Happy Father’s Day!

Today is Father’s Day. I want to wish my Dad a wonderful Father’s Day. Thank you Dad for loving me. Thank you for sharing your passion for the Bible. Thank you for showing us how to love people. Thank you for playing your guitar and being the soundtrack of my childhood. Thank you for teaching us the importance of working hard and always doing your best. Thank you for teaching me how to edit papers and enjoy a good joke. Thank you for loving Mom and faithfully taking care of your family. I love you.

Happy Father’s Day to my Father-in-law! Thank you for all you did to help my husband become who he is. Your legacy is being passed down the generations.

And last, but definitely not least…Happy Father’s Day to my wonderful husband.

We’ve been on this parenting journey for eighteen and a half years now. It’s fun to look back…

I remember when we brought our first born home from the hospital. We were having problems with nursing and I didn’t know what to do to help this poor, crying little baby. I remember how you confidently scooped her off the bed, cuddled her to your chest and began rocking her and murmuring to her. She instantly got quiet, staring intently into your face as you talked to her. I was slightly jealous, she didn’t get quiet for me! But, mostly I was just relieved that at least one of these new parents was succeeding. You have always had a way with infants!

I remember you playing on the floor with a bunch of toddlers and small children. All of them climbing on your back, trying to ride the horsie. You would play “rough” with them and sometimes I couldn’t stop myself from yelling “CAREFUL!!” but the kids would just laugh and laugh and run back for more.

I remember you mowing the lawn. Our son, maybe three years old, following along carefully behind you as he pushed his little plastic mower. He was quite convinced that he was helping you with this important chore. And you just walked carefully, keeping an eye on him.

I remember when I headed off to my first weekend Women’s Retreat. I was leaving you with a four year old, a three year old, and a one year old who was going to be weaned while I was gone. I looked at you doubtfully. You got this? Sure. I’m going to take them camping. Cause only you would think it was easier to take three babies camping than it would be to stay home with them for a weekend alone. And of course you guys had a great time.

I remember late nights, when the baby had been weaned, I was pregnant with our next. You took over all night time problems. The toddler would start crying. You would grab your pillow and head off to lay on some bedroom floor, soothing the crying child with your presence, your deep breathing as you fell asleep next to their crib.

I remember how you would always take the newborn from me at the dinner table. Settling them on your knee as you ate with one hand, giving me a break from the nonstop baby-holding. And you would always give them tastes of your food way before I was ready to take that step.

Then the kids started getting older and while we still enjoyed holding and cuddling the infants, we also had to start dealing with teenagers. I remember your patience. Your grace. Your love for these kids who were doing everything possible to not be lovable. I remember your willingness to forgive. Your humbleness when you asked your child for forgiveness when you messed up. I remember your prayers for wisdom.

You are an awesome dad. I love your sense of humour that makes the little kids cackle and the older kids roll their eyes and groan. I love your willingness to put our two year old to bed every night. I love how our children clamour for you when you walk in the door. I love how you enter the room and the energy instantly gets revved up. Dad’s here. The Fun has Arrived.

You love your kids and you model the life of a man who walks after God. I thank God for giving me such a partner. Happy Father’s Day!

 

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!

 

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. 

9 Down 1 to Go

So, this is all about potty-training. Not super-interesting to the general populace, but I’m a mom, it comes up, and it’s my blog. So I get to have a day where I pontificate about potty-training. 🙂 

I am feeling the need to celebrate. I believe that I have now successfully potty trained my 9th child. There is nothing more delightful than to see your potty-training child stop playing with his toys and run for the bathroom…without you saying a word.

I have potty trained 9 children. This is proof that practice does not make perfect, the more you do something, the better you get is not true, and repeating an activity over and over again does not make it more bearable. I extremely dislike potty-training. I’m horrible at it. It requires a level of calm and patience and kindness over a prolonged period of time that I find really hard to muster.

All of my kids have potty-trained later than their peers. But this is because, in my mind, potty training is all about me, not the kid. I am not willing to engage in potty-training unless I know that I am looking at a couple weeks where I’m going to be relatively unstressed, and where I know that I can make myself be sweet and patient, even while I’m cleaning up the 20th potty accident in one day. I had hoped to potty-train David when he was about 2 ½. He is now 3 ½.  It’s a good indicator of my mental state this past year that it is only in the past couple weeks that I’ve been willing to tackle the job. Even then, when he had pooped his pants for the 5th time I finally lost it and heard the words coming out of my mouth, “If you poop in these pants again I’m going to spank you!” My oldest daughter was walking by and heard me. She raised an eyebrow and said, “Don’t children respond a lot better to positive reinforcement?” Umm..Yes. So I went to the store, bought a bag of chocolate and told him he could have some every time he successfully pooped in the potty. And that was that. We haven’t had another accident. (Because my kids seem to really respond to treats!)(Probably because I’m the mom who never buys candy and who gives them watermelon for dessert.)

All of that to say, when I finish potty-training a child, I feel like celebrating. I’m not really celebrating my child’s achievement. My kids are smart and awesome, and with a different mom they probably would have been potty-trained at 2 yrs old. No, what I’m celebrating is that I somehow managed to achieve a level of maturity that enabled me to love my kids and to show them grace while they conquered this milestone. Even when they peed on my shoes or pooped on my couch. Hurray for me.