In place of easing into the dawn of a fresh new day with thoughtfulness and intention, I’m thrown right into a barrage of questions that include meal planning, play dates and the recollection of supposed-promises that are in need of settling that very moment, regardless if my eyelids have unveiled my pupils. I do well under pressure, however I do NOTHING without a cup of coffee of 5 minutes to prepare myself for the day.
Since most of your days are filled with just surviving when you’re a new mom, your social life exists in text messages, on Facebook or Insta and running into friends at the grocery store (or church or gym, if you’re feeling extra). But those little moments of sanity, of being able to talk to another adult about adult things, even in the produce section, mean so much. They connect you to the life you had before but they also sustain you when you might be at your wits end. To feel not alone in the struggle, to be validated, to have a mom-family who understands the ups and downs of breastfeeding (or bottle feeding), annoying kids, allergies, “women's troubles”, health issues, sometimes unhelpful or too busy husbands, weight gain, weight loss, fertility issues, etc. etc. etc. is not just nice, but necessary.
But freedom exists outside of our national identity. Freedom exists within us as individuals and as a community and as a society as a whole. Perhaps it’s also a good time to consider what freedom means to us on a personal level and assess how we’re using it in that “pursuit of happiness” Thomas Jefferson so eloquently attached to our freedom.
Luxury backyard movie night can be quite magical. Borrow a projector from a family or church group and rig a sheet in front of the garage door and use your imagination for a comfy spot to sit or lay. Maybe the kids use an old box to design their own car for the “drive in” theater. Or use the family inflatable pool grandma bought you and toss some pillows and blankets inside for a “nest” effect.
“Let’s go, kids! We’re going to help Evelyn rake up her leaves this morning”, my dad would yell up the stairs. With loud groans and a sigh, we would all reply back with whatever dream we had for that particular Saturday morning, being crushed. Without an explanation or flinch, our parents would repeat “come on, let’s go” and we would reluctantly follow and do as we were told.
Years ago, I started making her order her food at restaurants. We read the menu together and sort out what she’ll be eating and drinking that night. But when the waiter asks if we’re ready to order, I say we are and then pass the conversation over to Livvy. She knows I’m expecting her to look the waiter in the eye, speak loud enough that he can hear her over the din of restaurant clatter and place her order. She knows questions are coming. “What side would you like? What would you like to drink?”
I have greater freedom and happiness because I am not a slave to my appetites and desires, my appetite and desires are a slave to me. Authentic love is when I am taught to give myself to others, to think of others, and in wanting their goodwill.
“One!” We say this with all the conviction of a battlefield commander ordering his troops to advance toward the enemy.
“Two!” The kid hasn’t moved and doubt is creeping in now.
“Two-and-a-half!” Hope is now our strategy. Hope that she moves soon and hope that she doesn’t know we’re technically at ‘three.’
“Two-and-five-eighths?” OK, who is doing the stalling at this point – me or my kid? Abort mission!
I really lose my mind during the summer months when we sleep with the windows open. Denver gets those middle of the night tempests where the rain comes in sideways just long enough to soak your carpet, warp your wooden floors or have your mdf window sills puff up like a sponge. My husband and I dash to the various rooms, delirious and half blind, trying to close windows before the precipitation causes a lake indoors. I race to the playroom, only to step on matchbox cars, Duplo’s and train tracks.
For our family, having a routine and schedule that is simple, enjoyable for all ages, and also spontaneous keeps our ship on course and sets us up for smooth sailing. Not to say there won’t be rough water at times, with a cranky child, someone having a melt down, poor weather or a chance that we run out of gas... but, we will do it together and create memories (both good and bad, embarrassing and complete fails). And on this journey and season of life, we will take all the help we can get!
I guess it’s no accident then, as I work to add some order to my life, that I think of my grandfather. He lived to be 93 and he didn’t spend much of that time wrestling with ambiguity. He was organized. He didn’t have an accent or an overtly ethnic name, but his love of details and his allergic reaction to “winging it” was proof enough of his German upbringing.
I’ve come to learn over the years that Orderliness has 3 key attributes that help us understand this particular character strength: Order of priorities, order of time, and order of goods. I think my son’s lack of flushing falls under order of priorities.
I’m not talking about just saying “no” to projects a little more often (because that’s a given). What I’m talking about is more akin to those little lies we tell ourselves when the alarm clock wakes us up.
All of this happened because a third-grader wondered how it could be done and his parents met him halfway. They connected him with people in the community that did the same. On and on it went until an extraordinary vision was realized by an entire community.
Today, courage for me looks like: tears streaming down my face when someone discloses their suffering or pain. It means sharing the words “I have no idea how you’ve been coping with this” and “I don’t have the words, but I’m willing to sit with you and experience what you’re experiencing and we can navigate this together."
Have you ever wondered what kids have to say about courage? Read on to find out what one mother’s kids had to say about this important topic.
Read one woman’s story on how she mustered up the courage to start singing the National Anthem at football games.
So far, all I’ve come up with is this: the best thing I can do as a father is build the kind of moral compass within my daughter that steers her away from making bad decisions. That compass is made of experiences, whether they’re good or bad, accumulated over many years. It’s also made of shared stories about my own experiences, whether they’re good or bad.
You may, like I sometimes did, feel guilt, frustration, or even sadness when you can’t provide for your children’s wishes, cater to their tastes, or respond to many of their requests. But just think: perhaps not having exactly what they want, when they want it, is helping secure a vital hinge in their character that will open the door to a life of balance and moderation. And don’t we all need more of that?
To be honest, the thing that works best—stopping her in the middle of an outburst and giving her a big hug. By far, hugs followed by a warm bath work the best."
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Every month we choose a new virtue to focus on, setting goals for ourselves, our children and the entire family. Stay up to date with weekly articles from parents sharing their experiences as they themselves strive for personal and family growth.