I Know Why The Proverbs 31 Woman Is Laughing

This is me. Tomorrow. [Click for credit.]

I know as an empowered women of the new millennium, I am secretly supposed to be annoyed with the Proverbs 31 woman, the uber-successful, have-it-all-in-perfect-balance icon we can never possibly emulate in real life. She was the quintessential female, the Giselle Bundchen of 4000 years ago. (Thanks a lot, King Lemuel, whoever you are.)

But every time I read this chapter, I just can’t hate her. I mean, she has all this energy and is always showering people with love. She owns at least one thriving business, and she has maids, for crying out loud. What’s not to love?

Madam Proverbs 31 and I actually have a lot in common, which is oh-so comforting. She has outside-the-home employment, lots of people to care for, in addition to her children, a husband with a prominent role and she stays up til the wee hours of the morning to get it all done.

I may not alway be “clothed with strength and dignity”, but I am usually clothed, which is a strong start to any day (for me), and I can relate to her workload.

I’ll admit I’ve struggled with the “laughing at the future” part though, which she apparently has down. This is the verse that always kinda made her feel fake. Until tonight.

Tonight I realized Madam P31 has toddlers. This is her secret. This is how she can laugh at the future.  

Why would a mother of toddlers laugh at the future? It’s because some days, like today, we cannot laugh about this day. Or this week. Or maybe this year. The present is not funny at all. The present is mean and exhausting. The present is gray hair-sprouting and milk spill-cleaning and high-pitched whine-tolerating.

Oh, but the future. This future is grand. The future is much cleaner and neater, with all my home decor and table centerpieces exactly where I left them.

Yes, me and the Proverbs 31 woman and all the Toddler Mamas know some day, these children will (finally) know how to use the toilet without help, make themselves a meal without the requisite wreckage ensuing, and wash their own laundry.

And someday, they will have children of their own. Children who have no control of their bladders and no respect for ungodly hours of the night.

Are you laughing yet, Oh Mothers of Toddlers? This is not a laughter of revenge, but a laughter of relief. So if you’re cackling, cut that out. You probably need some sleep. Oh, don’t we all?

So you see, we can finally rest assured that the Proverbs 31 Woman is not as unattainable a persona as we thought. So start laughing now because these days are short. And even if we can’t always enjoy them, we know we will enjoy the future.

Come on, let’s have it: What kind of future are you laughing about? No more diapers? Sleeping for more than 3 consecutive hours? Communicating with words instead of whines? Share in the Comments below. 

{Laugh, live and dream big with me. Click here to subscribe to the blog for free updates and a first copy of my book, Dream or Die, at its release early next year. And stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.}

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Click here to see a special video announcement.

If you’ve come back after the video to read this, I will say I was very surprised. I need to process the implications of this huge change of plans. I had no grid for a baby boy, wasn’t planning on it at all. Getting messed with a little, although I am extremely grateful for a healthy baby who is growing right on schedule. (They’re giving him a due date of April 12, although I prefer to say a “due month” to prevent any heartache over a late arrival.)

I will probably think aloud on this one later in the week or next, but for now, I am thankful for health for me and this little one, and the astounding ability to grow a baby in my belly. What a remarkable and beautiful mystery!

Thanks for journeying along with me. I’m so thankful you’re here.

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How to know your child’s ruined

Becoming a mom almost three years ago transformed me into one of the most neurotic, nail-biting versions of myself. Because children are seen as a reflection of their parents, naturally I want my son to be well-behaved, brilliant, articulate and most of all, potty-trained. Like me.

My greatest fear is that I will ruin him, somehow, some way. Or worse, that my parenting skills just can’t hack it, and I don’t have what it takes to raise a functional, healthy member of society. I use a selection of arbitrary variables to judge my progress, such as number of times per day the child ate junk cereal, ratio of vegetables to cookies, hours spent in yard playing to hours spent watching TV. And to seal the fear paralysis, I also include things out of my control, such as: frequency of sickness, units of bodily fluid emitted in inappropriate places, and propensity to consume or contact gross things.

I need a new system.

The following list is compiled from moments in my day, or week, when I know for sure he’s ruined. Because I ruined him. My ignorance or inadequacy finally manifested. The secret is out: I have no idea what I’m doing. Even if just a few minutes ago, he was counting and playing so nicely, and I was a perfect parent from the magazines. Maybe you can relate.

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I’m sure my kid is ruined when:
1. The first thing he says when he wakes up in the morning is “cookie?”
2. He watched three hours of public television on the iPad because I was too pregnant to live.
3. We put him to bed at 9, but he plays in the pitch black, yells “help” under the door, and doesn’t fall asleep until 11.
4. There are bite marks in all his foam building blocks.
5. He slurps his filthy bath water when we’re not looking and takes sips from the dog pool too.
6. When we use a public restroom, he makes sure to touch everything, including the toilet and the floor.
7. Some nights he will only eat his dinner with dessert bribes.
8. When he’s watching TV, his ears stop working. We have to clap, dance and shout to get his attention.
9. When it comes to dining, he turns into a shark, always moving. He stands, sits, lays down in his chair, runs off with his food and must be cajoled or carried back.
10. I think he might be better friends with Curious George and Daniel Tiger than he is with real human children.
11. Potty training in a weekend turned into potty training some time before high school.

The truth is I don’t think I will ruin him. But sometimes I’m still afraid his antics will prove to everyone can see I’m such a rookie at this mom gig. But because he’s so awesome and resilient and bright, he will be okay in spite of me. Someone once told me, and I think it’s true, “You’re probably not a bad parent if you’re worried about being a bad parent because bad parents don’t feel bad about their parenting.” Right.

So as long as we are trying out here, as long as we care, grow, evolve as moms and dads alongside our kids, I think we are going to be alright. Don’t you?

When are you worried you’ve ruined your kids? Share in the comments below.

Anger Management for Me: A (Slightly Whiny) Update

On July 3, I took the Anger Management Challenge from The Orange Rhino. And two weeks later, I gave you an update here. The rules are: no yelling, shouting or screaming (unless there is distance or an immediate safety issue) for 365 days. That’s right. One year = no yelling. I realized I wanted my son to have a more comforting, nurturing relationship with me, rather than one mingled with fear. A little healthy fear is good, but honestly, this is mostly about me getting me under control. This is a self-control challenge.

So how’s it been going? Not good, folks. Not good. I had to start over two weeks ago when John bowled his apple across the table as Josh and I were simultaneously telling him not to. I don’t know what I said, but probably something like, “No!” and I clapped my hands to get his attention. Yea, I did that whole gym teacher thing. The yelling and clapping. It was real cool. I could hear the referee in the background with his whistle. Game over. For me.

So I’ve lost the battle, but did I lose the war? I’d say No. I’m doing so much better on any given day controlling my temper. I offer more options and affection, and my patience withstands far more of the petty goings-on. I feel proud. Gold star for me.

But I’m gonna get real with ya’ll real quick. Bed time is rough. Brushing teeth especially. If I’m going to have start over on my year of no yelling, it’s going to be at bedtime. Or dinner time, when he wants to have the experience of eating his peanut butter sandwich in every room of the house. It tastes like peanut butter in every room, son. But no, he has to go find that out for himself. You’re a real Christopher Colombus, kid. 

We’re getting the teeth brushing under control, and by that I mean, I don’t hate it as much. But for months, it was the worst worst worst part of my day. Literally. Worse than taking a shower, and maybe you don’t know it, but taking showers really annoys me because you get all wet. On purpose. And then you have to dry off again. And figure out what to do with your hair. No thank you.

Me taking a timeout from brushing teeth or catching runaway peanut butter sandwiches. I have to sit on a faraway cliff to really get balanced.

So brushing John’s teeth annoyed and frustrated me more than any part of my day because you really can’t force a toothbrush in a child’s mouth if you don’t want to get the cops called on you. So we did everything. Tickling. Cajoling. Threatening. Turning him upside down. Letting him brush first. Letting him brush my teeth. Nothing worked. For a very long time.

One night, I lost all human dignity and laid down on the floor in John’s room. Toothbrush in hand, I whine-yelled at the ceiling, “Why? Why are you such a pain? Why is this so hard?” John looked bewildered and probably just walked out of the room to alert dad of mom’s impending meltdown. If he was a little older, this would’ve been a great guilt trip, but alas, he’s too young to pick up on those kinds of subtleties. And thank God, really. (For the record, this was before the 365 day challenge, so don’t get all judgy.)

Eventually, I figured out something that worked. This was huge. Seriously. I felt like my soul returned to my body. (Slight dramatization.) I discovered if I let him stand up on the counter and watch himself brushing his teeth, he actually had fun with it. A few minutes in, or when I ran out of patience, I offered to “help” him, which he eventually let me do. So now that’s usually our routine. He brushes first, then I “help”. So now he has fun, and I have more fun. And we all know, if baby ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Sorry, Mama.

Apparently bed times from Hades are pretty run of the mill in American households. Heather over at Mama Knows, Honeychild, gives a hilarious illustration of what it’s like putting her four children to bed. Let’s just say, everyone keeps their eyeballs, but that’s an accomplishment. You should read it if you want to keep laughing.

What time of day are your kids most likely to unwind you? Is it bedtime or another time?

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I am the opposite of me

I am a paradox. And so are you.

We are clean and shiny in some areas of ourselves, yet disheveled disasters in others. The real estate of our souls and our yards is impeccable from one angle, and painfully unkempt from another.

How is it that we can live with coexisting brilliance and ignorance, with generous nobility and glaring narcissism?

Sometimes, I feel I’m an imposter, like the real me is the messy version, and the times I act right are just glitches, some kind of cosmic error where the light fell just right, and now the world thinks good of me.

But it feels like a balancing act, until I wreck it again.

So who am I? Can I be the bad and the good, at the same time?

Am I summed up in my moments of fear, panic and rejection or in my faith and courage?

Am I a scared, helpless child, wordless with shame, or a ferociously brave teacher who lives to inspire?

Am I all the times I hate to be alone, or the times I am frantic to get away?

Am I the girl who can’t find her keys or the idea-generating leader bent on improving her environment?

Am I the friend you can count on for everything, or the friend who will let you down?

Am I the blessings and encouragement I bestow, or the curses I hiss beneath my breath?

Am I the rage and anger I release on my very last nerve with my child, or am I the patient nurturer, singing this same child to sleep?

Am I the forgiveness I extend or the grudges I feed?

Am I all the times I disappoint or the times I keep my word?

Am I the girl who finds showers annoying or the girl who can’t stand dirty feet?

Am I everything I do right or everything I do wrong?

Am I the desperate woman wanting children I don’t have yet or the grateful mother to the one I do have?

It doesn’t seem possible, but I am all these things. It’s the conundrum of me. I can stop covering it up now, stop holding my breath so people will think of me as cleaned up and together.

The truth is, I am holy and I am full of sin. I am a work in progress. But at this exact moment, I am the good and the bad. 

I am all the things I’ve screwed up irreparably, the words I want back, and the genius and generosity in between. I am everywhere I’ve been and everywhere I’m going. I am my failure and my success. I am what I know and what I don’t know. It’s part of me. 

I just need to hit “Accept” on all this stuff, on the easy to love and the impossible to love parts of me. Cause it’s all me, and I’m not going anywhere.

A reason to purge

My dresser drawers barely close. I fold, stuff and shove, but they don’t stay shut. Fabric peers out from the top. Too much stuff.

Not my drawers, but they look similar.

I fancy myself a Purger, a lady who lives light, who doesn’t value things too much. But how can that be true when my drawers are half open, contents spilling out?

Mornings are usually a little frantic for me, often because I hit Snooze too many times. But mostly because of all the choices. Too many choices I feel compelled to keep because “What if I want to wear that shirt some day?” (I’m giving away my hoardiness, aren’t I?)

I talked about decision-making last week, and gave a short list of prescriptives for making choices. I am going to stand by all that stuff I said. But this week, I’m working it out. And you know what I found? Waffling in a decision isn’t only from lack of confidence. For me, it comes from too many options.

Whenever I pack for a trip, I take too much. I never wear all of it. But I always think to myself I’m so glad I had options. But am I?

I’ve taken a few trips where I only had a pair of jeans and a couple shirts. I had to get creative or get redundant. But it felt liberating not to try fifteen ways to wear a romper before deciding I don’t want to wear it at all. Like I did today.

You know the feeling, standing in the laundry soap aisle. I just need something that cleans clothes, but I have to choose between something that cleans clothes with fragrance or without, something that cleans clothes that makes them smell like clean clothes, or summer, or fresh-baked cookies. Seriously? I just need my clothes not to smell like sweat and look like I rolled in mud. Why all the choices?

Sometimes I just want it to be simple. Like someone should tell me what to do. Or give me only two selections. I don’t think I can handle more than that.

Now I love my free will and all. I’m not voting for a drone brain implant. But I know my life would be way easier if I held out fewer options to myself.

So thus begins my purge. My drawers need to shut, and that’s where I will start. My motivation won’t come by imagining my clothing will outfit the “less fortunate” because I’m going to give them to Salvation Army and a college girl is going to find them. And she is probably not poor.

But I will feel better. Less clingy, less needy. More concerned with the real stuff of life. The Intangibles.

We all need to get rid of something, lighten the load so we can make decisions with ease. Cause who needs to spend half the day just making up her mind? Not me.

What do you need to get rid of in order to make your life lighter and smoother? How are you going to decide what goes and what stays?

Also, if you have a suggestion for where my clothes should go, I’d be happy to hear it.

Anger Management for Moms: the 365 Day Challenge

I can relate.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about anger. My anger. The kind that fills me up with sadness and regret. The kind I dive into in the moment and feel I’m drowning in the next.

Since I wrote about it, read about anger from other moms and started paying attention to my volume and emotion, I’ve been doing better.

It’s amazing what a little awareness can do.

About a year and a half ago, a mom blogger at Orange Rhino got caught yelling at her kids. (I can’t remember when but I feel like I’ve been there. It’s not pretty.) She decided enough was enough, and committed not to tell at her kids for a year. If she yelled, the 365 days started over.

That’s quite a challenge. And a brave woman.

She outlines the varying levels of volume in our voice as we move from a whisper to a raging scream. Her cut-off is level 4, the “oopsie snap”, the moment when “your blood pressure is building” and maybe you’re overreacting a little. That’s nice. She gives herself some grace.

Crazy, wild-eyed yelling is out. No matter how tired she is. No matter how bad the kids are.

It’s parental self-control at its finest. I love this commitment, and I am going to make it as well.

365 sounds like a long time, but when do I want to start yelling at my kids again? I don’t. Ever. So setting the deadline far away improves my chances of forming new habits. I will either sail through the year with perfect performance, which means the light has come on, or I will be required to start over by bad behavior. Either way, I win because I am forced to learn alternate ways to deal with anger.

So here is my commitment. 365 of no yelling, no nasty snaps or raging screams. I think I know what these are, but I may have to define them more as I go. Orange Rhino’s rule of thumb: If you think you yelled, you did.

So what do I want from parenting? I want relationship. Not zombie, docile, obedient children…

Why yelling or not yelling really matters? Two big reasons:

1. Because proving parents can control themselves as a higher priority over controlling their kids is something we must demonstrate to our children. I must not try to control them or they will learn that people can be controlled. It’s only a matter of figuring out how to do it. I want my children to demonstrate self-control, not others-control.

2. Protecting my children from my sinful responses is essential if I want to guard their hearts. I want to keep the relationship open between us and “not provoke them to anger”, as Paul challenges fathers, and I believe all parents, to avoid doing. I provoke anger when I am angry and out of control. I am powerful enough to mold a tender heart into an angry, defensive heart with my words and expectations. I have to use my power to build and not destroy.

So what do I want from parenting? I want relationship. Not zombie, docile, obedient children without opinions who only want to please me to avoid my rage. Or the opposite, raging hearts who only have their parents to model the handling of their emotions, children without self-control who feel rejected and unsure of their boundaries.

Dear God, help me avoid that fate. It’s painful even to imagine what my children could grow to be if I don’t truly learn this.

I will continue to discuss these emotions and handling them better as I discover new ways, or as I run into challenges. I know now I will need to outline specific ways of dealing with anger so I can be prepared, not surprised.

Until then, here are a few excellent posts on doing motherhood well from some of my favorite bloggers:
Sarah Bessey
Ann Voskamp
Lisa Jo Baker

May you respond with love and self-control, and may you live without regret every day of your life.

Do you have skills or suggestions on how to manage mommy madness? Please share them below. I would love to learn. Thank you.

How to feel like a good mom when you tuck yourself in

Motherhood is teaching me a lot about my human-hood. And it hurts.

I face off against the frayed and tasseled ends of my patience and goodness every time my voice shouts too loud, or when my son’s unexplainable need to fish in the toilet stirs up my ugly, unreasonable side.

I don’t like that girl I hear yelling at the barely three foot, tiny, blond with giant Precious Moment eyes. Who is that crazy, angry lady, and why does she yell at children? She sounds like someone I never wanted to be.

It’s so counter-intuitive because I work in social work, and as a result, my biggest mom fear is that I will put my son in therapy. But what is really crazy is that it is precisely my unfettered, out-of-control fear that causes my strongest, scariest reactions. The kind that could land him on the psychologists couch. If they still used them.

Sometimes my son’s childish ignorance or disrespect on repeat just push a button and suddenly, I’m terrified. Or furious. And there he is, my little baby who still wets his Pull-ups, taking 31+ years of anxiety and anger.

I feel so crappy that I am trying out my uneducated mothering on him. Surely all the rest of my kids, whenever they get here, will get a wiser version of me. But he gets this tired, cranky, impatient lady who forgets who she’s dealing with.

It’s not fair, to him or to me. And my heart can’t take many more nights of the ache and regret. As I tuck him in under his glow-in-the-dark stars, I’m desperate to make the most of those last moments of the day. Trying to make good memories for him so maybe he won’t remember me only with angry eyes.

It’s just that Mom Guilt, and the general sense that I suck at this mom gig, haunting me all the time. So when I came across Sarah Bessey’s practices of mothering the other day, it was like a life jolt. I realized I could intentionally parent, with help, and I could not only stop sucking at parenthood, I could actually enjoy it.

Because let’s be honest: it’s hard to enjoy something you’re bad at.

For the record, my like or dislike of parenting was never, ever about not liking my son. I’m wild about him. I just was not at all wild about my skills. It just felt like hopeless most days.

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My personal parenting goal is: to enjoy motherhood and say with confidence, “I am a good mom”.

But I needed hope. And some structure.

And thanks to two of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Bessey, and Lisa Jo Baker, I have some of both.

Tonight I am sharing Sarah Bessey’s practices of mothering, which I plan to intentionally fold into my living as a parent to my son. I will share some awesome insight from Lisa Jo about not yelling anymore, which I am so very excited to stop doing. That will come in a few days. (And if you can’t wait, you can visit her site and find the article early, if you must. But I will get to it. Promise.)

Here are Sarah’s mothering practices, which I love-love-love, and I think they will enlighten any parent, mom or dad. I have three here, and then I will redirect you to her site to read them all. So good.

The practice of speaking life.

I can’t get away from the truth that is this: Words Matter. The words that we speak about ourselves, about our children, about our life matter.

The practice of attachment.

Here’s why it helps me love mothering: attachment parenting works. … See, I want their hearts. I want their hearts so connected to mine and to my husband’s that the love between us will be stronger than any thing else that comes along. So, I do these “things” not because they make me a good mother but because they help me to capture their hearts. And once I have their hearts – and I do – I can lead and direct and train them with their full trust and confidence.

The practice of routine.

Sure, a routine makes sure that I can get done what I need to get done for myself and for my family, but it also helps me find room for those things that are truly life-giving like prayer, meditation, reading, being outside, writing, reaching out to friends and neighbours, helping others, advocating for others, being present in our community and so on. By establishing a loose routine, I enjoy motherhood more because it feels intentional and restful, simplified and life-giving for all of us.

Read the rest of Sarah’s inspired practices of mothering here.

The power of Mom

If you are a mom, want to be a mom, or if you have a mom, take a few moments to view this video. The narration is a prose piece written by Lisa Jo Baker, a beautiful tribute to the battle for hearts that is motherhood.

The days are long, the tasks tedious, and the company can switch from delightful to dreadful in less than a second. I needed this reminder of the power that lies in love, especially the love of a mother.

It reminded me, also, that God loves like a mom. This unrelenting, passionate love that just comes back for more, that won’t accept defeat, that’s a mom kind of love.

And PS: If you still need Mom’s Day gift ideas, Lisa Jo offers 100 right here. Something for everyone, right? It got my creative brain going.

How come it’s so hard?

How come I do not know how to be a mom?

How come there is not a book that describes motherhood for my personality and lifestyle?

How come there is not a drug to calm me down?

How come there are not enough hours in a day?

How come there is guilt no matter what?

How come I judge all the moms, and they judge me, but we all feel inadequate?

How come I yell when I am thinking, “Why are you yelling? He’s only two”?

How come I want to be better at this, but I’m not?

How come I feel like a babysitter some days?

How come I am terrified to traumatize or alienate my child, but it’s my fear and self-loathing that drive me right toward what I aim to avoid?

How come I want to be a mom once, twice, many times over, and yet I’m so exhausted?

I finally found someone who understands me. This video is hilarious. I feel better now.