Are You a Distracted Parent?

It’s something I observe more and more…parents who are too caught up in their phone (whether it’s a conversation with someone else, checking Facebook or sending a text message) to notice their child.  It may be a child crying out for attention, asking a question or making a statement—regardless, the parent is distracted by technology.

 

This affects the newborn, toddlers, school-aged, teens and even young adults.  Their parent’s attention is on the television, computer or some other type of device.  And lest you think I’m pointing the finger at others, I must also point it at myself.  For I am not immune to this trap.  In fact, there have been times I was writing a blog for “Treasuring MOMents” and a child needed me but I was so distracted by my writing, I didn’t give my full attention.

 

So let me ask you…are you a distracted parent?  Is getting the perfect picture for Instagram more important than the fact your child is hungry or needs a nap?  Do you spend more time on Facebook than reading to your children?  Does the television replace quality time with your kids?  Is that phone call more important than listening to your child?

 

It’s not just devices and technology that distract us as parents.  Here’s where I struggle the most.  I get distracted by life’s issues.  Stress at work, financial concerns, problems with relationships, too much to do and not enough time to do it…and the list goes on.

 

Too often I allow life’s issues to distract me to the point I miss meaningful moments.  Simple pleasures, like hanging out in the living room with my family and sharing some laughs.  Or going to our favorite yogurt shop for a treat.

 

Distractions can also keep us from recognizing bigger moments…an important conversation that would have taken place, a needed hug or the opportunity to speak life into a child’s desperate situation.  I often wonder what moments I have missed out on because I was distracted by life’s issues.

 

So let me ask you…are you a distracted parent?  Is the tension in your marriage causing you to snap at your children?  Do you take work home—not literally but in the sense you have nothing left to give to your children?  Are your worries about paying bills becoming a burden for your children to bear as well?

 

Let’s face it…distractions abound.  But it’s up to us to keep them at bay.  That starts by recognizing their existence.  Then we acknowledge how they’re a problem.  Finally, we take the necessary steps to get rid of them.  That will be different for everyone.  Here’s one way I’m going to start.  When I’m on my smartphone and one of my children speaks to me, I’m going to set it down.  What about you?  What are some things you will do to get away from distracted parenting?

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

Those Moments You’ll Miss

 It drives most parents of young children crazy…or at the very least, it might elicit an eye roll.  It’s the ole “Enjoy this age while you can,” “They grow up so fast” and other comments meant to (if we were to be honest) make you feel a bit guilty for not enjoying a particular age or for wishing they would just grow up.

 

Just like I couldn’t be convinced years ago to appreciate what I had, it’s the same story for most parents with young ones.  You’re in the midst of exhaustion, messes, tantrums, crying, clinging—insert your personal challenges.  So the last thing you want to hear is how “wonderful” all of this is, and how you are going to wish it back because all you can think is, “NO WAY!”

 

Let me be completely honest—as the parent of a 16, 18 and 21 year old.  It’s ridiculous for anyone to suggest that those moments are ones you will long for and want back.  No one in their right mind wishes to go back to a time in which tantrums were an hourly occurrence, the baby was inconsolable and you didn’t get a good night’s sleep because of a nursing newborn or a child having a nightmare.

 

However, there are other moments that may at one time have felt exhausting or problematic and you would gladly exchange for some of the other challenges you face with teens and adult children.  Speaking from personal experience, I can think of many moments that I took for granted or didn’t/couldn’t appreciate at the time.  For instance, nursing a sick child back to health…comforting a child who has fallen down…reading that story one more time…answering yet another question from a curious little one…tucking in a child…giving one more kiss…again, insert your personal moment that you would wish back.

 

These days I’m less needed.  I have more time for me.  If I’m tired, it’s because I was up too late watching TV.  On a whim I can have coffee with a friend or go out to dinner with my husband.  I can sleep in.  I don’t always have to cook.  The house is less messy.

 

At one time this would have sounded like a dream come true.  The days of what I once longed for have finally arrived…and yet, it oftentimes leaves me feeling lonely and empty.  I know that with time I’ll adjust to the change in my role as a parent.  I’ll come to accept that it will never be what it once was and I’ll appreciate this new stage of life.  But no one will ever convince me that I didn’t already experience my best days as a mom.  So if I can convince even one parent with young children that you WILL miss many of your current moments, I’ve done my job.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

A Letter to My Children

To My Dear Children,

 

Nothing in this world has brought me greater joy than being your mom.  It hasn’t always been easy but I wouldn’t trade any of it for even one second of being motherless.

 

Yet I know I haven’t always done it right.  I’ve probably messed you up in some ways.  Maybe my fluctuating moods caused too much confusion.  Or you felt that at times I was impossible to please.  I know I’ve raised my voice more than necessary.  And I’ve probably said some unkind things.

 

I wonder if I was too strict about some things and not strict enough about other things.  I’m certain that I wasn’t always a good example.  And I probably changed the rules from one child to another.  That wasn’t fair.

 

I’ve tried my best.  I fell far short of perfection.  Hopefully you never felt that I expected perfection from you.  My goal was to have a healthy balance between discipline and grace.  I’m sure one side weighed more heavily at times.

 

You’ll never know the insecurities I felt as a mom.  The times I questioned my decisions.  And the moments I wish I could take back.

 

Despite these (and other unnamed insecurities), may you know without question that my love for you is unbreakable, unsinkable and indestructible.  And regardless of my many shortcomings, I can only hope that somehow you still felt my love even when I was angry.  That you sometimes saw Jesus in me.  That you felt my prayers.  And that I somehow lessened your hurts when I wrapped my arms around you.

 

Love,

Mom

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

Questioners, Doubters and Seekers

questionerIt seems like everywhere I go, I hear the same sentiments—moms who are frustrated, disappointed and weary.  I hear it from co-workers, family and friends.  From those who have been faithfully following Jesus for years and those who don’t know Him.  From those married and those not.  From stay-at-home moms to working ones.  In other words, there’s no discrimination when it comes to the challenges faced in parenting.

 

Parenting children who are making wrong (and sometimes dangerous) choices.  Children hurting because of bullying, breakups and broken families.  Children suffering from depression, discouragement and dependency to drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc.

 

I ask myself, “Is there a difference between churched and unchurched children?”  Because from what I’m seeing, there isn’t.  I’ve questioned God…if how I’ve raised my children has really mattered.  When I don’t see it making a difference, I can’t help but ask these questions.

 

What happened to the little boy that used to stand on a chair and pretend he was our pastor, telling the devil where to go?  What happened to the little girl who cried about the new friend she made at the McDonald’s play area, upset because she doesn’t know Jesus?  Or the little boy who used to belt out, “Woody is the Lamb!”  (Translation:  “Worthy is the Lamb!”)  The children who prayed and read their Bibles.  Who loved to attend church and lived for Vacation Bible School.  Who believed without question that God could answer any prayer, and thought “stupid” was a bad word.

 

I find myself longing for the simpler days, when faith was at the forefront of our family and my biggest worries were potty training, finding matching socks, getting everyone to church on time or what I was going to make for dinner that night.

 

I find myself wrestling with God over these matters.  And while others might be quick to point out my flawed thinking or even where I possibly went wrong in all of this, I feel at peace with God.  Not the kind of peace where I have the answers…but a peace in knowing that He can handle my questions.  He isn’t taken aback by my feelings.  He doesn’t view me as faithless or ungrounded.  The Bible is filled with questioners, doubters and seekers.  I’m not alone in this.  And I definitely know I’m not alone because I’ve talked to other parents.

 

I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves (and others) is permission to question.  God can handle it.  The same God who Jesus cried out to on the cross, “Father, why have You forsaken Me?” isn’t offended by our uncertainties.

 

So ask away those hard and difficult questions.  Express your doubts.  Seek to understand what doesn’t make sense.  This is where real faith is formed anyway.  And if you don’t believe me, read some of the Psalms.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

Tradition Trumps Dysfunction

family-traditionThey gathered in my home—one of the most flawed, imperfect group of people you could imagine.

 

Family.

 

Looking around, I found it hard to believe we had come to this place in time.  Disjointed because of distance, changes in circumstances, differing beliefs, unforgiveness and brokenness.  It would have been easier to keep certain people apart, to not invite some or better yet—to have treated it as just another ordinary day, not even bothering to gather together.

 

But in the midst of our challenges as a family were children longing for some sense of normalcy.  To carry on with our traditions, regardless of the trials and challenges we had (and presently) were facing.  It’s strange how you can find comfort in chaos.  There’s something about familiarity that breeds contentment, even in the most difficult circumstances.  I longed to wind back the hands of time, when children were innocent and adults got along.  It’s hard to accept things will never be the same, even if healing comes—it can never, ever be the same.

 

Yet tradition is the glue that somehow manages to keep us together.  Even if we’re barely intact and holding on by a thread.  My prayer is that it teaches the children God’s grace.  How He receives us just as we are—dirty and soiled.  How He doesn’t require us to clean up before we come into His presence.  How He loves us, no matter what.

 

I’ve come to learn that tradition is about so much more than rituals and practices.  It creates a long-lasting bond that can weather any storm.  Tradition creates memories that stand the test of time.  It connects people on a much deeper level. It offers security, even when life feels so uncertain.

 

Don’t ever underestimate the power of traditions—regardless of the dysfunctions that may plague your family.  And don’t ever underestimate God’s ability to restore what’s broken.  That’s what He’s in the business of doing when it comes to families. In the end, tradition trumps dysfunction.

 

© 2014, Stephanie Romero

 

 

There Goes Your Life?

r-EMPTY-NEST-large570There’s a country song by Kenny Chesney (“There Goes My Life”) that I can so relate to—not just because it’s about teenagers having a baby.  But the message behind it rings so true in my heart, how eventually that little one grows up and leaves the nest.  As the father’s daughter drives off, he sings “There goes my life.”

 

Many of us haven’t just made our children part of our life—we’ve made them our entire life.  We have wrapped ourselves up in them to such a degree that we don’t know how to let go when it’s time.  Or we’re just not willing to even entertain the idea of letting go, so we hang on with everything we’ve got.

 

It’s hard to let go—that first time you leave the baby with a sitter.  The first time you drop your hand and he takes a step.  The first time you let go of the bike and she pedals.  The first day of school…the first date…the first time driving away. All of these “let go moments” that are part of life and yet so difficult to accept.

 

Letting go isn’t just about getting through stages…its learning that our life is more than our children.  God may have blessed us with the awesome responsibility and privilege of being a parent but it’s not the whole of who we are—and if we don’t get that early on, we’re going to struggle later.

 

I know…because I’ve been there.  I’ve spent the last couple of years navigating this, when less than two months after graduating high school my oldest son left for basic training.  And now I’m getting closer to the time my second child will leave to start her own life.

 

You see, it’s so important we don’t look at those moments as “there goes my life.”  Because then we have nothing.  And that’s not what God intends when He blesses us with children.

 

As our children get older, we don’t love them any less and we don’t stop being a parent.  But there comes a time when we just have to let go.  If we don’t have something else to fall back on, we’re going to struggle.  Not that it’s wrong to be sad when a child gets married, goes off to college, joins the military or whatever direction life takes him/her.  But we must move on and fulfill the purpose that God has for us as a person—not as a mom or dad.

 

It’s not easy…in fact, I’ve found it to be downright painful.  But we don’t stop living when our child walks out the door.  Life takes a new direction, one that we need to be ready to embrace.

 

© 2014, Stephanie Romero

Keeping Love in Balance

1012285.largeI can clearly remember when my third child realized the imbalance of things.  When he questioned the greater number of videos and pictures I had of our firstborn son, in comparison to him.  Thankfully he never brought up the fact that my oldest son always had new clothes and most of his were hand-me-downs.  Or that he had fewer new toys…or that my energy level was much less by child #3…or that I didn’t boil his pacifier in hot water (when rubbing it against my pants works just as well)…or that I didn’t run to the doctor every time he had a fever…and would just wipe up the blood instead of freaking out.

 

But he does remember never having his own bedroom.  He can recall the makeshift bedroom we made out of a closet and the upstairs foyer we tried to pass off as a bedroom in our next house.  (By the way, he’s had his own bedroom for several years now).

 

And for goodness sakes, please don’t tell him about the time he was accidently left behind in the van in his car seat.  When my husband dropped me off at the doors of church, thinking I had taken all three of our children, when I really only took two.  And how I thought he heard me say to grab our youngest after parking and he didn’t.

 

Despite the cruelty of being the youngest and missing out on brand new clothes, exclusive time with mom, tons of pictures and videos, and just getting shafted in a variety of ways—I can only hope he’s never felt any less love from me.  His siblings will sometimes remind him that he was the “unplanned” baby.  But we know (and tell him) differently—he was our special surprise.  God knew we needed a little more light and laughter in our lives, so He saw fit to bless us.

 

The truth is, we can fill picture albums…we can buy the latest and greatest…we can outfit them to the nines…we can do all these things and so much more.  But it will never replace the gift of love.  It’s so important that we ensure each child (no matter how many are in our quiver) KNOW they’re loved. Don’t assume they know it.  Don’t take one day for granted.  SHOW them love every time there is an opportunity.  It’s the one area in parenting that should always be in balance.

 

© 2014, Stephanie Romero