When Times Change and People Grow

Whoever said that a mother’s job is never done wasn’t kidding: It’s never done. Long after my daughters are tucked into bed, I’m wiping off counters, folding laundry, and making sure that the doors are locked and the lights get turned off. And contrary to what my youngest told a fellow first grader years ago when she had her over for a playdate, I do not sit around and do nothing all day. There are errands to run, calls to make, rooms to pick up, spaces to organize,  trips to plan, and countless other projects.

Although the amount of work rarely changes, the type of tasks do. If you had asked me even one month ago, for example, what my focus would be this week, I never would have guessed that it would be shopping to give my eighth grader an edgier look or rearranging her schedule to find time to practice with a professional all-girl rock band.

Thinking of how much both of my children have matured over the past year reminds me of something a six-year-old  told me after I commented on how tall she had gotten since I had last seen her. “I know,” she said nonchalantly. “Times change and people grow.”

All of us were created to grow. We know this from Romans 12:2 where we are told: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” When I test for God’s will, I ask myself the following four questions:

  1. What does the wise counsel of my husband or a Godly friend have to say about what I want to do?
  2. Do circumstances allow it?
  3. Does it go against Scripture?
  4. Am I at peace with my decision?

Three months ago, I was not at peace with Hollie’s continued requests to dye her hair; but now circumstances have changed and even Bill is encouraging me to schedule the appointment. Hollie has morphed into a disciplined bass guitar player and I have mellowed enough to see that my job as a parent is to support her—even if it means looking for dark-colored clothes that won’t look too “happy” on stage and going to church with a child who is rocking a crazy hairstyle.

We can grow with our kids, or apart from them. Achieving the former and avoiding the latter is the difference between following where God is leading and steering children elsewhere.

PastedGraphic-1

Making Things Happen

“You know what I love about being in this family?” Katie asked me one day after school.

“What?”

“That you support my dreams.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I want to do something I’m interested in, you make it easy,” she replied. “I realize that if I want something in life, I have to work for it; but it’s nice to know that when I need a new color of polish for a nail art design or if I want to see my favorite music group when it comes to town, you’ll make it happen.”

Katie was right. I make her progress a priority  because I don’t want my daughters to succeed in spite of their parents. I want it to be, at least in some small part, because of us. It’s the reason that I talked to musicians to find out the best guitar to buy when they both wanted to take lessons. And it’s why I agreed to have my oldest at school by 7:45 a.m. every day for six weeks this summer so she can free up a slot during the school year to take photography.

At times, the list of tasks can seem endless and the amount of appreciation in short supply. Maybe that’s why I was so surprised when Katie thanked me for helping her to pursue her passions. According to developmental psychologist Robert Kegan, children under sixteen years of age (and 15% of adults) operate out of a level of consciousness where they see another person in terms of what he or she can do for them. In this egocentric stage, people can’t imagine the feelings of others and focus only on their own needs and desires.

Watching my oldest step out of this mindset for long enough to be grateful to someone else made me even more motivated to say “yes” when she made her latest request: “Mom, would you help me find something that will work to organize my art supplies?”

The words were music to this organized mother’s ears. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing when there’s no place to put it, and the mess in Katie’s room had been bothering me for long enough that I quickly agreed to fund her latest project.

One 10-drawer craft cart and a nail polish rack was all it took to restore Katie’s bedroom to a serene sanctuary. And as I looked around her clutter-free surroundings, Proverbs 14:23 came to mind as I remembered that all hard work really does bring a profit; and when you help your kids to achieve their goals, once in a while they return the favor by completing one of yours.

[slideshow]

3 Questions for the Frantic Family

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of hearing Patrick Lencioni give a message based upon his book,  The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family. Having received rave reviews by leaders like Elisa Morgan of MOPS International and the former CEO of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., we purchased a copy to take home and found it to be an extremely easy read—most of the chapters are less than three pages.

Notes taken while sitting in the audience of Willow Creek’s February 4th weekend service and links to download his message and strategic planning model are found below.

People are more frantic and overwhelmed than ever because there are more opportunities than ever, and more social expectations for taking advantage of those choices.

Why does our work get all of our energy when our family is all that matters?

What families don’t have enough of is not structure and rules; it’s context: The context of knowing what matters most to us and to Christ.

Three questions that give even the most frantic family context are:

1. What makes our family unique?

What are the core values that make us different from the family next door?

What trait did you like in your spouse when you first met that you also possess?

You know you have a core value if you’re willing to be punished for it. Or if it’s inconvenient and you do it anyway.

2. What is our family’s rally cry (i.e., top priority or slogan) right now?

If everything is important, then nothing is.

Ask yourself: “If we accomplish one thing during the next month, what should it be?”

Knowing your rally cry eliminates the guilt that comes from saying “no” to other worthwhile projects. It’s ok to let the lawn go, for example, when your family’s focus is getting ready for a third child.

3.  How do we talk about and use the answers to these questions?

Your family’s defining objectives should be centered around your rally cry and based upon the reality in which you live.

Because Patrick struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder, part of his family’s reality is to embrace the challenge of OCD.

After asking yourself the above questions, you are ready to update your family’s Scoreboard with your rally cry and objectives.

Don’t let the urgent squeeze out the important. Instead, review your scoreboard regularly, celebrate your successes, and embrace your struggles every day.

Willow Creek Church Weekend Service Podcast

Giving Up Control to Gain It

If you break a few traffic laws to make an appointment, does the good deed cancel out the bad one? This was the question I asked myself after a dentist appointment ran long and I wondered if I would make it home in time to take my daughters to the station. Katie had talked Bill into taking her and her sister to a rock concert and I didn’t want them to miss the 5:13 train to Chicago.

If it’s possible to try so hard to control a situation that you wind up losing it, that’s where I was mentally at when I used my iPhone to see if the freeway was backed up. The application I checked showed heavy traffic for most of the way home; and I decided not to take the on-ramp, even though cars on the interstate seemed to be traveling at normal speed. Several minutes (and stop lights) later, I realized that I had made a big mistake.

Sometimes too much information is as bad as not having enough, I decided as I called Bill to give him an update.

“It’s five o’clock and I still have four miles to go.”

“You’re not going to make it,” he said. “If you catch the 6:13 instead, the girls will understand.”

Determined to stick to the original plan, I called home to tell them to be ready.

We had less than ten minutes to get to the station as I turned onto our street. Thankfully, Katie and Hollie were both standing in the driveway when I pulled up.

“Are we speeding?” my youngest asked before we reached the end of the block.

“We haven’t gone far enough to be speeding,” I assured her. Hollie didn’t ask again as I maneuvered through traffic like a NASCAR driver vying for the win at Talladega Superspeedway.

We arrived at the station with two minutes to spare, making me glad that I had tried. There was even time to solicit the help of two moms who were also waiting for the train. Much to my daughters’ dismay, the ladies were happy to keep an eye on my “babies” until they reached Ogilvie Transportation Center, where Bill would be waiting.

Someday, Katie and Hollie will realize that you can take the girls out of the suburb, but you can’t keep a suburban mom from taking care of her girls. For now, I was content to be the student and my lesson for the day was that too much of a good thing is a bad thing: Even parenting.

As I drove home after watching the train pull away, it was hard to fight the urge to call Katie to see how the ride was going. Although one part of me wanted to hover over my daughters like a helicopter parent, another part—the rational one—knew that if I did I’d be robbing her of the confidence that comes from taking this trip without me. My job as a mom is not to make my kids need me; but to help them realize, one new adventure at a time, that one day they won’t.

Foster Cline and Jim Fay agreed in their book Parenting Teens with Love & Logic when, on page 49, they said: Self-esteem doesn’t just “happen” by making teens feel good or happy. It begins when children assert their independence and try to show their families and the world that they are their own persons.

Katie is definitely her own person, with her own choice in music. And so I reminded myself of my obligation to “do my best and let God do the rest” and decided not to call, trusting that the girls would have a good trip downtown and a great time at the concert. That’s exactly what happened, and when they came home to tell me all about it, I realized that Cline and Fay were right when they said that “worry is the price you pay in advance for most of the things in life that never happen.” (p. 95) And sometimes we have to give up control to gain it as we live by faith and not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7

If you have a parenting issue or another area in your life that you would like to gain clarity or get back on track, e-mail julie@nolimitslifecoaching to schedule a free 30-minute coaching consultation and remember to …


Enjoying the Ride

Last Sunday my daughters and two of their friends spent a fun, but rainy day at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. The amusement park was closed for Deloitte’s Friends and Family Day, and even the rain couldn’t keep me and the mom that I was with from giving our girls the chance to experience big roller coasters with shorter-than-normal lines.

“We’ll stay as long as you want,” I told the girls as they raced to their first ride.

Eight hours later, we were taking one last rain-pelting turn on the Raging Bull before heading to the van. Everyone was chilled to the bone but, surprisingly, no one complained. We had made the most of this opportunity we had been given, and no amount of shivering could take our sense of satisfaction away. Especially mine.

In the weeks leading up to the event, I’d had several chances to back out of taking the girls to Six Flags. Like when my husband and I learned that the NASCAR race in Joliet was scheduled for the same day. And when our small group announced that the first meeting of the year would be held while we were at the theme park.

Some might see these conflicts as reasons to put off going until next year, but I couldn’t do that to the girls.

Follow through matters.

Being a person of our word matters. So much so that years ago I made up a rhyme to remind my daughters to always do what they said they would do because God rewards those who follow through.

Henry Cloud agreed on page 159 of his book, Integrity, when he had this to say on the subject: “Perseverance takes courage, stamina, emotional reserves, judgment, creativity, and other aspects of character to do. But without it, great things just do not happen.”

Great things like breaking our record for the number of thrill rides ridden in a single day (which now stands at twenty).

And the look on my face when I learned that the American Eagle car I had just buckled into was about to travel … backwards.

Life is a lot like that wooden roller coaster every time it threatens to take us in directions we never intended to go. Whenever this happens, it helps to remember that what some see as a reason to hop off, could also be a reminder to hold on and get ready to enjoy the ride.

“The ability to keep going when we hit an obstacle, believe that there is a way to get it done, and keep going until we find it is one of the most important character abilities that we can ever develop. It is one of the most important aspects of character that leads to success.” Dr. Henry Cloud, Integrity, p. 159


Amazing

“You were a great host tonight,” I told Katie after our guests had gone home.

“I know, I’m amazing,” she replied.

As a parent, I’m always trying to find the right balance between building my children’s confidence and chipping away at signs of conceit. After hearing her latest comment, it was time to do the latter as I reminded my oldest of what Jesus said in Luke 14: “Do you remember the moral of the story about not taking the place of honor at a wedding banquet and instead waiting for the host to move you to a better seat?”

“People who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” Katie paraphrased.

“That means you’re supposed to wait for others to build you up,” I lectured.

“I did wait for you to compliment me.”

Katie had a point. I initiated the praise. What was wrong with agreeing with me?

Sometimes I think we confuse self-esteem for self-love and a lack of it for humility. How many times, for example, have you heard someone put herself down after receiving a compliment instead of just saying thank you? How many times, for the record, has that person been you?

I read once that hurting people hurt people. While this probably explains why all of us at one time or another have been guilty of tearing others down in a weak attempt to build ourselves up, it doesn’t excuse Christians for thinking that disparaging themselves will somehow make God look more divine.

We don’t have the right to put down anyone who was created in His image, including ourselves. What we do have is an opportunity to take God at His word and every compliment as a reminder that He thinks we’re amazing … and so should we.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well – Psalm 139:14a


Paired Up For A Reason

During the episode of Modern Family that aired on May 11th of this year, Claire Dunphy became so tired of being the disciplinarian in the family that she decided to switch roles with her husband, Phil. It didn’t take long for her to learn that being the fun parent wasn’t as easy as it looked. Phil was also in for a rude awakening when he took the role of bad cop to the extreme after his daughters tried to trick him into thinking that they had cleaned their bathroom. In the end, both parents realized that they were paired up for a reason, and by trying to squeeze into the other parent’s shoes, everyone felt their pain.

Bill is the good cop in our family. It’s not that I never let our girls off easy. It’s just that extending grace comes more naturally to him. So does having fun. While I am known for organizing outings where Katie and Hollie get to play with other kids, Bill takes them to the local go-kart track and other places where they can have fun together.

Sometimes I envy his role and how easy it is for him to fill it, especially when my good intentions go unnoticed. Like the time I arranged to have several families from our neighborhood meet the girls and I at a play center filled with wall-to-wall inflatable slides, jumps, and obstacle courses. When it was time to leave, I realized that Hollie had no idea I planned the get-together when she commented on what a coincidence it was that people she knew kept “showing up.”

Knowing what it’s like to be unappreciated and overlooked makes me wonder if this is how God must feel whenever we curse Him for consequences brought on ourselves or take credit for blessings that He has bestowed. It also makes me empathize with the Modern Family mom who wanted to be known, if only for a while, as the fun parent. Like Claire, I will never be as good in the role as my spouse. That’s okay because God created me to excel in other ones.

Actress Sofia Vergara said it best when she ended the episode with the following words of wisdom: “Maybe we are the way we are because of the people we are with. Or maybe we just pick the people we need. However it works, when you find each other, you should never let go.”

Modern Family May 11th, 2011 Episode



Going Overboard

It started with a Harry Potter board game that Katie had been wanting since Christmas. Next there was the hourglass sand timer that I thought would look great on Hollie’s desk. Although it was tempting to present these finds to the girls right after I bought them, I knew that it would mean more if I waited until Easter morning.  And so I kept accumulating items: Pez dispensers in Easter shapes that would make Hollie smile; a new type of nail polish in Katie’s favorite color; and two chocolate bunnies like the ones Bill received as a child (except mine were molded into the shape of runners because Katie was out for track).

By the time Easter arrived, I was surprised by how many things I had collected. While every item was hand-picked with one or both of my girls in mind, seeing the overloaded baskets made me wonder if I had forever hopped over to the commercial side of the holiday.  As I considered setting some of the gifts aside for another time, I remembered how much God loves to give good gifts to his children and concluded that anyone created in His image has a right (and a responsibility) to do the same.

Jesus talked about the relationship between his heavenly father and earthly parents in Matthew 7:11 when he said: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

No matter how big the basket, we cannot out give God. And if He chooses to work through us to bless others, who are we to stand in His way? Knowing this made it easier to justify my actions to Bill on Easter morning when he turned away from the camcorder he was operating to whisper: “What happened to just giving them chocolate bunnies?”

It was a question that needed no answer as I smiled at the girls and thought to myself: If you think I went overboard, wait until you see what God has planned for them (and all of us) one day.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. 
Do not say … “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”— when you already have it with you.

Proverbs 3:27-28


When Kids Go Berserk

I attempted to cook something new today. “Your kids will love it!” the woman at church had promised after handing me her recipe for calzones. To my dismay, Katie and Hollie did not share her enthusiasm when I pulled what looked like oozing cocoons out of the oven.

Gross,” they said in unison.

Feeling belittled for my efforts and bloated from eating their portions and my own, I sent Katie and Hollie upstairs so I could clean up the kitchen in peace. A short while later, I was still feeling unappreciated when my oldest raced through the living room, chasing her sister with a plunger.

 “All right,” I said sternly. “If you’ve got that much energy, you can help me clean.”

After swapping out Katie’s weapon for window cleaner, I put both girls to work. All hard work really does bring a profit, I decided as their behavior improved with every polished surface. 

When the work was done, I thanked both for their involuntary service and breathed a sigh of relief: The house was cleaner, my children were quieter, and I felt better as a parent because I took Proverbs 14:23 to heart. We can discipline our children and reap the benefits of better behavior or let them run wild. Having seen the results of both I am a firm believer that when kids go berserk, it’s time to put them to work.

For a complete list of parenting rhymes to remember, visit my Organizing Tips page Guiding Children In The Way They Should Go and remember, it’s never too late to learn from what you live through as inch by inch, yard by yard; what seems impossible is only hard.


What Comes To Mind

One morning while the girls were playing, I tuned in to a reality show called Starting Over. I’d read an article about one of the hosts, Rhonda Britten, and was curious to see how she helped individuals dig out from past mistakes and present circumstances.

In the episode that aired that day, Rhonda instructed one of the cast members to not speak to anyone unless what she had to say was: 1) necessary, 2) true, 3) helpful, and 4) kind. Wanting to share these communication guidelines with my daughters, I made up a rhyme to help them remember:

Only speak what comes to mind, if it’s necessary, true, helpful, and kind.

Less than an hour after memorizing my new communication mantra, I overheard my six-year-old talking negatively to her sister.

“What you said was not necessary or kind,” I said as I patted myself on the back for a parenting job well done.

Much to the girls’ delight, my rhyme was a bit more difficult to call upon after a gas station clerk refused to help me with an invalid car wash code. I also struggled to take my own advice when Katie proved incapable of getting ready for a birthday party, even though she knew we were running late.

Why is advice so much easier to give than it is to receive? I didn’t have an answer as I struggled to keep my cool. What I did have was a reminder to be careful about what I wish for in the future, because I might just get it. And all God’s children (even grown ones) can benefit from rhyming their way to respectable behavior, one conflict at a time.