Category Archives: Raising Girls

Dads on the Go

When your kids lose their minds in public and what to do so you don’t lose yours

Disneyworld–the place where dreams come true.  Where families go to make the best memories of their lives.  Where kids beam with joy, parents nudge each other because they know they are the most awesome parents on the planet in their kid’s eyes for taking them there.  Until about 2pm. When dad’s have spent every last Disney Dollar, and moms have ridden one time too many on the tea cups. It’s past the kids’ nap time, and they are over stimulated by sights, sounds, smells of the most magical place on earth.

Strolling through Adventurland with our own family, giving my husband the nudge because of our awesomeness as parents, I witnessed something I will never forget. A family of four was coming toward us.  The 3 year old boy in their wagon was sobbing hysterically and out of control. His sister was rocking back and forth covering her ears from the noise.  Their poor mother had every hair out of place and what looked like melted chocolate ice cream down her white shirt. The dad lagged behind the family with a scowl on his face. The mom yelled something like, “He just wants his shoes!” The dad literally whipped the boy’s shoes at the mom, just missing her ankles. My 8 year old daughter and I stood with our mouths wide open, not believing what we just saw.

I can only imagine what could have happened in that Dad’s day to push him to the point of whipping his 3 year olds son’s shoes at his wife in a public place. No dad would do that. I am sure they laugh about it today—at least I hope so.

The Iron Will

In our family, we know what it is like to be pushed to that point. Our kids are at an age now that they normally don’t melt down in public places, but believe me, we’ve been there, done that.

As soon as Whitney could walk, she was ready to take on and explore the whole world. Whitney wanted to run like a wild stallion–free.  We would find ourselves in situations where we had to intervene quickly before she brought damage to herself or others. Whitney found our interventions insulting to her new independence.   She tried to outsmart us with her clever red-headed, chubby cheeked style, and developed a couple escape strategies that many parents might identify with.

The Runaway In this technique, when the child sees that a parent is coming to secure control in any fashion, they run like the wind, it makes no difference what direction, in the highway, in front of cars, into walls, just away from the parent.  They’d much rather be run over by a semi than hold the parents hand.

The Stop and Drop. Here the child stops all motion and flings all of their weight toward the ground in hopes of breaking the grasp of the parent.  Face down, kicking and screaming usually follow the drop, then stiffening up like a board to make it all the more difficult for them to be scooped up off the ground.

And the most clever of all moves,

The Runaway and Stop and Drop Combo, in which the child first stops, then drops, then runs toward moving traffic and away from their parent’s grasp at a high rate of speed.

This backfired on Whitney one time.  She saw her daddy coming to grab her hand and before he could secure his grasp, she arched her back and flung all of her weight toward the cement sidewalk.  The first part of her body to make contact was the back of her head.  Wham!  Being moved with compassion, as she was lying on the sidewalk wailing, he said, “What did you do that for?”

PAR IN PARENTING

Our family friend and child psychologist Ron Craker shared a handy acronym with us to help us outsmart the chubby cheeked red-headed defense maneuvers.

He explained it this way:

In golf, par is when you’re doing more than just getting by, you’re actually doing well.  Golf can be a frustrating sport when things aren’t going our way.  Many of us feel that way about parenting – frustrated and at our wits end.  We can give up golf, but we cannot give up on parenting.

There are two ways to look at PAR.  The first pathway to PAR is the pathway of perfect common sense.  This is default mode in parenting. It feels like the path of perfect common sense, the path of conventional wisdom, the “natural” path, the “what-else-would-you?” path of dealing with kid’s bad behavior.  Here’s how it works.

P:  Predict.  We can predict what problems will set us off. “When we’re at the store I just know he’s going to…”

A:  Anger. We get angry even though we can predict the problem.  Even though we know it’s coming – we still get angry.

R: React.  We’re left reacting – we’re on the defense rather than the offense. This is when shoes start flying around.

We’ve all been on that pathway.    We need to make a course correction, get off the pathway of perfect common sense and get on the road less traveled.

P: Predict and Prepare

If we can predict the problem behavior, we can prepare for it.  We can create a plan that moves us toward the specific outcome we are shooting for.  We know our kids need a nap at 1pm. They will start to melt down after that. Predict the melt down, leave the situation and plan for a nap.

A:  Adapt

We can adapt to the degree to which we are prepared.  The rest of Disney can wait. Your sanity is worth it.

R: Respond and Renew

Respond: We can respond to the situation in a calm manner instead of react in anger, because we have thought about it ahead of time and prepared for it.

Renew: We sometimes fill every second of our day with activity that we forget about energy management.  Parenting is tiring! Maybe it’s time for a restful vacation away from noise, crowds (and flying shoes).

I wrote this article for the June issue of Michiana Family Man magazine, appearing in newsstands all over Michiana this month. Pick up a copy if you have a chance.  Lots of great articles for men and Daddy’s!

The God of Impossible Dreams

I love this picture. I love the way the sun shines on the clouds in the distance and on the back of Isabelle.  I love how her shadow is long and the grass almost glows.

It wasn’t until I was uploading this picture that I noticed something pretty funny.  Look at the top of the picture, slightly to the right of the center.  Do you see it?  It’s a stone! In mid-flight.  Belle and I took a bike ride-her first long distance bike ride with no training wheels-over to this pond close to our house.  She loves the thought of “skipping” stones, so we practiced for awhile.  If you know anything about skipping stones, you know that normally you try to throw it level, straight and even with the surface of the water.  You notice Belle’s is way up in the sky, not quite even with the pond.

Her stance is so hopeful.  She’s so hoping it will skip across the pond anyway.

As I sat here thinking about it, it made me wonder when I quit believing in the impossible.  I had a friend once who challenged me to pray for one impossible thing a day for an entire year as an exercise in faith.  I did it, and I can not tell you how shocked I was when so many of those prayers were answered.

God is a God of impossible dreams.

“Man of La Mancha”
The Impossible Dream

To dream … the impossible dream …
To fight … the unbeatable foe …
To bear … with unbearable sorrow …
To run … where the brave dare not go …
To right … the unrightable wrong …
To love … pure and chaste from afar …
To try … when your arms are too weary …
To reach … the unreachable star …

This is my quest, to follow that star …
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far …
To fight for the right, without question or pause …
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause …

And I know if I’ll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
when I’m laid to my rest …
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach … the unreachable star …

What do you need to hope for today?  Don’t be afraid to hope.  Let go, watch it, wait for it, and you might just see the impossible happen.

 

5th Grade Field Trip Fun

Whitney is in her last few weeks of elementary school. I really can not believe how quickly her elementary school years have flown by. Just “yesterday” I was putting her downstairs on the couch with a warm bottle of milk for her rest time. It was her favorite place to hang out at the time, and she watched the same movie every day for a year.  Occasionally she got bored during her rest time and cut a few holes in the couch with scissors. I remember it felt like such a big deal at the time, but now it is just a funny memory. Her excuse was that her hand “slipped” and it was all a very tragic accident.

Another time, she accidentally drew a gigantic smiley face on our wood floor with a Sharpie. Again, huge big deal at the time, now just a funny memory.

All the parents who have babies just learning to toddle or are starting school for the first year, or are marking any of these milestones, I encourage you to live each second with them as deeply as fully as you can. The time you have with your babies goes so, so fast. They won’t always want you to tuck them in at night, make them a warm bottle, or cut holes in your couch on accident.

I spent a long day yesterday with Whitney’s 5th grade class travelling to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. We had such a great time. I knew it would be a long day when I signed up, but I was determined to have a great attitude and do all I could to make it a great day for Whit. On the way there, she said to me, “Mom, it’s good we are having some one-on-one time today. We really need it.” Throughout the day, she expressed to me about five times how glad she was that I came along. She was so overwhelmed with happiness at one point, she kissed me full on the mouth in front of her friends.

Spending that day with Whit was such a rewarding experience for her and for me. I am so glad we have so many great memories from her 5th grade field trip to share together.
Hold on to your babies parents. Grandparents, hold on to your grand-babies. You won’t ever have the chance to live this day again.


When The Magic is Real

Early May 065  Early May 070  Early May 062Early May 069

Isabelle has one of the most wonderful, complex, amazing imaginations I have ever seen.  I think part of the reason she creates magic people and worlds is because her sisters are busy doing “big sister” things.  It makes her sad sometimes, but her heart is pure gold, and she creates the most spectacular things in spite of feeling left out.

Last night, she called me out in the front yard to show me her “Magic Fairy Blanket.” I almost missed it.  I almost told her no, I was busy playing Words With Friends on my phone.

But I didn’t. I walked outside and sat in the sunshine and let her show me how her Magic Fairy Blanket worked. When I looked at the pictures and how they turned out, I became convinced of how real her little magic world really is.  She looked at the photos and wasn’t surprised at all.  She was like “Yeah, whatever”,  because she already knew the truth. Her magic is real.

Keeping Tweens Young (while helping them grow up)

Sisters

I wrote this article for Michiana Mi Child magazine, which is featured this month.  I thought I’d share it here and hear what you have to say about it!

Growing Up

Every kid grows up at a different pace. In the same sixth grade classroom, one boy could be daydreaming about kissing the girl next to him, while the next boy is daydreaming about what awesome Lego man he’s going to make after school, the girl next to him is wondering how long it is going to take for Lego boy to finally notice her, while the girl sitting next to her is pretending she is Barbie Mermadia floating on the sea.

Tweens are hard to figure out because there is such a wide range of development that happens quickly for some, and very, very slow for others.

We don’t want to leave our little girls floating on the mermaid sea, or our little boys building Lego’s for their whole lives. We really do want them to grow up eventually, but not without gleaning everything they can from their own childhoods first. Mermaid and Lego skills are important. We need to let our kids explore their wild imaginations, while gently guiding them into adolescence at their own pace.

Too Old to Play-

Four thousand three hundred eighty days after my squishy bundle of joy was handed me with a bow fixed neatly in her crop of dark curly hair, I came upon a stunning revelation. It happened somewhere around day 4300, but it took me awhile to catch on, since I’ve aged two days for every day she’s been alive. My Tweenie girl came up from her lair in the basement and groaned from boredom. I casually motioned to the phone and said, “Call Jane, see if she wants to play.” I was immediately caught in a laser gaze of fire and brimstone. I said something I shouldn’t have, and I had no clue what it was. “Are you not speaking to Jane? What’s wrong?”

“Mommmm….I don’t PLAY anymore.”

“Since when?”

“Mommmm…We don’t play. We hang out!”

Lesson learned. No more playing.

If you stop and take a look around, chances are you have noticed that stores are marketing their children’s products with a side of teenage angst at a younger and younger age. It is as if a department store completely skips the little girl phase and goes immediately from toddler to teen. Little boys are assaulted with video games targeted to their age, but with content acceptable for much older boys. My girls are ages 12, 11, and 7. I find it more and more difficult to find television shows for their age that don’t include “smoochy stuff” as we refer to it at our house.

We, as awesomely alert and wise parents of tweens in Michiana don’t fall for their tricks, but some parents somewhere might.

In it Together

DC Curry, Director of Student Ministry at Granger Community Church speaks to 400 tweens and teens every month. They have a simple and effective strategy for growing kids up while trying to keep them young. He says:

1. Intellectually we don’t try to keep them young. In terms of intellectually, we teach at levels a little above where they are so that they will be elevated and not slowed down in the maturation process.

2.  We try to give lots of reality checks so that they can see themselves in light of who they really are as a tween, not what they’re projecting. 

3. We keep things age appropriate.  Just because society says it’s acceptable doesn’t mean we have to. We play. We have fun.

4. We can’t control biological growth and development but we can educate and help through that process.

5. Peer influence is the dominant psychological issue. We try to help provide ways for students to be connected to each other so that they can grow together in smaller pockets with great leaders. Tweens have a very strong desire to ‘conform’. Growing up together in these smaller settings gives them confidence to just be who they are.

Every parent and family has to decide what “age appropriate “means for their own tween. Here’s what we do as a family:

· We carefully monitor all the shows our girls watch. No smoochy stuff. They’re not old enough for mushy kissing, hugging and dating, so we limit T.V. smoochiness to a minimum.

· We have rules about what the girls can wear. They can be pretty and fashionable, but they are tweens, not twenty. Pretty much the rule is: If you’d see it on a Bratz doll, you can’t wear it.

· Their books are age-appropriate. They aren’t teens. They are tweens. We let them read books whose main characters have qualities we want to see in our kids, not the opposite. No vampires, biting, blood, etc.

…and maybe most importantly

· We play with them. We do really fun things with our kids so they have an outlet to laugh and giggle. Playing with them keeps them young and us too! (We never say the P word while we are playing with them. They’d be mortified)

Parenting tweens can be difficult. Not parenting tweens can be even more difficult when they are older and “wiser”. We’re in this together friends. We can raise emotionally healthy-age-appropriate-intellectually mature tweens…right? (Deep breath…)

Tweens in (Cyber)-Space

Finding Your way through the Internet A Step Ahead of Your Tween

I wrote this article for the Early Spring issue of Mi Child Magazine. You can find Mi Child locally in Michiana, or online here

Parents of tweens everywhere are all trying frantically to draw boundaries, set limits, and stay one step ahead of all things cyber-space. We are truly the first generation to deal with the ins and outs of Stardoll, Wizard 101 and Webkinz. Xbox, Facebook and Twitter. IPods, iTouches and iPhones. There are hundreds and thousands of games and applications tweens can download on an iTouch or a home computer. Online gaming and social media are here to stay, and we have to be smart about the online communities we allow our tweens to be a part of.

A New World For Us-Not For Them

Christmas Break 2009 007

We, as parents of kids in the techno age are doomed to be passed up by our techno-savvy kids, unless we intentionally keep one step ahead of them. We are learning techno stuff as we go. Our children have been born and raised with techno-brains. It is in their hard-wiring. We parents are immersing ourselves in a new culture and a new land, learning the language, learning to find our way around. Our tweens have been born there. Techno is their lingo, and they know all of the in’s and out’s, up’s and the down’s of the internet like the back of their little tweeny, computer savvy hands.

Where do we draw the line with our children’s online presence?

Here is a conversation that has been had at our house between me and my two tweens on several occasions:

Tween: Mom, can I have a Facebook account?

Me: No

Tween: Please? Every one of my friends has one.

Me: No. The Facebook rule says you need to be 13. You’re not 13.

One day later

Tween: Mom, can I have a Facebook page?

Me: No

Tween: Why not?

Me: You’re still not 13.

Just about every tween parent I know has had endless conversations with their tween about this issue. In our house, we follow the Facebook guideline which says you have to be 13 to have an account.

It’s been easy for us to set the Facebook rule, since there is already a restriction in place. Unfortunately, there are endless other technologies and media that our girls use every day without a specific age limit. These demand our constant monitoring and attention.

There are way too many variables for us to not jump in and keep an eye on what our kids are doing online. The dangers our tweens face online are the same they face in the real world. Chances are you wouldn’t leave a 10-12 year old to find their way around some unknown crowded public place for the day without your help or adult supervision. Your presence is usually required to keep them safe wherever they go. Same goes for all things online.

A Close Call

A friend shared this story with me about her daughter’s very scary experience using her Nintendo DSI– A man befriended her daughter through comments he left on pictures the child made, and began to make her think he was her boyfriend. Thankfully, her parents were alerted by the daughter’s obsession with this particular game, and took action. They were able to get on her account and find a very disturbing string of conversation between the daughter and this man. They disabled the internet signal on her DSI, and “ruined her life forever.” Thankfully, these parents were on top of the situation and noticed these changes in her behavior. They were one step ahead of her, probably saving her from a world of hurt.

I spoke with another Mom about this story, and she admitted she had no idea her child could gain access to the internet on their Nintendo DSI. That made me cringe.

Since we are all learning about this new world together, I thought I’d share some safety tips we’ve picked up over the past few years.

Map Out Their World

Just like when you’d take your child to a new place, map out the internet for them. Give guidelines and tell them where the safe places are and are not. If you feel like your child is a step ahead of you in their knowledge of online places and spaces, maybe it’s time for them to have accessed revoked until Mom and Dad can catch up again.

Go there With Them

Let your tween take you on a tour of where they like to go online. Play their games with them. Get better at their games than they are! This will not only benefit your relationship with them, but give you an insight into their world as well.

Make Your Presence Known

If your tween does have a Facebook page or Twitter account, let their friends, or potentially dangerous people know that you are around. Comment on their friends’ responses to your child, just to let them know there is an adult presence. You wouldn’t let a bunch of tweens attend a party with no adult supervision. Same goes for the online world.

Remember That You Are In Charge

Even if it means, “Ruining their lives forever”, you are the parent, and if something just does not sit right with you, take charge of the situation and do what needs to be done to keep your child safe.

Can you be at all places at all times with your tween? Nope. There are definitely times as they grow older that you will loosen your grasp and let them experience life with less restrictions. Tweens may be techno-savvy, but we are kid-savvy. We’ve been their parents since they were sucking on the remote control and their whole techno-world was just beginning.

Wegner Christmas Card

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In January, Rob had a speaking gig in Miami, so we made our Florida trip a large part of our gifts to the girls that Christmas.  God blessed us, and we had more fun and made more memories than we could have dreamed possible.

Vacation wore me out, I guess because when we got home, I did a lot of thinking and reflecting in February about the Grace of Pain.  Maddie and Whitney were fabulous in Snow White, and Belle got to be a prima ballerina.

In March, Rob and I celebrated our 17th anniversary by heading to our favorite city to wander the streets and see Blue Man.  We even got to be a part of the show!  It was a riot.

April showers not only brought May flowers, but our sweet friend Anya.  Our family has been praying with Marty and Kathy Friend for 6 years to bring Anya home from Russia.  It was truly a miracle to meet her in April.

On May 10, my 37th birthday, I woke up to an article about me and my girls on the front page of our local paper in an article about Tweens, Texting, and  Twitter.  A really fun surprise.

June was the busiest month of our year.  We went to India to gather stories for our book Share The Well.  It was an amazing time of self discovery for me personally.  After India, Maddie went to Camp Adventure and had the time of her life.  Rob and his Life Mission team ran the Warrior Dash, Whitney went to Springhill day camp at church, and Belle had art camp.  Our whole family picked Maddie up from camp and headed to Tennessee for a few weeks of rest.  Seriously, how did we survive June?  It makes me tired just writing about it.

July was a time together of rest, fun, and lots of time just to be together.  I saw my kids in a whole new light after our amazing adventures together (logged 22,000 miles together—zow!)

I started crying at the beginning of August, realizing that my last baby was headed off to school and I would be alone all day.  It was a month of milestones as Maddie began middle school and Belle started all-day Kindergarten.  I ended the month of August feeling really happy and free.  The introvert in me began to re-charge and re-fuel.

I started to write in September and stopped around the end of November.  Also in September, Miss Isabelle came to an eyes-wide open decision about wanting Jesus to forgive her from all her sins.  Truly a beautiful moment for our family.

October was an unusually warm month, and we spent lots of time outside.  I took this photo with my cell phone and was reminded of how God watches us—and how He likes to remind us parents of that every now and then.  Raj and Prema came to visit us from India, and they went trick-or-treating with us.  What a fun time!

November seemed to go really fast.  We had a riotous time with our 15 nieces and nephews for Thanksgiving.  We are truly blessed to have such an amazing extended family.

December was crazy-busy, but lots of fun.  Whitney got a part in GCC’s production of Once Upon A Midnight Clear and got to show off her mad-hoola-hooping skills as Flangi the Hooper. Belle had a Gingerbread Birthday party, and we put the finishing touches on Share The Well-a dream come to reality for Rob and I.

It’s been an amazing year.  We are so blessed to walk this journey together and share it with you along the way. 

Merry Christmas friends.

photo by brittani renee

Are Girl Bullies Worse?

I grew up in a household of boys.  All of my cousins were boys until I was 10, and even then my only girl cousin lived in Malaysia with her missionary parents.  I know about boys.  I know a lot about boys.  I know how they bully each other, how they feel before and after, how it makes them feel powerful, how it makes the other guy feel weak.  To this day, I think I understand boys more than girls.  Boys fight and punch, call names and spit at each other.  It’s no fun to be bullied, whether by a boy or a girl.GossipWhen my 2nd girl was born, I knew God had a good laugh.  He knew I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  I knew boys.  I knew them inside and out.  Girls, well, I knew one pretty well—myself.  I had some girlfriends.  I knew them a little bit, but childhood friends come and go.  I felt like I was travelling to a foreign country where I didn’t know the lingo.  I was excited, so much that I literally wept when each of my girls were born.  I felt like God entrusted me with so much when He gave me girls.

I’ve learned a lot of wonderful, amazing things about girls.  One unfortunate thing I have learned about girls is that they bully one another in really awful ways.  Rob and I joke about it, but in raising girls, there is some sort of drama going on in our house every single day.  One girl’s best friend one day is her worst enemy the next.  We help her through it, get that issue resolved, only to begin again the next day with the next girl.  It goes on and on and it never ends!  Are my girls to blame for the drama?  Probably sometimes.  They’re not perfect.

I was talking with Whitney the other day about the difference between girl and boy bullies.  She said to me, “Girl bullies are worse, because they bully to leave a scar.”  I agreed with her. Girls bully to intentionally leave a permanent emotional scar in the life of the one they are bullying. 

  • How do we keep  our girls from intentionally bullying someone to leave a permanent scar?
  • What choices can we make as parents, friends, or mentors to girls that will help them overcome the desire to belittle others to make themselves look more important? 
  • What steps can we take to build a child back up after they are given a “permanent scar” from a bully?

These are all questions I am going to be thinking about over the weekend.  I’d love your input as I’m trying to put together ideas about how to keep our kids from bullying one another.

A Tale of Two Bullies

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Bullies of All Kinds

Mrs. Night lived across the street and a few houses down.  She was old. She was crabby.  She was  a bully.  Her lawn was precise and practical.  Not one blade of grass was out of place.  If a weed popped up or one blade of grass grew longer than the other, she went out with her sun bonnet and scissors, got down on her hands and knees and went to work.  The bullying came when we would be playing catch across the street and a ball rolled on to her lawn.  Within seconds she would zip out of her front door, scoop up our ball and run back inside of her house while she yelled, “I am always watching!”  She terrorized us.  The neighbors that lived across the street from us had children that grew up in the 60’s, and they said Mrs. Night was old and mean way back then.  We theorized that she must have a room full of balls that she collected through the decades.

Stacy bullied me in high school.  She had eyes for my then boyfriend.  She was about 6ft tall, her hair almost taller than she was.  She wore acid washed jeans, a jean jacket, ripped up flannel shirt and dark, dark eye-liner.  Every day I saw her in the hallway she would mutter under her breath her choice expletive of the day as she ran into me-absolutely terrifying me.  I remember being at a school fair with some friends and heard that she was there and wanted to kick my behind (not the word she used).  I was so terrified of her, my stomach started to hurt and I started shaking.  She smoked.  She did drugs. She beat people up on a regular basis.  She was a bully.

What Bullies Want

These bullies might look very different, but they both want one thing—to be in charge.  They want what they want and will push, shove, manipulate, smash, and pulverize whoever gets in their way to their goal.

Each of my girls have been bullied in one way or another.  When it happens, we try to deal with each unique situation with fresh eyes.  Every bully is motivated to get what they want, but every bully is hurting and crying out for attention in a negative way.  We talk about how  they probably don’t have a home where they feel safe.  We tell them that some people are just mean.  We tell them that bullies bully because they have been bullied, either by their parents or other kids.

When our kids are bullied, I want nothing more than to take out my Mamma Bear claws and fight back.  I’m learning to step back and give lots of hugs while helping them understand why this might have happened from the bully’s perspective.

Were you bullied?  Have your kids been?  What is your first response to bullying?  What is your best response?