When Not to Worry

DSC_0919When we become mothers, women who were once carefree or serious or focused find ourselves turning angsty over all that could go wrong in the lives of our children.  We seem to stress in direct proportion to how big we feel our job is.

And I think we all agree:  it’s big.

In earlier generations, moms cared about their kids but didn’t assume they needed to be their little darlings’ entire universes.  Frankly, they didn’t think it was healthy for the kids or themselves.  But add busier-than-ever parents plus guilt plus more things to worry about (thank you, Internet.  No, really) and you’ve got a recipe for defensive, burned-out mothering from the word go.

Homeschooling does not make a mom immune to inner and outer kvetching.  It can help to turn down the temperature on our worries in some ways, only because we’re spending a lot of time with our kids, and we can sort-of take stock of how they’re doing throughout the day.  But it also presents a whole new list of things to question whether we (and they) are doing well.

In spite of all that, I’m happy with the way this school-and-mothering year is unfolding.  My oldest son turns 14 tomorrow.  I have another one who’ll be 13 in the blink of an eye, and an 11-year-old daughter who looks like a freshman.  We have had, and will have, our fair share of difficulties, new things about which to wonder, problems that will arise.

Believe me, I know.

But, looking back, lots of my parenting worries throughout the last fourteen years have not come true.  Most haven’t, in fact.  The kids are doing well, by the grace of God.  They’re turning out in spite of my failures both as a teacher and as a mom.

I want to offer encouragement in case some of you have younger kids and are tempted to worry, too.  Just keep showing up, loving them, praying for them, enjoying the time you have with them as much as is possible.

Refuse to give in to the temptation to fret.

In the end, most of what you worry about won’t come true.  And, honestly, even if some of it does, it will still be OK.

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On Bearing Burdens

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I woke up this morning with a whirling mind and bruised heart so that it felt like I hadn’t slept at all last night.

My mood further plummeted when it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be able to mull over what’s burdening me in order to mentally work it out.  I’m a writer and a teacher and I have to be emotionally present and alert to do my job(s) well.  And these weighty thoughts are like mental sludge in my brain pipes.

So what will I do in the next eighteen hours?

I’ll pray every time the heavy thoughts come up today.  Like a ninja.  My problems are beyond me, but not God.

I’ll make a list of the things I have to accomplish in the next several hours.

I’ll follow that list, checking things off as I get them done without trying to decide in the moment what  comes next.

I’ll listen to music when I’m not teaching or writing.  Few things focus my mind more than hearing songs and lyrics I love.

I’ll exercise at some point, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

I’ll remind myself that today will last for exactly 24 hours like its ancestors before it.  It’ll pass.  It has to.

Finally, I’ll get on with life because that’s what mothers do.

How do you cope with burdens you can’t seem to permanently offload? 

The World’s Okayest Mom

Maybe it’s because I’m a brat, or have a little rebellious streak or whatever, but I don’t like contrived holidays, AKA Forced Celebrations.  And none is more forced than Mother’s Day (except maybe Valentine’s Day).

Mothering is hard work and isn’t treacly eighty percent of the time.  Neither is marriage.  Hallmark doesn’t seem to understand this.  Or maybe it does, but has figured out a way to make money off of our collective sentimentality/guilt/ideals.  I don’t know.

Anyway, I think holidays like Mother’s Day make it harder to live up to our own expectations of what motherhood should feel like.  We think it should feel like puppies and snuggles but it actually feels like peanut butter sandwiches and bedtimes.  With some hugs thrown in, yes, obviously.

Having said that, I’m all about the pursuit of excellence in our mothering journeys.  It’s just that I suspect excellence doesn’t look like a promo for a made-for-TV movie (at least I’m hoping against hope it doesn’t because I demand better acting in my life-script).  And I think that we all need to keep our eyes fixed not on some blurred-at-the-edges ideal of the The Mother Life but on Truth and Mercy.

Still, my kids better make or buy me cards because all the other moms are getting them.  It’s just that it would be alright with me if they said something like this:

images-2Because, honestly, of all the OK moms out there, I really am one of the okayest.

Happy Mother’s Day, all you moms (celebrate, or else)!

How January’s Going (Setting and Meeting Goals One Month At a Time)

Today’s the last Monday in January.  We’re almost finished with the first month of 2015, and are about to head into the shortest month of the year that, incidentally, lasts forever.  I’m checking up on myself to see how the old goals are coming along. Mine are smallish but I still need to keep track of them if I hope to meet them.

A mini-report:

I’m still not exercising.  Not unless you count getting up from a seated position.  I do that sometimes.  To help me incorporate more movement in my day, I plan to get a pedometer in February.  Does anyone have any suggestions on which kind is the best?  I’m thinking this one might be good.

I’m getting up thirty minutes (sometimes an hour) earlier every day.  I’ve been doing this the whole month of January, except on weekends, thanks to my supportive husband, who nudges me awake when his iPhone goes off in the morning.  I plan to make getting up an hour earlier my actual habit this week and into February.

Sadly, I have not been notably nicer to the kids this month.  I keep forgetting to give them positive feedback in a calculated way (of course, when I write it like that it makes the idea seem cold and false).  If I don’t make myself a note to compliment them more often, though, it doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should.  I need (more) improvement in this area.

I’m reading my Bible almost every morning.  I have a reading plan and I’m sticking to it, though I do get derailed on the weekends.  Also, while my focus is improving with practice, I still find myself reading a chapter about the early church and wondering what we’re going to have for dinner.  Still, onward and upward.

I’m writing like crazy in the morning.  I said I would, and I am.  This category goal seems to be taking off this month.  I don’t want to look too closely at it as I’m afraid it’s like touching butterfly wings.  I’ll just say, it’s going well.  Moving on…

That’s it so far.  This month hasn’t been perfect, nor will February be.  But keeping track of my goals helps me see where I need to apply more attention and intention.

What about you?  Did you set any for this year?  If so, how are you doing as you work to meet them?

Big Rocks

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What matters to you?  For me, the answer is simple:  other than my relationship with God, my family matters most to me.  To get more specific, how I guide my kids through the gauntlet of child-and-teenhood is of utmost importance to me during these brief years.  And that sounds great, right?  Many of us might say the same.  But the thing is, I get so distracted by all the good/interesting/fun/educational/creative/ministerial things I could be doing that I forget to keep my priorities straight.  Like the raccoon who can’t extricate his arm from a trap because he’s clinging to the shiny bit of tinfoil, I can hang on to activities or ideas I think are good even when they’re causing me to neglect the “main things” in my life.  A wise woman, teacher, and author, Sally Clarkson writes about the temptation for moms to get distracted by all sorts of things and forget to mother according to their most cherished ideals.  She reminds us that we only have a few big rocks (main things) we need to fit into the jars of our lives, but many little ones (everything else).  If we put the little rocks in first, you guessed it, there’s no longer room for the big rocks.  I don’t know what your big rocks are, or even if you’re a mother with kids in the home.  But I’d like to encourage you (and myself) that whatever matters most to you, whatever you know-as-you-know should be a the top of your life list, focus on that.  Give it priority, keep it out in front of you.  Don’t get distracted.  In the end, I think we’ll all be glad we kept the main things the main thing.