RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: May 2013

“Used to want a lotta things, all the stuff that’s on tv, education, cars and clothes, flashing lights and jewelry, focused on the wrong stuff, now I’ve got my eyes on You and now I know that God is enough…”

Box. Wrapping paper. Tissue paper. Gift Bag. Tape. Ribbons. Toy.

If you are a child, there is a good chance that you will be more interested in the first six items and marginally interested in the seventh. If you have ever spent hours looking for that one special doll with the curly hair, not the straight hair, the one that comes with purple shoes, the transformer with the ray gun, the Lego set with Yoda…only to see that child cast it aside and spent an hour playing with the box and tape, you know the frustration and sometimes disappointment that comes with that. I love giving gifts, so I’ve had to remind myself frequently not to get discouraged if this happens with my kids.

On Saturday I took Selah to the Taylor Swift concert. I wanted that day to be as special as it could be, and a time for connection and bonding for the two of us. I bought her special nail polish, and took her to a jewelry store to pick out something special to wear. At the concert, I sat her in a spot where she’d have the best chance of seeing everything. She was so excited, but still, she’s eight. Right before the concert started, she spied a man selling cotton candy. Cotton candy, so full of food dye, is a coveted and rare treat in her world, and she narrowed in on it like a sniper. She started asking me for it every 30 seconds. I tried to tell her that the concert was going to start any minute, and if we left to get a snack, we might miss the opening number. But in her eight year old sugar starved brain, the risk of missing Taylor paled in comparison to the chance to eat something that is usually forbidden. Finally, the mom next to me said she was going to go get a drink anyway, and would buy the cotton candy for us. Selah squealed and gave her a hug and promised to share her treat with her (which she didn’t).

The next morning, Wes woke Selah up and asked her if she had fun and what was the best part? She smiled sleepily and said “I had cotton candy”

Wes and I laughed about it, and I told him how I had urged her to forget about the cotton candy because she wouldn’t want to miss the concert. I told him how she just couldn’t let it go. I told him how the bag of cotton candy disappeared in about two minutes. Five dollars for two minutes of happiness. What a rip off.

Yesterday, I read this-

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things” 1 Cor. 13:11

And I have a confession. I love “cotton candy”. I am easily distracted by the cotton candy in this world, the small slips of sweetness, the two minutes of happiness. I think I probably miss a lot of concerts because of it. I wonder how many times my Father has set up something for me, something that is special and that He orchestrates, simply because He loves me, and I spend all my time waiting in line for the cotton candy. I wonder how many times He gives me a gift, and I focus on the ribbon and tape. I wonder how many times I report back to others about the small picture treat I tasted and miss sharing about the big picture experience I had.

I’m not mad at Selah. She’s eight. She has eight year old thoughts and when you are eight, cotton candy is a pretty big deal. It didn’t hurt my feelings or irritate me that she focused on that, in fact, as her mommy, I thought it was cute. My affection for her covered it. But I don’t want her to be eight forever.

I believe that my Father isn’t mad at me when I do this either. But He doesn’t want me to stay there. I mean, there’s so much cotton candy in the world, and so few concerts.

Father, help me. Help me to grow to maturity in knowing what is lasting and what is fleeting. Help me to glance at the wrapping and focus on the gift. I don’t want to miss what’s important for the two minutes of happiness. Thank you for concerts and for cotton candy, because I know that anything good comes from You.

 

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandy77

 

“I don’t know why all the trees change in the fall, but I know you’re not scared of anything at all, don’t know if Snow White’s house is near or far away, but I know I had the best day with you today…”

photo

Getting ready to paint the town RED…

A few months back, a sweet friend emailed me and told me that she wanted to give me two floor seat tickets to see Taylor Swift for this past weekend. After I regained consciousness and started to breathe again, I started to plan our “Day of Taylor” with Selah. I didn’t tell her until the week before the concert, which was soooo difficult. I felt a bit like “Sue” for weeks-

We told her the Saturday before the concert, and spent the next week planning outfits, which ranged from Taylor Swift pajamas to a red ballgown with lyrics written on it, designed by Selah. In the end, we made matching t-shirts that said “Like, ever” on the front. Now, if you know my daughter, you know that she is a HUGE Taylor Swift fan. She has a notebook that she has written songs in just like Taylor. She wants to learn the guitar. She wants to live on a christmas tree farm, because Taylor did. At one point, she became convinced that Taylor might be her birth mother. But at the same time, even though she is a superfan, she’s also a little girl and she’s never been to a concert, much less a concert at Cowboy Stadium. Added to this are her sensory processing issues, and I wondered if this would be an amazing experience or a huge disaster.  I spent the week giving her A LOT of sensory input and therapy to get her tank filled up before the concert, and we prayed together about the noise and crowds. The night before, Selah displayed some new thoughts on theology when she prayed – “Jesus, so I’ve been thinking. I really really want to meet Taylor tomorrow night. If I met her, I’d pray with her and invite her to church. So I guess if you love her, I’ll get to meet her tomorrow. Amen”

So clearly we have some work to do on the whole don’t try to manipulate God to get what you want thing…

We drove to Cowboy Stadium, and about halfway there, Selah decided that we were going to be late. The concert started at 8:30. It was 5:00 when she started panicking. We finally found a place to park, and walked into the stadium. At this point, the very beginning opening act had just finished and they began to play Taylor’s album over the sound system. Selah’s eyes were already huge and as soon as she heard that, she started pulling me down the hall because she was convinced that WE WERE MISSING TAYLOR WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU MOMMY WE ARE MISSING HEEEERRRRRRR.

I tried to reassure her that it was just a recording, but you had to shout to be heard and she wasn’t paying a bit of attention. I had my arm around her, trying to calm her down, when I felt her sort of slide down against me. I looked down at her face and saw her eyes flutter close and realized…

My daughter is passing out. My daughter is passing out over Taylor Swift. Sweet fancy Moses Cowboy Stadium people,  please stop playing the song.

I scooped her up, and sat down on a bench, trying to reassure people staring at me that she was fine, just a little overwhelmed. I put my hand on her chest and asked her to breathe with me, and slow down. She opened her eyes, turned and looked at me, and promptly burst into tears, crying “I’M JUST SO HAAAAAAPPPPPPYYYYY”

For. The. Love.

We waited in the line to get our wristbands, and made our way down the ramp onto the floor. I made her stop and use the bathroom, since I knew she wouldn’t want to leave once it started.  This is the part where I’m so sad I didn’t have my phone out. We walked out of the bathroom and heard some shrieking and see Taylor Swift walking down the hallway. She was just walking like, hey y’all, what’s up, yeah I’m Taylor Swift, let’s not make a big deal out of it…

Selah stood there, and I am pretty sure she didn’t breathe for a good two minutes. Taylor smiled and said “Hi”

Selah looked up at the ceiling, as though she could hear the angels sing the Hallelujah Chorus in that moment, as I quickly looked around for a medic in case we needed a gurney. She looked at me dumbstruck and I, with all gentleness and compassion of a mother, looked her in the eye and said “Do NOT pass out again.”

I can't love this picture enough.

“And I’ll never ever be the saaaaaaame…”

We find our seats, where Selah immediately makes friends with everyone around us and informs all of them that she has a little brother adopted from Ethiopia and they too can adopt from Ethiopia if they want to. Ed Sheeran opened for Taylor and he was amazing. We were sitting next to another little girl and her mom, and after he was done, Selah asked the little girl what she thought of him. She looked thoughtful and then said “I don’t know. He was kind of weird. I think he is going to break his guitar. But he also looks like Ron Weasley. So that makes me like him.” Selah nodded at this sage wisdom.

And then it happened. Lights dimmed and the opening notes of State of Grace started…

photo (3)

Selah had this expression for pretty much the whole concert…I think. There was that whole 15 minutes that seemed like an hour that I couldn’t find her. Yes, that’s right. My eight year old rushed the stage, climbing over innocent people and likely dodging security. At some point in the concert, Taylor moved to a closer stage, and as she did, I turned to say “Selah, look, she’s coming closer”, but as I turned, I saw nothing. I turned towards the stage and all I could see was the back of her tutu, flying in the wind as she climbed over chairs and disappeared into a mob of people. At this point, I thought- okay, don’t freak out. I couldn’t leave my seat, because what if she came back and I wasn’t there? And not to mention that while people might let a cute little blonde girl slip by them to get closer, aint no way they are letting a middle-aged mom move past them. I’d get pummeled with glow sticks and drowned in the tears of teenage girls who realize their boyfriends are NEVER going to write them a song like Ed Sheeran. It could have gotten really ugly. So I simply sat down and prayed- Lord, keep her from being trampled. Lord, help her not trample others. Lord, seriously, I really don’t want this night to end with being escorted from the stadium.

She came back when Taylor moved back to the other stage, and she grabbed my hands and yelled “SHE TOUCHED MY HAND MOMMY.” I suppose that was worth the slow stroke I was having.

The concert ended, and we met up with Mindy (the sweet friend who gave us the tickets) to say thank you. Y’all, seriously, there is NO WAY we could have ever afforded to take Selah to this concert, much less have these amazing seats. It was unbelievably generous of Mindy, and I am so grateful that Selah was able to not only go to the concert, but see what selfless giving looks like. I’ve explained to her that Mindy could have very well have sold those tickets, but she chose to give them to us, simply because she knew Selah would enjoy them. I was and am blessed by that- so thank you again, Mindy!

On the way out, Selah tried very hard to convince a security guard to give  Taylor a letter she had written. The security guard was very nice, but she said “I’m sorry honey, I am not allowed to take a letter to her.” Selah said “what if I take it out of the envelope, and then it’s just a piece of paper?” She laughed and said “No, I can’t do that either.” Selah replied “what if I drop it on the ground and then it’s just like trash that you just decide to give to her?”

Such an attorney.

Her letter says-

Dear Taylor,

I am so excited to get to see you in concert. I love love love you. I have two brothers. My big brother is from Texas and my little brother is from Ethiopia. Maybe you could visit there someday. You might be nervous about tonight but I am praying for you so don’t be nervous and break your pinky. I hope I get to meet you. Maybe you can come over and have a sleepover. My mom will make us the best snacks. She plays guitar too. Maybe better than you but probably not. You wrote a song about a best day with your mom and this is my best day with my mom. I hope you know how much Jesus loves you. Will you come to church with me?

Love,

Selah Nicole Butler the first

(I tried to explain that the phrase is “break a leg”, but she insisted on pinky)

We got into the car, high on music and cotton candy, and then sat in traffic for at least an hour. What blessed my heart was my sweet girl deciding that since we were sitting there, we might as well pray for the people in the cars that we were next to.

Such a fun day, and a great memory for us.

photo (4)

Mama Mondays-“Perfect song on the radio, sing along ’cause it’s one we know, it’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine, it’s summertime…”

“The summer is coming and I am dreading it! I feel like I am just trying to keep my kids from killing each other! What do you do with your kids during the summer?”

I’ll be honest- I am so over school. I am ready for summer. However, ask me this again in three weeks, and I may have a different answer. My kids love each other, and they get along for the most part, but after multiple days of being together they can get a little snippy, a little impatient, and tempers start flaring. I don’t know about you, but in the beginning of summer, it seems like it will last for so long, and then all of a sudden it is August and it’s time to buy backpacks and go school supply shopping, which if you’ve read my blog for a while, you know school supply shopping is my most favorite thing EVER.

I feel like many moms struggle with going to the extremes of either scheduling every minute of the days to prevent boredom and create memories (more on that later), or we get overwhelmed and discouraged and so we don’t plan anything. I want to try to avoid both ends of that spectrum this summer. I want to remember that I only get 18 summers with them. I know that there will be days that I think I can’t wait for school to start again, but remembering that I only get a small window of time with them when they actually want to spend the day with me will help.

I think you have to plan- and believe me, I know that’s hard for some. I am not as much a planner, but two of my kids really need structure, plus it helps plan the finances of the summer as well. We sit down with the kids (usually during dinner) and make three main goals- a reading goal, a learning goal, and a fun goal. The reading goal is usually either a certain book or a certain number of pages. Josiah has set a goal for 2,000 pages this summer, and his reward for reaching the goal is a special date with Wes and me to Six Flags. Selah has set a goal of 500 pages with the same reward. Malachi’s reading goal is the same as his learning goal. The kids pick one skill or subject they would like to learn about or to do for the summer. Josiah has chosen to learn to play the piano. Selah has chosen to learn to play the guitar, and Malachi wants to learn to read. Later, we will set smaller weekly goals and steps to work towards those goals. (side note- you might be thinking about the cost of teachers for these- but truthfully, you can learn many skills through youtube videos or bartering with another friend. Don’t automatically say no because you don’t feel like you can pay for lessons!) The third goal is this- we ask the kids, “What is the one thing you really want to do by the time summer is over?” Yes, you may have to reign in this goal, or you may have to encourage them to look outside the box. You want something in between “go swimming” and “go to Disneyworld”. Help them choose unique but realistic goals. If your child says they will read 10,000 pages and learn to sew a whole wardrobe, you may find a disappointed and discouraged child at the end of the summer. By the way, Wes and I set these same goals as well.

Along with this, I try to break the summer down into several categories-

Physical- no doubt about it, our kids need to be outside and moving their bodies. However, I live in Texas, and soon it will be 158 degrees by 8:00am. So, one of the things I am going to try to do is go for a walk with the kids early in the morning. Just grab some shoes and a zip lock bag of cheerios and take a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood. Doing this in the cool of the morning will wake their brain and their body up, and it helps keep us from starting the day with television, which is a big temptation for us. If we miss it and want to play in the day, I think those misting fans that you can wear around your neck are great for kids. I also plan on letting my bigger kids have some scrap wood and hammer and nails and letting them decide what they would like to build. Yep, we are going to have some bruised fingers. Let it go, Mama. They won’t die and it’s good for them to feel like they can actually build something. Another thing that we will do to help with physical exertion is letting them serve others with lawn care and gardening. This will hopefully help with the financial piece as well.

Mental- along with reading, I buy a few workbooks both in the current grade and next grade up and pull them out at random times, to keep skills up and hopefully prepare for the next year. I allow my oldest to help his sister with these, because he likes to teach and I hate math  she likes to learn. I will also choose a few books that are a little challenging for them, and ask them to answer some comprehension questions after each chapter(right now Josiah and Selah are both reading Harry Potter, and Selah is about to start on The Secret Garden, and Josiah has Oliver Twist waiting). I will likely pull out a few fun science experiments (especially for those REALLY hot days), and choose a few books or videos on historic events (with similar comprehension questions). Look, for me, the summer is made for fun and relaxing- not homeschooling, so I keep this light and easy. My goal isn’t that they are learning a lot, it’s that they are continuing to learn HOW to learn.

Emotional- I have a goal (that I don’t share with the kids) on a certain character trait or sin pattern that I want to spend some intentional time on this summer. So I will purposefully set up scenarios where they can practice that issue. I will purposefully ask them to playact with me those scenarios so they can practice good and bad choices. For example, I have one child who struggles with complaining, so I will be giving this child lots of opportunities to serve others to practice doing it without complaining. There will be consequences for complaining and lots of rewards for serving with a thankful and generous heart. Also, another aspect of the emotional category is that I want to take a very honest look at my relationship with each of my kids and make a note of patterns of communication, interaction, etc that I want to work on. I have one child that I find myself saying no to more often that I need to, and this has caused some hurt between the two of us. This doesn’t mean that I am calling this the summer of yes, but it does mean that I have work to do to improve our relationship. (Mamas of older kids- include your child in this process. Ask your child about your relationship with them and for their ideas on how to improve it- you might be really surprised at their answers).

Spiritual– Mamas, please. Please do not set yourself up to be frustrated by deciding that every day before breakfast you are going to sit down with your children and have a 30 minute devotional. I’m not saying we don’t have formal times of reading the Word and praying together, but I promise you will enjoy this much more if you are teaching and instructing as the day unfolds. Look for opportunities to teach along with the things your child is doing. Look for times to stop and pray for your child and with your child. When the inevitable summer fighting happens, take the opportunity to let your child practice praying for your enemy. When you go to the zoo, talk about Genesis in the car. When you go swimming, talk about the provision of water (and talk about places in the world without clean water- pray for those people). When you barbecue out, ask your children to pray while you cook for those who are hungry. Ask them for ideas of ways they can serve this summer. Choose to bake cookies with your kids and deliver them to your neighbors. Don’t just talk about Jesus, let your kids be His hands and feet with you. Let your child choose a friend each week to intentionally pray for. Have them write down things about God they are confused about, and then research the answer together. Choose some scripture and have a contest with prizes for memorizing it AND being able to explain what it means and how it applies to us today.

There are going to be days when these things fall into place and you have wonderful days with your kids and then there will be days when you allow television and video games because you just need a break. Both of those days are okay. The goal isn’t perfectionism, it’s to grow followers of Christ, so take a deep breath and give yourself grace.

What are your plans for the summer? What tips do you have to survive with the kids?

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

“It’s bigger than we thought, it’s taller than it ought to be, this pile of rubble and ruins, the neighbors must talk, it’s the worst yard on the block, just branches and boards where walls stood…”

To my babies,

Last night on the news, a woman and her father searched through piles of wood, stone, and memories to find something-anything-that remained after the storm cut through the city. The father told a story about how his late wife had purchased wedding gifts for her daughter, before her daughter was old enough to marry, because she knew she was going to die and she wanted her daughter to have wedding gifts from her mother, even if she wasn’t able to be physically present. I cried as I watched them pull out brightly wrapped gifts from underneath a pile of bricks and gently place them in a box. One of you asked me, “Why did her mom do that? Was she afraid her daughter wouldn’t get enough gifts?” The innocence of that question made me smile.

“Though he slay me, yet I will hope in Him…”- Job 13:15

Babies, when things like this happen, you don’t have to wait long to hear opinions on the question of why. The answers about weather, climate change, availability of protection systems, personal choice about safety…they don’t even come close to answering the question of why. Why children? Why one elementary school and not the other? Why innocent people?  Soundbites flash before me, echos of empty words. My heart grieves for the simplistic and often cruel answers given. It grieves even more when those answers come from the church. So as your mama, the one who is charged with shepherding your heart, let me tell you why.

I don’t know.

“Though he slay me, yet I will hope in Him…”- Job 13:15

I am no great theologian. I know that this world is broken and it groans with it’s need for a Physician. I know that the brokenness of this world is not what He wanted, and there is coming a day when all will be made right. I know that He has a plan, and that sometimes His plan is so different from what makes sense to me that it appears apathetic or lacking power. I know that tornados don’t come to punish the gay man living on that street, or the single mama, nor are people spared from death because they never had an abortion. Babies, you will hear that. Hear me- those are evil words. They distort the grace of God and reduce the gospel to a plan we would design, because we love to caste system our sin.

“Though he slay me, yet I will hope in Him…”-Job 13:15

In the quiet of this morning, I pray this for you- “Lord, protect my babies from harm, but if you choose to allow harm, please help them find the gifts.” Loves, that woman, the one searching for the presents, she wasn’t searching because she needed a toaster or some towels or a picture frame. She searched because it was a reminder of how much she was loved. Her mother knew she would face heartache, and so she made a plan. She wanted her daughter to know she was loved even through the heartache of facing her wedding without her mother.

My sweet children, He knew we would face heartache and He made a plan. And unlike temporary gifts wrapped in paper, this gift doesn’t only remind us of His love, it rescues us. It redeems us. It provides a way that we don’t have to live in fear, even when huddled down in a storm shelter, even when debris is flying all around us, even when we walk around shell shocked at the devastation around us. He sent Jesus to die for us. We can be healed from the ravage of the tornado of sin that we choose. We have hope, even when the answer to why is I don’t know.

Though he slay me, yet I will hope in Him…

Find the gift.

Hope in Him, babies.

Love,

Mama

“Take me out to the ballgame, take me out with the crowd, buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks, I don’t care if I never get back…”

When I found out that I was having a boy, I began to have dreams of playing with my little one in the backyard, teaching him how to plant flowers and watching him walk around with his little bubble mower. I imagined sweet afternoons of reading books together and making little popsicle stick crafts. I dreamed about us, at the kitchen table together, while we make cookies and cupcakes.

Then Wes went out and bought my dream baby an Astros shirt.

I could hear the screeching record as it hit me that I was about to have a boy…a boy who might like playing sports…and watching sports…and talking about sports…and breathing sports…I’m pretty sure I panicked and cried. Considering that I cried because Wes brought home butter pecan ice cream instead of pecan praline ice cream, me crying over the idea of a sports loving boy isn’t that strange, but I truly worried that I would have no idea what to do with a little baseball hat wearing baby.

Josiah was born, and I swear that in the hospital, he looked up me in his little bassinet and tried to kick the box of baby wipes at me like a soccer ball. He has grown into a great little athlete, with a deep love for soccer especially. But my lack of sportiness has caused problems at times. It’s not like I don’t try, but yall, I didn’t grow up in a sport home. I mean, yes I did, if shopping is a sport. But I never knew what the Super Bowl was until I was married. Not kidding. I didn’t know sports had seasons. I thought they just played all year round. But Brandy, you ask, didn’t you notice your high school football team didn’t play all year? Why yes, blog friend, I probably would have noticed that if I ever attended a game. Which I didn’t. Well, that’s not completely true. I “attended” one game my junior year which equated me being asked to go with a boy who shall not be named (not because he’s Voldemort. Because some of my high school friends might read this) and me agreeing to go because he was cute and talented and not Voldemort. And then about ten minutes into the game, I realized that he wanted to watch the game. I mean, really? It’s not like the team was doing something new! They just run up the field and stop. Then run again and stop. Then run and fall down. Then get back up and run around some more. Then sometimes they kicked through the big slingshot thingy. So I told him I wanted to walk around which he roughly translated that I wanted to go make out in his car. Which we did a little, and it was about as interesting and attention holding as the football game.

I really have tried over the years to become more informed about sports and even tried playing volleyball. Once. For two minutes. But y’all, when the ball comes at you and you do that fist thing and hit it…um…it hurts. I just…I mean, I am going to stand here and hurt my hands and probably fall on the hard floor so I can maybe win a game that doesn’t have a prize or anything? This is fun?? No. It is not. I have a dream version where the ball is made of cotton candy and you don’t hit it, you gently hand it over to your teams and there’s not teams, everyone’s just friends and there’s no net, there’s hammocks and you all just lie in your hammocks with your cotton candy that your friend shared with you and the last person to take a nap wins. This is my version of volleyball and I think we can all agree that it is superior.

Part of this may be that I am the least competitive person on the planet. I like board games, but I find myself wanting to help others with answers because isn’t it just more fun if we all learn something? And I hate it when two teams are playing and one is winning by a lot of points. It seems so…inconsiderate. I mean, it’s fine if you want to win, but it would be nice if one of those basketball boys stopped and said “guys, let’s stop. You are losing because you keep shooting the ball wrong. Here, let me show you how to fix that.” I’d play with that guy. And trash talk…oh my word. Can’t even understand. If I was a coach and I heard my players trashy talking, I’d stop and say “that is unacceptable. You don’t even know his mom. You will call his mom right now and apologize.” Then I would put them both in a room until they could learn to play nicely together.

A few weeks ago, Malachi was getting ready to play soccer and I noticed he needed help. I called him over, and he impatiently bounced over to me and asked what I wanted. I said “come here, let me fix your soccer costume.”

Even the five-year old stared at me as though discovering a new kind of creature, rolled his beautiful little Ethiopian eyes, and ran back onto the field.

It’s fine. They have their dad. And someday, I am confident we will play cotton candy ball in heaven.

 

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

Mama Mondays- “Keep the dream alive, don’t let it die, if something deep inside keeps inspiring you to try, don’t stop and never give up, don’t ever give up on you…”

“When do you allow your child to quit a sport or activity?”

I’m sure this is an issue every parent has or will deal with. Kids are notorious for begging to do something, and then deciding that it isn’t quite as fun as they thought it would be. “Do I haaaaaaaaave to??” becomes the response to practicing or playing. No parent wants to raise a quitter, but what if a kid really hates the activity??  Here are some things to consider on the front side of this issue-

Anticipate- I think a question more parents should ask themselves is-“why am I putting my child in this activity?” Because they want to might be an easy answer, but it’s not a thoughtful one. Parents are bombarded with choices and options, and it’s easy to get caught up in doing something simply because it’s available. It’s justified by the idea of raising a “well-rounded child” but soon our well-rounded child becomes child who doesn’t eat dinner with the family and child who tears a muscle from playing fourteen sports at once.  I know it’s difficult to say no to soccer when all their friends play on the team, but there needs to be more thought put into these types of commitments. Parents, ask yourselves- am I more excited about this activity than they are? The answer might be yes- and that might be okay. Our kids don’t always know that something is going to be good for them, but if you’ve got a shy child who cries when people look at her, and you sign her up for drama because you loved it in high school, you may be setting yourself for conflict and discouraging your child. It’s okay to stretch our kids and ask them to step out of their comfort zone, but it’s also important to honor and encourage the gifts that He has given them, even if they don’t line up with what you would like them to be.

Remember that your family is a team- it’s not realistic to expect that all siblings or parents will be able to attend all events for each person in the family but for us, we do ask that they kids support their siblings as much as they can. So, in scheduling activities, I try to remember that I am not just committing one person, but somewhat committing five people. We are a team, and what happens to one person affects everyone. You may have a child that is a crazy talented athlete, but you have to think about what having that child involved in three or four sports at once does. Does your child have time to interact with their siblings in a meaningful way? Will these activities focus on one child so much that the other child may feel left out? Will this activity require so much time that it takes away from the husband and wife relationship? Does this activity tax the family financially? Thinking of activities through the family team lens will not only help reduce the options, but it is a great opportunity to teach your children sacrificial love and community.

Think about the big picture- if we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ to the world, then it makes no sense to sequester yourself away from the world. I think it’s a good thing to ask yourself- am I intentionally interacting with my neighbors? Am I teaching my kids how to interact with people who might be very different from them? While we need to be wise about what we expose our kids to, if your child only ever plays with kids that are raised just like they are, you are missing a huge opportunity to reach out to parents and for your child to practice sharing their faith.

So you’ve thoughtfully considered, chosen an activity, signed up and bought the equipment needed, and a month later, your child is whining and crying, saying that they don’t like it and want to quit. Now what??

If your child is involved with a team, I believe that the benefits of learning commitment, teamwork, and keeping your word outweighs a child’s dislike of the sport. However, I think we can be sensitive to the child’s reasons for wanting to quit and address those. Look at your child’s coach- is there something about their approach that is difficult for your child? Can you use that as an opportunity to shepherd your child through how to respectfully disagree with someone? Is there a particular child that your child has conflict with? You have a chance to practice those conflict resolution skills! Addressing your child’s heart and motivation is much more important than figuring out the logistics of quitting versus not quitting.  If there is no outside reason apart from a child just decides they want to stop, I think it’s better to finish the season. Quite frankly, even if your child is miserable, it’s good practice in counting the cost before committing to something.

If your child is involved in an individual activity, I think there’s more flexibility. However, even in individual lessons, you need to take the teacher’s schedule into account. Compromise might be in order, with telling your child they can stop after a certain number of lessons. Consider a change in teacher- especially in individualized activities, chemistry with the teacher is even more important. I know that for me, part of why piano was easy to quit in college was because of a really painful experience with my piano instructor. Consider a break- taking six months off an activity may actually give your child time to mature and renew a passion. Consider letting your child teach themselves. If your child really wants to learn to play the guitar but hates lessons, let them try to teach themselves. You may find that with removed pressure to learn, they may get to a point where they want to learn more than they can teach.

The big question I hear (and ask) is do our kids NEED to be in activities? (and therefore, is it a bad thing for them to quit being in those activities). Y’all, this is a first world problem. None of our kids need to play soccer or need to learn piano or need gymnastics. It’s not a need. It’s a nice luxury. We can get so easily caught up in anxiety over our kids “falling behind”, and if we are honest, with keeping up with those around us, that we miss the bigger picture. For us, our kids need-

To spend time learning about Jesus

To spend time serving Him by loving others

To cultivate good relationships with the family

To take care of their physical self

To begin to cultivate a way to be creative

I believe that most skills and lessons fall under these categories. Soccer, piano, art, etc…those are vessels, not goals. If an activity helps you in these areas, then I would push a bit more to not quit…but I wouldn’t hurt my relationship with my child over it. I won’t let it become a power struggle. If I believe my child should continue and they absolutely refuse, then I can choose to assert my authority or I can choose to let it be a lesson in grace and in allowing my child to choose something they might regret later.

I’m 35. I regret not continuing piano. I regret not learning more about sports. That’s kind of a lie. But I do regret the piano part. I regret not continuing in dance and I regret not leaning the guitar before this year. But my regrets have taught me as much as I could have learned in continuing these things. And I am pretty sure I am going to be an amazing guitarist in heaven so I’m not going to spend too much time worrying about what I didn’t learn here on earth.

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

“There’s no such thing as perfect people, there’s no such thing as a perfect life, so come as you are, broken and scared, so lift up your heart and be amazed, and be changed by a perfect God…”

I saw her yesterday at the grocery store. She was pushing a full cart with even fuller hands. Her little boy, probably around four years old, was loudly protesting the lack of Cocoa Puffs in the cart, while her baby fidgeted and screamed in the car seat. She pushed the cart with one hand and tried to give the baby a paci with the other, while still trying to answer the rapid fire questions about cereal choices. I watched, in a rare and cherished moment of shopping alone, as she paused and said “Fine. Just give me the box!” and I watched her boy, gleeful one minute about the victory and gearing up for the next battle. She passed me, and while normally I like to try to give an encouraging smile to these mamas, she didn’t notice me and I heard her mutter “this is my life??”

I relayed this story to someone whose response was “how selfish. Sometimes moms just don’t understand the gift they have.”

I didn’t go on to tell them that this year, I asked Wes to give me 48 hours away as my mother’s day gift.  I already felt the biting sting of guilt over asking for this.

“Happy Mother’s Day!” was a stab in the heart to me for so many years. Every year as I watched all the other moms being taken out to lunch, carrying their little flowers and crayoned cards, I wanted to shrink away and hide until the day was over. I built up what being a mother would be like, and imagined those Cocoa Puff arguments as softer, with more whimsy. The light in those dreams was fuzzy, and while I knew motherhood would be difficult, I still thought- this is it. Being a mother is the highest calling, and I am missing out on so much. Motherhood happened, and not all of the lighting is flattering. It’s harsh and stark and relentless. It’s not a Facebook version of life. And full disclosure- I’ve been in a season of feeling wrung out by my children. Feeling like the demand is constant and the supply is dwindling. Feeling like I want to be honest about it, but also knowing that if I am, I may be judged as selfish and not appreciative of the gifts I have. But also…I know I can’t be alone…because I see you.

I see you, Mama. I see you put your kids in their car seats and then pause outside your door, just to have a few seconds to catch your breath before you dive back in to crying and bickering and why why why.

I see you. You sit on the outside of the circle of moms, quiet with downcast eyes because nothing about “sleep training” is amusing and you’d gladly hire someone to get up with the baby if you could, because you can’t smile when you get out of bed for the fourth time that night. Instead, you grit your teeth and plead, “please just go to sleep!”

I see you, Mama. I see you who just adopted this perfect little baby and instead of feeling bliss and joy, you smile wanly at this stranger baby. I see you as you wonder if you made a mistake. I see you as you feed and change this baby, but don’t really want to hold him.

I see you. I see you when you look longingly at your book/piano/garden/sewing machine because you haven’t touched it in months. I see you when you put aside time to do these things and then I see your face when you are interrupted five times in the first ten minutes. I see you when you decide it’s not worth it and you put it away. I see you as you wonder if you’ll ever be anything else besides the mommy.

I see you with the look of shame because you shared these feelings with someone who then suggested that maybe you just weren’t surrendering to Him enough, or maybe you needed to choose more joy, or…all those easy answers.

I see you, Mama. I see you staring in the mirror, the panic flitting on your face as you see the lines and dark circles. I see you sigh and search the cosmetics aisle, looking for something that makes you look more woman and less mommy. I see you, trying to fit into those jeans, and seeing the C-section scar that will make those jeans impossible. I see you glancing at the younger single girls around you, wondering if your husband wishes you looked like that.

I see you. I see you with slumped shoulders after you yelled at him for the fifth time today. I see you as you clench your fists and tell yourself to calm down, it’s just clothes on the floor, but that thought doesn’t help.

I see you, Mama. I see you when your family asks what you want for Mother’s day and you want to whisper that you just want to be left alone. You aren’t depressed. You aren’t angry. You just want silence. I see the guilt in your eyes over wanting that.

I see you.  I see you at those church events where we talk about being a mom. I see the defeat in your eyes because you feel like a failure. I see the fear when you begin the mental checklist of all the ways you are screwing up your kids. I see you read the books and blogs, the ones that say being a mother is your highest calling and that if you don’t feel joy at being a mother, it’s not that the job is hard, it’s that you haven’t surrendered to what God wants for you. I see you when you think your kids deserve a better mother.

In the “war on women”, women are the most aggressive offense. I’ve been so guilty of this. So let me lay down the weapons and tell you what I also see…

I see a Mama who walked into this deep end of the ocean without a job description. I see a woman who loves imperfectly. I see a woman who is real. I see a woman who is being humbled, which is a much more attractive quality than size four jeans. I see a woman who will develop compassion, and start to recognize these looks in others. I see a mom who won’t be as quick to judge, because it’s much harder to judge when you’ve dressed the wounds of unmet expectations. I see a mom who will maybe be more apt to listening, because we learn to listen as soon as we learn that we don’t have the answers.

I see a mom who needs a friend to tell her that it’s going to be okay and that she isn’t forgotten. To tell her that the Lord is bigger than her mistakes. To encourage her with the fact that her worth is not wrapped up in her performance- including her performance as a mother. To not give her easy answers, but shared tears. To remind her that motherhood can be an idol, and being a mother isn’t our highest calling, being a disciple is. To encourage her to not live life alone, because it’s only when we speak out that we realize we aren’t the only ones who feel this weight. Someone to tell her husband that giving her 48 hours alone is probably one of the kindest things he could do for her. A friend who will speak a gentle Happy Mother’s Day to her, and understand if her eyes fill with tears because being a mom is much much harder than she ever thought it would be.

If this is your life Mama, let’s live it together.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my friends who are finding great joy in being a mom, and for those who are fighting to find it.

Exhausted Mom with Baby

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

%d bloggers like this: