Thursday, June 28, 2012

embracing joy: in parenting?

So here's what I've been working on: joy. In parenting. Together now: joy in parenting.

I get grumpy. I get frustrated. I get tired. I get whiney and want to quit. And the funny part of this story is, I can't just quit. Almost four years of being a mom and I still have moments where I look around to see who's in charge of those kids. The last year or so has been nudging me to this choice: have fun with parenting or not. I play with my kids and love them and sing silly songs and put all the couch pillows on the floor so we can jump and roll around. But I also get really upset trying to decide which lines are drawn in pencil and which are drawn in pen. What happens when I smudge a line?

I get bound by what I've read or seen, scraps of advice or scenes played out. I think something should work with my kids and me and it doesn't. I overthink. I freak out about potty training. I compare my kids to others. I attach my mood to whether or not my kid is polite.

And all of that takes away my joy in this really tough role.

I want my joy back. I want to know that Claire and Grant are matched to Justin and me with a purpose: we're the best parents for them and they are the best kids for us, each of us pushing and encouraging and building each other in this life. Each of us adding to each other's joy in this life.

I want to look at Claire and Grant and see Claire and Grant. I want to learn them and take joy in being part of their lives. I want to teach them what is important but not devolve into demanding more than they are able. I want correction to be meaningful, not petty. I want the grace to be a mom whose kids know she loves them even when they get caught or mess up or fail. I also just want to have fun doing this. Parenting is a long day. But I get to laugh and snuggle and play chase or hide; I get to read books and paint and draw crocodiles; I get to bake cookies and shape playdoh and go for slow walks along the Gulf. So let me have great joy in this, let me see the adventure in raising two kids to grow in their strengths.

And when it seems more work than play, the afternoons when naptime is too short and tempers are too cranky, when dinner is refused, when bedtime drags out an hour? Even then, I hope I can give joy a quick side hug.

Monday, June 18, 2012

goodbye farewell so long see you later

A couple weeks ago I had a really bad day. Not one thing. One thing wrong makes for a lousy afternoon, maybe, or an hour of figuring out how to think about it in a better way, what comes next. But piling thing on thing on thing: that's a really bad day. My bad day finally whittled down to thirty minutes of crying about friends I've said goodbye to. This past year I've said goodbye to four good friends, five friends if you give me a year and a couple months. That's a short chunk of time to lose daily visits or play dates or family dinners with five great women.

That bad day was followed by two weeks of all the teachers leaving saying goodbye to all the teachers staying here. We said goodbye to some family friends and I know that next year when we get a group together for brunch or to barbecue, it'll be odd to not have the old faces show up at the table. I'll miss them. We've been fortunate to know some really great people here. But we remain fortunate in that too. That's what I've been thinking about the past couple weeks. I said goodbye to great great friends and miss them but I've looked around and seen whose staying and thought: so happy they're still here.

Last year at this time, I felt a glimmer of that too. I'd just said goodbye to friends heading for Canada and was crying. I stopped by another apartment and just bawled, "I'm so glad you're not leaving!" So that's what it's like this year. Sad at the goodbyes but so happy that not everyone has packed their bags and left Kuwait.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

whose approval?

I've written before about being a secret Christian, being okay if you know I am, but not going out of my way to say: hey, I read the Bible and I pray and let me tell you about love and grace and forgiveness and salvation and seeking and finding. For a long time, I didn't want to talk about it. Partly because of the kind of labeled Christians who make the news for shooting abortion doctors. But mostly, I didn't want to talk about it because while I find joy and peace in my faith, it can be a struggle learning to grow in love and truth.

So there are messy parts of drawing near to God. I cannot come near to God and say I want to follow the example of Christ and love my neighbor while still clutching anger and jealousy. And letting go of those things - selfishness, bitterness, envy - letting go is not a single prayer. Letting go is many prayers and much practice.

Yesterday I read a verse. I read a few verses, but this is the one that jumped:

For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10, ESV

I reread it a couple of times. At different points in my life, I have desperately wanted the approval of my parents or siblings or friends or in-laws or extended family or colleagues or peers or neighbors. The game of it is, you either get that stamp of approval or you don't. And if you get one stamp of approval, you're after a second and a third: you want that smile or nod or letter in the file or call back, whatever currency your approval is traded in. So at different periods in my life or surrounding certain relationships, I've been an absolute mess in my head of wanting you to like me. And when you still didn't like me, I added enough loathing to the mess in my head until I got sick of it all and said: forget it. Done. Done. Done.

Reread that line about letting go being many prayers and much practice. Quitting the approval game is tough. Perhaps tougher since I didn't see all the ways I played it until more recently. It's been a fun three years. I get a little smug sometimes, thinking I've really got it this time, I'm not so frail now. Oh, humility, come to me.

So how do I know if I am seeking the approval of God? How do I know if I am a servant of Christ? I've spent a lot of time thinking about intent. Are my motives right? Even when my intent is good, my words or actions are not always eloquent or recieved well. Am I okay with that? So it circles back to whose approval I chase.