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With summer comes more time together as a family.20140706-071526-26126090.jpg

It is in this season that our school-aged children get to see us more frequently. what do they see?

Years ago, when my children were … children, I had great power! Words I said would be parroted back from their mouths. Things I did became part of how they played house, built towers or treated their friends.

Now, as a mom with a household of teens and young adults, I do not expect my children to mimic me at all. They are all very independent thinkers, and I am a mere mother.

Mark Twain said, “when I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

But, our teens and young adults still watch, still listen to us, and we are still role models … good and bad … for our kids in their lives.

Recently, while reading a post by Ruth Meyer (at TruthNotes) called Copycats, I was reminded again how we are, indeed, role models for our children … at any age, and what a role model we have.

Enjoy her take on the topic of Copycats.

“I’ve seen a few billboards around town that start with the words, “They learn from watching you.”  One such billboard goes on to say, “Eat more fruits and veggies and they will too!’  Another says, “Be active and they will too!”  The point is that your kids are watching you, and what you model for them in your behavior is what they will mimic.  I would add another sign- “Live your faith and they will too.”  If modeling exercise and good eating habits is important to their well being, how much more so is modeling for them an enduring faith.  When it comes to faith, it’s not enough to bring them to church here and there.  It’s not even enough to send them to a parochial school and assume they’re getting all they need from their instruction there.  No, they learn from watching you.

 

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images-1At this time of year there is nothing more beautiful to see (other than snow falling … oh how I would love to see snow falling … maybe even snow falling that leads into a school cancellation … but, I digress) than a toddler or preschooler mesmerized by the lights of Christmas. Truly there is no more wonder-filled look than that!

The child stares into the lights, unable to break their glance. They are completely in awe, pulled into the mysterious power of color and light.

I tried so many times with our children to capture that look in a picture, but was never able to get it. As I looked through images online, I realized that I am not the only parent unable to capture that look of wonder, as there were so few photos available.

That light-memorizing wonder is one that parallels our innate wonder for light, but beyond the visual light. That “God-shaped vacuum” within us is one of longing to be filled by the light of the Creator of this world, of us. It is the light from our Creator that is contained in the brilliant lives of those who love Him, of those who allow Him to lead their lives.

Isaiah 60:1-3 says:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness  covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Our hearts are sensitive to the presence of light, and this is the season when light is celebrated. Ironically, not just among Christians, but also Jews (Hanukkah), African Americans (Kwansaa), Hindus (Diwali), and probably even more. We all long for the wonder of light to enter into our beings, so that we might all shine … as we were created to do.

“O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight”

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regrets-job-search-interview-mistakes-career1

You know you are getting old when you start wishing you could do parts of life differently.

I must be getting old …

Now I am not a person who regrets much of what I have done, or chosen, as I generally see all of the life choices I make as experiences that help me grow, develop and mature. Recently, though, I have been feeling two things, and they go together. One is that time is moving too quickly, and the other is that I wish I could ‘re-do’ some of my decisions in life so far.

As I am a woman of thirty-nine (with four years experience), I am aware that I am reaching the midpoint of my earthly existence. In other words, I need to make every year, every moment count. I cannot waste these years of good health on things that do not matter. I cannot waste a single day that I have the opportunity to do good, to love fully and to give all that I do all that is within me.

As I look at my three kids, I realize the clock of direct, daily parenting is ticking near the final hours. Our daughters are (almost) 21 and 16, and our son (almost) 14. In less than four years our family will all have graduated from high school (except for me, but I may just be a ‘lifer’). Our nest could potentially be empty a short four years from this month.

As I ponder these next years with our kids, I find myself with regrets …

I wish we had pushed the learning and development of the skills needed for the school sports available at their high school (or chosen a high school with sports that our family naturally enjoys), so that they could experience the joys of participating with their classmates. Sure they have all been part of community sports, but doing so with classmates creates a unique bond.

I wish we had started to encourage Christian summer camp experiences at younger ages. These are special places, and places of great spiritual growth and development.

If I could do it all over again, I would choose a smaller home (heck, does anyone really need anything bigger than a townhouse?) and take bigger, more experiential trips together as a family. To create memories … just us five … in beautiful and historical places around the world, sounds so much more preferable than bigger bedrooms.

As I approach the twenty-fourth anniversary of saying “I do” to hubby, I have a regret here too. I wish I had chosen to cherish him more. I wish I had not allowed myself to go to bed angry, and turn my stubborn back to him, on far too many occasions. I wish I had looked at him more as a gift that I need than a choice that I made. Simply, I wish I had loved him as I would also desire to be loved, rather than loving him as I thought he deserved … (aka the Golden Rule from Luke 6:31).

When I think of the lyrics to the song, “My Way” I remember these words …

“Regrets, I’ve had a few …

… For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!”

At this point in my life, I’d rather kneel, and do it God’s way.

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SR09-Looking-for-Love

A sweet summer Saturday morning, writing in my chair alongside of hubby, a number of weeks ago, was upset by a Facebook post hubby read to me. This post led to a discussion about the consequences of our actions and choices.

Hubby had read a post of a peer who had recently left his family, for the open arms of another woman, and he was declaring how delightful his life is currently. Hubby and I then talked about his wife, now living essentially as a single mom, with dad breezing in and out of the lives of their kids, when he has time. We talked about his adolescent and teenage sons, left behind by their primary figure of manhood, responsibility and stability.

I have to say those ‘life is beautiful’ posts make me want to say, “give your head a shake!”

Does this dad (or mom, as the case may be) live in a bubble?

Does he (she) not see the carnage that they left behind?

Are their eyes sealed shut to the pain, hurt and rejection staring back at them from the fruits of their loins (their children)?

Do they really think that leaving their family for another will turn out any differently?

I know I can be rather a ‘ranter’ when it comes to this subject, and please know that I do not believe that people should stay in relationships where there is violence. But really, are those fleeing a relationship from the parent of their children aware of the consequences of their actions on the next generation? Do they realize how un-beautiful life might be for the ones they say they love the most (their children)?

Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., author of The Everything Parents Guide Children Divorce, say that “divorce tends to intensify the (younger) child’s dependence and it tends to accelerate the adolescent’s independence; it often elicits a more regressive response in the child and a more aggressive response in the adolescent.” A younger child might regress into bed wetting, or have problems with separation, whereas the adolescent might do things (be disobedient experiment with alcohol, drugs, sexuality) that accelerate their experiences of development.

So what is he saying? Divorce tends to increase attention-seeking behaviors, in a variety of ways depending on the age of the child.

And why are they participating in attention-seeking behaviors? Because their world is being rocked up-side-down from it’s foundational pillars … their parents, and so they do whatever they can to seek attention, with the subconscious hope of bringing those pillars back together in the same place, at the same time, so that their world might come back together.

As I hear of and watch children and teens whose lives have been rocked by a decision by their parent/s to seek a “beautiful life” elsewhere, what I ache most for, other than their current pain, is their own relationships in the future. Not that they see relationships as temporary, but how do they go into a relationship able to trust their hearts to another, knowing that that trust was broken in their foundational homes? Are they ever free to believe another human who says, “I will love you forever?” That is a most tragic consequence!

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The guest post today is written by Deidra Riggs, whose blog Jumping Tandem is where I read this post that I want to share with you.

Deidra describes her blog as “a company, or a ministry, or a project, and this blog is where it all got started. I write about life as I see it. Most of the time, I’m just trying to figure it out. But always, I’m saving a place at the table for you.”

She is a mom, wife, dog owner, writer, speaker and event planner.

In the post I am sharing here today, which she calls “The Fullness of Our Faith“, Deidra speaks to my mother heart. I get her, where she is coming from, and I think that you will too.

“Where do you think he is, spiritually?” she asks me.

We are vacationing together, and we’ve decided on fried rice, egg rolls, and stir-fried deliciousness for dinner. We sit in the restaurant, our plates half empty, the sun inching its way toward the horizon. She is asking me about my son.

No one asks these questions about my daughter.

If I’m not careful, I fall into the very same trap. I look at my daughter, a youth pastor at a gigantic church on the east coast, and I don’t think twice about “where her heart is.” On the other hand, Christmas Eve may be the last time my son went to church.

You’d think you could figure out a thing like this, simply by looking at a person’s life.

In the restaurant, I give a long-winded answer. I tell the questioner about David Kinnaman’s research regarding people the age of my children — 18-29 year olds, raised in church, but more than half of whom have decided church is no longer the place for them. I’m telling her about nomads, prodigals, and exiles when my husband says, “But what’s your answer?

My husband always sees right through me.

“He believes in Jesus,” I say. All I really needed to say was those four words. Why had I said so much?

We finish dinner and pay our bill. We climb into the SUV and we make a few more stops along the way to our resting place for the night. And all of it still niggles at me.

“It must be hard to be a parent,” my son said to me one day last summer.

My mind was spinning, trying to figure out, of all the difficult elements of parenting, which one was front and center in his mind.

“Why do you say that?” I asked him.

“Well,” he began, “I imagine you have this kid, and right from the beginning you have hopes and dreams for how that kid will live his life. But the kid grows up, and that kid has a mind of his own, and he ends up doing his own thing and living life his own way. And it’s not anything like what you imagined.”

I remember being speechless.

“That must be hard,” he’d said into the space between us.

I remember that conversation with my son as I sit in the SUV, with our vacation companion. I think about my daughter, and about all the ways we each are still growing up. How we never really reach the fullness of our faith this side of heaven, I don’t think.”

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What is an adventurous life?42e52062bb6e070f099f7b7f3f7b2bb3

As summer is approaching, as plans are made for vacations, for lazy summer days, for parties, for barbecues, for trips and activities, do we plan adventures too?

Do we make plans for our summers that make our hearts race? That make our pupils dilate? That make our palms sweat? That make the moisture in our mouths dry, and a lump form in our throats. Do we make plans for our summers that thrill and excite us, providing us with stories to tell when we return to our jobs, our schools when the play time is done?

When I found the quote to the right I immediately thought of my summer break, and those words made me question how I would define an adventurous life.

Those words made me think of bucket list goals of jumping out of a plane, or climbing a mountain (with bear spray in my pocket), or swimming with whales. Those bucket list items were more prevalent before I was a mom (not that I wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to do them).

Since becoming a mom, an adventurous life looks different to me.

Now being adventurous is going to every SciFi movie that hits the big screen, or going on a mother-daughter road trip with my daughter, her friend and that friend’s mom, or teaching my teen how to drive. It is learning to sleep even if the chickies are not all home yet. It is wading through the chemistry of hormones and attractions to the opposite sex. It is sitting down to discuss my child’s academic progress at a parent-teacher conference. It is wiping teary eyes, letting them make their own mistakes, and biting my tongue (how I have bitten my tongue!).

It is in and through my kids that I have risked the most, been stripped of all I thought I was, and felt the real rush of adventure. It is in and through my kids that I desire most to leave a little piece of myself behind.

And so, as I plan for adventure this summer, I know it will have more to do with simply living life, having mine intertwine with the hearts and souls of those three who I long most to experience the thrill of doing life with each and every day. That is the ultimate in risk and adventure.

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Parenting teens is not easy … duh!

There are so many freaking emotions contained in those hairy, hormonal, human bodies. Add to that the ebb and flow of my own hormones and you have what is known as a disaster waiting to happen.

There are those days when they are not talking to you, or they are disrespecting you, or they are simply too busy with their friends to make time to fill your own cup.

Some days I just want a pause button. No, what I really want is a rewind button!

I want to rewind to the days that I tucked them in each night … rather than them tucking me in. The days that when I’ve wigged out at them (for no good reason), and apologized, and they wrapped their arms around me and said, “it’s okay mommy, I forgive you,” and it really was all over. The days they were eager to go to a Disney movie … okay, at least one of mine will still drop everything for that!

I am not forgetting just how difficult it is for them to be walking the tightrope of the teen years, I am simply looking for an oasis in this hot, dry desert.

And I found it!

Hannah pic

The other night I received a FaceTime request on my phone … by the daughter of my friend. Her daughter is eight, and has recently learned how to connect with me in this way.

What delight!

My friend is so good to share her little ones with me! They come to swim in our pool, or make muffins, or play video games. Or we go to a play, or for ice cream. They draw me pictures (see above), and read me original stories, and show me their Lego creations. We take pictures, and go for walks and watch movies.

On my phone, the other night, were giggles of excitement, from both she and her much younger (six year old) brother, ‘I love you’ and ‘good night’, along with the thrill of simply making the connection just made my day! Their giggles, innocence, and simplicity fed a part of my soul that was parched from the ‘mature, adult’ life of parenting teens.

Our FaceTime ended

I walked around the rest of the evening with a big smile plastered on my face

and I thought to myself,

every parent of a teen needs a younger child in their life!

Now don’t think that I do not love and adore my teenage children … they are the apples of my eyes! Even through the body odor, the sullen attitudes, the corpse-like bodies that need to be awakened each morning, the relationship issues, the tears, the refusal to clean up Mr. Shitake (aka the dog poo), I love them and would die for them.

A younger child in your life while raising a teen, though, gives us the reminder of a slower, less complex, more controlled phase of life … not easier, just simpler. It reminded me of simpler days with my now taller than me teens. It reminded me of sharing similar experiences with them, as I did my little friends.

Sweet days do not end when our teens grow up, but it is nice to recreate those sweet memories of simpler days.

Thanks my little friends.

 

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