Our Kids Don’t Care We’re Late & Neither Should We

Thanks to the magic of music camp for the bigs this week, my youngest and I found ourselves in the Nordstrom Rack shoe department where we fell into a time vortex as she tried on every.single.pair that sparkled, shimmered, lit up, had a face on it, or were in any other way irresistible to her preschooler heart. The scent of mall retail easily tips me into an anxiety attack, not to mention mentally prepping myself for the scene assuredly to ensue when said preschooler is carried out without new pink jellies that smell of strawberries.

We roamed around a lot of our city this week and as I listened to yet another public parenting meltdown, it has become increasingly clear that we are a time-harried group hassling our preschool aged children to hurry-the-eff-up with little to no success.

I would like to inject here that I understand the frustration since the daily activity of loading my children in the car would give the saintliest of saints heart palpitations. As my three year old so transparently revealed to our pediatrician recently, I “did a bad job not being shouty at us at bedtime”. No, I am not above parental sh*t losing and my children tattle on me to our family pediatrician to keep me humble in what I can only imagine to be a subtly smug proverbial flip of the finger.

But when it’s ten AM on a Tuesday and we’re losing it in front of other families we’ve got some issues to deal with that are usually about our own hearts and not our kids’ lack of respect for the clock.

No doubt we are all living through a critically stressful time both domestically and globally that has left no one untouched. No matter how separated or directly linked we imagine ourselves to be, we are storing the stress within the cells of our bodies with our children first in line for the fall-out.

I’m going to suggest a few parenting tactics here that I think will help us all ratchet back a bit. Yes, I hear how audacious and annoying it sounds to get parenting advice from someone struggling through just like everyone else that is, not to forget, LATE. TO. ALMOST. EVERYTHING. EVERYWHERE! (I would like to defend I’m only a few minutes late, only sometimes these days. Progress in positive direction.)

Build in Time to Waste

We already know this parenting gig is wildly inconvenient. We already know they are going to stop for every roly poly on the sidewalk. We already know. It is part of their natural child development to explore, to put order to their world, to imagine. What I miss when I don’t block enough time for my kids to enter their world as children instead of expecting them to be overly rushed mini-adults is the opportunities they create for connection with me. Mama, look! Mama, come! Mama (come be with me)!

HOW We Arrive Is More Important Than WHEN We Arrive

This is pretty self-explanatory. When I rush my kids they shut down. Their feelings get hurt and their heels dig deeper while I get crazier grasping for ways to prove I am the Actual Boss around here. We all end up miserable before slinking back (much later) for apologies. I’m trying to build in more buffer time so we are not compressed into stress, but when it just doesn’t work out I will most likely be late. At the end of the day (or two decades the kids are in our home) my priority is the atmosphere of our family. Every time. The End. Not the clock. I promise to try to text you if I’m late.

Drill-Sergeanting Orders vs Asking Kids What’s Next

Even if I am not falling off the ledge of control, it’s easy to get into a habit of barking directions at our kids. Put on your shoes! Get your hat! Wash your hands! Come, NOW! Instead, we’re trying to ask our kids what comes next and for them to come up with the answers, basically stealing all the best parts of Positive Parenting.

It sounds a lot like

“Lunch is ready. What do we need to do?”

“Wash hands!”

or “I can think of three things that are your ticket to the car. What are they?”

“Hat, shoes, and water bottle!”

Yes, it takes more energy and intention to do this the majority of the time, but it’s worth maintaining an element of fun in the day. Not to mention raising kids who are thinkers. It does, however, presuppose a certain amount of routine and clearly-communicated behavior expectations already foundational in the dynamic (& the hope no child is going through a smartass phase).

I am happy to report I didn’t have to football my child out of Nordstroms while she sabotaged racks of Ray-Bans along the way. Time to try allllllll the shoes on with my attention, not annoyance filled her little cup.

Parents of littles and how-can-they-be-this-big-already kids, I see you out there with your crew teetering between Intention and The-Brink. I know this place and I know we can do better. Not by trying harder, but by trading our benchmarks for what success looks like.

I love our city and I want to explore it with my kids without shouting at them about time and who’s in control and without listening to you do that either. I believe in you. I believe in me. I believe in the intelligence and kindness of our kids. Whether you loved or hated this parenting post, just wait ’til you hear what I have to say about the ineffectiveness of time-outs and making your kids apologize!

 

The Bike Ride

Do you remember that adolescent feeling when the stirring to interact with your world is bigger and wilder than your means to actually do so? Had we been in our twenties, it would have been a day for letting the car lead us, windows down and hair whipping to wherever the road and winds of inspiration intersected. Since we were fourteen we took our only option – the mountain bikes.

For a split second in the mid nineties I lived in northern California. No, no San Fran. Higher. Nope, not Chico. North, north. A little place time left untouched in the Sierras where the corners of valley stretching for sunlight are wrapped up in mountain peaks. One with the profile of a chief and headdress for alluvial fans flowing to the north and one a formidable feat of granite to the south.

There was a gala tree at the corner of our yard near the fence where fermenting apples and my teenage ideas gathered in heaps. An entire year of my life can be accounted for straddling splinters on that fencepost, looking down the hill into the valley below, singing classic showtunes and the folksy yodels of an up-and-comer; Jewel.

One year minus a few hour window when my new best friend and I entered the valley floor. The sun invited us into an unusually warm spring day, stirring our teenage boredom beyond bearability. We had to be a part of it. Hence, bikes.

Gears shifted, wheels whirred over asphalt as we passed pastures of wild grasses and the occasional cow. It would have all been very free and invigorating had it not been for the panting of the Pathfinder grinding out five mph behind us.

Yes, mom was there redefining hover before “helicopter parenting” was a thing. At some point after saying yes to our request to bike the valley but before saying yes to rationality, she allowed anxiety to overcome. She tracked us. Like a panther she persisted, following with the hazard lights flashing and an occasional honk and holler for good measure.

After a certain mileage we waved the white flag. A teenage psyche can only overcome so much. We loaded bikes on the rack and PAH-RAY-ED none of the (very small town very limited selection of) cute guys saw us with cycling helmets, let alone with this lady leaning out the window shouting at us to “push to the shoulder”.

Recently both my mom and friend-who-endured-the-bike-ride-of-shame asked if I remembered this day. (Thanks for hanging in there to be friends the day after, by the way. Not to mention nearly two decades more.) The answer to which is, of course!

It is a memory to be pocketed and revisited when my own daughter is fourteen and feels the crosshairs of independence and a need to interact with her world stir loud and unavoidable within.

I will want her to climb down from her fence feeling permission to engage in adventure. I will want to watch the freedom unfold. And yes, I will probably be totally terrified and want to offer her the experience while still controlling every aspect with my hand readied on the horn to honk warning and my head tilting out to holler cautionary reminders along the way.

Instead, I will rub this memory between my thumbs with the frenzy and familiar smoothness of a worry-rock and repeat the maternal mantra of each new generation of mothers – “don’t do that thing your mom did to you”. But we will because teenagers dream and sing and adventure and moms of teenagers worry. Just each generation a little less than the one before.

Hobbies

We were breathing heat and talking hobbies as the reds and greens of Eastern Africa streamed by. Motley crew at best. A mix of missionaries, COTN interns, and gritty Peace Corpsers. All new and unsure and filled with make-a-difference-shoes and be-the-good heartbeats. (We should circle back around to how I broke up with missionaries and ran to the shelter of drinking cursing Zimbabwean farmers. But that is a story for another day.)

Hobbies. The topic has always made me itch because the not enoughs and the prove yourselfs try to take full control of the words I say in that answer. Everyone else in that car had answers normal people do: painting, journaling, sports. He looked directly at me, all six sweaty inches away in this overcrowded hatchback and asked it. What’s your hobby? A simple question I received as a challenge. I watched a sweat bead trace mazes through the freckles of his cheek as it rolled from temple to chin.

People. I enjoy lots of things. But people. They are my hobby. Knowing them. Watching them. Seeing them & allowing them to be seen.

I want to remember having said it with self-assuredness instead of the question mark it landed on as though begging him to show me with the nod of his head and slight shift of warmth in his eye that “people” actually is a thing. That was ten years ago. Can enjoying people be a hobby?What I do know is that my bend toward people has  been there all along and God is teaching me the freedoms found in embracing the risk of looking ridiculous and just being me instead of being talked down with “don’t live too big”s.

Imagine for a moment standing at your high school locker. Senior yearbook in hand. Adequately pretty but not celebrated face and heart full of poetry and finding YOUR NAME in block letters winning the title of SENIOR SECRET CRUSH (or some such wording, I wasn’t super “in” or “into” high school to remember exact phrasing so just work with me here). If you are standing on the gray and white tiled linoleum in ironic saddlebacks before people wore things ironically, awash in shock and shyness, then you would be right. But I would look them all in the eye those years, the nerd and the stoner and the class hotty-bo-body and listen to what they were saying and genuinely enjoy each of them and smile. I couldn’t define how being known is attractive as an eighteen year old like I can now several life stages down the road. Our teenage selves knew it enough to acknowledge it.

Fifteen years later I still get shy though so I’m trying to remember to honor God and myself and you by not worrying so much about perceptions and just be. I get hugs and “hey, beautiful”s from my grocery store workers and I love that’s a part of my city life. My be-the-good heartbeat sounds a little different now than it did in that hot car as we drove past mango trees and thatch houses talking about hobbies, but I finally know my answer is a real thing. 

The Art of Out and About


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We all know marriage takes maintenance. If you’ve been in any sort of relationship dynamic with another person ever you know this. By the time age-appropriate discussions are had at dinner and little hands are held at bedtime, there’s barely the space/time/energy/desire to drink a beer and watch an episode of Friends together. There’s certainly little to no margin left to communicate needs, hurts, dreams, and thank-you’s. Here’s where we have a bit of a leg up; we live in a beautiful city. We have a circle of people cheering us on, who let us go on daytime dates so we can weed the marriage garden. There’s no way to have these conversations other than gently when sitting on sandstone cliffs a couple hundred feet above green-gray surf, sighting dolphins, and feeling the bigness of God’s love for us. What feels like histrionics at home after midnight gets placed in perspective in the salt-air riding in from a horizon that has merged seamlessly between sea and sky. Next week is our ninth anniversary. I’m thankful for a friend and husband who is committed to re-falling in love each season and for Voskamp’s quote that grace is the biggest brave.

And now a barrage of pictures celebrating the art of being out and about as well as a few of fun times at home! We do best as a family when we go places during the day, because I do best when we get out of the house. Again, we’re pretty spoiled with our out and about options and I know it.

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