Thursday, August 27, 2015

7 Steps to Enjoying the Parenting Life During the Teen Years

My husband and I tried for 5 years before we were able to have our beautiful baby boy, I was so excited when I finally had a pregnancy that didn’t end in miscarriage! However, when we finally were indeed expecting, I freaked out! 

Yep, you see I’ve spent most of my adult life working with teenagers. When I was looking at raising littles I realized I was out of my league. I knew what to do with a teenager, but had no idea what to do with a baby. The age that most people dread seems most familiar to me and sits within my comfort zone. Even though I have become more familiar with the baby stage now with a 4 ½ year old little boy and a 6 month old daughter, it got me thinking. I’ve realized that teens get a bad rap. They really aren’t that hard to raise. 

Now before you start throwing things at me, hear me out. If you are freaked about the teen years you may be missing out on a great stage that could be a true blessing. Below are 7 things I’ve learned that may help the dreaded teen years be a dream. 

1. Get some rest 

Let’s face it, you’re tired! By the time your precious angel has reached puberty, you have been sleep deprived for far too long! When your kiddo enters junior high you’ve made over 1,400 lunches, said “no” over 47,000 times and been to the doctor’s office well over 150 times. Let’s not forget the number of scraped knees you’ve doctored, broken hearts you’ve mended, temper tantrums you experienced, late nights you’ve endured through stomach bugs, fevers, colds and viruses. 

 Being a mom is the hardest job out there and after 13 years of service you are wiped out! You are the marathon runner who’s hit the wall and is waiting for that finish line to get your last bit of adrenaline necessary to preserve. A little change of perspective and rest and you will see you got this. A strong finish is well in your future! 

 2. See the Toddler/Teen Connection 

It wasn’t until I entered toddler territory with my son that a lightbulb went off, “oh,” I realized, “this is just like a teenager.” Toddler years are about learning how things work, cause and effect, discovering who they are within the context of family, learning how they connect in the outside world and building self-esteem to go out into the world as they begin school. Toddlers need space to make mistakes and learn, but they also need you right there to run in when it gets too hard. 

 Teenagers are similar except this time they are trying to see how they fit in the world as an individual unit. It’s almost like a reboot of their system because things they once knew must be relearned in a new context. They know where they fit in the family and now need to know where they fit outside the family system. They are looking at other adults, other families to see how their family measures up. 

 A lot of parent frustration I hear during the junior high and high school years, are that their kids should know certain behaviors already, but the truth is with the new questions in this stage, they don't. They don't need the judgment, but instead need the room to learn just like you gave them in their toddler years. Parents aren't done yet, they still need to be there to run in when needed. 

 3. Push the Pause Button on Your Memories
 You will never forget that day you laid eyes on your baby. Maybe you had suffered hours of labor or persisted through a lengthy adoption process, but regardless of how you got them, you were there and those memories will never leave you. You may be wondering what this fact has to do with anything in relation to your teen? It has a lot to do with them. I look at my 4 year old and can’t believe he’s in preschool and no longer a baby in my arms weighing in at 8lbs, 10oz. They grow up so fast and it’s hard not to have that baby photo engrained in your head, but the teen years are for becoming an adult and that means separating from the baby you still see when you look in their eyes. They are ready to explore the world around them and they need to spread their wings so they can eventually leave the nest. That takes focus from you at what is ahead. Regardless of their words, they need you now more than ever. 

 4. Make Room for a New Relationship

 In some ways this is very similar to number 3.  You know your child better than anyone and that fact is a true asset, but you also need to keep it from being a liability. The history and relationship you’ve built can limit your ability to look beyond the child and see a future adult. They need you to help them make room for the new relationship they will one day have with you as an adult. It’s a work in progress, but as they test out the boundaries of who they are they need you to allow them some space to discover themselves beyond your knowledge of them. It’s not always about the result but sometimes building self-confidence in the journey. This is a hard transition but a necessary one. You can do it together! 

 5. Have a Life Line 

I made a major mistake with my youngest stepdaughter when my husband and I got married 10 years ago. She was 14 and I had been her youth pastor, but when we married my cool youth pastor persona was kicked to the curb and I was given the "oh my gosh, please don't do that" mom role. One particular occurrence sticks in my mind when we were in the car and I was dancing to the music on the radio and was given the look. I asked what the issue was, after all, we had enacting this exact scenario with a great deal of fun in the past, but she informed me, I was no longer allowed to do so as her step mom. 

 During those years she developed a friendship with a wonderful woman in our church. I trusted this woman to steer her in a good direction, but I got jealous. I had a knee jerk response and scared off this woman of God and their relationship suffered as a result. I know I'm not alone because I have been on the receiving end. I've seen moms get jealous when I've gotten close to their daughters resulting in limited interaction. The truth is that is a HUGE mistake. 

Your kids are always watching and listening to you, even if they do everything they can to make you think they aren't, but in the teen years, they need someone else. Up until now they've learned who they are in the family, but now they want to see who they are as a person and developing a friendship with a trusted adult is important. Now with that said, we do still have to be careful, because we still have to protect our children and we want to make sure that person is in fact supporting our child and encouraging the values we have. It might be a good idea to sit down with them without kids present and discuss what you've seen develop and how you would like to see things progress. A good candidate is someone who is there for kids but backing you up. 

 6. Get a Life 

 If you don’t know by now, your kids are watching you. They most likely model what you do not what you say to do. You are their prototype. Up until now, they have been your life. You may work outside the home, but most likely regardless of family details you are the one that takes them where they need to go, goes to their events, gets what they need at the store and provides the meals they eat. 

 Now as they are seeking space and doing more apart from you, you can do the same. I am not promoting busyness that will keep you away all the time, but instead something else to put your focus. Maybe it’s a hobby or spending more time with your spouse or both! Regardless, you need to show your kids that you are a whole person. You have interests and abilities that go beyond “mom.” 

 7. Give What You Want To Get 

It’s easy to talk down to our kids. We’ve spent years training them on how to do pretty much everything and while our training goes on, by now they know most of the rules. It’s just navigating through them as an individual. What they need most is love, respect and a sounding board. Its not fair to patronize them and treat them like children then expect mature respect in response. They need to explore the possibilities and the best way that can happen is if they are heard. 

They are learning to be their own person and when its all said and done that is who they need to be. It may not line up with who you wanted them to be, but that isn't your decision it is theirs. That doesn't mean you cancel house rules and create chaos, in fact some of their direction may be something that can't be explored fully until they are out of your house. The day will come when they do walk out of your doors into a life all their own and how you walk it out now will have a major impact on the path they walk in the future. Don’t quit loving on them, praying for and with them and just being there. Isn’t that what you need as well? It’s a relationship after all. 

 When it’s all said and done being a mom is hard work! You may have regrets or fear if you made a mistake doing it your way, but you can’t change those things now. You can keep going and enjoy the journey of motherhood because before you know it, your days with your kids at home will be gone. Embrace each season and know they are all wonderful times to invest in and experience your kids.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Planned Parenthood - My Emotional Response

In a post three weeks ago, I shared my two cents about Planned Parenthood in light of the videos that had come out exposing the money they make illegally selling fetal tissue etc.  That post took me an extremely long time to write because I wanted to keep my emotions at bay and truthfully Planned Parenthood can get me emotionally charged unlike any other organization, and I don't mean in a good way! As CMP (Center for Medical Progress) has now released two other videos since my post, I felt obligated to come back and share some bits of emotion.  

My abortion not only violated my moral code as a girl who grew up pro-life but it wounded me.  Thanks to a local Care Pregnancy center close to the TCU campus in Fort Worth, I was able to find healing in the midst of my college experience at Texas Christian University.  I loved my experience in college and am so grateful for my degree in Communications, but it's the healing I received in my junior year that is most treasured.  

Don't get me wrong even though I know today I don't live with the baggage of that choice, I still face hard emotions at times.  Sometimes the most obscure happening to cross my path can easily cause me to mourn my sweet, Tyler, the name I knew was his. 

 It is and always will be my greatest regret! 

I am hurt now, by the realization that his body may have been further profited on and mutilated for the sake of science after I left that clinic.  That thought hurts me and I'm left wondering, am I the only one feeling this way? 

Sure, I signed some papers before the procedure, but if you think for a moment I was in any state to do such a thing, you are wrong!  You can say all you want that women are giving permission but my guess (and by guess I mean based on my years of counseling women who have experienced pain due to abortion), that if women really knew the doctor was working in a specific way to protect a kidney or brain matter to later sell to research, they would be running in an effort to protect their child!

These videos bring to light one more thing I must mourn.  My poor baby was hurt and I not only let it happen, I agreed to it by signing the paperwork.  Be mindful that there is a third of our population that has made this same choice and many of them may be mourning a new level of loss!  Planned Parenthood must be stopped and we need a new non-profit that actually is pro-woman! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Parenting Life - Mirror, Mirror Down the Hall, Who's the Mother of Them All

We all remember the wicked Queen in Snow White with her magic mirror. She was happy as long as the mirror only showed her what she wanted to see, but the moment it reflected the fairest Snow White, the real conflict began. I've discovered in my mother journey that I also have a magic mirror - its called, MY KIDS! 

 I'm a self-proclaimed, "work in progress." Having grown up with my fair share of dysfunction, I've always made it a mission to face the issues from my past and properly learn to process anything that crippled me from living a healthy life. I decided not to stop with a Bachelor's Degree and have worked hard since college to make my spiritual and emotional state a field of study that is turning into a life long course.
As a Christian, I have seen the hand of God leading me down the path that brings me closer and removes the barriers that separate me from Him. If I take a peek behind me on the road I've walked in life up until today, I can see I've come along way, but the truth is, I have a long way to go. The biggest indicator of that fact has been my children.

 At first it was cute to see that my son was so much like me. His loquacious, bubbly, never short for words demeanor reflected a side of myself that I love. I was touched to see him mirror my tender heart toward the people around us and I laughed as he approached humor with the same silliness I do. As he grew the reflection in the mirror before me began to reveal some aspects of my personality and parts of myself that I didn't like. The mirror down my hall was changing his tune from time to time and at first it was very unsettling. 

 My son mirrored the same angry temper and emotional outbursts that I display when I'm overwhelmed or don't know how to work through what I am dealing with in a moment. When he was feeling bad about himself I saw the same self-deprecating remarks that I also use in low moments and I was forced to take a hard look at areas that still need a touch from God.

 Its easy to get discouraged and feel like I am failing as a mom, after all, I take this life-shaping job very seriously. I don't want to do anything to mess up a human being. Despite that pressure and seeing things I don't like, I have learned from Jerry Bridges in his book, Pursuit of Holiness, "a failure isn't someone who fails, but someone who stops trying." In those words, I get my reminder that the cement hasn't dried. I still have time to make important changes. I still have time to be real and honest, own my failings, learn how to process anger and allow God to heal the damaged self-image that can at times emerge. 

 I've allowed this reflection to be motivation not discouragement. I decided to venture out into better mommy boot camp and model what I want to be reflected toward me.  My goal isn't perfection! Let's be honest, there is no such thing as a perfect parent and you can't raise perfect little people. My goal, instead, is to be equipped and to learn to equip my babies to process anger and walk through life with a healthy sense of self and boundaries with those around us. 

 God has lead me to some great resources as I study being a parent and honestly, being a healthy woman. Its easy to get into life and not stop and take time to be intentional but I find when life starts to go south the one area I have neglected is my quiet time with Jesus. He's my best friend and yet I can forget to sit at his feet. I need that time to survive, let alone flourish. When I give myself to God, I'm a better woman, wife and mommy! 

 I've also found some great articles online using that resource we call Google. I found a great book for my own struggle with anger by Gary Chapman called, Anger Taming A Powerful Emotion. Now its time to study, I need to know the good stuff I've read and put it into practice. Here we go! 

 What do you see when you look in your mirrors running down the hall? Do they reflect the woman you want to be? Do you like what you see? Do your littles reveal areas you need to give over to God and make a conscious effort to change? Maybe you are a well-balanced woman excited about the ideals you are modeling for your babies, but have neglected your time with God. God uses anything he can to bring us closer to him, after all isn't that the goal?! 

 Yes, we are raising our children, but God is using our children to work in us. Don't forget to truly evaluate what you see and hear coming from your mirror and don't let the truth make you mad like the Queen. Instead embrace the opportunity to walk closer to Jesus!! If you aim for God, he will never let you miss!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Planned Parenthood & My Two Cents

When I was 18, I had an abortion. As a post-abortive woman, I have been asked about my response to the recent release of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) undercover videos of Planned Parenthood. The callous nature in which Planned Parenthood Directors discuss the illegal sale of dead babies' body parts doesn't surprise me. Why? 

  1. Planned Parenthood is Rooted in Eugenics 
 According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, eugenics is “a Science that tries to improve the human race by controlling which people become parents.” Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a eugenicist, against procreation for minority groups, those with mental and physical disabilities or a family history of serious maladies. Eugenics creates a slippery slope when you seek to answer questions such as: who can have children and who is qualified to make that decision? This history and motivation provides a negative filter on the aim to truly help those in need. 

In one of our earlier episodes of Life Report, a pro-life podcast I used to co-host, we discussed another undercover investigation which recorded conversations with people posing as racists openly wanting to donate funds to provide abortions earmarked solely for black babies. That request, which is heinous, to say the least, was not only accepted but was greeted with an excited response from one Planned Parenthood employee. 

 2. Abortion is Priority, Not Helping Women In Need 
Yes, some women choose abortion, suffer no coercion, speak no regret and would make the same choice if they had to do it all over again. Over the years counseling women who have suffered through the trauma abortion awards them, I have discovered the majority of women don't fit that profile. I have heard stories of women who visited a Planned Parenthood clinic, had an abortion, went home only to suffer physical complications and when they called or returned seeking medical help, they were turned away and ignored. I've heard even more stories of women who were fine physically but were plagued with immediate regret and they too were met with silence from Planned Parenthood. I did not have my own abortion at a Planned Parenthood, but did go in to discuss my pregnancy and was basically told I had to abort. Other women have told me about being forced by parents or a boyfriend to have an abortion and no one at the clinic stepped in on their behalf when they voiced desire to keep their baby. 

Beyond my own scope of interaction with post-abortive women, other undercover investigations have demonstrated cover-ups of potential sex trade and statutory rape. I recently heard a story where a woman details her experience with Planned Parenthood in 1993, as she was a young married mother of one, and needed a quick 'certification of pregnancy.' Her lack of insurance brought her to a Planned Parenthood. She tells of the intake worker telling her the timing "was ideal for making a decision" regarding her pregnancy, to which she was adamant she was keeping. They then charged her $47 for the urine test! 

Planned Parenthood states in their pie charts and related research through the Alan Guttmacher Institute that abortion only makes up 3% of what they do. Personally, I am not okay with 3%, but is it really 3%? A second look at the numbers seems to show a different picture. 11% of their clients obtain abortions, 14% of their income comes from abortions; they are the leading abortion organization doing around 27% of our country's abortions and just over 90% of their pregnant clients receive an abortion. Those numbers mean more to me than just 3%. 

Planned Parenthood applauds in their Annual Report their efforts to fight abortion stigma. The more literature and websites I read connected with Planned Parenthood don't reflect an organization that is Pro-Woman or Pro-Choice, but instead Pro-Abortion. 

The goal regardless of your view on the topic is helping women, right? Fredrica Matthewes-Green hits the nail on the head when she states, "There is tremendous sadness, loneliness in the cry, A woman’s right to choose.’ No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg." 

Even if they don't regret it, like I regret mine, abortion is not a pleasant experience. If you got to choose between a massage or an abortion, I can guarantee most would choose the massage. When women are left with a choice, the choice they really want is to be unpregnant. Abortion isn't the solution to make that a reality, you would need a time machine to accomplish that feat, and a time machine isn't available. Is the goal abortion or doing what's best for women? I vote for what's best! For that to happen we need to listen more and offer support as they seek what's best.  

3. Following the Law Is Negotiable 
If you have clicked on some of the links I have provided above, you will note that Planned Parenthood employees often coax their clients on what to say to get the services they seek. Instead of reporting illegal cases that walk through their door or denying donations that promote racism, they press forward even if what they set out to do breaks the law, using verbiage that sounds like compliance. The 5 videos that now expose their profit in "specimen" sales demonstrate their finesse in crossing the legal line.

How can we say its not a viable life when we are selling actual body parts for profit: liver-thymus, arms, legs, neural tissue, kidneys? Even if you were pro-choice in certain circumstances can you still back Planned Parenthood with the 5th video revealing yet another despicable fact. When a intact "specimen" is requested Planned Parenthood cannot use chemicals in the chance of damaging organs and has to birth a live baby before eliminating life for the purpose of profit.

The question I am left with is why Planned Parenthood? Why does our government fund Planned Parenthood? I understand they are funding services other than abortion, but surely there are other organizations that help women or grants that could be infused with funds to help low-income women receive services they need that doesn't include abortion.