Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 11: Love Cherishes & Day 12: Love Lets the Other Win

Still catching up on my postings, so here is Day 11: Love Cherishes. In this day's reading the Love Dare discusses the importance of understanding that when you treat your spouse in a negative way, you are also treating yourself in a negative way because husbands are instructed to love their wives as themselves (Ephesians 5:29-29). Since I am not doing this as a marriage, the husband scenario doesn't really fit...however, what does fit, is that our children are a part of us in more ways than one. Yes, literally our children are a part of us because they are made from and carried in our bodies. But have you ever noticed that a newborn baby will respond to the environment based on their mother's reaction? If the mother is tense or stressed the baby will be fussy and cry more, BUT, if she is relaxed and calm the baby is likely to also be calm. I think this is an interesting thing to just consider for a think about how much our children truly learn from us.

Think about all the times you stop to listen to your child playing "school" or "mommy" to her stuffed bear--have you ever heard them scold their stuffed toy in a way that reminds you of yourself? I have and it really opened my eyes to how Maddie may view me. I didn't have to sit her down and teach her how to "discipline" her stuffed toy...she learned it be watching me and how I interact with her. I think we can all use that reminder to treat others as an extension of ourselves--basically: FOLLOW THE GOLDEN RULE! But I think this especially applies to our children...I know I need the reminder to cherish every day I have with her, even those days in which she is more stubborn than I am and I feel frustrated. I need to remember that even when I am not "teaching" her, Maddie is learning things from me about who she is, how she should act, and how she should expect to be treated. So I better make our interactions the best that I can so that Maddie learns she is a person of great value to me, that she should also act kindly towards others, and that she should expect to be treated with kindness and respect. I think that little girls especially need to be taught that they are of great value and should expect to be treated with respect and kindness so that they feel more comfortable standing up to those who don't, even if its a boyfriend or significant other.

The Love Dare challenge is to choose a gesture that says "I cherish you" and to do it with a smile...they suggest common chores like doing the laundry or dishes. I think as a parent, the real challenge should not just be doing something that says "I cherish you" but to model behavior for our children through our daily words and actions that continue to say "I cherish you" for years to come. Maybe a place to start is watch for the time when your child imitates your behaviors with their doll or stuffed animal and evaluate how you can change that behavior into one that is more cherishing and kind (even when you have to discipline your child). This is my goal for start with one behavior and work to change it, then to move on to another behavior and change it, etc.

5 Things I Was Grateful for This Day:
    1. The first ever Heritage Bonfire--great fun!
    2. Another solo-walk to calm nerves about the selected candidate for the Kerrville VA position
    3. being told that I was a "top candidate" for the VA position, even after what I thought was a bombed interview
    4. God provided some calmness to me even with uncertainly and nerves
    5. looking forward to and planning for some upcoming trips and visits from family members

Day 12: Love Lets the Other Win: I am starting to see a theme or pattern here...something to do with being willing and not stubborn, lol. In the beginning of the Love Dare it talks about patients and kindness being the 2 branches of love and that all of the other traits discussed are parts of those branches. Today's reading is not the first time willingness has been brought up-it was a part of Day 2: Love is Kind. Today's lesson really focused on the disagreements between 2 people and that sometimes love has to be willing to bend to the wishes of the other person. The book mentions that we usually give excuses for not bending such as looking foolish, losing the fight, or losing which it responds "You've already looked foolish by being bullheaded and refusing to listen. You've already lost the fight by making this issue more important than your marriage and your spouse's sense of worth. You may have already love emotional control by saying things that go personal and hurt your mate". A humbling thought for sure...

And in terms of children I think it can sometimes be easy to get caught up in "what I say goes!" mentality. I know there are some days when I find myself completely refusing to budge on a subject that really isn't that  big of a deal, but I get caught up flexing my "I'm the boss" muscle and forget that all I'm really being is a stubborn, controlling person. Thankfully there are times when I have caught myself acting this way and was able to change the behavior immediately...sadly there were other times I "stuck to my guns" and realized later that it didn't have to be so difficult and that I was the one making it difficult. I am grateful to have been told on many occasions that I am not the other mother who has gone through these times. Today's challenge is to willingly give into one request/issue the other person has made. I think this is doable as parents...within healthy boundaries that ensure the child's safety of course. I know there are plenty of small things that I can learn to give Maddie more control and say in that will ultimately help her to be willing to listen to me on the occasions that I do need to be "the boss". Love and Logic would compare this to bank have to put in the money in order to get the money out. In other words...let the child make as many decisions that they can so long as the decisions wont negatively effect any one else. These decisions help to build up the bank account so that when the time comes that you simply cannot offer then the chance to choose you can "withdraw" from the bank without going into debt. So that will be my challenge moving build up my bank account but willingly letting Maddie win when I can so that when I need to be the decision maker she wont (hopefully) feel the need to fight about the decision I make.

5 Things I am Grateful for Today:
    1. Heritage won their first ever homecoming...and it was against Town East--YAY!
    2. Answered prayers
    3. God's peace and calmness when things are still uncertain
    4. Family
    5. Maddie...yes, shes family...but she makes me laugh daily and there is nothing better than seeing the world for the first time through your child's eyes as they try to make sense of everything that happens around them

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Love is Kind, Day 2

Today I started my journey through unconditional love with "love is patient". Patience is difficult, especially for me. But I can say this, after reading the description of patience last night it remained with me today. All day long I kept thinking "be slow to anger, what out for the urge to say something negative, be positive in speech, etc". Now, its only day 1, so its bound to be the easiest day--things are fresh and I felt a little convicted last night...but just remembering what I read and my challenge for today had an impact on today. It was calmer than usual. My usual need to rush out the door wasn't a problem..until tonight when I had procrastinated on all my MOPS stuff and was worried about being late. But even then, I didn't bark my order for shoes or to get buckled up like normal--it was more peaceful and included more of the "please and thank yous" that I insist Maddie learn to say. Overall this was a good first responses a little slower and calmer than normal, even when Maddie through a tantrum at Gymboree. I just hope I can keep it in mind in the coming days to remember to be slower to anger, kinder in my words, and to refrain from speaking negatively.

Day 1 = Complete....on to Day 2: Love is Kind

The Love Dare describes being Kind as having 4 attributes: Gentleness, Helpfulness, Willingness, and Initiative...all of which I think I could work on. Lets start with gentleness--being sensitive, and tender even in rebuking or challenging the other person. While I try never to be harsh when correcting bad behavior, I am not a perfect mom and have had times when I was not nice either. It is a good reminder that part of being kind is always being sensitive to the other person and how they are perceiving the things you are saying.

Second is Helpfulness. As parents we cant help but to offer help to our children, they are after all children and do not know how to do many of the these we have learned over time. However in my own way, I know that I am not always a helpful mom. I think being helpful doesn't always mean doing things for the other person, but sometimes means helping them to learn how to do it themselves. And the second part of being helpful is where I tend to fail. I am the type of person who HATES working in groups because I would rather just get all of the work done and have it be done the way I want it. Too often this carries over into my parenting as well: making a sandwich for Maddie when she asks to do it herself, picking up toys that she has already "cleaned up", etc. Most of this is because of my own desires...not wanting her to make a big mess with the peanut butter, feeling the need to have everything organized or I'm going to go insane, etc. Maybe rather than making sure everything is done MY way, I should be helping Maddie to learn to do things for herself and to be proud of her accomplishments.

Being kind is to be willing. "instead of being obstinate, reluctant, or stubborn, you cooperate, you stay flexible" The first 3 words are probably the way most people would describe me...or at least the stubborn part, lol. We joke in our family that I inherited stubbornness from both of my parents and that Maddie got it from me. It is sometimes difficult for me to be the spontaneous, flexible person I wish I was...and mostly for the same reasons I tend to want to do things myself--I want them done my way. This sometimes means that I am not willing to stop my "work" to play a game or swing (Maddie's favorite thing to do). Sometimes I'm just too lazy and don't want to get up off the couch because I want to watch "that show" or "rest a while". It is always a good wake up call that these subtle and selfish actions are not showing my daughter the true love I have for her and that I should be more willing to put aside my wishes in order to meet her needs--whether its a life supporting need (which I don't ignore now) or a need for attention and affection (swinging, playing games, coloring together, etc).

Last is Initiative--not sitting around waiting to be prompted or coerced before doing something. Gee--this is seeming to run along the lines of being willingness, but with one exception--you act on something BEFORE the other person asks. I pride myself on being described as being a "go-getter" in my work life. If I think of a project that needs to be done, I try to find a way to do it almost immediately. So why cant I do that at home too? Sometimes excuses like 'I used all my energy at work' come to mind, but really its that I haven't been willing to put my energy into my home life BEFORE I put it into my work life. Maybe setting my priorities straight will help my take a little initiative toward finding ways to be gentle, helpful, and willing at home.

The challenge for today: In addition to saying nothing negative--- do at least 1 unexpected gesture as an act of kindness. I'm not sure what that will be yet, but I'm hoping I can find the desire to do more than 1 act of kindness. I pray tomorrow I can remember to be slow to anger, say nothing negative, be gentle, be helpful, be willing, and show initiative toward doing something for Maddie that shows how much I love her.

5 Things I am Grateful for Today:
      1. a safe trip to San Antonio
      2. sharing Beauty and the Beast (my favorite princess story) with Maddie
      3. my MOPS group and their companionship
      4. sharing a devotional with my dad
      5. friends (young and older) who are wise and care a great deal about Maddie and I
                -- Thank You for the support and words of encouragement as I start this journey!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Love is Patient, Day 1

After 4 years of daily laughs, sleepless nights, countless diapers, and many "i love you"s I have come to realize that despite my great joy at being a mother, I do not always know HOW to love my daughter. There is NO doubt that I love her more than my own life, but I have not always known how to show her my endless love. I believe as mothers we are given the immediate love for our children that lets us know we would die for them. However, I also believe that just because we love our children that much does not always mean that we know how to share that love with them. So through this blog I am embarking on the adventure of learning to show my wonderful daughter all the love I have for her.

First, a little background: I am a recent graduate of a Master of Social Work program, I am a firm believer in Christ and that his death paid for my sins, I am a teenage mother who gave her son up for adoption 8 years ago, and I am a single mother of a bright and beautiful 4 year old. I have a great family who has supported my daughter and I all through my schooling (undergrad and graduate), both emotionally and financially. I have been blessed with friends who look past my faults and mistakes to support me both through my adoption and through my single parenthood. I am a proud supporter of the US Armed Forces, having a brother and many friends who have served this country. I am currently in the position (with family help) to support a couple of deployed soldiers, 1 which is a great friend and 1 I have never met. Most of all, I have been blessed to be the mother to Maddie, my sweet baby girl.

Maddie is smart (I know all parents say that but its true!)..we joke all the time that she is "too smart for OUR own good" because Maddie learns things that I didn't know anyone taught her--and sometimes we haven't really "taught" it, sometimes she just pays attention to learn new things and surprises us all later. Maddie is also very friendly and outgoing--much like I was at her age, or so I am told. She is beautiful and has the best laugh in the world--the kind that starts in the belly and just spreads uncontrollably. Even when I'm supposed to be mad, I find that I cannot keep from laughing if she starts giggling. She is also very sure of herself and what she does and doesn't like, which is a great gift to have at such a young age. Unfortunately this means we often butt heads because we're both so stubborn about what should be done and how.

So how does this lead me to today? As Maddie gets older and more verbal I am realizing that we are butting heads more and more. I want her to do something...she says "no"...typical for her age, but frustrating for me. And like most parents, I do not always parent perfectly. Nor do I always remain the "calm, cool, collected" parent I should be. So I got to thinking, what does it show to Maddie if I am not showing my love through my actions? And for that matter, how do you show the abundant love that you have for someone, even when you are frustrated and tired and at your wits end?

Well, being the Christian that I am, I decided to turn to the Bible and books written about love. And I found one that interested me, even though it didn't fit my situation at all. Some of you have heard of the Love Dare and may have even used it to save your marriage. (I you're thinking "has she lost it--the Love Dare--shes not married!?" but hear me out). I started thinking about the premise of the book, to teach you how to show unconditional love...and I have to wonder if the principles used in the book cant also be applied to showing your child that you love them unconditionally. Sure there are going to be some "tasks" that are not appropriate for the parent-child bond...thats why you have to take the underlying principle and think of a new task that would show the same thing. I guess its a challenge for see if I can learn something new about unconditional love and how to show it as much of the time as possible.

So here is where I am starting.......Love is Patient, Day 1. For those that know me, you probably would not describe me as "patient". I am usually pretty impatient and want to "get things rolling". Even in my parenting, I always feel rushed to get things done, get out the door, or clean up the room, name it and I want it done "now". But I know that this impatience has not gotten me where I want to be as a mother. It often leaves me unhappy and quick tempered instead of calm and able to manage life's many curve balls. The Love Dare says this about patience "when you choose to be patient, you respond in a positive way to a negative situation.  You are slow to anger. You choose to have a long fuse instead of a quick temper. Rather than being restless and demanding, love helps to settle you down and being extending mercy to those around you."

I know I could use a little more of the mercy and peace rather than restlessness, especially these days. You see, I'm still unemployed...searching, had 1 interview with the VA, but it could still be months before anything happens with that (supposing I even get that job). Right now, I am home full time, working a few hours here and there at Maddie's preschool just to have some income (even though a classroom full of little kids is like pulling teeth for me), and constantly worried about money. I know in my heart and head that God will take care of us, He always has provided for my needs. I know that my family will not kick us to the curb anytime soon, but I also know it takes a toll on them for us to live here full time without any income from me. With so much unrest already in our lives, I think I need to learn to be the calming force in Maddie's life. To provide a sense of peace when there is so much uncertainty. Practicing peace does not come naturally, but I am hoping to figure out how to practice daily--or at "least fake it til I make it".

The Love Dare also mentions that "It is often an emotional reaction that flows out of our own selfishness, foolishness, or evil motives". I am by no means a perfect person or mother and as a human I tend to have my moments of know, those nights when you just really want to watch XYZ show that happens to come on right at your child's you delay bedtime, only for your child to melt down and through a HUGE fit...and you know what happens next--you get upset and things usually get worse from there. I hope that through this journey I will learn how to be a little less selfish at times and a little more open to the calmness that being patient can bring to my home.

So Day 1--the dare is to "say nothing negative at all". For me, this means not having a short fuse, but rather open ears to listen to Maddie and the patience to help her rather than repeat a request multiple times. I know I cant do it alone, but I am hoping that with a little encouragement from God, I will be able to say nothing negative and to show a little more patience tomorrow as we go about our day.

In addition to my own personal Love Dare, I am working to improve my joy in the events of my starting today I am listing 5 things I am grateful for each day: 1 - Friends and Family, 2 - spending time with Maddie, 3- a poop-free day (you don't really want to know what this means, lol), 4 - finding new storage solutions, and 5 - being able to support deployed troops through care packages/letters even when I am facing financial difficulties.

With Love from the Smiths....the journey begins!