I’m writing my niece (who is expecting her first baby) a letter about what she doesn’t want to know about being a mom. Maybe she’ll have the courage to read it a few years from now when she wonders why she can’t stop crying.
#1 It hurts.
We’ve already covered the pain of labor. But if you’re going to nurse your baby, be prepared for the sensation of your nipples being subjected to a nutcracker for 25 minutes every couple of hours. The good news is this pain is better with lanolin and time (about two weeks will do it). The bad news is this is just the beginning of the pain your child will inflict on you. You can look forward to being bitten, head butted, and whacked with a hard toy when you least expect it. When your little darling leaves marks, be prepared to convince those who are sure you’re a domestic violence victim that you’re just a mom.
#2 You’ll never be alone.
You don’t want to be away from your baby now. Understandable. It’s also understandable that you enjoy being around people. But trust me when I tell you that you will think Guantanamo is an amusement park when your kid gets done torturing you. Just when you fall asleep, there they are to wake you up. You go to use the toilet or take a shower and your little blessing will be banging on the door screaming for you. When you sneak off to chat on the phone, read a novel, or have some chocolate, he will appear suddenly like a stalker in a scary movie. Only it’s your life. The really terrifying thing is they never grow out of it.
#3 Your house will never be the same.
Be sure to take pictures of your beautiful nursery now, because it’s going to be trashed very soon. Newborns pee, poo, and puke on everything and no matter how much you Shout it out, you’ll be left with stains. As your little doll gets older, expect to see the wallpaper ripped, the walls littered with graffiti using various mediums, the carpet dyed, and the curtains cut. Everything you love in your house will be lost, broken, or used to start her personal landfill. Is it possible to protect your home and belongings from this destruction with gates, locks, and strict discipline, you ask? Absolutely! However, your reputation will be destroyed when your child starts a tell-all blog about her mommy dearest.
#4 You’ll abandon your principles.
Whether you’re committed to giving your kids no fast food, no toy guns, or no video games, odds are you’re going to cave. Why? Remember, you’re going to be in pain, sleep-deprived, and living in a house ready for a Hoarders episode. If you’re really going to make your child be the one weirdo who can’t go to the McDonalds birthday party, play with the other boys in a Nerf War, or use any kind of screen (they all have games), you have some family therapy in your future. The therapist will probably agree to guest post on your child’s blog.
#5 You’re going to be afraid.
Remember the hypochondria you had during pregnancy? That’s going to grow along with your child. You’re going to be certain that every disease, disorder, and cause of death is going to visit your kid. Then you’re going to be afraid that you have the opposite problem. You’ll worry that you’re ignoring symptoms that would be cause for obvious alarm to anyone who wasn’t awakened by a screaming interrogator every 30 minutes. The truth is most of these terrifying scenarios won’t happen. Unfortunately, you still have reason to fear. Read on.
#6 You’re going to be embarrassed.
You’re careful to be politically correct and not to offend people. Your child, on the other hand, will behave like an alien life form or a National Enquirer reporter who has no respect for your reputation. She will point out everyone who’s fat with a Simon Cowell kind of honesty. She will tell your mother-in-law what you said about her before she came over. She will repeat the curse word you used in a weak moment when someone you want to impress asks how she is–probably your mother-in-law. If you give your little paparazzi a Facebook-connected camera, you deserve what you get.
#7 You’re going to be disappointed.
The disappointment your child dishes up will go beyond embarrassment. Kids are like cashiers at fast-food restaurants who listen carefully to your request for no mustard, no onions, and extra ketchup and then give you the opposite. When you express your disappointment, the cashier and your kid will look at you piteously as though you just haven’t learned not to sweat the small stuff. Whether your request is no mustard or a college athletic scholarship, my advice is the same. Don’t place any special orders and you’ll be satisfied with what you get.
#8 You’re going to need help.
Like any other torture victim, you’re going to need some counseling. Even if all you do is sit and cry to another mom, do it. It’s cheaper than therapy. And for heaven’s sake, relax your rules if they’re making you crazy. A bottle won’t kill a kid who’s nursing, a serving of chicken nuggets and fries won’t destine your child for the Biggest Loser, and getting a housekeeper doesn’t mean all you’re doing is sitting around watching reality TV and eating chocolate (unless you are, in which case call me. It sounds like fun). If your husband isn’t motivated to help out, use your best vacant stare and repeat gibberish. That shouldn’t be hard for you.
#9 Your body will never be the same.
You think you’re going to be one of those moms whose body looks just as good as it did before you had a baby. You probably think you’re going to win the lottery one of these days, too. Go ahead and blow the money on the stretch mark cream and the chiseled ab workout programs. They’ll help you get through the denial phase. Sure it’s possible that you’re one of those freaks of nature, who doesn’t have an abdomen that looks like a Shar Pei puppy after giving birth. But I feel it necessary to remind you of what we covered in the truth about pregnancy. If your body is the same, your friendships won’t be. We’ll all hate you. To avoid this, be a smart girl and wear a tankini even if you don’t need to.
#10 You’ll love it so much, you’ll want another baby.
Yes, despite learning everything you never wanted to know about being a mom, you’re going to want another child. It’s crazy! My diagnosis is Stockholm Syndrome. The child has hurt you, tortured you, destroyed your house, made you abandon your principles, scared you to death, embarrassed you, disappointed you, reduced you to dependency, and ruined your chances of appearing on the cover of Shape magazine, yet you’re convinced they’re one of the best things that’s ever happened to you.
You know what? You’re right.
P.S. Very soon, you’ll be cooking for three so I have a gift for you–a dinner time survival guide.
Here’s what’s hot in homeschooling this week–at least according to me. And since it’s my blog I get the only vote. Love that!
But if you have something to add, I’d love to check it out. Share in the comments or contact me for inclusion in next week’s issue. Click on the orange links to read the articles and have a great homeschooling week!
8 Tasks for Now Before Sending Your Kid to College Later
I can’t believe I have a child who will be applying for college next year! You always hear that the time flies, but it really does. Belinda at The Blessed Heritage has some great ideas for what we can be doing well before the college admission process.
Finishes College in Less Than a Year
Speaking of college, this young man is an inspiration! It really is possible to complete a college degree in less than four years for not as much money. I tried to convince my oldest to go this route, but I think I overdid it with the homeschooling and he’ll be a student for life.
Reward Punch Cards for Kids
You know those reward punch cards you used to get at restaurants (you know, before the iPhone)? Joyce and Jeannine at Waddlee-ah-chaa have the great idea to use them as chore rewards. And they’re offering a free printable! (Many of you are clicking over right now; just make sure you come back!)
Homeschool Blogging is a Family Affair
Blogging is very popular among homeschoolers whether as a business, a writing platform, or a way to share homeschool adventures with family and friends. Jennifer Janes shares how to keep your family involved in what seems like a solitary pursuit.
Unusual Arts & Crafts
Chris of Campfires & Cleats made me smile by writing about making gingerbread houses in February. Why hadn’t I thought of that? We’re not bound by school schedules; we shouldn’t be bound by holiday craft schedules either. I also appreciated her link on finger knitting. I think this may be the only kind of knitting I’m suited for.
Using Pinterest as your only Curriculum
Do you love Pinterest like I do? I hope you’ll follow me if you haven’t already and I’ll return the favor. Following in His Footsteps shares her ideas for using Pinterest as her only curriculum. I have no doubt that with time, that will become even easier to do.
Trouble with TV
A decade ago, I was addicted to television. I didn’t watch it; my kids did. I used children’s programming and videos as a babysitter. Then I read The Plug-In Drug and was convicted that I needed to make a change. With minimal protest, I was able to limit my kids’ screen time.
Grief Over Games
When my boys were little, and given my experience with TV, I had no intention of ever getting a game system. I caved under the pressure of other parents, however, who told me I really should have one. It wasn’t long before video and computer games had become every bit the nanny that television had been. My husband and I put the games away and told the kids they could only play on their birthdays. Birthdays then became the obsession. I was asked every day how long it would be until the next birthday. It was as though the games had become even more desirable!
More boys joined our family and they developed more friendships with game-playing boys. When the Nintendo Wii became popular, my fitness-loving husband and I decided that an active game system was okay. Before long, however, non-fitness games were added to our collection as was another game system. The kids found free games on the Internet and began playing with their homeschool friends online.
My husband and I tried numerous approaches to containing the time. Kids were only allowed to play after school and before dinner. Often my husband proclaimed game-free weeks or simply insisted they stop playing to go outside. But the problem seemed more complex than our rules.
For instance, we noticed that the kids had very little interest in doing much of anything else but games. Board games and other toys stayed on the shelves. When shooed outside, they counted the minutes until they could come back inside. Creative play had diminished.
The other problem was enforcing limits. As soon as we would declare a gaming hiatus, a neighbor boy would come over with his new game and his puppy dog eyes. When time was up, there was just one more level to complete. Or worse, one or more of the kids would claim they hadn’t gotten to play “at all.” There would be tears and frustration all around.
Having read PlayStation Nation, I recognized these signs of gaming addiction and they worried me. I sat with one of my Homeschool Homies this summer to discuss the problem. As a mother of four boys, she shared my concern.
I began researching devices to control game time for both our families’ benefit. Before I determined that these devices would not work for our situation (we have too many devices, for one thing!), I was shocked by the behavior of children of reviewers of these products. Parents recounted that their kids had learned to drop the timer device to reset it. Others had disconnected or even cut the cables! You can read the reviews of two of these game timers here and here.
It doesn’t take a psychologist to realize that the kids tampering with video game timers have more troubles than just a gaming addiction. My friend and I agreed that our kids would obey whatever approach we used, but we had to determine what that would be. My friend had successfully limited gaming time to weekends in the past, but had found (as I did) that gaming became an obsession when it was allowed.
A New Approach
On the way home from my talk with my friend, I had yet another discussion about gaming with the kids. They already knew why my husband and I were concerned. We shared with them that gaming could become so addictive that young men would forego employment and even marriage because they would rather play. They knew how gaming could keep them from learning and building relationships with one another. I discussed the timing devices I had looked at with them and they agreed with me that they wouldn’t work.
After much discussion, the kids proposed the plan that we have been using and LOVING. Before I tell you what they came up with, let me tell you the results of limiting screen time in our home (I say screen time, because my daughter prefers to watch television):
- Listening to audio books again (in the middle of the day!)
- More creative play (the dress up closet is getting a workout)
- More physical activity (the kids are swimming and jumping and working out more)
- More time playing board games
- My daughter isn’t watching television at all
- More time spent with guests doing just about anything BUT games
- More arguing (yep, you read that right. This is the next problem to address!)
Here is the kids’ taming screen time plan and why I think it works:
- Free screen time on Thursday evenings
(when Mom and Dad have activities outside the home; everyone can play for an extended period and they look forward to a “free night.”
- Two hours of screen time per week
The kids put two circles representing two hours on our dry erase board in the kitchen. The circles are divided in halves, representing 30 minutes each. This is the part of the system I am most excited about. The kids have time to play during the week, but they are in control of it. When our children leave home, they will have to discipline themselves this way. This approach is the best training for adult life. The kids time themselves, mark the time themselves, and even police themselves. I’m still amazed.
- Before using time, the majority must agree to use the time and how they will use it
Our oldest isn’t into gaming, so if three of the five of the kids want to use some of their time, they can play. They must also agree before starting who is going to play what and for how long. Otherwise, you end up with the, “I didn’t get to play” situation. The kids choose how to spend time, knowing they must be prepared for any guests during the week as well. Their typical approach lately is to play an hour on Tuesday and an hour on Saturday. Had I dictated to them when they could play, I doubt the plan would have worked as well.
- The plan is communicated to friends
Most of their game-playing friends have been told about the new system and some of them have adopted a similar approach, which is great! Because I can’t control what happens in others’ houses, however, I don’t try to control game time elsewhere. It’s not a significant problem currently.
I know families who allow gaming only in the winter, only ten minutes a day (which makes it not fun), and families who don’t allow games at all. As a family who has them, we are thrilled with this approach that allows our kids to develop self-control.
What, if any, approach do you use to control screen time in your home?
Like a married woman who becomes dissatisfied reading romance novels, I have become dissatisfied with mundane Christianity as I’ve read the thrilling adventures of missionaries–men and women like Gladys Aylward, Esther Kim, Hudson Taylor, Samuel Morris, and Eric Liddell.
Our Kids are Bored
The book, Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it, makes the argument that young people are leaving the Christian church in droves because the church isn’t addressing the big questions on evolution and the veracity of the Bible. I agree, but I also believe that young people are leaving because they’re bored. My son is currently on his mission trip to Africa. He called me from Nairobi more excited than I’ve heard him in years. The Kenyan church is on fire for God, he told me. I don’t want the flame to go out when he returns.
I’m Bored, Too
I’m only 40-something, but I’m bored, too. By boredom, I don’t mean that God is boring, because He isn’t. The relationship I have with Jesus Christ is the most exciting relationship I’ve ever had or will ever have. One reason He is so exciting to me is because He challenges me. He isn’t like a teacher who keeps saying, “Good, good” to everything I do. Instead, He says, “Good! Now try this.” What I’m asked to do always seems beyond my reach, but it isn’t.
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. (Deut. 30:11)
While my personal relationship with Christ is exciting, my corporate relationship isn’t. In other words, I don’t feel my church challenges me the way Jesus does. Instead, I’m asked to do easy things I could do when I was six. I’m still dropping money in the offering basket, singing songs, and folding my hands to pray. Is that all there is?
I don’t think so. Anything becomes boring when it’s repetitive and disconnected from its purpose.
God Isn’t Boring
A few years ago, a friend of mine asked me to donate shoes to her missionary friend who works in a remote area of Africa. I gathered up shoes from my closet with no more thought than I give to any decluttering. Some time later, I received a photo (I can’t find it or I would share it) of the women wearing my shoes, so giddy with joy they were practically levitating. I sat at my computer and wept and wept. Giving shoes was suddenly anything but boring.
I don’t know what the answer is to the boredom epidemic in our churches, but I’m asking God to challenge me in this area. Here’s a link to a great video on why God isn’t boring.
How about you? Are you bored in your church? Are your kids? Do you have a vision for how we can bring the adventure back?
I realize this isn’t a picture of my kids, but this Eastern Garter Snake definitely interested my children. Fortunately, this guy who we found in our pool when we got it open isn’t venomous like the Copperhead that bit our son, Sam. Opening the pool to discover new creatures is always a favorite outdoor activity.
Playing softball with Elaina has been a lot more fun than I thought it would be. This week I told her to put her full weight into her swing and she nearly took me out and with a tennis ball no less! She caught a pop fly during a game and was beaming. The whole family has really enjoyed playing ball together the last couple of weeks.
I’ve made a delightful discovery the past couple of weeks. The kids are thrilled if I am outside just WATCHING them play. That doesn’t mean I can come outside with a book or do anything but ooh and aah over their abilities, but it is nice that not all my time outside has to be actively playing.
I’ve enjoyed taking very quick dips into the pool (the water has been quite chilly!) while the kids play what amounts to King of the Mountain with the float.
Fortunately, we had a not-so-hot day when we could enjoy lunch outside. And yes, that counts!
I really enjoy playing with the Ogodisk with the kids. It’s a much easier to catch (and safer) frisbee and you can also use two of them with the included squishy ball.
I honestly have put in hours of time with the kids outside in the past two weeks. We had two field days! One of those field days I spent talking with friends, but the all-day one had me actively participating with a group of kids. I got so many great ideas for fun things to do outside. One of the most clever was four-way tug-of-war. Using a large rope that’s tied in a loop, four teams line up on one side of the rope that has been shaped into a square. Behind each team is a pin (we used a bowling pin). The first team to pull the rope toward their pin so someone can pick it up wins. The rope is then reshaped into a triangle for three remaining teams and then into a thin oval shape for two teams. Very fun!
A second clever (but very messy) activity was musical buckets. This is just like musical chairs only using 5-gallon buckets filled with water. Some kids enjoyed getting stuck. Other typical, but fun activities included relays, obstacle course races, and capture the flag.
We finished out the two weeks with a family bike ride. It was really hot, so we didn’t last long, but we had a great time seeing turtles and deer as we rode. I asked my husband to teach me how to load the bikes onto the carrier. For all of us to ride, we have to take two vehicles. But it’s worth the effort!
Hope I’ve Given You Some New Ideas for Getting Outside with the Kids!