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For Mothers

For Mothers: Listening

It’s a skill that is difficult to teach but an important life and relationship skill: Listening.

What is listening?

To hear the words of another person without passing judgement or waiting for your turn to speak demonstrates listening.

To engage with the words and emotions behind the words of another person demonstrates listening.

To hear, consider and respond to the words of another person demonstrates listening.

Hearing and digesting, showing interest and responding: these are the responses that demonstrate listening.

Boring, Funny, Important sharing

Sometimes our children, especially when they are quite small, are repetitive. Sometimes they say something which is so innocent or ignorant — or wise — we laugh. Sometimes, there is drama and anxiety wrapped up in our children’s words, which causes us to cringe. What do we do with our feelings?

Listening is so important for us to do with our children, because they need to share.

Listening is so vital to our children’s growth, because it builds their confidence.

Listening to our children is crucial to our building and holding a good relationship with them, not only now but in the long run.

Listening is hard work

I find I have to remind myself not to interrupt when my offspring decides to share. Sometimes I need to hold my tongue to show respect and interest, because talking is a whole lot easier for me than listening.

But whenever I listen, I learn and am blessed to discover more about my own child. And that is hugely rewarding.

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For Mothers

For Mothers: building self respect

Nowadays, parents are often encouraged to build their children’s self esteem. 

But I think that does more harm than good. I think it’s far more helpful to our children when we build self respect. 

Self esteem and self respect are not the same thing, not at all.

Self esteem

When we praise our children, it builds their confidence. They may glow with pride and self esteem, but so often the praise is empty — built upon giving them a false impression or over estimation of themselves. 

Self esteem is the feeling of pride and superficial confidence in ourselves which is built upon what others have said of us. It is self- centred.

Self respect

Self respect is a sense of personal dignity; it is a recognition of our responsibility we aim to demonstrate in the world. It calls us to consider our place within society.

Self respect is a sense of inner confidence and integrity. It draws us to take ourselves seriously and is largely other-centred, built upon the results of our choices and decisions.

Building self respect within our children

When we respect our children, we encourage the growth of their own self respect. 

Telling children the truth demonstrates respect. Teaching them responsibility and the consequence of our actions — both positively and negatively — helps them to become respectful individuals. Listening to their concerns demonstrates respect. Insisting they be accountable for themselves teaches them self respect. 

Giving them what they want does not show respect, though it can show love, compassion and kindness.

Encouraging self respect

When we respect ourselves it shows our children we take ourselves seriously.

When we respect our children, it shows them we take them seriously.

Of course our expectations are age-relative but taking this into account: right from the start of life, I believe if we respect a child as a gift, a separate entity from us, a person of potential and possibility, we can teach him/her to be grateful,  personably responsible, eager and motivated to achieve what they are able to achieve in society.

A child is a blessing. Teaching this to our children will enable them to thrive with personal dignity and self respect…. and, ultimately, make a positive difference to their world one day.

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For Mothers

For Mothers: Honesty is the best Policy

If you want your child to be honest with you, don’t lie to him/her… not even a tiny lie. Honesty is the best policy.

If you want your child to trust you, tell the truth (not necessarily frank, blunt, rude or totally transparent or age-inappropriate, but be honest).

If you want a relationship built upon trust, be honest with your children. In everything, be honest. That’s what I believe.

I’ve never lied to my child

I made a decision when my boy was very young, never to lie to him.

Of course there are things I don’t share. Age appropriateness is important to a child’s well being.

But I remember when my son was heading toward his first Christmas and I thought, ‘I’m not going to encourage Santa Claus stories. I won’t fabricate or lie. I won’t tell him there’s no Father Christmas, but I won’t encourage the story either.’ 

Why not encourage Santa? 

There is a principle in child rearing, “Start the way you want to finish.”

I decided never to lie to my son because one day, when I said to him, “Don’t lie me,” I didn’t want him to come back at me and say I’d lied to him.

I figured if I never lied to him, I would have moral authority over the argument about truthfulness. If I told him the truth, I would be fostering honesty, whereas if I lied even on something like Santa Clause, I wouldn’t be able to say, “I’ve never lied to you” and he could accuse me of hypocrisy.

One day it happened!

And sure enough, that day of accusation came. 

One day, I said I expected him to tell me the truth. He said I’d not always told him the truth. I said I had.

He said, ”What about Santa Claus?”

We talked it through and he realised that, yes indeed, I’d never lied to him about Santa. I had never announced or endorsed Santa. I’d never even given him a present from Santa, but the unlabelled presents he’d assumed were from Santa.

I’m so grateful

My son and I get along very well. I’m so grateful.

I’m sure my son has secrets — He needs to grow independently as he grows in his adulthood. And I give him room, give him his privacy. 

But I’m also convinced, he doesn’t lie to me. I’m so grateful.

I really believe honesty is always the best policy. We need wisdom to ensure what is shared is always healthy, age relevant information. But in our mothering, I encourage us all to be honest with our children.

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For Mothers

For Mothers: Love covers a multitude of sins

(1 Peter 4:8)

Our children are so forgiving of us

As parents we do our best for our children. But sometimes we fail. That’s reality.

But our children need us, love us and so they forgive us, accept us. Love covers a multitude of sins (ours!)

We love our children

Though imperfect, we love our children unconditionally. ‘Love covers a multitude of sins.’ Even though children are only learning right from wrong, the older they become, the more they have learned about right and wrong. They tend to want to please us; they also tend to want their own way. So, they make mistakes as we all do. But our love for them continues; love covers a multitude of sins (theirs!). 

My recent realisation

I’m writing this post because recently, I realised I’ve been too critical of my now 19 year old son, who is kind, honest, hard working and independent.

When he was little, I was so eager to train him in responsibility that I was too quick to look at his shortcomings when he was in disagreement with another child. I was so eager to raise him with good values that I was often too quick to judge, suspicious of his intentions…. even got out of the starting blocks! (even before he did anything naughty)

Self reflection

How could I be suspicious of him when, in my own innocence, I was mistrusted as a child? As an adult, I should have known better….

So grateful

And yet, he knows I love him and he expresses his love for me too…. As well, he is quite capable of expressing his displeasure. I respect that and I like the healthy balance.

In the mix of raising him, I seemed to have managed to reveal my love even amidst my too-hasty correction and criticism.

I’m grateful that love covers a multiple of sins. So grateful!

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For Mothers

For Mothers: Is it wise to show your vulnerability?

Vulnerability

Google defines vulnerability as, “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” 

I seems to me to be more negative than I think of vulnerability… “Being exposed” — emotionally and physically I agree with, but rather than it being the possibility of being harmed or attacked, I’d say it is being exposed emotionally or physically, to such a degree as one could be harmed but one chooses to allow themselves to be transparent in spite of the risk of the consequences of exposure.

All that being said, many social and family psychologists could debate whether parents need to appear confident and assured rather than show any vulnerability, for the sake of the security and peace of mind of their children. 

However, I’m asking: For mothers is it wise to show your vulnerability? I think particularly if there are two parents, it might be okay for one to show her vulnerability to a young child at some point. 

Mostly for the security of the child, we parents need to appear to have it all together, so the child doesn’t worry about his safety or the security of the family unit. But sometimes, maybe, the child needs to see more of our humanity as mums… 

Personal story

I once was so tired of my young child’s antics, I finally let him see my frustration through my tears. Yes, I cried a little in front of him which surprised him — I could see in his face that he saw my reaction to him and it caused him to pause and look. At that moment, he saw me. I think because he saw the human frailty in someone he loved, he stopped the naughty behaviour. 

Was it a bad thing I did? I don’t know. Child psychologists might say it was.

It was a sincere, rather than a manipulative demonstration of emotional vulnerability in response to his behaviour. But did it burden him? I don’t think so…. Rather I think it “woke him up” to the reality that I could be frail. 

I don’t think it would have been good if this were a lifestyle choice for my child-rearing. But I think at that particular moment, (I hope) it was alright for him to see my vulnerability — the real affect his behaviour was having upon me was negative; I think his seeing me sad helped him to see the cause and effect of his negative behaviour.

Confidence

Generally, I think our children need to see us exercising self confidence and self control. That is so they can feel safe even if they lack confidence or control over their situations. They are vulnerable, simply by the fact that they are smaller than adults, less experienced and less powerful than we are.

My son as a teen once said to me while I was driving and I kept repeating, “I’m not sure where I’m going..”

“Mom, you have to be confident no matter what, even if you don’t feel you are….” In the context of our situation, it was shortly after my husband’s/his father’s death. He was saying, ‘I need you to show me absolute confidence right now…’ And his frankness did shut me up and get me better focused on the task at hand.

Frankness on both sides is a good building block to a relationship with our children. 

SO the answer is Yes and No…

Sometimes it is right to expose our children to our weakness. Not usually, but sometimes. They need to know they are safe. But sometimes, they need to discover we are not brick walls but open windows… open to what life brings, courageous to deal with it, but also vulnerable to the circumstances they might inflict upon us. 

It’s important for our children to feel safe. But they also need to know that the world — or they — can cause us grief, from time to time. It is never for us to make them feel ashamed or guilty. But they do need to learn their negative behaviour can effect us, especially if they have not yet discovered their behaviour does impact other people’s lives. 

As human beings we are not responsible for how someone receives our personalities, whether they like us or whether they don’t. But we all do need to learn our behaviour and our choices do impact other people. Once we know that, it’s up to us to decide the value of our freedom verses our responsibility toward others in our day to day lives. It’s a basic aspect to socialisation.

Sometimes allowing our children to see our vulnerability will help them in their social development. At some point, our only recourse might be to let them see our weakness when they are exhausting us or frustrating us with their disagreeable behaviour. One way or another, our children need to learn the cause and effect of their behaviour on others and at some point, that may mean we need to let them see us just as we feel in response to them.

Every blessing as we all learn to navigate parenting better and better!

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For Mothers

For Mothers: TIME

On the last blog post, I touched on the issue of Time as an important part of parenting. On this occasion I’d like to focus upon it.

Time

A mother’s time is taken up with work, our partnership with the other parent (or compensating if parenting solo), attention to our children’s direct needs, taking care of our health and that of others’ in the family. 

Feeding, clothing, ensuring child development: physically, educationally, socially, emotionally, spiritually cannot really be delegated, though the brunt of time spent at school or with church-related activities, social “playdates” and heart-to-heart conversations with others does help. But really, you and I know that ultimately, “the buck stops here” which is why I created this blog in the first place.

For Mothers

This space is about you and me, the mum for whom there is no retirement — not really. 

And so we need to be able to balance our time: our attention, our devotion, our awareness, our support for our children, always balancing a giving with a letting go as they grow.

We need time for them, time for others, time for ourselves. 

The best use of our time

Learning to prioritise is key. How do we do that? 

For me, it has always been considering that, in the long run, what is important > is more important than what is urgent. That fits for every compartment of our lives.

Compartment of Parenting

And so, yes the late homework or the fire on the stove needs attention. 

But somehow, we mustn’t drop the ball on the important: consistently leading and guiding our children to their homework (so it isn’t late), to brushing their teeth (so the emergency trip to the dentist doesn’t arise), to respecting others (so the fist fight or the trauma in the school ground doesn’t happen… or they already know how to cope when they see it coming).

“Prevention is worth a pound of Cure”

Giving time and attention to the little things, day by day, keeps, our children emotionally, socially safe and attended to as they navigate nursery and school. Prayer every night builds their spiritual awareness so they don’t have a vacuum that needs filling and gets filled with self harm as a teen. Good eating and hygiene habits ensure life long physical health and strength. 

At the heart of life is our learning to balance our time, focusing on what’s important in the long run.

Long-term vision

Taking the long view, rather than living in crisis management, will give us the ability to live and thrive. This is for ourselves and for the rest of the household.

So I guess the takeaway here is to learn to manage our time: for all us mums to let time be our friend and to allow us to manage our time as a gift, to respect and treasure it, to do the important things consistently, so that our children benefit most from the time we have to give them.

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For Mothers

For Mothers: PLAY

Play is perhaps the most important way of relating to our children.

We know the Hollywood cinematic storyline of the boy who wants to play ball with his dad and his dad never has time… and the fallout from that is stuff of the tale on screen.

We know that play is important because infants do all their learning from play: exploring their world, interacting with their toys is the way they are stimulated.

We know that mothers have so much to undertake in their traditional role as provider and parent, nurturer and bonder with their children. And a part of all of this is play.

I remember in early years being so bored with repetitive play, because it is so repetitive. But my child loved to read the same book, play the same game, over and over again. Boring yes! But his delight made it all worthwhile.

I remember the same game over and again. I remember Chinese checkers, until my son stopped wanting to play because I got better at it. Same for so many games… all good until he grew and I became proper competition (except for Monopoly… he’s still the best in the family at that!)… And yet, we need to let them win and later learn competition.

Interaction during play is important. Conversations during play are important. There is, according to “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, one love language of five which is TIME. Love is spelled TIME for many people once adult…. And for all children up to a point it will be of key importance…. Ironically, then TIME becomes our love language in relation to them as we long for any bit of time with them!:)

Please never underestimate the value of play to our children, as part of giving our time and attention. Yes, they need food, shelter, trainers and schoolbooks (or Ipads or laptops). But most of all, they need our time, and there is no price tag on that.

Every blessing to you as Mum, as we develop our strategies to keep on playing with our children, no matter how young or old they — or we –are. The games may change, but the essential value of them never will.

Sarah

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For Mothers

For Mothers: No, not everything

“Mama I want…”

One of the best lessons we can teach our dear children is

that they can’t have everything they want.

“No, not everything you want Darling.”

If our children learn that, life will be easier for them — less painful, less shocking, more peaceful. When they learn they can’t have everything they want, they learn disappointment, they learn compromise, they learn reality. It’s healthy.

Life is full of rich joy and also disappointment

Although it is important to develop a positive, “can do” attitude, we also need to learn to roll with the punches that life brings. We strive for excellence but in the striving forward, we lose some of the races we run. If we lose every race, we get discouraged and give up. But if we win every one, we get prideful and conceited. Win some/lose some is the reality of life, and learning this helps us to negotiate surprises in life, both good and bad.

What if our child doesn’t learn s/he can’t have everything?

They may find life difficult to cope with if they don’t know life has ups and downs.

They may find themselves behaving “like a bully” to get what they want because they don’t know how to accept “no” for an answer.

They may become deceitful — in order to achieve their ends. Certainly, they will be more selfish if they don’t understand the idea of compromise.

Goal setting: good and not-so-good

People who don’t know they can’t have everything set unachievable goals. Their ‘reach can exceed their grasp’ because they don’t know limitations exist. Ambition is good in order to keep us striving to improve. But it can also be soul destroying if our goals are complete fantasy. Teaching our child to accept “yes” and “no” will help them to navigate their own lives and help them to attain their ambitions with hard work and steadfast faith in themselves.

People need people

The person who has learned s/he will have disappointments from time to time will embrace life, yet will also know a contented life is not based upon achievement but on mutual admiration — one person to another…

Life is full of love when we learn to share, to accede to someone else’s preferences from time to time while still standing up for our own when it is vitally important. 

Life is rich and worth living when we share with others and build relationships based on mutual respect and trust. 

Life if full of rich relationship when we learn compromise, the give-and-take of life.

Disappointment is an valuable experience

Teaching a child that sometimes s/he can’t have what s/he “really wants” can be disappointing, but disappointment lasts for a moment. The lesson of overcoming disappointment and moving over the next hurdle will last a lifetime.

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For Mothers

For Mothers: Pamper yourself

We need to look after ourselves… learn to pamper ourselves… so we can be our best for our families.

Self denial is not necessarily a virtue. If we’re flying in a plane and there is turbulence, what are we told to do when the facemarks fall from above our heads? We’re told, put ours on — first.

Self care

As mums, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t have the energy, health, or rest to take care of our families.

Life is a balance, and part of that balance surely includes taking care of ourselves.

On the other hand, self indulgence is equally unhealthy, both for ourselves and our families. So how do we find a balance?

What is pampering?

Occasionally, can we ensure we have time to ourselves?

At least once a day, can we make sure we have a quiet time where we can gather our thoughts, gather our strength, gather our emotions and acknowledge if we’re struggling?

At least once a week, can we ensure we give ourselves a treat: a bubble bath or a longer-than-usual shower; a walk in a quiet spot near our work or home; a sweet dessert or a trip to the cinema (or watch a particularly lovely film broadcast on tv)?

Pampering is devoting attention to ourselves for a specific period of time. It doesn’t have to cost money. It is occasional, not a way of life. It doesn’t have to take a l-o-n-g time or cost a lot of money (or any at all in fact). It does need to be a consistent practice in our schedule to give care: to you!

Then we are refreshed

Mums, we are worth giving kind attention to ourselves. And it makes us better mums, just as a breather gives new life to a long distance runner. 

Let’s give ourselves a little break every now and then, so we can run that hard parenting race we so long to complete well.

Every blessing.

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For Mothers

For Mothers: Waiting

Waiting is something we mothers have to do a lot of, right?

Our small children

We wait for our children to finish their food.

We wait for our children to follow us, to finish talking, to do their homework.

We wait for our children to fall asleep at night.

Our teenagers

When our children become teens there is a different sort of waiting…

We wait for our teen to say “thank you.”

We wait for our teen to look at us, to share with us, even to speak to us!

We wait for our teen to get home in the evening.

Our young adults

When they leave home, we wait for our offspring to call us.

We wait for our offspring to visit us.

We wait for our offspring to make their way: with a job, a family, a life of their own.

We wait.

And hope.

And pray.

And so, for mothers, our task is simple: 

Let us learn to wait with grace: patience, hope, dignity and encouragement. Rushing will not change anything and will make the waiting stressful and unpleasant for us all.

Let’s learn to wait, knowing our children want to please, want to grow, want to live just as much as we want it for them. As we wait, they will draw closer, knowing our love, compassion, nurture and hope for them is just as strong as theirs is for themselves.

Living a family life is a joint effort. Let’s do it together and do it the very best way we can: Together.

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For Mothers

For Mothers: Let them run… without helmets

Dear Mothers, Fathers, Governments, 

Please allow our nations’ children to play….

This is a plea

Today around the Western World, children are sanitised to such an extent that playground equipment is limited, sport is limited, on the basis of health and safety.

Councils safeguarding children ban all sorts of play equipment. Helmets must be worn when cycling, skiing, sledging… all in the name of safety.

But where is the fun!?

What are we all so afraid of?

I’m all in favour of protecting our children. Mothers have an innate sense of “seeing the danger” that children don’t have, because they don’t have the experience and they don’t have the inbuilt sense of forward thinking that mothers have.

But in safeguarding physical safety, are we not stunting our children’s growth socially, emotionally, and even physically, as we limit their freedom and their experiences so that they learn to self protect?

May I encourage us all to allow our children to play freely. Can we not find a meadow, find a garden, find a space where there is no traffic, and let them play unhindered?

Every blessing, 

Sarah

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For Mothers

For Mothers: Whose job is it to parent?

Government v Parental Responsibility

I do not believe it is the job of a government to parent children. Parents are called parents because they have children in their care to… parent.

Ensuring a child gets schooling is the parent’s responsibility. Ensuring school is available is the government’s responsibility.

Ensuring a child has clothing, food and shelter is the parent’s responsibility. Ensuring there is work available, or for those who cannot work that there is a source of finance, is the government’s responsibility.

Sage wisdom

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he grows up he will not depart from it.” Proverb.

Healthy habits form early

There is a lot of wisdom in this. Whatever we learn when we are young tends to stick. So, let’s expose our children to wholesome people and wholesome places and wholesome food. That way our children will grow into healthy people emotionally, socially and physically.

Let’s not delegate

It is the parent’s responsibility to provide a secure, wholesome environment. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure safety and security is available throughout society.

It is a parent’s responsibility to love our children. The government cannot possibly love, care and protect children to the degree we can ourselves. 

We must not delegate or relinquish our jobs as parents. Our influence, our hearts, our actions are second to none. We cherish our children. Our children need our love and care. 

It is the parent’s job to parent. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure a safe society where parents and children can thrive. This is my opinion. What is yours?

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For Mothers

For Mothers: on giving advice

What do we do when our children ask for our advice?

I don’t want my child to ask for my advice… because I’m likely to give it. And then what?

If things go pear-shaped, it’s my fault.

If things go well, they’ve not achieved it on their own.

And yet, if they don’t ask advice and things go very badly wrong, we might have been helpful.

The fact of the matter is, our children need help, love, support from us. But they need to work life out for themselves.

And so, if asked, we parents are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

So, here’s my thinking:

Be honest.

Be encouraging.

Be frank.

Set them free.

And then, let go

They don’t have to follow what we say.

They can make their own move: mistake or otherwise.

In the mix, hopefully, they have some sensible peers they can ask advice of as well… Because a generation can make quite a difference, and perceptions change from generation to generation; making our way in life really does include a measure of fitting in with current society.

That’s my thinking. What’s yours?

Every blessing, 

Sarah

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For Mothers

For Mothers: If you make a mistake, fess up!

Mothers, we are human, fallible. The best thing we can do if we make a mistake is to confess to our children the mistake. Letting them witness our humanity is good for them, good for us, and good for our relationship.

Share only what is directly relevant to them

Of course the mistake needs to be directly related them. I don’t mean we confess our deep, dark secrets to our children. They don’t have the emotional capacity to deal with parental issues or adult problems (unless they are 40 themselves!) But if we’ve done something wrong: been too harsh with them, made a wrong judgement call, not been available to support them, or not shown up to an important event of theirs, we need to recognise and apologise.

To show respect for them, if we’ve done them wrong, we need to admit it when we realise it. “I’m sorry” isn’t on a one-way track. Yes, they need to learn to apply “sorry” to us and to others as they are growing up. But we need to be able to model it as well as teach the principle. As with everything, they learn from our behaviour.

Another reason to apologise to our children when we’ve made a mistake, is to build communication. Heart-to-hearts are nourishing for the relationship, bringing us closer to one another and building mutual trust.

Whatever is age appropriate

It’s important to safe guard our children’s innocence. And we need to be aware of their limitations in experience and understanding. So when we apologise, it isn’t a confession of our souls they need to hear (though that is probably what we need to do for our own release from our guilt and regret) but a simple awareness we’ve come up short and an apology.

To bear our souls may be what we need to do, and therefore we may need another adult to share that aspect with. 

No excuses or explanations

We apologise for our children’s sake. We don’t need to explain or give an excuse. That’s for our benefit, not for theirs. Instead, an earnest, heartfelt, sincere “I’m sorry, I made a mistake” keeps the child free from any responsibility and gives them a chance to receive from us. If they’ve been cross or simply need to forgive, an open-ended, unconditional apology from us will give them the space to do that.

An apology is for their benefit but we benefit too

To say sorry to anyone is for the benefit of the person receiving. The great thing about an earnest apology though, is that it also releases us from our shame, guilt, and a break in that relationship.

It’s important to remember that the focus is on the child and not on ourselves when we have to fess up!

Every blessing,

Sarah

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For Mothers

For Mothers: trust your instincts

Do you ever wonder whether you should say “yes” or “no”?

Do you ever consider you might have been too harsh? Or too lenient?

Do you ever wish you had all the answers for your children’s demands and desires?

The truth is, you do know best!

You can trust your instincts, I believe.

I wholeheartedly believe that innate within us, is the knowledge of what is the best way forward when we have a decision to make for our children.

Give it time

When we give ourselves time to ourselves, when we resist the demands or urges or persuasions of our children, when we examine what we know of their personalities, needs and desires, we will know the best way forward.

So, let’s take time to reflect. Let’s take time to ponder our finances. Let’s take time to weigh the strengths and vulnerabilities of our children, and then make a choice confident that in the long run, we know what is best for them.

Being honest with ourselves, then being honest with our children, we can build them to be the best people they can be.

And that surely is the objective for us all.

Every blessing and Happy New Year!

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For Mothers

For Mothers: love, love, love

When our sons and daughters bring us joy: let’s love them with high-five.

When our sons and daughters surprise us: let’s love them with a dance.

When our sons or daughters disappoint us: let’s love them with a tear.

When our sons or daughters curse us: let’s love them with embrace.

When sons and daughters bring us peace we’ll love them in great gratitude.

When sons and daughters bring us strife we’ll love them in spite of attitude.

Our sons and daughters love us; they may not love themselves:

May our love, our joy, our hope, our delight be enough to fill them too.

Love is the answer to every ill; Love which is tough or gentle, or still.

Love is enough to carry any form; May our love be available in absolutely every storm.

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For Mothers

Shall we spoil our Children at Christmas?

It’s Christmastime! 

What’s THAT mean? Does it mean overabundance of food, gifts and family fun? 

Or does it mean stress and disappointment? 

Or does it mean an opportunity to teach about giving while giving?

My short message today in light of Christmas coming is that the focus can be about giving but it can also teach about giving.

There are opportunities to serve others — in food banks or soup kitchens. 

Shall we spoil or children at Christmas?

There are opportunities to show our children how much we love them, how proud and pleased we are for them, how much we want them to enjoy themselves… In a word: we want them to enjoy life! 

But I also believe the over-indulgence that is prevalent in a our society is not a good thing. 

Some people have plenty, some have little. The emphasis on the material leaves some outside, puts a huge amount of pressure on those with plenty to over-indulge.

That’s a lose/lose to my mind.

What is a win/win?

I look to achieve a balance between rest and enjoyment ie Leisure

And

Modelling and teaching self control.

A child who is spoiled may come to expect and even demand his desires be met. Once entitlement sets in, a child is robbed of the value and rich blessing of receiving — because they’ve become jaded… they’ve learn to think it is owed to them. 

Instead, I’d hope to model a balance between giving and restraint; refraining from excess, seems to me, to encourage an appreciation of what is given (as well as encouraging conditions for a bit of self control in this over-indulgent world in which we live). 

Do we or don’t we?

So do we spoil our children at Christmas? There’s no such thing as too much love.

So yes, let’s spoil ‘em. But let’s spoil them with love, encouragement, hugs and respect. A gift, a turkey, a sweet is great; that can be a fun part of loving. But food and gifts are not the main part. Just a part. 

That’s what I think… How about you?

Happy Christmas whatever you aim to do.

I’ll be back in the New Year — 2024!!! Oh My!!

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For Mothers

For Mothers: Good boasting and bad boasting

When we celebrate as mothers, do we celebrate for others or for ourselves?

In the last post I wrote about respecting our children. I think that boasting can show an incredible amount of respect — or disrespect — to our children, depending upon our motives.

There is good boasting and bad boasting and which boasting we allocate to good and bad depends upon our motive. Why are we boasting? Is it to celebrate with others and to lift up them? Is it to share our hearts and demonstrate our joy in our child(ten)? 

Or is it to build up ourselves?

Good boasting is other-centred. Bad boasting is self-centred.

Good boasting

It celebrates our child, our joy in our child, our hope in our society today. It encourages other parents to “give their all” or to “hang in there” by sharing good stuff about our kids.

Good boasting gives hope to others.

Bad boasting

It is designed to lift up our own egos at our friends’, family’s or even our child’s expense. 

If we are wounded and use our child’s success to lift our own status or to curb our own shame, this is not good for us, not for our relationship with others, including our children; it’s just not good for anyone.

There are good remedies to shame but boasting is not a good remedy.

Wounded hearts

We all have good times and bad, good experiences and bad, joys, sorrows and disappointments. But to heal our hearts we need to process, forgive and move on. Using a child’s successes to boost our own low self esteem is not right, not healthy, not good. Instead, we need to heal. 

Celebrating success is fantastic! It is almost as fantastic as the success itself.

But if we put our child’s success in the limelight for ourselves, it speaks to the child of achievement being important over character. It pushes them forward when they may not want to be pushed forward. It takes away from them the joy of their own personal victory and puts the limelight on ourselves. It even can suggest to them that our love for them is based on their achievement, what they do rather than who they are as unique individuals.

Examine ourselves

Not all boasting is good and not all boasting is bad. We need to examine ourselves to check why we are sharing our child’s achievements.

The why we are boasting will point to us to whether we should be doing it or we should stop.

Let’s not be ashamed of our children nor put too much pressure on them to succeed. Instead, let us share the joy we have in them to them, not so much to others. And when we do share with others, let’s make sure our child won’t be too embarrassed and that we are not doing it for our own sake.

Love the child, not his/her success. Love the child, and there will be no shame at his/her shortcomings. Love the child and our neighbour, so that when our child succeeds we can share in a healthy way to give everyone a boost!

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For Mothers

For Mothers: Respect our offspring

Our children will always be our children… Mothers do not give up motherhood, do we?

And yet, be must let go. Is this a contradiction? Not at all.

We must let our children become adults. It’s a gradual process and is age and culture related. But inevitably, we must entrust them to themselves, respect their choices and hope and pray all their choices are safe and sensible. To build in our children self respect, we must pay respect to our children.

Respecting our offspring

We must let go, and we must respect our offspring in order for them to grow into responsible adults, having self respect, motivation and dignity.

That’s my opinion.

The place to start is by showing them respect. How can we do that? Give them room to make decisions and to discover the results of those decisions so they can learn. The more they learn when they are at home, the better they can adjust when they are on their own in the big wide world.

Protection

I also believe our children need our protection. Some decisions they may not be ready for and are not age appropriate. Some decisions will have life-changing consequences, and so those decisions are better to be left to them when they have more life experience.

As we show them respect, give them room, let them make choices, they will discover their own ways of thinking. And they will begin to apply what they’ve been shown by us, in due course.

There is an expression: Teach a child the way he should go, and when he grows up he will not depart from it.

When we give them guidance, and good role modelling for sound behaviour and decision-making, then they too will practice the same as they grow. Yes, they will express themselves differently from how we may like them too, yes they may exhibit their freedom from us. And yet, they will return to what works, when they’ve tested the world.

Moving forward

Letting go can be a challenge for us. It is for them too. But as we gently and gradually give them room to go on their own journey, they will move forward with confidence and hope. That is my belief.

How do we let go?

We keep giving them away, like a father gives the bride away to the groom: respectfully, hopefully, and with love. We keep surrendering our desires for them and leave them to build upon their onw. We keep from interfering in matters that do not require an adult’s interference.

There’s a lot to unpack.

What do you think? I’d love to know your thoughts…

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For Mothers

For Mothers: When tragedy strikes

Recent tragedy

Recently, 4 boys on a camping outing in North Wales went missing. 2 days later their car and 4 bodies were found off the road. They’d crashed. Such a tragedy. Such a waste of young life. Such a shame.

How can we help our neighbours when tragedy strikes

The parents will be distraught. The community will grieve. What can we do to help? There must be something…

When tragedy strikes, we must allow ourselves to put ourselves in the others’ shoes. What can we do? We can learn the facts and offer prayers and good will to those who suffer. We can put ourselves in the place of these boys’ families and offer words of kindness toward them. Our attitude, though these families may never know us, can be fresh air to the nation and to our families. 

Loving attitude

Our nation of some 70 million people needs to rally round and be supportive toward one another. In a world going mad with violence within nations and between, we can contribute for the better if we choose to. The positive trickle effect of pouring good will toward others cannot be underestimated.

So I advocate kindness toward one another, and compassion.

I advocate a refusal to gossip or speculate.

I encourage us all to be more positive, more hopeful, more unified in our communities, refusing to enter into an “us versus them” mentality. 

The pebble into the pool

Here is an analogy I propose for consideration: the ripple effect, the pebble in the pool.

If a stand on a bridge and toss a pebble into the pool below, what happens? The pebble causes the water to stir doesn’t it, before movement stops once again. And although the pool looks as it did before, that pebble is now in the pool.

We can each cause a ripple for better or worse. What can we as mums say or do to make the outcome of this horrendous accident a positive for our own children, for our families, for our communities, for our nation? Surely we can each make a difference.

What can we do to make this terrible tragedy bring forth something positive? Let’s throw a pebble of hope, good will, love into our nearby “pool” and bring our communities closer together.

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For Mothers

For Mothers: An encouraging word

An encouraging word

Who can underestimate the value of an encouraging word to a child?

They may seem brazen and over-confident, they just need encouragement.

They may seem shy and timid, they just need encouragement.

No matter the child, no matter the personality. We all need encouragement.

If they are timid, build them up. If they are boisterous, calm them down.

If they are intelligent, praise them; if they struggle at school, boost their confidence.

Never underestimate the power of genuine encouragement.

Flattery goes nowhere but an encouraging word, born out of sincere admiration, praise or respect, can take a child from the depths of hopelessness to the pinnacle of confidence.

It is easy to correct. Find something to praise.

Sarcasm cuts, failure demoralises. But encouragement builds up. 

We all need building.

Grant that your child gains self assurance today. Help them to find a little bit more of it. Today.

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For Mothers

For Mothers: Taking Pride in our Children

I have guarded myself against saying, “I’m so proud of you!” to children, because I don’t want them to get big-headed. I’m all for building up their confidence, but not so much their ego. It’s not an easy balance to strike.

The question is: how is taking pride in our children a positive or a negative for them?

My son is modest. My step daughter too. I am proud of them both, in a good way.

Pride goes before a fall

There’s an old expression that says, “Pride goes before a fall.” It isn’t Shakespeare, it’s a proverb from the Bible. I remember reading how to books about raising children, which encouraged parents to build confidence, self respect in their children — but not self esteem. My poor kids! I love them lots and lots, but shied away from empty praise. Maybe they missed out:(

But the trouble with pride is that there is a good aspect and a bad aspect.

Pride can make us feel loved and confident, but it can also make us feel entitled or arrogant. It can give us confidence or it can create unwarranted expectation. It can give us a boost or it can push us to think we are better than others. Without pride, we can become wall flowers, timid and lacking any sense of capability. Yet with pride, we can carry a superior attitude.

Like I said above, it isn’t easy to find the perfect balance.

What is “the fall”?

Pride leads us to “fall” if we get too big for our britches! When we most expect we are invincible, this is when we are most prone to stumble. When we believe the press (ie friends or family) that states how wonderful we are, we can succumb to ego and fall into the trap of making impulsive or unwise decisions believing we can do no wrong. “The fall” is unpleasant and can lead to change — for the better if we learn from our mistakes.

Teaching self respect not self esteem

If our children take themselves seriously, developing respect for themselves based on a track record of responsible behaviour and growing maturity, when they make mistakes — and they will because we all do — they are most likely to benefit and grow from the experience.

If our children are puffed up based on empty praise, they are less likely to have the tools to handle difficulty and when they make mistakes — and they will because we all do — they may struggle to handle constructive criticism and disappointment.

To my mind, building self respect in children is superior to building self esteem. If I had to choose one or other, I’m glad I opted to promote self respect. Both people I had a hand in raising are independent thinkers and very resilient. But I do wish I flattered a little bit more… they are lovely people and I wish I’d told them that more often when they were little.

Take the long view

I guess the bottom line is that I think it’s important we take the long term look in raising our children. What is our goal for our children? What is the step by step way to lead them toward that goal? Little things do matter… So, can we let little things lead our children towards developing courage, integrity, good citizenship and self respect? I hope so because that way, they can have a more excellent chance to make good choices regarding their work ethic, peer choices… becoming people we can like and be proud of:)

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For Mothers

For Mothers: Protective instinct in war

Mothers Protective Instinct

Aren’t we as mothers called to protect our children? We are predisposed to focus our attention on the safety of our children. So what do the mothers in Israel experience right now as their sons and daughters who are in the IDF reserves go off to fight?

How do mothers feel about their children’s safety right now in Israel? And in Gaza as war rages around them? And in Ukraine… And all the other places where there is war?

How do the mothers care for their children caught in a war?

The only thing I’ve learned from intense stress caused by serious illness, is to be calm, to be confident that all will be well. That helps the children get through. At a young age, they see us as omnipotent. If we say “Everything is going to be alright” they believe us and accept our words. And it is true, because ultimately, things do work through to peace once again. When we can focus on ourhope rather than the turmoil, it will help our children enormously.

As for ourselves?

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is the tree of life.” 

It’s an old proverb but isn’t it true?! When we feel hopeless, we lack energy or enthusiasm, we lack optimism, we feel low. But when hope is fulfilled, it is such an exciting time. Think of the runner who wins the race. Or the actor who wins an Academy Award. Or the student who earns an A*!

We must focus on the possible. Even in war, as in medical challenge, we must continue to hope for survival. Surely this is what is happening in the Middle East and elsewhere right now… Hoping for survival seems small when your world is falling down around you. But it is the way forward.

Another Proverb

“The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness,
But who can bear a broken spirit?”

It is vital that we keep up our own hope so that we can give hope to others. Our hearts might be broken in war, but we must not allow it to break our faith that good will win, ultimately, or our will to live, love, laugh once again.

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For Mothers

For Mothers: Anchors for our Children

This is for mothers — anchors for our children in this busy, hectic world

Matthew Perry (age 54) has died. He was the actor who played “Chandler” on Friends. Recently, he was found drowned in his jacuzzi, his body showing evidence of a heart attack…  How tragic! One element to this tragedy is that he felt he lived much of his childhood alone, as his parents divorced and each led busy lives. He said in his autobiography that he had led a lonely life. And now he has died prematurely, and alone.

Finding a balance

As mothers, we are concerned for our children. Yet today we also lead lives that take us away from the home more than in previous eras. How do we balance our children’s needs and our own?

Mothers, I think we need to find a balance between devotion to our children and building in them a healthy level of independence. Our children need room to discover themselves whilst also knowing we are an anchor for them.

It works both ways…

As my child has entered university, I realise I am free to allow my head space to go in new directions; as well, in my personal physical space, I need room to develop in new ways. 

And yet I’m also aware, I still need to be available — albeit to a reduced degree — for my son, because I’m his anchor. I’m not sure how I can find this balance, but it’s important I do this for us both. I need to explore new avenues in life so I don’t waste away. I need them for me. But I also need them for my son, so that he can be confident to explore his new life, knowing that I can flourish without him, yet secure in knowing that I’m still around as and when he might need me.

An anchor

What is an anchor? It’s the weight that prevents a boat from drifting. It’s the mechanism by which that boat can bob about without losing sight of it’s permanent location. It’s a weight that will cause the boat to drag — which is both a blessing (if you don’t want to get lost) and an annoyance (if you want to float about freely).

In summary, an anchor gives the boat total freedom when it is lifted and stored out of use, and total security when it is in the water.

Mums, we are an anchor for our children. We can help them to navigate the strange world, without getting lost. We are a base they can return to. We are a plumb line from which they can gauge their growth: their alteration from what was to what is to what they are becoming. And we are a moral compass — sometimes even their conscience — should they temporarily lose sense of their own.

Freedom

Parenting can feel imprisoning / oppressive if we put too much ownership on who our children are: for us, for them. We can think too much and / or interfere too much in their lives, rather than allow ourselves to let go (gradually) as they grow up so they can become independent entities, responsible for themselves and perhaps one day, their own family.

Parenting can also feel remote if we are too scantily involved in who are children are growing up to be. In all things, we need to find a balance, one that acts as an incentive to them to mature, while nurturing them into independence gradually.

And so

This post is to ask each of us to consider how we are managing to balance our own lives with that of our children. This will depend most upon the age of our child. They will most likely think 10 or 12 or 16 is older than we might think it is. Or we may release too much responsibility on them too early. Finding what is right for them is important, as it is for us to discover what is right for ourselves.

  1. There’s a necessary level of self sacrifice we need to make, I believe, in order to nurture our children.
  2. And yet, we need to give them space and freedom as they grow.
  3. Third, it’s also important we maintain our own identity and a purpose for ourselves beyond being a mum. 

Dependence & Autonomy

When our children are small, they need to be able to depend on us. As they mature and grow, they need to find their autonomy so they can be responsible and self reliant adults. That means we need to develop our autonomy too… whilst still being a dependable and constant anchor for them. 

If I’ve learned one thing about being a parent, it is self sacrifice. I’m still on the road to practicing it perfectly. That is a lifetime endeavour. But I’ve learned the joy of giving as a parent, perhaps more than in any other relationship. As I learn to give, and then to let go, of a relationship I’ve devoted so much to, it hurts. But it is also a joy to see my child grow into a responsible adult. AND in the process, I’ve learned as the anchor in his life, the more rock solid dependable I can be to him, the more fulfilled we both are. That is a fantastic reward for something that is the greatest of privileges.

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For Mothers

For Mothers: Joy

Joy

What is joy? It goes deeper than happiness, doesn’t it; if happiness is born out of a particular situation, joy is the sense that no matter the situation, you feel excited, happy, hopeful, positive.

A mother’s joy

It’s wonderful to be pregnant! I was very fortunate in that I had no side effects other than a big tummy. But as I talked to friends about their pregnancies, even if they were ill with morning sickness for example, there was the same anticipation, excitement, vulnerability. When someone is growing with new life — inside you and me — it’s incredible and an experience full of joy!

I remember the first night after my son (I only had one pregnancy, one baby) was born, we stared at each other as I fed him. We were bonding. It was incredible.

Photographing my son on his first day of school I was excited, nervous, scared for him. Such a mixture of emotion and yet, joy was at the root of it all of it.

The first nativity play (do schools still do them?), the first report card, first concert performance… first time taking public transport alone, first car!


I could go on and on and then on a little bit more; but the key point is simple: It’s an amazing experience to be a mom. It’s a huge responsibility, it is a demanding role. It’s a privilege, a challenge, is frustrating… and fun. It’s a total joy to watch someone roll over for the first time, walk, run, feed him/herself, speak…. ask questions, seek answers, argue… with you. 

Depth of life

Before I had a child, life was pleasant, eventful, good! But experiencing motherhood has brought to my life a deeper sense of life, a greater sense of reward than any job, any relationship, any other experience has given me.

I celebrate being a mom, in all it’s pain, challenge, hope and occasional disappointment. It makes me feel alive to engage with my child. 

I’m so grateful for every moment since being a mother. I encourage each of us to be grateful for the opportunity and hold it dearly within our hearts. It can difficult and downright disappointing sometimes. But it is life, offering a vitality life no other.