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parenting

The Lost Skill of Parenting

I felt strongly that this post needed to be written. I fully expect adverse reactions, guilt, rudeness, and insensitivity to transpire, but my prayer is that all would take a step back and understand what state our country is in right now. My intention isn’t to start an uproar, but to cause a fire to stir in your heart.

We don’t talk about this topic often enough, and I was terrified to publish it. I had at least 6 colleagues and friends look over it before even considering to share it.

Please know that my heart on this subject is not to talk about medicating ourselves and our children, but making our society realize that there is something very wrong in our country right now, and I truly believe it starts at home.

With that said….let’s begin….

I recently read a report that alerted the reader to the declining fertility rate in the United States. I don’t like that term, “fertility rate”. It makes it sound as though some of us are choosing not to have children. I think I’d be more concerned with the infertility rate, meaning, how many women can’t have children because they are infertile due to genetics, chemicals, free radicals, toxins, and more.

But that’s not what this blog is about…

I went on to read about how women are choosing not to have babies, and how the country is in distress, scrambling to find an answer, because they are afraid there won’t be enough children in the next generations to help take over the workforce when their elderly parents can no longer work. Also known as, “we’re headed for economic collapse because we have a smaller population”.

But that’s just one part to this story….

The issue at hand here is something greater, I believe.

Could it be that we’ve simply forgotten how to parent?

Read the Post

The Task of Raising Warrior Sons

I can remember when I was pregnant, vividly remember. I remember praying every single night that my child would have a kind and gentle and sweet spirit. I can remember when he was two, and he would just go along with whatever his cousins would tell him to do. I can remember when he was four, and he had such a gentle, quiet spirit that would break so easily over the littlest of things. He was so loving, so kind, so gentle.
This year, he turned seven. Over the past two years, there has been a shift inside of him like never before. We’ve dealt with it for some time now, but this year was tougher. That gentle spirit became a warrior lashing out at everything. It became a fighter. And here I was, stressed to the max on trying to learn how to deal with it. I wanted to conform him back into this tiny box he was in before. The kindness, the quiet little voice that went along with everything. The little boy who loved to cuddle with mom. The little boy who was so quiet and peaceful no matter what.
Yeah, no, not happening. I gave up. I stressed out. I gave up and I didn’t want to deal with the attitude anymore. Not long ago, I prayed my heart out again. I prayed for guidance and understanding. I prayed for strength to get through one more day of attitude from this strong willed child. And do you know what happened? I realized that maybe my job wasn’t to control him and conform him into who I wanted him to be, but to nurture, train, and encourage who God wants him to be. 

Several months back, a friend of mine was mentioning how her little boy has this warrior spirit about him. He’s just like a bull in a china cabinet, head strong, and ruff and tough. The concept of “warrior” never really struck me as intriguing, but as I listened to her talk, she said something that changed my entire perspective, she said, “I know he’s tough to parent, but he has a warrior spirit that I don’t want to break, because I know he’ll need it one day.”

It’s along the same lines of things I’ve told my mom for the past year or so. Raising a strong willed child (not a brat, just a strong willed younger child), is incredibly hard, but at the same time, you know that they were born leaders with a leadership mentality. The difficulty is making them understand that they cannot lead unless they learn how to follow and take direction. How else will they understand how to do things if they don’t learn and listen? But, that’s like trying to herd cats—trying to get them to understand what you’re trying to explain to them—and they think you’re speaking a third world language that hasn’t yet been discovered by English speaking people.

I was in the store this past Summer, and my son wanted to argue with me about something that I can’t even remember now. I rolled my eyes at him and simply stopped talking, because I refuse to argue with a child. That has been something that I’ve set a standard of from day one. I will not argue with you, you either do it, or you don’t, and you suffer the consequence when we get home or when company leaves our home. Plain and simple.

Anyhow, he continued to talk, and talk, and talk….explaining to me why he was right and I was wrong. I continued to ignore him. He wasn’t doing it in a condescending way, he just knew he was right, even though he wasn’t completely right.

Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

Listen, people, I get you’re trying to be nice but I will ninja chop you if you don’t give me some warning, just saying.

Let’s continue….

So I felt this hand on my shoulder and I quickly turned around, knowing that my, then, six year old wasn’t tall enough or had hands big enough for it to be him. There was an older lady standing there smiling, she must have been in her 70s or 80s, but she was young at heart, you could tell. I had walked right past her in my frustration and didn’t even realize there was someone else in the aisle with us. I was so frustrated with my child.

I put on my Christian-like attitude and smiled and said, “oh hello! Do you need help with something?” Her smile got even bigger and she said, “no, but you do.”

You could have bought me for a penny. I was embarrassed and angry and humiliated all at one time. I was embarrassed because someone was confronting me in public—was I a bad parent? I was angry because my kid was acting like a you know what—she must be thinking he’s a brat and wants to school me in parenting. And I was humiliated because I wanted to give this old lady a piece of my mind, and that’s just not something anybody wants to say about a 70 year old grandma. How rude.

Again, with the smile. I’m not sure she ever stopped smiling, but I had to look away from her 100 times in that split second to collect a thought, and every time I looked back at her, she was steadfast in that smile.

I raised my eyebrows and said, “oh?” She patted my shoulder and said something that began changing my outlook on this strong willed child that stood beside me. Maybe God knew I needed her, in fact, I’m sure He did. She proceeded to look over at my son and then back at me saying [and I paraphrase]….., you know, I raised a boy just like him, and it doesn’t seem like it was long ago. That boy would argue with me about everything. I’d put him on restriction and tell him he was disrespectful, and he’d go outside for the rest of the day just so I could find some peace and quiet to get my housework done. Do you like to go outside boy?

Junior smiled and very gently shook his head yes and said “yes ma’am”—more likely out of amazement that this woman was talking to him for no reason, and also the fact that she had a presence that simply commanded respect. I chuckled because she referred to him as boy, which is such an older term when used in that context. She smiled again and looked me in the eye, finishing her thought….

Good! Anyway, that’s beside the point. As she threw up her hands and shrugged. The point of me interrupting your grocery trip was to tell you something I feel like one mother can say to another, and it should be done more often in today’s ultra-sensitive world. I never had a daughter, just a son. What a trying first 10 years that was. But it gets easier. Your son has a character trait that is a gift, I know, because I raised one just like him. I’ve been watching you the entire way down this aisle. It’s normal, though frustrating. But it gets easier when you realize that his character will destine him for great things. Do you want to know where my boy is now?

We shook our heads, now intrigued by her story…we had no clue where this “boy” was now, but we wanted to know.

He’s a missionary in the middle east, and has been for over 20 years, because He felt God calling him to do something greater. When his father and I questioned his decision to up-root his family and take them into one of the most dangerous areas in the world, he wasn’t having any of it. I was reminded of the memories of when he was so set in his ways as a young boy, that no one could change his mind. And I knew that he was given that spirit for such a time as this. He’s changed so many lives, and we would have talked him out of it. You remember the story of Esther? For such a time as this, and times change so much, and so do our children and the way they change the world. 

 

I think my heart stopped. I know my brain stopped working, because I just looked at her dumbfounded. She must have thought I was insane. Here this woman had poured her heart out to me and all I could do was stand there with my mouth wide open.

In a brief moment I felt sorry for her, and how she must worry about her child and grandchildren being in such a hateful region of that continent. How devastating it must be to know their likelihood of being killed for being Christians is of greater likelihood than some of the soldiers protecting certain cities over there.

The next moment I thought, wow, what a woman of faith, to tell a story like that not even knowing if I were a Christian or not.

I didn’t know what to say. So I just said, wow, that’s incredible. She shook her head in pride with agreement, and gently patted my son on the back saying, you’re raising a fine young man. You may not realize it yet, though I’m sure you do, but with a little polishing up, and a lot of patience, he’s going to be a gem…and a warrior….I just know it.

There was that word again. Warrior….

And just like that, she was off on her way down the baking aisle, putting flour into her basket. And I just stood there looking into my basket as if there were a bottomless pit.

We were quiet the rest of the trip through the store and on the way home. I don’t know why he was quiet, but he just was. It was as if we had been in the presence of greatness, or as if a parent had scolded us both, but in a good way. In some way, I like to think that she spoke life into him without him even realizing it. That she called out of him what she saw, not what his mom saw, the same way God calls us who we are, before we are.

We got home and he helped me unload the groceries just like he always does—without me asking or begging him to. And as I watched him go unlock the front door and take groceries inside, I turned my head to the side in disbelief of what my focus had been on all morning before our chat in the grocery store.

My focus wasn’t on my child’s needs. It wasn’t on why he was acting the way he was or why he said the things he said. My focus was on getting out of the house on time, running 100 mph through the grocery store so that we could get back in time for me to make a phone call to an important client, and then good grief, the house needed cleaning too. My focus on how I felt, how he was treating me, how I felt disrespected and angry. Without reminding myself that I’m the parent—a child has no control over how I feel. I do. I’m in control of that. I’m the teacher, he’s the student.

And here he was, taking groceries into the house without me ever asking him, because he knew that mom had a lot on her plate that day, and because he’d been trained to do so.

Who was being the butt head now….

More recently, I made a note to myself to pay attention to the things he does regularly that I might not be aware of. Like cleaning up the new bathroom sink when he’s made a muddy mess from being outside. Or by making himself lunch. Or by waking up, pulling his clothes on, and feeding the animals once the sun comes up. I studied him through out the day, paying attention to the way he would interact with his friends next door, or just playing with his imagination.

Do you know what I discovered?

I discovered that he has Christ like morals beyond what I realized. Of course he has his failing moments, everyone does. But I focused on those a whole lot more than the others.

I discovered that he is independent and prideful, but willing to take the back seat for those younger than him, or the least of these.

I discovered that he sticks up for his friends that are getting picked on by the bigger kids, and he doesn’t take no for an answer, even if the bigger kids are bigger than him. He likes the think that he could take them on if he had to. And who am I to say he couldn’t….

I discovered that he’s gentle and mindful of smaller children who aren’t necessarily paying attention to what’s around them that could be harmful. On multiple occasions he has spared them from getting hurt or from getting into trouble.

I discovered he’s a no drama kid, and he can’t handle it well. And that’s ok.

I discovered that he gets angry when he can’t get things to work the way he wants them to, but he’ll sit there and figure it out until it starts working.

I discovered that he loves to fix things.

I discovered that he doesn’t give up. Ever.

I discovered that he does things without being asked to, yet I focus on the things I’ve asked him to do that he doesn’t do.

I discovered that I’ve raised a mighty fine child. And while he might be rough around the edges, we have another 11 years with him before he leaves this house. Maybe more. His training doesn’t end any time soon. I’d say for 7 years of life, he’s doing a pretty good job.

But even more so, I discovered a whole lot about myself as a mom. We beat ourselves up and tear ourselves down, when if we just quieted the world around us, and looked at our kids rather than our computers and cell phones, we might see just how great they are.

He goes through phases, all kids do. They reach ages and hormone levels where they test waters, where they see what their limits are with mom and dad, and where they can grow and excel.

Our society wants all of our children to act the same. Sit down, shut up, do what you’re told, and then,  you’re labeled the perfect child. But what a boring world we would live in if all children were the same, and ultimately, grow up to be adults that are the same.

We are often so concerned about having the perfect child, that we forget that we are not the perfect parent. What an absurd expectation, to put such a limitation on a human being. I don’t even dare put it on myself.

We are concerned with how people see our children, what people think about our children, and what people think about us. When we should be more concerned with training out children, seeing their flaws, and teaching them how to be contributing individuals to society. Yet, we can’t forget that sometimes, we’re raising warriors. Leaders. Future men that will raise up in a time of need and they will not waver in their faith or morals or convictions when the time comes. Even daughter warriors, for that matter.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing an experiment on my child, and I am intrigued by the outcome of it. When his time isn’t being filled with useless information, like video games and electronics, his focus is better.

When my focus is on him—when I am not short tempered and annoyed with having to stop and be bothered with him—he excels. When I am not distracted by “better things” or “more important things” — his attitude is to a minimum, and though he’s still head strong. He might be strong willed still, but the level of respect is so much higher.

When my focus is on things that are happening around us, or in my life, or with work, or with an annoyance with someone else—he becomes irritated, equally as annoyed, frustrated, and angered.

Why is that?

It’s because in life, I am a wife, then a mom, then everything else. When my prioritizes are disorganized, there is chaos. As a wife and mom, I set the tone. I cannot simply blame my child for his attitude. I must take some form of responsibility as well. After all, I’m the teacher, he’s the student.

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” Proverbs 31:25-28

 

As I prioritize motherhood and life, I have noticed it takes me away from things that fill my own life with annoyance and anger. Or things that are simply time fillers, not priorities. And as I pour into my son more, the outcome is greater. He’s still head strong. He’s still a warrior soul. But who am I to tame that?

There’s a difference in allowing your child to be disrespectful, allowing your child to find their voice, and allowing your child to be undisciplined. We are finding a happy medium through it all.

But it begins with understanding that you can not approach it from a standpoint of “I’m the parent and you’re the child and I control you.” Because strong willed children will simply become enraged and frustrated. We are discovering that it comes from a standpoint of, “let me teach you, and then, you can teach me”. Or by expressing an earnest empathy to understanding their frustration, and finding a better way.

They say the best way to learn is to teach. And we are finding this incredibly true for ourselves and our own child. But as we embrace the task of training a child that has a big character, we remember this scripture…

“Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.”
Psalm 127:3-4
 
We are learning as we teach. We don’t know it all, but my goodness, are we learning.
As you evaluate your priorities as a parent, and evaluate your child’s character, remember this, more than anything…
it gets easier.
 
Maybe not right away. But I promise, as you begin to work on your own heart, and remember that you are training a child, and not to take things personally, you’ll realize there is a greater potential than you realized in this little soul who is simply harboring a giant warrior inside, that one day, may just be the change this world needs.

He Grew Up Today…

He grew up today….
He pulled on his boots and walked right through my front door.
He grew up today…
He rarely says “mama” anymore—it’s mostly just “mom”. Unless he’s sick, sad, or really wants something.
He grew up today…
Maybe not in terms of years, or of adulthood. But today when he stepped through that front door all on his own, he stepped one step closer to the man that he’ll one day become. He grew today, and I’m not sure how I feel about it…

When you become a mother, you cling to a little soul that is yours…that is tangible. You cling to it and your mindset is that if you’ve raised it right, it will love you forever. But the one thing we’re never told, is this—you raise them to leave you. You raise them to become independent, and to have purpose. They will leave one day. It is an inevitable act that must happen in any young boy’s life.
Most people can look at today’s milestone as frivolous. What in the world does it have to do with leaving? But, it has a lot to do with leaving.
This week, for the very first time in his entire life, he tended to every single animal on this homestead, all by himself. The first day, he flourished. The second day, I barely saw him after he awoke for 5 minutes, before he ran straight out the door to tend to his chores. He welcomes independence. He is independent. He demands independence. He demands it. And there must be some statistic that says independent children leave home quicker…mustn’t there be?

 

 

As I sit here and watch him, in his brand new fierce wildness, I think of the times when he was two or three and wanted to learn so badly, but simply didn’t have the physical power in which to do it. I think of the times he begged me, just a few months ago, to let him do it all on his own, but I didn’t think he was ready. No…I didn’t think I was ready.
And so, I came to a crossroad. One way took us down the path of simply letting him help for the next ten years and leave it at that. But I knew he wouldn’t have any of that. The next path took us down the path of simply handing over the reigns to him and saying, “here, it’s time for you to do it all on your own now.”

 

His eyes lit up and his smile could have stretched across oceans, as I handed over the leather straps of animal husbandry. The sacredness of connection that he has with every single animal on our homestead is inspiring, and encouraging. And I knew, I just knew, he was ready, whether I was or not.
I chose the right path. And while I sit here, watching him walk down the path I’ve placed him on—and a path he’s willingly chosen—I can’t help but see him inch further and further away from me, into the sunset.
One day he’ll leave. One day he’ll find a wife and have a family of his own—maybe even a few chickens. But today is not that day. Today he steps into independence…responsibility…achievement. Today, he’s still my little boy, even though he’s 7-years-old. Today, I’ll embrace the now, and close my eyes on the future. Because time will run away with my little boy, and for now, I just want to cherish his wild freedom.

 

xoxo
Amy

Sons and Daughters (Part 1) | Raising Our Boys to Be Men

Part 1 in a series about raising boys to be kind men, and raising girls to be courageous women.

In society, I’m a brand new mom. I’m only (almost) 7 years old in motherhood. But I would like to think that my soul is an ancient one full of wisdom and knowledge. I cannot look at a woman who has been a mother for 25 years and tell her I know more than her. I don’t. But I cannot doubt that there are women in this world who can go through the motions and never actually learn. While there are other women who go through the motions and crave more knowledge. I’d like to think I’m the later.

And so, my journey of motherhood didn’t begin when I became a mother, in fact,it began when I became a young woman who was interested in men. And even more so, when I married my husband.

Growing up, we can all say our parents made mistakes. Heck, our parents will tell you they made mistakes. And I’ll tell my adult child (when that day comes) how many mistakes I made. But the reality is that when we, ourselves, are children, we often think we can do things better than our parents. And thus begins the course of trying to find what we really want in life.

For me, I wanted to graduate high school, get married, have babies, and live happily ever after. But, I failed to understand one thing…

…I had absolutely no idea what a real man was.

And so I tried to find a real man in a high school boy I barely knew…

I tried to find a real man in a man who didn’t even know himself, but wanted to know me…

I tried to find a real man in a boy who, to this day, is probably still one of the most childish people I know…

And I tried to find a real man in my now husband.

Oh, how I wish I would have waited for him.

What a naive girl I was, as most young women are.

I sing that song in my head sometimes, Mama’s don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.

Mama’s, don’t let your babies grow up to be men who disrespect women, are unkind, lazy, rude, and useless.

Mama’s, raise your babies to be strong and courageous men. Raise them to be kind and gentle, and yet strong and manly. Raise them with soft hearts and strong skin. Raise them to the highest standard. Raise them to the standard you deserve. Raise them to the standard that one day she, his future wife, will deserve. 

When my husband and I first married, we both had a lot of growing up to do. A lot. I am grateful we “grew up” together. Though there was a time when we thought we might not make it. Honestly, I’m grateful for that time too.

And as I look at my son now, I see his father in him. All of the good parts, and a few of the bad. Some of my good characteristics, and some of my bad as well. But I am constantly reminded that, no matter what….

I have been given one of the greatest tasks in life—raising and training a man. 

2012 – ©Courtney Anderson Photography

It has been challenging, and I mess up, daily. And the sad reality is that so many times, he is training me, rather than me training him. Parenthood is a calling, of that I am certain. It’s the calling that shatters our hearts, mends them over, and breaks them into a thousand pieces again…followed by hugs and kisses. It forces us to face our biggest flaws, and to celebrate our smallest of victories. It makes us realize that we weren’t right about everything when we were 13, and sometimes, our kids might be able to teach us a thing or to.

During these years, I have had to remind myself of these things. Daily.

And while the emotional and characteristic side of manhood is necessary, there are some practical things to teach him as well.

:: How to Raise Our Boys to Be Men ::

Teach him kindness. With his words….with his body language…with his heart. Teach them to have a kind heart when someone is being picked on. Teach them not to pick on anyone. Show them love and tell them it’s ok to love. Loving them unconditionally will allow them to love unconditionally when they become men.

Teach him to work through emotions. And let them know that emotions are ok…even for a man. The human body was created to have emotions, for good reason. But little boys still must be trained on how to properly handle them. Crying is ok (if you’re hurt, really sad, or not feeling well), whining is not. Being happy and excited is ok. Loving on mama is ok, and daddy too. Being angry when someone has hurt you is ok, but there is also grace and forgiveness to be taught.

Teach him to be helpful and independent. No matter how little, teach them how to clean, do their own laundry, how to wash dishes, how to keep a clean house (I royally suck at this), how to keep their bodies clean. Teach them how to live on their own, rather than them waiting for a wife to come along to do it for them. You want to talk about culture shock when I got married? I came from a household where dad cleaned up after himself and did his own laundry. My husband came from a household where he didn’t do a darn thing. We have since found our happy  medium. That happy medium is called “clean it up yourself, or it will sit there until I have the time, and don’t you dare complain about it.”

Teach him to be a provider. Not only for himself, but for others. Teach him work ethic and independence. Teach him how honorable it is to be a man of stature and provision. Teach him the Biblical standard of a hard working man.

Teach him to respect women. Teach him that her body is her body, not his. And that even after marriage, he can’t just treat her however he wants to. Teach him that she is a daughter of a King. From a young age, they should be holding doors open for women, even mom. But of course, they will forget most days. Teach them “ladies first” and how to be proper. Sure, there are women out there who like to act like men, but not a single one of them will complain if treated like a princess. But that brings me to my next point…

Teach him to be courageous, and to never be walked all over. There are some very strong women in this world, and if given the chance, they can walk all over a kind hearted man. Teach him to be courageous and respectful, but to never tolerate being walked all over. Teach him to stand up for himself when another person comes against him in life. But also teach him to have a teachable spirit in case he needs to learn a lesson.

Teach him to work with his hands. Because he will need that skill more than either of you realize in the real world. A little dirt goes a long way. And you never know when he might have to fall back on that skill.

Teach him to be self-sufficient. Does he know how to take care of a family? That’s a big deal when it comes to learning manhood.

Teach him to hide the word of God in his heart. There will be trials and tribulations—temptations and personal demons. Teach him, from a young age, to hide the word of the Lord in his heart. So that if ever he strays away, he will remember. And that when he does find his wife, he can share it with her as well.

Teach him to be a leader. But with humility and justice.

Teach him right from wrong. This is a given, but unfortunately so many parents just think their children automatically know right from wrong. Trust me, if you are not actively teaching it to them, someone else will…and not necessarily in the way you wish.

Make sure he knows that he owes no one anything, that he doesn’t have to depend on someone else to live this life (other than Jesus), and that he was fearfully and wonderfully made by the same hands that created the entire universe.

But most of all? Teach him who he is in Christ. If nothing else, mama, teach him this. Who does God say he is?

List them all, one by one…

He is a child of the most high King. (Galatians 3:26)

He is greatly loved by his Father. (Romans 5:8)

He is a friend of Jesus. (John 15:15)

He has been redeemed. (Romans 3:24)

He is a temple of God. (1 Corinthians 6:19)

He is predestined in Christ. (Ephesians 1:11)

He is a workman of God. (Ephesians 2:10)

He is bold and confident. (Ephesians 3:12)

He is guarded by peace. (Philippians 4:7)

He is dearly loved, chosen, and clothed in compassion. (Colossians 3:12)

…and the list goes on and on.

Mama, I know the days are long sometimes, and the road is hard. But never ever forget what you’ve been entrusted with. And most importantly, never forget that we are constantly in training, as we train our own young boys to become incredible young men.

 

 

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