Respect and Parenting

‘Respect’ has so many different meanings.

This morning my husband and I were talking about respect. I told him that I wanted this post to be on respect and parenting. I told him that I have an issue with the position that parents are automatically due respect from their children (in the same way that I take issue with the idea that any clout automatically requires respect). He wholeheartedly agreed that respect is earned.

Then I asked him if we are to respect our children. He and I both agreed that its part of our job as parents to teach them respect by acting it out. They should feel respected by us too, but not always in the same way…

Respect has so many meanings!

  • To admire
  • To have ‘due regard’ for
  • To avoid harming or interfering with
  • To comply with

Which ‘Respect’ should we do and/or teach as parents? Which ones are earned, and which ones are deserved? Which ones apply to which situations? How do we navigate all of this as parents?

We don’t expect our kids to instinctively acknowledge our positions as their superiors by acting out all of our wishes and expectations (although this would be nice, we understand that this just isn’t how people are wired, and the only way that I know of to make this work is to insert fear into the situation, which is not how we want to parent.) We plan to foster healthy relationships with our children that lead to feelings of trust, resulting in a desire to ‘respect’ us by being compliant.

We don’t want them to ever act blindly because anyone ‘said so’ (In my opinion, one’s position alone shouldn’t warrant respect). We want to grow thinkers who are able to behave responsibly and ethically on their own (obviously with tons of guidance from us in the beginning, and hopefully on the occasional (sought out) counsel of us in their adult lives.) We want them to feel safe to disagree with us. We want them to feel like we have due regard for their feelings, wishes, and rights. Hopefully by respecting them, we will teach them to respect us and others.

Now, I know you’re probably rolling your eyes at this point. I don’t want to be misunderstood. We give our children boundaries (tons of them…remember, I’m a control freak.) We give them consequences for not adhering to boundaries. We outline expectations, and we explain the natural consequences that will result if expectations are not met (and we follow through). We tell them ‘no’, and we certainly don’t consider our kids our friends. But, we do it all with them and their hearts and minds in mind, not because we believe that we are always right and they are always wrong.

These are the ways that we want to behave as parents, and the results that we are hoping to see, but we constantly slip up when it comes to respecting them and teaching them to respect us and others. It’s so much work already, and our oldest isn’t even four yet. Lol.

Here are some practical ways that we are teaching our kids (toddlers) respect.

  1. We let them disagree with us. Disagreement is not the same thing as disrespect! Sometimes our toddlers are disrespectful in the way that they disagree (because they’re toddlers and the LOVE to test boundaries by screaming or acting out), but we try to discipline their inappropriate behaviors and also address the disagreement. Generally, once everyone has calmed down, we land on the fact that mom and dad were right. Occasionally though, we’ve misread a situation, and listening to them reveals that they were right and we were wrong. Gasp!
  2. We let them disobey us, even if we can prevent it. We don’t like it, but sometimes we watch them do the thing that we’ve told them not to do (“don’t climb on the chair!” I could obviously physically remove them from the chair, but sometimes I don’t). When they fail or get hurt they learn that mom and dad aren’t just out to ruin their fun. Our three year old has even said, “Oh is that why you told me not to do it?!” They face consequences (like timeout) for blatantly choosing to do the opposite of what they were told, but it’s all a learning experience. They learn that our directions are intended to help them, not hurt them. This builds trust. So, by letting them disobey (disrespect) us, we are hopefully allowing them to learn about respect through first hand experience (instead of expecting them to obey without understanding why it’s important).
  3. We play with them. When we play, things concerning respect are bound to come up! Playtime allows us to model respect in real life situations and imaginary situations. Sometimes we run into their personal boundaries, and are faced with the decision to either respect their bodies or not (“Stop tickling me!” “Put me down!). Sometimes our imaginary personalities have conflicts that we have to overcome respectfully. Sometimes playing just results in normal sibling rivalries- tons of opportunity to teach respect.

So, we’re TRYING to teach our boys all of the meanings of respect. I try to avoid using the word ‘respect’ though, because it really is quite confusing. I say things like “momma wants you to obey because…”, or “we need to be nice to each other because…”, or “are you treating your brother the way that you want him to treat you?”.

I know that our intentions as parents are good. I know that all of this is bound to change over time as we gain parenting experience and get to know our boys better, but this is what we’re doing now. I think that the ways that we define respect are a direct result of our life experiences, and how/what we were taught about respect. I know that so many people disagree with my viewpoint, and that’s OK!

How do you define respect? How do you teach your kids about respect? What are your expectations re respect from your kids? Do you and I agree, or are you more of a ‘respect is deserved’ parent? Why?

Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow, like, comment, and share.

Tackling Fear

Around 3 this morning I woke up to a loud sound (probably outside of our home). I rolled over and woke my husband up to see if he could hear anything downstairs. He checked the baby monitor to see if the boys were okay first, then he opened our bedroom door to listen for what I thought could have been an intruder.
This probably happens once a year. He’s super compliant and very brave in these situations (because I’m kinda crazy and it has never been an intruder).
Before I was married and living with my husband, I was living in a prefab home that was at the edge of an apple orchard in Hendersonville, NC. It was a rickety little house that was actually two prefab rooms squished together. There was a huge seam running down the center of the living room.
I lived here for a year. It was perfect for me! I was living by myself, about two miles from the school where I was working, and rent was super cheap (probably because I was renting from the principal of the school, and he knew what I made).
I’m not sure if I ever really slept in that house. I think I may have just entered some trance that resulted in rest. I was terrified there! I never wanted to close my eyes.
I usually got home around 11:30 in the evening II worked from 3-11). I’d call my then boyfriend as I was getting in my car to leave the school. He’d talk to me all the way to my house. I’d drive up the gravel driveway, run to my front door with my key in hand (kinda pointed outward and ready to attack), unlock the door, and run to my room. Then I’d sit in bed watching shows and videos until I couldn’t anymore.
I didn’t like the silence. I just knew that if I was going to be murdered it would be on the edge of that apple orchard, in my adorable peach colored house. I made it!
I never tackled that fear. I was rescued by a handsome man who proposed to me in the living room of that rickety house and later swept me off to Austin, TX. Now we both sleep, and if I get scared I just make him deal with it!
I have a ton of other fears, though. Getting married didn’t take care of all of them. If anything- I’ve got more fears now.
So what is fear? I couldn’t sleep after the mysterious banging noise this morning, so I tried to rack my brain for how I define fear.
It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable. It’s an emotion. But what causes it? Is it faulty wiring? Is it a belief that something can hurt me?
I finally dozed back off after deciding that I think that fear (my fear at least) is caused by a firm belief that something is harmful or dangerous (to me or anyone really…this is what really gets the ball rolling for anxious moms.)
Today I’m going to share some of the things that I am afraid of, and how I’m tackling those fears. Some of these fears are things that I still struggle with, but many of them have transitioned from fears to friends. Several of the things that I used to fear greatly have become the things that have grown me the most. I’ll explain more as they come up.
My fears
I am obviously not super comfortable around poisonous spiders and snakes, but those aren’t the types of fears that I’m going to be discussing today. There are things that are somewhat reasonable to fear, and things that aren’t. I’ll be talking about my generally unreasonable fears. The ones that were keeping me from living my life.
  •  Being Exposed- I don’t mean unintentionally becoming nude and being forced to run across the stage at my high school graduation (although, how terrifying?!). I’m talking about a fear of people finding out ‘who I really am’ or ‘what’s really inside my heart.’ I’ve mentioned before that I used to feel like my heart was out of alignment or something, like although I was doing good things, I was not good because of some ugly black thing in the center of my heart.   I have since learned that this thing is my human nature, and that as hard as I try to hide it, it’s going to be seen. I’ve stopped trying to hide the fact that I’m not perfect, and that I’m sometimes driven by what I want and not what’s best for the good of everyone. I still don’t love the fact that I’m not entirely morally pure, but I’m learning that I was holding myself to an impossible standard. I was always afraid that someone would expose me for me. I was afraid of myself, and that’s never a good thing! We are all human. We all have a human nature. Not one of us is God. I’ve decided to stop trying to be ‘God like” and let the process of refining and shaping my heart happen naturally. I’m now more open to learning, more confident in who I have been made to be, and less afraid ALL THE TIME! This has been the biggest fear that I’ve tackled so far.      How’d I do it? By trusting the good and encouraging things that people said about me personally, and by choosing to believe the good things that I read about people as a whole. I had to be honest about my fear, and acknowledge how it was impacting my life. As I did that I opened myself up to healing. I let friends and mentors know how I felt about myself and they swiftly and gently corrected me. They told me about their own shortcomings. They revealed the darkest parts of their own human nature, and it helped. So, instead of fearing exposure, I exposed myself- and it has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself!
  • Medical Issues- When I was a kid I had a series of brain surgeries caused by a recurring brain tumor. My dad was hospitalized a lot (for meningitis, hepatitis, cellulitis- all several times). My mom has been isolated to a wheel chair for as long as I’ve been alive, and she’s legally blind. All of this kinda resulted in a fear of unanticipated medical issues. Honestly, for a decade after my last brain surgery, every headache or dizzy spell would scare the boogers out of me! Then when I became a mom, I’d panic every time one of my boys seemed like he had a headache. I was living under the assumption that something bad was going to happen, and WHEN it did, I wasn’t going to be able to handle it. I was choosing to let my fear control the way that I was enjoying motherhood. I let it rule my thoughts. We were at the doctors office every time the boys coughed because I was afraid of missing something big (because you know coughing is a chief sign of a slow growing brain tumor! no.) This fear can’t be considered tackled, but I think that we can safely categorize it is a friend. I haven’t panicked over a headache of my own in a couple of years, and my boys headaches are all likely caused by the fact that they’re always headbutting each other (boys are nuts!). I’ve learned that although it will be uncomfortable when medical issues arise (for me, my husband, my boys), we will get through it, because we are capable and we’re not alone! For some reason I thought that bravery was the key to getting through medical stuff. Like, I could only make it through if I was a pillar of strength who welcomed pain. Seeing the pain of others has taught me that that’s just not true. My own abilities and allowances have nothing to do with how well I will suffer. Strength comes from external sources, and it comes in abundance when you let it! So, I’m tackling this fear by choosing to be an active part of a community, and by caring about the suffering of others. It’s kinda like exposure therapy.
  • Abandonment- I think this stems from my insecurities, which I’ve discussed in other posts and a bit in the “exposure” bullet above, but I’ve always been afraid that people would leave me- especially my husband and my friends. I’ve never been abandoned by a parent, or sustained anything that would have caused extreme attachment issues, so I have no clue why my insecurities manifested in this way, but they did. From the beginning of my relationship with my husband I have always given him an ‘out’. If we fought, I’d offer to sacrificially break up with him so he didn’t have to leave me. In friendships I never got too attached because I knew that it could only end in pain. The thought of a loved one leaving me still isn’t pleasant, but I no longer classify it as a fear because I no longer see it as presenting harm or danger to me. I now know that IF someone chooses to leave, it’s their prerogative. My job is to love and enjoy my husband and my friends, and in doing so, I’ve found that I feel much more secure in my relationships. Fearing abandonment was pushing people away (I thank God everyday for my husband, who stuck it out because he loved me. He could have easily been scarred by my doubt. He could have easily run and it wouldn’t have been his fault at all!) I can’t really give you specifics when it comes to tackling this one. I think it’s a lot like the work that I put into the other two. My insecurities have shrunk since I’ve been willing to admit them, and my being more involved in my relationships has taught me that people benefit from having me in their lives as much as I benefit from their presence in mine.

Y’all, there are like a bazillion other fears that I have had the joy of checking off of my ‘tackling fears’ list as a result of these same principals. So instead of listing all of them (and I’m serious, there are a ton), I’m going to list the things that helped me tackle them…

  1.  Being open about my fears
  2. Listening to the people around me
  3. Praying/reading my Bible/reading other helpful literature
  4. Trusting people- I have no concrete solution for trusting people. I just decided to act as if I trusted people, and eventually I did.
  5. Trusting myself and my abilities- again, no step by step guide, I just decided that I wasn’t broken and I started implementing trusting behaviors (stopped shaming myself, started caring for myself). The trust eventually came.
  6. Saying nice things to myself- whenever I realized that I was speaking lies to myself, I just reversed them. It felt really silly at first, but I eventually stopped speaking lies to myself. I eventually started to believe the reversed lies, and now I don’t have to do this silly exercise that often because I’ve stopped lying to myself (for the most part).

Fear is a jerk! It is powerful and overbearing. Don’t let it rule your life! Reach out to others. Seek the help of a mental health professional (I DID!). Take medication if you need it. Talk to your doctor. Talk to your spouse, your friends, your family. ACT, because you’ll feel so much better once you stop the cycle of fear that you may be trapped in.

I know that at one point my fears seemed too big to tackle. There were even times that I didn’t realize that I was being ruled by them. They’re sneaky sometimes, but they can infiltrate everything in your life.

I hope that this has been an encouragement to someone who is struggling like I was. You are not faulty! You can feel better!

Please feel free to like, follow, comment, and share. I hope you all have an awesome FRIDAY!!

-LJ Brehm

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Meet Me Face to Face

 

I’ve created a YouTube Channel to go along with my blog! There will be much more content here, on my website, but I’ll upload videos occasionally.

I’ve learned that it’s much easier for me to sit in front of a screen and type words than it is for me to show you my face as I speak. There are probably several reasons for this, but I think the biggest one is that it’s easier to fake it when everything is written. So, these videos are somewhat self indulgent. I’m hoping to be more honest as a result of speaking instead of just writing. It seems like more accountability is found here for some reason. I think it’ll also be a fun challenge.

Anyhoo- this is an introduction to my channel and my blog. I hope you like it! (And I blink A LOT, so if that bothers you you may want to forgo the video 🙂 )

A Busy Mom’s Most Used Makeup Items

It’s no secret that I’m not an everyday makeup wearer. I wear makeup when I want to, and I’ve never really felt like I NEED it. (This doesn’t mean that I always feel like I look good, though 😂- just that I’m not convinced that the amount of makeup that I’m comfortable with really changes the way I look that much.)

I’m pretty comfortable with walking out of the house sporting my natural face, but when I want a little pick me up, or when I’m in the mood to be perceived as ‘having it all together’ I’ll take ten minutes or so to put on some momma-friendly makeup.

Makeup really does make a world of difference in how I feel! (Which should incentivize wearing it everyday, but it hasn’t yet.) When I’ve taken some alone time in the morning just to focus on my face, I can really sense myself being more confident throughout the day. I’d even argue that I’m in a better mood on days when I wear makeup (that I’m comfortable in). I’m not sure if it’s the power of the makeup or the fact that I’ve looked myself in the eye, and taken the time to care for myself first thing in the morning. Either way, the result is good!

There’s a huge difference between makeup that I’m comfortable in and makeup that makes me feel like a walking car wreck (you know, that ‘cant look away’ phenomenon. It’s so bad, but you just can’t look away…some makeup makes me feel like that.)

Things you might like to know about me before I share what’s in my makeup bag:

1. I have really dry skin

2. I’m generally found wearing neutrals or muted colors (muted neutrals are my sweet spot…grey, tan. I know, I know, so exciting.)

3. I have loads of freckles, and completely covering them up just feels weird. I still want my face to look like my face.

4. I don’t like the feeling of heavy makeup. I like for my face to breathe. We have pores for a reason, after all. So, I tend to go for more lightweight bases.

5. My boys touch my face a lot. This sounds weird, but it’s true. We’re a very touchy bunch, and one of our signature moves is the affectionate face hold. I don’t want that to stop because I’m wearing makeup, so I don’t generally wear anything that’s cream based.

6. I don’t have a night life, so I very rarely change up my makeup look from day to night. Let’s be honest, most nights I’m in bed by 9, and if we go on a date or I want a little more va va voom, I’ll just add a little eyeliner.

My makeup bag in all of it’s glory!

I bought this bag at a gift shop in Asheville, NC. It was made from an old table cloth, and it is super easy to wipe clean! I love the colors. It’s a perfectly cheery morning pick me up.

It’s contents:

This is what’s currently in my makeup bag. I own a couple of other foundations including NARS Sheer Glow Foundation, and Maybelline Fit Me Foundation. And I also own a couple of colorful Wet n Wild Eye Shadow Palettes for days when I’m feeling extra brave.

These are my tools. I generally buy the cheapest thing that gets the job done, but when I’m feeling particularly selective (or when I have a gift card to Ulta or Target), I’ll buy Real Techniques tools. I have a few of their brushes that are currently hiding in my bathroom (They’re dirty and I’m busy!!).

Believe it or not, all of this fits into my little makeup bag! I have a system for getting it all to fit, but when I do it right I can get it all in. I couldn’t add another thing to it if I tried.

Let’s break everything down a bit.

 

Face

These are the things that I use on my face. I have been loving this Cover FX Anti Aging Primer. It’s super moisturizing (which I need), and most foundations sit on top of it really beautifully. Using a primer with good ingredients allows me to spend significantly less on foundation, too!

My Wet n Wild Photo Focus Foundation has been my favorite one this summer. It doesn’t make my face look super dry, and it doesn’t completely cover my freckles. I’ve found that it provides a nice, light weight coverage. I’d say it’s a medium coverage foundation. It covers the red, but leaves the freckles. Win Win.

My contour and highlight palette is from Smashbox. I use this to lightly contour my cheeks and forehead, and the ‘highlighter’ in the palette is not shimmery. It’s actually the perfect color to act as a setting powder for my pale skin! I don’t often use bronzer, but I like that this one isn’t shimmery.

My blush (the only blush I’ve ever used) is Bobbi Brown’s Desert Rose Blush. It complements my fair skin and freckles, and it applies evenly over foundation or powder. I like that it’s low maintenance because putting pink stuff on my face is a little terrifying to me!

 

Eyes

My Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette is a little old…oops. It seems that it is no longer being sold, so I’ve linked their Ultimate Basics Palette. It looks like it contains all of these shades, plus a few others. I have loved this palette for a couple of years now. It is perfectly neutral, and I can use these shades for my brows and eyeliner too!

This Precisely My Brow Pencil from Benefit Cosmetics is great for filling in the scar on my eyebrow! It is thin enough to be precise, and my brows never look super overdrawn. If I want to kick it up a notch and actually ‘do’ my brows, this does that too. I can completely fill in my brows without them looking like sharpie lines on my forehead, and I feel super fancy.

I rarely wear eye liner, but when I do I tend to go for one that doesn’t move too much. This Covergirl Perfect Point Plus eye pencil works well for me. It doesn’t move too much, and I can smudge it right after I put it on for a less stark line.

This NYX Doll Eye Mascara was in my Christmas stocking. My husband said he went into Ulta and randomly picked it off of the shelf. It works well, doesn’t smudge or transfer, and it stays on for a while. When I first got it it was a little too wet for me, but over time it has dried out a bit, and I LOVE it!

 

Lips

Are you impressed? Don’t be too intimidated by my multi-step lip regimen.

Carmex Lip Balm has always been my favorite. I probably have 5 tubes sitting around my house. My boys even love it! I apply this before I start doing the rest of my makeup. It is super moisturizing, and it makes my lips smooth enough to apply lipstick that doesn’t end up being crusty.

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipsticks are my favorite. I have a few shades, but the one that lives in my makeup bag is “Sassy Mauve”. The formulation of this lipstick is smooth and creamy, but not shiny. It isn’t matte, but it definitely is not glossy. This shade is super close to the natural shade of my lips (when I’m well rested and hydrated), so I like to think that it complements my other coloring well.

 

Before

This was last night after we ate dinner. The boys were playing on their new swing set with daddy, and I was laying in our hammock enjoying our gorgeous shade tree! My face has zero things on it, and I like it this way.

 

After

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This is me this morning. It took me around ten minutes to apply my ‘full face’ of makeup. I don’t think that these two pictures are all that different, but I definitely have makeup on in this picture.

I’m the same LJ in both pictures. The makeup hasn’t changed anything on the inside, but I do feel more put together in the after picture. I’ve taken the time to pamper myself a little, and it feels good.

Now I need to go clean my makeup brushes! My boys have been shoving them up their noses. It’s hard to blog and mom at the same time.

Teaching My Kids that it’s Okay to be ‘Selfish’

I don’t like the world ‘selfish’. It’s confusing! Self, meaning a person’s individual being. The thing that separates them from others. -Ish, an adjective forming suffix that means ‘belonging to’ or ‘somewhat’. -Ish turns ‘Britain’ into ‘British’. It turns ‘blue’ into ‘blueish’. So, ‘Selfish’? It’s clearly an adjective, but if it followed these rules it would either mean ‘belonging to one’s self’ or ‘somewhat self’. Neither of these things is bad!

SELF IS GOOD- or at least it should be.

‘Selfish’ is a term used to describe actions that are done without the consideration of others. I get it. Sometimes we act selfishly, without caring how our negative actions are going to impact others, and that’s not a good thing. Sometimes, though, we act independently, free from ego or ill will toward anyone. Is that selfish? Is not considering others in my decision to pee without wearing my baby actually selfish, or is it self-sustaining?

I questioned myself and my intentions for far too long. I thought that my heart may have been out of alignment or something. I thought that everything that I did for myself inconvenienced others, and inconveniencing others is wrong. I expected the people around me to hold themselves to the same (high and mighty) selfless standards. I was disappointed and unsatisfied with life.

Now i see that self-sustaining behaviors are important! Self-care is NOT selfish. If anything, taking care of myself for MY benefit is a GREAT thing for my family and everyone i interact with.

When I participate in self-sustaining behaviors, I’m happier, more independent, more capable, less critical of myself and others, and more able to guide my kids through their relationships with others.

Today I’m going to outline some of the self-sustaining behaviors that I once thought were selfish. These are things that I do for myself. None of these things are done with ill will toward my family, but most of them are done without too much scrutiny on my part. All of them are fairly small behaviors, but the sum of them is huge!

  1. I set aside time to write blogs while they play- without me. Ok ok, so i’m in the same room as them, and I respond to crisis situations, but they’re ‘without me’ for the most part. They know that momma is ‘working’ and that this is my time too. The rest of the day is ours. I get on the floor and let them climb on me. I teach them “things about stuff” (this is my toddlers phrasing for when i tell them that I want to teach them something. lol.) I take them places to play and explore. I answer all two million of their questions. I give them lots of attention, but not during this time. (The part of me that still reverts to shame wants to tell you how good this has been for my boys. They’re learning to play nicer. They’re sharing more. They find creative ways to have fun without me. Their imaginations are running beautifully wild. I think all of this has to do with LESS attention from momma, believe it or not.)
  2. I limit the amount of sharing that I do. This sounds horrible, doesn’t it? I do share with my kids, I just set the perimeters. I know that they’re going to want some of everything that I have, so I mentally prepare. I give them some of whatever it is (food, drink, time doing the activity that I’m doing) and then tell them that the rest is momma’s. Sometimes I share more than one of whatever it is (because I’m momma and that’s what mommas do), but when I tell them “last bite” or “that’s all” or “mommas turn now” I don’t recoil. Occasionally they throw a fit, but I’m gotten to the point where I’m okay with that. I think this is teaching them just as much as it’s sustaining me. They know that momma loves them and that sharing is good, but they’re also learning that momma does things for herself.
  3. I exercise (and I no longer wake up at 4:30 am to do it.) Right now my exercise is limited. I’m insanely pregnant and I’m dealing with bilateral sciatica (it hurts!!). My exercise has taken the form of stretches assigned to me by my physical therapist, or biweekly visits to my physical therapist’s office. The boys try to do the stretches too! They get a huge kick out of “exercise time”, and it often evolves into “Walk a mile in your living room” youtube videos. I struggle with anxiety. For a while I was getting up at the bum crack of dawn to go to a bootcamp group fitness class. I felt so good, both physically and mentally, but the early morning time commitment became exhausting. I don’t think that you have to make gigantic time sacrifices to get the physical activity that you need (newborn situations are obviously different, but that phase is so short!). You can exercise around your kids, or include them in your exercise (If you’re a SAHM that is. If you’re a working parent you can take advantage of lunchtime and breaks at work. When I worked I’d go on long walks during lunch time. I’d pack portable lunches that were easy to eat while walking. It’s not ideal, but it worked!)
  4. I don’t stay up until 2 am just to get housework done! I have several friends who say that they only time that they have to actually get stuff done is after their kids have gone to bed. So they stay up as late as they have to to get everything done that ‘needs to be done’. These friends (who I genuinely love and respect) are not often invited into my home. We don’t live in filth, but I’m definitely not doing hours upon hours of housework everyday. Our home is very lived in, and it shows! My intention is not to shame those of you who are excellent at housework. That time after the kids go to be could be super valuable alone time! I think that if it’s good for you, you should do it! It’s just not good for me, and a somewhat messy house doesn’t hurt my family.
  5. I expect my kids to be as independent as they can be. This one has taken me a long long time to get to. I planned to be a mom who loves sacrificially all the time. I planned to respond to my kids’ every beck and call, but that’s just not realistic. One of our boys is very particular about how most things should be. He gets upset if something doesn’t live up to his expectations. He’s not super flexible. All of this resulted in me doing everything in my power to keep him comfortable. I had even begun to intervene before stuff happened. I was an anxious mess, and he was only learning that the world would bend to be what he wanted it to be. It wasn’t good for either of us. He has gotten older, and I have gotten wiser. Now I let stuff happen. I let him be somewhat uncomfortable sometimes. I often use phrases like “figure it out”, or “you’re such a good problem solver! Show momma how to solve this problem”. Instead of trying to fix all of his problems, I expect him to try to fix them himself. He’s only three right now, so his problems aren’t usually putting him in real harm. He knows that momma is always willing to help him if he NEEDS it, but he no longer expects me to fix EVERYTHING. My anxiety has reduced tremendously as a result of letting go of controlling his life. I’m less exhausted at the end of the day because all of my energy hasn’t gone to living for my three year old. And I’m teaching him that he is capable of most things that he sets his mind to (along with the fact that we are each responsible for ourselves.)
  6. I spend time away from my kids. Not much time, but some time…during their waking hours. I go to small group on Thursday nights. There I get to spend time with some dear friends, talking about what the Lord is teaching us, and praying together. My husband puts the boys in bed on these evenings, and I get to focus on MY heart. Occasionally I’ll do things like get a massage (very rarely, but it has happened), or get my haircut. It’s purely about me, and I’m the only one who directly benefits from it, and it’s’ good! It’s all about balance.

I am fortunate to have an excellent support when it comes to parenting and adulting. I know that not everyone is as fortunate. If you need time for yourself and you don’t have a live in coparent it’s probably much harder to focus on yourself, but it’s still important. Reach out to whoever you consider your support system. Take time to do things for yourself, and do it for YOU, not for your kids. If there’s literally no time, think about how you can modify your parenting style to make your job easier (while still caring for and teaching your kids). It is possible to think of yourself and still be an awesome momma!

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Pictured above: Super pregnant LJ wearing a “Boone NC” t-shirt that features both snot and dirt. Boys are gross…and fun!!

Learning Effective Communication

Communication is puzzling to me. Everyone communicates differently in every situation. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to communication, so it can be an intimidating subject to tackle.

Even a fantastic communicator can run into communication difficulties when the person with whom they are communicating can’t understand. Can one really learn how to communicate effectively?

I think so. But, I don’t think it’s a subject that you can ever classify as ‘learned’. I think that we learn how to communicate throughout our entire lives. I think that our knowledge of effective communication is always changing- if we let it.

So, in today’s post I’m going to share some of what I’ve learned about communicating effectively with the people around me. I’ll share some of the experiences that have led me to believe that I’m qualified to write about communication, and you can hopefully learn something from my flops.

As soon as I graduated from college I started a job as a residential coach at a boarding school for teenagers on the autism spectrum. Most of the teenagers were either diagnosed with high functioning autism, or Asperger’s syndrome (a diagnosis that no longer exists after the publication to the DSM-5).

My job was to help the students live life outside of the classroom. The most unexpected part of guiding them through their day to day lives was practicing communication with them. I’d had no clue that relationships required so much communication until it was my job to watch other people relate to one another!

That boarding school is where I learned that no two people are alike when it comes to communication. We all send different messages with our words, our bodies, and our overall demeanors. We all receive sent messages differently, too. So how are we even functioning as a society?! How are we not all exhausted from trying to send and receive the right messages? (I kinda am, but that might have something to do with the fact that most of my conversations involve people under the age of four 😂.)

The first lesson I learned about effective communication was to LISTEN. My students taught me that listening and paying attention to social cues is the MOST important part of communication.

Before I started that job I thought I was an excellent communicator. In fact, I was often complemented on my communication skills. But I wasn’t good at it at all. I was far more concerned about what came out of my mouth than I was about listening.

I’d argue that communication is an activity that always involves more than one person, and if you’re not paying attention to the other person (or group of people), you’re doing it wrong.

So, what does listening look like? For me, it has taken on several different forms. I listen with my ears, my eyes, and my intuition (this one is a little wonky, but hopefully it’ll be clearer soon).

Listening with your ears is the ‘easy’ one. You just stay quiet and focused (the hard part if you’re like me and interrupt people non-stop because your thoughts are running a mile a minute) while the other person is talking. You use active listening skills while they’re talking, and when they’re finished talking you seek clarification before continuing with your point (a very important part of listening is making sure that you understand. I think that this is likely the biggest piece that is missing from most non effective communication.)

Listening with your eyes sounds silly, but our visual imput is a huge part of how we interpret what we’re receiving through our ears. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been listening with my ears, but looking at something completely outside of the conversation, and missed a huge chunk of the message.

The ability to both hear and see the person with whom you are communicating is a huge gift! Visual cues can give us a wealth of information.

In the very beginning of our marriage my husband and I were talking about some issue that I knew was going to lead to a fight. I was avoiding eye contact at all costs because I felt like I was going to cry (this happened a lot when my husband and I were first learning to communicate effectively with each other). I finally looked up at him when the tone in his voice changed. His face was sad, but I thought he sounded angry. It turns out that I’d completely misinterpreted the information that he was giving me because I wasn’t paying attention to all of the information!

Listening with your intuition seems a little too intense, but all I mean is to listen to your instincts. I think that some of this comes with time and closeness to the person with whom you are communicating, but not all of it. For example- you walk into a convenience store and the clerk at the counter is acting completely normal. He takes your debit card, swipes it, tells you to have a nice day, and you leave. You get in your car and you just feel like something wasn’t right. You start to head back inside when you notice a man crouched under the counter with a gun and an open pillow case. The clerk is filling the bag with the contents of the register. You call 911. Are you psychic?! No. You just used your instincts to read the situation.

This is a super extreme example, but I used it to illustrate my point because, in this situation, there was no obvious auditory or visual message being sent. There were likely small auditory and visual stimuli that contributed to your instinct that something was wrong, but it wasn’t as obvious as seeing the gunman yourself or hearing the clerk scream for help. You listened to your own intuition more than you listened to the situation, and that can be a very helpful part of communication!

So, to me, the most important part of communication is listening. I think the second most important part of effective communication is to think before you speak, and I am horrible at this!

Once you’ve listened you’re tasked with responding. I’m sure there is someone out there who is just perfect at this… They probably take a long pause before sharing a well planned thought. I am not this person.

My instinct is to jump right in as soon as the other person finished talking. Awkward silences are, after all, awkward! No one wants to stand there and stare at me as I figure out what to say next! Or do they?

Marriage has taught me that I’d much rather wait for an appropriate response from my husband than receive an immediate response that may be hurtful or incorrect. My husband is good at thinking before he speaks, but when pushed he has occasionally responded on my timeline. I can assure you that his thought out responses are a much truer representation of how he really feels. Be patient with the people with whom you are communicating! Be patient with yourself! It’s not a race, it’s a journey.

Patience is definitely not my strong suit. I’m still working on thinking before I speak (especially when it comes to communicating with my husband and our boys), but I have gotten much better at it over the years.

These are just a couple of the things that I’ve learned about communicating effectively. If this is helpful or informative to anyone I’ll share more of my thoughts later.

I think it’s important to remember that effective communication is never going to happen all of the time. You can be an excellent communicator and still be able to misunderstand or be misunderstood. Hopefully you will never consider yourself perfect at communicating. Hopefully you will always be open to learning!

Thanks for reading. Be kind to yourself and others!

My Biggest Parenting Failure

Last night I read list of questions designed to be writing prompts for parents. I was feeling a little stuck. The list definitely acted as a lubricant! My mind was racing so much last night that I didn’t get much sleep. I was excited to get up this morning and get to my computer.

The question that stood out the most was this: “what has been your biggest parenting failure so far?”

I like balance, especially when I’m sharing ‘bad’ things. So, for the sake of balance I’m going to also share my biggest parenting success so far. The two just happen to be very closely related.

Big brother is three and a half. He’s a brilliant, talkative, gentle, sensitive little dude, and he loves to learn! He loves to challenge his mind- so much so that he sometimes gets stuck when it comes to making ‘yes or no’ decisions. Simple things like, “would you like a cookie?” Sometimes turn into crises of the mind. And he hates to challenge his body! He didn’t walk until he was 16 months old. His doctor attributed this to a desire to ”do it right”. She said he was just cautious.

He has received occupational therapy for some sensory sensitivities that he deals with. He doesn’t like loud noises (unless he’s the one making them). He struggles with the introduction of new things (some days). And he doesn’t like to be groomed (nail clipping, hair brushing, and teeth brushing used to be much more difficult).

Big brother tends to be very reactive when he is uncomfortable. He screams and runs to momma or daddy for a hug. He covers his ears in new situations, as if to remove himself from the discomfort. It’s a hard thing to watch. As a momma, I want my kids to be comfortable in their own skin. I want big brother to always feel more powerful than the things that bother him.

A couple of months ago we visited family in Tennessee. The boys have cousins there, and tons of playing happened. Big brother began to loosen up as he saw his cousins jumping around and being free.

While we were there I noticed a huge decrease in his level of discomfort in new situations. He stopped covering his ears. He ran more. He jumped more, and he seemed much more comfortable interacting with the world.

One afternoon while we were in Tennessee, my mother in law and I took the boys to my niece’s horseback riding lesson. There were a few plastic playscape there, so the boys were set free to play. Little brother scaled the playscape like the adventurist that he is (he has no problem in new situations, and he loves discovering how high he can bounce). Big brother was more hesitant.

Eventually big brother began to play. At one point I noticed that he was getting upset. He was still the top of the tallest playscape (which wasn’t that tall), trying to decide how he was going to get down. My mother in law was there serving as encouragement.

I noticed that they were talking, which I filed away as a good thing. Typically big brother tends to scream in these uncomfortable situations. I decided that my mother in law was handling the situation, so I continued to pay attention to little brother.

A few minutes later, big brother ran to me with tears in his eyes. He was jumping with joy, and exclaimed, “momma! I was so brave!”

Later my mother in law told me that he had informed her that he didn’t want help. He wanted to practice being brave.

My momma heart melted.

Since we’ve been home from Tennessee, Big Brother has continued to practice bravery, but he still gets stuck. He still covers his ears occasionally. And he still prefers challenging his mind over challenging his body (although he is becoming more and more comfortable with climbing and falling.)

This comes to my biggest failure as a parent (so far- he is only three, after all). For the past two years I have felt like I’ve failed my son by being ‘too careful’ with him.

Whenever he does anything, my instinct is to shout ‘be careful!’. I rarely let him experience things without being right there, holding his hand. I was convinced that I’d broken his bravery. I knew that he could never be confident because I squished his confidence as a baby.

I know I’m not alone in this. I often see moms (with one kid 😂) acting as the bubble wrap for their kid’s life. It’s careless, after all, to just let your kid go wherever and do whatever they want! I mean, what kind of mom just let’s her kid walk along the brick wall surrounding the water fountain at the park?! As it turns out, this mom- little brother and pregnancy have left me exhausted, so big brother has had some space to learn bravery.

I’m grateful for our current chaos because it has been a good thing for big brother! He still gets loads of my attention, but he no longer lives in the bubble that I intended to keep him in until he was 18.

I’m not blaming myself for all of his lack of resilience and bravery, but I do take responsibility where it is due. I was too careful with him. I thought I was in control, and it hindered him a little.

So, my biggest success as a parent (specifically as a parent to Big Brother): the Roomba bravery incident.

Big Brother HATES the Roomba. He detests it! It is loud. It moves without reason. It chases unsuspecting toddlers into chairs that are just a little too high to comfortably climb into. It’s the worst!

Yesterday the Roomba was in the living room charging, and little brother decided that the power button looked extra inviting. He proudly pushed it. The robot beeped its warning beeps, and big brother stood erect. He watched as it bounced from chair to wall. He closely observed its motions. Then he exclaimed, “momma, I’m gonna turn it off!”

Now I typically would have jumped out of my seat and turned it off long before big brother noticed what little brother had done. I’m a ninja. But yesterday was a rough day. It was sweltering here in Texas and momma couldn’t just jump up. I’ve been so dizzy lately. So, I stayed out and let the situation play out without intervention.

Big Brother walked over to the Roomba. He was kind of hunched over, as if trying to catch a rabbit. He lunged torward the Roomba, pinned it down, and pushed the green power button. It beeped to signal that it was stopping and big brother shouted, “I did it, momma!!”

Y’all, my big boy was so brave!

He jumped into my arms and I proudly told him how brave I thought he’d been. It was a precious moment. I fought back tears…over a Roomba (I’m pregnant, give me a break!).

This was the proudest that I’ve been of myself and him. I was not a control freak. I did not give in to my fear of having to deal with a potential melt down, and as a result, big brother was able to choose to be brave. Win win.

It’s the little things 😂.

What has been your biggest parenting success/failure? I’d love to know!

Thank you so much for reading! Please comment and share if you’d like!