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I Blinked…and You Grew Up

I Blinked…and You Grew Up

I’m in a strange mothering season.  I can flip like a light switch from a conversation about potty training to high school graduation because they are both realities in my life.  It is the fact that they are both in my life right now that shines a spotlight on the truth of these words. 

They grow up too fast!

This week we are preparing for my firstborn baby to graduate high school.  It marks the end of her life at home and the beginning of life on her own.  She will always be part of our family, but her presence in our family is changing.

This week I have begun the walk down memory lane while gathering pictures, elementary school projects, and other things to share at a small dinner we are holding to honor her.  I hold the evidence in my hand that she did grow up too fast.  I’ve already cried my fair share of tears.  (And I know there are many more to come.)

Let me tell you about Emma.  It’s easy to focus on the resume of accomplishments, and while there are plenty, those things aren’t really her.  In fact, those things are can often drive a wedge and they become points of comparison, discouragement, or envy. Instead, let me tell you about who she is.

Emma is kind and tender-hearted.  When she walks into a room, she is drawn to the person who is alone or feeling out of place.  She has an inviting presence that draws you in.

Emma is a good conversationalist.  She asks good questions and is genuinely interested in knowing more about you.  She finds out interesting things and connects with people at a level deeper than what meets the eye.

Emma is willing to try new things.  From speaking a new language or traveling overseas by herself, to trying a new food or game, she is willing to give it a shot and try something new. Sometimes she finds that she loves it and can develop a new interest, but sometimes she realizes that it wasn’t what she thought and can stop spending energy wondering about it.

Emma is a learner.  Lots of us say we are, but I have seen her do it.  She wanted to play guitar for Wednesday night youth group, only she didn’t play the guitar.  So she learned.  She wanted to be a lifeguard at her summer camp, only she didn’t swim.  So she learned.  She wanted to paint pictures to give her grandparents, only she didn’t have any knowledge on the mediums.  So she learned. 

As she heads off to college, I am excited for the opportunities that face her and seeing where she will be 18-years from now. 

As I continue to muddle through this week of tears, I want to share something I wrote for her 18th birthday.

They Told Me…

They told me 9-months of pregnancy would go by quickly, but I was so sick I couldn’t imagine it ever ending. And then you were born. And I was in love.

They told me you would be sleeping through the night before I knew it, but I was so exhausted from your (multiple) nightly feedings that I couldn’t imagine it. And then one night you did. And I did. (And I panicked!) And we began to find our rhythm.

They told me not to worry about when you would start to walk, but I did worry. And when you were ready you did start to walk. And now you run far and strong.

They told me that no one ever went to college still in diapers, but I was convinced you would be the first. And then almost overnight you mastered the skill of using the potty. And you gained independence.

They told me to enjoy the toddler years because the school years come around quickly, but I was sure they would never end. And then one morning you were off on the bus eager to for your new adventure of school. And I began to feel the momentum of time pick up speed.

They told me the days would feel long, but the years would fly by!

They told me to revel in the moments you wanted me – needed me – and to embrace them not as interruptions, but to cherish as precious mommy moments. But I took them for granted and believed they would never end. And now you are a strong, capable young woman who doesn’t need her mommy the way you used to.

They told me that if I blinked, you would grow up.

I did.

And you are.

No matter what season of mothering you are in, enjoy today.  Look for and create those mommy moments.  They do grow up too fast, and after today, those moments will either be a memory or a lost opportunity.  What will you choose?

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The Importance of Self-Care: YOU!

The Importance of Self-Care: YOU!

Recently I heard a friend of mine say, “Your kids want to be you.  Be the best you, you can be.”  It was said casually but it resonated.  It was in line with something I share in “9 Things Moms Can Do to Raise Confident Kids” but it put it in a new light.

“Your kids want to be you…

In  “9 Things Moms Can Do to Raise Confident Kids” I talk about how our kids often want to be just like us and then raise the question of what part of mom will they be emulating?  Someone really good at planning meals, or someone really good at connecting in relationship?

It’s a valuable thing to consider and something which I strongly believe will transform who we are as moms.  Are we family CEOs or primary caregivers?  Even without a salary, both can easily sound like jobs if we lose sight of the mission we’ve been given as moms. The specifics of our mission are going to look differently depending on the resources we have to work with and the needs of each of our kids, but the general goal is to love, nurture, teach, and raise up our kids to become kind, thoughtful, and generous people who positively impact the world around them. 

So we focus on the relationship and character and support it with all the things that make home safe, comfortable, and inviting.  Sounds good, right?  Yes.  But it’s still missing something.

You.

On my homepage my core values are “Taking Care of Kids, Taking Care of Home, Taking Care of You.”  It is so easy to focus on the “Taking Care of Kids” and “Taking Care of Home” aspects and to set aside or even forget the “Taking Care of You” part.

So that’s why this next part really got me thinking.

…be the best you, you can be.”

When I say “self-care” what do you actually hear?  Pampering?  Selfish? Rest? Or something else?

We’re told about the importance of self-care, but even so, I find myself bristling when I hear the term self-care.  It has often been couched as a way to legitimize doing what you want over doing something for your family.  Manicures, massages, and girls nights out are all marketed as self-care things that are good for you.  But if time and money are your limited resources, they might begin to feel more selfish than important and just exactly how do you justify the importance of self-care when it feels selfish?

So instead, let’s call it soul care.  That sounds more noble, right?  Set aside time to read and meditate and care for your soul. Just a few minutes each day all to yourself.  But sometimes that even competes with something else.  I have a 20-minute window of calm and quiet.  I also need to make that phone call, get dinner started, and gather supplies for the school project we have to get done tonight.  Taking that time to read feels selfish when I could do that later when the kids are in bed. It’s easier to understand the importance of self-care if it’s about my soul, but my soul is just part of who I am.  Even in its nobility it’s still not enough.

I started using the term smart care because that felt less focused on what I wanted and what I needed to do.  As a description it still feels like the best fit for me, but even so it is still a touch manipulative because it can’t be selfish if it’s smart, right? It’s just not quite right.  It doesn’t go far enough.  It’s still too much about labeling.

But…

…when it was couched in terms of my kids wanting to be like me, it flipped the equation.  How I care for myself is now no longer about me and selfish desires.  It’s about what I need, not only as it relates to raising my kids but even more so when it comes to what I want to model for them.  How I take care of myself will influence how my kids take care of themselves.

Modeling the importance of self-care

I have the benefit of having toddlers, tween, and teens in our home.  With the older kids I can see how what I modeled when they were younger has been embraced and emulated.  It’s natural to see the negative patterns, but trust me when I tell you that it’s easier to help your kids course correct when they’re younger.  I have a new opportunity to intentionally do some things differently as the Littles grow up.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

As I think about good days in our home, I can see some common threads begin to emerge as far as the things I need for myself – things I want my kids to see modeled – and I made a list:

Things Jenn needs:

  • Sleep! I’m a 9-hour a night girl and while I can get by on less, it catches up eventually.
  • Solitude! I don’t want to miss out on anything, but I need times of quiet to myself.  Sometimes I need a nap, sometimes I watch tv, and sometimes I even do a mundane chore, but mostly I have space to hear my thoughts and let things mull around in my mind.
  • Soul-care! I need time to read my Bible and share my heart with God through prayer.  As a mom I find myself praying often throughout the day and while that is a great habit to nurture, I also need intentional time.
  • Spontaneity!  Being a planner means I really like to know what’s coming next, but within that I enjoy fun.  If we see a gorgeous sunset brewing, let’s grab our shoes and chase it down.  When we hear fireworks, lets go see them.  If a neighbor is having a garage sale, let’s stop and meet them.  Spontaneity doesn’t have to be huge, it can be simple.
  • Spouse!  This should be marriage, but I had to keep the S theme going.  When my marriage is good, the tough challenges of parenting are easier to tackle.  I feel loved and supported.  My kids feel secure. We feel like a team and not just a household of individuals.

When I remember the importance of self-care and have these things in place, my kids get a mom that I am much more willing to have them be someday.

So, what do you need?

What do you need to be the best you, you can be for your kids?  It might be hard to come up with a list out of thin air, so over the next week or two, stop and think about your day.  If it’s a good day, think about why it was, or if it was a rough day, think about what was missing.  You will begin to see the patterns emerge so that you can figure out what your “best you” needs to breathe.

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