Category Archives: Family

I Promise

For all the parents out there…hang in there. It gets better. I promise.

Parenting is a thankless job that requires you to act wisely and lovingly even when you don’t feel very wise and you’re starting to wonder why you chose to breed at all.

Parenting requires you to do the right thing no matter how inconvenient, exhausting, or expensive doing the right thing is going to be.

Parenting requires you to hold firm to boundaries and rules even as your children scream that you are ruining their life.

And of course, you are ruining their life…at least the life they think they should have.

The problem with parenting is that there is nothing to give you that smug sense of assurance that you have made the right choices, held firm at the right times, and bent the rules in the right ways. There is no way to be sure that the parenting choices you have made will lead to a happy, healthy child.

In so many ways, parenting is a crapshoot.

Maybe you throw a 7, and maybe you crap out. ***

And the big fear that hangs over every parent is that your child will grow up, look back at their childhood, and declare you a bad parent.  The fear is that they’ll remember the discipline and not the lessons, the punishments and not the good times, the fights and not the nights spent at their bedside when they were sick.

Hang in there, parents.  It gets better. I promise.

Today my oldest daughter called me to thank me, saying that she had recently read that children gain confidence in themselves from their interactions with their parents.  She wanted to let me know how much she appreciated her father and I and how much time and attention we gave her.

I want to make this clear: I was not a stay-at-home mom, and her father wasn’t a stay-at-home dad.

We both worked full time.

Then Phil started graduate school just before I got my call into ministry. I quit my job and went to seminary full-time while Phil worked full time and attended one class per semester at ASU in pursuit of a Master’s in Computer Science Engineering.

Five years later, we graduated within 7 days of each other, having done a ton of creative things to get through the grueling 5 years it took for both of us to graduate.

My seminary was in California, so I had fly to school every week. I was gone for two days each week while Phil had to do everything and I do mean everything: he had to deal with both kids, his job, and all of his homework. It damn near killed him and there were many semesters when he was so busy that he felt exhausted and on the edge of tears almost every day.

And the kids?  They don’t remember how tired and emotional their father was. They remember that when I was gone at school, their father would pick them up from aftercare program and take them straight to the library where they would return last week’s books, pick out new books, and then listen as their father read to them for a good hour. Then they would go the park next to the library and play on the playground, where Phil would morph into the Tickle Monster. He would chase the girls and they would run (and scream…you can be certain that they screamed enough to drive a grown man crazy) until they were tired and hungry. Then he’d take them to Taco Bell for tacos or burritos and then home for a bath, more reading, and bedtime.

Trendy parents might scoff at the quality of the food he fed them for dinner, or the repetitiousness of the playtime. Other parents might complain that dad seemed more like a babysitter doing the “good time” stuff while mom got the laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping.

What my daughter told me was that while I was away, she and her sister soaked in their father’s undivided attention and adoration.  They became dyed in the wool “Daddy’s girls”…and both of them still idolize their father to the point that I actually apologized to my son-in-law when he married my daughter.  That might explain why he almost immediately moved her to Oregon. Hmmm…

ANYWAY…

You might wonder if my relationship with my daughters is tense and distant considering that I’m the one that kept leaving the state to go to school.

Nope.

In fact, I am very close with both my girls.

My oldest daughter said that she remembers spending summer breaks with me. I took her and her sister to swim team and dive team every day and then we’d rush home to watch I Love Lucy while we ate our lunches.  They’d spend their afternoons playing inside while I did laundry and cleaned house in between spates of doing homework.  When I had free time, we would make homemade jam or bake brownies together. Basically, I made food while they made a mess and then I got to clean it up.  My daughter said she could not imagine how I didn’t go crazy sitting there for hours in the heat and humidity (hello indoor pool) waiting for them, while they got to swim and dive and have fun.  Then she spent twenty minutes going on and on about how much fun it was when we would buy bagels from Einstein’s, and then go home and make homemade veggie cream cheese.

Listen parents: what I’m trying to tell you is that you are harder on yourself than your children will be when they look back. They won’t remember how crazy busy you were, not if you took a minute or two to braid a friendship bracelet with them, or to be the Swim Mom, or to be the library Dad. They will remember the times you danced in the Walmart aisles because a good song was playing, or the times you played nail salon, or the times you watched their favorite movie again and again.

You don’t have to be a perfect parent.

You don’t have to give them everything they want.

You don’t have to let them break the rules and get away with murder.

All you have to do is…

Be yourself.

My husband and I didn’t do these things because we are such spectacular parents. We did what we did because it made it easier for us in the midst of a very difficult time of our lives. It’s what helped us smile even as we were crushed under the load of work, kids, housework and homework.

Hang in there, parents! I have good news!

You are enough after all, and the likelihood is that your kids will one day tell you so, right to your face.

Hang in there. The good stuff is coming, I promise.

 

*** In case you’ve never heard of Craps    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craps#Rules_of_play

My Curmudgeon Speaks

Yesterday I drove a friend home from her chemotherapy appointment. She was starting a new regimen and wasn’t sure how she’d react to it, so she wasn’t sure she would be able to drive herself home.  I was grateful that I was able to help her, considering there isn’t much else that I can do to help her deal with having terminal cancer.  She, on the other hand, was sorry that she had to inconvenience me.  She is uncomfortable with the ways that cancer has forced her to rely on friends for help with stuff she used to be able to easily handle on her own.  I think anyone in her situation would be terrified of just how helpless they could become and how much they might have to rely on others to care for them and for their family before the whole thing would be over.

And you can’t really blame someone for feeling like that.

I don’t think anyone likes to ask for help from others. For some of us, asking for help makes us feel weak and incapable. Here in the US, we like to think of ourselves as independent and resourceful; we don’t rely on others, they rely on us.  How that equation is supposed to work is beyond me. If everyone relies only on themselves, then being reliable for others is impossible.  The math of this equation is beyond me, and I have two master’s degrees, so I’m not going to try and figure that one out. Instead, let’s deal with the assumptions that come with asking for help, one at a time.

Here we go, folks:

The truth is that humans are weak and incapable— every day, all the time, in one aspect or another of our life and health we humans are weak and incapable. Get used to it. No matter how healthy you are today, your body is ultimately frail and bound to fail.  Eventually we will all need the services of a surgeon, a physical therapist, a mental health counselor, an oncologist, a rheumatologist, or a neurologist (just to name a few.)  Eventually the frailty of our body will cause us to rely on our family, our friends, hired help, and even skilled nursing facilities just to be able to attend to our daily needs.  Our bodies are fascinating machines, capable of so much but they are also capable of terrible amounts of sickness, frailty, and failure.

Get used to it.  It isn’t a pleasant thought, but it is important to remember that birth is a terminal disease, as the mortality rate for human beings (as it is for all other living creatures) is 100%. If you are born, you will eventually die, and the majority of people will not come on their death suddenly but instead through a process of decline and increasing disability that will require the assistance of others in order to meet simple daily needs.

Having said that (rather bluntly…but I was hoping that we could talk turkey here on this blog)…

As a counselor, I frequently ask my clients why they have not asked friends and family for assistance when they are really struggling, and I get a host of reasons:

“I don’t want to be a bother.”

“I can never repay them for all their help.”

“I don’t want to be beholden to anyone.”

For my thoughts about the first one of those reasons, see the section above.  You will be a bother occasionally, and that’s the way life works. Get used to being human for the sake of everyone who loves you, please.

But what is our issue with needing to ‘repay’ the good that is done for us?

We seem to view assistance from others as if it is a loan we receive from the bank, requiring repayment with interest.  This is especially evident in the statement “I don’t want to be beholden to anyone.”  This betrays the belief that any assistance we receive is like a debt held over our head to be called in at random when it will be most painful or perhaps even destructive.

Folks…our friends and family members are not loan sharks lurking around, hoping that we’ll need something from them so that they can squeeze us later for whatever we’re worth. If the people who supposedly ‘love’ us behave like that, perhaps it’s time to consider finding a new group of friends and putting some distance between ourselves and our extended families, because there is no love in behavior like that.

The other thing that this attitude betrays is a transactional sense of friendship and love. “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”  There is nothing wrong with reciprocity; it gets a lot done in this world. The thing about reciprocity is that it creates a closed system where you only ever give to someone who can give back in equal amounts.  The implication of such a system is that we often end up refusing to give to someone who cannot give back in equal amounts, and that puts service and random acts of kindness out in the cold. It also reduces all of our most loving relationships to simple transactions where we give only so that we can receive in kind.

And that seems to be a huge problem in our society these days: many of us refuse to give to others unless there is something explicit that we can receive in return.  And don’t start on me about how giving to others “feels good”, because the people who refuse to be beholden to others only give for the “good feeling” when their giving is to faceless others like the poverty-stricken folks in Africa.  It’s easy to give to faceless others, and so much harder to give or receive when the face before you is not only known, but in close relation to you; giving like that creates the emotional debt of “beholden-ness” that these people are trying so hard to avoid.

What would happen in the world if we simply abolished the concept of repayment when it comes to kind acts? What would happen if no one was ever beholden to the one who helped them?

I would remind you that Christ, who died so that we might know eternal life, did not expect a payback for his love or his sacrifice.  You cannot give God anything as God possesses everything.  God is not ever in need. Christ did, however, expect that we would take the grace and forgiveness that we received because of him and pass it on.  He asked that we go to all corners of the world, making disciples and teaching them everything that he taught us…basically he asked that we give away all that we’ve learned from him and all that we’ve received from him, and then teach the next recipient to pass it on just as we have.

Jesus…turns out he’s the guy who invented “Pay it Forward.”

Perhaps that’s the answer to our feelings of indebtedness when someone helps us. Don’t pay it back! Take the grace that we’ve been given and pay it forward to the next person who needs us. Give to others as we have been given to. Help others as we have been helped.  And give without thought of repayment because we have been given to by Jesus without any thought of repayment.

And when that day comes that we can no longer give to anyone—on the day that we find ourselves helpless to pay anything forward ever again—let us pay back the service we receive in humble thanks and genuine gratitude, something else that is in short supply these days.

Thank you for enduring my curmudgeonly frustrations.  It isn’t often that I want to use this space to rail against human foolishness.  You are a generous, giving reader and I intend to pay your kindness forward with a less curmudgeonly post shortly in the future.

That is all.

Sprinkles Make Everything Better

Even though we just finished a season of ‘too much to do’, I am personally in another season of ‘way too much to do’.

You’d think that the end of December would be the end of stress, but that’s not the way it works for me.

It’s a long story, but let’s just say that serving the Church can keep you so busy that it’s hard to tell the difference between the Christmas season and any other month of the year.

Enough said.

Anyway…

As I mentioned in a previous post, my daughters both moved away during the holiday season. My oldest moved away to Colorado on the day after Thanksgiving, only one scant week after her sister’s wedding. And my youngest left for Portland, Oregon on January 2nd. Ugh. I’d barely finished putting my oldest back on the plane to CO and celebrating the New Year when I had to get my baby packed into her car, a UHaul trailer, and a huge dually pickup truck. Thank God that my daughter’s in-laws are wonderful helpers, or I think my head would have exploded!

Back to my scheduled programming, which focuses on too much to do and too many emotions.

You would think that the last thing I’d want to do after baking for 36 people and feeding 17 for Christmas is MORE work, but that’s exactly what I turned to once my daughter and her husband had pulled away from the condo they were living in to head for Oregon.

My heart was breaking and all I could think about was socks.

Sprinkle Socks.

You may be wondering what the heck I’m talking about.

Let me share the joy of Sprinkle Socks.

Sprinkle Socks are socks that have a fringe of beads crocheted onto them. They make noise when you walk, and they are vibrantly colored.  You can make Sprinkle Socks to match every single outfit you own…but then again you probably would refuse to wear them if you were over the age of 11.

Sprinkle Socks are something I made for my little girls back in the day.

I crocheted on the plane to CA as I traveled to seminary.  My daughters were 2 and 5 years old when I started seminary, and I made them Sprinkle Socks in every color imaginable while I sat in the airport or on the plane.  By the time I finished seminary, my daughters were seven and ten years old and I had made them many more pairs of Sprinkle Socks because they kept growing out of the old ones.  It was the perfect craft project: once they fell in love with Sprinkle Socks, it wasn’t like they could live without them, so I had to keep making larger and larger pairs.

As I watched my adult daughters pack their lives into boxes and moving trucks, all I could think about was all the things I had done to take care of them and bring them joy…and how they wouldn’t need that from me anymore.

I guess I could have just invested in sadness and spent my next few months crying and pouting.  Instead I invested in tri-beads, crochet needles, crochet twine, and crew socks from Target. (I have to admit that I did have a few tearful meltdowns, but each one lasted only a few minutes and I’ve only had three or four meltdowns since October 2016.)

On the day my youngest was leaving for Oregon, my husband and I arrived with coffee for all four of us. We spent our entire morning at the condo helping them helping them find anything critical that wasn’t already packed and load the few remaining items of big furniture. Katie and her husband were frantic, trying to do and remember everything. It seemed like it took a long time, but suddenly it was over and Katie and her new husband left in her overstuffed car, headed for their new life in Portland, OR.

All I could think about was getting to Target to buy a package of socks so that I could get started.

You would think that with all the baking, cooking, cleaning, wrapping and packing that I had to do during the holidays that the LAST thing I would want is another project to complete.

NOPE…it’s exactly what I want.

Sure it’s a distraction from the sadness that I’m feeling, except that it’s more than a distraction.

I become genuinely happy thinking about the Sprinkle Socks.

They remind me of all the things I did to make my daughters happy. They remind me of the dozens of pairs I crocheted for other little girls, knowing that their Sprinkle Socks would be their favorite socks.

They remind me of the myriad of ways that I can use my skills to create joy and pleasure for others.

They let me do the thing that gives me the most meaning in my life—serving others—with the added bonus that I get to be creative.

Do you ever think that God created humans to be creative just so that we could discover that joy that God felt when God created US???

I do.

I can make you Sprinkle Socks in every color in the rainbow and even a few colors that aren’t found in nature. I can make Sprinkle Socks for babies only a few months old, and I can make Sprinkle Socks for girls that are already in Middle School.  I can crochet Sprinkle Socks that have glitter beads! You cannot believe what I can do with a few beads and a pair of crew socks.

I think that the overwhelming joy that I feel as I crochet each bead onto the Sprinkle Socks is the exact same joy that God felt as He created trees and flowers, as He created grass and mountains, as He created every human being with all the different skin and hair and eye colors, as He created the world with infinite variation in trees, mountains, plants, animals, and people.

God created so that we might have everything in abundance and find joy in all of it.

I create so that some little girl might have socks in abundance and find joy in that.

It isn’t near as impressive or massive as God’s work, but it is an echo of God’s creativity, and I’ll take anything that will allow me to glimpse into the mind of God.

If crocheting Sprinkle Socks is any indication of what God’s mind is like, God is very calm and extremely happy.

In light of all that’s gone on in the last month, I’ll take all the calm and happy I can get. If you are looking for me you will find me on the couch, crocheting Sprinkle Socks.