Monday, October 28, 2013

A Decade Of Parenting

It was ten years ago today that we met our first child. Ten years ago today that my greatest dream in life became a reality. He was not planned or expected. We were totally unprepared financially, relationally, physically and emotionally. But God knew we needed Landon...ten years ago. Not on our time table. Not when everything was perfectly in place. It was the beginning of God helping me to release my tight fisted control.
When I look back on these ten years it amazes me how fast time has gone. How much life has changed. How much more confident I am in my parenting choices. How much more I am dependent on God's wisdom. Here are just a few things I have learned in ten years:

1) The peanut butter and jelly smell fades. For so long Landon ran around smelling like pbj. Now he smells like a boy. He used to hide in cupboards and place his matchbox cars or Thomas trains in the oddest places that made perfect sense to his little imagination. Now he has traded those trains for bb guns and footballs.

2) Parenting is purposeful. Everything about it is purposeful. From what we feed them to how we let them suffer consequences. We are on a quest to raise kids who buck the current self absorbed, immediate gratification, sex saturated culture that we exist in. To accomplish that, we must be purposeful. All of the time. Like a watchman standing guard.

3) Babies cuddle for a short time. Rocking them will not ruin them. Sleep training is important, but I learned to balance that with cuddling and gazing and rocking. I learned this lesson the hard way with Landon. I was so insecure in my parenting with Landon (and immature and completely clueless) that I really thought that I had to have my baby sleeping through the night by 2 months. Really...I was afraid of failing. So many of my worst parenting moments have been more about me than my child. My own insecurities. My own failing. My own sin. Me putting my issues on them. I am still learning this.

4) It won't always be this difficult. The phases come and go. Some are better than others. But it is ever changing. One day, the child WILL sleep all night. One day, they will eat. One day, not one temper tantrum will be thrown. One day they won't pee their pants or poop directly in front of the toilet but not in it. One day, they will not whine...I promise. One day.

5) Little kids demand a ton of physical energy. Bigger kids demand a ton of emotional energy. When you have have no energy left at the end of the day. None. Whatsoever.


6) My kids will say things and do things at the worst possible times. It is a law of nature. When this happens, I need to address the issues, but remember to keep my PRIDE out of it.

7) Little kids need their mamas. A lot. Sometimes it becomes overwhelming and we just long for a break without them hanging on us, crying for us, totally dependent on us. But every day they gain more independence. And one day you wake up and realize that your child is much less dependent on you. They may not want to hold your hand in public anymore, they may wander further away to explore confidently, without you. This is a sign of success, not failure.

8) All of our little decisions, define our big ones. How do we spend our time? It shows what is important to us. And our kids know this.

9) Parenting demands more faith than I ever knew. Not faith that everything will go perfectly and without incident. But faith that God is good. And Sovereign. And that He has purpose in what seems futile and inexplicable to us.

10) That the love of a parent for her child is far deeper and wider than I ever knew on the other side. I understand God in a much more profound way now than I did ten years ago. I know unconditional love. I understand reproof and correction and the purpose it serves...that it is born out of love not judgment.

I have spent ten years caring for Landon. From birth until this very evening. He has taught me so very much and I love him with a fierce love...a firstborn love. I have cared for him...and as he is getting older he is already giving that back to me. Babies do it when they look into our eyes and flash us that beautiful toothless grin. Toddler do it when they say, "I wuv you Mama." Preschoolers do it when they draw a picture of themselves holding hands with us. Landon did it last spring, when I was upset about something. Deeply upset. And he had no idea why, nor did he ask. I do not cry often, and certainly not for unexplained reasons in front of my kids. But this evening, I couldn't stop the tears. I was, at one point, folding laundry in the hallway, tears silently streaming down my face, when I looked into the kitchen. There was my Landon, wiping the counters, loading the dishwasher. Taking care of me. Loving me in the only way he knew how in that moment. That evening, he was the only person who took care of me. In fact, through that entire difficult situation, he was my biggest supporter. And he never even knew it because I never shared with him what drove those tears. He still doesn't know. He never asked me what was wrong (and I wouldn't have told him if he did ;)). He just took care of me. And the table shifted there for a moment. This child that I had cared for every waking (and in the beginning there was very little sleeping with him) moment for almost ten years, was looking after his mama. Making my world better. Lightening my load. Loving me, tangibly.

Landon has taught me so much. I am so grateful for the surprise of my life. The day I took that pregnancy test, I waited until Jon left. Then I took it, and when it read positive I almost passed out. I called my best friend and told her to come immediately, offering no other explanation. She showed up and I dragged her into the bathroom where the test was and I sat on the toilet and began to cry that  I wasn't ready to be a mom. And she just looked me in the eye and kept saying over and over, "Your going to be a mom!" Half of me wanted to punch her bc I was hoping she was going to tell me that my eyes were playing tricks on me and it wasn't really positive, but instead she just kept saying I was going to be mom over and over again. I didn't know it then, but that was the first day of the rest of my life. A future that I had not planned...but God had. Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of my Landon bear. That pregnancy set into motion everything that followed, where we moved, the jobs we got, the other children we have been blessed with. And while the ride has been bumpy, and a bit twisty at times...God continuously reminds me through Landon, that His ways are higher than my own. And that sometimes we must release our tight fisted grip on our own dreams and desires and goals and aspirations, in order to open our hands to far, far greater things that He has in store.

Friday, October 4, 2013


The other day I listed the bouncy seat that I received as a shower gift when I was pregnant with Landon, on an online yard sale site. It sold very quickly. Today, the woman came to pick it up. It wasn't until tonight that I remembered that on the evening I went into labor, I was putting that seat together. We had just moved to Detroit because Jonathan had just been hired there. My doctor was still here in Holland, so I was at my parents that evening after my appointment. I remember talking to Jonathan on the phone trying to decide if I should make the 2 hour drive to Detroit or stay that night at my parents. I opted to stay. The doctor said I had a good week to go, but something told me to stay. That conversation with Jonathan took place around 7 pm, and the whole time I was working on putting that seat together. At 10pm that night, my water broke and thirteen hours later, I was a mama for the first time.

In some small way, letting that seat go feels like a moving on. But it just doesn't seem at all possible to me that was ten years ago. Just like it doesn't feel possible that my newborn isn't a newborn anymore. That I am starting to let go of all the baby gear that I have acquired in this last decade of parenting. Its like a passing vapor...the days feel long, but the time is just passing so very quickly.

The other night I could tell that Noah needed some one on one time. So before bed I suggested we play a game...and he chose his Lite Brite. So we sat there sticking little pegs in holes for twenty minutes, chatting about life, love and superheros. Studies show that boys communicate much better when they are working with their hands, which I have found to be true even at their young ages. It was a fun twenty minutes, after which I tucked him into bed and breathed a sigh of relief that 1 out of 4 was down for the night. The next day when he came home from school, he showed me the picture that he had drawn that day. It was me and him playing Lite Brite in his room, complete in detail all the way down to the color of the clothes I was wearing that evening. This is my boy who rarely pays attention to detail. Landon gets lost in the trees, Noah always sees the forest and misses the trees. But not this time. Those twenty minutes were so precious to his 6 year old heart that he commemorated them the following day on a piece of yellow construction paper. I hung it next to my bed, as a daily reminder that what I think may be insignificant carries great importance in the heart of my children. I am convinced it is moments like those that will define their memories of childhood. I want to see that picture every day so that I can remember that when the days feel long and the energy is waning...I can remember how quickly they grow, and how much they crave time with me today. If I want them to spend time with me when they are older and I am not nearly so cool as I am now...then I have to put it in today...stick colored pegs in black paper, make play doh balls, wipe snotty noses, clean dirty diapers, read stories, go on bike rides, make pumpkin bread...what feels mundane and unimportant, is so important to them that it is worthy of being commemorated on construction paper, and I bet you...if it is on construction paper, it is also written on their little hearts.

TIME. How we spend it shows vividly where our hearts are. And who we spend it with, speaks loudly of our affections.