If you were a fly on the wall at my house, you'd be sure to hear your share of fussing, complaining and whining. Maybe even a slammed door or two.

But enough about me.

In the pressure cooker that's parenting, I have exploded more than once. And it's harder to clean up than spaghetti night with a toddler.

So after years spent indulging in fruitless self-flogging, I finally let go of my obsession with getting it all 'just right.' I confess...I'm not a perfect parent.

Whew. That felt good.

Now, when my son saunters in with his 42nd tardy of the school year, I let it go. When I hear myself hollering "Whatever!" at my teenage daughter, I move on.

Having it all together is overrated anyway.

And I've determined not to waste God's grace. I'll never get it just right. You won't, either. So read on, sister. If you see a little of yourself in me, I hope it helps to know that you're not alone. Nope. If you're a mom, face it. You're never, ever alone.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

We're Not in Kansas Anymore...

I love a good fairytale as much as the next girl.

But what I encountered this week was nothing short of a nightmare.

The scene of this fright show? My local Halloween store.

It wasn’t the abundance of ghouls and goblins that had my palms sweaty and my heart pounding wildly.

My terror materialized in the middle of the “Tween” aisle.

I was on a mission to find a costume for my 12-year-old daughter.

She wanted to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Sounds innocent enough.

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that dear, sweet Dorothy had undergone a transformation that would make Aunie Em’s hair stand on end.

And if Goldilocks had shown up in the outfit I saw, Mama and Papa would have done well to cover Baby Bear’s eyes.

And let me repeat. These costumes are.for.tweens.

False advertising, anyone?

I found a worker and expressed my disgust. She showed me a couple of other costumes, but finally sighed and admitted, “There’s really not much. I have two teenage daughters. We have this battle every year."

I reluctantly settled on a "Little Red Riding Hood" costume that could undergo some "modest-fication."

This was not a popular choice with my daughter: "I'll look like a nun compared to everyone else!"

The sad truth? She's right. Our sexualized society had done a brilliant job of pedaling the lie that innocence is a childish liability, best discarded as soon as possible. It promises a fairytale, but delivers a nightmare.

This deception makes us feel that we're at war with the world and with our girls. A friend with a young daughter recently told me, “We have to protect them from themselves. They don’t understand the value of their innocence.”

But we do. And although we can't control the ending, God gives us the responsibility to shape the storyline despite the conflict.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Humbling Experience

It wasn’t quite what they bargained for.

When the girls in my Mother/Daughter Bible study spied the tables of nail polish, lotions, scrubs and other spa items, they could hardly wait for the pampering to begin.

Then we pulled the old bait and switch: “Girls, tonight you’re going to wash your mom’s feet and give her a pedicure. Then she can do the same for you.”

After a moment of stunned silence, the reaction from the girls was immediate and nearly unanimous:

"Oooo… that’s SO gross!"

"Really? I'm not going to wash your stinky feet!"

"Do we have to use the same water?! Yuck!!"

Okay, time out, girlies.

If we’re going to talk about gross, let’s take a little walk down memory lane, shall we? Now, remind me, who was it that changed your smelly diapers? Cleans up after you after you get sick? Does your dirty laundry?

So, let’s see … scrubbing and wiping your mom’s feet after they’ve soaked in a tub of scented water? Doesn’t even register on the ‘ick’ meter.

But I chose to keep those thoughts to myself. And after a little prodding, the girls soon succumbed to the intoxicating lure of scented bath products.

My daughter Molly’s first words after we sat down? “I get to go first!”

Yep, the object lesson on servanthood was clearly making an impact.

Within a few minutes, though, an amazing thing happened. I looked around the room to see moms and daughters laughing and enjoying each other. Both seemed to be equally enjoying serving and being served. One even commented: "This is the funnest thing we've done yet!"
This is no small feat when it comes to middle school girls.

One of the most vocal dissenters was actually soaking her feet in the same tub with her mother! Gasp.

There’s something about serving each other that breaks down barriers.
It's supernatural. Because left to our own humanness, we’re inherently selfish.

Even moms.
True, I’m always doing things for my children. But I don’t always have an attitude of service.

I sometimes catch myself doing things for my kids grudgingly or out of obligation. Or, more often, I unconsciously expect something in return – gratitude, love, cooperation. I deserve it, I reason. And I can become disappointed or resentful when they don’t comply.
True service, however, is a gift without strings attached. And when I deliver it humbly, it always leaves a pleasant aroma.
And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. John 13:14-17

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Caught in the Act

I’m generally not a rule breaker.

And it’s a good thing.

Because, on the rare occasions when I do venture outside the white lines, I’m like a magnet for rule-enforcers.

I can be going 36mph in a 35mph zone with 20 cars whizzing past me at 60mph and who is the officer going to pull over for a ticket? Moi.

I could be in the 10 items or less lane with 11 items, while the woman behind me has her cart piled up like Mount Everest and who will the grocery police come after? That's right. Yours truly.

It happened just last week.

Micah and I were running late for school. Despite our spotty tardy track record, we have been doing brilliantly this year. I didn’t want to break our streak.

Then I remembered the “forbidden” drop-off entrance conveniently located outside of Micah’s classroom.

Do I dare? I thought.

This entrance is usually militantly patrolled to keep deviant parents from bypassing the official drop-off line.

I quickly surveyed the scene. No Coach Bob (aka “The Enforcer”). I was emboldened by several other brave souls taking advantage of this scarce opportunity.

Hmmmm…. Why not? Everybody’s doing it. (This rationale works so well for my kids.)

So I threw caution to the wind and careened into the secret entrance.

Go! Go, Micah! Hurry! Before we get caught! (You can give me my Parent of the Year award now, please.)

As I prepared to make my getaway, I saw an imposing figure coming toward me out of the corner of my eye.

Terror struck my rule-following heart.

Coach Bob was on the warpath.

I kept going and tried to avoid eye contact.

He began to run and wave his arms …”This is NOT the drop off line! You MUST use the official drop off line...!!!”

Can you say it a little louder, please? I think there may be a few parents in Japan who didn’t hear you.

I gave him a sheepish expression and a “yes, I’m completely humiliated” wave and went on my way.

Getting caught is humbling. It reminds me that I need to model respect for authority – even in the little things – if I expect my kids to do the same.

I hope my kids are like me. I want them to always be caught in the act, too. In fact, I pray for it. Regularly.

When they go off track, I want it to be revealed – quickly. And I’ve noticed that I’m often given the uncanny ability to sense when they’re being deceptive.

And I if I fail to catch them, I can only hope and pray that the “Coach Bobs” in their lives will be on vigilant patrol.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pardon the Interruption

I’m not in the habit of meeting men for lunch who are not my husband.

Especially a table full of them. Mercy.

But I knew opportunities like this didn’t come along every day.

Plus, they were really cute.

Now before you start thinking, “Melinda, maybe you’re taking this whole ‘confessions’ thing a bit too far,” let me explain.

My son Micah had forgotten his lunch. Knee-deep in laundry, deadlines and other deadly serious tasks, I intended to put it in his hot little hands and hot foot it out the door.

And I almost made it.

Just as I was walking away, Micah shouted: “Mom, wait!”

“They want to know if you’ll eat lunch with us,” he said giggling, pointing to a group of boys wearing goofy grins.

My mind called up my lengthy undone to-do list.

I quickly added “Eat Lunch with Adorable Nine-Year-Old Boys” to the top of it.

One of the boys ran and brought me a chair and I was soon caught up talking baseball, Halloween costumes and favorite lunch items. (The winner? Wacky Fortunes Rollups, hands down.)

It was the best 30 minutes of my entire week.

I’ve found that some of my sweetest, most memorable parenting moments are the ones I haven’t planned – the detours I’ve been wise enough to take in the midst of life’s busyness.

A friend of mine calls it “being interruptible.” Task-oriented, perfectionist types like me loathe interruptions. Checking off the items on my to-do list is a sacred ritual that makes me downright giddy.

But what if the most important thing “to do” is not on my agenda?

Sometimes you have to just stop and smell the rollups.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

True Identity

My kids should have been born to celebrities.

They probably would have delighted in a lifetime branded as Apple, Coco, Blanket or Sage Moonblood.

Those are names that command some respect.

Molly and Micah, on the other hand? Positively boring. I mean, really, what were we thinking?

Any good parent knows that bearing the name of a fruit or bedcovering is the key to a fulfilling life of mystery and intrigue.

Molly: Okay, “Means” is bad enough, but at least that changes when I get married. But Molly? Please. Why couldn’t you have named me Wakely or Lola?

Wakely? Yes. Why didn’t I think of that?

Sure, Lola’s kind of cute, but all that comes to mind is a lifetime of saying, “Meet my daughter Lola. The showgirl.” (Think Copacabana.)

Meanwhile, my son, Micah, thinks his life would be more worth living if he had only been named “Blakesly.”

Micah: I just like the way it sounds.

My husband’s response: Well, it sounds to me like a kid who gets beat up a lot on the playground.

It reminds me of how the enemy tries to steal our identity in Christ. That feeling that we’re not “enough” -- just as we are -- starts young, doesn’t it?

It’s one of the enemy's favorite tactics. If he can convince our children they’re not anything special, that they can never measure up, the battle is half won. It keeps their expectations low and their view of God small.

For years, I succumbed to feelings of unworthiness. It's paralyzing. Maybe that’s why I’m driven by an overwhelming desire to talk regularly and specifically to my kids about their unique, God-given talents and their immeasurable value – not because of what they do, but because of Whose they are.

I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mom Detective: Fighting Time

Crime fighting is not in my job description.

Recently however, my son’s obsession with Encyclopedia Brown has forced me into serious Columbo territory.

Nancy Drew ain’t got nothin’ on me.

If you’re unfamiliar, Encyclopedia Brown is a 1960s series of books centering on a boy detective who unravels mysteries. Each case invites the reader to solve the case.

Over the last week, my son has read eight of these books. Correction. We have read eight of these books.

Everyday, on the way to school, Micah reads them to me. And then he asks me if I can guess the true criminal.

So there’s no fudging on this one. Can’t just “pretend” I’m listening. Or at the end of the story, I’ll be the one who’s found out.

And sometimes, quite frankly, it’s not easy to be engaged. My mind is always in “to do” list mode, ticking off the next items that require my attention. Morning tensions sometimes nearly drive me to be the perpetrator of a crime.

Last week, after a particularly difficult morning, I was exasperated and definitely in no mood to be Encyclopedia’s trusty sidekick.

Micah: Okay, Mom, I’m going to read you more Encyclopedia Brown.

Me: Micah, for just ten minutes, can I please not be required to solve a stinkin’ mystery?!

Later, I remembered that, before I know it, Micah will be the mystery. Just like his sister before him, he will begin to slowly pull away. In a few short years, I’ll have to play detective to discern his thoughts, uncover his interests and decipher clues to his activities.

And I’ll long for the days of a little boy who wants me to be his partner in ridding the world of crime.

Yep, what I really am is a time fighter. Fighting the tick of the clock that will bring his inevitable march toward adolescent independence.

It’s a battle I’ll lose. I can’t stop this natural and necessary progression of childhood.

In the meantime, I'll gladly don my trenchcoat and solve the next whodunit.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Facing My Need to Let Go

It wasn’t pretty.

One day last week, I woke up to an unsightly rash around my mouth and extending down my neck.

Freakish is an adjective that comes to mind.

Let’s just say that Cover Girl had her work cut out for her.

The internal turmoil I’d been experiencing the past few weeks had finally bubbled to the surface – on display for the whole world to see.

In a previous post, I had mentioned that I am going through an especially tough parenting season.

Quite frankly, I never thought raising children would be this hard. This gutwrenching. This completely emotionally draining and excruciating.

I just assumed they'd grow up to be perfect like me.

My kids are too old for me to have complete control over their choices. And it’s a terrible feeling to know you’re about to witness a train wreck, but know you’re somewhat powerless to stop it.

What I’ve begun to consider is that maybe God is in the train wreck. Maybe those “disasters” are what God will use to draw them closer to Him and shape their destiny.

Yesterday at my Esther Bible Study, author Beth Moore said something that seemed to reinforce this: “It will often be crisis that God uses to point us in His direction.”

I want to stop the train wreck. God wants to bring something beautiful out of the rubble.

Which means I have to let go and trust Him to do His work.

Even when viewing it in progress isn’t always pretty.
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