I was really not wanting to go to Costco but I decided to just do it. I’d had my neighbor’s Christmas gift sitting on my kitchen counter for long enough but since I can sooner find a needle in a haystack than to catch her outside, I loaded the kids up in the van and headed down to her work, my beloved Costco. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of the discount warehouse to help keep our grocery budget below the total of the national debt, but I’m quite burnt out of shopping since and holidays.
As I was waiting in line to meet up with my neighbor, Sasha decided to stand off to the side with the cart and Ashley and Caleb stood with me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sasha engaging conversation with a vendor who sets up appointments for something or another…and right away, my Momma Bear instincts kick in. I set the gift bag on the counter, headed directly to where Sasha and this stranger were conversing, and introduced myself. Julie introduced herself as well and explained that she was asking Sasha how she feels about her mother and if we have a good relationship (AHEM, that would be me!). Ummmm, what?!?!
“Sure, I’m comfortable with you asking her now that I’m here. What’s your question?” I was genuinely intrigued about what this woman, who is on the clock, could possibly ask my young lady. “How do you feel about your Mom? Like, do you feel like you guys get along well or do you talk disrespectfully to her?” I let Sasha answer this entirely on her own and I was confident in my daughter’s ability to answer this question sincerely. “Well, I love my Mom and she’s the best. I do argue with her sometimes but she still my Mom and I don’t want to hurt her with my words.” (Insert heart melting right about now!)
Julie turns to me. “See? I don’t understand what I did wrong. Your kids are behaving so well, even with waiting in line. What did you do? My daughter talks so disrespectfully to me and I actually look forward to going to work every day so that I get away from her nastiness.” My initial thought: Yes, they’re behaving right now but give my 5-year-old about 45 more seconds and you’ll be wishing you can take back those words, lady! We ended up speaking for almost an hour and I will say that Caleb did get a little fidgety and Ashley did start asking me to set a timer to end the conversation…but after hearing this lady’s heart and home life, nothing but a long hug would do. My heart broke for her broken relationship with her 9-year-old daughter but I also was amazed at this 50-year-old woman allowing herself to be treated this way. Our conversation lasted only but an hour but I reflected on this encounter for days! Sasha and I took turns pouring encouragement into this woman’s heart, in hopes of giving strength and hope to move forward with the steps necessary to make her and her daughter’s relationship (and even home life) more rewarding.
I do have to say that I am DEFINITELY NOT a therapist so perhaps I should just button my lip but yeah, not gonna happen! Even though I explained to her that I don’t have all the answers and she definitely needed professional help, I did give her some thoughts on the subject. After this encounter, I realized that I do have a pretty awesome relationship with my babies, BUT THAT IN NO WAY MEANS THAT ANY OF US A PERFECT OR THAT I’M DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT! ‘Cuz let’s face it, human being and all…But I am definitely passionate about mothers turning their hearts to their babies and forsaking the distractions of the world around them. So, I asked for advice from other Moms who are great role models of positive, healthy relationships between them and their children. I struggle with limiting my contacts to just two other Moms because I can think of a PLETHORA of ladies I’d love to hear from on the topic; however, for now, here’s what Jenni, Sondra, and I have to chime in:
Jenni is a close friend and one thing that I’ve always admired about her, even when I was too shy to say so, is how she loves her daughters. I had the privilege of getting to know Jenni better on a trip to the Leading and Loving It Conference in 2017. Her daughters are both adults and still, she spoke of how much she missed her girls as we both reflected on our parenting. She’s one who speaks with such simple-yet-profound words that my ears perk up whenever I hear wisdom flowing from her heart. She says it’s important to realize that we are our children’s mother and not meant to be their best friend. There needs to be a clear definition of roles in the mother/child relationship. I absolutely agree that although there can be a close camaraderie with your child, clear boundaries need to be established in love and respect for each person. In addition to being your child’s mother, she notes the importance of spending time with and listening to your child. This would be one of those “mic-drop” moments…Amen, sister!!!
Sondra and I met through a homeschool co-op and her daughter, Abby, and my Sasha are going to be BFFFFFFFFs F.O.R.E.V.E.R. That’s what they tell me. I’ve taken notice how Sondra and her husband have open lines of communication with both their daughter and son. She also is certain to spend some one-on-one time with each child as often as possible, sometimes reading a fun book on the couch or perhaps a date with Mom while grocery shopping, and making sure the family gets together over dinner and reflects on something positive about each other. Sondra says that the way in which we speak to our children and how we treat them is so important. (Again, AMEN SISTER!!!) But she cautions that mothers need to take care in the way they view ourselves so that we can pass that onto our children. “Because, if we see ourselves the way God sees us, we will be able to show that to our kids and they will be able to feel how important they are to not only us but God.” Ach, I couldn’t have said this better myself! Sondra also reminds us of the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who will remind us who we are because there are always days where we will not feel like believing the truth about who we really are. And in her closing comments, she says, “What your children believe about who they are and why they are comes from the overflow of what you believe about who you are and why you are.”
See why I wanted to get the input of these amazing Moms?????? Really, I feel like I could wrap up the post right here and now but I do have a thing or two to add:
Become a student of yourself and your children. I place huge importance on learning about myself, my habits, patterns, passions, dispositions, strengths, weaknesses, and so on. I don’t say that out of vanity but I do think that as we grow as individuals, we learn about the wonderful beings that we were created to be. Studying myself helps me celebrate my characteristics that make me who only I can be. I am more confident in myself when I know not only my strengths but also where I lack so that I can grow in the spirit of self-improvement. Observing your child when s/he doesn’t know you’re watching, taking mental notes of when s/he looked confident, comfortable, and in his/her element. Last fall, as we began coursework for the school year, I wondered what I could do for Ashley. She doesn’t really enjoy reading yet, she only likes math if she’s counting her money, and science definitely isn’t her interest. I took to YouTube and sought out yoga for children, dance, or ANYTHING I thought might spark a little twinkle in her eye. We came across Art for Kids Hub on YouTube and she was hooked. The first session, she sat on the couch and practiced drawing cartoon-style pictures for HOURS and I thought: WOW, look at her go! She’s totally in her element so this is something I need to take note of and encourage her in as she takes pride in her accomplishments. Art is also the “love language” I use if there is a skill or concept she is struggling to learn. Oh, if only I could somehow teach each lesson through the color wheel!
Another thing I feel is extremely important in nurturing a strong relationship with children is self-confidence and self-respect. I know I need to tread lightly here as I can’t claim to have conquered this mountain! I will, however, say that a confident and self-respecting woman will teach her children (and others around her) how she wants to be treated, and will treat others with respect as well. Remember my new acquaintance, Julie, I felt compelled to ask her how a 50-year-old woman came to be bullied by a 9-year-old. She said that it’s just how her daughter treats her and that if she doesn’t get her way, she just gets worse. AHA!!!! Right there…and cue another big hug! I knew this would be hard for Julie to accept but I had to lovingly point out that she has taught her daughter that if she throws a Broadway-style fit, says enough swear words, and insults Mom enough, she will get her way. Oh, don’t worry, I’m NOT throwing stones ‘cuz remember…HUMAN, RIGHT HERE???? But WOW, the tears started flowing and her hands trembled as she said that she just wants the struggle to stop. Oh, how I wish I could stop it all for her. But the reality is, as I told her, that this is a Julie-issue first and foremost and when she tackles this, she will have the strength and tenacity to follow through with her daughter. For some of us, this requires professional help and I want to shout from the rooftops THAT IS OKAY! So, if you are feeling like you need some help to get on the right track, please don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance.
If you are just a little rough around the edges, I hope and pray that the advice from Jenni, Sondra, and myself might serve as encouragement for a Momma who’s a little tired and weary. Having a Mom who is well rounded in self-confidence, self-respect, and sees value in herself as well as others is critical to having a positive relationship with her children. Remember, there is no replacement for you and your babies need you to be with them, listening to them, and studying them for the wonderful individuals they are created to be. And finally, Momma, remember that you are their provider of boundaries and protector of their heart. Wow, that’s an awesome job description and I hope you carry on forward humbly-yet-boldly in the position for which you have been chosen.
The bottom line is that you are so totally worth it! And your children are so totally worth it as well!
As always, God bless and stay safe!