Success and Pressure

Let’s talk about success in today’s society, with our children, with ourselves, and with our ability to emulate and imitate the Lord’s merciful acts. 

Technology has become quite my friend, just as easily as it has become my enemy.   While I rely on technology, and more specifically social media, to keep me up to date with the news of the world, I also find it to be quite stressful especially where my children are concerned.  

Podcasts are one of my favorite things to listen to.  I enjoy getting snippets of news via NPR podcasts, or listening to 60 minutes while I’m doing laundry or the dishes.   In a lot of cases, I’m listening to news specifically through my Amazon Echo and Echo Dot while I read and write blogs, pay bills, and finish up any writing projects I’m working on.   It’s a different level of multi-tasking, than what my parents were used to.   One podcast I enjoy listening to is Focus on the Family.   In most cases, they have short little 20 or 25 minute devotionals and/or anecdotes about family and living a Christian life.  Last week, one of the podcasts focused on success and pressure.   They asked the question, “How do you define success?”   And obviously, in today’s society success is defined in a more superficial and at times egotistical way as opposed to a spiritual one.   So, today I wanted to discuss that in this blog. 

Many parents will say their child is successful if he or she gets into a good school.   If he or she wins the MVP trophy in soccer, scores the most goals in basketball, wins the geography bee, the spelling bee, is the valedictorian, or makes the President’s list.   I don’t want to take away from these parents, because they are right…their children are successful, but they’re falling short at times in the way the Lord asks us to be.   The Bible tells us to seek first the kingdom of God, to live for something bigger than what is on the surface.  

So many parents these days have created a thin line between a child doing his or her best and satisfying the egotistical needs and desires of his or her parents.   Ok, ok, friends, I know what you’re saying to me, “let he who doesn’t sin cast the first stone.”   It is not my place to judge or to “preach” because I am just as guilty.  For any of you who follow me on Facebook, you’ll see my often times shameless posts about my children completing tasks, some of those tasks are completed at an earlier age than their peers.   That is my pride shining through and some could call it my gloating, and this is where I state that technology and social media, specifically, are my worst enemy.   They encourage me to not focus on success in a Christian manner.

How many of you out there post photos of your children online?   I’d be willing to bet that every one of you who reads my posts and have children, do this.   You’re proud of your children and you want to share it with the world.   I get it, I do, but does it add too much pressure on us as parents to encourage (and some of you go a few levels above encouragement) our children to succeed?   Are our children becoming an appendage of our own superficial egos?   Think about that for a moment. 

This past Sunday, my pastor discussed “The Exceedingly Great and Precious Promises of God” from 2 Peter 1:5-11 and it correlated a lot with how we determine success, or at least I was able to relate it in my Christian struggles to be a good mom and mold my children into successful adults.   I want to look at two particular passages from 2 Peter 1. 

“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.  For if you do these things, you will never fail, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 1:10-11

Peter wrote a second letter because false teachers were troubling the church and disturbing the faith of some by their heresy, immorality, and greed.   Perhaps I’m seeing a parallel in what Peter found and how we, Christians and non-Christians, are determining what makes our children successful.   We are placing realistic and un-realistic requests and stresses upon our children, and why are we assuming these are the only ways to be successful?  Thanks to social media, the competitive factor amongst parents has increased.   Our children’s success, or lack thereof, becomes a direct reflection upon how well we are raising our children.   We can be seen as failures.   We are labeled as dead beats and disconnected parents.  We allow ourselves to dwell upon a shallow view of success.   I struggle daily to make sure that what I’m conveying to my children as “success” isn’t something that is just defined by our society. 

So, what was my point with the post?   To encourage all of you to relax a bit, to let go, to not pin your child’s goals upon what Nosey Neighbor’s kids down the street are doing.   God created us in His image and He has a higher purpose for us and our children than what society leads us to.   This is not to encourage an indolent nature with our children, but continue to guide them and influence what true success is.   And just like Peter says in 2 Peter 1: 5-8,

                “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

And isn’t that how true success should be defined? 

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Welcome Back, Jasper

My father in law has a “thing”, I suppose you can say, about nicknames for his grandsons.   When Davey was born, he nicknamed him Jasper.   When Henry was born he nicknamed him Higgins.   Now, I know where Higgins comes from…My Fair Lady, Professor Henry Higgins.   Jasper?  Not quite so sure.

So, when Davey became old enough to start speaking, he referred to himself as Jasper when around his Guh Guh (my father-in-law).  It’s endearing for Davey and truthfully I enjoy it.   When my sister-in-law purchased an Elf on the Shelf for Davey years ago, we needed a name for the Elf and Davey immediately jumped on the name Jasper.

Jasper resting atop the miniature Elf tree.
Jasper resting atop the miniature Elf tree.

With the onset of the holiday season and my decorating, Jasper was pulled out of storage and found his way onto the top of our Christmas tree.  Last night, when the boys got back home from church, I pointed Jasper out and explained his importance.  I suppose since Davey is older, he grasps the concept and I now find myself falling prey to the whole “Elf on the Shelf” ideas for this Christmas season.

When putting the boys to bed last night, I read the story about the Elf on the Shelf, substituting in Jasper’s name where relevant.  Davey became extremely excited.  He wanted to know if Jasper would really magically fly away and come back in the morning.   I told him, “of course,” and that Jasper’s sole responsibility is to tell Santa all about how well he’s behaved.

This morning when Davey awoke, he darted off to the bathroom and while on his way excitedly asked if Jasper was in a different place.   My first thought was, “oh crap!  I was supposed to move Jasper!   Crap!  Crap! Crap!”   I told Davey that Jasper was in a new place and that he could find him AFTER he brushed his teeth and put on his clothes, thereby buying me some time to unimaginatively move Jasper.

Where did Jasper end up?  On the elf tree in the kitchen.  I know, very lackluster on my part, but I can already tell I will fail miserably at this.   When the boys came downstairs, Davey immediately found Jasper, and heeding the words from the story, kept his hands behind his back, lest he be tempted to touch Jasper and force him to lose his magical abilities.   As I made breakfast, both boys sat in the floor looking at Jasper on the elf tree.  I asked what they were doing and Davey exclaimed, “seeing if we can watch some of his magic.”

Trying to spy some of Jasper's magic.
Trying to spy some of Jasper’s magic.

After school today, Davey asked me if Jasper saw how nice he was to his classmates and if Jasper would tell Santa.  Once again, I replied, “of course,” but secretly I’m already not liking Jasper.   We’re roughly six weeks away from Christmas.  That’s 42 days in which I will be required to remember to move Jasper each night when the boys go to bed.   That’s 42 days that I’ll have to despise all of you creative moms with your cute Elf on the Shelf pictures and your ability to actually remember to do this.   That’s 42 days of me constantly reassuring Davey that Jasper will not do him wrong.   That’s 42 days of pure hell as I’m frantically trying to remember and come up with great places for Jasper.

I’m only one day into our Elf on the Shelf.  One day, and I’m already despising the little flying pixie.   Stay tuned to see if I can manage to keep up the fiasco.

Talk to Ironman

Yes, this is what we have now crumbled to in our house.   If I want to have a conversation with Davey, ask him a question, tell him what not to do, etc., well then I must talk to Ironman in order to get to Davey.   A big heavy sigh.

I’ve been fortunate in that neither one of my boys have needed a lovie or an item to provide them with security and comfort.   I feared this, as I know so many parents who’ve lost sleep, wasted gas, or called every store they walked into in order to find that one item their child needs in order to function properly.   I am beyond thankful that we did not go that route, but now it seems that we must travel down another road so many parents have already been on.

This afternoon I asked Davey about soccer.   He’s playing again and while my husband and I are beyond thrilled that he at least stays on the field this year, we’re still a little annoyed with his inability to get in there and actually play the game.  He follows the players, but doesn’t try to get the ball.   When the ball comes his way, he starts kicking it, but then immediately has it stolen away (as should be done) by another player which in turn forces him to start crying, or just give up completely.   My frustration abounds as it is not in my nature to cry about something, much less to just give up.  So, this inability to understand has led to a conversation about soccer, which led to Davey only answering if I asked the question to Ironman FIRST.

Davey has an Ironman doll.   He’s not totally attached to it, not in the way that the world is coming to end if he leaves it as his Mimi’s overnight.   No, his attachment comes and goes with Ironman, but for some reason he feels that he needs to now have Ironman with him everywhere he goes.   He feels that he needs Ironman’s strength to do the hard stuff and I’m a ok with that, a little annoyed, but ok with it.

So, as I asked him questions about soccer, I had to ask them in this way, “Ironman, if you go to soccer with Davey tomorrow, do you think he will try hard to get the ball?”  Davey then looks at Ironman and says, “tell Mommy that I will play harder if you come with me.”   I’m sitting here shaking my head as I type out this conversation, my mouth in a bit of a grimace that I’m now being forced to use Ironman, an inanimate $15 piece of plastic doll, as an intermediary in my conversations with Davey.  I can’t wait till his dad has to do the same!  (Insert a devious laugh as I know my husband will begrudgingly do this, but roll his eyes and grit his teeth)

Apparently, taking Ironman to soccer is only the beginning because now Ironman must also go to church tonight to help him with the memory of his Bible Verses and to school tomorrow.   Look, I know Ironman is crazy smart and has super human strength…he’s a superhero after all, I just find it annoyingly humorous that he is now forced to serve as a middle man in a four year old’s conversations with his parents.

 

Allowing My Love to Permeate

We had a wonderful lesson in Sunday School today.  It resonated not only with me, but with the other members in my class.   My husband and I had nursery duty today, so we were unable to attend our Pastor’s sermon, but my understanding is that it followed along with our lesson.   The lesson was about returning to your first love…Jesus Christ.   As Christians, we are taught to always return to a love for Christ that permeates everything we do.   At times, we find ourselves straying.  Perhaps, day-to-day life gets in the way.   Other times, we get settled into our routines and sometimes those routines are not allowing room for Jesus.   I’m definitely guilty of this.

Once upon a time, when I would get frustrated with my boys or life, I would retreat to a chair in another room, whip out my Bible and start reading.   Davey used to say to me, “Mommy, do you need Jesus?” when I would start counting to 10 in order to calm myself down before berating him or his brother for flushing legos down the toilet.   These days I’m afraid that I’ve allowed my relationship with God to start sliding.   One thing I was most proud of was that my boys would see me taking time to read the Bible.  They would see me in quiet prayer or reflection with God.  I hang my head low now as I admit that they haven’t seen that in a while.

So, tonight I made sure to carve out some time, any time I could to read a Bible study and a couple of passages in the Bible.  It’s funny how God always know when you need Him most.  He knows that today is the best day to start back over with me.   He forgives me for my laziness and my sinful nature.  He loves me and He encourages me and today’s Bible study reminded me of that.

It starts with the commandment to Honor Thy Mother and Father and takes me into Ephesians, Chapter 6, verses 1-4.  I want to take this time to share verse 4 with you, more specifically my fellow parents out there who find themselves overwhelmed.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Ephesians 6:4

I reflected on this passage for quite some time and I’ve looked back over the past few weeks as Henry has become more strong-willed and Davey more head strong.   I’ve started developing a lot of gray hair (my stylists calls it glitter) thanks to these two and I feel that lately I’ve been quick to anger and raise my voice.  This isn’t the way the Lord wants me to discipline my children.  I know this, but I haven’t exactly heeded His words or commands.  I haven’t been allowing God’s Love to permeate and I definitely don’t think I’ve been allowing my love to permeate as well.

Being a parent is a hard job.  It’s the toughest, most stressful, and yet most rewarding job you’ll ever have.   If you mess up with your kids, then there’s not really a do-over.   You can’t take a “pay cut” or find another job.   This is it.   But when you get it right, man does it feel like you’ve hit a grand slam in your final ever at bat.

I’ve allowed too many other things to “interfere” with my life and my boys’ lives.   My backsliding from God has hurt us all, but I want to remember what it was like when I first became a Christian and committed my life to God.  I felt relieved.  I was happy.   My stress level plummeted and I felt like for the first time ever things were going right in my life.   It’s time to get that back again and to start letting that permeate through to my boys.

I encourage you all to take that closer look.   To ask yourself how it felt being a Christian for the first time.   Find a way to let the love permeate.

Summer Break…Just a Day Away

I remember the first day I dropped him off. I was nervous, more so about whether I would remember everything I needed. Would I forget to pack his lunch and what about diapers? But then, I got us on the road and walked my little man into his first official “class” (more of a mother’s morning out, but he’s still in a classroom setting). I smiled as he proudly walked in with his backpack and Toy Story lunch box. He was excited and I was sad. I thought for sure he would cry or grab onto my legs and beg me to stay, but not Davey Doser. Instead, he pushed me away and said, “Mama go. Davey stay and play.” So, I kissed him goodbye and walked out the door before he saw the tear fall down my cheek.

I’d been looking forward to this day, just because being a stay-at-home mom can be tough. I longed for a day to have to myself, to clean the house, to read a book, to take a nap. I had anxiously counted down the days and had convinced myself that it would be a piece of cake to take him. Never did I imagine the feeling in the pit of my stomach. Never did I think he wouldn’t want me to stay.

Days went by and weeks became months. We developed our routine and Davey quickly learned that Tuesday meant he was going to see Mrs. Beth (his teacher). He was excited, always waking up and knowing when Tuesday had arrived. He came home with stories of friends, playground misfortunes, and even the blessing that he says now before every meal.

Every week, there was a new craft waiting in his cubby from the week before. Some days it was especially made for me and other days were just little paintings to go along with the Bible stories, shapes and colors of the week. He was learning so much and was proud to show it to me.

One of my favorite crafts from Davey.
One of my favorite crafts from Davey.

The days during Christmas break were hard. Davey had a new baby brother AND he was away from Mrs. Beth for almost four weeks! He cried for her a couple of times, but quickly told me that he loved me most. He woke up on Tuesday mornings with the anticipation of going to see her, only to be disappointed when I would tell him not today.

Finally, Christmas break was over, but the frigid temperatures and snowfall began. School was closed and Davey’s heart sank. When the snow melted and everything began to thaw, we were back on our routine once again. I was relieved and Davey was happy to have someplace to go where his little brother wasn’t.

And now we’ve come to the end of the year. I’ve explained to Davey that tomorrow is his last day with Mrs. Beth. He says he’ll see her again, which may be true. I don’t think he fully realizes that next Tuesday morning when he wakes up, it will just be the three of us (me, him, and Henry). I think he’ll be alright. I know he’ll be alright, but it still saddens me to know that this chapter of his life is now over. I almost want to cry. This wonderful woman has been a blessing not just to me, but also to my son. He loves her and tells her this every time he leaves her class. When we pass the church, Davey exclaims, “That’s Mrs. Beth’s house, let’s go see her.” Usually I answer with, “we’ll see her on Tuesday.” That won’t be the answer anymore.

So, to thank her and her assistant for taking such wonderful care of my precious cargo, Davey and I decided to make them a couple of teacher appreciation gifts.

Davey's gifts to his teachers.
Davey’s gifts to his teachers.

And as a side note, thank you to all of you teachers out there who sacrifice your time to take care of those that are precious to us.

Another Day, Another Adventure

It’s never ending and it’s always something new. That’s motherhood! It’s not always exciting and fascinating. Sometimes it leaves me feeling downtrodden and weary, but I’ve come to look forward to the next adventure on my walk down Mommyhood Lane.

Henry is 6 weeks old today! I can’t believe how quickly time has flown and it makes me happy to know that I’m home with him especially when you consider that maternity leave in the US is merely 6 weeks and I was preparing myself to go back to work at this time with Davey.

Henry is sleeping better at night (last night we were at 4 hour intervals) and he’s just growing into this wonderful little man. I relish the fact that I’m a part of his life and I get to call myself his mother even on the days when he decides to go through 4 outfits because he’s had diaper blow outs like today. Sheesh!

Davey, on the other hand, is a different story. He’s well past the diaper blow outs, but still in the diapers. He’s getting physically bigger and is quite the intelligent little boy. One day we’re making muffins in the kitchen and he’s reading a cookbook and the next day I’m cleaning out egg salad from his nostrils. Yes, you did read that correctly. I’m not sure what the fascination is these days with cramming things up the nose. I’m not really sure why any toddler seems to enjoy doing that. For those of you who have a toddler who seems to have completely avoided this phase, count your blessings. It’s rather disgusting to have my child sneeze on me two hours AFTER I’ve cleaned out his nose, and be covered in snot laced egg salad. You can gag at that…I am!

But I guess one of the things I’m loving about my adventures is the fact that no matter where I turn, whether it be in my house or outside in the world, I find some little item that makes me smile. Even on the days when I’m exhausted with a toddler who refuses to take a nap, I can’t help but chuckle when he grabs his Bible and tells me he needs Jesus.

And then there are the days that I’m scrambling to get ready for church and I slide my foot into a pair of shoes only to discover that it’s become a garage for Matchbox cars. It’s the little things that impact me the most.

Henry is starting to smile. He rolled over three times all by himself last week! How crazy is that?!?!? 5 weeks old and he’s rolling over. Davey was a walker at 9 months, so am I to expect the same from Henry? Who knows!?!?! I’m in no hurry because if I could really just bottle up these days, even the nights when I’m getting no sleep, I would gladly do it in a heartbeat and revisit them.

Yesterday, I opened up my nightstand drawer only to find a piece of paper that Davey had colored on. Was it meant to be a gift for me? Maybe not, but it still made me smile to know that even when I am not physically with my boys, they are constantly around me. How blessed and fortunate I am!

There are days when I can’t wait to see what the next adventure to unfold will be. Do I lose sleep over them? Not really. What a truly wonderful life I have.

Truth…Straight from a Child’s Mouth

Last night I was given a little piece of wisdom or maybe it was insight. It came from someone who’s been around long enough to really observe and understand the inner workings of a child. I was told that you’ll learn more about a parent directly from the child as opposed to either hearing it from the parent or watching the parent. I reflected on that statement for a moment especially in light of what one child in my Vacation Bible School class said to me, and it had me thinking…I wonder what my child really thinks about me?

For those of you unaware, I am teaching 4th grade girls this year at my church’s Vacation Bible School. It’s been an awakening for me especially since I don’t have much experience working with young girls. It’s actually made me secretly (not so secretly now that I’m sharing it with you all) hope that this baby I’m carrying is indeed a little boy. Little girls are a lot more talkative than their gender counterparts. Even at the ages of 8 or 9, they seem to be willing to gossip, to share insight, and apparently the truth.

The first night of VBS, I informed the girls I was pregnant. They were all super sweet and said they couldn’t tell (I attribute this to my genetic makeup) and that I looked really pretty. In light of what was said to me last night; however, I’m unsure if I’m really being told the truth.

As the girls arrived last night and I took my seat alongside them on the floor, one of the little girls said to me that she still couldn’t believe I was pregnant. I asked her why. She said it was because I was able to sit on the floor, and play games in the gym, and walk around with all of them. I just smiled at her as she continued on to tell me that when her mother was pregnant she didn’t do anything but lie on the couch all day. OK. I explained that I take naps in the afternoon, but she still insisted that her mother was in the little girl’s words, “lazy”.

I had another little girl tell me that her mother didn’t have any worries. The “worry” comment stemmed from last night’s Bible verse. I asked her why she thought her mother didn’t have any worries and she said her mother was responsible. I said that’s great, but most mother’s have worries especially when it comes to their kids. She quickly retorted with a “no” because her mom let’s her walk down the street by herself where cars could run over her (her words not mine). OK.

As the girls played their games in the gym, I sat alongside one of our older churchmembers, a father and grandfather himself. I relayed the stories from the girls to him and he chuckled. That’s when he said, “you learn more about a child’s parents from the child than you do the parents.”

Hmmm….That had me thinking all night and even into this morning, hence the reason for the blog. I wonder what my child thinks about me. I wonder what he “sees” in our day-to-day activities. I wonder what he’ll say about me when he’s able to coherently form sentences. It’s actually placed me on my toes. I can only imagine the things that will be said about me one day and what sort of liberties will be taken with the truth.

I certainly hope that one day Davey will talk about how I cleaned up after him or took care of him when he was sick, not that I put him in front of the television so that I could have a few minutes to myself. I hope that he tells the stories about how I sat and read to him daily and not about the fact that I told him I was going to lock him in the coat closet if he misbehaved. I hope that he tells people that I was pretty when I was pregnant with his sibling and not a fat cow who moaned and groaned.

Only time will tell what sort of “truth” spouts from my son’s mouth and let’s not even think about the second one on the way.