Monday, August 20, 2012

Guiltless

I can muster up a good round of guilt quicker than you can say, "Bob's your uncle."

Seriously, I'm good at it. I feel guilty over not letting the kids watch certain shows, guilty because I let them watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy before they could read. I feel pangs when I pass people at the bus stop, or when I have a coupon for something but I left it at home. I can get all knotted up replaying ugly words I've said to the people I love the most, or thinking about when I yelled at my kids, or had road rage in front of them or let a curse word fly in a fit of anger.

For real, I'm good at guilt.

There ARE some choices that I don't cause me to lose sleep. Stuff I don't feel guilty about:

1. Teaching our children to follow Jesus. Sharing Christ with another person is a joy, but raising your children to follow him is so very humbling.  I love their questions, their insights, and their struggles because they push my faith further along.

 Little Liam sleeping soundly.



2. Letting the kids sleep with us when they needed to. Everyone needs to feel this one out, but there were times when our family experienced extreme stress and sometimes climbing in bed with one or more kids was just what the doctor ordered. I love that there are times one of the big ones will come in and ask to snuggle for a little bit before bed.  I used to lose a lot of sleep over this one ( haha, get it) because so many people said don't do it - the bed is for two things: sleeping, and well, you know.  Then I figured out that this is our family and it simply doesn't matter what other people think is best - we can raise our family our way. 


3. Teaching the kids to do chores. This is still a work in progress around here, but I don't feel bad when they mow the yard, empty the dishwasher, fold the laundry, etc. because it will help them when they're on their own. Fussing and fuming happen whilst doing some chores, like scrubbing toilets, but we have a little rhythm here that helps. Each day is designated for a specific area - for instance Monday is bedroom day. I have started to put a checklist of what needs to be done in a page protector and hanging in on their bedroom doors so that there is no confusion about was is expected. By the way, perfection is not expected. :)

4. Making the kids do things that they don't want to do because I know its best for them.  There may be some children out there who are born with an amazing work ethic and always want to do everything that they're asked. Kudos to the parents of those kids. Mine are not such - there are many things that I have had to force them to do against there will but they most often thanked me when it was done and over. For instance, my daughters have taken piano lessons for 6 years or so.  My oldest one went through a phase where she wanted to quit.  She wanted to quit so badly that I would have to physically drag her to the car and then unceremoniously dump her out at her teacher's house.  Kiley recently thanked me because now music is one of her first loves, and her sister is the same. I have not inflicted my son on a piano teacher yet, but I have made him try sports or clubs on different occasions and even though there were tears at the start of practices or meetings there were always huge smiles at the end. 
Okay, not always huge smiles at the end.
See, I  know my kids. Just like you know you your kids.  I know that mine would rather hole up at home with books and wouldn't always push themselves if I didn't make them every now and then.  So I happily oblige by occasionally pushing them out of the nest.  I always bring them back home.

5. Arguing with my husband in front of the kids. I used to feel terrible over this.  I thought that 'good' people didn't do that. Lee and I can have some, shall we say, spirited debates.  I both love and hate that about us. However, after 16  years of marriage we have learned how to let things go so our arguments are few and further between and ALWAYS end with us reconciling.  Our kids see that and that  is so important. I don't want them thinking that relationships never have rocky roads.  I want them to know that relationships are hard, that we humans don't always agree with each other but that when you have a foundation of love (especially love rooted in Christ) you can get over stuff eventually.

6. Apologizing to my children.  You know, as a parent sometimes you mess up. Royally. In huge ways. Sometimes your tongue gets ahead of your brain or you move forward like a steam locomotive without thinking. Every now and then anger will blind your mercy spot. I am so guilty of using sarcasm on my children, or eye-rolling, or accusing them of taking things that I actually misplaced all on my own. There have been dark days, days when THE FUNK had moved into my heart and bad things happened. To me, motherhood is sacred, and I must admit that there have been times when I dishonored the profession.

So, I humbled myself, sat my babies down and begged their forgiveness. Friends, there is nothing so humbling as telling your little ones, the children God put you in charge of, that you are sorry for the wrong you did and saying the words, "Please forgive me."  There is nothing so beautiful and healing as their arms around you saying, "I forgive you."  It's healing for me to hear and healing for them to say and it allows us each to move on.

7. Being real about our budget. The truth is, because I choose to stay home, our income is limited.  Also, having four children impedes our budget a little. There are times when we have to say to no to the kids because the budget does not have room to spare for X, Y, or Z - and that is okay. It is more than okay, it is healthy for kids to hear the word 'no'.  I remind them all the time that we are in the top 5% of the world's income and that not spending $85 on movie tickets plus and additional $45 on popcorn and drinks is not going without - it's being smart.

8. Limiting their activities - and mine. There are so many fun activities to be involved in.  You can pick almost any sport or any musical instrument and find a teacher. There are endless group and church activities. They are all good and noble things - but they consume time and money. Time I want to spend with my kids, money I want to save to fun things with our family. Together. One year we ran from place to place with our kids, always seeming to run late because the previous event went over. I never knew what form was due or what we were selling for what organization. That was it for me. We limit each child to one music lesson and one sport activity each school year. While having four kids breeds its own kind of insanity, cutting down on our their activities has helped immensely.

So,  after I limited what the children were doing I had to look at my schedule. I was saying 'yes' to a whole lot of people while serving all kinds of versions of hotdogs to my family for dinner. Every night. There was 'Hot Dog Surprise' and 'Hot Dog Buffet' and once in a desperate situation 'Hot Dog Omelet'. I knew I could do better and I knew that all those people I had committed to could live without me.  I did not want my family to learn to live without me. For two years I did not sign up for anything, which was extremely liberating, and now follow the same one activity rule.

9. Homeschooling. I love homeschooling, and most days so do my kids. I will admit that every now and then I have the Big Yellow Bus fantasy, but more often than not I am pleased with our choice.  This is another great thing about America - we have these kind of choices. 







10. Taking off without the kids. I think it's healthy for me to get away on a very regular basis - healthy for the kids, healthy for me, and healthy for my husband.  I have finally come to accept that my idea of parental bonding looks very different than my husbands, and that's okay. The fact that I like schedules and (mostly) healthy food, and limited t.v. for the kids is balanced by my husband's extreme opposite in each of those areas. I say toe-may-to, he says ketchup.


That's it. Those are the ten things I have no angst over.  There may be more, but I cannot think of them.

What actions have you taken as a parent that don't push your guilt button?


9 comments:

  1. Love it!

    Oh, and FYI... Most stores let you take your receipt and the coupon you forgot and get a refund.... within a reasonable timeframe, of course.

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    1. I didn't know that, Sarah. Thanks!!

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  2. Kara I think you are smart not to have pushed the boys into piano yet. With guy unless they show an interest at a young age it's best to wait till they hit double digets. Not sure why this works but I have a friend that started at age 10 and is now 30ish and still loves to play. He said he would have hated being forced to at a younger age. Hope all is well.

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    1. That's the advice the girls' piano teacher gave me - and I am glad I have followed it. I think my boys are more into entomology, anyway, hehe.

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  3. Good post Kara! I don't feel guilty for letting my 2 year play alone in his room. At first, it was weird, putting in his room with his toys and letting him play. Sometiems he cries....for about 15 seconds followed by 2 hours of playing and laughing with his toys. I love that he is 2 and can entertain himself with toys and books without needing me every second of the day. Also, for letting him stay in church sometimes. Somedays we get weird looks or have to find "excuses" when we don't put him in the nursery. But 2 Sundays ago he stayed in the sanctuary and listened to me preach, and now "Holy, Holy, Holy" is like his favorite song and we listen to it all day. Also, he has learned how to say "nice to meet you" and shake people's hands at church!!!! Good thing I get my parenting advice from some pretty lady with a blog ;) haha

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    1. Nice! I think its so good to teach them to play on their own...Liam does not get enough of that!

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  4. I must be daft...can't imagine how you could possibly feel guilty about any of that!

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Give me some lip service, please.