Everyone Told Me, I Didn’t Sign This Part of the Contract

I remember after my first daughter was born.  Everyone—and I mean everyone—that I can think of told me to enjoy it now because it “goes by fast”.  I took their advice seriously.  I enjoyed being a mother.  I enjoyed my first daughter so, so much.  Remember that post way back when about the things I will miss?  Check back in the beginning of my blog.  Well, I enjoyed being a mother to my beautiful, wonderful daughter.  I enjoyed every sweet hug, kiss, game we played, movie we watched, ride we went on together, bread, cookies or meal we made together, every holiday, every late night up talking when she was having a hard time, I enjoyed the whole wonderful 18 years!

Just two short weeks ago I gave my first baby girl one last big hug and kiss before we left to head back to Texas leaving her behind in Utah to attend college.  I had yet to experience the range of emotions and feelings I would have as I made this first step towards the winter of my child rearing.  The first leaf has flown.

As I was helping her set up her new apartment and fussing over everything I could think of to make this transition an easier one for her, I kept thinking about how I didn’t sign up for this part of mothering.  The letting go part of these wonderful children I willingly and wonderfully accept and want in my life.  I remember thinking, no one prepared me for this part. But then I thought, I think they tried.  I think that is what is what people mean when they say “it goes by fast”… They are trying to prepare you.  They tell you to soak it all in, enjoy every last drop of motherhood, because the time that your children are in your home is so, so short.

Well, I am here to tell you that it is true.  The time does go by fast. Enjoy motherhood, love it. Even the hard days, or the heartbreaking days.  All of it brings us happiness in the long run as we get to experience bringing a child up into adulthood.  I am so grateful to be a mom.

After having the experience of dropping off my daughter to college and leaving her to be on her own, I pray for her daily. I think about her. I hope the best for her.  I feel so blessed to have extended family near her to help her out.  Which makes me think about our Father in Heaven.  He loves us, he has a plan for us to come down to earth and gain experience, to grow and learn and hopefully return home to be with Him again.  He sends angels to watch over and guide us.  Which means that He knows exactly how I felt as I said goodbye to my daughter.  He knows how I feel when I am thinking of her, praying for her and hoping the best for her, because He feels the same way about me.

Motherhood is the best way for me to learn about my loving creator and how much trust He has in His children as we are away in our “college” experience called earth life.

 

 


Communication

In the past I have mentioned how I was striving to teach my children respect and to teach them leadership.  I also have mentioned that I was reading the book by Nicholeen Peck titled, “A House United: Changing Children’s Hearts And Behaviors By Teaching Self-Government.”  I have found in reading and applying what I have learned that the true key is communication.  This book and others like it teach us to remember that life is about having good relationships, and good relationships come from good communication.

I’ll admit that my home was not filled with good communication skills a few years back.  We had many power struggles.  I felt like I was the mom and so I should be right and the children should listen and obey everything I say.  In working through Nicholeen’s book and a lot of other resources and experiences I have had in the last few years,  I am learning that being “right” or in “power” is not what being a mother is about.  I didn’t feel that I was a super-dominating mother or anything. I realized, however, that by the way I was treating my children I was hurting their ability to feel safe to communicate with me.  I found as we began learning to communicate properly that they had been afraid in the past to express their feelings to me because they felt I wouldn’t listen.  One of the first things that we began to change in our home was to create a safe environment at home for communication.

Nicholeen’s book reminded me that childhood is a time for making mistakes and learning and that home should be the safest place to make mistakes.  Home is the best place for our children to learn.  That is why God sends children to families so that they have a safe place to learn and to grow up so they can become prepared to handle life outside of the home.

I learned as I was reading this book that I didn’t know my children as well as I thought I did.  In her book, Nicholeen outlines different personality types.  I had never before heard of personalities described this way, but learning about these types has been a huge blessing to my family.  In particular with my children that are the opposite personality type from me.  The types described are Talkers vs. Listeners, Line Drivers vs. Road Makers, Detail Oriented vs. Big Picture, and Planner vs. Live-in-the-Moment types.  The one in particular that helped me and my daughter was learning about the difference between Line Drivers and Road Makers.  My second oldest daughter and I have struggled for almost her whole life to get along and over the years we have both prayed and cried and hoped that our relationship would be better.  Our relationship was so difficult when she was two years old that I cried myself to sleep almost every night for months because every day was a battle.

My darling daughter is now 13 and we are growing much closer in our relationship.  The thing that helped us most was when I learned that I am a Line Driver.  This means that I like things to be done in order, or in a certain way.  I am a checklist kind of girl.  I then read about Road Makers and realized that my daughter is a Road Maker.  Road Maker types do not need directions and often have a hard time seeing the need for them.  If you give them a task they will just make their own way through it.  This doesn’t always end well, but they learn a lot along the way.  This describes my daughter’s experience learning to make cookies to a tee.  Over the many years, I cannot count how many batches of cookies were ruined because she wanted to do it herself without instruction and she would interpret what she didn’t understand in the recipe in her own way.  Like tablespoons vs. teaspoons.  Can you imagine!  I would wind up getting frustrated with her because she didn’t ask questions or read through the recipe before she started.  This would happen with almost any task I assigned to her and that caused much difficulty in our relationship.  My daughter is also a Words of Affirmation type of person if you are familiar with the Five Love Languages, so the combination of me telling her at every step she is doing something wrong was quite hurtful to her and led to her not trusting me.  Once I read this section of the book I cried and apologized to my daughter.  I told her that I learned how great Road Makers are and told her about her strengths.   Road Makers aren’t afraid to try new things and they are great at solving problems.  They are awesome inventors. If a Line Driver type comes up against an problem and there isn’t a clear step by step process through it, this person may shut down, where a Road Maker would just roll up there sleeves and start making their way through the problem.

After explaining all of this to my daughter she had huge grin on her face and she began talking with me.  We now have a better relationship than I ever imagined possible.  We still have to work at it, but we both understand the value of good communication and the happiness and peace we feel now compared to the past.  We work hard to keep communicating well.

I am a highly emotional person.  I think I inherited that from my parents.  As a  mom it is so easy for me to be stirred up by the actions of my children.  When they are fighting I can feel the tension in my body start to increase and my pulse starts racing.   I feel like I begin to be out of control and soon I am yelling and sending everyone to their rooms.  In other studying and reading I have been doing I was reminded that the only person we really can control is ourselves.  When we get angry with a person or situation we are giving control of our emotions over to another person or situation.  I realized that this is a really tough one for me.  I can tell you however that it is extremely freeing as well as empowering to realize that I can choose how I am going to feel in a given situation.  In “A House United,” Nicholeen teaches that in all of our communications with each other we need to keep a calm face and voice.  Both the children and us, their mothers.  That is a hard thing to do when someone is whining at you and you start to feel irritated.  But I have learned that I feel so much more powerful when I remain calm in dealing with a situation with my children, or anyone for that matter.  I can then talk with them and remind them that they also have the power to stay calm and that I will be much more likely to listen to them and help them get what they want when they are communicating properly.

Learning to disagree appropriately is one of my children’s favorite lessons that I learned from the “House United” book.  Disagreeing appropriately is also one of my favorite concepts because it keeps my children from whining and throwing fits.  It is a skill that helps the children feel safe and it encourages good communication because we all have a safe way to disagree with each other and we are able to get our needs known.  In particular my children can feel safe to ask questions or point something out that I may have missed when I am giving them a task to do or they are receiving a chore as a negative consequence to their actions.

An example of this concept happened to us one afternoon as a my children were just finishing up lunch.  They asked me if they could have a cookie and I told them that they could as soon as they had cleaned up lunch and washed the table.  My daughter asked me if she could disagree appropriately and I told her that she could.  She then proceeded to point out that is didn’t make much sense for them to wash the table, when they were just going to dirty it up with crumbs again when they ate their cookies.  I thought about it and realized that she was right.  So I said okay, you can wash the table after.  That interaction helped both of us realize the value of listening to each other and our differing points of view.  As a mom I often get over focused on getting the job done and I forget that there may be better ways to do things.  I really appreciated that my daughter pointed that out.  It was a big triumph to me that she felt safe enough to do so.

I am learning that parenting isn’t about being in control or having perfect, well-mannered children.  Parenting is being a leader and a guide to help your children be prepared for their future adult lives.  Learning to have better communication as a family has brought more peace to our home.  My children often refer to life before we learned to improve our communication as the time when things weren’t good or the time when they were afraid of me and my husband.  They will often say that it used to be scary, but now we like it much better.  I had no idea they felt that way, but I am so glad that they feel safe enough that they can tell me now how they felt in the past.  I am learning that good communication is the key to making everything better in my family.  All of the things that I wanted my children to have as I have mentioned in my past posts, like respect, discipline and self-motivation, have begun to come to fruition as we have worked together to be better communicators as a family.  It is possible!  It takes work and practice, but it is worth it!


Establishing Patterns

In a recent conference I attended given for women of my faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Sister Julie B. Beck, the General Relief Society President of my church, came to speak to the women of the Central Texas Area.

She had many wonderful things to teach us about how we can be better followers of Christ as women in His church. She also gave some incredible instruction on raising our children.

She said that as mothers we are not in the business of entertainment. We are to be helping our children prepare for the future. We are to be establishing in our children the habits they will need for their life.

She said that we need to help our children learn how to take care of one life (their own) and one room (their own), so that someday they will be prepared to take care of many lives and many rooms.

These instructions really struck me. I want my children to be prepared for their future rolls as mothers and fathers, providers and good citizens. I feel an increased need to work harder to establish good habits in them, and to continue to work to establish good habits in myself.

I know that this the most important work of my life. This is truly what being a mother is all about. Bringing my children to Christ and establishing in them patterns to help themselves.

I wanted to share with you the four steps to have a confident day for yourself and I am also teaching this to my children.

Step 1: Roll out of bed and onto your knees and pray.

Step 2: Read your scriptures.

Step 3: Make your bed. This is symbolic of your putting away your desires to sleep more and your willingness to get to work.

Step 4: Get dressed and ready for the day. Thus you will be prepared to do whatever you need to do that day.

I am noticing a difference in my children and myself as we do these steps. These steps may seem simple, but I feel a huge difference in my own attitude and my children’s when we are focused on putting these things first in our lives.

There are many patterns I am trying to establish in my children and myself. I know that changing myself and becoming better is truly the best way to teach them how to do the same and to prepare them for having better patterns in their lives.


Talents

I was speaking with a couple of my friends a few weeks ago and we began talking about our bodies. You know how the conversation goes…”you wouldn’t want to see me in a swimsuit”. Those of us who have had children understand what I am talking about. I would describe my physical appearance as something like a balloon that has been blown up and deflated a few too many times. You know how a balloon looks after it has been deflated. It never takes on its’ original shape again.

Fearing that I was complaining too much about my appearance, and the ingratitude I was expressing, I began to talk about the great sacrifice we make as women to bring life into this world. How we literally sacrifice what we want for something greater. The thought occurred to me as I was speaking how this sacrifice of self could be likened unto the parable of the talents. The one found in the book of Matthew in the Bible.

The man delivered talents to his servants in different amounts. He expected them to go and sacrifice and take chances to multiply what they had been given. I realized that this parable could be likened to having a body and using our body for that which it was designed. In the parable it didn’t matter how much of an increase was made on the talents, only that there was an increase. The one who took the talent and buried it, received no reward in the end.

This realization brought me great understanding. I feel that even if you are trying to have children and you are unable, you are still striving to invest your talent, which is all that God expects.

Likening that parable to the sacrifice we make to have children brings such peace to my heart, especially when I meet someone who says they “only” have one child or “only” three or whatever number that is less than mine. I have never been quite sure what to say, but now I can say; good for you!!! You have multiplied your talent! Awesome!

I believe that just as in the parable of the talents, there will be an accounting for me some day. I will be asked what I did with the talents the Lord gave to me. I try to remember this when I look in the mirror and my jeans are just not looking right on me or whatever negative feeling I am tempted to feel about my body.

Being a mother is the most wonderful and important thing we can do with our lives. It is our most important talent. No earthly recognition or perfect beach ready body can compensate for the eternal goal of shepherding children to their eternal destinies!

Happy Mother’s Day!


What Happened??

At the end of January my youngest daughter had her sixth birthday and she lost her first tooth the day before. I cried. I cried! I guess it didn’t strike me until that moment that my little baby girl is really growing up. I SO loved being a mother to that no longer tiny girl. It’s funny. I never thought that something as simple as losing a tooth could make me cry. My husband commented to me how he loved that I would cry over something like that. He says that it shows how much I love being a mother. And to tell you the truth, that is exactly true! I LOVE being a mother. What greater work can I do in this life?

It is strange, but I feel a transition in my motherhood stage. Have any of you moms out there experienced that feeling? Even though I still have a two year old, I am not a young mother anymore, with more in diapers than not. I am not going to be having and holding anymore tiny babies of my own who love me just the way I am, warts and all.

The task I am now realizing I am facing is preparing my children to leave… leave. I can’t believe it! Judging by how fast time has already passed, I will be an empty nester before I can blink. What must I do now? How can I best prepare for all the changes my children are going through, and will go through? Have I done enough? What more can I do? These questions didn’t even enter my mind a few years ago. But now…now I only have a few years left with my oldest daughter before she will be off into the world. I hope I have reached her, taught her and helped her prepare enough for her mission in life.

How did this happen? How did life change so quickly from diapers and late nights, to dating and late nights? From busy running around chasing after toddlers to running children to this activity and that?

I have had the goal for many years now to enjoy the time I have with my children as much as possible so that I can look back on these years and know that I enjoyed them, and not just survived them. Am I accomplishing that goal? It is interesting to think about. It seemed to be so much easier then during the diaper years to find joy in the every day. Now it feels like I don’t have time to stop and enjoy. Things are moving too fast.

I love being a mother. I can think of nothing in this life that is more challenging to heart and soul, body and mind and yet so richly wonderful at the same time. I am so thankful for the time I have had and will have with my children. Being a mother is a privilege beyond compare.


Update On Leadership

I am sorry to leave you hanging so long. I know that it has been months since I have written. I am sure the big question on everyone’s mind is…what did I think of the book? Well, to tell you the truth, I haven’t finished it yet. I feel like I have been living and learning instead.

One part of the book in particular that stands out to me was the part about listening. Looking at why your child is upset or throwing a fit, instead of just rushing into conclusions and reactions. Reading that part of the book was really good for me because it reminded me of what I needed to get back to doing. Really listening and watching the children as they go through their life. Try harder to understand them. I needed that reminder very much.

I will post again when I can. I do love the chance to reflect upon the wonderful gifts that motherhood brings. So much is changing in my life with my children. They truly are growing up and I am starting to feel the beginning of what it will be like when they are gone. I am trying as I have often tried, to enjoy the moments. To live, right now. Enjoy that last tiny feet, and cute comments, the funny moments and things my children do, that have me rolling on the floor laughing. I feel like I am in the summer season of rearing children, and with my oldest I am at the cusp of fall.

I am so grateful that God gives us time to figure things out with our children, and yet it feels that when we finally get things figured out, we are done with that phase of life. Life seems to work that way with more than just child rearing.

Thanks for reading!


Learning Leadership

Sometimes as a mom I feel like I am being led around by my day, moving from one thing to the next, putting out fires. I have a feeling of being behind or unproductive. Sometimes at the end of the day I am not able to come up with one thing that I did that seems of value. Have you ever felt this way?

I feel that I need to learn more about leadership. Leadership in parenting and particularly in mothering. I wasn’t raised in a traditional home, with father and mother leading the way. I was raised in somewhat of a survival or crisis mode for a large portion of my growing up years, and because of this, I feel unsure as to how I am supposed to properly function as a mother. I am unsure how to lead, be the example, be the mentor.

I strive to teach my children my religious beliefs and to teach them the value of work and education. I try to teach them to love each other and serve each other and to look for ways to serve others. I try to live what I teach, as I know that actions speak louder than words.

It is a strange thing to be in the middle of raising children and realize that I still have so much to learn.

I recently read an article on Meridian Magazine that helped me to see a vision of what a difference I can make with the little things I do everyday.

The Happiest Place: A Dangerous Woman

This article really helped me feel the importance of doing the little things as a mother. Reading stories, singing songs, teaching a child to make cookies, etc. All of these little things are ways that I can be a better leader and mother and have a greater influence over my children.

I began reading a book last night by a woman named Nicholeen Peck. It is about family government, and as with any new system begun in the home, it has to start with the parents. It starts with me, changing my behavior in order to help my children change their behaviors.

I will continue to share what I learn as I strive to live with more direction in my mothering and leading my family.

I am excited to learn more and be a better mom. I am excited to learn and practice living, really living and enjoying life with my family!

Please share any experiences with your motherhood leadership journey. I would love to learn from you!


Butterfly Inspiration

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come from the most unexpected things, in the most unexpected ways.

My next to the oldest daughter Emma has recently taken a fancy to butterflies. She worked hard to earn a butterfly catching net, and has been busily catching and studying butterflies. One day a few weeks ago, Emma found a caterpillar. She captured it, and placed it in a Mason jar. She then fed it upon the leaves on which it was found. For the next few days the caterpillar ate and ate. Then, one day it turned into a chrysalis. I thought that was THE coolest thing!

It was just a waiting game after that. I am sure you can imagine how excited Emma was to get to watch a butterfly be born. Each day she would check the chrysalis to see if it was close to being ready. Upon further study, the children discovered that this caterpillar could turn in to a Swallowtail butterfly. The excitement grew as the chrysalis began to change slowly.

This past weekend we had the opportunity to go and see family for the holiday weekend. We were only going to be gone one night. Emma came to me and pleaded with me to bring her jar which contained the chrysalis. She feared that the butterfly would emerge while we were gone. I told her that one more day would be fine, and insisted that she wouldn’t want to carry the jar the entire three hour drive. She said she wouldn’t mind, but in the end I won out and the jar was left at home.

When we returned home the chrysalis had changed dramatically. The end had turned a darkish brown color and there was what looked like a gash in one side. We thought that it was just about ready to be hatched, but sent her to bed, knowing that it would probably emerge in the morning.

The next morning we were just beginning to sing for our morning devotional, and someone gasped. There it was, in all of it’s splendor and glory. The swallow tail butterfly. The butterfly had emerged and somehow had made it’s way from the kitchen counter in the jar, to our back door. We all gathered around the Swallowtail, and realized something devastating. Because the butterfly had emerged in the jar since we weren’t there to let it out, it’s wings had hardened with a slight curl to them. As I am sure you can imagine, a Swallowtail butterfly wouldn’t fit in a Mason jar very well.

I was in tears. Here we were watching this poor butterfly try to fly, and it was flying wobbly and weakly because of how it’s wings had formed. If I had only listened! Emma was inspired and she had known that her butterfly would be emerging soon. If I had only let her bring the jar, this could have all been avoided. Emma would have gotten to see the butterfly hatch, which would have been amazing for her, and this poor beautiful Swallowtail, would have been able to fly away happily, and survive.

I learned much from this lesson. The most important thing being, listen to the inspiration of others, especially my children. They have insights to things that I may not recognize or notice because I am too busy. The second thing is the realization that inconvenience to myself, for something that is important to my child, is worth it! The third thing I learned is how important and precious God’s creatures are to me. This little butterfly sacrificed so much so that I could learn from it’s life to be better in mine.

I apologized profusely to Emma. I felt horrible. She forgave me right away, which was wonderful. I wish I had been more humble and listened to her inspiration.

This was an incredible and sad lesson for me in learning to listen to and trust my child’s inspiration. I hope to do better with this in the future.

Have you ever had experiences like this one, where you received inspiration that came from your children? If so, I would love to hear about it!


Husbands and Heartstrings

I have learned a LOT about marriage, and what it takes to have a not so happy one in the last twelve years. I didn’t think I was having a not so happy marriage. I thought my marriage was just fine. I was busy taking care of the children, the house, life at home. Thinking everything was going well. Now as I reflect on it, I realize that things were not going well at all. My dear husband was spending less and less time with me and our children. When he would arrive home from work, I would be busily making dinner and dealing with the nightly rituals. I rarely did more than passively ask him how his day was, and not really wait to listen to the answer. I was one track minded. Over focused on what “needed” to be done, and being exhausted at the end of a long day.

I didn’t see my husband coming home, day after day feeling like all he was to me was a paycheck. All he needed was for me to wrap my arms around him and give him a great big kiss and tell him how important he was to me. He needed me. Not the me that is the mother, the housecleaner, the organizer. He needed me, his best friend, his love, his number one cheerleader.

Well, recently all of these things were brought to my attention. I was reminded in a very painful and difficult way, that my sweet husband, is a human being, with basic needs. I had begun to believe that he was someone that didn’t really have needs. He worked hard to tell me that was true, but in the end he was just fooling both of us.

As important as being a mother is to me, I have learned how much more important it is for me to be a wife. Frankly, the children will grow up and leave some day. They aren’t as invested in my family as I am, but my husband…that is a different story.

I am learning that working on my marriage is the most important work I can do. Even more important than raising good, well adjusted, well educated children. I am learning this lesson the hard way, (which isn’t unusual for me).

I have been trying for a few months now to ask my self these kinds of questions each day: Have you hugged your husband today? Have you showed him you love him? Have you thought of him before yourself in some area of your life today? Have you done something special for him today? Have you showed him how important he is to you today?

After all is said and done, isn’t having a healthy happy marriage the BEST thing you can do for your children?


Quarreling Quandaries

I have been noting that my dear children seem to be quarreling and fighting a lot lately. I am unsure if it is because of budding hormones, or what. Nevertheless, they have been fighting, arguing and generally making life unpleasant for each other.

When there is disharmony in my home I tend to begin to focus a lot on what is causing the disharmony and work hard to come up with a cure.The quarreling problem is no exception to this rule.

I have been reading and learning a lot about relationships lately, about the marriage relationship in particular. I have been reading “The Five Love Languages” by Gary D. Chapman. In one part of the book it talks about how your spouse’s complaints are clues to discover their love language. I am also attending a class about marriage, and last week we were learning about communication. As I was sitting in class the two concepts collided.

My children’s arguing and quarreling ways were giving me specific clues as to what problems they are having. They aren’t communicating properly with one another. I also realized that I haven’t taught them about communication as specifically as they may be needing at this time.
My husband and I have been working hard since that epiphany to teach our children better communication skills. They are in no way perfect at it, after only a weeks practice, but I have noticed a significant drop in the quarreling!

This whole experience has taught me that the problems or disharmony we see in our children and in our families are HUGE blessings! Seeing problems gives us clues as to what changes need to be made in our families, or in ourselves for that matter.

Have you had any experiences with these kinds of clues in your family? I would love to hear about your experiences!




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