June 04, 2014

When parenting is tough.

I talk to a lot of mothers.
Mothers of really great kids with good families.
In the back of my mind, I always have this idea that good kids are just good- all the time.
But, my own experience coupled with what I've seen and heard, suggests otherwise.

I believe that every single one of us has a list of things we've learned, things we're great at-- and a list of things we need to improve on.
Every single mother feels like she isn't good enough or has "failed" in some regard.
Because, truthfully, we have all fallen short in many regards.
God doesn't wait to make only ideal people parents- he lets normal folks mess things up.

Every single child, is a child with strengths, weakness, discipline, and areas of complete immaturity.  

There is no line in the sand that seperates real problems from parents with expectations that are too high.  We feel the same frustration with a sassy, disrespectful child that we do with an excessively slow, neat, particular child.

It's our nature to see that next thing they need to learn and to gloss over the thing they finally learned.  It's our nature to quickly zoom in on the incomplete task and miss the completed task.

I have a gift.  I am an optimist.  I see things half-full.  I'm not a ridiculous blind lady who thinks her glass is full, when it's not.  I am well aware that my glass is only half-full.  But, I'm content, happy, even impressed by a half-full glass.  Content deep inside my soul.

This quality is so important when parenting.  It gives perspective and strengthens hope.  

My dearest friend said she sobbed reading about my weekend.  She sometimes wonders what she's done wrong because her children don't love to work hard or get along.

Sometimes I read other people's blogs and their lives SEEM so idealic and foreign to me.

I really, really, really believe in family.  I believe in good parenting and the idea that our homes CAN be places of peace, joy, cleanliness, service, order, and refuge.  I believe this with my whole soul!

But, I am not there yet.

I just keep hearing my funny, blunt extended family members who alternate between telling me what a great mother I am, to telling me with concern- "You think your kids are so great- they're not great, Jen.  You've got to open your eyes."

And guess what?  My eyes ARE open.  I SEE really great kids who still have a bunch of things to learn.  I see two parents who try hard and fall short.  I see a great family- that sometimes feels two steps away from the edge.  I feel complete joy and gratitude in the midst of absolute exhaustion and frustration.

In my humble opinion- we are all pretty awful, and pretty amazing.  

My kids get good grades, behave well at school, seem to get along well with others, are fairly reverent at church, are willing to work hard on occasion (especially when bribed with screen time).   My kids are confident and generally happy.  But EVEN IF THEY WEREN'T- I would still advocate the same parenting tactic.  

Love them where they're at!!  See the good they ARE.  Know THEM, connect with the best inside them, and patiently teach-- over and over and over again, the next thing they are working on.

That FEELING is so powerful.  The feeling that you are loved today, in your imperfect state. I want my kids to know I SEE them, I see what they do well, I can laugh at their blaring weaknesses and I can have empathy in their journey.  Because I'm right here with them.

My gift is-- that I'm naturally lazy and sassy and I procrastinate.  I loose my temper (or want to), I get distracted by social media, I don't always want to serve others or listen to my parents.  I tend to rebel against dumb rules and I am never, ever able to be as good at as disciplined as I wish I were.  I get bored at church.  I hate waking up early.  I'm mean sometimes.  I'm messy sometimes.  I get hungry and tired and hormonal.  

And so-- I UNDERSTAND.  Really, when my kids whine about dishes or putting away their laundry, I get it.  When my kids fight with an annoying sibling, I get it.  When my kids forget about needing black pants for a concert until 30 minutes before the concert starts, I get it.  When their room is as disordered as their over-flowing To Do list, I get it.  When they're upset because of friend drama, issues with clothes, or issues with body type, I get that.

My whole life, I've wished that I was better.  Today, I'm grateful that I'm not.  Because my weakness really, really  helps me SEE their weakness with empathy and HOPE.  I think they will figure things out.  I think they'll work through these hard things.  By the time they figure this stuff out, they'll be working on something else.

I will never, ever, ever stop teaching my kids OR stop expecting that they WILL keep their rooms clean, talk respectfully to me and each other, work hard and contribute in the home, brush their teeth, wipe their bottoms, shower, NOT wipe boogers on the wall, take their shoes off outside, keep the van clean, help happily, do their dish job promptly, avoid meltdowns before bedtime, eat their vegetables, stop sneaking on the TV, etc., etc!!!  I won't stop hoping or teaching or believing in them.

But, I have stopped worrying that I'm failing, that they're failing, or that we aren't good enough.  I've stopped seeing "issues" as "issues" and started seeing them as "normal life".

No matter how attentive you are, or how careful you are, no matter how strict or kind or wise or safe you are-- you will never be able to avoid that next hard thing.  Sometimes, our hard things are pretty dang heart-wrenchingly hard.

And don't you for a minute look at that family and think they have it easy-- because they don't.  Hard is equally distributed.  No matter how anxious you want to become trying to avoid it, it is unavoidable.  Our children will struggle.  We will struggle.  Pain and heartbreak are beautifully refining and absolutely unavoidable.  

If you want to do something, you can whine about your brand of hard.  You can tell yourself that your hard is the worst, most unfair hard.  You can also beat yourself up, convinced that if you were a better parent your child would never have this particular struggle.

Perhaps you are right, perhaps having a child who is failing school is harder than having a child with leukemia.  Perhaps infertility is harder than trying to parent five children.  Perhaps having a mother who died too young is harder than having a father who sexually abused you. Perhaps being a single mother is harder than living with an abusive spouse or having a difficult stepson is harder than living with a child with Aspergers.  Perhaps health trials are harder than financial issues.  Perhaps cranky teens are harder to deal with than a husband addicted to porn.  Or, perhaps you are the real-live embodiment of Job with every single hard thing.

I love comparing hard things-- it is comical to me.  

I also know that even IF your child kept his room clean you would still feel frustrated that he didn't practice his piano.  If he did practice his piano and keep his room clean, you'd want him to tease his little sisters less.  If he teased less, you'd want him to proactively help more... It never ends.  Trust me.  I'm married to Mr. Mary Poppins and I can still find something irritable about him each day.

I'm taking way too long to say-- hang on!  Hope on!  You're doing better than you think you are and we're not finished yet.  In the realm of eternity we are young, our spouses are young, and we're not done yet!!  (We're also not ruined yet!)

Hard is unavoidable.

So, what do we do?
How do we do it?
One step at a time. 
We just keep swimming, we just keep loving, we just keep trying and we trust that our cup is just as full as we need it to be!  

Oh friend-- you are loved!! 
You are a lousy, inadequate, normal, absolutely beloved mother!  You are married to a regular guy and you are raising completely extraordinary average children.

The key is "long-suffering"!

Doctrine and Covenants 118:3
Let the residue continue to preach from that hour, and if they will do this in all lowliness of heart, in meekness and humility, and long-suffering, I, the Lord, give unto them a promise that I will provide for their families; and an effectual door shall be opened for them, from this time henceforth.

I quote this to myself hourly...
"by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;" (D&C 121:41)

Please, don't use me as your model of a perfect mother or my children as the images of what your kids are not.  Because we're all deceptively normal, flawed and enduring.

We are all in this together and it is a good, good journey!
Pain, heartache and struggle are refining and ennobling.
The journey is smoothing our rough edges and purifying our souls.
It's hard for all of us!
Press forward friends!!
Life is so good!

(I'm pushing post- I don't even have time to read back over this once.  I'm certain it's rambled and repetitive.  I could say it better, but that will always be true.  My time is up!! Enjoy your today- it can be lovely even as it's tough!)
Random pictures of me with friends at the Cortland Dairy Parade.


Diane and Chad said...

absolutely, beautifully true:))

Anonymous said...

Loved this post and with all your posts! What a true and honest way of looking at life and family living! Im energised again to push through. Bless you and your family x

Anonymous said...

Loved this post and with all your posts! What a true and honest way of looking at life and family living! Im energised again to push through. Bless you and your family x

Marie said...

I could have REALLY used your blog when I was a young mother....but even with my son grown and living on the other side of the country, I learn something here EVERYDAY. Thank you, Jen....you are a wise and very funny lady! ❤️

Joseph and Ivy Waite said...

I saw your title and knew I'd need to read this post today. I'm glad I did cause it was just what I needed. Thanks Jen! I love you and your family and I'm grateful that you blog! You are always so insightful.

cheryl cardall said...

Have you heard of Amy McCready? She has a website called positive parenting solutions that is so fantastic and a great book called "If I have to tell you one more time." I love her approach to parenting, it focuses on creating a positive environment so kids want to behave and filling their attention bucket with positive time and words and actions so they have no need to get attention by disobeying. She has my very favorite parenting philosophy out there.

Carlos Strey said...

It all comes down to commitment, patience, perseverance, introspection, ability to comprehend another point of view, deal with others' opinions and making conversation. Those are all at the heart of parenting. The kind that will instill values among children and will help them be resilient and endure in the face of all challenges. No matter what the domestic configuration, whether you're a single parent or married parents, commitment is what decides.

Carlos Strey @ The Bridge Across

Lani said...

Thank you! I found your blog while looking for some inspiration on how to organize our summer with 5 kids (almost 12 down to 4 months). A couple of your posts from a few years ago really resonated with me, so we will be trying a similar approach. I agree with everything you said here, and I've even said said it myself. We all have challenges I life unique to us and it is so silly to try to compare. But, it's nice to be reminded and encouraged once in a while, especially by someone a little further along in their parenting than I am. Thank you!

Corine Moore said...

This is SO TRUE AND SO AWESOME! :D Thank you for this. I already knew it, already believed it, but REALLY needed to think about it again! :) THANK YOU! Hugs to you for being REAL! :D

Anonymous said...

After reading this blog post I happened to watch a TED talk about grit and success in life. I think grit is what you're teaching your family :)



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