Parenting

Mentor Monday: Love Your Kids for Who They Are (not what they do), Lynn Smith, Supermom

MentorMonday

How fun and exciting to think about having my mom as the second mentor on Mentor Monday. Nobody’s mom is perfect, but mine is pretty darn awesome. She inspired many of the activities in my book, she is hilarious and creative, and she’s always there for us. I knew I wanted to feature her on Mentor Monday, but I couldn’t decide which of her many life lessons to include. As I thought about it, though, I kept coming back to one of her most constant refrains: “Remember, I love you for who you are, not for what you do.” What a lovely thing to have ringing in your ear as a child.

 I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of my favorite Bible verses mirrors this language almost exactly. Titus chapter 3, verses 4 and 5 “When the kindness and love of God our Savior came, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

Growing up I was a fairly success oriented kid. I liked school so much that I cried when I couldn’t go, I wanted to be in the science club and the environmental club and the band and the writing competition. I liked to achieve things. My parents were very supportive of all these endeavors. They proudly displayed awards and sat through band concerts, they took pictures and hung them on the fridge. They were encouraging, but they were very clear that the things I achieved didn’t earn me their love. In fact, my mom regularly said “Remember, Traci, I love you because of who you are, not what you do.” She wrote it down and put it in envelopes and cards, and she whispered it in my ear all throughout my childhood and young adulthood. I don’t know if it meant a lot to me as a child, but I remember it now, all the time.

Of course we want success for our children, but more than this, we want them to be at peace with themselves, confident that they are loved by God and loved by the adults in their lives. Take a page out of my mom’s playbook: tell your children you love them for no other reason than that they are yours.

mamaAbout my mom: My mom, Lynn Smith, is amazing. She’s funny and silly and she takes lots of pictures. She’s a master at connecting with her grandkids through Skype, hates to sew with a sewing machine, and loves her children unconditionally. Thanks mom!

photo credit: Sarah Clapp

 

 

 

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Smart Phone Meditation – 4 Minute Meditation With Your Phone #spiritualpractice #seamlessfaith

cellphonemeditation

I’m glued to my phone, just like so many people. Recently I’ve been thinking about a few ways to not be. I have a few ideas rolling around in my head about how to become unglued and I’ll write a post about those sometime soon. For now, though, here’s a way to use your phone as a spiritual practice. It’s so easy!

  1. Go to your text messages. Pray, specifically, for the last five people in there, whoever they are. (One minute)
  2. Go to your photos, is there something in there that brings you joy or makes you thankful? Thank God for it. (One minute)
  3. Open up a news app or go to a news page… scroll through the headlines, praying for the issues that you see. (One minute)
  4. Open a Bible app (or use google) and read Psalm 145. (One minute.)

So easy, and so unexpected, right? We did this in our parenting class on Sunday and had some interesting discussions about it.

Source: This meditation is adapted from one that Lily Lewin did at a conference I was at awhile ago.

Parenting Practice: Write Some Goals Down… Stick ’em On the Cabinet #spiritualpractice #parenting #itsenough

parentinggoals

True confession: many times I don’t feel like I’m “living up to” what I should be as a parent. I know lots and lots of dads and moms feel this way, but sometimes it feels like an extra weight on my shoulders. After all… I wrote a parenting book, for crying out loud. Are my kids going to be like the cobbler’s kids who have no shoes? Am I the one who has great ideas for everybody else’s kids, but not my own?  It’s a lot of pressure, not going to lie. I read a lot about parenting. Blogs… articles… listicles… books. Sometimes I think it helps. Sometimes I know it doesn’t. For me, the struggle is not in knowing what to do, but in actually applying that knowledge. It’s like being healthy. Everybody knows that going for a jog and not eating cheese fries is healthy, but going for a jog is a lot of work, and the cheese fries are convenient.

So what helps? Well… here’s one thing that has been working for me. It’s super simple.  I didn’t do it for you (or y’all as we say in Texas). I did it for me, but since it’s working, I thought I’d share it. It’s really easy. Embarrassingly easy. Ready?

I wrote down some goals. 

I stuck them on my cabinet. 

I read them every morning while I wait (impatiently) for my coffee to brew.

That is it. Seriously. Nothing else. I don’t achieve all of the goals every day, but they’re there. It’s like parenting food for my brain. I’m going to share my goals with you, but I don’t think you should just copy them. I think you should write your own. Here are some tips that will help you:

  1. Don’t overthink them. You probably have an idea about what will help you in your parenting. In fact. I know you know what to do. Sit down and write them down.
  2. Try to frame them in the positive. Instead of “don’t yell” write “Speak calmly.” Don’t we have enough voices trying to judge us already? We don’t need to judge ourselves.
  3. No more than… say… 12. I mean… how many goals can you reasonably have? I wasn’t aiming for 10, but 10 came out. There are 10 commandments. Seems like a good number. But you can have up to 12.
  4. Just do you. Think of things that are realistic for you. I wanted to put something like “no screen time” on mine. Not realistic. My boys are going to watch Daniel Tiger every single day. I’m fine with that. I’m not judging myself against somebody else’s parenting. I’m judging myself against mine
  5. Get extra help if you need it. This is the hardest part, but if you need help with your parenting, you can get it! Find a coach. Reach out to a friend. Don’t do it alone; We’re all in this together!

There you have it. Good luck! If it helps to share yours, I’d love to see them! Post a link to your pictures here.

My goals for parenting Clayton and Samuel

  1. Look them in the eye.
  2. Notice what they are doing and talk about it.
  3. Focus on them individually and together each day.
  4. Avoid working on other things when it is our time.
  5. Include them in chores and tasks.
  6. Sing to them.
  7. Read to them.
  8. Create art.
  9. Say yes whenever possible (even creatively).
  10. Keep a quiet voice and non-towering presence.

Good luck!

10 Creative Ways for Grandparents to Connect with Baby and Toddler Grandchildren Using Skype

skype birthday party

When I moved from Chicago to San Antonio, there were a number of wonderful reasons to make the move… great church, great San Antonio weather and culture, bilingual environments for the boys. There was one horrifying reason to not make the move: serious distance from grandma and grandpa.  Though it was a heartbreaking and difficult decision to make, we decided that we would make the move, trusting that we would find creative ways to make the best of the situation.

My boys (now ages 3 and 2) have been talking to grandma and grandpa on Skype nearly every morning since we moved here two years ago. Here are some of the games and activities we’ve played. As the boys grow older, and as we come up with new activities, I’ll post future editions of this.

1. Have a Skype Birthday Party  – We do this for everyone’s birthday. Here’s how it works. We set up an appointed time on the birthday to have the party. Even if Grandma and Grandpa can’t come to our house, we can still decorate our kitchen, bake a cake, and eat cake at the same time, over skype, with Grandma and Grandpa. We light candles and everything. We have a basket with our reusable felt birthday banner and party hats so we’re ready for a skype birthday party at a moment’s notice. We do this for cousin’s birthdays as well. The key is to make it a party feel in our own house and build it up. The kids love it.

2. Play “Do what I do” – Grandma and grandpa say “Can you do this?” (and then they pat their heads) or “Can you do this?” (touch your nose.) From an early early age, the babies learned that they can interact with Grandma and Grandpa via the computer.

3. Have a routine or special thing that only grandma and grandpa can do – I think this varies depending on what your child is passionate about. For our (weird!) boys, it’s the garage door. They love watching the garage door go up and down. So guess what? Grandma and grandpa (for a time, until they grew out of it) would take the computer over to the garage door and open it and the boys would watch it go up and down. They loved it, grew to count on it, and it was a special connection for them.

4. Do something the same, together, like eat a banana – One day grandpa said “Oh, you’re eating a banana? I’m going to eat one too!” Now Clayton sometimes says he wants to eat his banana “the grandpa way” (Meaning he has to leave the peel on as he eats it and pull down the peel as he gets closer to the bottom. The “non grandpa way” is to peel the entire banana in advance.)

5. Do some sort of demonstration – Today grandma made a smoothie, over Skype and the boys watched. She set up the computer in the kitchen and asked the boys how she should do it. Should she put in 5 strawberries or 10?

6. Keep a pad and paper by the computer, ask grandma and grandpa to draw things and hold them up to the computer – “Grandma, draw a circle and a sun!” or “Grandma, can you draw a smiley face?” Simple, but they love it.

7. Take Pictures – On PCs there is a way to take a picture via Skype (I don’t know how my mom did that, because I use Mac.) On a mac, we just take screenshots. The picture quality isn’t half bad! Grandma and Grandpa have a whole file of pictures they’ve taken of the boys on Skype.

8. Send mail through the mail and open it on Skype – This is fun, because the children can see the same object on the other side of the screen come to their house. When the mail comes, give it to the children when they are talking on Skype to grandma and grandpa and have the experience of opening it up together.

9. Play peek-a-boo – We did this when the boys were babies. There were two ways we did it, one was for grandma to “cut” the video feed and just talk with the audio and then turn it back on. The second way was for her to just have a blanket available at home and cover her head (traditional peek-a-boo.)

10. Read a story over Skype – So easy, and so sweet.

Poetry as a Spiritual Practice for Moms (and everyone!)

claytonpumpkins

If I had a dollar for every time a mother said to me (about parenting) “make sure you enjoy it, because it goes by fast,”  well, I’d definitely not have to say to Clayton “Not today because mama doesn’t have any dollars in her purse” when he’s asking me to go on that train in the mall that doesn’t accept debit cards.

Moms love to talk about how quickly their children grow up. Even though mine are only 3 and 2, I am starting to understand it. I see little newborns and think “Oh! I loved those baby snuggles! I hope I appreciated them enough when I had them.”

As someone wiser than me once said “The days are long, but the years are short.”

Soon after moving to San Antonio, I met my friend Kyndall. She is a pastor, and a poet. I loved how many of her poems are autobiographical and narrative. They are like stories, but still poems. They inspired me to write poetry of my own, mostly about my kids.  I thought I would share a poem with all of you, along with my one and only tip for you to get started. Here’s my poem, Burdens  about Clayton learning to get dressed:

Burdens

Clayton, my three year old, is learning how to dress himself.

It’s a hoot!

Mismatched clothes aren’t the half of it

shirts on backwards (and upside down!)

out of season clothes worn proudly in public

the robot shirt every day of the week

— if he can get away with it

(and he usually can).

A few weeks ago he was struggling to get out of that robot t-shirt

grunting and straining

“Do you need help?” I asked.

“NO!”

“Okay.”

More struggling, more grunting

his arms all tangled up over his head

Finally…

“My arm is too heavy, Mama,”

So endearing, right?

My arm is too heavy. 

It’s like this three year old way of trying to say

I don’t know how this whole “getting dressed” thing works. 

Endearing, yes, but also heartbreaking, somehow.

my eyes welled up with tears at the sound of those words.

My arm is too heavy. 

I started to think of all of the burdens and struggles he’ll face throughout his life.

There are lots of times when your arms are too heavy, but that’s not the half of it

There will be times when it’s not his arms that are all twisted up and too heavy, but his spirit too

And his little heart.

I wanted to say “Sometimes my arms are too heavy, too.” 

But instead I smiled and said, “Here, let me help you.”

My one tip to writing your own poetry: don’t judge yourself. Don’t say to yourself “I can’t do it. I’m not a poet.” Sure you are. If it’s just for you, if it’s just to sit down and write out some things that you’re thinking about and feeling, you’re already a poet. Who knows what you will discover in the process.

Why I Won’t Remain Silent on Adrian Peterson

Credit: Mike Morbeck  Creative Commons Licence  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Credit: Mike Morbeck
Creative Commons Licence
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

First: Adrian Peterson did not “spank” his child, he beat him bloody. This is not a matter of a “judgement call.” This isn’t “well some people think differently.” He beat him up. Look it up. There isn’t room for debate here.

Second: Prominent evangelicals as well as Adrian Peterson himself defend this type of action because of the Bible and the faulty belief that somehow God is pleased when parents beat their children on the back, buttocks and scrotum, with a tree branch.  I’m not making this up.

Third: The phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child” does not appear in the Bible, though there is an entire industry and collective consciousness built around it.*

These are the reasons I’m unable to be silent about this. It’s not that I want to jump in on a current news story about a professional sports player behaving badly (which would be a full time job right now, it seems.) I wrote a book on Christian parenting and many other books on Christian parenting advise spanking as a legitimate form of “discipline.” I’m ashamed to be a part of this genre of work if that’s the connection people are going to make.

You wanna know who the loudest proponents of hitting your kids are? Christian Pastors. I’m ashamed to be a part of this profession if that’s the connection people are going to make. 

Adrian Peterson’s little boy was beaten bloody with a stick because his dad thought God told him to. This is not ok.

* Proponents of hitting children as a valid form of Christian parenting often use two verses: Proverbs 13:24 and Proverbs 23:13. I’m not going to engage this debate in this post because it’s an example of what is called “prooftexting” which is “is the practice of using isolated quotations from a document to establish a proposition.” I will engage anyone on this question using a debate from either of these two verses if that person is willing to say that disobedient children should also be stoned to death. (Also in the Bible: see Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

See Also: Adrian Peterson and the False Gospel of Spanking

7 Reasons Family Dinner is Worth Fighting for & Resources to Make it Happen

family dinner

Last week there was an article posted on Slate called “Let’s Stop Idolizing The Home Cooked Family Dinner.” The basic premise of the article is this: a research study published by two sociologists from North Carolina State University points to evidence that the stress of putting together family meals is not worth the tradeoff and that we (as a culture) should stop idolizing/perpetuating the “stereotype” that family meals are necessary and important. How can I put this delicately? I call bull poo-poo on this article. Let me be clear — the challenges to making family dinners happen are real. The stress for women to “do it all” is unimaginable but the way to deal with these stresses is absolutely not to do away with family dinners, in my opinion. Family mealtimes are beneficial to children and families on just about every indicator available. See research here, here, and here,  — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I don’t have a research study, but I do have lots of stories from people who eat dinner together, as well as the experience of the family in which I was raised and the growing family I’m shepherding with my partner in crime, Elias. Here are seven reasons I think family dinner is worth fighting for.

1. It forces a disciplined schedule – If we can’t find an hour (more like 40 minutes, start to finish) to sit down together on a regular basis, something is off. We’re over scheduled and we have to fix it. Sure there are days when we can’t all do it –of course there are. I know that as my kids get older and sports and school activities and lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) creep into the schedule, it’ll be even harder to find that time to get everyone together. All the more reason to make it happen.  It’s hard, hard work, and I see families having to guard their calendars like ninjas to make it happen, but they do.

2. It’s a time for connection and conversation – Let me tell you, dinner conversation in our house is pretty dull right now, especially if Elias or I is absent from the table and it’s just one of us with the boys. “Hey, boys, what else starts with the letter ‘A?” Then there’s the ever popular “What are you going to do tomorrow?” conversation with a 2 and 3 year old. Enthralling. Except not really. I look forward to days when our conversations will be more complex and I really really cherish memories of my family conversations at the dinner table when I was growing up, though I am pretty sure I didn’t really value them at the time.

3. It’s a great time to pass on faith and values to children – Of the 50 family faith practices in my book, five of them can be practiced right a the dinner table, and a good many more (if not all) can be talked about at the dinner table. That doesn’t even include blessings over the meal, reading sacred stories after dinner is over or other traditional faith practices. Even families who don’t identify with a particular faith tradition can appreciate that the dinner table offers a moment for reflection about the day and about the choices that day had to offer.

4. It provides structure – Not just for kids — for everyone. We need routines, all of us, because this world is hard.

5. It forces us to look our family members in the face – I heard this great interview of poet Marie Howe awhile ago. She was talking about how the number one face she peered into over the course of a day was the face of her phone. This is true of so many of us. Screens, phones, computers, iPads. We need a consistent time, every day, (or as many as we can manage) where we put our screens away and look our family members in the face.

6. It’s the time for individual families to do their own thaaaang. What is your family about? Are you silly? Do you tell jokes? Do you sing together? Do you have a crazy game? Family dinner is when you can practice it/do it/celebrate it/live it. Family dinner is where cultures and traditions can be explored and celebrated, too. Do it your way.

If you’re still with me, I’m guessing you either already have a practice of family dinner or you’re thinking about beefing it up or starting it. I want to share as many resources as I can so that it might be successful. As I mentioned, my family is young, so I’m going to be pointing to some resources from others as well as what’s been working for my family so far.

1. Lower your expectations – The article I referenced at the very beginning is valuable for this warning — parents (and especially women) are so pressured to do too much, be too much, do it all, be perfect. Scrambled eggs and tortillas is a legitimate menu in our household. Ditto fried egg sandwiches, Mac & Cheese from the box, bean and cheese tostadas and pancakes. Sometimes I make fancy food (that the boys usually like less than the aforementioned options) many times we eat very simple, very inexpensive food.

2. Make a Plan – I’m not a fan of planning and lists, but I work hard on this for family meals because if I didn’t, it would come completely unglued. I think it’s probably of very little value to share my system because I would imagine that everyone would need their own system that works for them, but for what it’s worth, here’s what I do:

menu

– On the inside of my cabinet I have a running list of literally every possible thing we could have for dinner. (Read: things I know how to cook that we all like to eat.) It’s divided up into categories: chicken, meat, eggs, soups, grains, and other.

– Once every week or 10 days – sometimes as many as two weeks, I go through and pick one (or two) things from the list that I am going to make based on how busy the weeks is, what’s on sale, what we feel like and what we haven’t eaten in a long time.

– Off the plan of what we’re going to eat, I make a list based on what we have in the house.

I put the plan of what we’re going to eat on a piece of paper on the side of the fridge (now a fancy whiteboard — ooooh! Fancy!)

I cross off the meals as we eat them. I used to plan what we would eat on which day (Monday: Meatloaf, Tuesday, Pancakes, etc.) I stopped doing that because sometimes I would have planned something complicated on a day I was exhausted and sometimes we had so many leftovers in the fridge I wanted to have a “leftovers” night. I know lots of people who do plan what they have for the specific days, though. I used to save the papers with the weekly plans so I could repeat them, but  that morphed into the master list of all the meal options.

– Another handy thing that I do is post all of the things that we eat all the time on the inside of a different cabinet so I’m not forever checking recipes on the internet or in books. I just folded a paper into eight so there are eight little squares and each time I looked up something I had looked up a million times I wrote it down. Over time the paper grew into another and it’s really handy. One of these days I’m going to type it out all pretty and fancy like. Today is not that day.

There are many, many, systems apps and ideas for other ways to do family dinners, I couldn’t even begin to list them all. A few resources that are worth it, I think:

Once a month meals – I love this in concept – I don’t have the ability or brain capacity to make it happen. Our meals are also way simpler than the meals on this site.

Dinner: A Love Story – Great Blog, Haven’t read the book, but it’s on my to read list.

The Family Dinner – This book was inspiring. The only critique I have of it was that it seemed to prescriptive and limiting in the way it thought that family meals have to be done. I think each family needs to find their own way and have their own rules and systems. What worked for the author wouldn’t necessarily work in my family. Still, I agree with the general premise.

Of course Seamless Faith has loads of ideas and a general philosophy that gels with everything I’m talking about here. One of the practices is “The Sacred Meal”. Sign up if you haven’t already! 

What’s your favorite memory of a family meal, either from long ago, or recently?