Friday, February 22, 2013

Week 4 Reflection

The chapter title that I am working through in Boundaries this week is “Kids need parents with boundaries”. The author's point is that though by nature we resist rules and limitations, from birth even, we need them. While a child's actions are that child's responsibility the parents teach the child what is permissible and what is not. If I ask my daughter to take the garbage out and then do not hold her responsible for the chore, I am actually teaching her that it is her choice to do what I ask or not- that she does actually have to obey me.
The author's state early in the chapter “You need to interpret a child's behavior as a response to your own.” Ouch. Does that mean that when she does not take the garbage out it is truly my issue not hers? Yes, she is still responsible to obey. But did I say it like I meant it? Did my words and my tone of voice match? Am I sending mixed messages?
Lately, many changes having been occurring at my house. The changes are for the better, but they are mostly physical changes. I have been down sizing which is diminishing the physical chaos in the home. Now it is time for me to examine the emotional chaos. This is a less tangible thing to look at. How do I measure my life? How do I measure my parenting?
The authors remind us that a student can only learn to the level of the teacher. It is not possible for me to teach my children how to be better than me. They can learn how to be better than me- but not from me. The statement made is, “Children will mature to the level the parent structures them, and no higher.” So if I am not happy with the behaviors exhibited is the fault of my children who are displaying inappropriate choices, or my fault for teaches them that those choices were appropriate to begin with?
The challenge is to not take the responsibility of my children's choices from them but to learn how to set clear boundaries and then hold them responsible. I have taught my children how to take physical care of a household. In other words they know how to do dishes, to clean up their rooms, to vacuum, to sort and wash laundry and clean bathrooms. What I have not taught them is respect and how to value another person. My mother taught me through fear and I do not want to parent that way. She also was not consistent in her expectations and punishments- so when I did something wrong I may or may not get punished for it and if I did, the punishment may or may not have had a direct correlation with the original misbehavior. \
I need to figure out what it is I am wanting my children to learn, what characteristics I am trying to teach. Then I need to set clear boundaries and hold to them. When correct behavior is displayed I need to bless and praise for that- everyday. When incorrect behavior is displayed I need to follow through with consequences that have a direct correlation to the behavior. For example, my youngest daughter has the job of loading the dishwasher. Often she loads it without cleaning off the dishes first so that any debris on the dishes simply gets spread around the load and all the dishes end up dirty- after it has run and they should be clean. A direct consequence could be that it is now her job to check the dishwasher when it is done and she has to judge whether they got clean or not. If not then she gets to immediately deal with the dirty load and reclean/rerun it. Over this next week I need to seriously think about each one of my children: what are their strengths an their weaknesses. What am I doing to build them up. What is it about each one's behavior that I would like to improve? How can I help them in that area? Am I being inconsistent in that area, if so how? What can I do to change me so that I am an example to them?

Week 3 Reflection

In addition to working through Boundaries with Kids I have also started a book called Motherhood: The Guilt That Keeps on Giving by Julie Ann Barnhill. Her premise is that moms naturally feel guilty for not “being_____” for their children. In a mother's eyes any shortcomings on the part of the child or children is the direct result of her parenting. Part of the summary on the back cover of this book says “On your way to the peaceful valley of Grace you'll discover...
*the difference between false (imagined) guilt and real guilt
*the pitfalls of unrealistic expectations and overconfidence
*God's path to less guilt and more grace”.
My hope for myself this semester is to settle more comfortably into motherhood, and single motherhood at that. My children are special, are valuable, and I seem to forget to tell them that. My ex-husband used to literally say, “I told you I loved you when I married you. If that changed I'd let you know.” And it did, and he did, but the point is that I do not want to parent the same way- where the only things they hear from me are corrections. The Hebrews have the right idea when they give 10 blessings for 1 rebuke. God extends grace to me, I want to extend it to others- and if I cannot start in my own home...
In the introduction to this book the author talks about how she got to the point of writing the book. She was teaching at a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group and the topic had to do with moms and being good moms, what that meant, and what part guilt played in mothering. Due to conversations she was overhearing in the discussion groups she stopped the activity and changed the question to, “What do you not feel guilty about as a mother?” The room grew silent. In a room full of women no one could answer that question. What a sad commentary on motherhood. Not that I would have been any different had I been there. How would I answer the question? Up until about 5 years ago, I would have said I didn't feel guilty about the amount of attention I gave my children, about the time I set aside for them, about the love I showered on them.
About five years ago my former spouse voluntarily admitted himself into a mental health facility for suicidal tendencies. Our marriage went rapidly downhill after that. Looking back now I am not sure when I stopped lavishing attention on my children. Part of it has to do with their ages and the fact that teenagers naturally pull back from their parents, but a big chunk of it does not. In fact, a dear friend asked me recently when I grew hard-hearted toward my children. My initial response was denial that I had done that, but because the person asking is a dear friend and I know has my families best interest at heart I began examining the issue. They were right, and I don't know when it happened. So now I have a choice- I can either feel guilty about yet another thing, or I can allow God to begin to transform me from the inside out as I work through my boundaries and my guilt. In the end my prayer is that my children and I come out of this portion of our life journey with a stronger bond with each other and a deeper appreciation for the grace of God.

Week 2 Reflection

I have mentioned before that I have three teenagers. My oldest is a boy and is 16. My two younger ones are both girls and are 15 and 13. In June of 2010 our family separated. My former spouse and I had a very unhealthy relationship and could never get on the same page that the way we interacted was not only harmful to our feelings for each other, but also harmful to our children, and to our family as a whole. Finally after years of trying to hold it together I had to acknowledge that nothing was going to change and that although I wanted my children to have two parents, it was less toxic for them to suffer a separated family than to continue to grow up in an environment that said this was an acceptable way to treat another person.
Understandably, both my children and I have had relational setbacks because of the breakup and consequent divorce of our family. We are all having to relearn what it means to show others they are valuable. To this end I have started reading a book called Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. These men have written several other books on Boundaries: in relationships, in dating, in marriage, in life in general. They write from a Christian perspective which I value because if my relationship with God is not what it should be then it does not matter what my other relationships are like. Only when my boundaries and my Christian walk is what it should be can I be the example to those around me, including my children. And only when my foundation is set on the rock of Christ can my other relationships have the balance they should.
The authors start out the book talking about a mom who is “helping” her teenage son by cleaning his room up for him. She is a helper and enjoys assisting others. But it was not until it was pointed out to her that her treatment of her son was not healthy in preparing him for living in the real world that she realized that at times helping is not actually helping. This introduction made me stop and question what I may be doing that is actually enabling my children. I have had to examine my attitudes, my choices, my behaviors and question whether I am modeling what is healthy for my children to take out into the world with them.
The second chapter the book talks about character building. The authors had several good points including that as parents we need to have a clear picture of what it is we are trying to build into our children. If I cannot define what characteristics I want my child to have then how do I know when they have achieved it? And even if I can name qualities that I want them to have- until I define what those words mean how do I know what specific thing I am attempting to instill? And finally, what am I modeling? Ouch. That one hit a little close to home, however it is true. As the authors stated so concisely in the final remarks of this chapter: “To develop a child of good character, we have to be parents of good character. To develop boundaries in our children, we have to have boundaries.”
I believe that my job over the course of the next months is to develop boundaries of my own that will Finally model those characteristics that are healthy for my children in life. I have stated before that in a way I feel as though I am going through my teenage years now as well. I never had the opportunity to sort through the value my family of origin handed me and decide which I truly agreed with. Then I got married virtually right out of high school and was handed a plate of my spouses values. Now at the age of 40 I am attempting to sort through and unpack values I agree with at the same time my children are attempting to do the same. The trick in all of this is to be consistent in my expectations as we unpack this as a family. Tough road ahead: but it is worth it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Spirituality of Place Reflection

I took a trip down the scenic highway in the gorge. I chose this because I always connect with God better when I get away from the city. To me quality time with God equals time away from a schedule and time literally reflecting in a body of water. By choosing to explore the waterfalls I was putting myself in an environment where my body naturally slows down. By leaving the city I was leaving time constraints. I wanted to do all I could to give myself room and permission to connect with God.
I stopped at Vista house and spent a great deal of time on the top of the house looking out over the gorge and the freeway. Finally I moved on because of the traffic flow of people coming and going from the observation deck. I was not paying attention to the time as for me that is part of relaxing and reflecting. I would say I was here for at least 45 minutes and possibly closer to one hour.

One thing that really hit me while up there was Psalm 23. As you look down from Vista House facing east you see two things. You see the I-84 and all the traffic flowing quickly along it, and then you see just south of the freeway a meandering creek with the peace and beauty that it brings. Do I choose to rush through life missing the things of beauty provided by God or do I slow down and take in the trees and flowers near the creek? It felt as though I were in heaven watching all the people on earth making the choices that would govern the speed of their lives. Most of us choose to speed through life oblivious of the creek just to our right. God is saying, “my burden is easy, my yoke is light,” if only we as humans will stop- or at least slow down- and enjoy the scenery.

I spent most of my time reflecting on the second and third verses of Psalm 23. I especially like them in the New Living Translation: He leads me to rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.
How often do I stop, or slow down to spend concentrated time with my Heavenly Father, just resting in Him. He says in the book of John: I am the vine you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing. Yet I repeatedly continue to try to live my life apart from Him- or if not truly apart from Him, then at least not in Him. I try to tell Him what I want to do and expect Him to come alongside me. And the funny thing is- I have experienced how easy life is when I join Him where He is instead of trying to get Him to join me where I am. I exhaust myself trying to do it on my own and wonder why I am so very worn out. Really? Haven't you learned yet girl?
After leaving Vista House I continued on the scenic highway trying to find a waterfall area that was somewhat protected from the elements- it was cold even though the sun was trying to come out- yet not overrun with people. Multnomah Falls was too busy and Latourell Falls were too far off the road. I ended up spending the bulk of the rest of my time at Horsetail Falls. Though they are located right next to the road there were virtually no people there.

I sat near a set of trees that reminded me of two people talking. I tried to envision those two trees being me and God. The “face” on one tree was slightly higher than the “face” on the other. If the lower tree were me then I was looking up to God and focused on Him. I want to want to live my life this way. I have experienced the peace of being so connected to Him that I know in the moment that the very air I breathe comes from Him. Then I swing to the other extreme where I am sure I am doing it completely on my own. Can I find a middle ground? It seems as though my “want to” is broken. I say I desire things to be different, yet I do nothing to change my behavior. Until my behavior changes, or I am at least motivated to pursue ways to change than I can't say in all honesty that I really desire things to be different.

Week 1 Reflection

This week has been a very interesting week. Because I have been preoccupied with my boyfriend's health I have been reflecting on life through the lens of health issues. In other words, if I were to die today what would I be leaving behind?
The biggest issue is my kids. I do not want them to be raised by their father, who has enough issues of his own. However, I am coming to realize I am a control freak. My kids are 16, 15, and 13. I have a few things I have allowed my son (the 16 year old) to have input in- such as how we control his ADD. But mostly I play the MOM card. This is detrimental to them at the ages they are getting to since they will soon be out in the world on their on. How am I preparing them for that?
I have been working my way through a book by Henry Cloud called Boundaries for Kids. What I am coming to realize is that my children cannot operate within the boundaries they have set for them. Not because the lines are unclear, but because I do not have the same rules for myself. Ouch!!
The basic things like clearing your dishes off the table I do as well. But some of the bigger issues, like getting up and doing your bible study time- they don't see me doing. And the intangible issues like politely listening to the speaker and waiting for them to be done before you speak- that is one I am terrible at.
So now it is time for me to back up to the basics and begin making sure my walk and my talk line up. How depressing. When I was growing up my mom had one set of rules for me and another for my brother- that drove me nuts! Especially since I was the older sibling and he got away with more.
Now I find that I am doing the same thing to my kids only it is one set of rules for them and another for me. I have a lot of work in front of me. I am excited for what our family will look like at the end of this part of the journey, but I am terrified as to what we will have to go through in order to get there.