Posted in Parenting

It’s the First Day of School…and I Think I Need a Tylenol

I literally sit here with a coffee, a water, and a Tylenol after sending my 10 year-old off for his first day of school. My 5 year-old only starts on Friday, so it’s TV time for him right now. Mama needs a little breather. A bit of processing time.

I was up for several hours last night, fretting. Thankfully, I’m more worried than my kids are. They seem totally fine. I’ve micro-managed every detail within my power. What’s for breakfast, lunch, and supper, for the next week and a half? What’s the best deal, on every last marker and pencil crayon I can find? Does my older boy know the way to his new school? Has he practiced the route about twenty times? For the things I can’t control, like friendships, I’ve been on my knees praying. And both of my kids have a close friend in their class to sit beside. Even my Kindergartener, for whom I couldn’t make a classmate request. God arranged a girl he went to preschool with this last year to be in his class, sharing his locker, sitting next to him in school, and, if you can believe it, her family has even moved in next door. All of this by “fluke” – the teacher didn’t know they knew each other or were neighbors, when she made the seating and locker arrangements.

And although my 10 year-old lost a three year-long friendship last year, which devastated him, God provided another friendship for him to step right into. He’s seen this boy several times over the summer, both by arrangement and “coincidentally.” Come to think of it, we’ve bumped into his family several times over the past few years – at the town fireworks, at the grocery store, at church, at the museum’s summer festival. We chose the same 10-minute block for an appointment with the teacher yesterday. Also by happenstance. I’m not even surprised when we bump into them anymore. Well, of course they’re here too! I suppose I’m getting the point, God.

God’s done this with me in the past, and I’m grateful. Because I’m a little dense when it comes to this idea of “community.” I know I need people, but I’m a bit of a loner so it can be difficult for me to make friends. I’ve asked Him to build a loving community around my family. And He’s doing it, little by little. It began about three years ago, when my husband and I felt led to move away from a place that we had intended to stay, until we were old. As it turns out we were only there for five years. In a process that went very quickly, during the summer of 2018, we had sold and moved to a place we never intended to live.

No, it has not been perfect. But I see God’s hand in shaping our lives, and providing the things our kids need as they grow. Many times, this happens through the people around us. The volunteers at church who took care of them when they were little and still greet them by name whenever we see them. The schools and teachers, of course. A great street full of people. Friends for our boys, who knock on the door and ask them out to play. Other moms for me to talk to. Neighbors who are careful as they drive slowly by, waving at the children playing on the street. Who also greet my boys by name and even give them things – like hockey sticks; scooters; basketball hoops; baseball pants. As I write this, it sounds almost idyllic. It’s exactly the kind of life I prayed for, although it has happened so gradually that I sometimes take it for granted.

It has not happened over night. It’s taken patience, and persistence, but I’m starting to feel like we’re putting down roots. And that’s important.

In the midst of this, I may be sensing an identity crisis coming on. I’ve heard an older mom mention something of the sort, after her kids were all in school. It’s a feeling that, perhaps, many mothers experience – first, when they have children and say goodbye to portions of their former lives; their old ways of doing things. What was important before is no longer so crucial, because of the new little lives under their care. But eventually – though it seems, some days, like it will never happen – those little ones are packing their own bags, riding their own bikes to school, and spreading their very own wings. And then it’s time for the mother to begin to find herself again. But now, she has changed. It’s just not the same anymore. She can’t drift back into her old life. Her priorities have shifted. Her values have been altered. She may have lost some abilities or connections. But she has also gained new ones. And more importantly, she’s gained a perspective, that she didn’t have before.

Lord, I ask for a blessing over every mother that reads this, and over her children, as they begin a new school year – whether at home or away. Please provide everything that the kids need for a happy, healthy, and successful year. And please encourage and bless the mothers. Show them what and who they are to be this year, and give them the ability to fill those roles. Help them to also be able to take some time for themselves – to stay rested, healthy, and replenished. Thank you for our many blessings. May we never stop counting them.

What does the new school year look like for you and your kids? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Mental health, Parenting

Moms are People Too!

Recently, I took a break from household and childminding duties to watch an educational video about music therapy.  It felt like a breath of fresh air.  Not because of any ground-breaking content, but because it had been so long since I was in my ‘element.’  So long since I had heard someone speaking my language – talking about the area I had studied and worked in.  I felt a scholarly and professional comradery with the video-taped members of the audience, despite my vast removal from them, as a stay-at-home-mom who no longer works in that field.

After watching the speech and taking notes on it, I felt as though something had come alive in me again.  Something I had been ignoring.  But why had I neglected that part of myself for so long?

Having unique interests, and allowing yourself time and freedom to explore them, is a part of what it means to have healthy personal boundaries.  A person with healthy boundaries will also:

  • Have their own opinions, without fearing what others will think – and will respect the rights of others to do the same.
  • Have a unique identity (sense of self) that is not consumed by any one particular role, or person.
  • Know that their value is innate, and not dictated by what they do or how other people view them.
  • See their personality as valid and overall good, rather than berating themselves (for being too shy and quiet, perhaps; or, too loud and exhuberant).  They will also enjoy and respect the personalities of other people.
  • Be aware of their own feelings, and take personal responsibility for them.  (See this post.)

In short, a person with healthy boundaries will respect him or herself, and also be respectful of others.

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Cultivating a healthy sense of personal boundaries is a skill that does not come naturally to everyone.  Perhaps you grew up in an enmeshed family, where these unique aspects of who you are were not nurtured.  Instead, you were expected to change or hide them in order to please other members of the family.

If this is the case, the same tendencies may continue into adulthood.  For moms of young children (a role that can be all-consuming), the topic of personal boundaries may be of particular importance.  I’ve heard moms say that they have forgotten who they are.  I would tend to identify with this statement.  Our responsibility to love and care for our children is essential for their well-being.  However, it is better (for ourselves and our children) that we also retain some sense of self, apart from being moms.  In this way, we will avoid using our kids to meet our own emotional needs.  We will also show them the example of a parent who enjoys her life, is able to care about others, and makes unique and positive contributions within the family and beyond.  That is an example I would like my kids to follow!

We’re allowed to have individual interests and opinions.  We’re allowed to say ‘no,’ and ‘stop.’  We can be ourselves: our personalities are valid and acceptable just as they are.  We each have failings but are not condemned by them, because we can receive forgiveness and are able to grow in character.

To develop this in my own life, I am becoming more aware of my wants, likes, and dislikes.  I even express them verbally from time to time.  I’m trying to be ok with standing in a crowd.  (Even if I feel awkward or funny looking.)  I’m researching educational and career options within the realities of my life.  I’m trying not to berate myself for the things I cannot do.  Rather, I am focusing on the things I do well.

For whatever reason, God wanted one of me.  So here I am.

What have you lost yourself in?  If you are a mom, how do you retain your sense of identity?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Note:  If you are interested in learning more about personal and relational boundaries, I would recommend consulting the book “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  It is the source of much of what I have learned on the topic.

Warm wishes,

Lisa