The Balancing Act

I think the balancing act is another pursuit of perfection. We can see the pendulum swing from one extreme to the next, so if we can catch it dead center and stop it there, we will have balance.

Balance in our parenting, our diet, our work, our home. Balance. Balance. Balance.

“It’s all about balance,” one mom will tell another, after she has confessed her frustration over something.

“It’s all about balance,” one colleague to another after hearing how things are crumbling at home.

“It’s all about balance,” one wife to another after hearing her friend admit that she feels stuck.

Balance is a new shiny word for perfection. It’s all about perfection. If you could get it just right, just balanced enough, parenting wouldn’t be so hard. Your diet would work, the weight would fall off. If you could get it just right, perfect, balanced, your marriage would seem better. Your work life more fulfilling. Your time with the family more satisfying. Something is out of balance that’s why you’re upset/stressed/frustrated/let down.

Chase the balancing act. Just balance the books. Balance it out. Stop swinging the pendulum, find the mark that is just right. It’s another word for perfection. Chase perfection because once you find it all your problems will be solved.

Hogwash.

Having some sense of balance, holding firmly to Jesus who is the Truth, focusing on God’s will for your life, and learning that we are human and even God recognized that we couldn’t get it perfect, that’s how you come to accept the sway. Not completely disengaging from the notion of balance, but not chasing it, either.

Chase Jesus. Let Him be the author and perfecter of your faith. Let Him be your peace. The calm in the midst of your storm and chaos. Jesus. Chase Jesus. Not balance. Not perfection. Not fame. Not money. Chase Jesus. For in Him is found life.

Until next time,
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A Prayer to Share:

Dear God,

It’s so easy to get caught up in the things of this world, the ways of this world. Because we were made to pursue You, we are always in pursuit, but sometimes our focus is distracted and we stop pursuing You. Bring our vision back into focus, help us to chase You and nothing less.

In Jesus’ Sweet Name,
Amen.

Insecurity and Identity

We are a blended family and I grew up in a blended family. While I grew up with my natural mom and dad, my dad had been previously married and had 2 sons with his first wife.

I remember trying to figure out who my brothers’ mom was to me – another mom? An aunt? Friend? I remember a time when I couldn’t quite figure it out.

I remember my mom kind of flatly saying, “She’s just your brothers mom.”

That didn’t settle in my young heart well. This other woman was deeply important to my brother and for a while, I felt almost deprived because she wasn’t supposed to be important to me too.

I remember receiving gifts at Christmas from her. When she sent my brothers’ gifts, she sent my sister and I something too. I wanted to know who she was.

As I got older, I learned that divorce strains relationships and that things weren’t always pleasant between my parents and my brothers’ mom. I learned there was ugliness there, even. Some of the ugliness affected the relationship between my brother and my mom. (I have two older brothers but really only grew up with one.)

Now, as a mom and a stepmom, and with my boys having a stepmom, I have a new perspective of blended family life. For years I’ve been a mom and a stepmom, but until recently, I wasn’t a mom learning to communicate with a stepmom.

I am married and have 3 kids with my husband. Our oldest daughter (6 years old these days!) runs to greet her oldest brother’s mom and step dad when they bring him by. It always means the world to her when they say hi to her. They’ve always been kind to her.

My two boys’ Dad and stepmom have fairly recently re-entered the scene, and I see my daughter grappling – but who are they to me? Who are they to me? They are important to my brothers! They need to be important to me, we are family. I remember being exactly where she is at.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit to you that I felt guarded and unsure how to help her navigate at first. But isn’t that one of the glorious things about parenting? Finding those icky spots that hang us up, and really flushing them out, really dealing with them, so they don’t have a choke-hold on the next generation?

After a lovely and lengthy conversation with my boys’ stepmom, I got on a video call with one of the boys. She was in the background and we were all interacting and it felt natural, normal even. Then my littles crowded in and got to say hello and see her face. The excitement was tangible, they were being included and it was good. Then, my sweet 4-year-old boy said, “I love you.”

And without even skipping a beat, she said, “I love you, too!”

He just beamed and then we all carried on. Honestly, the next moments were a blur because I soaked in the reality of how blessed I am. Family comes in so many forms. Some years ago, I went to a conference for blended families and it talked about how we not only got a spouse but an ex-wife-in-law or ex-husband-in-law to learn to do life with. At the time, I was only taking in the information as a stepmom and bio-mom, without the boys also having a stepmom.

It’s true though. If they are part of the boys’ life, they are part of mine. And I’m part of theirs. Blended family life is as good or bad as we choose to make it.

I think, too often, blended families have strained relationships with the other home because of insecurity. We aren’t sure of ourselves, of our influence, of our relationship with the kids. Bob Goff (author of Love Does and Everybody Always) talks a lot about insecurity and how we are all insecure and we meet people who need our help dealing with insecurity we’ve already conquered, and we meet people who have conquered insecurity we need help with.

It’s so true. We are so insecure. And that insecurity, if we aren’t aware of it and don’t handle it with care, gives rise to ugliness and defensiveness. My guarded responses to my daughter weren’t because I thought she was in danger – I thought I was. She has ONE mom. I don’t have to navigate multi-mom-dom with her.

Some of the insecurity comes from the broken marriages, which come with a multitude of hurts. And we’ve lost our place as husband/wife to someone – whether it was for the best or not – I think most people grapple with insecurity after divorce. It has such a rippling effect through our lives, our kids, our futures, our communities.

When we know whose we are, and who we are, we are free to connect and love and forgive and navigate hard stuff with grace. It doesn’t come perfectly but it is beautiful.

When I was praying for my boys to have a healing relationship with their dad, I didn’t see a way. But God said it was coming. And when I came before Him with walls up, He tipped my chin heavenward and asked, “Daughter, don’t you know you are mine?” And when I came to Him wanting to know how to be a mom dealing with a stepmom, since I’d only ever known the being a stepmom part, He said, “Don’t you think they know who their mom is? Do you not realize how tightly knit each person is to their mom, good or bad? Know who you are, that’s what matters.”

My Daddy is wise, friends. So, so wise.

It made all the other stuff make sense, fall into place. It made acceptance easier. It brought down walls. And He was right, a way was coming.

So I put aside my insecurity. I give it up.

My littles adore their brothers, all of them. And as an extension of that adoration and love, they love the people who are important to their brothers. I won’t flinch or shy away from that.

My boys have 2 moms and 2 dads. Raising kids is hard, the more of us that are pulling for them and praying for them and modeling for them, the better.

I realize now that insecurity drove the ugliness directed at my mom by my brother’s mom. She had lost her place as wife to my dad – and no matter how that comes about, it is a sucker punch that steals the wind beneath your sails. She didn’t want to lose her place as mom. She didn’t want to be left in the dust as a new family formed. She wanted to be important, too.

Insecurity drove the flat response from my mom – she was my mom, and while she was my brothers’ step mom (back in a time when positive resources for step moms wasn’t a thing), she didn’t have to share me. She didn’t have to navigate the hurdles and tear down the walls and push for a healthy, working relationship with the influence of another woman in my life.

If you find yourself navigating blended family life – however you’ve been brought together, know first whose you are and also who you are. Our good God is faithful and He will supply you with wisdom and peace to navigate the messiest parts of life.

Until next time,
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Are You a Coach or a Dictator?

When parents make the shift from controller/dictator/punisher to mentor/teacher/leader they will stop trying to control behavior and will start trying to teach why and how to behave. Kindness in this process is not weakness. Kindness toward our kids also does not automatically mean the kids run the show. It simply means that we recognize kid’s experiences are different from adults and we will walk alongside them and give them someone safe and sane they can rely on when they are struggling.

It is crucial for adults to remember that they are already “in power” because of their age, size, experience, role in the home, etc. It’s not a position of power that requires reminding over and over again. Demanding respect is an easy way to lose respect.

Exploding on a kid who is having a melt down, being difficult, or even defiant does not lead them to better solutions. It’s like spanking a kid for hitting his friend – I’ve never understood that. Let me hit you to teach you to not hit … It just doesn’t make sense. Adults losing control of themselves and yelling, name calling, and pushing around kids is kind of like saying “Let me lose control to teach you to not lose control”. It just really doesn’t make sense.

If we want to teach our kids how to navigate the ups and downs, day in and day out of life, we need to show them our maturity and our self-control. When we model the behavior we are trying to teach our kids, we give them something to look up to, a goal to reach for, an example to follow.

I’m not saying they don’t learn when we explode – but if you evaluate what they learn, can you honestly say that’s what you want to teach? When we explode they learn that we aren’t in control of ourselves, and expect more from them than from ourselves. When we explode, they learn they cannot trust us to help them navigate what they are feeling or facing. When we explode we break connection. And if we don’t apologize when we make mistakes, then we often place the burden of repairing the disconnect on the child.

This is a terrible injustice. As adults, we have more relationship experience. And if a majority of our relationships in our adult life have been broken then it’s time to do the hard work of finding out why and how to fix it. We cannot, however, expect our children to “behave good enough” for us to connect with them. We cannot expect our children to set the tone of the relationship. We cannot expect our children to grovel or beg for our attention.

No, this is all backwards. Our kids should already be good enough for our time and attention – because of who they are, not because of what they’ve done (or not done) in a day, week, month. It is possible to set healthy boundaries, to enforce necessary consequences, and to still shepherd their hearts and connect with them. It’s not always easy, and it requires that we look deep within ourselves, and also ask ourselves how our actions today will affect our future relationship with our kids.

Sometimes, in a hard moment, I ask myself, “How do I want them to remember this moment?” Do I want them to remember that mom flew off the handle, bit their heads off, and then was emotionally unavailable until they redeemed themselves with enough good behavior to earn my affection?

legosOr do I want them to remember that mom knelt beside them to right the wrong, clean the spill, navigate the situation, and remained emotionally available, behaved calmly, and lead them through with maturity?

I want the second scenario, hands down. It’s become extremely important to me to consider how they will remember things. As I realize how big our kids are getting, I also think about their adult lives – I want to be able to share in their adult lives. I want to be connected and able to enjoy meals, running errands, and game nights together. No, I don’t want to spend every waking moment with my adult children, but I want to see them regularly, often even. I look forward to being able to relate and connect, and not needing to correct anymore.

So to recap, since I feel like I carried on and rambled:

1. Lead, teach, and train your children instead of trying to control them into submission.

2. Model the behavior you want to see – such as self-control, patience, kindness – you know, fruits of the Spirit.

3. Apologize when you blow it. It’s okay to blow it. We get to make mistakes. But apologize. Do not leave the burden of repairing the relationship on your kids. Don’t expect them to behave good enough to be worthy of your attention.

4. Slow down. It’s okay to pause, evaluate, ask yourself what can be taught vs. caught and how you want them to remember this moment in the future.

Until next time,
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A Prayer to Share:

Dear God,
You know this parenting thing is hard. Please guide me as I guide my kids. Please soften my heart and help me build a lasting connection with them. When correction is necessary, help me find loving ways to correct them that help them grow and mature. Help me point them always toward You and help them to see Your light shining in me, first in how I care for them, then in how I care for others.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.