Motherhood: How to freak out less + laugh more

The phrase "The days are long but the years are short" seems to be on repeat in my mind as the realization that our kids are growing older hits. It's been quite awhile since I've bought diapers or filled a bottle. I don't often wake in the middle of the night to a little one's needs.

Though I love the baby and toddler stages (like loooooooove them), I always figured I'd be excited to be out of it and onto the older years. And it is undoubtedly fun to be able to snuggle on the couch and read books side by side, have water balloon fights in the front yard, and cook dinner together...and yet, I'm realizing something.

The stage that I considered to be the most challenging of my life because I was tangled in a life of exhaustion and spit-up, has shifted into something else...another season more challenging than the one before.

Though I now have a few minutes to shower every morning (sometimes even without a kid interrupting!) and generally sleep through the night without someone needing me at 2 am, this stage is a hundred times more demanding.

Our kids have opinions and personalities and giftings and struggles. They have expectations and hurts and fears. There are days of tremendous elation and others with lots of tears.

I realize each and every day that I have no idea what I'm doing and pray that I don't screw them up...too much.

I pray deeply and fervently that Christ speaks to their little (and big) hearts as they begin making choices that will impact who they grow up to be. Our youngest may be four, but our oldest is seventeen. We're nearing the four-year mark with both these two and though it seems like we've had them forever, I also realize how fast time is going.

I think sometimes I stress out too much. Do you?

Sometimes I forget to celebrate the little things like I used to and see the weeds rather than the flowers.

Last night six-year-old Imani had her kindergarten performance. The spring weather was beautiful and warm and we smiled as we walked to and from the elementary school. We were all hungry afterward and as we fixed some snacks before putting on pj's, one of the little ones put on the La La Land soundtrack. The music is so fun and upbeat. I've played it so often that we all know the words to our favorite songs and the younger three and I danced around the kitchen, lip syncing and laughing.

But when I tried to bring one of the older kids into the fun, he got angry. Some of our kids have a lot of trauma from their past and unpredictable anger flares up now and then because of it. But this was not one of those kids.

The way he shunned our fun was surprising and unexpected. And it made me really sad. Like heartsick kind of sad.

I looked at him and wondered where his joy had gone.

I'm not saying he's a depressed kid. I'm in no way detecting a constant spirit of sadness or anger. But it does flash more often than I think it should and definitely more often than it had when he was young and every conversation had to do with superheroes, trucks, and legos. Now he talks about mean girls in class and struggling in math. He shares when he feels like he doesn't fit in and that he's not good enough, cool enough.

Ohhhh how that breaks my heart.

Motherhood is hard to maneuver, isn't it?

So my challenge for this summer is to bring more joy to the house.

To freak out less and laugh more.

I came upon Rachel Macy Stafford's post today titled, The Day My Child Lost Her Joy—and What I Did to Revive It and realized this isn't only hitting my family. Is it impacting yours?

I think it's partly my own fault. I've noticed as the number of children in our family expands, the more order I need in our home and when order is not there, I get tense and frustrated.

And as we know, mothers are the heartbeat of the home.

How does the saying go? "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Gosh, it's true.

Life is so chaotic and loud in a family of eight that I think it's my way to restore a little calm. The more kids in the house, the less I can handle mess and clutter. And my patience wanes as our old-enough-to-clean-up-after-themselves children either don't clean up...or they whine the entire time they do.

And because they see impatience in me, they're impatient. Because I'm stressed, they're stressed.

But if I ooze joy, they'll ooze joy.

And in all truthfulness...I yell. You guys, sometimes I yell at my kids for almost no reason at all. Sometimes it's simply because I'm stressed and they did something that broke the camel's back.

I've never been a person who yells. What is my problem??

I don't want them to remember me as a "Yelling Mom."

I want them to remember me as an affirming, goofy, fun mom.

Something has got to change. And I think joy is where I'm going to spend my time first.

How do you infuse joy and happiness into your home? How, as your kids enter elementary, middle school, and high school...do you help them brush off hurt in a healthy way and turn their faces toward the light of Christ?

How do you see the flowers and not the weeds in your day-to-day life? From one mama that often feels in over her head to another...I'm so glad we don't have to pretend everything is always ok and perfect. No facades here. Let's grasp authenticity.

Take Joy,

Teresa

turning our kids into World-Changers.

Investing in our children to help them understand there's life outside their little bubble, is beyond important in our family.

Where’s my Thesaurus? I need a word bigger and dreamier than important...

Ice Cream

Crucial?

Imperative?

Paramount?

Whatever it is, that’s how I feel.

Imani and Elsabet

I think sometimes people assume that since we’ve opened our arms to four incredible loves from Ethiopia, that we’ve got selflessness all figured out.

And sometimes I think “Ok, check. Living out the verse about caring for widows and orphans. Done.” But no…it’s not “Done.” Are you kidding me, Self?

That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

Stop. Try again. Keep going.

How do we teach this to our kids?

Laith and Elsabet

Ben and I have been talking for years about teaching our kids to live outside themselves.

Kids are self-centered. Adults are self-centered.

You know it’s true…for the most part, we are. We all are, if we’re good and honest about it.

But if we teach the kids. If we open their eyes and their hearts when they’re young…think of the world we’d live in when it’s them with the jobs and the cars.

Them with the passion to change injustices and love on those who are in need of a little extra.

What kind of world would we live in if our children changed the world?

Little Helpers

When we returned home from Ethiopia after bringing Anton (then six years old) with us, his life was changed. He sold piles of his toys in hopes to build a well, after watching a group of women and small children on a Water-Walk.

He said he wanted to start an organization called, Anton’s Hope and he wanted other kids to come along side him to also raise money for wells or for animals to be given to families. Ezekiel’s mom sold their goat’s milk as added income. It was huge for his family when he was young, living in his little village on the boarder of Ethiopia and Sudan.

So we listened to Anton’s vision, his desires and dreams. And now it’s been two years and somehow though we’re still gripping the concept…it’s so big, we’re overwhelmed. Quite honestly, we’re stalled. Ben and I don’t know how to step forward in it. We need to find someone to help.

Abreham

So in the meantime, as Anton’s Hope is built, how do we include our children and work as a family in volunteering and giving time and hearts…for others?

How do we teach them in a way that it changes their world-view and isn’t simply something we go through the motions in doing, because “Mom and Dad said to?”

No, really…I’m asking.

I want your help.

My desire is something more than working at the Soup Kitchen once a month. I don’t think at this point, there would be an immense impact on them.

Mom Taxi

And I get that this is not about US…it’s about helping OTHERS.

I do. I get that.

I read Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love. I underlined practically the entire chapter on how we as (Christian) Americans look at short term missions trips more as a pat on the back, than anything else. Those are my words, not hers. She’s much more eloquent than I. And I agree with her.

I don't think we do it on purpose. But we do it all the same. There are trips I’ve read church bulletins or heard friends talk about that truly didn’t make sense to me. What the purpose of them going, truly was.

Jen Hatmaker

Short term missions, shouldn’t be a mini-vacation for us. It should be us jumping in with both feet, heart worn to pieces, down and dirty, ready to do the hard thing. Or whatever it is that NEEDS to be done.

Their needs, not our wants.

But at the same time, it IS about us because it’s about teaching our children that they CAN make a difference. That they MUST make a difference. And that their difference truly can change lives, in the name of Jesus.

How do we teach them to stop gripping the ledge out of fear or dare I say, indifference?

What can THEY do? We’ve been looking around a bit and hit wall after wall.

Our kids are too young to serve in the nursery at church, though they desperately want to. Our kids love kids. They’re too young to visit sick kids in the hospital, though they want badly to hug on those kids, too.

World Adoption Day

When Anton spent a week in the hospital, his fondest memory is the ability to push a button and a nurse came with a new box of Legos. When he got out, he decided he wanted to collect legos for other kids to have the same experience. "So they always have enough," he said. But apparently they have an organization that provides them.

So still we search for the thing. The right thing for our family.

We of course collect clothes and toys and formula for our friends to take to Ethiopia whenever another group goes over to visit the orphanages. We've collected shoes and soccer stuff for friends in Mexico. We fill shoeboxes at Christmas to be sent overseas.

We do things. But it's not a consistent thing.

Because more than an activity, we want to provide the opportunity to pop the bubble our kids live in. We want to provide an opportunity for a heart-change.

Anton and Elsabet What are you doing with your kids??

How are you instilling this in your family??

Please. I'd really love to know!

take joy-signature-new-pink

how I include our kids at dinner parties

Having a servants heart and a great work ethic are huge in our family.

And though my Evening to Nourish events are geared around us grown-ups having the ability to have time away from the pull of our children, my kids help throughout.

nourish june 1

It's become sort of a family event, really. Though some things take longer because I'm showing and instructing them how to do something, it's also a breath of fresh air having their assistance.

We work together setting the table and deciding what looks good.

nourish june 17

I take their opinion into account and often let them make final decisions (like how the centerpieces should be displayed and how the appetizers should be placed on the table).

I'll remind them what order the silverware goes in next to the plates, and how the water glass should be just above the knife.

But if it's not perfect...not exactly spaced correctly, or something's a touch out of place, I leave it.

I feel that fixing it shows I don't truly appreciate their help and that it's not good enough. I want them to have confidence in their work and know that they ARE good enough and that I love their efforts!

june nourish 9

During my dinner parties, they're also in charge of bringing out the food, refilling water, and clearing plates.

nourish june 8

Again, learning how to give selflessly is so important.

As is learning how to interact with adults.

nourish june 7

I ask that they all wear "nice" Church-type clothes. Six-year-old Laith often comes down buttoned incorrectly and I may ask if he wants to fix his shirt so it lays correctly... but if he doesn't care, I generally leave it.

I want to foster excitement for these evenings. Not feel like they have to be perfect and everything surrounding the evening needs to be perfect, either.

I don't want to take the fun out of it all and I'm afraid if I nit-pick, that's exactly what's going to happen.

nourish june 12

For the most part, I ask the kids to stay inside unless they're checking to see if we need anything.

Every so often however, they'll see one of their favorite people (a teacher, friend's mom, or sunday school teacher) and want to spend a little extra time at the table.

nourish june 13

I decided to pay Abreham $15 for the evening because he was going above and beyond cleaning. Sweet buddy wouldn't take it, but every month I'll continue to offer.

Since our dishwasher is small and many of our party plates, etc need to be washed by hand anyway, the countertops are filled. Cleaning up at the end of the night after everyone has gone is my least favorite job.

But having our sweet son helping out, with a joyful spirit, changes my perspective.

nourish june 14

A friend had a conversation with him as she was leaving for the evening and posted his comment on Facebook along with a photo of him working. What he said to her was, ".... I used to not like to work hard, I didn't think it was important... but now, I see that I am special to God, because I am able to work hard... to help people..."

nourish june 16

I hope all our kids...mine and yours...understand that.

It's a hard concept to learn, especially when they're young and are still learning to live outside themselves.

But it's so important for who they grow to be, both now and in the future.

let them help

 What do you think? Do you make having people over into a family-affair?

How do you help foster a spirit of serving and hard work in your family?

I'd love to know!! take joy-signature-new-pink