me to read you a book?? No? Ok..

Get off the fishtank. We don’t climb on the fishtank…ever..I think I have already told you this..

Here, here’s some matchbox cars! Play with your matchbox cars!

No, wait, we don’t throw matchbox cars. We only throw balls! (my voice fades out as I remember that I just took away the balls).

Look, just roll the cars across the floor..yeah, like that! No, wait, don’t roll the car on me. I’m not a road.. Roll it on the floor!

No wait, the red car is for you, the blue car is for him…. Do not take his car from him!

Do you want to trade cars? No? Well, you can’t have both cars, you have to share…

 

Ok, time to relocate.

Upstairs to the boy’s bedroom. Full of toys, childproof, there’s a comfy chair up there I can sit in. We get settled in upstairs, boys are enthusiastically playing with their toys and I have this great idea. I’ve been reading this book that teaches a simple yoga-type workout. I want to do these workouts in the morning, but I need to do a practice run so I can figure out what I’m doing first. Why not practice here in the boy’s room while they are happily playing??

Ok. So, I have the book on my kindle app on my phone so I’m holding my phone, squinting at the screen. Breathing. It’s all about breathing. Breathe in through your nose, fill up your tummy with air, breathe out through your nose, push your stomach back to your spine..Got it. (Did I mention I have a bad cold?) Ok. I’m definitely going to need some tissue before I attempt this.. Squint at the screen.. It says to do some practice breathes. I do some practice breathes. They are rather noisy. The little boys look up and stare at me trying to figure out why I’m suddenly pretending to be an elephant. The almost 4 yr old asks uncertainly, “What are you doing?” Just exercising. Leave me alone. Keep playing.

Squint at screen again. Ok. I’m supposed to raise my arms up in the air while I breathe in and then lower them while I breathe out. Got it. (Sounds easy right? Apparently coordination is not my strong point and it takes several attempts before I get it right.) The little boys have stopped playing and have now moved closer to me, staring at me with concern. Squint at screen again. Ok, I’m supposed to bend all the way over and touch the floor and stay in that position while I do 5 breathes. Got it. I bend over. This is definitely not as easy at it looks. I am focusing really hard on trying to get my breathes rights…I feel little hands grab hold of my feet. All the blood has rushed to my head. I turn a little bit and find myself face to face with the 21 month old who now looks like he’s about to cry. Mama?

It’s ok sweetie. I’m just doing yoga. Exercise. Mommy is fine.. Oh wait, I’m breathing, not supposed to be talking. I’m still bent in half but I can’t remember what comes next. Straighten up very slowly, grab phone, squint at phone for next direction. Oh. Ok. Apparently I’m supposed to do some breathing while I straighten up and then go into this new position where my knees are bent in a squat and I’m reaching forward… Right… Ok…(Did I mention my current athletic abilities are at level 0?)  Modify. They said to modify.. Ummm.

Now the 21 month old has wrapped himself around my legs and begun a mantra of mama, mama, mama, mama, mama, mama…you get the point.. Wait sweetie, I’ve got to bend down again and try this again. Squint at phone one more time, set phone down and bend in half again. Oh shoot. I forgot to breathe. Stand back up, breath in (through the nose! I think I need another tissue..) and bend over. I’m now face to face with the baby again. He takes the opportunity to grab hold of my head. I forget to breathe out (stomach pulled into the backbone!) while I yell at the baby to let go of my hair. The 4 yr old decides to join the circus and comes and stands next to me, bends over as well so that we all have our heads at the same level. He looks concerned.  Ok. Forget it. I’m not going to exercise.

I disentangle myself and go sit down in the chair again. Look out the window. It’s still raining. I’m still coughing. Not sure if the house or my sanity will be intact by the end of the day.

A Bit of Parenting Advice For the Day

Today my oldest child turns 18. So here I am, a mother of 10. I have managed to take one child to the age of 18 and she has been launched from the home (first time around anyway) to go to college. I’ve been in the parenting game for 18 years. As I reflect a bit on my parenting journey, one regret stands out. It’s something that caused me a lot of heartache, and I would love for some of you younger parents out there to maybe learn from my mistakes.

So, here it is…

 

Don’t read parenting books.

 

The end.

 

Ok, I guess I can clarify that a bit. I would say there are two types of parenting books. Books that seek to educate you on what it means to be a parent, perhaps explain some of how children’s minds and development work, perhaps offer some encouragement. Those kind are helpful, informative and useful. My aversion to parenting books falls on the other kind. These are the books that set out an exact plan and method for how you should parent. Your child should sleep this much at this age, here’s how to make that happen. Your child should display this level of respect to you at all times, here’s how to make that happen. Your child should be disciplined whenever they do A, B or C, here’s how you should discipline them.. These parenting books prey on the poor parents that are at their wit’s end, they don’t feel like they are doing a good enough job, they are failing on some level, and so they start desperately looking around for help. Or, these books focus on people who are about to have a child appear in their life: birthed, adopted, fostered… and they have no idea what to do, and so they start turning to books for the answers.

In my grand career as a parent I have read 4 different parenting books of this type. I regret reading every single one of them. Each book set up a system, a pattern of thought, a path to follow that would somehow get me from point A to point B with good kids and a happy home. They all failed. In fact, all of them lead me to go against my conscience at some point in time and had me doing things that my inner-self was thinking, “Surely this can’t be right?” but I doubted myself, I was not an authority, and the book said I was supposed to do it this way. My husband finally convinced me that we needed to throw out the books and just rely on our common sense, our own consciences, and our own relationship with God, trusting that he would give us whatever wisdom we needed to raise the kids. I can’t say life got easier after that, but it wasn’t as stressful and I felt a lot more true to myself and my kids than when I was trying to imitate somebody else’s ideas.

Here’s the thing. We are all unique. We’ve each got our own set of DNA, we’ve each got our own histories, our own set of life-circumstances…how on earth can a book be written that will properly address every single family? It can’t be done. (Ok, there is the Bible, which is good for all things, but you will notice that the Bible doesn’t try to specify exactly what to do when your child has a meltdown while getting ready for bed. It teaches you the general concepts and then lets you apply it to your unique life.)(Meltdowns at bedtime: love is patient and kind, long-suffering.)

I am not against seeking advice. Talk to other parents that you know, whom you’ve observed and you like what you see. Talk to trusted counselors. Talk to people who know you and your particular set of circumstances. I have talked to other moms, I have talked to my pastors, I’ve talked to psychologists and pediatricians when we were struggling with some really big issues. It’s good to seek counsel. I’m also not against reading books about people I admire, hearing stories of how they parented. It gives me a lot of good ideas, but in the end I have to sift through all the advice, all the examples that I’ve seen and I have to figure out what’s going to work for me and my kids. Believe it or not, if you ask, God will give you all the wisdom that you need to raise them.

Pick Your Battles

This morning my 5 yr old daughter came down for breakfast all dressed for school. She was wearing a neon pink skirt, an orange t-shirt (with a picture of a hippopotamus on it), neon yellow socks, and teal tennis shoes. I looked her over and paused. Umm. Yeah. Ok. I hesitated. My general policy is if the clothes aren’t torn, ripped, stained, or just immodest, I don’t say anything. I’m generally just pleased if my children can dress themselves without having to involve me in the process. With my teenagers, I definitely keep my mouth shut, but with the little ones, I still, every once in a while try to intervene.

“Sweetie, that shirt doesn’t match that skirt.”

She looked down in surprise. “Yes it does! They’re both orange!”

“Uh no, actually that skirt would be described as more of a neon pink.”

She stared at her clothing for a minute.

“Oh well, I like it anyway.”

“How about a different skirt?”

“I don’t have any other skirts, this is the only one.”

I thought about it for minute. It was possible this was true. My daughter decided some time this summer that she only wanted to wear skirts. No pants. No shorts. Skirts. With an occasional dress thrown in. Unfortunately, my daughter failed to inform me of this when I was picking out her clothes in the spring and so she has a collection of blue jeans and shorts that sit, unworn, in her drawer. When she wails that she has nothing clean to wear, she doesn’t mean that there aren’t any clean clothes in her drawer. What she means is there are no skirts and dresses left to wear. Of course, this doesn’t stop shorts and pants from regularly appearing in the laundry as my daughter also has a habit of letting clothes fall out of her drawers, onto the floor, and then, when she cleans her room, she puts them straight into the laundry basket. All that to say, she only owns a couple skirts.

I stared at her a minute then told her to eat her breakfast while I went and checked on something. I served up her oatmeal and then ran up the stairs to her bedroom. I dug around in her drawers and, Hurray! I found a nice tan skirt that would match her orange t-shirt (with the hippopotamus) just fine. I grabbed it and ran downstairs.

“Look! I found a skirt that will match, you can change after breakfast!”

Deadpan stare.

“I don’t want to change. I like my outfit. I like THIS skirt.”

“I have a white t-shirt that would match the skirt better. Do you want to change your shirt instead?”

“I like THIS shirt and THIS skirt!”

Decision time. Do I make this a discipline issue where I now insist that she change? Do I endure tears and hurt feelings and send the 5 year old off to school in a really horrible mood? Or do I just let her wear the neon pink skirt? “Pick your Battles.” This parenting advice often runs through my head. Perhaps the Holy Spirit trying to give me advice? I decide to just drop it. Sure, all the teachers are going to think I’m a delinquent parent who doesn’t care about her child enough to dress her nicely. Sure, maybe the other students will tease her about her clothing choices, though probably not, since they’re all 5 year olds and at that age I think they are all color-blind.

No. This is definitely not a battle worth fighting.

We’re heading out the door to the car and the 5 yr old suddenly decides that she is cold and needs a sweater. (It is 70 degrees and muggy). I don’t have any sweaters for her. It’s still, technically, summer. It’s Tennessee. It’s hot. We are running late and now I’m just trying to get everyone out the door. I look on the coat rack by the door and find her little brother’s sweater. It’s gray and covered in pictures of motorcycles. I grab the sweater and throw it at her.

“Here! Put this on!”

Now my daughter is wearing an orange t-shirt (with hippopotamus), neon pink skirt, neon yellow socks (I didn’t even try to address the socks) and teal tennis shoes, with a motorcycle embossed sweater. And I dropped her off at school and told her to have a good day.

Part of being a parent is just holding your head high and refusing to be embarrassed about your children’s quirks.

(Okay, maybe I’m just a little embarrassed.)