It’s ok to be the mean mom

Today was supposed to be my first day “back” to work after 2 weeks “away.” I put those words in quotations because I work from home. My kids have been on Christmas break for 2 weeks now. One week was spent out of town with family and it was glorious. The other week was spent here at home and it too was pretty great, but about 2 days ago my kids starting getting on each other’s nerves and because I’m not a saint, I’ll admit they were starting to drive me crazy too.

So I was looking forward to January 5th, the day when 2 of the 3 kids headed out of the house for 8 hours and I could head to my desk to dig back into work while the youngest played with all of his Christmas toys (and the toys his brother and sister got but won’t let him play with). I really love my job. I really love who I work with, even though most of our interactions are via email, text and conference calls. I love the creative work I get to do and the purpose behind it. I was not sad about going “back” to work.

However, we live in the Midwest. Lo and behold, snow swept through the metro last night and I woke up to find that school was canceled.

Sigh.

You’re going to have to believe me when I say that I love my kids. I really do. But having them all in the house today has made my non-mom job very difficult. God is good and gracious and reminded me of how precious they are, and that my role as their mom is to train them and disciple them to glorify God with their lives. He created them, after all, and Jesse and I have the privilege to steward our relationships with them well.

I adjusted my attitude, prayed for patience and dealt with interruption after interruption. Some were legitimate (“Can you help me get my glove on?”) and some were not so I had to gently remind them that I was working and they needed to figure out said problem on their own.

So this is my frame of mind going into the post-lunch clean up. At that time, the boys, ages 5 and 7, began to run around upstairs while they waited for me to get a movie set up. We have rules in our house (gasp!) and one of them is that all roughhousing, running and wrestling need to happen downstairs. As I watched them run through the kitchen (where I was cleaning up) another set of thoughts began to seep in:

“Oh don’t tell them to go downstairs. They’re just kids. Let them be. They just need to run off some energy.”

“You’ve been busy with work today. You’re not a good mom because you’re not spending this snow day baking cookies, making snow angels and snuggling with your kids on the couch.”

“Be a fun mom for once.”

So I let them keep running.

And a few minutes later I heard a loud crash. The 7-year-old had run into a large potted plant and the entire thing had fallen over. There was dirt and water all over the floor.

“Great,” I thought, “this is just what I need right now.” I tried to remain calm as I saw my son was near tears. He knew he had made a mistake. I confirmed with him that it was a mistake and mistakes are ok to make, but he needed to make it right. The clean up took FOREVER and I had to work hard at being patient at his somewhat pitiful efforts. As I helped him clean up the mess, I couldn’t help but reflect on how my thoughts had been thwarted.

it's ok to be the mean mom

This picture doesn’t do it justice. Really. I promise.

Jesse and I are the parents in our house. (I know, big surprise.) Which means we set the rules and expectations in our house, not the kids. So why is it that I failed to stick to a clearly set rule of not running around upstairs?

I gave in to one of my idols of being liked. It is my lifelong struggle to care too much what others think of me. I just recently have seen how that thinking sometimes seeps into my parenting. The reality is, I want my kids to like me. I don’t want them to be angry with me. I don’t want them to get mad at me.

So guilt infiltrated my thinking today. I felt guilty for working. I felt guilty for not doing ALL THE THINGS our Instagram feeds tell us other “good moms” are doing. I set aside the standards of our house in exchange for approval  . . . from a 5-year-old and 7-year-old, and from the non-existent observers that judge me as a “good mom” or “bad mom” based on what I do.

How ridiculous was my thinking today??

Fellow moms, fellow parents . . . do you ever struggle like I did today? Do you ever cave to what the world says we should be as parents? Our culture says we should give our children what they want. That we should make them the center of our lives. This kind of thinking is turning normal people into harried, stressed, and guilt-ridden parents.

Before we had our first child, my husband and I talked earnestly about the fact that we were already a family. The focus of our family was Christ. When children entered our family, they would not become the new focus. Instead, they were given to us as good gifts that we should disciple and train so that they will one day grow up to glorify God with their lives. This was how we thought 10 years ago and this is how we still think. Yet, it’s easy to let the cultural parenting norms of our day seep into our thoughts, especially when we see everyone else’s parenting displayed on social media for all the world to see (and approve of or judge).

The running boys and crashing plant today reminded me that it’s ok to be the “mean mom.”

After the whole ordeal was done, I actually talked with all 3 kids and told them that I was sorry for not being consistent. I asked them if they remembered what the rule was about running around upstairs. Every single one of them remembered perfectly.

When I decided to set aside out predefined rule, that was not me being a good or fun mom. It was actually me being a “bad” mom. I demonstrated to my children that the rules in our house are flexible. Sometimes there are consequences, sometimes there aren’t. Can you imagine living with that kind of inconsistency as a child? It’s anything but fair. It’s chaos for a child.

I apologized to the kids for not being consistent and then I asked them if God is consistent. The 5-year-old said no which tells me this whole conversation might have been a bit over his head. But I digress . . . This whole stupid plant ordeal (that is really not that big deal AT ALL . . . but also, my picture doesn’t do it justice) gave me an incredible opportunity to remind myself and the kids that God is NOT like me. He is consistent. He tells us how we can receive redemption from our sins in the Bible and that truth doesn’t change. He does this out of love for us. Everything God every does for us is out of grace and love.

So thank the Lord that He does not parent us like I parented my children today. I want to encourage you parents, but especially moms, that it’s ok to be the “mean parent” at times. You have such an amazing and precious task as you raise children. You get to partake in the glorious task of teaching a child about our consistent, gracious God who finds joy in us despite our sinful hearts. As you parent today, remember this:

Having rules and expectations for your children is GOOD.

Expecting your children to abide by those rules is GOOD.

Following through with consequences when those rules are broken is GOOD.

Following up with hugs, love and reconciliation is VERY GOOD.

We have the amazing opportunity to point our children to Christ by doing our best to model how He parents us. Yes, you will mess up like I did today. And because God is consistent in his love and grace you can know that the gospel is still true today, it will be true tomorrow and for the rest of eternity.

Oftentimes, when you feel like you’re a “mean” mom, you’re actually being a very, very good mom. Keep it up, fellow mean moms!

If you liked this post, you may like my other posts on parenting. 

Saying good-bye to the little years

Tonight, I tucked in my 4-year-old for the last time and as I left the room, it felt like I had tucked away an era of parenting.

Tomorrow our youngest and last child turns 5 which means I’ve become quite sentimental lately. What is it about the age of 5 that makes a child seem so much older than age 4? I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Perhaps it’s because a 5-year-old can go to Kindergarten while a 4-year-old still qualifies for story time at the library with other preschoolers.

Maybe it’s because 5-year-olds can express themselves with words more easily than a 3 or 4-year-old who is more likely to throw a tantrum if things don’t go his or her way.

age 5 is an end of an eraAs I began reflecting on why I’m sentimental about my son’s 5th birthday, I noticed some things in our house. Or rather, I noticed some things missing from our house that had at one time seemed so permanent.

Our kitchen no longer has baby spoons and bibs shoved into a drawer with old rags and kitchen towels. I threw away the sippy cups when we moved a year ago. The lids were dinged up and I could see chew marks on almost every cup. Around the table, the absence of high chairs and booster seats is a fading memory.

Tucked away in a closet that used to hold a pack n’ play are games like Sorry, Chutes and Ladders and Connect Four. That stroller I used for our first child is long gone, as is the double stroller I replaced it with when our youngest turned 1.

Our car has booster seats where complicated car seats were once strapped in with hooks, buckles and a forceful test by my husband to make sure everything was secured correctly. If grandparents want to take the kids in their own car now, it’s a simple task to pull the booster seats out.

In the bedrooms, we no longer have a changing table full of diapers, wet wipes, creams, snot removers and extra burp cloths. The bins of clothes divided by months are long gone. I remember how full my 0-3 month bin of girl clothes once was. The bedtime songs have begun to fade away as well but they still creep up every once in awhile.

The bathroom is missing a potty chair and the toothbrushes on the sink look much older than the cute little baby toothbrushes we used to scrub at their tiny little baby teeth.

Don’t get me started on our books. I have entire shelves of board books that we haven’t read in over a year. You better believe I pulled one out to read tonight just because I’m the Mom and I can do what I want. And yes, I have “Moo, Baa La-la-la” memorized. Currently, my oldest  is reading Harry Potter books, our middle child is reading basic chapter books and the almost 5-year-old would rather look at an “I Spy” book.

With my youngest turning 5 tomorrow, I truly do see an end of an era in our parenting. I’ll never forget the day a few months ago when I was standing in the back of church watching a young mom hold her first and only child. It suddenly struck me that I wasn’t her anymore. I was no longer a “young mom” with a baby on her hip. I had moved beyond that phase in parenting.

While I knew the phase of endless diapers, sleepless nights, crying babies, potty training, and constant discipline would one day come to an end, (and there were days I hoped it would come sooner rather than later), I didn’t realize it had already snuck up on me so quickly!

I tried really hard to treasure the baby/toddler/preschool phase of parenting because that’s what every mom who has gone before has told me to do. And every mommy blogger guilts me into that same sentiment, too. So believe me when I say I tried.

I tried to treasure each squishy baby hand, toddler kiss, and late nights of nursing. I committed to memory (or my phone) as many toddler language mishaps as possible. With every “first” I tried as hard as possible to soak it all in.

But still, it all had to end.

Tomorrow I step into a new phase of parenting. One of my sister-in-laws told me that I’m entering the “golden years.” Tomorrow I will have a 9, 7 and 5-year-old. They are young enough to still enjoy being around their parents and old enough to be able to do a lot of things we can all enjoy together. Because let’s be honest: there is nothing to enjoy about Caillou if you’re 5 or older.

I’m excited about phase 2 of this parenting gig. I am grieving the loss of phase 1, but I am ready for phase 2. I know there are many more phases to come . . . oh my do I know this. And if you’re a mom a few years ahead of me, do a sister a favor and give me some pointers and advice, ok? Please tell me all those things no one told you about parenting elementary age kids. While we’re at it, I’ll take any advice from any mom who has successfully raised human beings to adulthood.

Someday, these 3 precious kids of mine will actually leave my house. It’s hard to imagine but I know it’s true. Now that I know these phases really do end, I can’t help but wonder how my mom did it. During my first week of college, I remember her either emailing or calling me to say how hard it was for her to go in and clean out my room after I’d moved out. I pictured her boxing up my things with memories of my childhood running through her head.

This is what I’m mentally doing now. I’m boxing up as many memories as possible of the baby/toddler/preschool years. I’m going back and rewatching videos of those cute toddler voices and funny baby faces. I will grieve the end of this season of life, but I will grieve with joy. It’s healthy to say good-bye to a hard but good season. They were good years in so many ways.

Ok. I think I’m ready to transition into phase 2 of parenting. Good luck to all of you parents out there still in phase 1. I won’t tell you how fast it goes because you already know fast it is going. Plus, you may want to punch the next person who reminds you of this and I’d prefer it not be me. I will tell you this, though: you can do it. Literally, millions of moms and dads have gone before you and come out ok. You can do this!

 

You be responsible for you. I’ll be responsible for me.

It’s that time of year again.

School uniforms are pulled out of the closet and washed. Curriculum notebooks are dusted off and piled on kitchen tables while a parent creates a lesson plan. School supply lists are printed and items checked off in the busy Target aisles.

Parents everywhere are planning for another year of school and moms are feeling all kinds of emotions.

Some (like me) are elated that kids are going to be shuffled out the door every day to trustworthy and reliable teachers. Others are crying tears as they prepare to say good-bye to an unscheduled summer routine with their kids.

Those that send their kids to private school feel the pinch of monthly payments. I have homeschool friends that are thrilled to be starting another year while some are feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of doing it all.

Another kind of emotion is also running rampant this time of year. Many moms feel frustrated and defensive. And that makes me feel sad for them. 

A homeschool parent posts a first day of school picture on Facebook and someone writes a comment that says they are starting too early.

A public school parent shares their excitement about the kids going back to school and someone comments on how they “can’t imagine sending their kids off to strangers all day” because they’d worry about them. The public school mom feels judged while the homeschool mom was just stating an emotion they themselves would feel.

The Montessori Mom posts a picture of her child walking into a unique classroom and some public school moms roll their eyes at the “hippy education.”

A private school Dad posts a picture of his kids in their smart school uniforms and others make comments offline about how “it must be nice to be able to afford a private education.” Sadly, comments like these are also made on social media, too.

This should not be.

Here is the deal, all you fellow moms and parents: You are responsible for you, and I am responsible for me.  

“Who are you responsible for?” is a question we ask our kids A LOT. We ask this when we notice them worrying unnecessarily about a sibling. We talk with our kids constantly about taking care of themselves because we know it’s in their nature to want to point out someone else’s faults rather than take ownership of their own actions. They love to make sure their siblings are doing what they think they should be doing.

I feel like we as parents need to ask ourselves this question when we are tempted to make judgments about another’s educational choices: Who are you responsible for?

I’m responsible for my time, talents and resources and I’m responsible for my kids’ education. I am responsible for me and mine.

My husband and I have talked and prayed about which educational choice is best for our family and each kid. The decision we came to is public school and we love it. It’s been good for our kids and family on so many levels. It suits us and our personalities.

One of my best friends from college homeschools her kids. It’s such a good fit for her. I honestly cannot imagine her enjoying all of the things I love about public school. And that’s not bad! It’s just different! She and her kids are thriving as a homeschool family.

Another friend sends her kids to a Montessori school. She is one of those persons who likes to investigate, research and do hands-on activities. She’d rather take her kid on a slow walk to explore every twig and bug. She is not rich but she and her husband make their budget work so they can send their kids to a Montessori school.

I also have a few friends and family who pay for private school. None of them are “rich.” They make different living and spending decisions so that they can send their kids to private school because that is what they feel is best for their kids. It works for them.

Each of these parents that I’m thinking of are fully capable of making a decision for their child’s education. Fully capable.

And you are too.

No one else is responsible for your kids other than you. Yes, lots of people help you raise your kids. Baby-sitters, teachers, doctors, grandparents, aunts and uncles all help you, but you are responsible for you and yours. 

So parents, post those first day of school pictures and don’t feel like you need to defend your choice of education.

Moms, (and a few Dads, I’m sure) try not to feel insecure/ashamed/offended when someone leaves a comment that (perhaps) wasn’t even meant to offend. In the words of Taylor Swift, “shake it off.”

Who cares what someone else thinks of your choice to homeschool? You know you are doing what you feel is best for your kids. You know your kids and your family and your finances and your personality and your season of life better than anyone else.

Trust your instincts and don’t look to anyone on social media to affirm your choice in education.

You be responsible for you, and I’ll be responsible for me.

It’s not my responsibility to worry about what you are doing with your kids each day from 8am-3pm. It’s not my responsibility to determine whether your child should be pulled out of public school and homeschooled for a year because he’s behind. That’s your deal. And if you’re my friend in real life, I will gladly listen to you as you process the pros and cons and when you decide what to do, I’ll bring you chocolate and hugs and tell you, “you can do this!”

For my friends on social media, here is what you can expect from me:

When you post a first day of school picture with all of your kids in bare feet, I’ll hit “like” because I truly love that almost all homeschool first day of school pictures have kids in bare feet. They don’t need to wear shoes to school! It’s awesome.

On Instagram, I’ll double tap the screen when your picture of 3 kids with matching uniforms passes across my feed. Those kids seriously look so cool. Mine probably have mismatched t-shirts and basketball shorts on. Just trying to keep it classy around here . . .

I love when a friend shares their first day of school picture on Twitter because I’ll reply back that I’m super excited to be sending mine off to the best school in the world too. (No seriously-our school has the best teachers in the whole entire world.)

You Montessori moms, I will like your picture out of pure admiration because I think it’s awesome that you’ve set your mind on making sure your child gets the education you think is best. I love that. I really do.

You be responsible for you, and I’ll be responsible for me.

This parenting thing is no cakewalk. Let’s all trust that our friends on social media are doing what they think is best for their kids’ education and applaud their efforts. We ALL need at least that.

How to create a safe and secure Gmail account for your child

My daughter is 7. She doesn’t need an email address. At school, she has been given one to use during typing class. The day that I received my first email from her school email, I was almost giddy. You see, I work in communications. I am not scared of social media, technology or digital communications. I understand the many pros and the nasty list of cons. However, smart phones and mobile devices are forever changing how our world works and since I love communicating, especially via the written word, I though it would be fun to teach my daughter how to use email to interact with a select group of people.

Like many parents, I knew I couldn’t just set her up with a regular Gmail account. I found an app that actually looks really great called Tocoemail and it costs $4.99 in the App Store. I would have bought it, but Renae’s iPod is old enough that it can no longer update to the latest iOS. So I had to figure out a work around. Thanks go a Google search, I stumbled upon this post that helped me set up a safe and secure Gmail account. Here is my own step-by-step guide with screenshots. I hope it’s helpful to you!

Step One: Start a new Gmail account. You can use your child’s real name if you want to reserve their Gmail account for when they are older, or create a unique name that gives them another level of protection. Just please, do not use multiple Xs in their email address for obvious reasons . . .

I recommend you NOT list their correct birthday or gender, just to be on the safe side. For my daughter’s birthday, I just picked a date similar to mine.

how to set up a safe gmail account for your kid 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Two: Skip creating a public Google+profile. I did NOT add a picture or any other information about my daughter. Again, for obvious reasons. Remember, you are just creating a way for her to email you and other select family members.

how to set up a safe gmail account for your kid 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Three: Click on settings underneath the gear icon in Gmail.

how to set up a safe gmail account for your kid 3

 

 

 

 

Step Four: Create a filter.

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Step Five: Add in the email address on your approved list.

how to set up a safe gmail account for your kid 4

 

 

 

 

After you add in the email addresses, click on “Create filter with this search” and on the next screen . . .

how to set up a safe gmail account for your kid 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Select “delete it” so that any emails that come through that do NOT match up with the approved filter will just be automatically deleted, rather than sitting in spam where your child could possibly find it. Lastly,  click “Create Filter” and you are done!

After I did this, I then added the email account to my daughter’s iPod, and informed the people on her list that they could email her at her new email address. For now, just Jesse and I and our parents are allowed to email her. She has sent me 3 short emails already today with lots of “I love you Mommy!!!” and other affirming words that make me smile. It’s been fun to interact with her on a level that I practically spend my entire day on.

A few extra notes . . .

  • Review with your child that they should never give out their email address to someone without asking first. Even though that person will not be able to email your child because of the filter you’ve set up, it’s still a good safe guard to have in place.
  • I added her email account onto my phone. This allows for me to watch what she is writing and who she is writing to on the off chance that the filter doesn’t work. I have already enjoyed seeing what she is writing to her Grandparents, though I don’t intend to read every email she writes. This is a place for her toe practice her writing skills and modern day “typing” (using thumbs). 🙂

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Christian mom, stop being so afraid.

Everywhere I go, I see it.

Fear.

It’s plastered on their faces like chocolate on a 3 year old’s cheek. It’s almost as if they don’t notice it’s even there.

Christian mom, you must stop being so afraid.  I get it. You’ve been told that children are a blessing. Rearing children is the most important thing you will ever do, they say. So you don’t want to screw it up.

[Tweet “Christian mom, you must stop being so afraid.”]

All over the place I see Christian moms placing their children on a spit-up encrusted shrine in their hearts. They surround the shrine with bullet proof glass, baby gates and an amber teething necklace. Day and night these moms stand guard around the shrine to make sure nothing bad happens to this very precious child. They live in fear of some person or event breaking through their levels of protection to destroy the exalted child.

Christian mom, you MUST stop being so afraid that something bad will happen to your child. Your main job description as the mother of your child is not to simply protect him. Rather it is to “train him up in the way that he should go, so that when he is older he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). There are lots of other instructions for parents in the Bible and they all seem to say one thing: teach your children to love, worship and obey the Lord.

Somehow, along the way, American moms have become terrified for their children. We no longer let them play outside by themselves. We no longer let them get 50 feet from our line of vision. We are controlled by fear in America. Facebook is rampant with posts from moms warning other moms of a kidnapping 5 states away or a chemical or a kind of food or a parenting style that will surely destroy the lives of all children everywhere if not put to a stop. And this has seeped into the Church in America. Christians moms are seeking to protect their child from any possible harmful situation and failing to place their trust in the almighty God who has a plan and a purpose to accomplish HIS will. He has already numbered your days and the days of your children. Us Christian moms seem to have a distorted understanding about how much of our lives and our children’s lives we can control. I remember sitting with my friend as she held her newborn child who was born with cleft feet. We discussed how we, as a culture, have reached a point where we truly think we can control every aspect of our lives so when something unexpected happens, like a baby being born with feet that are turned the wrong way, we almost don’t know what to do. Thankfully, this friend is a woman who doesn’t have her child on a shrine that she worships because Jesus has already taken that place. My friend cries every time her child endures pain during procedures to fix the cleft feet. She grieves that she hasn’t been able to have the”normal’  newborn life most babies and moms have. But she doesn’t fear because her hope is not placed in her child, her child’s health or her child’s future. Her hope is in Jesus.

[Tweet “She doesn’t have her child on a shrine that she worships because Jesus is already in that place.”]

Christian mom, stop being so afraid. Do not center your entire life around protecting your child from harm. Center your life on Jesus, and show your children what it looks like to follow Him, even when life is hard, scary or even dangerous. Always remember that God is a God with a mission. For centuries, He has been putting into place a plan to redeem people from all over the world to Himself. He wants to bring glory to Himself. Our lives, and our children’s lives are all for Him. I know I have a hard time remember this truth, but God really does know what He is doing. When my daughter fell from a tree last fall and cracked open her skull, after the initial shock had worn off and the ride in the ambulance was over, I remember thinking that God had a reason to allow this to happen. And fellow moms, I cannot even begin to describe the sense of peace that flowed over me. There is great joy and great peace in knowing that nothing happens outside of God’s control and He can turn tragedy into something amazing and eternally awesome. Be wise and discerning as a mom, FOR SURE. But please, don’t be  afraid. Our God has got this! He has your children, He knows what He is doing, and you can be sure that whatever He allows will be a part of the bigger picture of God’s eternal purpose.

Thank you all for being awesome!

renae with signFour weeks ago, our 7 year old fell from a tree in front of our house, and landed head first on the cement below. The immediate emergency room assessment was that it was a hairline fracture in her skull. We were told she should be just fine, but they did want to watch her very closely that first night and kept her in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit). The next day, we were able to get a look at the actual head scan and saw that the “hairline” fracture was just a wee bit more than that! (At least, in our non medical opinions.) We knew it was a major fall, and a major injury. We couldn’t help but wonder why or how it wasn’t something far worse. (more…)