Glorious…hard…rewarding…exhausting! The list of adjectives is endless when I think of this adventure called parenting. But mostly, awe rises to the top of my list. I am in awe of the 180 switch the Lord birthed in my mothering. Gone are the days of joyless parenting. In it's place, joy has watered the desert places and created something beautiful - a joy-filled mother. Only God can do that!
As I pondered my transformation, a "tricks of the trade" list began to emerge. There is no rhyme or reason to the order, just tricks that have made this mommying job a whole lot more enjoyable.
1. Playing in my Strengths
It's easy to fall into the comparison game when it comes to talented moms: this one is athletic, this one is artsy, this one can spin a tale, etc. etc. etc. Early on, I learned that I enjoyed motherhood best when I stop trying to be like other moms and embrace my own uniqueness. I love books and games and the great outdoors. So that's the way I'm intentional with my kiddos. When we have downtime, we pull out a game or a puzzle or walk/bike/hike in the great outdoors. Gone is the guilt that I don't play dolls or trucks or ball like other mommies. In its place, contentment has filled my heart knowing that I mommy well just by playing in my strengths.
2. Have Favorites
My “Terrific Three” consist of a girl, a boy, and another girl. Just like God does not have favorites (Romans 2:11), I strive not to either (1 Timothy 5:21). I've assigned labels to my Terrific Three and regularly call them by it. I have a "favorite oldest girl," "a favorite boy," and "a favorite youngest girl." They’re all my favorites in their unique way and don’t need to fight for my favor.
When our kiddos hit the tween years, we knew we needed to keep the airwaves open. We happened to be eating Oreo McFlurries when one of them shared something close to their heart. Born was the code phrase "Oreo McFlurry" for times when our children wanted to share something with us but were fearful of our response or the impending consequence. Now when they approach us and say, “Oreo McFlurry.” we prayerfully brace ourselves (ha) for what they're about to say while calmly listening without.saying.a.word. It’s a safe-zone, and they honestly haven’t abused it.
4. Apologize with No Strings Attached
It is easy to excuse my angry response by pointing to my child's wrong action which prompted my anger. This causes my apology to fall on un-listening ears, especially the older they have become. Instead, I have taught myself to focus on what I did wrong and ask for forgiveness. Not only does this show them that parents can make mistakes, but that it's important to apologize for them!
5. Calm in the Storm
If child A was "on my good side" but child B was not and had gotten into trouble, I caught myself disciplining them differently. I would irrationally lash out or be harsh and impatient with the not "on my good side" child B. I began to purposely visualize how I would lovingly discipline child A if they were the one who had just gotten into trouble. Then, I would pray that the Spirit would help me disciple child B with the same gentle heart. This practice alone was revolutionary for my parenting!
6. Laugh at Yourself
Last summer, we had just finished floating a local river, and I wanted to get one more group picture. As I was gesturing for the group to move over, I was side-stepping on the rocky beach. My toe caught under a rock causing me to trip and in s. l. o. w. motion I splatted on the rocks in full view of everyone! Quite embarrassing and painful! But as I collected myself, I just laughed and laughed at the spectacle I made. This released the group to laugh with me and recount my performance. I could’ve been mad and nursed my pride and ruined a glorious day together. Instead, I chose to laugh and make a fabulously funny family memory.
7. Text and Drive
If I “need” to message someone while I’m driving, I ask my kiddos to serve as my scribe. I dictate my message to them as they type it into my phone. They then read it to me before pushing send. This trick serves three purposes:
1. I’m safe and not looking at my phone as I drive.
2. It teaches them how to communicate effectively and (hopefully) kindly via text messaging.
3. It serves as an example of when they’re -gulp!- driving on their own.
8. From Darkness to Light
One of the hardest prayers I pray for my children is that any sin they are hiding would come to light. It’s quite breath-taking what the Spirit reveals, and they’re always like, “What!? How did you know?!” ha, ha! But I much rather deal with childish heart issues while they’re under my roof than them having to wade through their childhood junk as an adult.
9. Momma Timeout
If I feel my mommy tank quickly depleting itself of joy, I take a momma timeout. I may take a hot bath, take a walk outside, or sit in my room by myself praying and calming down. This trick allows me to rejuvenate and relieves my kiddos from being the recipients of my less than lovely attitude.
10. Bedtime Bonding
Most nights, I choose to sit on each child’s bed and connect. It can be as short as 5 minutes finding out about their favorite thing of the day, or it can stretch into a lengthy discussion about a life issue they're working thru in their heart and mind. We then end our time with prayer and a kiss on the cheek. Hopefully, they are left going to sleep with a heart a little lighter because I chose to invest the gift of time into them. It is always worth the time and effort to give up a bit of "me time" at the end of my day to get a little more of them.
Looking over this list just fills my heart with awe. God has truly filled and continues to fill my parenting gaps. But that shouldn’t surprise me, for He parents me so well as my Heavenly Father, the giver of every good thing. James 1:17
How about you? What are some of your favorite parenting tricks of the trade? Or perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed in this great adventure of parenting. Pray Matthew 7:7 and purpose to implement one or two of my tricks. Trust me, if I can do this mommying thing joyfully anyone can! Through Christ’s power, you can mommy joyfully as well! Philippians 4:13, my friend!