For the days when you'd rather hide backstage

Monday, July 14, 2014

The baby is screaming, the toddler is in the almost-but-not-yet stage of potty training, and one of the big boys has a cold with the snotty attitude to prove it.  Some mornings I long for a stunt double.

A nanny, a tutor, a housekeeper ... anyone willing to step in for the impossible, disgusting, and  dangerous parts of my life, while I drink coffee backstage.  To un-goop floors, enforce the media restriction, soothe the fussy baby, wipe the runny noses.  I want someone to show up and make being a mom easier.  I'll take over again when life gets to the good part.

The problem is, I suspect this is the good part.

healing takes a long, long time.

Monday, July 7, 2014

One thing I know for sure: healing takes a long, long time.

It's been not quite two years since we left a destructive theology. Six months later we moved across the country, decided to stay married, and wandered into a little Anglican church one Sunday morning. We are now in our second year of healing. As far as I can tell, the roots of damaging thinking have been pulled out of my life. I no longer cry when I hear them, the way I once did. I've rejected the idea of a temperamental, abusive god who is dangling us all over the pit of Hell - the "even when you're repenting, you're still sinning" god.

what I learned when my son went to work with me

Thursday, July 3, 2014

He asked to go to work with his dad. The neighbors' kids were planning a "bring your child to work" day, and he wanted to do the same. But it's not safe for children to be on site at my husband's job, so he had another idea. "Mom, can I go write with you?"

I don't make a dime writing. There is a small stipend for the editing work I do, but honestly my time as a barista was more lucrative (though not nearly as rewarding). Right now I'm not making a meaningful contribution to my family's income, but in my house, writing is my job, not my hobby. Because I love words, because I love you guys, and because I'm convinced words have the power to open our hearts and move us out of our cells of isolation and fear.  Though it's not a source of income, my family refers to the time I spend writing as my work time.

So one afternoon last week, my oldest son went to work with me. First he perused A Wide Mercy. Then I showed him how to write an article, choose and format images, publish, and share on social media. He wrote a submission letter (and even sent it, because I have very patient and generous coworkers), heard about the importance of editing, and studied my magazine's internal database for sharing information. Then he wrote for a while.

Work has always been my biggest source of insecurity in parenting. I know all the arguments for

what I wish I'd known when I was raising toddlers (the first time)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

This is my crew. My first two are eighteen months apart, my second two are twenty-one months apart. Right now, I'm raising my second round of toddlers. As I'm chasing my current little ones, I often think back to the first time I had two toddlers - balancing one on a public potty while holding the other away from the toilet with one arm, scanning a playground for two little heads at all times, the exhausted whiney late afternoon hours, the intense bedtime routines, the way I was forever searching for sippy cups and helping with shoes. The fight for my
lap during story time. The fighting, period (that part doesn't really change). Nurturing little ones close in age is an intense experience. And - thanks be to God - I get to do it all again.

Throughout my day I often imagine what I would tell myself if I could go back in time. I think about the mom I was - that mom of two tiny boys, who never stopped moving and hardly ever ate, who loved her life deeply but was plagued with a few insecurities that turned out to be irrelevant. If I could, there are a couple of things I would tell her. Such as:

1. It really is this hard. You're not doing anything wrong.
With my older two, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to make the difficult parts of parenting easier. Why were my children so rambunctious? And why did I keep losing their sandals/ sippy cups/ sun hats/ tiny toys? What could I do to get my kids to be calmer and more obedient? How could I get them to leave the park without tantrums or stay in their rooms during rest time? I was constantly evaluating and strategizing. Surely if it was this hard, I must be doing something wrong. There had to be a way to make life easier.

If I could go back, I would say - relax. Tantrums, running away, accidents, lost belongings, mischievous nap times ... it's all a normal part of toddler life. I wasn't doing anything wrong to create difficult scenarios. It really is as hard as it feels.

2. Accept your kids' personalities now. 
When my first two were little, I had one cautious introvert and one thrill-seeking extrovert. I can't begin to imagine how much mental energy I devoted to trying to make my introvert more outgoing, and my daredevil more cautious. I can't tell you how many times I scolded one for exploring a new area too enthusiastically, while encouraging the other to get out and explore.

Five years later, I have one cautious introvert and one thrill-seeking extrovert. All of that energy  did nothing but frustrate us all. The time I put into worrying whether one "should" be so intent on taking risks, or the other "should" be having more fun at birthday parties did not change who they actually are in any way.

Our children are given to us with their own innate personalities. We can't make shy kids love crowds, and we can't make thrill seekers settle down. We just can't. I didn't fully accept this until a year or so ago, and it has completely changed my relationships with my kids. These days I have one toddler for whom all of life is a PARTY! and one who observes life from behind my leg. Only this time, I am encouraging both to be exactly who they are. Who am I to tell my EXCITED! kid to focus, or to tell my hesitant kid he needs to go and explore?

Like every mother, I want to see all of my kids grow into happy, fully functioning people. But now I am convinced that endeavor can only begin when I accept who they naturally are.

3. Eventually, parenting works.
Now that they're a little older, I see the fruit of our labor in my big kids' lives. Back then my husband and I put our energy into teaching teamwork, creating solid bedtime routines, nurturing a love for stories, and eating healthy foods (though in general food is not a hill I'm willing to die on). We now have big kids who work together (mostly), go to bed (mostly), love to read, and have at least a basic understanding of what kinds of foods nourish their bodies. But we do not, for example, have kids who pick up after themselves, because it was never our top priority. Family life is never going to be perfect. But the areas most important to us really do take root in our kids, eventually.

This is so encouraging for me, both in my new round of teaching toddlers to go to bed and in my new task of teaching big kids the next level of expectation. Knowing they are good at bedtime because I was so serious about it back then helps me to be more consistent with things like chores and finishing schoolwork now. All that hard work really does pay off.

4. I know, I know, I KNOW how hard it is to believe this, but this season will end.
Everyone tells you to enjoy the little years because they go by fast. But it doesn't feel very fast, does it? It feels as though you will wipe bottoms and dice food until the end of time. But it really will end. There actually will be a day when the babies you can't let out of your sight can do their own thing for hours, and you can trust they are not in the medicine cabinet.

Knowing it's a temporary season is double-edged. On one hand, the toddler years are beautiful, full of life and energy and curiosity and so, so fun. I sometimes miss that sweet season the big boys and I shared. On the other hand, I know now we have a lot of life ahead of us. Those cute babies are going to morph into actual people, with their own sense of humor and passions and struggles and friendships and life. I love the toddler years. I really do. But with my second set of toddlers, rather than wishing I could freeze time, I often look at my babies now and think, just you wait. In a few years we're going to have so much fun, kid.

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Welcome to A Wide Mercy! If you're looking for a blog about grace, adventure, hope, and raising a bunch of little kids, you've come to the right place. If you connect with what you find here, please email me at awidemercy at gmail dot com, and I will send new posts to you through a weekly (but only a weekly) email. You can also follow along on Facebook and Twitter. If the comment section acts squirrelly when you're trying to leave a message, it does the same for me. You can send comments to the email address as well. So glad you stopped by!

when it's time to talk - even if you're uncomfortable (a guest post by Tyler Francke)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sometimes, you meet someone and know right away they're your kind of people. That was how I felt when I discovered Tyler Francke recently. One article, and I was hooked. His words seemed thought-out, thoughtful, and gentle. My impression is that he's not the loudest voice in the room, but when he speaks, you won't want to miss it.

So I was thrilled when Tyler agreed to share a few of his thoughts here. If you, like me, hear his voice and know right away Tyler is your kind of people too, check out his new book, Reoriented, here.

Meet Tyler Francke.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I have a friend who works as an admissions counselor for a Christian college, which, as I understand it, means that he pretty much talks to pastors for a living.

Ok, that's an oversimplification, I admit. He also talk to prospective students, in addition to the pastors.

Anyway, as you might expect, the pastors he meets with have all kinds of questions about the college's positions on a wide variety of doctrinal issues: predestination vs. free will, complementarianism vs. egalitarianism, continuationism vs. cessationism, Coke vs. Pepsi, Team Edward vs. Team Jacob. (Like most biblically based institutions of higher learning, my friend's school is pro-Lautner all the way.)

Being theologically grilled on a regular basis sounds to me like only slightly more fun than being a proofreader for scripts of new Spongebob Squarepants episodes, but my friend enjoys the discussions. There's just one question he doesn't like.

"I hate it when they ask me about homosexuality," he told me recently. "It's just hard to explain my position, and I'm so afraid I'll say the wrong thing. I just hate that question.

what we talk about, when we talk about social media

Thursday, June 19, 2014

2 pm, and not one kid was resting.

My exhausted little girl would have fallen asleep, but her brothers kept meandering through the room, asking for snacks and nipping at each other the way puppies and brothers do. I can't begin to guess why my baby boy was awake. Maybe he was overtired, maybe he's cutting a tooth, maybe there was a full moon. For him, sleep is always mysterious and delicate. And yesterday, it didn't happen.

Hell hath no fury like a mom without a nap time.

Are you sitting down?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Because Huffington Post just published my article.

"The truth is, none of us knows who our kids will grow up to be. Mine sing worship tunes, recite prayers and quote Scripture from memory often. They also still use the same slang as their Grandpa and pretend the milk in their mug is coffee, just like mine. Children are hardwired for imitation, and they naturally want to please their parents. My children mean every prayer they utter. They also mean it when they cry in despair because they are too tired to brush their teeth. It's not that their faith isn't real. It is. But it is too immature to be held out for the world to see. "

Click here to read the rest.

I never ask this, but if you follow A Wide Mercy and the article resonates with you, would you mind sharing it in your circles or leaving a comment? The thing is, HuffPost Parents publishes a ton of articles in a day. The ones that pass through our news feeds are only featured after they have already gained traction. So unless we share it first, nobody else will see it. If not, it's okay. We can still be friends. But if you're comfortable sharing it, I would be so grateful.

If you are here for the first time from Huffington Post, welcome! I'm so glad you stopped by. You may be interested in what I think kids really need, or what happened when the police showed up on my doorstep recently. If you connect with what you read, I would love for you to join our email list by contacting me the old fashioned way: shoot an email to awidemercy at gmail dot com, and let me know. You can also follow on Facebook or Twitter (though I'm a novice at Twitter - you've been warned).  So glad you're here.

ACK! Huffington Post!


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