I’ve been at this parenting gig for awhile now. Not long enough to call myself an expert, but definitely long enough to feel like I’ve got a handle on a few things. Of course, I’ve got a teenager now, and a tween right behind him, so on any given day I pretty much feel like I’m winging it in some way or another.
Besides that, however, I’m pretty sure I’m nailing this motherhood thing. AS IF IT’S HARD!
Every once in awhile, though, I’m thrown for a loop, and it’s usually by something fairly benign. Sometimes the old lessons that I feel like I should have mastered come back to bite me in the backside, and I find myself back at square one, looking at all these small people and wondering why there are so many of them and what on this side of heaven could they possibly want from me?!
My 11-year-old is currently obsessed with making slime – making homemade slime in one of my tupperware dishes. And what does one do with homemade slime, you might ask?
Well, I asked the same question and I got “the look”. You know…the look that kids throw your way that make it ten shades of obvious you are completely clueless to anything really important in life. It’s the look that says you should probably just go ahead and give up, because clearly you are failing at life.
“You play with it, Mom,” she answered, and I felt like I needed to apologize for even asking the question. “It’s very satisfying.”
Then she had me stick my hands in the slime and squish it around, and…okay yes, the way it rolled through my fingers was kind of satisfying.
Then she took her tub of slime to her room, and I stared at the aftermath and felt my blood begin to boil ever so slightly, because making slime is a messy endeavor. It involves Borax and shaving cream and glue, and then you throw in food coloring, because obviously. And you top it off with glitter because everyone knows that the world spins on an axis of glitter.
The agreement we’d struck in this whole “slime making” ordeal was that she had to clean up after herself, and she did that as well as any 11-year-old would, which means there were faint streaks of shaving cream spanning the width of the table, half dried drips of glue running down the sides of the chair, and Borax crystals crunching beneath my feet.
But the piece de resistance was the glitter that now permanently resides in the cracks of my table. My brand new table. The table that Lee and I spent actual dollars on for the first time in our adult lives. Every table before this one was a hand me down. The last table was in such bad condition that it became a hazard to anyone who attempted to sit at it.
But this new table is a gem, and now it sparkles. Hot pink sparkles, to be exact.
My initial reaction was indignation. I mean, how dare she?! Why couldn’t she be more careful? WHY DID SHE NEED TO MAKE SLIME IN THE FIRST PLACE?!
So many questions, none of them with decent answers, and as I set to trying to remove as much of the glitter as I could the two year old came tearing by me, belly laughing at the top of her lungs while her brother chased close behind.
“Hi Mommy!” she yelled as she ran past, and then she crashed into the end table where someone had left a cup of lemonade, which immediately spilled and scattered across the floor I had mopped just moments earlier.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to erase all the glitter, and silence all the noise, and dump slime over all the heads, then drink wine and eat ice cream and wallow in my own self pity.
I opened my mouth to let out a sigh of frustration, but then I caught her eyes. They were big and wide, and full of toddler remorse, and it stopped me in my tracks.
I felt suddenly so foolish because hadn’t I already learned this lesson 100 times over? Don’t I know that these children don’t keep – that they grow and suddenly they’re not into slime, but boys and makeup and trendy clothes?
I knelt down in front of her and gave her a big hug, squishing her soft cheek against mine because it sinks in and feels so sweet. She threw her arms around my neck and squeezed hard, then kissed me straight on the mouth.
“I wuv you!” she yelled, then off she ran again while I pulled out a rag to mop up the lemonade that was sure to make our feet stick for days.
[Tweet “And now I’m sitting at my table alone, remembering once more that babies don’t keep.”]
And now I’m sitting at my table alone. The kids are all in bed, and I’m here typing out the story of a day when I had to relearn the lesson that babies don’t keep, and that spilled lemonade isn’t worth losing my cool.
And while I write, the table sparkles in the glowing lights, flecks of pink glitter lighting up the cracks right in front of my eyes.
We are now one month into Donald Trump’s presidency, and it has been a heckuva ride so far, hasn’t it? The world is alive with noise right now, everyone jockeying to make their opinions known, fighting to prove their “rightness” and everyone else’s “wrongness.”
And along for the ride, bouncing in the wake of this political madness, are our children. Young and old, they’re watching and listening, and make no mistake, they are trying to figure out their place in this crazy world.
I’ve seen a number of disturbing posts and articles from parents lamenting their fear at raising children under a Donald Trump presidency. While I can certainly empathize with these sentiments, the truth is they baffle me.
Parents, why are we afraid? Now is not the time for fear, but for action, and what better way to exact change in this world than by raising strong, confident children who care well for the needs of others?
Here are 3 Keys to Raising Confident Kids in a Contentious World
1.) Have Age Appropriate Conversations About Politics
My seventh grader is currently learning about Individual and Civil Rights in his Civics class at school.
“I have the right to say whatever I want!” he boldly proclaimed at the dinner table the other night. “It’s my freedom of speech. I can say anything because it’s my natural, individual right.”
Ah, seventh grade is fun, isn’t it? Sometimes I have to remind myself of how cute he was as a toddler so I don’t throttle him now as a teenager.
“Yes,” I responded, my voice sugary sweet. “You do have the right to say what you want. And I have the right to take your phone away if I deem your speech hurtful or inappropriate.”
I had to bite my lip to keep from ending my comeback with a good old fashioned, “BOOM! Take that sucka!”
Because my first-born is older now, we’re able to have deeper conversations about what’s happening in the world and how we should be responding. He’s privy to a little more information because he’s old enough now to process it, and to dialogue with us through it all.
My nine-year-old, however, is still a little boy. He doesn’t need to hear everything that I perceive to be wrong with our nation and the world. He’s not ready to process that information, so I don’t share my every concern with him.
Our kids are bombarded with enough messages on a day to day basis. Let’s not fill them with undue and unnecessary fears over political messages that we may or may not agree with.
2.) Teach Them to Be Kind
Most parents are already doing this. It’s a pretty second nature response when we have children. From a very young age, we admonish them to share with others, to speak kindly, to treat one another with gentleness, and so on.
That training has to continue, though, and as the children grow into young people we need to change our tactics.
We need to be teaching our older children to be kind to those who may think or feel differently about things than they do. Basic kindness may already be ingrained into their youthful hearts, but grace toward others is a skill that needs to be honed over a lifetime.
Today’s youth are bombarded with messages from the world, and social media takes the nuance out of difficult discussions. We need to work with our kids to help them navigate conversations, both online and off, with kindness.
3.) Show Don’t Tell
When I was a senior at Baylor, I took a class called Writing for the Popular Market. Our only assignment for the year was the write the first draft of a novel.
Every week, we met at a local coffee shop (there were only six of us), and we exchanged papers, reading and editing one another’s stories. And over and over in the editing process, our professor would repeat the same basic principle of writing:
Show, don’t tell.
Don’t just tell the reader what happened, show her. Give her the action that paints a mental picture.
The same is true for parenting. We can talk to our kids until we’re blue in the face, but our actions will have a greater impact than our words.
So let’s show them how to care for others, how to put the needs of our neighbors (both near and far) above ourselves.
Raising children in this contentious time feels like a gigantic hurdle, but really this time is no different than any other in history. Now is not the time to fear for our children, but rather to dig in and fight for them. And that fight starts at home.
What are your thoughts? How are you working to raise confident children in a contentious world?
Reading books with children in the house is a bit like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos.
Finding time to read has been a challenge since I took on the title of “Mom”. Where once upon a time I devoured books, now I simply nibble at stories here and there. Bedtime is my favorite time to read, but many days I find myself so exhausted by the time I lay down that my eyes close just minutes after cracking open my book.
In recent months, I’ve made more of an effort to fit reading back into my days. My reasons have been two-fold: First, I just miss reading. I miss getting lost in a book. Second, I want my kids to see me reading.
With the onslaught of social media, and the ever present electronics, I’ve found that motivating my children to read has become increasingly difficult. Too may other things vie for their attention, and reading is a chore. It is one more thing to check off the list so they can have their electronic time.
By sitting down in the middle of the room and reading in front of them, I hope to show my kids that reading is actually an acceptable, and even enjoyable, pastime. If I only read before bed, then they naturally assume that I never read books, either. And if I don’t do it, why should they?
It’s a huge challenge, but the effort has been worth it. I finished three books in January, which isn’t necessarily brag-worthy, but it’s something!
Below, I’m going to leave my review of the most recent book I finished, Everyone Brave is Forgiven. But first, tell me: When do you find time to read? Do you set reading goals for yourself each year, or just see what happens? Do you try to read in front of your kids?
I’m honestly still processing this book, trying to discern how I feel about it.
On one hand, it might be one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. The story in and of itself wasn’t overly impressive or unique, but the language used to tell the story was achingly poetic and rich…most of the time.
Sometimes, I simply didn’t know what the author was saying.
Chris Cleave is undoubtedly an incredibly talented writer. His use of language to describe a scene is awe-inspiring, and there were several times that I found myself rereading a paragraph just to soak in the description again.
“She laughed then, brightly and without complication, and he laughed too, and for a moment the war with its lachrymose smoke was blown away on a bright, clean wind.” (Everyone Brave is Forgiven, pg. 173)
Besides the face that I had to look up “lachrymose” to see what it meant (“tearful”), it was descriptions like this that often gave me goosebumps.
Sometimes, however, the descriptions were so wildly cheeky, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was being said.
“Rubble to build on caught no one’s attention but theirs. It did not catch the light, having no promise but what the brought with them. He tried not to be afraid. London was a lightening of the sky. It was the bloody last hour of a milk tooth. It was a city dying to begin.” (Everyone Brave is Forgiven, pg. 402)
I think I know what he was saying there, but I had to read that entire page several times before I finally just gave up and moved on.
As for the story itself, it was a sad one, but the war was a sad time, wasn’t it? My American sensibilities are constantly in conflict with the painful reality of history. Happily ever after is a notion that doesn’t fit well into the back drop of World War II, so as stories go, I appreciated the realism, even if I occasionally wish things could turn out differently.
In the end, I would recommend this book to others on the caveat that you may want to keep a dictionary nearby. And understand that this isn’t one of those quick beach reads. This is more a book to be savored, read slowly and digested carefully.
Well, actually my male readers might not be so into it given that this is a book written specifically to moms. But I bet you guys (all four of you) know some moms who could use a little encouragement, so go ahead and buy a copy and give it away!
It’s a book for the mom who once teemed with creative ideas and dreams, but now can’t seem to find the time to fit those dreams back into her life.
It’s for the woman who discovered a wealth of creativity that she never knew existed after she became a mother.
This is a book for the writers and the bakers, the photographers, home decorators, painters, crafters, scrapbookers, jewelry makers, hair dressers, song writers, party planners, graphic designers, and everything in between.
This is a book for the mom who longs to make some income from her creative passions, and for the woman who simply loves her hobby and wants to share it with others.
This is for the women who are raising wildly creative children, and for those of us who once upon a time were those children ourselves.
This is a book for the weary mom and the mom who leaps out of bed each day ready to go. (Does that woman exist? Can I meet her and get all her secrets?)
Life Creative tells the stories of over 30 creative moms who are walking the sometimes messy line between motherhood and art.
I’ll never forget walking through the mall that day with my friend.
It was a weekday, let’s call it Wednesday, and we’d met up with our new babies for a little afternoon out of the house.
We called it a “play date”, but given the fact that neither of our children could yet hold their heads up on their own, it was clearly a mommy date.
“How it going?” I asked her, and she smiled. Her daughter was two weeks older than my son.
“It’s good,” she said. “I’m tired, but it’s not too bad. You?”
I nodded. “The same.”
We were quiet for a moment as we strolled through the mall, pushing our way past windows with clothes we couldn’t quite dream of wearing, new motherhood still settling in places we weren’t yet proud to show off.
“I miss working,” she said after a few minutes of silence. She said it quietly, like it was a confession of something for which she needed to absolve herself.
Before having a baby, this friend of mine had been in the corporate world, and she was good at it. She was an event planner for a large company, the woman in charge, the one who called the shots.
Now she was at the beck and call of a 12 pound human without any language skills, but with demands greater than any corporate boss.
I nodded my head because I understood, but only to a degree. I had never been in the corporate world, you see. I’d known from the day I graduated college that I wanted to be a writer, and so instead of getting a “real” job, I’d done side jobs that let me fuel my obsession passion for the written word.
But I did notice that things had shifted in the weeks since I’d brought my boy home. Though he slept well and often, I couldn’t seem to find time to write anymore. I felt a little lost, and so we walked along, the pair of us, lost and unsure of what our roles would be moving forward.
Of course, trying to decipher what your role will look like outside of motherhood is always tricky in those first few months after having a child. Time offers perspective, which allows us to see where we can fit our dreams back into motherhood.
But it’s true that my corporate-loving friend and I shared a common trait – we feared that we’d somehow missed the boat in the pursuit of our careers.
[Tweet “Time offers perspective, which allows us to see where we can fit our dreams back into motherhood.”]
I understand that not all women feel this way.
Some have children, and they’re able to continue moving forward in their careers or passions after the allotted recovery time. But I believe we’d all admit that it’s different after kids come to play.
Two months after that meeting, my friend went back to work. While she was excited to get back to her job, she called me the morning she dropped her daughter off at day care for the first time, her voice quavering with emotion.
“This isn’t what I thought it would be,” she said. “That was really hard.”
I, also, was back working, though my work looked different than hers. During nap times, I was writing, tapping away at a book I hoped to finish. I researched agents and editors and publishers. But when baby cries pierced the silence, my work was done, and the whole process was moving along at a snail’s pace.
When I pulled that baby boy out of his crib and his smile split wide his face, somehow my longing to keep working melted away. I relished my role as his mom. That baby boy is now thirteen years old. He’s taller than me, and his voice is deeper, but he still has a smile that melts my heart.
He, and the ones that followed him, made the journey worth it. Maybe I haven’t written as quickly or prolifically as I’d dreamed of doing when I accepted my college diploma, but somehow I don’t care anymore.
Perspective is key.
Likewise, my friend now has three children, and she’s worked on and off in the last thirteen years. She still loves working, but she’s learned to love the in-between times when she’s at home. She, like me, has realized that this phase of raising children is shorter than we think. It goes faster than either of us ever could have imagined that Wednesday in the mall.
Maintaining perspective in this journey is paramount to contentment. Some of you hardly missed a beat after you had children, picking up and continuing in your pursuits with (relative) ease. And for others, this path has felt a bit overwhelming and ambiguous.
But the truth that all of us can agree upon is that motherhood changes things, and that’s okay. What we do with that change will look different, but at the end of the road we all took the journey and survived.
Co-authored with Wendy Speake, this book is specifically for the creative mom who wonders why on earth God designed her creative, and then gave her children. It’s full of encouragement and stories of renaissance moms who are impacting the world with their art, oftentimes with little ones by their side.
As a special incentive, if you buy your copy by the end of September you will receive a free pdf downloadable that expands more on how to turn your creative hobby into a thriving business. Offering practical tools that will help you take your art to the next level, this is the encouragement you need to move forward toward your creative pursuits.
There’s so much good stuff happening right now: books releasing, speaking engagements, book signings, school starting, toddlers talking – all of it is awesome. But it’s also all really overwhelming.
Currently, I am caught in the vortex of necessary work, which isn’t nearly as fun as spinning in the vortex of creatively inspired work. Launching books requires a different set of skills – the skills that don’t come as comfortably or naturally to this creative mama.
Marketing myself? Oh, how I hate it. And yet, it’s a necessary part of the writer’s job. Lately, however, I’ve been missing the art. I miss the craft of writing. But with little time in my busy days to dive back into it, I’m looking for other ways to feed my creative soul.
Because if the creativity doesn’t work its way out, I just might break down.
This is a common theme among creative mothers. We love our art, but the time in which to divulge in it is minimal, particularly when there are young children at home. I spoke to one creative mother a few weeks ago who confided that despite having consistent free time in her days with all her children finally in school, she still found it difficult to tap into the fullness of her creativity.
“I get them on the bus, then head to my craft room, and I just stare at the supplies. I finally have the time I need, but I’m feeling entirely uninspired.”
Oh, it’s a tightrope, this life of creativity and mothering. We inch our way along, at times completely unable to indulge in art at all, because motherhood takes up all the time.
And there are other times when the cracks of our days lengthen into wider spaces of free time, and the art won’t flow – such a cruel joke.
So what are we to do?
Here are a few tips for the creative who isn’t feeling creative
1.) Don’t Force It
The days that I most enjoy my family are the days that I don’t wake up demanding artistic perfection from myself. When I accept that there simply won’t be time to squeeze in the art, I can focus fully on the kids without an ounce of guilt.
[Tweet “An artistic mother is fueled by creative inspiration, and inspiration cannot be forced.”]
2.) Look for the Art in a New Place
I am a writer – that’s what I do. I’m not a decorator or a baker. I can’t sew a button on a shirt, and though I love singing, I cannot create music on my own. My gift lies almost solely in words. But what do I do when the words won’t come?
I look for other ways to let the art out.
I’m not a good photographer, but I like trying my hand at it. My favorite artistic expression outside of writing is through the camera. No one will be paying me for my photos anytime soon (or ever, for that matter), but the simple act of pulling my camera out and playing around can unlock the words in mighty ways.
[Tweet “Art begets art, and creativity will inevitably find its way out of an artistic mother.”]
Some days, inspiration hits and the time to create is magically present. Those days are a gift, and I cherish them. But they’re rare.
Most days are a little more parsed out. Wallowing in frustration doesn’t help anyone, so I simply take heart in my ability to do something. Maybe it’s post a picture on Instagram, or perhaps I have time to punch out a blog post. Maybe I can manage nothing more than a few necessary emails, or maybe I’ll have time to work on my next book.
[Tweet “There isn’t time for everything on any given day, but there’s always time for something.”]
At the end of this life, I want to look back without regret. I’ll see seasons of life that were all mothering, and seasons that gave way to the art. But I’m certain I’ll not look back and see a life that somehow balanced it all.
And that’s okay.
In just one short month, my second book hits bookshelves!