Then Comes the But

Someone I love dearly was trying to compliment me some days ago. It started out so well, “Your hair looks really nice today, but…” Now, I’ve learned to really hear the first part of what he says, because that’s where the gold is. The second part is where he sometimes loses sight of his original intention.

But usually, it looks like you just came out of the barn, which is kind of true I guess…”

I laughed a little, and shrugged, “I just brushed it. Which I do everyday.”

“Yeah, yeah, it looks nice but…

Another but…

“you should brush it more often.”

Why does there have to be a but after a compliment? I heard once that everything you say after “but” is all someone hears/absorbs. When I heard that message (I think at church, but I could be mistaken) I purposed in my heart to listen different. Instead of letting the but hurt my feelings, I decided to really hear the first part and let the rest of it slide like water off a duck’s back.

Most of the time, it works.

As I listened to my Dad with his compliment-but routine, I just kind of laughed to myself. He’s been communicating like that for years. The but part used to hurt my heart badly and I never caught what came before. I’m thankful that has changed.

I then thought about how I communicate with my kids, and whether or not I insert a but at the end of every nice thing I try to say. No way, right?

“Thanks for taking out the trash but next time…”

“You did good on that assignment, but…

“Thanks for washing the dishes, but…

“Look you got yourself dressed! But…

“Thank you for getting up on time, but…

“You’ve been really responsible today, but…

I love you and I see you and I see you’re trying but you are just not quite meeting my expectations. You just fall short. Just try a little more. Give a little more. Do a little more.

What kind of mental/emotional/achievement economy am I setting up here? One where they just can’t quite reach the bar labeled The Standard? Where they are always just a little bit lacking?

Goodness, that is not my intention. That’s the trouble with intention vs. action though – sometimes we have to examine where our actions have split at a fork in the road and are betraying our intentions – because it was easy, we just didn’t think about it, we are trying to offer helpful advice, or a myriad of other reasons. Our actions don’t always easily line up with our intentions. Sometimes we have to really focus on the gap between and draw our actions in to match what our intentions really are.

So I do the same thing to my kids, what about my husband?

“I appreciate how hard you work but…

“Thanks for taking care of the yard but…

“Thanks for bringing me home a treat but…

It’s a pervasive little word that really does cancel out the nice thing you are trying to say. So this week, I’m going to focus on eliminating the but in my words. I’m going to try to offer genuine praise and appreciation, without telling anyone how they could do better next time. I don’t want to create an achievement economy that says there is never enough you can do in a day/week/month.

Until next time,
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A Prayer to Share:

Dear God,

Adding a but after the things we say really cancels out the good we started out with. Please help us develop the ability to put the but aside. To offer genuine praise and encouragement to those around us. Help us to focus on building up and not tearing down – and reveal to us and in us the little things that we may not think matter, but that really do.

In Jesus’ Sweet name, Amen.

12 Weeks Ago: United

When we found out that the Little Lady was on her way to our family, I wondered endlessly about how the boys would react. Would they know we still love them? Would they feel replaced?

Would the “ours” baby cause strife among the blended siblings and us?

How would it go?

What would happen?

Well, we are only (already?) 12 weeks into this chapter, and it’s going well. I assumed that the 14 year old would be stand off-ish. Yet, he warmed up to the Little Lady immediately, and has hovered ever since. The little boys cannot even breathe on her without me hearing about it.

The 7 year old is about as indifferent now as he was when I was pregnant. He just flat doesn’t say that much about her. He holds her occasionally. He isn’t hostile about her being here, but past the first day or two of excitement, it seems like she can either stay or go, but it doesn’t matter to him one way or the other. (No, I’m really not being extreme, I think we could rehome the baby, and he would just be like “okay, can I go play?” Yes, this is odd to me.)

The 5 year old thinks she’s pretty cool. He has definitely tried to pick up some baby habits, because losing the baby status is hard. Yet, he loves to hold her and play with her and run to her when she whimpers. He talks to her and tells people about her quite proudly.

3 different reactions from 3 vastly different boys, all united by one sister. I love that she is the combination of all of us, and that in her own way, she drew us all closer together. She is the magical little link between her daddy and I, and between each of the brothers. It’s really cool if you ask me.

(I’m sure that when she is toddling around, getting into their things, and all I’m hearing is “MOOOOOM SHE’S TOUCHING MY STUFF” I’ll probably rethink how blissful and beautiful this seems. It’s midnight though, I’m delirious, and all feels right in my world.)


11 Weeks Ago: Toe Jam

I cannot believe that Little Lady has been here for 11 weeks already! My how time flies…

I have a kind of funny, a little bit embarrassing confession to make. This happened several weeks ago, but I just have to share.

You know how new moms, with new babies; often discover a “dirty” spot on the baby? Like a roll that they didn’t move to clean, that got spit-up in it and it smells funny? And mom feels awful? (Please tell me I’m not the only new mom that discovered something like this?)

With my first, it was under his chin. I didn’t lift his little extra chin up and tip his head back enough, and I found his neck was dirty. I felt horrible.

With my second, I honestly don’t remember where it was. I know it happened, and my gut says “armpits!” But, I don’t want to swear by that, cause I don’t want to lie to anyone here.

So here I am with baby #3, and I know how to clean a baby. I lift up her chin, I scrub her armpits, and I even make sure to scrub the rolls in her super cute chubby thighs. I have this covered. She only gets a bath every other day or every two days, whereas the boys got them nearly daily because I don’t want to dry her skin out.

I’ve got this.


I was playing with her cute little feet, and I saw something, and I spread her toes out, and oh my. The poor little thing had some serious toe jam going on. And it smelled funny. Her little fuzzy socks had deposited fuzz, and it was half gooey, half dried out. Nasty.

I don’t have this.

I feel like an idiot over a little toe jam.

All of this, to come to my next point: A sweet lady was offering to help me because my hands were kind of full, and I waved her off, not wanting to be a bother. She asked if the baby was my first, and when I confessed that no, we have 5 kids, her eyes got huge. She sweetly said, “Wow! You must really know what you’re doing!”

My first thought: Thank you for not making some reference to birth control and/or what causes “that.”

Second: Nope, I just wing it more often than not.

Hear me out on this one: Parenting is more like a journey than a destination. What worked last week isn’t working this week. What works with the 14 year old does not work with the 7 year old. What works with the 7 year old does not work with the 5 year old. And diapers, even cloth ones that I wash all the time, those are the easy things in life right now.

Have you ever had a realization like this?