I’m going to start this out with a very important truth that I think will or can help you with this process or concept. You can NOT spoil a child with love. Love is NOT what spoils a child. We often think love is giving them whatever they want, giving them everything we never had, but the truth is love says no and love sets boundaries. If you see a spoiled child, it is not love that spoiled them, it is something quite the opposite!
Moms (and dads) taking care of yourself and your sanity is often a key in unlocking your ability to really love your child. For me the constant mess of the house, and I’m not talking dirtiness, was driving me insane. No matter how much I cleaned the house was messy. Than I’d start the mammoth task of organizing and no one was capable of maintaining it because there was so much stuff. I found myself following them around and putting things away while they were still playing with them. If things weren’t strictly maintained in the organization that I had created than all the toys would be dumped from all the bins in search of a single one. I was homeschooling two older children, I had a very busy toddler, and I was about to have a 4th child. It was all too much! I sat at my desk one day completely dejected and worn out scrolling through Facebook to numb my distressed mind, and that’s when I came upon a viral post by Allie Casazza. She had 4 children and claimed to have gotten rid of all of the toys. It was revolutionary and I was just desperate enough to try it.
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I am absolutely not blessed with natural patience. I have to work on it and pray for it daily. That being said there are some systems and process we’ve got in place at our house that keep me from losing my mind with 5 kids. These were not the result of a whim or single day, they took time and they happened after I nearly lost my mind. I wont get into the details, but I grew up not doing chores. I pushed my toys under my bed and that was about it. I had no reference for healthy chores and boundaries so I was totally ill prepared for setting boundaries and limits with my kids. One kid I may have been able to manage on my limited experience, but 5? NOPE! I was blessed in my early motherhood to have a few really great roll models walking along side of me. One of these mothers had a grace and patience that was just awe inspiring. She could kindly, but firmly, direct her children to clean up after themselves and be respectful. There was nothing oppressive about her manner and she worked with the kids to help them understand what the expectations were. She was truly amazing! I may as well give her a shout out by name here - Betsy Rowell you know you are an awesome mom!
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I don’t know how to put into words what I feel for you. There is a bitterness in your existence for me, yet I know I have at last come to forgive you. Like Job cursing the day of his birth I too cursed you praying you “would be in darkness, nor let God above care for you, nor let light shine on you” (Job 3:4). I was weak with my own pain, I wanted the darkness to seize you and yet it had somehow found it’s way inside of me. What good could come of this? What peace is there for the soul torn apart? What use is there in tears that fall silently in the night? My pain was great yet there was something greater still at work.
It took five long years of dreading your calendar day before at last a fog lifted and I came to realize I don’t hate you anymore. You can exist again. You can have peace because I finally have mine.
Six years ago I woke up and opened my eyes and I did not hate you, but that did not last long. It was shortly after waking up that I realized the little heart beating inside my belly had ceased. The agonizing denial lasted only a few days until the doctors confirmed what my body had already told me, Joshua was dead. Without ceremony he was gone almost as if he had never been there in the first place. But my heart knew as it broke in ways I couldn’t define or put into words. An emptiness I had never known swallowed me up from the inside out. I sat in sorrow by myself and consumed anger towards you until, without me noticing anger in turn consumed me.
I, who pride myself in my wordsmithing, could not find a way to express the anguish inside of me, nor to reflect on or do honor to the short lived life that had been inside of me. Even now, when I feel more joy and less sorrow for the life that was, have a hard time expressing what lies in my heart. I want to share what I feel even though the words aren’t graceful because I know there are others who have experienced the pain of loss who need to know, that if they can find a way to let it; sorrow can turn into joy. That is the greatest lesson I learned from that dark day, and the days to follow, that sorrow and joy - like the greatest of dancers - meet together as tears that gracefully give and take across the dance floor of your cheeks.
You are Forgiven,
Sometimes when the kids get grounded they just have to sit an feel the pain of the punishment and other times they get the opportunity to earn back whatever it is they lost. The other day they were a mess at bed time, jumping on the bed, flickering the lights, spitting at each other… Do I need to go on? They got grounded from video games and friends for 3 days. Yesterday they had to feel the pain of that punishment, but today I gave them the opportunity to work it off. As we walked home from the bus they eagerly inquired about their punishment and learned they would have the ability to work it off, their friends were there.
We arrived home and 10 minutes later I hear a knock on the door, it was their friends. I kindly told them they’d have to wait until the kids were done with their extra chores and was shocked and surprised when they said they had heard and they were there to help. Man parenting is really hard sometimes. Of course I wanted to make my kids scrub the toilets and pull weeds on their own; this is a punishment and they need to feel the discomfort of it… But at the same time what a Godly picture of community and friendship it would be to let their friends come alongside them and shoulder the burden.
Today I let their friends help them because the beauty of such a gesture on their friends part was profound and overwhelming (I mean the boys bathroom that makes me gag, yuck!). Naturally we’ll be talking about all of this with the kids before bed time so they understand the weight of their friends’ offer and we can link it in their minds to biblical principles and because everything is a teaching moment even if school isn’t strictly at home anymore.
It was pretty cute to watch from a distance as they worked together to scrub toilets, wipe counters and cabinets, clean baseboards, and sweep and mop each bathroom together. I was proud of them for doing each bathroom together rather than dividing and conquering (as I probably would have done in their shoes) but where is the community in that? The girls did the same thing while pulling weeds together and cleaning up toys from the lawn.
I’m about to get #reallife on you all here. I’m forgetting all grammar conventions and just going to tell you straight! If you take the time to read all this, thanks! If you haven’t got the time just take away that life gets dirty sometimes, and messy, and exhausting, but it’s still all worth it!
It’s 2 am I’m sleeping peacefully in my bed. Kabaam!
...Oh my god my hip what the heck… I reach down, M!
“Get off of me!” I grumble.
“But I had a bad dream” she shouts back.
“Get off you hurt me! I’ve told you don’t jump into our bed like that. You could have hurt Baby Z. Get off!”
“No” She slams her head down on my thigh.
I shake her off and get up and pace the room trying to walk the pain off. I take a deep breath to calm down.
“M get out of my bed, you know you can’t sleep in there while I’m pregnant. Sleep on the floor bed here.” I point to the mini bed made up on the floor for just such an occasion as this. “You may NOT sleep in our bed tonight young lady.” I stress my point and head to the bathroom.
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