Category Archives: Family Life

A Classic Rock Soundtrack for Those with Young Children

I’m sure we’ve all, at one time or another, pretended our life was a movie. Whether for the sake of wondering which actors would be cast in such a thing, or wishing for a quick tie-up to all the day’s loose ends. Sometimes I have wondered what it would sound like if my daily life had its own soundtrack, just like a movie. Something happens, and then a loud musical tidbit is thrown in between scenes or during a montage that perfectly expresses the reality of the situation.

Most of my days involve caring for my two young children, and so there seems to be a lot of repetition. I find myself thinking of the same songs over and over again, and occasionally singing them at my children too (hey, it beats screaming at them).

Of course, since most of these are actually about romantic relationships, I may change a word or two, but the choruses are mostly on target. If the more dramatic moments of my daily interactions with my kids had a soundtrack, it would probably go something like this.

Song: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
By: The Rolling Stones
When: When you won’t buy the frosted sugar-infused sugarberry cereal while grocery shopping. When the toddler wants to put the steak knives away during dishwasher unloading time. When he really really wanted to close the door but didn’t tell you until right after you did it. When you won’t let them bounce on Daddy’s guitar case while he’s at work.

And sometimes, it’s something I sing to myself, when I can’t afford an “extra,” or a new recipe turns out terribly, or a potential night out turns into a “night in,” etc. etc. Even at the end of most frustrating or exhausting days, we still have what we need. If I’m not careful, this may become my life anthem. My kids will be so excited to hear me sing this to them when they’re teens!

Song: “One Way or Another”
By: Blondie
When: I try to be patient, but no matter how many options are available in the average day, there are times when it comes down to the wire and there are really only two choices. “We have to leave now. Either you can walk to the car, or I can carry you.” Or “It’s time to put on your pajamas. You can do it yourself, or I can do it for you.” And that’s when I (mentally, mostly) pull off my best Debbie Harry impression and out comes “One WAAAAAY or another, we’re gonna do this…”

Song: “Running on Empty”
By: Jackson Browne
When: Right before (the kids’) bedtime. ‘Nuff said.

Song: “Let It Be”
By: The Beatles
When: Now, I’m not mother Mary, but I like to think I speak words of wisdom when I tell my children not to manhandle things in the cereal aisle… in the produce section… on my desk… on Daddy’s desk…. Eventually you say it enough that you might as well break out into song just to change things up a little… “Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it BEEE-ee-eeee… speaking words of wisdom: LET IT BE.” It’s better than yelling, right?

Song: “Beast of Burden”
By: The Rolling Stones
When: Ironically, this one usually doesn’t come to mind until I’m already strapped down with my purse, the diaper bag, my son’s jacket, my daughter’s jacket and hat, at least one sippy cup and water bottle, a toy or two, and someone’s shoes. And maybe even a child in the baby carrier. So I can sing it all I want, but we all know that “never be your beast of burden” means “Yeah, right now I totally am.”

Song: “Take It Easy”
By: The Eagles
When: When he breathes in her space. When she touches his airplane. When one won’t stop poking the other. It’s a nice soothing melody to smooth over the shrillness of the moment. Or perhaps it’s just wishful thinking. Either way, when I sing it, it’s sometimes more to myself than to them. (“Don’t let the sound of your own children drive you crazy…”)

Song: “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
By: Guns N Roses
When: Yeah, I know it’s about a girlfriend, but the chorus just hits me sometimes… especially when I see the “Child of Mine” brand name on an article of baby clothing. But also when my child does something exceptionally sweet or touching, or their childlike exuberance comes through so beautifully that I can’t help but smiling and wishing it would always be this way.

Song: “Walk This Way”
By: Aerosmith
When: At the grocery store, the zoo, the doctor’s office, the park, the parking lot, any building with a hallway and/or interesting things along the way. Young children are distraction magnets. We aren’t always in a hurry, but when we are, the chorus to this song plays in my head.

Song: “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”
By: R.E.M.
When: Well, when the teddy bear won’t fit into the matchbox car. When the blue cup is in the dishwasher. When I can’t make it snow on command. When this is the last book before bed. Sometimes the most seemingly unusual thing can trigger an end-of-the-world meltdown. But honestly, we adults aren’t always much better—our perspectives get skewed too—when my phone battery dies in the middle of a text. When I forget a key item at the grocery store. When I put all the clothes in the washer but forget to run it all day. I sing this to remind myself, and possibly my kids, that daily annoyances are not really the end of the world.

Song: “O-o-h Child”
By: The Five Stairsteps
When: When the baby is crying and crying and can’t tell me what’s wrong. When the toddler can’t express their frustration except in loud wails. When he scrapes his knee, when she topples over on unsteady legs. It pays to remind them and myself that “this too shall pass.” It’s not to minimize the bad moments, but to remind them that they are not alone in the midst of them.

Parental Public Shaming

There’s a frightening trend in parenting these days, which is made easy by social media, and the ease with which a video or a blog post can “go viral.”  It’s the trend of using public shaming as a means of “teaching” your children a “lesson.”

In some cases, public shaming is not even designed to teach the child a lesson; it can be for the purpose of teaching others.   You know – like the pastor who keeps humiliating his family by telling stories about them in his sermons.  Except now it’s worse, because the audience has gone from a hundred people to thousands, possibly even millions.  Friends, family, and complete strangers.

Recently I saw a blog post from a “Christian blogger” who was very sarcastic in the way he addressed his child’s sense of “entitlement.”  I think it’s good to talk publicly (in generic terms) about the sense of entitlement that we all (yes, even adults) have here in this very comfortable me-centric society of ours, and it’s also good to talk about it privately (in a specific and personal way) , but it’s not good to address these issues in a way that will publicly shame our children.  As Laura says, “the internet is forever.”  Someday that child will grow up and have access to every little thing her father ever wrote about her.

Public shaming is a betrayal of trust.  Discipline, when needed, is a private matter.  I’m so grateful that my Heavenly Father doesn’t announce to the entire world why I am in need of discipline.  And believe me, He could make a video to end all viral videos, or a blog post to end all blog posts.  Just as God treats me with tender compassion – even when disciplining me, so I hope to do the same with my children.  May I never provoke them to wrath by inappropriate or unreasonable discipline toward them!

You Surpass Them All

Several years ago, my husband introduced me to the book The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It is an odd story upon first reading, but it has a lot of layers to it – aspects of the story function as parables or fables, communicating something much deeper than what may appear to be on the surface.

One story involves the Prince describing “his” rose, to his friend the fox:

But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.

Though presented in a rather unconventional manner, his relationship to the rose is a representation of true love, and the bond that forms between two people who are truly in love. The prince loves his rose, not because she is the only rose out there. And yet, as he mentions in another part of the book, she is “unique in all the world” to him.

I was reminded of that while talking with D this morning, and as we talked, a verse from Proverbs 31 (29) came to mind:

“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

Unfortunately, I think it’s too easy to read this as an objective statement. That there is a certain hierarchy or ranking of women, and this woman just happens to be on top because of all the good things she does. No doubt her character and deeds are admirable, but this statement is something that her husband has said of her.

I thought about that in terms of my own husband. There are many reasons why I love him. He is kind and loving, he is hard working, he loves people and serves them with a true servant’s heart, and he is generous and protective of his family. I could go on and on. And while I love him for all those things, I also love him because he is my husband. My love for him does not depend on some kind of “ranking” of his traits or qualities against other men. There are many other men who are good too (and a lot who are worse), but he is unique in all the world to me, and I love him for that. And I know he sees me the same way.

This kind of idea isn’t always encouraged. I’m reminded of a dating site I’ve seen ads for, called “plenty of fish.” It goes with the idea that is often spoken, especially after a break-up: “There are plenty of fish in the sea.” It doesn’t sound like a heinous idea on the surface, but I really think it contributes to a de-valuing mindset in regards to people. They’re just fish. There are lots of them out there, and available to sift through or peruse at your leisure. By the basic principles of mathematics, you will find another one soon that might be acceptable, so don’t worry.

There are indeed plenty of people out there. Many of them have very good qualities. Just like the prince knows there are millions of other roses besides his rose. So if you or I were to say that our spouse “surpasses them all,” it is not meant as an insult to anyone else’s spouse, because it’s not a competition or hierarchy, and it would be silly and wrong to portray it that way – it’s about loving the person for who they are, learning about them, investing time and energy into being with them even during mundane times that no one else would pay attention to – even, as the prince says, when they say nothing.

There are many who do noble things, but my husband is unique in all the world to me. When I tell him that he surpasses them all, I am not putting anyone else down, because I simply am not looking at anyone else that way. He is mine and I am his. And if you are married, the same is true of your spouse too. Let them know it. :-)

This was originally published on my Blogger site in May 2013.

Motherhood – the Best Job You Could Ever Have?

I am blessed to have grown up in an environment that encouraged and affirmed family relationships: marriage, parenting, siblings, etc. I firmly believe that families are the building blocks of society, and therefore healthy family life is essential to good communities.

So let that be the backdrop for the rest of this post. With that in mind, I also understand that it is so necessary and important to continue to affirm and encourage parents as they (we) raise the future leaders, workers, and parents of the world.

But, despite my admiration for parenthood even while single, there were times when I felt like the adulation of its virtues went almost too far – to the point of disparaging other roles. I know I have heard this line, or variations of it before, and while I can’t actually pinpoint any particular book, speech, or sermon as a source, it goes something like this:

“Motherhood is the best job you could ever have.”

Hearing that made me cringe internally. Not because motherhood isn’t extremely important, or because I didn’t want to be a mother someday, but the word that struck me was “best.” I didn’t have a baby until I was 26, and so I spent a fair amount of time as a single and child-free adult (though still not as much as many of my friends have), but I have to admit, it would probably still make me cringe even now.

Why? Because by saying that motherhood is the best job that a woman can have, you are therefore saying that any woman who is not a mother, no matter what else she does, is doing something that is less than best. And that’s a lie. “If motherhood is the best job I could ever have,” I would think, “Does that mean I’m failing now?” I didn’t feel like I was. At least not all the time.

Honestly, I don’t think that most people who say/type lines like that really mean it that way. I think what they’re mostly trying to say is that if you’re a mother, motherhood is the most important of all your jobs. But there are ways to communicate that without making it sound like you’re minimizing the jobs and roles of child-free people, or negating their importance. (Or minimizing the importance of other jobs that mothers may have.)

Motherhood is SO important. It’s already the hardest job I’ve ever had, and I’ve only just started! But it is also a great job, and I’m so glad I have the privilege of being one. It is a role in which you are closely bonded with one or more brand new little people, and you become one of (and at times THE) chief influence to shepherd them through their early years, and beyond. That is a huge responsibility, with so much involvement and potential, and it can be pretty scary sometimes. Affirmation and support are so important. And yes, there may be people who feel as though they wasted portions of their lives, or at least did not use their time wisely, and thought they “grew up” a lot by becoming parents. There’s nothing wrong with being honest about those feelings.

But that doesn’t mean that having a child is the only way to shepherd and influence the next generation. Many people do that without taking on the role of parenthood. What’s truly important is that every person realizes the importance and value in relationships. While immediate family relationships are the obvious ones, they don’t have to be the only ones. There are many people in many different stages of life who will either never be parents, or are simply child-free for a season, and to say or imply that the work they’re currently doing is good but still lacking without children is wrong and hurtful – especially since, like me at the time, it’s not always something that’s a current option for them. Child-free people have the freedom and ability to develop relationships outside their nuclear families that parents don’t always have.

Again, I think very few people would actually say that line above. Most churches and communities I have been in have done a great job of affirming people in whatever their current stages of life are. But I still think it’s worth keeping in mind. The importance of motherhood/parenthood does not mean that the time spent before it is of less importance, for me or anyone else.

That’s why it’s so important to make sure that in encouraging and building up parents, it is not done in a way that downplays anyone else’s role or job, but rather affirms the importance of every role and stage of life.

This was originally published on my Blogger site in April 2013.

Leave a Space

Senior year of college was challenging. I felt like I was dealing with the stress of being pulled in so many directions that I let that overwhelm me at times, and failed to probe the full wealth of opportunity in my various responsibilities, or pursue all the potential in many friendships.

While I still believe nothing is wasted, this fear of stress is puzzling at times.  After college I feel like I almost went in the opposite direction for a bit – not putting enough on my plate, and just kind of hoping that it would find me instead.

But eventually I felt like I found a better balance.   A balance of having enough without too much.

I’ve read that stress is like spice. Without it, the dish will be bland. Too much, and you choke. I’ve come up with another metaphor that I feel is also rather apt:

As a kid, I used to play sports, such as softball, for fun (I wasn’t very good, but that’s a different story). We would always bring water with us to the games – that was a necessity – and after a while we got into the habit of freezing the water bottles the day of the game, so that the ice would melt during the evening and keep the water cold the whole time.

It’s a great idea, but I think most kids at some point learn the hard way that if you’re going to freeze a water bottle, you can’t fill it up to the brim. Water expands as it freezes, and if the container is full to the top, the ice will burst out of it and crack the container. On the other hand, if you only fill it up halfway, you won’t have enough water, and will be thirsty by the end of the game. We learned at a young age to “leave a space” when filling up our bottles, so we’d have enough to drink, but not burst the bottle in the process.

In my life, I’m still wrestling with the idea of “leaving a space” – of planning enough activities/events to stay busy and productive, but also leaving enough time to throw some last-minute things in there if needed. If the time doesn’t get used, I end up with some extra time, which is fine, but if it does get used, I won’t feel like I’m bursting the brim by adding in another activity I really wanted to do, or feel guilty about saying “no” all the time because I’m just too full.

I don’t have it down yet… sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough, or letting some things slide. Other times I feel like I’m not leaving enough time to do “little” things like basic chores. But I’m trying to learn to always “leave a space” – and to always be open to what may need to fill it.

This was originally published on my Blogger site in March 2010.