Thursday, February 8, 2018

How to be a good mother in 5 sort of easy steps

How to Be A Good Mother...

According to our pastor, being a good mother really isn't that hard.

And as much as I have to laugh at the suggestion that parenting is easy, he made enough points that I started to take notes. With his permission I have summarized and compressed and paraphrased and added to put together a join list of 5 sort of easy things you need to do to be a good mom.

1. Consecrate our child to God.  Baptism is the first step here. We should consecrate our babies to God and bring them in communion with God and His Church.

2. Give your child Jesus. My Pastor brought up of the old adage "you can't give what you don't have".  Mothers should be setting aside time to develop their own personal relationships with Jesus so that this can act as a model for normal living. Just as you may give them an appreciation for sports, or art, or music, or literature, you too can give them Jesus.

3. Be sacrificial in your mothering.  Serve with love - not begrudgingly. Don't hang on to the past or worry about the future - just give what you have to give. My father used to say "if you don't go to bed tired, your didn't do enough".  Never is that more true that with mothering. Somedays it feels like we don't do enough, yet we go to bed (and some mornings wake up) exhausted. Motherhood is a sacrifice and we often have to do things that we dont want to do... but we know we are going to do them anyway so put a smile on your face and take a deep breathe and bring God in to your moment to moment acts of service.

4. Pray for your child. At all stages in their lives. And don't stop praying.

5. Bless your child. Numbers 6:22-27 instructs the israelites how exactly to bless their children and we have adopted it as our bedtime blessing.

The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let his face shine upon 
you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look upon you kindly and 
give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, 
and I will bless them.

It gets a little awkward now that my oldest is bigger than me, but I still try to bless him at every opportunity.

Too often, we moms set ourselves an impossibly high bar. Our kids have to be the smartest, prettiest, most polite, most creative, and most athletic or we have failed. Our measure of motherhood shouldn't hang on the snippets of our children's behaviors, but rather should focus on what we are doing in these five areas. Beyond that we have to let go. Our children have free will. All we can do is love them, keep them relatively safe and well fed, and give their spiritual life a firm foundation so that they can develop a relationship with Christ.  Now doesn't that seem easy?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

What Your Kids Wished You Knew About Gaming

The World Health Organization just declared that video game addiction is an actual mental disorder,  leading all the talking heads to pontificate about video games. Of course many of those talking about the issue, and calling into the shows, and writing the reports don't actually have children with video games, they don't allow their teens to have cell phones, and they are years removed from the rapidly changing culture in which our children are growing.  Yes, video games are addictive. I am not going to argue that here. My problem is the public outcry for responsible parents to ban video games, and the lack of an educated discussion among and with parents who actually have gaming systems in their homes.

I hate video games. Let me just get that way out in the open. I have not-so-fond memories of spending hours on my boyfriend's couch watching him try to beat another level of Sonic the Hedgehog. Good Grief.  No, I didn't marry him.

That said, we have two gaming systems in our home, I can tell you where the 3 closest GameStop stores are, and my eldest son is determined that when he is of age he will get a job at one of them. 

We have allowed video games into our home. We do not think they are inherently evil.  We recognize that there are some social and maybe even emotional benefits to having them around. 

Video games are different now. Most adults focus on how realistic the games are, or the action and blood and gore. In reality the biggest difference between now and then, is how they are played. Most systems now allow for only one player on one unit at one time. That means that the only way kids can play with their friends is by connecting on-line, or by bringing over your whole playstation and TV to set up at your friends house. My two boys therefore can only play the same game while sitting in different rooms. If they plan on playing with friends on a Saturday night they won't all get together at one boy's home to play - they will all connect online. They will talk to each other through the headsets, sneak up on one another on the screen, play jokes on each other, laugh and harass just like boys do. But they do this all on-line. They put together strikes and assign roles and carry out elaborate missions all from their own bedrooms. When they mess up they apologize, they harass again, they tease and laugh and they move on. The video games are ways to just hang out. My son can have his gaming unit turned on and he can be playing one game, while talking to a friend through the headset who is playing another game. Video games are in some ways the neighborhood park of yesteryear. People who say "just don't let the play online don't understand". 

Some of you may be lamenting the days when boys used to wander the neighborhood tipping over trash cans and playing stickball in the park. Okay. I get it. That sounds great. But it isn't today's reality. Boys who are not connected online with the video games miss out on a opportunity to bond with their friends in some neat ways, and not just throughout the action of the games, but through the time spent just chatting. In a world where teens are increasingly loosing the art of verbal communication, I see the headset banter and chatting as a real opportunity for my sons to continue to develop some of those skills that are harder to come by in an "I will just text him" culture. 

But what about this link between depression and gaming. There have been some reports of the association between depression and gaming. Gaming can help children who struggle with feelings of powerlessness and have an external locus of control. Jr. high children almost universally struggle with the self-regulation of feelings. It is one thing that makes them so enduring and so difficult. The emotional highs and low and confusion over feelings can be overwhelming for parent and child alike. When kids are down for NO reason, playing a round of video games can give them a boost. It gives them an opportunity to be successful and work towards mastering a skill while doing something that they really like. Much in the way that sitting down to practice and then master a piece of sheet music, or practice a physical skill towards mastery. But the successes come faster and it can be done rain or shine. When children are faced with serious depression, rather than just moody blues, they need to seek help. 

In small doses, with clear guidelines for usage, video games can be a tool to help children navigate some of the hormonal lows and social awkwardness of the middle school and junior high years.

But what about the addiction stuff? Yes, video games can be addictive. Some games are actually created so that you can not stop the "raid" until it is over (and there are no time indicators), or you will be penalized and be unable to go on missions of that type in the future. Some video games give you extra points if you check into the game frequently. Some have new down loads each week to keep you interested and active. Yes, they can be addictive and they are designed to keep people playing. Guess what else can be addictive? 

Jigsaw puzzles. 
A really good novel. 

And these are just the addictions we struggle with in our home.  My oldest son spent his preschool years obsessed with pirates. He had a pirate birthday party three years in a row. One of my daughters is currently obsessed with Horses.  I think one of my sons may still be secretly obsessed with ninjas. 

We live in a world filled with fabulous things and Yes, we battle with our boys over their video game usage and screen time. We have tried a variety of strategies that work at various ages to various degrees. Now they are learning to monitor their own video game usage with our guidance, and we are battling with the over binge-watching dumb shows on Netflix. There will always be some battle - That is just parenting.

It is our job to take those battles on and help our children to grow. Kids need boundaries to help them grow in self-control, and parents need to move those boundaries based on the children's growing competencies. We have had success in the past with a M-Th ban on electronics. We have been able to lift that now because the boys have shown self control with their usage, and because they are less apt to binge on the weekend when they can have little snippets of gaming during the week. We instituted the no-more-than-2 hours-screen time rule each day for many years in our home and have that rule with our younger children as well. We have a A/B only rule for grades and lower than a B leads to no screen time at all. All chores and homework has to be done before anything goes on. 

Now we are intentionally trying to help our older children work towards self-master their usage of screen time, while still being sticklers with the little ones. Some days we do well other days we do not. We had a rough spell when all the boys wanted to do was play video games (or soccer - always soccer) and we got through that. Luckily my children have a lot interests, they just sometimes need to be encouraged to pursue those other interests as well. 

You need to find what works and then adjust as your children grow in age and competency. The rules may be different for the 15 year old than they are for the 5 year old and that is not just okay - that is great. The reality is that children are going to grow into adults who are surrounded by technology. My job as a parent is to protect them yes, but also to help them grown in competencies. Banning video games from my home will not achieve that goal. Helping them to self-regulate, the self-monitor their time, to have a variety of interests, and to have healthy social relationships, those are all things that will help them to grow into competent individuals. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

No Advent Fails

As usual I had lofty goals for Advent this year. My Advent journal was prepped and ready, the decorations were up, many of the gifts were purchased, and I even bought my purple and rose colored candles ahead of time.

And as usual my goals of really entering into the season, and spending time in deep contemplation about the arrival of my Lord and Savior in the form of a little baby, went unrealized.

Each year I have some excuse. This year I got sick. Not deathly ill, or even super sick requiring Rx or a trip to the doctor. No, I just got a really persistent upper respiratory something.  It came the first Sunday of Advent and just hung around all month. It sucked my energy, my motivation, and kept me at an arms length (or more) from many friends and families.

And it slowed me down. In a time of hustle and bustle, this little bug dropped me into first gear and I sort of trudged through life. The result of this dampening of energy meant that the class party I had to organize was fine rather than great (no one seemed to care that the hot cocoa was actually chocolate milk), the Christmas cards did not go out (or even get addressed), the family ate quite a few more take-and-make dinners than normal (and enjoyed every bite), the gifts were simplified all round (who cares if the packages have bows), and we left the Christmas party early (unnoticed I am sure).

So what if we only lit the Advent candles a few nights each week. Advent isn't about lighting candles, or planning the perfect party or sending an amazing card. Like all of our special times in the church calendar, Advent is about living life differently. Sometimes those special times are feast days, sometimes they are fasting days, sometime they are seasons of preparation, but they are different for a reason. They shock our system. They help us to notice a truly Joyful or Reverent time. Advent is a time to prepare for that truly Joyful time of Christmas.

Too often we hope for a grand revelation during our Advent or Lent season. We look for a conversion of our own heart, without realizing that when align our hearts to Christ, we are continually being transformed. This Advent I had to slow dow.  Really slow down. I had to choose what was important, what was urgent, and what could be left out. And then I just let go of it all. I stead of getting out of bed to read my journal and write and reflect, I stayed in bed and just prayed. Good prayer. Just talking with Jesus in the silence of the early hours and resting in His love.  And that is how I prepared. It wasn't extravagant, or complicated, or even recommended, but it worked. It wasn't a Fail. And now we get to celebrate.

As this New Year approaches what sort of goals are you going to set for yourself? Are they going to be lofty-impossible-to-achieve goals that leave you deflated and defeated as the first flowers of spring pop up, or are they going to be less measurable goals that lead to a transformation in your heart and mind?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Lessons on Love

 I had lunch with my boys recently. They are 11 and 14. Anytime I want to really talk with them I find it is best to get them away from any screens and put food in their hands. Kids are always happier with full tummies. Me too actually.

As we noshed on our burgers and fries, I explained in very few words the concept of Love Languages (Read the 5 Love Languages by GaryChapman!). I asked them which love language they thought they most related too. My oldest is an Acts of Service guy and my second born communicates love through Physical Touch. We talked about how this played out in our house.

For instance, with my oldest, I can always tell when he isn’t feeling the love, or wanting to share the love because his chores start sliding. I know it is more important for me to do things like bring him a forgotten lunch or help him get ready for soccer than it is with the other kids. It is more important for my second born to get his hugs, his good night tuck in, a little tickle time or even some help just clipping his nails.  He doesn’t ask for help with things like filling his water jug or making his lunch, but loves sitting on the couch with me while I scratch his head.

After talking about the two boys themselves, we decoded the other members of the family, and tried to pin down their love languages. We have one Quality Time and possibly another Acts of Service (she is pretty young so time will tell). They pegged their dad correctly but were stumped with me. But that makes sense.  When you are aware of someone’s love language it allows you to communicate with them based on their language.  So if I am communicating with them in their language, each child in my family should think I am just like them.  Ironically I am a Words of Affirmation kind of gal so I am not matched with anyone!

We also discussed the need to be aware of their friends and future spouses love languages.  Can you imagine dating someone who was expecting gifts when you were an Acts of Service communicator? I asked them what they think it would be like in our home if I was a Receiving Gifts communicator (given that their dad is an Acts of Service).  They laughed and said he would be ranting all the time “I work so hard to provide for this family and you keep spending all the money on these gifts we don’t need!”. So true!

I want my sons to be able to identify their sibling's and parent's and friend's love languages. As the mom, it is less important that they communicate with me in my own love language. I need to be the one who is poly-lingual, and slowly help them develop the skill as well. It is my job to help them develop the ability to give and receive love – in all its forms - and recognizing love as it is presented is key.

If you’ve never read the book, next time you are over at Amazon (or in an old fashioned books store), grab it. It is a fast and easy read and it can really inform the way you interact with your loved ones. Then open the discussion with them and keep it going. Doing so will foster a culture of love in your home.

Thanks for stopping by!
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