Monday, February 20, 2012

Honey badger and others who don't give a...

You know those people who don't discipline their kids? The ones who think everything their kids do is cute? The ones who smile when their child walks up to your table at a restaurant and throws your plate of food on the floor simultaneously grinning mischievously at you? The ones who watch that, giggle, and say things like, "Oh, he's a rascal." You know them? The ones who make people who don't have children say, "I'm never having kids." The ones who make people who have children who behave most of the time kiss those children and say, "Thank God for you." You know them? They make me crazy. Their kids Make. Me. Crazy.

There was a shift about 30 years ago in how people raised children. A shift that caused parents to believe that boosting a child's self-esteem was more important than teaching them to be kind, caring, honest, compassionate individuals, who did what was right not just what they wanted to do. I don't throw stones out of my glass house. I do, however, wonder what the world is gonna look like when these self-important, entitled jerks are leading the country. Good grief.

My kids are going to school with them and playing on playgrounds and sports teams with them right now. There are about five of them to every one child whose parents make him or her behave. What in the world?? My kids say to me all the time, "That's not fair." No, life isn't "fair." "Why do I have to sit in the dugout when everyone else runs around?" Because the rule is that you sit in the dugout. "How come I can't throw rocks when all the other kids are?" Because it's wrong, and someone could get hurt. "Sally's parents let her do that?" What did my dad used to say? Oh, yeah, "Well, then go live with Sally's parents. They're idiots." I try not to say that, but ashamedly admit I may have busted it out a time or two in desperation.

A few years ago at Walmart, Lily threw a screaming fit because I wouldn't buy her a piece of candy. I advised her at the beginning of the trip that if she walked alongside the cart and held my hand she could have said candy. If she didn't, she would have to sit in the cart and there would be no candy. Before we even made it down the first aisle, she had broken this agreement and into the cart she went. "Can I have my candy?" No. Screams, tears, full-blown fit. The whole way around Walmart. It's a pretty big store. People stared at us. People judged me. People judged Lily. People mumbled under their breath about us. I did not get everything on my list, because I felt guilty subjecting all the other shoppers to this lesson. When we got to the car, she calmed down, and I explained to her again why she didn't get the candy. She got it. She has never thrown a fit in a store again. And, she learned that bad behavior is not rewarded. That was so worth that screaming trip around Walmart. Well, for us. I still feel bad about the other shoppers.

Lily is a handful. She is the first of my three children that drove me to devour parenting books. She is strong-willed and strong-minded and stubborn and mischievous. I have to be on my toes every minute with her. She can have something broken into five pieces before my brain registers that she has picked it up and triggers the words, "Don't touch that." She is also kind and compassionate and honest. She cares about people and exhibits more empathy than most grown people I know. She is not a tattle-tale and doesn't want to get other people in trouble. Except Peyton. She likes to get him in trouble. She says please and thank you, often without even being reminded. She knows what's right and what's wrong, and she knows there are consequences for wrongdoing.

She has been so much work, but after five years of trying many of the wrong techniques, I found the right one. It wasn't sending her to her room. We tried that for awhile. Too long. She spent lots of time in her room. That didn't work. What worked? Love. Lots and lots and lots of love. That doesn't mean I let her get away with things or give into her. I don't. But I make a concentrated effort to show her every day just how much I love her. I sit down and talk to her and explain things to her and hug her and kiss her and spend real quality time with her. I try not to yell. I rarely succeed. But the extra love has made a world of difference in her behavior. Oh, and I stopped caring what other people think about her and started embracing the wonderful little soul that she is.

There are a handful of people, who have always loved her. They saw past her often bad behavior to her little golden heart. I can count them on one hand, and I absolutely love them. Because, Lily isn't one of those "suck-up kids." She doesn't bat her eyelashes at strangers, perform tricks on demand (come on, we all know those people: "Susie, say your ABC's for Aunt so and so,") or crawl up into any available lap. If people try to "quiz" her, she knows what's up, and she will intentionally give them the wrong answer. I had to explain to her that when the teachers asked her questions, it was to evaluate her progress in school, and she needed to give them the right answer. "Ohhhh," she said.

She doesn't need to prove herself to anyone. She is who she is. She, much like the honey badger, doesn't give a shit. I absolutely love that about her. However, many people don't know how to deal with that. People like the suck-up kids. People are blindly charmed by the Eddie Haskells of life. My kids don't need people in their lives who don't see their worth, and neither do I. I spent probably three of my nearly four decades trying to make people like me and convince people I am a good person. Now, I've got these great, confident kids who are good people, who do the right thing because it's the right thing to do, not to make people like them. For years I have asked God for guidance, advice, and clarity. Funny that the best teachers He sent me came right from my very own body. God is so cool.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cloud Nine?

Saturday, we started shopping for the last prom dress. Well, Chloe's last prom dress, anyway. We're gonna have to start all over again in a few years with our little bug. But that hardly seems possible. Though we have had mad success at the same store for the past few years, Chloe wanted to try a new place that was at the end of the earth. We went. We and 42,000 other people. As soon as we walked in, my throat started to close. Chloe glanced over her shoulder at me, and I smiled and clung tightly to Lily's hand lest I lose her in the mad throng of shoppers.

Within 2 seconds, Josh (I think that was his name) offered his services as a personal shopper. Thank goodness, because I couldn't hold onto Lily and sort through thousands of dresses. He had a brief conversation with Chloe, "What size are you?" "What style dress are you looking for?" and then disappeared. Chloe and I exchanged worried glances and continued getting bumped, shoved and elbowed, as eager mothers and daughters, and even a few dads (poor guys, on super bowl Sunday, no less?) ripped through the dresses sending sequins and ostrich feathers flying.

Momentarily, Josh returned with a few options for Chloe to try. She found a few others. I took my eye off her for a second, and she vanished. I looked down to make sure Lily was still beside me, even though I could feel her sweaty little hand tightly grasping mine. It's an OCD thing, I guess. I bent and asked her, "Did you see where Sissy went?" Her response was wide-eyed terror followed by a very loud, "WHAT DID YOU SAY?" Yeah, it's kind of hard to hear over the cacophony of techno music and checking accounts draining.

About ten harrowing minutes later we managed to navigate 15 feet to the dressing rooms, in time for one overly eager mother to rip open a curtain and reveal my partially clothed child. "Whoops, wrong one!" she laughed, as I contemplated whether to smile in return or clock her. I smiled, as I heard Chloe's death whisper, "GET IN HERE!" Lily and I joined her in match-box sized room. Now there were three of us, five dresses for Chloe, and a giant peacock number left by a former occupant. I was sweating, my heart was palpitating, and my head was pounding. A few weeks before, I had heard on my Jesus radio station, "In every situation, trust Jesus. He is there." I immediately felt even guiltier for having dragged the Son of God to Henri's Cloud Nine, which was one of the closest places I could imagine to HELL.

Again, I smiled at Chloe, who responded with an exasperated, "I just want to go home. I'm sorry."

"Just try them on," I suggested, trying to make the best of this debacle. She did. Each one meriting little more than a half-hearted headshake. The most viable option of the five, an aqua gown with mirror-like jewels sewn all over the bodice, quickly lost its luster, when I glimpsed the price tag. $1038. You have got to be kidding.

Chloe quickly got dressed, and we dashed out of that place carefully avoiding Josh and the other sequined-vested sales associates. I was a little bit irritated that we had only used 15 minutes on the parking meter since I'd paid for an hour, but I decided that $.15 wasn't worth enduring any more of that place.

So, this week we are going back to our usual place. I am anxiously hoping for much better results. I thought Lily would probably opt to stay home with the boys, but she said as long as I buy her ice cream on the way home, she's in.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What are YOU doing?

Often, when I ask my children to do something, their first reaction is to ponder what their siblings have to do. "Peyton, can you clean the litter boxes, please?" Looking around, he asks, "What do Chloe and Lily have to do?" We spend a lot of time telling our children, "Don't worry about what other people are doing; worry about yourself." But I realize that a lot of the time, I worry about what other people are doing too.

Yesterday, we returned home from dinner with my family, and Brad put the children on various tasks; I went to do laundry. I hear them, "This isn't mine." "Why do I have to put this away?" "What's Chloe doing?" "What are YOU cleaning?" "Where's Mommy? Why isn't she cleaning?" Giggling to myself, I hear Brad say, "Don't worry about what Mommy is doing; she always cleans up after us." I love that guy. But I thought about how many times I've wondered what would happen if I only cleaned up the messes I made. I've even posed that to the kids. What if I only did MY laundry or washed MY dishes or picked up the toys I got out? I shudder to think about it.

I read a scripture, and I can't remember the scripture or the exact wording, but the gist was: A man was a faithful follower of Christ, yet he was poor, hungry, and generally physically suffering. He looked at another man, who was a big jerk but had money, fine clothing, a big house, and more. He asked Jesus why the discrepancy. Here he was a good and faithful disciple going without while this other guy had so much. Jesus basically responded, "Don't worry about him; just follow me."

Ugh...just like my kids. Moreso: Just. Like. Me. How many times I have bean counted. How many times I have looked at others and wondered why their life is so easy when they go about screwing people over, lying, cheating, and so forth. And here I am, trying to love God, love my family, be honest, do the right thing, and I never seem to catch a break. I guess I should clarify that by break, I mean a big pile of money falling into my lap. I am very blessed and grateful for my marriage, health, wonderful children, but we have always struggled financially, and it seems like we always will. The light at the end of the tunnel is dimmed significantly by trading bankruptcy payments for tuition.

Recently, reading the story about the prodigal son, I realized I could identify quite clearly with his brother. The good son, who stayed and helped his father and felt taken for granted when his low-life brother finished gallivanting about sowing his oats and returned home to feasts and celebrations. While his brother felt put out feeling that he'd been there the whole time, doing the right thing and nobody ever threw him a party. I have felt like that brother too many times to count and begrudgingly attended more than one celebration for more than one prodigal son.

So in this whole round about way, I think I came back to Jesus. Always cleaning up our messes. Always answering our prayers. Always there faithful as we bring drama after drama and lay it at His feet. A few weeks ago, a couple of my facebook friends got in an argument that resulted in a lot of judgment, name-calling, and questioning of each others' beliefs and even morals. All I could think about, as I read their disparaging remarks was that He died for all of us. Who are we to put ourselves above anyone else or judge their beliefs or to tell someone else that God doesn't look favorably on them when we are all in the same boat? God sent His Son to die for all of us.

So, I am trying to remind myself of that, when I look at certain people whose actions seem deplorable, in my estimation, and I tell myself, "Jesus died for her too." The people who go through life never doing one thing to better themselves. He died for them too. The people that lie, cheat, and steal their way into better jobs, or positions of power or whatever. Yep, them too. The people who are mean and judgmental and nasty and treat other people badly. Them too. Overwhelming. Who am I to even consider what someone else might get when I have so much? Who am I to wonder why someone doesn't treat me better, when God sent His Son to die for me? Who am I to question how many lavish vacations someone takes, when I have been promised eternal salvation?

I think about loving with no expectations. How I love my kids. No matter what they did, what they believed, how horribly they messed up, I would never love them any less. But I can't imagine ever loving anyone so much that I would give one of my children's lives to save them. And that's how much God loves us? Every last screwed up one of us? I just can hardly fathom love like that.