Constant Repeated Training Required

This morning, I came across a blog from (gulp) over seven years ago, entitled “Training Required”. Written pre-homeschooling, when I was “almost 30”, and an extremely knowledgeable parent of a toddler and an infant. Ha-ha-ha!

Fast forward to today. My oldest just turned ten, the rugrats provide constant repeated growth opportunities, the “mommy/daughter cry for no reason” days have come far sooner than anticipated (so have the mommy/son waterworks — who knew that was a thing?) and there are still afternoons when I want to throw an epic toddler tantrum. I realize now more than ever that there is no “mature enough”, “stable enough” or “well trained enough” to have children. Never. Nope. Not gonna happen.

10 seconds after becoming a mother it dawned on me how little I knew about being a parent. Or so I thought. 10 years later, I’m still discovering how vast my ignorance really is. 10 years from now I could be a grandmother. Dear Father in Heaven, how is that possible?

Enjoy this trip to the past, I give you my mind in the magical year of 2009.

*****************************************************************

I had an interesting conversation with my brother this weekend. He’s been talking to some folks at work who have passionate opinions on who should be allowed to “breed”. Apparently, the criteria goes something like this. You should be able to provide your children with “every opportunity”. You need training to be sure you’re capable of raising kids. Must have financial stability. Must be able to prove you are mature enough. On and on and on.

I have known plenty of people who have a similar take on being “allowed” to procreate. The funny thing is, most people who hold these views don’t have kids of their own. As such, they’ve got zero clue what having kids really means. I actually used to think along these same lines when it came to having kids. My oh my, how having some of your own changes your perspective.

First, the argument that you should provide your kids with “every opportunity”. It kind of goes hand in hand with the “financially stable” point. The basic principle here is fine – obviously every parent wants their kids to have the best shot at success in life. Good schools, the chance to excel at whatever gifting the child has (sports, art, music, drama, science, math…whatever), college if they so desire – and all that takes money. But the underlying problem with this argument is that it assumes some check-point in life when you’ll know you have the capability to provide your kids with these opportunities. Let’s be real here. If you decide to have kids today, it will be 4-6 years before your first child is ready to start exploring all the options life affords. How on earth do you know you’ll be in the same position that far into the future? If there’s anything to be learned from the financial turmoil of the past couple years, it’s that nothing is safe. There’s no guarantees. But, to me, the larger issue with these arguments is that it propagates the notion that somehow the most important things to provide for your children are things.

Yes, material things are important. But the basic necessities in life do not cost much – and just about any Joe (or Jane) with a job can provide food, clothing and shelter. All the other stuff is just that…stuff. There are far more important issues with kids than what “things” you can give them. Success does not equal money. I’d love to see parents become concerned with providing their kids opportunities to learn to be kind, giving, selfless, considerate, and polite – rather than opportunities to have the latest video game console, designer clothes and fancy cell-phones. Even more, how about showing children emotional stability over the financial kind? Too many children grow up in homes with every newest, latest and greatest – but never see their parents because they’re too busy earning all that money. No amount of stuff can make up for the loss of family. The time that flies by while trying to establish financial stability can’t be bought back. No matter how much cash you accumulate.

Now, how bout’ proving you’re mature enough to handle kids before getting to have them. Here’s a news flash for you – when I’m 75, I’ll let you know if I feel that I’ve matured enough to deal with kids on a daily basis. Nobody is grown up enough for kids. I don’t care what people tell you. When they place that baby in your arms for the first time, the second thought you have (right after the “He/she is the most perfect thing on earth”) is “Oh holy crap…I’m a parent. I’m not ready for this.” It is possible – if you are one of those uber-mature folks who waited until you were ready for kids to have them, that thought might not hit you until the first day you have the baby at home. I thought I was ready for kids. My husband and I had been married 5 years. We had a house and our cars were paid off. We’d made all our plans. Nothing prepares you for how much life changes after kids. Those of you reading this without kids – I know these words are pointless. You’ll get it when you have one.

I now have a two and a half year old and an infant. I’m almost thirty. Surely I should be mature enough now. However, there are days when I want to dissolve into a tantrum right along side my daughter. I’m sure when she’s a teenager we’ll have mommy/daughter cry-for-no-reason-at-all times. I have lost the expectation that I’ll ever feel prepared for life raising children. Parenting is a baptism by fire, on the job training kind of gig. Sometimes I realize that while I’m teaching my daughter about life, I’m re-learning what I thought life was about. Then I get all freaked out about learning from a two year old and need to take a little break.

Lastly, the ever popular “you should have to complete training before being allowed to breed”. Really? What would that class look like? I used to be a trainer…and would LOVE to see someone try and teach a bunch of childless people what kids are really like. Here are just some of the things my daughter and son have trained me on in the past three years – I’d like to hear how any class could have given me these lessons.

1. Poop does come out of just about any fabric.
2. What love really looks like.
3. A child never thinks their nose needs blowing.
4. Add 20 minutes to whatever time you think you need to leave.
5. My mom was right. About everything.
6. The new definition of a clean house.
7. Trying to get it done faster usually just complicates things.
8. The beauty of silence.
9. Twenty-four hours is not long enough to do it all – so pick the most important thing, and do it well.
10. Sleep is something you actually can function without.
11. There are no sick days for parents.
12. How to use my imagination.
13. The simplest things are often the best.
14. I can’t do it alone.
15. “Why?” Doesn’t really mean they want a reason.
16. Joy
17. I am stronger and weaker than I thought.
18. Pregnancy only feels like forever.
19. How God must feel about me.
20. How my parents must feel about me.

Bottom line. There’s no training that would ever be sufficient. No stability that is stable enough. Kids are an amazing blessing that cannot be compared to anything else in life. They will change your life forever – and you’ll realize how much you don’t know within the first 10 seconds of parenthood.

Hiding From Healing

Voices floated across the warm placid air, carrying to my hiding place beneath the trailer table. “Has anyone seen Tonya? We can’t find her anywhere.” The urgency in the muffled question almost propelled me from the protection of my secret spot. I willed myself to become as small as possible as I listened to the voices trail away across the field outside and felt the sweet relief of remaining undiscovered wash over my huddled frame. Only too soon I knew someone would think to recheck the trailer, and then the pain would start again. I knew it was a temporary respite, but for now, I was safe. Hidden. My arm encased in the cast that had been my companion for months.

My earliest memories are of agony. Of a medicinal smell tinged with the fragrance of blood. Of pleading any words I could muster and fighting with every ounce of my petite frame to force my parents to stop. I recall being assured how much I was loved, that this was the best thing for me, but only wanting to run and hide from the daily torture of my life. It was that desire to flee that found me crouched in a stiflingly hot trailer as the sweltering summer afternoon faded towards twilight, praying that this day I might escape the inevitable.

It took over a decade before I glimpsed the extent of my parent’s devotion to me. And only 20 years later, after experiencing parenthood myself did I truly understand their willingness to struggle with me through heartache and gut-wrenching pain so that I could face life without a permanent reminder of the accident that almost scarred my life forever. The accident. At the age of five, as a freckled, exuberant pixie, I fell while twirling and rolled straight into the side of a barrel of burning trash. From my knuckles to my shoulder my flesh was singed. Scorched. Destroyed. Through the layers of sun spotted skin, the blazing metal demolished my tissue down to the nerves. I suffered third degree burns. Even with proper treatment, horrible scarring would almost certainly be the result.

In God’s eternal graciousness, my mother’s best friend “happened” to be a nurse at Seattle’s premiere burn unit. Harborview. She rescued me from a lengthy stay in the burn unit by assuring the doctors that with her oversight, my parents would do whatever necessary to treat me at home, and would return me weekly to Harborview’s capable staff for check-ups, thorough treatments and admission to the burn center, should the at-home care prove insufficient for my recovery. However, in relieving me of the loneliness of a hospital stay, she sentenced me to the realities of burn treatment without drugs to dull the pain, or professional staff to shield my mother and father from my daily screams of anguish.

Burns of this magnitude and depth cannot be just left alone to heal on their own. Our bodies will quickly scab over such wounds in an attempt to protect them, but the deep void beneath become a breeding ground for infection. In addition, not allowing the burn to heal inside up is what ultimately results in scars. The only solution is to repeatedly remove all scabs, opening the wound multiple times a day, washing, medicating and re-bandaging it until the burned tissue regrows from the deepest parts out. The process takes months. Multiple times a day, my father had to pin me down while my mother scrubbed the newly growing skin off my arm, revealing the slowly healing burns beneath. It was his six-foot frame that steadied and vainly attempted to comfort me because fueled by pain and adrenaline, my 40 pound body could overpower my mother. Once a week I returned to the hospital burn unit to be scrubbed down by professionals, where, breathing in drugged air, I laughed and joked with the staff as blood covered my arm. Days stretched to weeks into months, the repeated horribly familiar cycle becoming almost normal. Until at last, fresh skin covered my wounds and was allowed to remain. To this day, my mom’s nurse friend marvels that I’m the only patient she’s ever seen to come through third degree burns with no scarring.  Zero. None. A testament to my parent’s unyielding love and devotion to do what was best, regardless of the daily emotional toll it took on all of us. You would never guess which arm suffered such a traumatic event. I even recovered all my freckles. A miracle I’m thankful for every day.

Freckles

I was reminded of this painful period of my life this morning in church. With this scripture 1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

The imagery of “fiery trial”, is obviously applicable in a very real sense for me. To this day, 30 years later, any analogy involving fire instantly makes me uncomfortable as the symbolism hits too close to home. This morning, as I scribbled down my thoughts, for the first time it occurred to me that healing from a severe burn replicates our need for healing from the wounds caused by the fiery trials of our earthly life. Betrayal, lies, broken relationships, disappointment, anger, resentment all inflict emotional damage that burn past the surface, to the nerves of our souls. Our natural instinct is to scab over these hurts. To insulate our pain and develop a crusty outer layer. But is this really healing? To pretend that wounds don’t exist? We hear to “just move on”, to “get over it” and that seems to make sense, but is it truly what’s best for our souls?

Maybe we need daily emotional scrubbing. Perhaps our wounds are best bandaged by continually opening up the ugly rawness to the tender hands of the Lord. The irony of third degree burns is that because of the damage to the nerves, the actual burns are not what causes agony. It’s the regrowth of the tissue that hurts. The burgeoning sensors of pain bursting to life as healing takes place is truly torture. I think our emotional trauma is the same way. Better to leave the scorched damaged memories buried and unscoured than open ourselves up to the tremendous suffering of true and lasting healing. Processing our pain and allowing the inward change that comes from turning our hurts over to the Father is the emotional equivalent of my childhood torment. It feels awful. We feel vulnerable. The ache is consuming. It doesn’t seem worth it. We just want the pain to stop. To go back to cowering under our table. Praying nobody will find us. Pretending it isn’t there. But just as my parents searched me out, our Lord wants to meet us in our hiding places and walk with us in the hard painful parts of life. To comfort us amid overwhelming circumstances. Seeing us through the fiery trials of this world into forever healing, not just temporary scabs or permanent scars. Allowing us to come forth through the anguish to find exceeding joy and freedom on the other side.

Why I Just Quit My Job as a Stay-At-Home-Mom

Because some days, don’t we all want to? Due to the nature of the internet, I feel it is necessary to preface this post with the following disclaimer. I love my kids. Most days, I feel blessed beyond measure to have the privilege of raising such remarkable little people. However…there are days. Unbelievably challenging, never-ending afternoons of horror. Days that stretch me to the very breaking point. Today was such a loathsome 24-hours. I’d had enough. Beyond frustration. I’d taken a breather, and a short walk. Neither helped. There was nothing left to do…so I quit. My husband received the following resignation letter this afternoon.

Continue reading

Wouldn’t You Agree?

I just completed a phone survey about kids and television. My blood is boiling. Forgive me for this rant, I have to unload somewhere. Prepare yourself.

We made the decision to get rid of television in our home 6 years ago. I find television news a passive approach to information and despise being spoon fed opinions on current events. I prefer to get my facts from the source rather than filtered down through various editor’s desks, being wrapped in makeup and lighting, and finally disseminated in the most politically correct way possible. Television news is a business. This kind of “news” is meant to garner ratings. Period. I find it pandering and insulting to my intelligence. How’s that for breaking news? Continue reading

Vaccinations of life

Every time I take one of my kids in for their needed vaccinations I think of how quickly I revert to childlike behavior with God.  Yesterday, as my son looked at me, pain in his eyes and sobs welling up in his little throat, I realized I mirror his reaction when dealing with hard things in life.

I whine and complain. Cry and carry on asking God “why?”. In my finite mind, it seems so without reason, unfair and unnecessary. In hindsight, the needle pricks of life really aren’t such a big deal. But in that moment of pain, it’s all consuming. When getting shots my kids don’t remember that every day I clothe and feed them – lavishing them with hugs, kisses and care. Just as I rapidly forget all the wonderful things God has done for me, focusing instead only on the apparent lack of concern He’s demonstrating just then. I’m sure my thoughts echo my children’s “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t be doing this.” Continue reading

Like a small rudder steers a large ship

My Bible study this week (we’re working our way thru James) was on James 3:1-12. I’ll admit, I had a rough week and (GASP!) didn’t read the study book prior to our group meeting last night. But it’s amazing how, even when we don’t take time for Him, God’s got our back.

Yesterday, I was at a funeral – of a woman who died too suddenly and much too young. As I listened to the way people talked about her, the nice things that were said, the praises of her character, and had all wonderful memories of her running thru my own mind, I realized something…we don’t take the time we should to say those things to each other when we’re still around. Why is it we only make the effort once someone is dead? Encouragement and edification seem to be lost in the hussle bussle  of the world around us. We often think kind things of others, but how frequently do we actually tell them? Continue reading