Sunday, 4 March 2018

Purposed, not perfect

I listened to a podcast the other day that when we think about raising our children, we should remember that we are not raising perfect children, but purposed children. Perfectly behaved children who immediately obey all those little commands that bark out from our mouths cannot be our definition of parenting success.

There are so many days when I get caught up in those little things:

"Pick up your clothes from the floor."
"Did you do your homework?"
"Tidy up your room."
"You didn't make your bed."
"Don't tease your sister."
"Hang up your coat!"
"Wet mitts can't stay in your bag."

If I'm being honest, 90% of what I say to direct my children falls into this category. But when I really consider it, if my children suddenly behaved in all these areas, would I consider it a job well done? Would I think that I had done everything exactly right in raising my children? Would I consider it a success?

The real answer is no. Tidy, quiet, well-behaved children makes for a quiet, well-run home, but it does not make for children who mature into stable, serving, contributing adults in our community. It does not make leaders who shake off the chains of habit and complacency and make real change in this world. It does not make servants of God's kingdom who really see those suffering around them. It does not make smart, critical and creative thinkers who can make wonderful discoveries and advancements in their field.

This - this is what I want for my children, and I can see how "purposed" instead of "perfect" children is how to get there. I want my children to look inward and see who they really are, the talents they have and gifts they can give. I want to help them cultivate a vision for their lives, to discover their purpose here in this world and set them on the course to fulfill that vision.

And if I'm to do that, I need to readjust those every day foci I have as a mother.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Family Stories

One year when the kids were young (maybe 3, 6, 8 and 10) we were on our way down to the US for a two day trip. Our morning schedule to leave was very tight, and not wanting to fall into the usual pitfalls of having young children, I sat down the three boys and very seriously explained that they were going to help get ready. They were do as I said, exactly as I said, and nothing else. Three little heads bobbed up and down in agreement.

"Go and get two pair of pants, and put them into your knapsack." Off they scurried to comply.
"Now get two t-shirts and put them in your bag." Instant obedience.
"Two pairs of underwear."
"Two pairs of socks."
"One pair of pyjamas." Back and forth they went, strictly adhering to my instructions.

"A book and something to do in the car."

Yup - I was winning at this parenting thing.

Meanwhile I had packed away everything else you need for a road trip with young children - DVDs, Juliette's special diet, our clothes, Juliette's clothes, a bed rail, snacks, pillows and blankets for the it all went. And when I turned around and everything was ready...we were early. Oh yes, I should probably write a book about this, I thought.

"Into the car!" was the last order and one, two, three, four in they went.  We pulled out and were on our way.

Just as we were pulling up to the US border, I turned around to give that lecture to the kids - the one that goes "don't say or do anything!" so that we will sail right through. And just for good measure, I added "But if they do tell us to get out,  just quietly get out of the car and follow Mom and Dad-"

"But I'm not wearing any shoes."

Say what?

"I'm sorry - what did you say?" I ask my 8 year old.

"I'm not wearing any shoes."

"How can you not be wearing any shoes? How did you get into the car-"

"I'm not wearing any shoes either," pipes up the six-year old.

This is the part where I nearly lose my mind.

"Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?" I don't even know what to say.

"Well, you told us to do exactly what you said, and you never told us to get on our shoes."

Mouth drops. Speechless.

He got me there.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

When life is normal...and then isn't.

There have been a few tragedies close to home lately. Not people I've known personally, but people within a close degree of separation. As I tried to gather information, I often used Facebook to follow the story and updates. As I scrolled back on their loved one's pages, something similar struck me about each page. If you scroll back far enough, just past the very first post that trembles the details into the world wide web, you'll come across the most normal, inauspicious, innocuous posts. Posts like "Can't figure out what to make for dinner." Or a viral video of someone doing something funny or embarrassing. Or a picture of their kids in the car. Or a question for friends like "anyone have a tent I can borrow?"

Life is normal, and then it isn't. The following posts are filled with love and fear and medical jargon and tears. Sometimes there are long bouts of silence filled by close friends and family. A semi-permanent record of when life was plodding along and then tragically interrupted.

If one had the time and the desire, it would be interesting to read through all those difficult posts and see how those bits of normal eventually make their way back into a person's thoughts and Facebook page. For the reality is that life goes on for those left behind, or it goes on in a new way for someone forever physically altered by an accident. But while the tragedy never disappears the deep pain of it starts to fade - the gift of time, I suppose. And perhaps inadvertently at first, those little bits of every day life start to emerge once more.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Capsule Wardrobe

I am really not a big fan of trends. Ever since Doc Marten shoes when I was a tween, I always had trouble adapting to new ideas. I look at a new trend and I think "that is terrible, I would never wear that." Or do that. Or try that. It's not an aversion to new things: I would jump a plane in a heartbeat to somewhere I've never been, or jump into a new sport, or pick up a new hobby, or try a new instrument. I just don't have an eye for fashion trends, I suppose. Give it six months, or likely even a year, and then I'll come around.  Leggings and a long shirt or sweater are my go-to now - finally something comfy when I want to get down on the ground with the kids, or hiking up and down the stairs all day, or running around getting everything done. The first time around I saw them I swore I'd never put them on.

But I came across something today...a fashion trending idea...that has piqued my interest. It's called a capsule wardrobe. The idea is that you have basic, essential pieces in your wardrobe that never go out of style, that can be mix and matched together, and that pares down your closet to nearly nothing.

Oh my, that I love.

I've written before about my yearning for simplicity and less stuff around me, and sometimes it's just so hard. The truth is, I don't usually have the fashion sense to stand in the store and know "that, that there is a perfect basic, essential piece for my wardrobe." Fashion involves colour coordinating and figure fitting and budget balancing and I just don't have the knack for it. If I ever really committed to the capsule wardrobe, it would likely mean that I've downloaded a picture of a collection and I simply go out and pick out those exact objects, and then mix and match as indicated in the picture.

Ah well. Can't have all the talents.

So I tore into my closet and drawers a bit today to see what overflow lay behind the doors. What I discovered is that:

1) I actually don't own a ridiculous amount of clothes, and I own even less shoes
2) My closet was stuffed because I only do two switches a year, meaning that although it's winter I still have all my fall stuff in there. And once spring comes I'll also stuff in all my summer stuff.

That's what comes from living in a small space. You get to use storage bins really well. I have a huge amount of standard size large Rubbermaid totes, each one filled and labelled and stored by frequency of access, and every single one is accessed often. Seriously, when they were stored in my basement I accessed a tote at least once a week. Now that they are in a storage unit I try to wait until I need to get a few things. But I'm still over at the storage a couple of times a month. I don't store things I never use; I store things I don't need on a daily basis.

So until I have the budget and desire (and most likely a shopping/fashion advisor) what I do plan to do is to have only one season in the closet at a time, and three totes each storing the other seasons. That way I only have one tote of clothing in my closet at a time, leaving the breathing room I so deeply yearn for.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

I choose you

I had a little slip of a memory come to mind today when I read a post online. The writer said that one day when her little baby fell asleep on her chest, she chose to just sit there and rest with her wee one instead of tending to the large pile of laundry to fold.

I can't say I often struggled to "choose laundry" or chores over much else. My early days of motherhood were utterly exhausting between major food allergic reactions and children too smart to ever sleep. Most days I chose just to stay perfectly still with a sleeping baby on my chest because I was not going to risk anything that might wake them.

And still, I remember those moments, a tiny little body curled up into mine, feeling the gentle beat of of their heart, smelling the warmth of their head. I spent hours, hours, hours, with a sleeping baby on me, and I loved every single minute of it. I'm so grateful to have such a flood of memories because I chose just to sit with you.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Misbehaviours vs. Stress Behaviours

At a staff meeting the other night, we had training in the idea of misbehaviours versus stress behaviours. Misbehaviours are behaviours that the child knows are wrong, has the ability to control, but simply chooses not to. Stress behaviours are behaviours that result from stressors in the child's life.

Here's the brilliant part:

Misbehaviours require addressing the behaviour.
Stress behaviours require addressing the stressor.

The basic idea of this is well known. People know that when we are tired or hungry we can be irritable, short-tempered, curt, and sometimes even a little mean. Mothers know that sleep deprived children or hungry children act out. But we so often get caught up in the behaviour that we forget to look for what might be behind it.

We studied a list of example stressors in 5 domains: biological, social, prosocial, emotional and cognitive. Here's the crazy part: there were about 60 different examples of stressors in each domain. That's over 300 examples of things that often tip people over the edge.

I scanned through the list, and immediately things started jumping out at me:

Being hungry
Red lights
Chapped lips
Being cold
Insufficient solitude and quiet
Loud chewing/gum chewing
Too many things hanging in a classroom

Large social settings
Engaging in small talk and not really connecting at a meaningful level

Being late
When your partner is stressed

(none really)

Information presented too slowly
Lack of intellectual stimulation

These are all stressors that, if happen too often, get me into a "not great mood." Luckily, many of these I'm aware of, and when they start to happen I know how to deal with the stressor so that I don't start to "misbehave" (be irritable, short-tempered, become confrontational, pick on small things).

Dealing with a stressor isn't a "get out of jail free" card in regards to bad behaviour. We cannot condone the bad behaviour even if there is a reason behind it. But we do need to teach our kids to identify their stressor and deal with it appropriately, by removing it/themselves, or by using a healthy coping strategy. Because the reality is a certain amount of stressors are healthy and always going to be around.

So here's the golden nugget in all this: when I'm not happy with the behaviour of my kids, I need to stop and ask myself, do I need to deal with a behaviour or a stressor?

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Christmas traditions

I was part of a conversation the other day on Christmas traditions, and all I could think was "that just sounds like more work." Christmas for me is a time to unwind, hibernate by a fire, drink hot chocolate, cuddle in warm blankets with my family and curl up with books.  Then I felt a little sad because I thought "I wonder if we're missing out?"

But sometimes those knee-jerk reactions are just because we have such a narrow definition of something. Someone talks about home-cooked roast Sunday dinners and we think "how come I don't do that?" But if we pause, we might realize that Sunday dinners does happen - maybe it's not a roast, maybe it's grilled cheese and tomato soup, but it's still everyone together.

I don't do big decorations or fancy meals at Christmastime. We don't go for our own real tree or get photos done. But we do have some great things we like to do, and, not surprisingly, they aren't decorative but instead or artsy.

We always kick off with the Santa Claus parade, but lately that usually means marching in it. From soccer to our church to our school, we have participated in a few different floats over the years. Then, sometime between the 21st and 24th we join a live Nativity play as Shepherds or Roman soldiers or townspeople and bring the Christmas story to life for thousands of people in a neighbouring city.

Finally, squeezed between December 1 and December 24, we usually have a plethora of concerts. Yes, the most dominating tradition in our home is music, and I love that. This year we have 13 concerts in 3 weeks and I love it. Multiple choirs, a talent show, school concerts, community band, ukulele club, canatas - all of us are involved in multiple programs. This is where I realized our true family traditions are taking root. Music is a huge part of James' and my life, and while we have neglected the formal music training of our children, they have grown up seeing concerts, rehearsals and the like. I hope that they will always remember the message and beauty of the Christmas music in their young lives.