For My Sons: Before You Say “I Do”

I remember a sweet moment with my #2 earlier this year. I was tucking him in one night, readying myself for the barrage of “Mom, I have one more thing to say…” that inevitably forces me to give him a few more seconds. As I leaned in for one more hug in a vain attempt to preempt all his requests, I saw his little face scrunch up as a tear escaped each eyelid. I could tell it wasn’t that fussy “I don’t want to go to sleep!” complaint; it was a softer, breathy sob I heard. He’s a “bottler” like me, like his granddad too. He comes by it honestly, at least. There’s no telling how long he’d been chewing on whatever was bothering him; there’s no telling what had happened throughout the week to trigger such big feelings in his little five-year-old mind. “Oh, buddy. What’s wrong?” I asked.

Then it all came rushing out in one exaggerated breath: “I don’t want to grow up and be too big to sit in your lap and read by myself and get married and have to move to a new house. I need to stay with you always.”

“Oh, me too buddy, me too. I want to stay with you always!”

IMG_2019Feeling amused, even as I said it, I felt it for the lie that it was. I want to stay a part of his life always, yes, but I know I will not stay with him always. That is not what I am called to do. I’m supposed to raise him up and then send him on out. And that is why I take my job so seriously: I haven’t got much time to ready either of us for that huge step. What is it they always say to us weary-eyed moms of littles? The days are long, but the years are short.

Sons, you are so young now— 8, 6, and 2 years-old… but just in case I don’t squeeze it all in or life gets messy as it sometimes does or you just need proof on how long I’ve been praying for the men you will become: Sons, here’s what I want you know before you say “I do”…

1. Don’t let this go to your head, but your position as head of the family has power. Great power. A lot of men foolishly underestimate how delicate this impact is on the family, and sadly many families suffer because of it. We hope you’ll choose to be the head of the family from the Biblical perspective. Be the shepherd of your family, serve as the spiritual leader, set the precedent. Your actions, reactions, attitudes, and spiritual leadership will set the tone for everyone else. Even your intelligent, beautiful, intuitive, strong-minded wife will need you to fulfill this role. Love her as Christ loved the church. Treat her like she is a treasure. Be happy making each other happy. Be the boss at work, but a servant-leader when you come home at night. Come home every night you can. That beautiful lady who shares your bed and those little people who call you ‘Dad” need daily reminders that you value them.

I look at your daddy, and over time I’ve matured to realize how our Biblical roles as husband and wife are purposefully distinct. I have been designed to carry out certain facets of family life (I’m good with the little ones and don’t tell your father, but I MIGHT be better at assembling things that require tools. Not necessarily a weakness of his, just a strength of mine). Your good ole’ dad was created for a different role (say, being the “bread winner” and introducing you boys to superhero movies that are rated PG-13 when you’re barely in elementary school. See? We all have our roles). And while we thank God every day for His willingness to stand in the gaps when we feel our efforts are not enough, we see how beautifully intricate our places are designed to be and how a family lives in harmony when we live up to our God-given responsibilities.

2. We want grandkids! Now, sons, you know we’ll love you always and we’ll stand behind you well into adulthood. But hear me clearly: please, please, please, please, please, PUH-LEASE a thousand times over make sure there is a Mrs. before there is a Junior. Do. You. Hear. Me?

Whichever of you chooses to be a family man, value your role as another human’s father. When your kids are young, you’ll beg for more sleep, more quiet time, more energy. As they grow older, you’ll beg for more time, more wisdom, more influence. 

When they’re little, be patient in the day-to-day. It is inevitable that they will spill their drink at the dinner table every night for two consecutive years. They will whine or cry when they are tired or hungry. They will grumble when they don’t get what they want. It is okay. You did it too. Train your children to pick up after themselves and how to do it. Show them how to read other people and the value in meeting others’ needs. Teach them everything you’re good at; find someone else to teach them the things you can’t. Their well-being is more important than your own pride. Pray with them starting at an early age, and speak often about what God is doing in your own life. Build that relationship with them early.

Sometimes you’ll need to be a listening ear instead of a punitive voice. Sometimes you’ll fare better striking the fear of God in them. Approach every experience with a mindful heart; you’ll be able to trust your instinct to know when to meet them with a hug or a belt. And use the belt, sons. Never punish in anger, but do take the time to learn the appropriateness of a well-timed spanking.

Allow yourself to be the Fun Parent sometimes. Be the parent who says “yes” to activities that may be messy or inconvenient now but that will forge relationships and memories for later on. You’ll learn that you bond more easily with some of your children than others. That’s okay too; it’s natural. We all enjoy different things and find we have different things in common. That weird sci-fi novel your daughter is reading? Read the synopsis on Sparknotes, fake a conversation, and then take her to see the movie. At least you’ve made an intentional effort to spend quality time with her. Do that for each child, even if it’s just grabbing one to take with you to have the oil changed in your wife’s car (which I, as your mother, expect you to do for her. Not that she can’t, but because you can. Chivalry is not dead, sons).

3. Sons, your wife and your families will need you. Not to be perfect, not to earn a six-figure salary necessarily (Although that would be a good goal, wouldn’t it? The least you could do for your father and I is to eventually put us up in a nice old folks home). Your wife and your children don’t need you to hold a certain corporate title to be proud of you. They need someone who will provide for them, take care of them, guide them, set a positive tone at home, and be there. Always be there. Being the shepherd of your flock and the “yes” parent to your children is a choice. Look at the footsteps of the fathers in our families who have come before you. As you choose to place your shoe into the imprint of their step and say “I do,” you have many a resource available to you. Learn from them, let them encourage you, and see them for the great men that they are. Strive to be like them.

Love always,
Mom

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How to Be a Proud Parent to Your Child on Awards Day When He Doesn’t Win Any Awards

This is the time of year I ritually refer to as my Best Parenting Month. Note sarcasm. (I stole this idea from Jen Hatmaker. If you haven’t read her post, Worst End of School Year Mom Ever, you have missed out on a fundamental lesson in parenting. Even worse, you missed several key LOL moments and the chance to celebrate yourself for your parenting shortcomings that inevitably sneak out around the end of your child’s school year every year. Click here. NOW. MUST READ. Who wants to pass on an opportunity like that?)

Because… it’s May, and you are hanging on by your hot-pink, cannot wait a single second longer for summer, fingernails. May is a loaded month for parents of students– class parties, field trips, parent forms, permission slips, teacher requests and class orientations for next year, banquets, Muffins with Mom and Donuts with Dad, and a trillion other things I have blocked from my frontal lobe in a vain attempt to keep my sanity in tact and my hot-pink fingernails untarnished. We parents of school aged children all know, with the end of the school year comes the annual Awards Day Ceremonies courtesy of your local elementary or middle school campus. You know the drill: teachers award students for their outstanding achievements throughout the year.

first place ribbon

Certificate for Perfect Attendance!
(This kid has either been blessed with Super Parents or a bionic immune system. Or he’s in very bad need of scheduling eye, teeth, and well-check appointments. Either way, he deserves a nod.)

Most AR Points Earned!
(Oh, you are not familiar with “AR”? Well, you do not live in Texas. Foreigners just won’t understand.)

Mr./Ms. _____________________ [insert school mascot here, an especially adorable title for the kindergarten set.]
(A piercing bright light will momentarily blind you as this child takes the stage. No worries, it’s just her recently shined halo. You get used to it eventually. Before the ceremony began, her parents were escorted by a tuxedo-clad usher to their reserved seats down front and center. You only know this through heresay, of course. You snuck in the back to occupy space in the standing room only section– otherwise known as The Latecomer’s Section– about ten minutes after the ceremony began. Needless to say, your child won’t be winning this award any time soon. One of the prerequisites for this award is for students to be the offspring of the kind of parents who are completely alien to the standing room only section of the auditorium. Your kid was beat before he ever began, really. But, I’m sure he’s good at other things.)

If your school is like ours, then technically no elementary child will walk away without any awards. This is when the teachers really shine! Their creativity and ambiguous use of diction help to make every child feel special.

Oh look! You got the award for Best Smile!

And here’s one for you: Best Paper Passer-Outer

Then: Strategically Completed the Analysis of Strategies certificate

Next up, Returned All My Library Books Award!

And lastly, don’t forget: Asks the Most Questions certificate

Now, my kids are still fairly young. I haven’t been to a ton of these things yet, but I’ve got to say the whole thing makes me feel uneasy. Because my mind is a carousel that never runs out of tokens, naturally I’ve spent way too much time analyzing this. But I think I’ve got it now. When I attend the end of the school year awards ceremony (or occasionally take my place in the standing room only section, don’t judge), I sometimes have to repress this very primal, competitive feeling that threatens to creep out at some unsuspecting moment. I wouldn’t say I feel jealous of other parents whose children seem to win every award. I don’t wish the halo-adorned student were my own child to take home after the ceremonies. I mean, come on. I’ve got to get home to cook dinner anyway. I’d have to skip the subsequent parade in her honor. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

So, why do I get all antsy inside at these things sometimes?

Because I desperately want it to be my child’s turn to feel special at some point. 

None of my children needs to be the best at everything to satisfy me. I want them to reach their potential, for sure, but none needs to be the smartest, run the fastest, learn to read first, or waste time shining their halos to make me proud to be their mama.

Regardless of which awards they’ll win this year, which will be long forgotten in a few short years anyway, I am proud of them for a hundred things Awards Day may never notice. My shy, introverted kindergartener finally opened up to his teacher enough to read aloud to her around mid-December. He even promoted to reading aloud to a first grade group in his G/T meetings! My people-pleasing third grader has become more adept at making his own decisions and making his opinion known to his friends, something we only dreamed of in the past. And the list continues just like it does for your own child… making friends with the special needs student in the classroom, learning to tie shoelaces, writing names independently, completing the first solo flight on a chapter book, standing up to a bully in the hallway, completing every homework assignment on time, keeping up with a student planner for the first time, passing the ever-lovin’ STAAR test, and for the littles, just learning how to sit down in a chair and to keep quiet and walk in a straight line in the hallway. (You have not seen A.DOR.A.BLE until you’ve watched a whole line of tiny 5 year-olds with their duck tails and bubbles move down the hall!)

Remember, parents, that this one ceremony does not add to or take away from the total value of our children. More importantly, it doesn’t add to or take away from your total value as a parent.

My children are good kids, just like yours. I know their hard work over the course of the year will be recognized. I also know they are SO MUCH MORE than the colored card-stock they’re sent home with on Awards Day. Maybe my sons’ arms will be overloaded with certificates this year; maybe they’ll rush to me with a wide smile plastered to their little faces as they proudly show me their “Line Leading LIKE A BOSS” awards. I’ll be no less proud.

I’m their mama. It is my duty, and my pleasure, to be proud of them. I need them to know that I will always feel this way, regardless of how the world validates them.

This. Funny. The kind of mama I want to be.

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On Little Boys and ADD/ADHD: A candid look on a tired debate

I didn’t want to do it. My husband didn’t want me to do it. Some of our extended family still question it. Even our pediatrician let out an audible sigh when he admitted it was time.

It was time to start my eight-year-old, a third grader, on ADHD meds.

As I looked around the compact examining room, I eyed the juvenile artwork hanging above the examining table. I felt exactly like those multi-colored scribbles, the jagged, unsteady lines cross-crossing haphazardly over the print. It was beautiful in a way; it was equally chaotic.

Our pediatrician and I discussed different drugs that would meet our goals, the appropriate dosages to try first, the side effects to watch for. Though he proved patient and kind and sat with me in that little room for nearly an hour answering every question and devil’s advocate scenario I presented, I still felt oddly alone. The weight of the situation bared down as I realized no one could else could help me here. I couldn’t delegate; no one was coming to stand in and tell me what to do. I also felt that it would be inappropriate to poll our friends and family for their opinions. It’s just too touchy of a debate, and no one outside of our immediate family of five adequately understands the nuances of our family dynamic anyway.  Only I was equipped to make the call.

So, on a Friday morning shortly before Christmas, my first-born (in his shorts and t-shirt– this is Texas in December after all) and I headed down to the parking garage with a plan in hand. I felt excited, anxious, defensive, and a million other responses I couldn’t quite articulate.

I don’t regret the decision yet. Not as a parent, not as a fellow teacher, even though my mind and heart aren’t in complete harmony, even now. Part of me wants to buck up, start a grass-roots campaign calling attention to western education and the shove towards standardized testing and standardized education. This movement transforms students like my son away from their natural, eight-year-old boy tendencies into statues who are able to sit and robotically perform practice exercises for prolonged periods of time. The old adage “Boys will be boys” comes to mind. Maybe my son isn’t really ADHD; maybe he’s just a little boy exercising his God-given tendencies. (Note: I, in no way, accuse our current children’s teachers of failing to meet our students’ needs. We are SO BLESSED to have educators who defy the odds, make learning fun, and differentiate instruction to meet each individual students’ needs. Still, their efforts to achieve all of this most often require their superhero capes and a lot of prayer because of the current trends in our educational system. And as amazing as our teachers are, they’re still forced to work within the confines of such a system.)

The other part of me, the voice of reason that won over in the end, realizes my personal opinion on the state of our educational system’s affairs won’t help my son be successful in his classroom. I am a public school educator myself. Naturally, my own children will most likely complete their grade school education in a public school setting. Regardless of how I feel personally, my son needs to be able to function in a public school setting. He is one among many in his class. When his teacher needs him to sit still and remain quiet so she can direct teach or so other students can themselves concentrate, then he’ll need the medicinal help to make that happen.

He isn’t a boy who is merely misbehaving. He isn’t in need of a nice stern spanking; my husband and I are in agreeance of using well-timed, appropriately handled swats on the behind. His teacher isn’t failing to challenge him. He is eager to learn and eager to please, and I am willing to get him the help he needs to reach his “little-boy-in-a-public-school” potential.

Even if that means introducing a long-term drug into the family. It’s not what we expected when we cradled our sweet, shockingly observant newborn in our arms that first day of parenthood. But it’s become our new norm. That is the sign we’re making it as parents– our ability to adjust and accept life’s curveballs and create whatever new norm is best for our children.

We hit the curveball this time, and our son is better for it.

A typical entry in my third grader's school agenda.

A typical entry in my third grader’s school agenda.

Note the change in handwriting-- after only two weeks on meds.

Note the change in handwriting– noticeable immediately after starting meds.

Dear Little One,

I look at your empty crib. I love looking at that thing. I found the perfect pink chevron-patterned crib sheet that compliments a matching grey one in your brother’s crib, just feet away. I have no idea how this room will come together, but I am determined to create a space that both unites the room for you and your brother and allows a little boy to feel boy-ish and a little girl to feel girly. First world problems, dear.

I wonder about you. Often. When you finally join our family, how old will you be? What color will your hair be? How long before you accept us– all of us, the good, the bad, and the ugly? Will you get married one day? How in the world will the man I’ve been with for so long react when he has to walk you down that aisle and trust that the man before him will care for you and cherish you like we have? Like God does.

What will you be when you grow up? How will you find purpose and fulfillment? One thing I know is that no matter how big your dreams are, God has big dreams for you too. My greatest hope for you, darling, is that one day you’ll know God like I do. And then you’ll begin to understand. He loves you so much. He has called you by name. And the dreams He has for you will completely blow your mind. They are more than you could ask for, or imagine, or even imagine to ask for because it will be for His glory.

Daughter, don’t doubt yourself. Fear and insecurity are a trap, and they can be paralyzing if you take your eyes off of the cross. I ask often for what I’ve come to call “tunnel vision to the cross.” I pray the same over you. For whatever big dream God wishes he could make in your life, He’ll prepare you. Don’t bother feeling overwhelmed or daunted by the task; He has equipped you to live out your dream. You are exactly who He needs, with the talents you have and the heart that leads you.

You are enough.

You are worthy.

He looks at you and proclaims, “You are mine.”

And that, sweetheart, will be the most profound truth you will ever learn.

 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen!”
Ephesians 3:20-21

 

 

Just in case I’m not the only one who struggles with leaving my family to tend to my job

Y’all, summer is officially over!

And I wasn’t ready to say good-bye!

We teachers are going back to work, busily preparing to meet all of our new favorite students, and wrapping up our last family hoorahs until next summer.

Every year, I have a really (and I mean REALLY) hard time saying goodbye to my time with my family. As much as I love teaching, my first profession of choice would be stay-at-home mom. I don’t know why I’m surprised every year when this time rolls around, and I panic inside at the thought of giving up this SAHM stint for another school year. So what if the thought of reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar one more time to my toddler leads to a strong bout of nausea? So what if my older boys’ incessant bickering make me censor a stream of expletives creeping to the tip of my tongue? So what if after two months of summer practice, my husband still doesn’t understand that his role during dinner-making hour is to entertain the kids and keep them out of the blessed kitchen? These are my people. And I love to take care of them! True to my nature, I’m presently in the woes of leaving behind my favorite profession and switching roles to the one that pays the bills. Luckily, I enjoy my teaching career and want to be successful at it, but still…

This week, I’ve allowed my grief to become bigger than it should. As a result, I felt more stressed out and less excited than I should be.

Prayerfully, my attitude is starting to look up. I’ve been blessed this school year already, and I want to keep my focus on the Big Picture. I’m re-posting part of one of my previous blogs, mostly because I need time to study it again… Life is 10% what happens to us, 90% how we react to it. I don’t need to let things boil to the point they have this week because the God I serve defies human timelines. He does not freak out and overreact in different situations. He is constant. He cares about me. And it will all be OKAY.

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[from The 90/10 Rule]

They say life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.

You know what I love about scripture? It’s that when I become aware of my shortcomings, I can always find someone in the Bible who’s already been there, done that. The precedent has already been set. Thank goodness for me, my only personal downfalls that appear in print are the ones I’ve chosen to post myself! Ever read parts of the Bible and thought, “Oh man! How embarrassing!” At the least, my blunders aren’t in print for, like, eternity in, like, the best-selling book of all time.

Think about Jesus’ good friends Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. Jesus learns that his buddy Lazarus is seriously ill, and his reaction to his friend’s imminent death is one that has been studied by scholars and theologians ever since. Instead of rushing to Lazarus’ side in Bethany to heal him with divine authority (which he can totally do!), Jesus hangs out where he is for two more days before beginning the journey (which is totally unpredictable! No way Mary and Martha see that one coming).

*** This story is found in John 11, and on a side note this is one of my favorite chapters of all scripture. It’s basically oozing with divine sarcasm. It’s hilarious!***

Naturally, when he finally arrives, Jesus is greeted by the two frustrated sisters who expected him to come quickly and save their brother before he kicked the can. “Lord,” Martha says. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). To which Jesus firmly reminds her (I like to picture him rolling his eyes): “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11: 40).

And though Lazarus has been dead in the tomb for four days, Jesus calls to him to come out. And out walks a living, breathing Lazarus, still wrapped in his grave cloths.

When Mary and Martha sent for Jesus, they were stuck focusing on the situation directly in front of them. Their brother was dying! They could easily justify the urgency to reach Jesus. Nonetheless, they made the mistake of acting situationally. Mary’s and Martha’s actions were driven by their response to what was happening in that one moment. They didn’t yet understand the big picture the Lord was trying to teach them, that in Christ death does not ultimately consume us. As Rick Warren wrote, “Jesus waited until the situation was humanly impossible and then He brought the miracle.”

I don’t want to forget that God sees the Big Picture. Time isn’t really a thing with God. My dear mother-in-law has reminded me on occasion that He doesn’t follow a linear timeline. He is the God who Is, and Was, and Is To Come.  He’s in the past, holding up our present, and controlling the future all at once. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).

Thank goodness God isn’t situational! He is constant and consistent. He never just sees us where we are. He sees how He made us and where we’re headed. We don’t have to be caught up in our present, creating unnecessary stress for ourselves. No matter how busy or jumbled or messed up we feel like we’ve made things, our God still sees the Big Picture for us.

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School is starting soon. I’m going to miss my time with my “babies.” But God knows what He’s doing. He’s brought me to this place, to this profession, with these students and colleagues, with purpose in mind. I’m going to choose to trust His Big Picture. He’ll tend to my heart, leaving me to tend to His work in such a time as this.

I love you. Does it matter that we’ve never met?

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There is this little girl who has stolen my heart. Absolutely stolen it. My friends and family find this shocking, and most of them have stared at me, speechless, more than once in the last few months. I’m a proud member of the BOY MOM sorority. All three times I was ready to have a baby… a BOY baby… I overtly declared, “I don’t do girl.”

And that’s just it. I really don’t do girl. I have never been very good at being a girl myself. What hope do I have in raising one?

But here I am.

I am going to be a mom to a daughter. A DAUGHTER y’all! And this transformation that I’m (still) going through is about the most exciting thing I’ve ever experienced!

This little girl won’t biologically be mine, but I dare you to look into the eyes of any adoptive parent and try to convince them their non-biological child is any less a part of them than bio babies. She’ll be one of us, though I doubt we’ll name her “Elsa” like my middle son is requesting. And sorry son, but no, she won’t likely have white hair. (When I’m not busy with the task of being Boy Mom, I’m a card-carrying member of the parental union called If-I-Hear-One-More-Number-from-the-Frozen-Soundtrack-I’m-Going-Postal.)

So, how do I explain that we have not actually been placed with a little girl yet? But I still feel like I absolutely LOVE her, like deep down in the recesses of my heart kind of love, y’all.

I simply cannot articulate what this is like: I’ve fallen in love with a little girl I’ve never met. Who may not even exist yet. But this much I do know, God has directed us to be her parents.

And what a wild and exciting ride that has been!

I have a very distinct memory that I’ve replayed in my mind over the years. I must have been about 12-years-old or so. I remember I was standing in my parent’s kitchen, alone. I had placed my hands up on the adjacent counters and was pushing myself into the air, swinging my legs underneath me. And I told myself, “There are a lot of kids out there who don’t have families. I can give them that. I can be their mom. One day, I’m going to adopt.” I have no recollection of what sparked that thought in the first place, but it is one that has stuck with me for over 20 years now. It is so…neat… I can’t think of a better word…just neat!… to see God bring to fruition something he stirred in me when I was just a little girl. Within the last two years, God jump-started that feeling to become something tangible as He led us to begin the process of getting certified to foster/adopt a child.

So, I’ve known all along that adoption was, at the least, somewhere on my own radar, but I knew the true test would be in bringing my husband alongside me to make the journey happen. Over the last couple of years, as I felt the pull tighter and tighter on my heart that this would really be happening, my prayer became, “Lord, you know we’ll be obedient. And you know my heart because you shaped it. But if this is really something you’re ready to launch, please prepare B’s heart. When he’s ready, I’ll know your timing is sufficient.”

Sure enough, earlier this year our church announced a partnership with a local foster/adoption organization at the close of the service one Sunday. I can’t speak all that accurately on the change that must have taken place in my husband that morning, but on the drive to eat after church, he spoke the words I’d been hoping for (but had no idea if or when they’d actually come): “So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.”

Never have such ambiguous words reached so deep in my heart!

That’s when I knew.

Well, after a few blank stares and totally unhelpful hints from B like “You know, what they said at church.” Well, our preacher speaks for a solid hour each week; a lot was said.

God planted a seed ridiculously long ago. He has since prepared B’s heart and has begun preparing our family of 5 to become a family of 6. We have a long, long journey ahead of us, but we’re so stinkin’ excited! We are thankful to be taking this journey, because more than anything else, it is a spiritual one. God is proving faithful, and it’s neat, just neat y’all, to see the pieces of a 20 year puzzle start to fit together. We’re reminded that God already saw this coming long before we did. Therefore, we don’t have to worry about a whole lot. The details that have the potential to feel overwhelming and complicated are not ones that we need to try to take control over. After all, God set this whole thing up. He’ll take care of it.

We understand adoption isn’t for everyone. And we feel so amused at the pitying or questioning looks we get when we tell people that we are, in fact, adding a little girl to the rowdy, active mix of boys, undoubtedly play-fighting like superheroes under our feet as I try to explain our situation. In the end, I love re-telling our story but I will never feel like I have to explain ourselves to defend our decision. God gave us a directive. He was pretty creative in how He chose to call us, but it’s a call nonetheless. And more than this journey, more than anything else, we want to be obedient to His calls. We don’t have the answers now, but we do know that our daughter is waiting on us. And we already pray that she’ll one day love the God who brought her to us as much as we do.

A (Not-so) Anonymous Letter: to the General Population not raising little boys

Dear General Population without kids, or without the specific experience of raising little boys, or who have never seen little boys, or who can’t spell “little boys,” or basically everyone who doesn’t live in my house:

I am the least qualified person to bring up this issue. I am not important. Most days, I’m a hot mess. Really– I can only articulate the perfect zinger a day after an argument has taken place; I cannot give up on the show Grey’s Anatomy though it has obviously run way past its course; my life is messy. The only thing I’ve got going for me is the fact that I am currently right in the eye of the parenting storm, raising three little boys. I am writing to you an Un-apology letter.

I do not apologize for the inconvenience of my little boys. They catch your attention in restaurants, at church, at the grocery store, in the library. Thank goodness, I have perfected the “I’m doing the best I can. Lord, help us all” face. It elicits immediate sympathy, if not out-right pity, from most passerby.

Because only little boys learn how to be grown-up by pretending to do yard work. In full battle gear.

Because only little boys learn how to be grown-up by pretending to do yard work. In full battle gear.

And believe me when I say I understand the inconvenience of little boys! Somewhere around the 18-month mark, they begin to smell funny when they’ve spent 30 or more seconds outside. And they’re loud. The ones in my house came fully equipped with sound effects. For ev.ry.thing! I did not teach them this annoying trick; it was pre-programmed somehow. I also admit they are gross. The ones who are old enough to stand when they go to the bathroom get distracted 4 seconds into urinating, and create a pretty cool pattern of tee-tee across the back of the potty, along 2 walls, on the floor mat for the bathtub, and most often on the floor in front of the potty. Anywhere but in the potty.

And I realize how we must look letting our little ones play with weapons. Funny thing is, I was VERY adamant about keeping fighting or violent play out of our home when my first-born was young. And for almost two years, I succeeded. We refused any toy guns or swords or knives or anything that could remotely promote violent play. And then one day, you know what that little 19 month-old did? He pointed his chubby little finger at me anyway and said “boom!”

So much for morals.

Or at the very least, any hope of avoiding the inevitable good guy/bad guy/superhero phase.

And I know little boys are a tornado of action. Little boy= constant movement. Another phenomenon I cannot explain, even to other parents who are raising sweet little girls. Yes, our children may be the same age; yes, they are being raised in homes with similar values; yes, they are similarly intelligent. No, my son won’t sit quietly and read to himself like your daughter may. He’ll sit by himself. He’ll read a book. He mostly likely won’t be quiet or still for very long.

Yes, I know this irritates you because you are sitting in the booth behind us at Chili’s. Our table is a little louder, frenzied with more action, and is a whole lot more creative when it comes to techniques meant to teach patience to little boys who are stinky, loud, gross, and constantly moving.

But we are teaching.

And they are learning.

And I am not sorry if this process is inconvenient to you. Cam

Because one day, these little boys are going to be men. They’ll probably be dads and granddads. And I’ve only got a short amount of time to pour into them everything I can think of to lead them to be godly, honorable, life-loving, family-loving men.

I look at each of my boys. They’re so different! The 7 year-old blonde who loves sports, his chess team, and talking the ears off a total stranger. The 4 year-old brunette, who loves to make us laugh, is the first to try any physical stunt, and as the extreme introvert has few friends but holds the ones he chooses in high esteem.  And then there’s the baby of the family. The red-head who has proven to be the epitome of laid-back. Even his birth was a breeze! He was almost born in literally one push.

They all fill the stereotype of little boy, though we parent them each according to their own personalities. But I’ve got one job in mind these days, and to say I take it seriously is a gross understatement.

My husband and I are prayerfully raising three boys who will one day love the Lord as much as we do. We expect them to be ready and willing to be the godly leaders of their homes, to shower their wives with love, affection, and praise, to be men who work hard when others won’t, to be men who are respected by others, and to be active and loving patriarchs for their own grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

You see little boys more inclined to roll on the floor and wrestle than wait patiently in line. You hear the incessant ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch      sh-sh-sh-sh-sh of the pretend fighter jet that suspiciously never seems to be running low on fuel.wrestling

I see a family man in 20 years, whose first inclination when he comes home from a long day of work is to roll around on the floor with his own little boys and teach them that wrestling (within reason) is an acceptable way to show physical affection. I hear a grown man who is crazy good at making sound effects and character voices come alive as he reads a bedtime story to his grandsons.

We’re teaching with the end in mind. We’re not there yet, but every day counts.

Raising little boys is guaranteed to be loud, stinky, and disgusting at times. And that is an extreme inconvenience to everyone not directly involved.

But it’s only for a short while.

One day, you’re going to be proud of the men they’ve become.

Sincerely,

A Mother of three inconvenient, but on-the-right-track, little boys