11 ways I lowered my parenting standards

I’m not the parent I thought I’d be.  I have incorporated some “strategies” and allowed some things that I never anticipated. I believe this was a result of being young and ignorant, and not understanding how eventually, the children just take over. They outnumber you, so you just throw your hands in the air and lower your standards. A lot. On cleanliness. On order.  On so very many things. Then also, age and life  just change your priorities. Here are some of the things I have done as a parent that I would have NEVER expected of myself.

  1. Let my kids wear things from the dirty clothes hamper.  This sounds bad enough, but I can lower the bar more and say that I sometimes wear things from the hamper and floor.  I blame my husband. I used to be the tidiest person alive. He has completely ruined me.
  2.   Give up on “making” a child try a food. This one was especially hard for Nathan. He eats everything and hates wasting food. He has lots of “food rules”, but that’s for another post.  He felt so strongly that our kids need to also eat everything. But  throw up at the family dinner table is not fun for anyone. We had to let this one go.
  3.  Let them skip baths. I used to think everyone HAD to take a bath every single day. I’m over it. In other countries, this is not even a thing.  We smell heads and necks now to see how bad it is and then make a decision.
  4.  Take soap and shampoo outside when they are playing with water on the trampoline and count it as baths.  Also, the clothes get clean.
  5. Take shampoo to the swimming pool to use in the shower before coming home to avoid taking baths. (Wow, a lot about baths. Maybe we have a problem.  I promise, they all smell okay. Most of the time.)
  6.  Let them eat ice cream for breakfast. Hey, it was a bribe because I was desperate for sleep. Which leads me to:
  7.  Bribe them. A lot. And be okay with it. Again, they outnumber us. I don’t know what else to say to explain myself.
  8.  Type their homework assignments or glue together their projects. Not too long ago,  I couldn’t imagine taking my child’s handwritten assignment and typing it for them.Then one day, I watched a child typing.  One. Word. A. Minute. I started doing the math, and realized that this assignment was going to take approximately seven hours.  I took the computer away and whipped out that paper while she folded the basket of clothes for me. She could learn to type another day.
  9. Host a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese. The chaos. The excitement. The sensory overload. I hate it all.  But the littlest princess of the family finally made me cave. I’m pretty sure Sam and Abby still hold a grudge that this was never even an option for them.
  10. Let a child paint the mailbox. Colors and designs that are loud and obnoxious. I’ve also let them paint the tree house and doors in bedrooms. I just don’t care anymore.
  11. Put preschoolers in front of screens with headphones on for hours at a time. Letting the screen babysit the kids.  I cannot tell you how many flights and overseas meetings we survived in this way. I am convinced that at least one people group in the world would not have God’s story in their language had it not been for the ingenious use of a portable DVD player and headphones. So there. Try to argue with that reasoning.

So now, make me feel better by telling me which of these you also do. And what are some other things you’ve done as a parent that you never thought you’d do?

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Mermaids in the Bathtub

There are mermaids in my bathtub. And I really like them.

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When Lydia was three years old, she started loving the Barbie mermaids.  She has three such plastic mermaids, pink and purple with long flowing hair.  She used to enjoy playing with her mermaids in the swimming pool or bathtub. When the kids were little, it was sometimes handier to help them bathe in our bathroom instead of going upstairs. Lydia, being the youngest probably did that the most. It was at that point that her mermaids came to live in our bathtub. I used to be frustrated about this. I wanted my adult bathroom and relaxing space without all the tear-free shampoo and toys everywhere.  Nathan and I would inevitably find the mermaids with their sopping wet hair in the bottom of our tub when we were ready to use it. Since we have three kids sharing one bathroom, Lydia will sometimes still  use our tub when we need to make a quick cleanliness turnaround. So we’ve kept the mermaids there for her, now on their own little shelf.

Except no one has played with them for a couple of years now.  And I can’t move them.  Just can’t do it.

For a while I told myself that Lydia surely still played with them when she bathed in there. Then I told myself that she might still want to play with them, so I should definitely leave them. Once I even checked the mermaids after her bath to see if they had wet hair. Because she could have secretly played with them and then put them neatly back in their spot. But the reality is that no one that lives at my house wants to play with mermaids anymore.  Lydia is about to hit double digits. We have a house full of “big kids”. Our life has moved out of the mermaid phase and into a beautiful new phase that I equally love for a million reasons. But still, somehow it’s easier to just leave the mermaids where they are.

Because those mermaids remind me of some things pretty special to my heart. Of little wet-headed girls with tangles that I gently combed out. Of  their playful bath times with mermaids and tea parties and giggles. The feeling I had when I wrapped my girls in a towel and dried them off as they sat in my lap. When I see those mermaids, these memories feel closer. Their growing up doesn’t feel like it’s happening quite as quickly. My once-little-kids seem not so far away from me.

Me and God in the Fridge

At the end of the day, I usually feel used UP! I bet you do too. Problem is that this often happens before the actual end of the day and at a point where I cannot simply “call it quits” and go to bed. Some days I feel used up whether it be 4:00 in the afternoon or 9:00 at night. I finally retrieve all the children from school and various activities and arrive home. The important papers start piling out of the backpacks and into my hands. The homework comes out and people are asking questions or looking for supplies. Nathan comes out of his office to ask if I can read an email before he sends it. And everyone wants to know what’s for dinner.

This is the hard time for me. The time where every person seems to need so much, and all the worlds and needs and chaos of the day collide in this one little place in my kitchen and in my mind. It’s easy for me to get frustrated at this stage, feeling on overload. Why are they all turning to ME? And WHY did we have so many children? These are the thoughts running through my head.  And in that place, I often respond to my family in a way that just creates more chaos and makes me feel bad later.

Recently we had a day that ended late and with everyone exhausted. The kids had each been somewhere different and I had carted them around and arrived home about 8:15. Nathan was gone for the evening and would return home late.  I already had a headache and was ready for the bed. Sam had debate material to look over and try to understand to prepare for his first tournament. Abby wanted me to check her homework. Daddy ALWAYS checks her homework, and the fact that he wasn’t there to do it sent her into a panic that only the end of a tired day and preteen hormones can bring. She also had an application for student council that she really wanted me to look over for her. Lydia had just finished soccer practice, and therefore needed to shower before we could even start the complicated and tedious bedtime routine that she requires at this stage of life.  I knew I was on edge and that all of these things were not things I could handle. I was going to that place of “overload”. Sometimes, a mom needs to give it up and let the kiddos deal with their own stuff or let it wait until tomorrow. However, I knew in this case that I was really needed in this evening by each of my kids.  I decided I didn’t want to bail on this day and these people that I love, and that I needed to finish the day well rather than falling into a downward spiral and taking them down with me.

So right then and there as I was putting away things in the refrigerator, I took a moment with my head inside that fridge. It was just me and God in there with a whole bunch of random cold foods.  I took a deep breath  and said, “God, I can’t do all this. There is nothing left of me to give today. But these people need me, and I need you to be enough for me so that I can be enough for them.” I came out of that fridge and then I began focusing on each person’s specific needs. Got the little one in the shower. Told the middle one to trust me, that I would read the application and check the homework later and write her notes for in the morning. That she could go to bed and not worry. That yes, I do know how to do math. (A tough sell. It’s just easier to let daddy do it and not use my brain, so I do. A lot.) Got Sam started on some stuff on the computer and told him I’d be back to help answer some questions. You know how when you focus on everything, you can’t focus on anything? Yea, that. But  I took time to focus one by one on each person and each need. When I did this, I could speak into their situations and restore order in their little worlds. And all the while I didn’t lose my mind. I was in my own bed before too long  with a  peaceful house, and knowing that God had answered my prayer. He had certainly filled me up some more so that I could give what was needed. I wondered why I don’t make that simple choice and say that simple prayer more often. Why do I ever try to handle it myself or just resign myself to a crash and burn? Pride. Control. These things stand in my way. When I hold on to them, it’s true, there will never be enough of me. When I let go, there is.

Encouragement From a Scorpion

Scorpions have been on my radar since I moved to Hideaway at age 5. We moved into a house on the edge of Hideaway that had a big field behind it. In the first six months of living there, my mom killed 26 scorpions. She says that her weapons were a wooden crawfish mallet, Baygon (now chemically outlawed), and lots of prayer. She quickly developed a serious scorpion prayer life that I know is the reason that neither my brother or I were ever stung.

Now my family lives “in the woods”, and basically every summer we find a couple of scorpions in our house. I can remember Sam reciting at age 2 or so the memorized phrase we taught him, “If you see a ‘corpion, tell mom or dad.”  I’ve developed a decent scorpion prayer life of my own. So far, Nathan has been stung twice (in our bed) but he is the only one in our family. However, he reports that it hurts much less than we’re all expecting, which we find some comfort in.

We didn’t see a scorpion all this summer in our house. One night recently at 3 A.M., Lydia showed up in our room and was standing by her sleeping daddy. He’d just barely gotten to sleep, as he arrived home around 1:30 A.M. from picking up Sam from the football game. I hated for her to wake him, so I pulled her over to my side. She said, “There’s a scorpion on the wall by my bed.” I jumped up and headed up stairs with her. While we walked up, her little voice said “But daddy said scorpions don’t go up stairs.” In our experience this has mostly been true, but that idea was kind of ruined now. Her bed is in a corner against the wall, and the scorpion was there on the side wall about 18 inches from where her feet had been. I quickly started looking for a sturdy shoe. I sent Lydia out of the room so that she wouldn’t see if I missed that guy. I started praying that God would please not let it get away and go behind the bed, where it would haunt us and probably keep Lydia from sleeping there ever again. I whacked that guy easily. I brought Lydia down to lay with me a little while in my bed and told her that after we cuddled for a few minutes, she could go sleep in the office. I was trying to be extra quiet so as to not disturb the daddy who had done the late night shift with the teenager. After laying against me approximately one minute, Lydia sneezed all over me. It was a gross and plentiful sneeze. Then we both had to get lots of Kleenexes and disrupted Nathan’s sleep. This has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this story, but it was a memorable part of the night and worth recounting to you.

Lydia moved to the bed in the office where she slept the rest of the night.  She sometimes sleep walks and talks, and I wondered the next morning if she would even remember this experience. If she didn’t, I wasn’t gonna tell her! But she did. She remembered that she all of a sudden just woke up in the night and there was a scorpion. I asked her if it was in the same spot as when I found it. She said that no, it had been much farther down the wall and was right across from her face when she woke up. By that point, I had sort of been anticipating those words from her.

God created right then the perfect moment for us to talk again about his protection. About how he was giving her a very specific glimpse of how much he cares for her and protects her at night. You see, she’s struggled with fear at night for a couple of years now. In the last couple of months, it’s gotten to the point that Nathan and I really didn’t know what else to do. All the talking with her, praying together and everything we knew to try wasn’t working. Thankfully, I have a couple of friends who have been through something similar with their kids. I was able to get great advice and some resources to turn to. In the last month, Lydia and I have started reading some books about this both together and independently. It’s opened up a new dialogue, and helped her understand what her brain is doing when she allows these thoughts to take over.

And suddenly, she’s different. This scorpion incident was the first time in weeks that she had gotten up in the night, whereas it used to be every night. I anticipated her having trouble sleeping again after this and was dreading the “aftermath”. But she doesn’t seem scared at all. I think it’s because of what God is teaching her. And I believe that somehow, she actually found comfort in this experience. In seeing firsthand God’s protection. And in realizing that she’s not living in fear at night anymore. Yes, encouragement from a scorpion.