My kids changed my ideals.

Someone once said to me, “But,”  and  he had to start with a but because Lord knows I was arguing with the ferocity of a 20 something, “the more people you meet, the more people you see, the more you realize that all you can do is love.”

I thought he was a heretic.

Because I had 20 year old passion and ideals.  Oh, the ideals.

(Now, 20 year olds – keep having all of the ideals because we need them.  We need your passion and fervour and drive!)

Here’s the thing I didn’t think I’d ever find myself saying.  He’s right.

I remember, before we had kids, knowing exactly how I would parent.   I would watch people parent around me and I would start a tally of all the things I was never going to do.  Of course, there were some things I would do, but mostly all the things I wasn’t.  I sat and judged every parent within my view and saw all of the ways that they were failing their children.  Thing is, I didn’t know yet about sleep deprivation and living breathing babies that hold your heart.

So MY babies were going to sleep through the night and colic was only something that bad mothers made up and sugar was off limits and never, ever, ever would my kids be allowed to wear those light up shoes.  I was going to say no constantly because they needed to learn this.  I was going to be in control because I was the parent.  I was going to skip merrily along through this parenting thing doing it just the right way.

What I didn’t realize was that where hearts and souls and living, breathing beings were at stake, there is no just the right way.

Of course, God himself knew just the way to break me from my judgemental self.   He, humorously, gave me 3 boys.  This, my friends, was one of the greatest gifts ever given because God saw fit to snap me out of my idealogies and show me that these pooping, burping, farting creatures were His.  He showed me that the noise and the messy and the stink, they didn’t always fit my perfect way of doing it.

He showed me that their hearts were more important than my ideals.

It started with a bang when the littlest was born.  We had a grand total of 6 hours peace in the hospital and then my memory goes sort of fuzzy.  Because boy would not stop crying.  Ever.

I won’t lie, I thought this boy would be easy.  I’d had 2 already and I was in my groove and quite simply, I was rocking this mothering gig.  I’d just do exactly what I did with the others.

Ideals.

But nothing worked with this one.  He cried when he was put down and he cried when he was held.  He cried on breast milk and formula and soothers. (Yes, we tried that one with that certain nipple.  Get over yourself, it didn’t work!)  He cried when we were home and he cried in the car and he cried when we were outside walking about.  He cried in the grocery store and some lady had the nerve to ask if I was pinching him.  Yes, I told her harshly, I am PINCHING my baby!  He cried and I cried and my heart was hurting because it wasn’t working.  I’d lost my skills.  I didn’t know how to mother this one.

He changed the game and made up his own rules and hid the manual on how to play.

Oh the things God was teaching me early on.  It didn’t take skills to be a mother, it took love.  Because no mother who loves well is going to harm her child or feed her child less than the best or do everything she knows how to do to nurture that child.  Anyone can skillfully heat a bottle but only love let that baby curl up on my chest and, through the tears, cry out for more love.  More grace.  More patience.

He stopped eventually and we navigated the toddler years.  I’m an expert toddler mom, in case you were wondering.  You can control them with Cheerios, for crying out loud!  So, I found my groove through control.  Controlling naptimes and meal schedules, play dates and what they would wear.  Controlling the words they spoke (“say thank-you!”  “Ask nicely” “Tell him you’re sorry!”), the sugar they ingested, the hours of sleep they got and just how much screen time was permitted.  (One 20 minute episode of Elmo per day, thank you very much!)

Here’s what I learned about my human heart though, it only  took a matter of months to forget the thing that I was taught so clearly.  So that crying baby who showed me that my mothering ideals weren’t THE way and I clearly didn’t have all THE answers and that I couldn’t do this on my own strength – yeah, I forgot those.  Instead I prided myself on polite boys who ate their veggies and prayed each night for, “Gumma and Bumpa”.

Guys, it went further.  I also wasn’t going to be one of THOSE parents whose boys played with guns and footballs and were so stereotypical you could smell the locker room on them.  So I bought them an anatomically correct boy doll.  I know, I know.  Someone give me a medal.  And we painted and picked flowers and learned about dinosaurs and bugs.  We listened to real music and not the kind sang creepily to children by adults dressed in strange clothes and face paint.  We didn’t own weaponry of any sort until Grandpa (always the rule breaker) came over with water guns one day and I insisted that they call them ‘water squirters’ and not guns.  Like that changed anything.

It’s amazing to me how many times I have to be taught the same thing.  How many time I wander away from the truth that I know and take the glory for myself.  How many times my heart wells up with pride and know-it-allness and I wonder how on earth many more times do I have to be taught the same thing for me to actually understand.  I imagine it will be a lifetime of the same lessons.  A lifetime of the same learning.  A lifetime of Christ showing me that He is the way, not I.  That He has the answers, not I.  That He gets the glory, not I.

So it turns out the only reason that I was an expert toddler parent is because I have control issues and my toddlers generally thrived on a controlled environment.  Routine and order and organization were hailed as king and this worked for us.  But it turns out that this tactic doesn’t translate into being an expert parent to teens.  Because teens are opposite of toddlers and like chaos and mess and disorganization.  And teens are opposite of toddlers because they have their own vocabulary to draw upon and their own personalities shining full force and their own ideals.  Ah, there’s the ideals again.  It seems that teenage ideals are someone different than parent ideals and again we find ourselves in this place of learning that love is the way.

Because I want my teenager to wake up and read his bible each morning and pray to God for strength for the day.  Instead he wakes up still half dead and strolls to the cupboard in a stupor inhaling anything and everything he sees.

And I want my teenager to volunteer at the local animal shelter or food bank and for it to be his own idea because he just loves people so much and wants to serve his community with all of his spare time.  Instead when I ask if he would like to consider volunteering he looks up at me with the most confused face and says, “Why?”

And when I ask my boys what they want to do and I’m thinking something along the lines of hiking through the woods and picking wildflowers and marveling at the beautiful place God has given us to live, the first thing they ask his, “Can we bring our BB guns?”

And I see it now.  I see what I was told when I was 20.

But at 20 I hadn’t met by teenage boys yet and I didn’t know that they would really like target shooting and camping in the woods and seeing for how many days exactly they can navigate camping without wearing anything on their feet whatsoever.  (the answer would be 4)  I didn’t know that showers wouldn’t be an important part of their day.  I didn’t know that they would be drawn to Anime.  And bows and arrows.  And slingshots.  And I didn’t know the waters we’d have to be navigating together, their very teenage struggles, and I held an ideal that lust and masturbation and internet pornography and lying and deceit and arrogance and anger and pride wouldn’t be so near because we bought them that doll and we limited their sugar intake as toddlers.  I didn’t know that they wouldn’t really feel like reading their bibles and harsh words come out altogether too quickly sometimes and laziness shows up daily and they just want to pummel each other much of the day (though they know better!) because having brothers can be downright annoying at times!  I didn’t know these things would occur because we PRAYED FOR THEM!  How dare they have struggles, Lord, we’ve raised them to be different!  We’ve taught them from toddlerhood who you are and how they ought to live.  We’ve lifted them up to you every single day!  Shouldn’t they get a ‘get off sin free’ card?

Of course the answer  is no.  Of course it is.

Am I glad we had ideals for our children?  Absolutely.

Do I realize that just because we do all we do does not ensure they will turn out a certain way?  I do now.

Am I thankful that God keeps teaching me the lesson that I am not in control and He is?  Sort of.  But yes.

Do I see now that the more people I meet, and the more people I see, especially when these people are living extensions of yourself, that I realize that all I can do is love.

Through sin and struggle, through teaching and training, through our day to day expectations, through our day to day failure, I see that my boys are their own people for good and for bad and what they need from me is not an ideal to which they can not adhere or my idea of how exactly their life should look but they need my unending love.

Warning: teenager in mirror is closer than he appears

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From the vantage point of having two teenagers and one pre-teen I have to say that, at this juncture, life seems a little  unfair to them.  But first, let me tell you a story.

I went for a run yesterday evening and soaked in the  glory of the sunset and marvelled at how all the farm fields that had crops taller than I only last week were now all shaved down to just a few inches.  I had a favourite podcast blaring in my ears and challenging me in all sorts of ways.  As I looped around and back I passed a small grocery store and decided to pop in for a few treats for the boys.  It was only a ten minute walk to home from here so I carried the small bag of groceries and briskly walked along the sidewalk feeling the ache of muscles well worked.

As I was walking along the SIDEWALK I got that sense that someone was behind me so I turned around to see someone RIGHT behind me.  On a bike.  Going fast.  I let out a scream and we did the dance of I’m going this way, no you’re going this way, I’ll go that and then it happened.  The teenager on a bmx took me out with his bike.  I stumbled and caught myself and grabbed my arm where his handle scraped along it and I sputtered out an, “Oof, I’m sorry.”  Because I’m Canadian and this is what we do.  We apologize for things not worthy of apologies and have been known to say we’re sorry to a lamp post should we bump into it.  (guilty.)

Then, in a matter of one second flat I surveyed the situation.  The situation being that I was walking along the sidewalk and got smashed into by a teenager on a BMX when there was a bike lane RIGHT BESIDE ME!  The situation being that I, who was walking along the sidewalk and had no idea who was coming up behind me, apologized to the teenager on a BMX who was riding on the sidewalk and came up so close behind me that he smashed right into me.  The situation being that the teenager said nothing and just drove on his merry way.

As I took stock of all of that, I realized I had no reason to apologize and so I yelled out, “NO, ACTUALLY I’M NOT SORRY!  RIDE IN THE BIKE LANE!!”

I’m sure to him I’m a geriatric lady who is getting all in a fuss about nothing.  I remember being a teenager.

So when I look at my teenagers I fear that the world has already unfairly judged them by the standards of the lowest form of teenager.  I fear that the world will look at them with eyes that see them as the ones who leave garbage all over the skate park and graffiti the walls of the local schools.  I fear that the world will see their size and assume their age and know that they’re the ones who talk filthy and make rude jokes and are probably selling drugs at school.  I fear that the world won’t know how to engage them simply because they’re teens.  Because they sometimes seem like they’re on another planet when they talk of movies they’ve watched or video games they play.

We talk often in our family about changing the stereotypes.  About being different than people will assume you to be.  About being a teenager who can smile a friendly smile and say hi when you pass someone on the street instead of making people wish they would have crossed to the other side before they neared you.

We talk of the things they love.  How skateboarding and snowboarding have long been viewed as rebellious sports and having a lifestyle immersed in both often looks like lots of drugs and alcohol and girls.  But that doesn’t mean that it has to.  It does mean that people may see them with a skateboard and assume they’re like that though, a thought that is frustrating and sad to me.

Teenagers get a bad rep with good reason.  There are a lot of confused and curious teenagers out there who are pushing every boundary that could be pushed and trying new things and ending up in bad places.  But for every one of those there are a lot of fun loving and kind teenagers who care about others and start new charities and respect their teachers and work hard at getting good grades.

Of course, we’re only a few years into the teenage years and maybe one day my boys will deserve to be painted with the ‘horrible teenager’ brush but until they’re there I wish the world could look through eyes that see human and not simply teenager.  That the world could see that this is a person who is living life the best way they know how given the resources they have and even if they have a ring in their eyebrow and a bit too much make up on their face it’s only because they haven’t learned that less is more yet and instead of judging their character based on that we would give them a chance to prove themselves before we make up our minds.

I hope we don’t lump all teens into a category that is far from fair.  I hope we seek rather to engage them, listen to them and guide them…..right on into the BIKE LANE!!!

 

Teaching Scripture Memory

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In our fam we’re currently memorizing an entire chapter of Ephesians.  Chapter 4, if you’re one who likes specifics.

Why?  I hear you ask, as I might have at one point in my life, complete with a look of bewilderment and nose all scrunchled up.  I have two reasons.

The first one is that scripture is important.  Not only is it important for us to read it but also to have it tucked away in our hearts and minds.  To have it sealed in our brains.  To be able to call on it at any time that we may need it for encouragement or rebuke.  To speak it to our children when they may be in situations that are hard or scary.  To tell a friend what we’ve learned.  To remind yourself of promises and truths.  The reasons we need it are endless.

I’ll be honest, I get frustrated at myself when I use words like, “It says in the bible…”  and then I give a sort of summary of what I sort of remember it saying.  I know that speaking this way lacks power and depth.  I want to be able to use words like, “It says in Ephesians 4….” and be able to recite, from memory, the words that I know to be true even when I may not have a bible right next to me.  Not so I can look super awesome and smart, it’s not that at all, it’s for reason number one.  (Refresher?  Scripture is important.)

Secondly, we’re memorizing a whole chapter because we can.  We are able.  Capable.  We been given minds that can grasp and retain and not using that just seems like a waste.  Besides that, my kids (from a super young age) could recite entire story books that we would read to them, from memory.  Now they know every League of Legend character by name and description of abilities.  At one point it was Pokemon characters.  At another all the words to Dynamite.  Or Canucks stats.  Or any number of useless things.  We decided early on, as parents, that if they could learn stuff, they may as well learn the good stuff!

The norm in our house is to memorize a verse a week.  Sometimes every two weeks if its longer.  But with the boys not being in school just now and nothing but time on our hands I decided that we’d aim for a chapter of Ephesians because it’s the book we’re reading and studying together just now.  We’ve done this before.  The boys have memorized  1 Corinthians 13 (otherwise known as the famous passage on love) and they’ve memorized “The Christmas Story” from Luke 2 (up to verse 21).  One day we’re going to go for the entire book of James!

photo 2 copyPardon the dirty mirror.  All I can say is, 3 boys!!

I’ve been asked a few times how we do it.  Truth is, we don’t just have one method but I will tell you the various things we do!

First of all, we read the entire chapter (in our current case all of Ephesians 4) at least twice a day.  Just by sheer repetition we learn the order of the words and commit the verses to memory.  As I’m reading it over each day I’ll start to drop words and the boys easily fill them in, simply because they’ve heard it.  It’s sort of like learning the words to a song by listening to it on repeat all day.

The other thing  we do is start at verse one and just read it independently until we know it, can cover it up and say it.  Then we go on.  This time around we’ve been adding a verse a day to learn, skipping weekends of course!  When we move on to the next verse we don’t just focus on the one but we repeat all we’ve learned and add the new one in.  So today we all recited up to verse 4 to each other and then moved on to memorize verse 5 reading from one to 5 over and over individually until we could all say all of it!  Then, when we read the whole chapter again before bed, we can all say the first 5 verses together and I’ll carry on reading to the end of the chapter.

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Lastly, we have it everywhere!  It doesn’t matter what room you are in there will be words to the scripture around you.  Brushing your teeth?  There’s a chalkboard with verses 1 and 2 on it in there.  Sitting by the fire?  I’ve taped up the words to verse 3 and 4 there.  Eating breakfast, lounging on the couch or walking past the desk?  Open bibles to Ephesians are there so you can peek really quick if you forget a word.  Having scripture all around reminds us to review what we know as well.  When we read verse 1 and 2 in the bathroom you know we don’t stop there.  We carry on as far as we know!

There are multiple times in a day that a boy will come up to me and proclaim, “Mom, I’ve got it!”  recognizing that they could plug all the way through without any hitches or stalls.

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Our minds are capable of so much.  It’s simply because we don’t try that we don’t know.  In the past number of years we’ve committed, in our family, to trying with the most important book we know.  We pray that locking these words into our children’s hearts will mean they know them forever, can bring them to mind often, and can share them with others!

I still know many verses in the King James Version from when I was a kid and I’m hoping the same for our boys!  (only with the ESV)

It’s not rocket science!  It just takes consistency and a bit of effort!!

What about you?  Do you do memorization with your family?  Do you have different ways of doing it?  I’d love to know!

**Side note:  Scripture memory doesn’t have to be about being fancy.  I know many of you are artists and chalk board aficionado’s and that’s great.  If you’re not, don’t let that stop you.  As you can see our verses and chalkboards are plain and simple.  No design scheme.  No artistic flare.  Just words on paper.  That’s how we roll.  Getting it in our minds is what’s important, not impressing our guests with our chalk skills.

Wanna read more on bible memory?

Check out a post I did here about the resources we use for our verses.

More like rolling with it as opposed to nailing it!

It’s taken some years, I’ll admit.  I’m a pretty structured sort.  I like organized.  I like words like addendum and time log.  My moleskin is one of my most coveted possessions.  And seriously people, the containers with little paper clips and elastics at staples?  Well, they make me swoon.

Let’s just say rolling with it doesn’t come instinctively.

But I married who I did and so words like spontaneous and “Let’s have them over for dinner.  Like, right now! We’ll come up with something!”  Came with the territory.  I have to say, I fought it hard those first years but really, there was no point.  Spontaneous wins over organized like fun wins over algebra every day of the week.  And so it is.

Over the years I feel like God has stretched my character in this realm so much.  I’ve learned to live in decently sized housed and teeny tiny spaces.  I’ve learned (past tense) to adapt to life without an oven and now happily only embrace no microwave.  We’ve survived big hearty incomes as well as the how-are-we-going-to-buy-groceries type.  We’ve been a part of tiny churches, mega churches and almost everything in between.  I like hymns and choruses.  Coffee and tea.  Richer and poorer.  Better and worse.

God has taught me so much in all of these times.  He’s taught me where joy comes from.  (Him!)  He’s taught me where stability is found.  (Him!)  He’s taught me that there are many ways it might look as long as the focus is right.  (Him!)

So when it came to this new season of kids not going back to school (due to a teachers strike here in B.C.) I wasn’t overly phased.  With all we’ve survived, school or no school didn’t seem like that big of a deal.  (For the short term, that is.  If it was long term – bigger deal but we’d figure that out too!)

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Last night I sat in the middle of the floor with the only craft supplies I have.  Paper. Scissors.  Tape.  Oh, and twine – the hipster craft supply necessity.  As I sat I cut and wrote and came up with a bit of a plan.  A loose schedule of sorts so that this morning, there would be school.  Weird mom school that doesn’t get you any sort of credits, but school nonetheless.

We spent an hour and a half on bible.  This is the good stuff people.  When do we ever get that much time to spend in the word daily with our teens?  I’m taking it and I’m running with it!

Then we went on a field trip.  I proclaimed how amazing of a teacher I was for having a field trip planned on the first day of school.  “Ever had THAT before?” I yelled out in my best self-congratulatory way.  Of course a trip to the library was a necessity should we actually be trying to accomplish anything in this homeschool thing we’re doing.  I take that back.  Homeschooling is something professional moms who actually make their kids do math do.  I am not that.  This is more like Griswold’s School than Berenstain Bears.  I apologize homeschool Moms.  What I’m doing looks nothing like what you’re doing and I won’t pretend it does.  You’re my hero!

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I figured while we were out we might as well take a second field trip to the grocery store.  We looked at prices before we threw what we needed into the basket.  That has to count for something, right?  I made the mistake of going to the store that has you bag your own groceries and while I thought we could handle it, hello – three large children in tow – it turns out that bagging groceries is a life skill that’s been missed in their 10 years of public education.

Of course I did what any good mom would do.  I rearranged the curriculum to include bagging your groceries practice!

Yes.  I did.  My kids couldn’t believe it either.

(Note to their future wives:  You’re welcome.)

I placed a bunch of groceries on the kitchen counter in front of each kid along with one grocery bag and told them to pack it properly.  Points were given for speed, stability and unsmooshed produce.

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Bananas on the bottom?  No way, man.  Try again!  Oh I wish I had a gong….

We rounded out the day with some physical type activity they called Volleyball but I call painful and then went into more important things like baking cookies and brownies and practicing piano and wiping baseboards.

So I know my kids won’t earn a letter grade for what we did today.  I know they couldn’t ever move on to the next grade for being the best grocery packer.  I know that.  But I think they’ll be better humans for it.  Better boyfriends, husbands, sons.  Because they can make brownies!  And cookies!  And know what a crappy job cleaning baseboards is!

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We’re rolling with it, this no school thing.  I know we’re far from nailing it but that’s not important to me.  I may not be able to teach them tenth grade math or physics but I can teach them how to cook, bake, run a home, choose good books and fall more in love with their Jesus.  So I’d say it was a pretty fantastic day!

On not going back to school and what we’re going to do about it.

It’s the time of year where I start wanting to wear boots. The nights are cooler but the days are still hot and it would look entirely inappropriate (nevermind the sweating that would occur) but as August winds down I want boots and tights and plaids.

Oh, and school to start.

I only just now hung up the towel on that actually happening on time here in B.C. where we’ve had a strike going on for far too long now.
Don’t get me wrong, I love having my kids around. And I love vacation time for them. But after already having an extra 2 weeks this summer and watching all my friends around the globe post pictures of their kids first days of school, I’m feeling a bit glum. (and frustrated and pretty downright mad but I’m trying to let that go…)

I’ve done all the things I can. Mid-summer I looked into the costs for private school and nearly choked. I’ve googled online out-of-province classes for at least the grade 10 boy but even just one semester of classes would cost upwards of 2 grand and let’s all agree that considering I’m paying for his education with my tax dollars already, that just seems silly. Homeschooling seems like a lot to invest in should they go back in even a month and I’ll be honest, there’s a reason I didn’t choose that route to begin with. a) I’d suck at it and b) I want my kids in public school. It’s a choice we made long ago.

I sat and stared at my husband in bewilderment when I read the news that they would for sure not be going back. I was overcome with a weight and the words that came out were simply, “What do we do?”

Truth is, I don’t know what to do about their schooling. I don’t. But I’m not going to sit around and bemoan something I have no power over and I’m certainly not going to let my kids sit around and waste this time that they should be learning something in school.

I’m not impressed that they’re not going back to school, for sure, but I’ve decided to view the extra time, no matter how long it is, as a gift.
Maybe, in His providence, God knew I needed more time with my kids. Maybe, in His perfect plan, He saw that we needed 2 weeks, a month, 3 months to refocus. Maybe, in His goodness, He has blessed me with more time with my boys. I’m choosing to see it that way.

So what are we going to do with this gift of time we’ve been given? Well, we’re not going to sit around, that’s for sure. I have a few ideas…

1) We’re going to study, in depth, a book of the bible. We’re going to read it and reread it and listen to podcasts on it and read commentaries about it and maybe do some sort of personal art or writing or something on it. We’re going to know that thing inside out and upside down and be able to quote big chunks of it!

2) We’re going to go to the library and take out books on stuff that we want to learn about. Want to know more about sharks? Do it. Want to know who Van Gogh is? Okay! Want to learn to fish or knit or change the brakes on a car? Find a book and let’s do this thing.

3) I go back to normal work hours next week which means I’m going to teach the boys how to run a household. Meal planning? Grocery shopping? Chopping and Sauteeing? We’re going to do it. Laundry to do? Do it. Floors to be mopped? Put on some tunes and make it a party. Windowsills to be cleaned? Grab a rag.

We all know that summer vacation mode (read: laziness) can’t go on forever but what I’ve decided is that we won’t hinge our life around school or no school and let it affect us negatively when we’re unhappy with the outcome.

As a parent I want to teach my kids that even in lousy situations good can be found.

I want to teach them that when life doesn’t go as planned we can either sit and grumble or we can change the plan and be joyful in it.

I want to teach them that while the decisions of others do have a huge effect on us, they don’t need to own us.

I want to teach them that God is sovereign and he has placed the authorities over us and try as we might to control our own lives, He really is the one in control.

I want to teach them that all of life is a gift, even this. So we’re going to take that gift and make the very best of it, carrying on in joy and love and cherishing the time that He gives us.

p.s. I know that it’s not this easy for everyone. Some of you work full time and will be scrambling for child care and don’t have children old enough to help with cooking and cleaning while you’re at work and I’m sorry. I really am. But I encourage you to remember that our kids are watching how we’re dealing with this just as much as they’re watching the teachers and the government and in all things we have a choice to honour God and love people or to grumble and complain. It’s hard, I know. I get it. I do. But let’s choose the better way.

p.p.s. Want to read more back to school stuff?

Like how last year I had a hard time sending my kids back to school?  Read about it here.

Or there was this time I wrote a letter to my children’s gym shoes.

The Lie: It will get easier when…

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(Ack!  Look at those little faces.  How were they so little?  And wasn’t this just yesterday?!)

I remember the day somebody looked me square in the face and told me that life wouldn’t always be like this.  They were right.  And they were so wrong.

I had 3 children in 3 1/2 years.  I was a mess of sleep deprived exhaustion.  I was busy just with the keeping everybody safe.  And fed.  And clothed in public.  (Let’s be honest, at home was a free for all!)  I was up to my eyeballs in changing diapers and picky eaters and judgy stares from people watching my youngest dramatically fall on to his stomach and flail his arms and legs in the middle of a parking lot.  Tantrums were a real thing with this one.  Who knew that they weren’t easily curbed.  My pre-children self knew.  My mothering self knew the truth.

The sentiments are right and true.  They do grow up so fast.  It won’t always be like this.  There will come a day when you can sleep in on a Saturday morning and run out to get groceries without your cart being full of children.  Diapers will be a distant memory, as will the worry over them eating enough, learning to print their name and praying to the Lord above that they will use their manners and not hit or bite anyone when they’re in a social setting.

Those days are long gone, for sure.  The work of those days, the drain that comes from constant discipline and correction, yeah those are over.

But don’t be deceived, the job is far from over.  Only now it’s a choice, not a necessity.

They can do so much on their own but the thing is, I don’t want them to and so the work is not any less.  The time required has not changed.  The thought put in equally as great.  The physical drain is less, the emotional, more.

It’s interesting that at the age my boys are (teens and pre-teens) parents seem to find a new freedom.  They take up hobbies that they once couldn’t enjoy for lack of time.  They head out for dates or coffees or rounds of golf sans children.  They embark on personal adventures or goals because the need to be around to feed and change your children is gone.

I understand this.  I’ve felt it.  I’ve taken some of it on.  But I’ve also realized that there are moments when it’s gone too far and I’ve had to pull it back.  The freedom is lovely but too much freedom can be detrimental for our teens.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that I can head out for a run at any old time.  I can meet a girlfriend for coffee at the drop of a hat.  I can answer yes to the request to get in an afternoon hike.  I can catch a movie with my husband.  I can shop the afternoon away.  I CAN do all of those things.  But the question comes into play, should I?
Because if I am doing all of those things, what are my kids doing?  (and let’s be clear, they ARE still kids!)

Well, most of the time it means that they’re home by themselves.  Feeding themselves.  Entertaining themselves.  Mending squabbles between siblings by themselves.  Being free to govern their use of technology by themselves.  Engaging in text message conversations by themselves.  Accepting amazon deliveries at the door by themselves.

All of these things, in and of themselves, are good things.  They need to do them.  To learn them.  To become more independent.  But there has to be a limit on the amount that this is good for them.

So if I do 3 things in any given day, that’s hours spent home alone.  A run, coffee and groceries?  Adds up to 4 hours of alone.  A movie and dessert?  4 hours of alone.  A single hike?  3 hours of alone.

So while these are days of more freedom I’m very conscious of the fact that more freedom for me means more freedom for them and I question whether freedom is what I want for 11, 12 and 14 year olds.

The answer for our family is no.  Moments of freedom, yes.  Hours and hours of daily freedom?  No.

Parenting in this phase of the game, while different, is intense work and it’s easy to not want to put the hours in anymore simply because you don’t have to.  Because they don’t need you in the vital, survival sense of the word need.  Or so we think.

But if you make the choice for your family to stay intensely involved, believe me, the constant and the busy of the toddler years carries on.

It’s driving miles that you never believed you could clock.  It’s waiting outside of events, movie theatres, in parking lots and on driveways for them to come out.  It’s engaging your teen in conversation on these drives about who they’re hanging out with, what they’re doing and whether there may be alcohol involved.  Sure, the rides could be blissful moments of silent but if you want to know your teen then there has to be a level of conscious prying :)

It’s adventure driven.  My boys are no longer thrilled with the swings at the park (Mama’s, I use to cringe at having to push and push and push on the swing too, but in hindsight?  Piece of cake.)  I use to just be able to find a patch of grass and they could run, or be entertained by bubbles or a hula hoop.  But the stakes have been raised.  We not only need a body of water but one that has rocks to dive off of.  We can’t just sit on the beach anymore but we need kayaks to paddle out to islands and boats to pull us up on the wake board.  We don’t just need the yard and the cul-de-sac but we need skate parks and baseball diamonds and mountains with fresh powder.  The adventure level of teenage boys is substantial, I assure you!  Do we NEED to do these things?  No.  But will they seek adventure in whatever way they can find it?  Yes.  And we prefer it to be with us than through cheap thrills like sneaking beers or smoking joints.

It’s hormone riddled.  Remember when your toddler made you want to pull your hair out because they could cry and then laugh and then stomp away all in a matter of 3 minutes?  Right.  Welcome to being in grade 10.  Surely you remember being in grade 10.  You were all manner of cool, I suspect, but to your parents you were borderline toddler.  There are mood swings that make no sense even to the teen.  The waffle from down in the dumps to laughing hysterically at some youtube nonsense is constant.  The feeling of boredom mixed with fleeting crushes and not being understood is intense.  Living and breathing and interacting with this creature takes constant prayer, perfected timing and an amazing sense of humour.

That said, we wouldn’t change it for anything.  The work you put in early on helps your teens to become people that you actually enjoy.  Kids that you love hanging out with.  Humans that you are pleased to spend your days with and that’s really important.  I can’t imagine not liking the people who live under the same roof as I do.

This is just the stage we’re at and because I see how the work doesn’t lessen, just changes, I can only assume the same to be true in future stages.  I can see how it becomes more and more of a choice and less of a necessity but if we want to stay connected to our children then it will take constant adjustments, new levels of engagement, knowing them well enough to be able to serve them well and time.  So much time.

I can’t imagine the new ways we’ll have to discover once they head off to University or move across the world.  I imagine when they marry it’ll change again and once they have children it will become more about how we can involve ourselves in their new realms instead of assuming that they want to be involved in ours.  I believe that at all stages of parenting it takes work.  Whether its making a meal on a Sunday afternoon so that the grandkids will all want to come over or taking time to write letters or send gifts or hanging out at some coffee shop that you feel completely out of your element in, so as to be able to spend time with them, it all takes work.  Living intentionally always does and I think it’s worth it!

**other posts in The Lie Series here:  The Lie: Life will be better when…

I believe.

I believe….

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I believe in opening the windows on rainy days to hear the sound of drops falling.  I believe creativity ignites passion.  I believe that white walls were not only intended for hospitals or veterinarian offices.  I believe in emotion plus logic.  I believe that a mason jar can be used for pretty much everything.  I believe that parenting never gets easier, it only changes.  I believe that the easy way is not the best way.  I believe that facebook has the power to sway our emotions for good and for evil.  I believe that no matter how bad it is for them, teen boys need to wear deodorant.  I believe that breathing the air of the ocean and hearing the roar of its waves is the cheapest form of therapy.  I believe in therapy.  I believe there is beauty in everything if we look close enough, from the wrinkles we dislike around our eyes to the endless beige of the desert.  I believe in honesty.  I believe that the deepest friendships come from sharing both the joys and sorrows of life.  I believe that accidentally hitting a key in imessage and leaving a friend with hours of just 3 dots in a bubble on their screen is a form of torture.  I believe that mismatched patterns make for the coziest looking beds.  I believe in imperfection.  I believe that the smell of an old book makes the words that much richer.  I believe in stripes.  I believe the weirder the better.  I believe that truth will set you free.  I believe that people can change.  I believe that the best memories come from the simplest moments.  I believe that tone changes everything.  I believe I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.  I believe in face to face conversation.  I believe in hand-written notes and mail sent with a stamp.  I believe that your quirks are the best part of you.  I believe that the things that make us the most mad are the things that we need to dive into.  I believe your story won’t surprise me, no matter what it involves.  I believe His power is made perfect in weakness, not in strength.  I believe that you all would be so rad to have coffee with, every single one of you!