Tag Archives: parenting

Freedom in Christ

29 Feb

I wrote back in November that I planned to start going to counseling. Here I am, on the cusp of March, with 5 sessions under my belt. Has it been helpful? Yes. Has it been what I expected? Not really.

I think I expected my therapist to overthink things like I do, and to give me deep, meaningful, existential explanations to my problems. Instead, the way she has been challenging my thinking has been utterly practical and no-nonsense. When I lament about mounds of laundry, kids’ messes, or frozen pizza dinners, her response is, “So what? Is anyone going to die if they wear dirty clothes or eat frozen pizza for dinner?”

Obviously the answer is no, so that begs the question – then why do I care so deeply? Why does it bother me so much when my house is a mess, or the laundry is undone, or I failed again to plan dinner? Even as I’ve been doing the hard work of trying to let go and be more relaxed about things, I find that there’s a tipping point. I can ignore the mess in order to go play outside with my family, but if I come back inside to find that they’ve made another mess, I lose my crap.

I honestly cannot fully explain why I have this neurotic need for everything to be in its place. And frankly, sometimes I feel fully justified in being neurotic, because isn’t this the way God created me?! This is just who I am. But sometimes it feels like my need for control is controlling me, and I can’t stop being controlled even when I try. I was expressing this to God the other day and He brought Galatians 5:1 to mind,

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

It stopped me in my tracks.

In Christ, I have freedom. Freedom from my own need for control. I do not have to be a slave to my personality that desires organization and tidiness! Armed with that verse, I have the confidence to declare that I AM NOT A SLAVE TO CONTROL. Because of Christ, I can refuse to be dominated by my need for order, and I can instead prioritize relationships.

I have long tried to wage this battle equipped with my own paltry strength. Is it any wonder that I’m still struggling with the same old thing? But this verse has given me something new, infused my soul with gospel confidence. This is my birthright in Christ. This is what He has won for me! I get to live in freedom because of my Savior!

I told my husband about this, and encouraged him, “Please, if you see me going off the rails, remind me of this verse.” I am staking my claim to freedom in Christ, and I will not submit anymore to a yoke of slavery.

Coupled with this promise, I have decided to give up yelling at my kids for Lent. That has, unfortunately, long been the way I deal with the feeling of overwhelm and stress caused by my kids either not listening to me or getting out of control. So, no more yelling. (I am hoping to continue that beyond Lent too.) Instead, I want to pray. Out loud. Instead of screaming at my kids, “We need to go NOW! Get in the car or you will be in big trouble!” I want to say, “Father, we are late. And these kids are not listening to me. Help me maintain my patience and grace, and help motivate them to listen. I trust that we will get to wherever we are going and it will be ok that we are late.”

There’s a quote from Connected Families that I have on my computer desktop – “When kids misbehave, make obedience a secondary goal, and make accessing and walking in the fruit of the Spirit yourself the primary goal.” That is the idea behind “no yelling” – instead of relying on my own power and effort to accomplish, I run to God, confess my inability, and rest in His power to accomplish.

I put this into practice this past Thursday when my oldest daughter was not wanting to go to school, and threw a tantrum. We were 20 minutes late to school, but I walked out of dropoff with a smile on my face. Because I hadn’t yelled, but had instead connected with my daughter and found out that she just plain missed me, which is why she didn’t want to go to school. I am really looking forward to seeing how God works in me over the coming months.

I’ll end with just the amazing feeling that I have of God personally ministering to my soul. I feel so unworthy of even His sideways glance, let alone of His speaking into my struggles. Counseling has been helpful, but the Spirit is the ultimate Counselor.

Learning Our Parenting Style

21 Jun

I’m supposed to go back to work in 2.5 weeks. This has caused me to panic just a bit.

I feel like we’re just finally getting to know Emma. For the first 3 weeks of her life, she was pretty easygoing and slept quite a bit. Then we had the month of her crying almost all day, every day, due to her swallowing too much air during nursing. When she started feeling better, we were on vacation for 2 weeks. So we’ve really only been at home with Emma alert and happy for about 2 weeks – and Emma’s almost 3 months old!

With my return to work looming, I have been feeling pressure to get Emma on a schedule – though we have been following the routine of eat-play-sleep for several weeks, it was at different times everyday. Emma went to bed at a different time, meaning she woke up at a different time. So each day was different. Returning to work, I’ll have to leave the house at a specific time, which means getting Emma up at a specific time. And with Travis traveling for work a lot this summer, I’ll be on my own for many of the days I work. I think a schedule would also be helpful for my friend who is going to be taking care of Emma, so she doesn’t need to constantly guess what Emma wants.

The only problem is, putting her on a 3-hour schedule hasn’t been working. I’ve discovered that Emma’s maximum awake time (from the end of one nap to the beginning of the next) is about an hour and 15 minutes – and that means starting to try to get her to sleep for her nap after about an hour. She’s not awake for very long but anything longer and she gets really fussy and it takes her a very long time to fall asleep.

So she’s awake for about an hour and 15 minutes, and her naps are usually 45 minutes long if I put her down. If I think she needs a longer nap, I’ll hold her for the first 45 minutes and then put her down. She’ll usually sleep an additional 45 minutes that way, but sometimes she wakes up when I try to put her down. Sometimes I’m able to get her back to sleep for a longer nap but lately, I’ve just been feeding her after 2 hours if she’s wide awake. Emma has taken longer naps in the Baby Bjorn, but I think she’s getting to the age when she’s too interested in what’s going on around her that she has to be really tired to sleep in there now.

And we’re still rocking, bouncing, and shushing her to sleep with a pacifier and swaddle, both at bedtime and for her naps. I don’t really see a way around that yet without lots and lots of crying – and I could totally see her being one of those babies who cries so hard they throw up. I’m not ready to go there – and I’m not sure I ever will be. I’m mostly hoping that as Emma gets older, her need for that amount of help to sleep will decrease. I know there are plenty of people who would say that we’re teaching Emma to depend on props for sleep, and who knows, they might be right. But right now, we’re parenting with the philosophy of “It’s not a problem until it is.”

Otherwise, it’s easy to drive yourself crazy. I know because I’ve been driving myself crazy. I’ve read about 6 different books on how to get your baby to sleep, plus countless blogs and forum posts. I’ve been so unsure and confused as to what I think we should be doing with Emma that I’ve changed my mind probably about 100 times. I’ve been tempted to laugh/cry when I hear people say, “Do whatever you know is right for your family.” Um, that’s exactly what I don’t know and what I’m trying to figure out. Travis has been very encouraging and laidback, reminding me to just focus on one thing.

The most helpful book I read was Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. It helped me see that going from being rocked to sleep and held during naps to being put down awake and sleeping on her own for naps (she does fine at night) would be a very big and unwelcome change for Emma. So instead of overcorrecting for everything we ‘shouldn’t’ be doing (I have more thoughts on parenting shoulds that I’ll share in a later post) with Emma, we’re taking it slow – focusing first on getting her to sleep in her Rock ‘n’ Play for naps (meaning we get her to sleep and then put her in there). But again, if I can tell that she needs a longer nap or would wake up if I put her down, I just hold her. That’s why I haven’t been blogging a ton! Though I am getting pretty good at writing posts on my phone (which is what I’m doing right now).

So what’s my plan for returning to work? First, I decided to take my full allotment of FMLA leave and not return to work until July 30. This will give Emma another 3 weeks to mature and me an additional 3 weeks to figure out how best to mother her. That way, hopefully I can leave Emma with my friend without worrying about her crying all day – not fun for Emma or Charlotte. But maybe the 4-month sleep regression will make that a hard time to go back too…

Second, I’m continuing the eat-play-sleep routine on a 2 to 3 hour schedule. It has been very helpful for me personally to be ok with feeding Emma every 2 hours if that is when she wakes up. It has taken so much pressure off to not have to make her get to a certain time. And I’m not frustrated when she wakes up after 45 minutes because I expect it (though I hope that she extends her naps as she gets older).

Last, I’m going to stop worrying so much. I’m going to surround myself with similar-minded mothers – those who didn’t let their kids cry it out but can testify that they eventually grow out of whatever phase they’re in. And most of all, I’m going to trust God to guide me and give me the wisdom I need to be the mother that Emma needs and that I’m called to be. Parenting is just one more aspect of the Christian life that requires a moment-by-moment dependence on the Holy Spirit and relationship with Jesus. I don’t have to fear ‘messing it up’ with Emma because God is actively at work in our lives. This verse has been a great comfort to me recently:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Parents – how did you decide on your parenting style?