Tag Archives: change

Because I love you. . .

Yesterday, in the midst of our usual chaos of homeschooling and breakfast and chores, Jubilee asked for help applying glue to a piece of construction paper. When asked why, she replied, “Because I need to glue it to the wall.” Uh, no. Tape was suggested as a viable alternative and I told her that under no circumstances was she to use glue to hang anything up.

Fast forward several hours. I am rearranging the magnets on the fridge to get them out of Romeo’s reach when I discover that a piece of purple construction paper is stuck to the refrigerator quite solidly. I pull it off to see that it has been glued there. I call Jubilee in and ask her if she glued it there after I told her not to use the glue to hang things. She says yes with a look of shame. I put her in time out to give myself time to gather my thoughts.

After her time out was done, I brought her into the kitchen and required that she stand with me as I tried several different things to remove the paper from the fridge. I first had her try scraping it with a plastic scraper, but she was not able to make progress at all on her own. So I took over, but made her stay with me through the process. By this time, she had gotten sad because she sensed my frustration and wanted me to be “happy” again. I periodically took time out from the task to hug her and explain that I was frustrated that the paper was so hard to get off. I told her that she was going to pick up all the tiny paper shavings that had fallen to the floor as I worked. She again looked very sad and with tears in her eyes asked, “Will you help me pick them up?” My first instinct was to say no and to launch into another diatribe about how she made the mess by disobeying me and I was already doing most of the work and blah, blah, blah, lecture, lecture, lecture. Then I took a deep breath and looked at that sweet little concerned face and said, “Yes, Jubilee, I will help you pick them up.” She look a bit relieved and then asked, “You’ll help me because you helped make the mess?”

An onslaught of surprisingly deep thought ran through my head at that moment and I realized I had the opportunity to teach my little girl a lesson about grace and mercy. My response was, “No, I’ll help you pick them up because I love you and I know you don’t want to do it because it feels hard. So you have to do it, but I will be here with you and we will both clean it up.” She nodded and fell hard against me for a very vigorous hug, and the parallels between my own heart and this situation began to form in my mind.

The definition of mercy is undeserved favor. In the simplest sense, Jubilee did not “deserve” my presence or my help in cleaning up the mess she had made. . .but because I love her, I was able to look past that “fact” and be there with her to help her through something that was hard. Even if the difficulty was the consequences of her own actions, still I love her too much to leave her to sift through those consequences on her own.

I do not deserve the mercies of God. I have made many messes over the course of my life, some in ignorance, some in disobedience, some in selfishness and some with good intentions. Where would I be today if God stood by, brushed off His hands at me and declared, “Well, you MADE the mess because you didn’t listen. Good luck cleaning it up!” But because of His enormous love for me, that has never been His response to my mistakes. Sure, as I’ve grown from a baby Christian into a more mature one, He has let me own more of my consequences, but He has never just left me alone to pick up the pieces. And more times than not, all it takes is a little effort in the right direction on my part before I feel His hand intervening to “help” me in sometimes almost imperceptible ways. . .but sometimes miraculous ones.

So in this journey through brokenness as I learn to parent my children in a way that is also discipling them for Christ, may I learn to respond more and more often with, “. . .just because I love you.” Because that’s the character Jesus wants to build into them as well. And children learn from what they see. And my prayer is always that they can learn from my failures. . .but a little more often these days, they are learning also from my example. And that feels good. And is well worth the pain and the turmoil of deep changes in my heart and mind. Because they’re worth it.

It’s okay to change your mind. . .

This morning when I was making breakfast, Melody came into the kitchen and saw that I was cutting up blood oranges for the fruit platter. “Eww! I hate blood oranges. They’re so gross!” she commented loudly.

I rolled my eyes. “They taste very similar to regular oranges, silly. You haven’t even tried one yet. They’re just a little sour.”

“I don’t agree,” she said adamantly and wandered back out of the room.

A bit later we were eating breakfast and Jubiliee announced that she did not like the red oranges. . .after picking one up and looking at it and placing it back on her plate without so much as a lick. “They taste similar to regular oranges, Jubilee,” said Melody matter-of-factly. “They just look different is all.”

I was a bit amused. “So you changed your mind about them in the last few minutes?” I asked. “No,” she said indignantly. “That’s what I think.”

“No, just a few minutes ago you said something almost the same to me as Jubilee and I gave you the same explanation you gave her. That is changing your mind. It’s perfectly okay to change your mind when you get new information about something that makes you look at it in a different light, but it’s also important to admit you changed your mind. It’s not good to pretend that’s what you always thought.”

And of course, that conversation got me thinking. In the very beginning of parenting, I was determined to be consistent with my kids. All the time. That meant if I said something, it was law. Written in stone and non-negotiable. For the most part, it worked well, but there were times when this policy inflicted¬†unnecessary¬†pain on both my kids. . .and MYSELF! I’d sling out an “If ____, then____” statement of consequence without thinking it through and then I’d be stuck giving the consequence, even if it was unreasonable. . .all in the name of consistency. And sometimes I still feel that it’s important to stick to my guns and I do. That makes me think long and hard before I threaten something. I’ve taught myself to stop (most times. . .I’m certainly not perfect) and think about if what I’m threatening is something I’m really willing to do. For example, telling Jubilee that if she doesn’t get her shoes on quickly I’m going to leave without her. . .is not only unreasonable, but it makes her wonder if I’d actually do it. . .which provokes a cruel amount of anxiety in her little mind. Or telling Melody that if she doesn’t clean up her toys I’m going to give them away. . .might be effective in getting her to do it, but I’m not really willing to give away her toys. . .and I’m guessing she knows that. Those examples are pretty obviously outlandish, but sometimes I threaten the not so outlandish ones, and then I feel like I have to do what I said, all in the name of consistency. Don’t get me wrong, being a consistent parent is important when it comes to showing your kids that you keep your word, following through when consequences are necessary and setting healthy boundaries and keeping them. . .but if my goal is to raise children who can admit when they’re wrong, own their mistakes and learn from them, I have to set an example in ALL areas. Not just when I mess up big and have to apologize.

One day this week, a close friend of mine was struggling with her pre-teen daughter’s behavior. My friend was going on a field trip with her younger daughter the next day while the older girl was in school, and her daughter was very upset about that. For 20 minutes in the car (read: no escape), she listened to her 12-year-old lecture her about how it wasn’t fair that she was spending the whole day with her sister and yell about how she felt so left out and how it was clear Mom loved the sister more than her. She yelled that she wasn’t going to school the next day and Mom couldn’t make her. She was very disrespectful and rude and just downright mean to her mother. My friend was very frustrated with her and when they got home, she told her that if she had come to her calmly and respectfully and told her she was feeling left out, they could have done something special together that day since she was spending the next day with her little sister. But that after the appalling nature of her behavior all the way home, that wasn’t going to happen.

I talked to my friend shortly after this incident and she was understandably upset. She’s been at her wit’s end with her older daughter recently and said that it seemed like she was constantly punishing her for her attitude and mouthiness. . .but it didn’t feel like the consequences were helping at all. I thought about it for a bit and suggested that she do the opposite of what she was planning. . .that she take extra time and do something special with her daughter that day, just like she intended, since clearly she was feeling sad and left out and really wanted to spend extra time with her mama. My friend was struggling with how to be consistent, since she’d already told her that her behavior cost her the extra time together.

That’s when I had an “Ah-HA!” moment of my own that I shared with my friend. It’s okay to change your mind. In fact, I’d say it’s a GOOD thing to change your mind if you both can learn from it. I suggested that my friend tell her daughter that she’d thought more about it and decided that she was sorry the girl felt left-out and sad, and that while her behavior was still unacceptable, she would do something special with her that day just because she loved her. For the behavior, the girl would lose her TV time that evening, but they’d spend the day together and enjoy each other’s company. And that’s just what they did. And while it wasn’t a miraculous cure for her daughter’s smart mouth, there was more connection between them that day than if she’d followed through with what she started with. Maybe her daughter will remember that day and know that if she comes to her mom with her feelings, her mom will respond in kind. . .even though the daughter made a mistake in her presentation, she was heard. . .and she knows her mom is willing to listen, think about what she said, and be fair in her response. She still got a consequence, but the change made the consequence about her behavior, not her feelings, an important distinction, especially for those of us who struggle with separating the two because of anxiety and “big” emotions.

Now, clearly I’m better at helping someone with the problems they have with their kids’ behavior in the moment than I am with my own children. Probably because I’m a step emotionally removed from the situation. But after my conversation with Melody this morning, I’ve really been pondering what it means to be free to change my mind.

I’ve changed my mind in so many areas over the years that sometimes I feel like a different person than I was 20 years ago. I used to be afraid of admitting it, but now it feels so freeing. . .when someone sees me doing something different with one of my younger kids than I did with my eldest and asks me about it, I freely admit that I have more information now and feel like the new way is a better way. There’s no shame in that. In fact, it’s a good thing. It would take a whole other post to list all the ways I’ve changed my mind over the last 9 years of being a mom. And after thinking about it more, I’m going to try and make a concerted effort to walk my kids through the process when I change my mind about something. Because I want them to learn how to be wrong. Or just how to not be threatened by new information because they feel a need to save face. I’ve already learned that perfection is impossible. Growth is more important than striving toward perfect any day. And I’m really good at being imperfect and changing my mind. Who knew that could be considered a strength?

One Small Change

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~Lau-tzu~

I am the first to admit that I am a very “all or nothing” thinker. This leads to a lot of. . .well. . .wheel spinning when it comes to change. If I can’t get ALL the laundry done today, I don’t start the laundry. If I can’t clean the whole bathroom, why clean the dirty mirror? If I don’t have 2 hours to spend playing with my kids right now, why give them the 30 minutes I do have? And the big one at times. . .if I have one unhealthy snack in a day, why bother trying to eat healthy the rest of the day? I’ve come to understand that children think that way, so in a way, it’s the immaturity in me that dwells in that all or nothing place. When Jubilee, my 3 year old, is asked to clean her room, she becomes paralyzed with the enormity of it. We’ve found that asking her to clean up one area, say . . .the toy kitchen. . .is a more manageable task for her. Sometimes even that is too big and we have to start with, “Okay, pick up those two pots and put them in the drawer.” Suddenly, she feels able to begin moving towards the goal when just moments before she was sitting in the floor declaring that there was NO WAY she could clean up the whole room.

That realization has helped me be a bit gentler to myself, recognizing it as human nature that we’re born with, but I know I still need to work towards maturing emotionally so that I don’t stay trapped in that mindset forever. This is where I’m challenging myself these days, and I have to tell you, over several months, the level of overall change in my life is pretty pronounced. I know I’m not the only mom who struggles with this, so here are some common sweeping statements I’ve made (or heard other moms make) coupled with the one small change I’ve made (or plan to make) to start.

-Too big: “I need to spend more time with my kids.”

Just right:”I have 10 minutes right now. Let’s read a book/play a short card game/dance around the living room.”

-Too big: “I need to clean the house.”

Just right: “I have 5 minutes right now. I will unload the dishwasher.”

-Too big: “I need to read my bible every day.”

Just right: “I will subscribe to a daily scripture e-mail. That way, every morning when I check my e-mail, I am reading one verse.”

-Too big: “I need to drink half my body weight in ounces of water daily.”

Just right: “I’ll drink one bottle of water before breakfast every morning, then keep the bottle filled with me the rest of the day.”

-Too big: “Our family needs to eat healthier/get more fruits and veggies/ eat less processed food.”

Just right: “I will introduce one new food this week/add a serving of veggies to dinner/try one new recipe this month.”

This may not be profound to anyone else, but this change in thinking has changed my life. Our family diet is healthier, my house is cleaner (not spotless ever, but “clean enough” more often than not), and I’m spending more time playing with my kids than I was 6 months ago.

I love to help other people troubleshoot all or nothing thinking, so if you’re struggling in an area that you feel needs a sweeping change, leave a comment and I’d be happy to help you come up with one small change that just may lead to a situational overhaul down the road.

Exercise is my next small change to conquer that still feels a bit too big. I know I need to start working out 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. . but the day is young and spring is springing. I think we may take a walk today. =)