When Faced With a Difficult Decision

 In our 24 years of marriage, my husband and I have had to make a lot of difficult decisions.  The weight of those decisions have always been much greater when they affect our children.  A recent one easily qualifies as a Top Five for us.  But it wasn’t one made without a lot of thought and prayer.

 

We made the decision to leave our church and attend another one.  I’ll be honest.  Even typing those words brings an ache to my heart.  The best way I can describe it is that it feels like an artery to the heart has been severed.  It’s a connection we’ve had for more than 20 years now.  You don’t walk away from a church you’ve attended that long without experiencing some sadness.

 

It’s the place that saved my soul, my marriage and my family.  It’s a place of familiarity for my children…where they met their first best friends…where they grew spiritually and were received with grace when their relationship with the Lord was rocky.  It’s a place I envisioned being at for the rest of my life, with the hope that my children and their children would also attend (not that I am discounting that possibility).

 

Our reasons for leaving are personal.  But I definitely don’t want to leave the impression there is something wrong with the church.  Our children understand that if they were to decide on their own to continue attending, we’d be more than happy about it.  We’re not looking to pull them away.  It’s just that for my husband and me, it’s the right decision.

 

Still…it affects them.  I’ve heard the protests, questions and even slight anger over this decision.  But when it comes down to it, we have to do what’s right for us as a couple.  As much as I love my children, I’m closer to the time where it will be just my husband and I…which means I can’t allow their disappointment to cloud what’s best for us.

 

One of the reasons I know this was the right decision is that it wasn’t made hastily.  It was with a great deal of contemplation and prayer.  I can only hope that my children truly believe this.

 

Sometimes parents have to make difficult decisions.  If we’re not 100% confident it’s the right one, this can result in guilt and fear.  Guilt that we’ve got it all wrong and fear that our decision will cause negative consequences.  But when our trust is in God—rather than our decision—there is no need to feel guilt or fear.  We can know that it’s all under control.  HIS control.

 

When facing a huge decision…such as how to educate a child, whether or not to move or choosing between working outside the home versus staying at home…seek God.  Keeping seeking until you feel at peace with His answer.  When faced with any decisions, big or small, know that you can find assurance in the outcome if God is part of the process.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

 

Unexpected Lessons in Motherhood

 There are some things you know in your head before becoming a mother.  For instance, the days of sleeping in won’t happen again (at least not for many, many years).  You have somewhat of an idea about sacrifice.  And you know that it’s going to take a whole lot of money to raise a child.  But there are some things that happen in motherhood you never expect.  Here’s just a few…

 

Unexpected Lesson #1 – You Will Be Stretched in Ways That Seem beyond Your Limits…But You’ll Still Make It Through

 

At times I’ve felt that I couldn’t take another sleepless night…another day of dirty diapers, spilled liquids, toys all over…another day of bickering…another day of requests and demands without getting one moment to myself…another day of worry…another day of teen attitude…another day of rebellion…or another day of just being a mother.

 

Yet just when you think you’re going to break because you can’t take one more thing…a strength from within rises up.  Sure, you might make a few mistakes in getting to that place.  You might need to spend a whole lot of time on your knees in prayer.  You might go to bed wishing to rewind the hands of time.  But you will still make it through.

 

Unexpected Lesson #2 – Although It Sometimes Hurts, There Is Freedom in Learning to Let Go

 

I’m a control freak.  I like to have all my ducks in a row and when they aren’t, well, it’s not pretty.  Motherhood has been the greatest teacher in showing me that trying to control everything causes greater pain than I would experience in having no control.  Sometimes God has had to pry my fingers open to help me release control.  And although it hurt, the end result was a feeling of relief.  I experienced true freedom.  Freedom to trust Him with my children.  Freedom from anxiety, frustration and stress.  Freedom to enjoy being a mother.

 

Unexpected Lesson #3 – There Is No Such Thing as a One-Size-Fits-All Method of Parenting

 

I’ve read many books on parenting.  I’ve listened to lots of advice.  I’ve attended classes, workshops and seminars on parenting.  I’ve observed the way other parents do it.  Regardless of all these “helps” (I would argue that some have actually proven to be detrimental), the one thing I’ve learned is that there is no such thing as a model way of parenting.  Not in the general sense and certainly not for all of my children because each of them are so different.  And just when you think you’ve figured it all out, along comes reality to knock you down.  Suddenly you have to come up with a new plan.

 

What works for your friend, neighbor or relative doesn’t always mean it will work for you.  Our journey as a mother is unique, with varying circumstances that determine what’s best for each of us.  Don’t believe the hype—there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all formula to parenting.

 

Unexpected Lesson #4 – Others Won’t Always Agree With (or Like) Your Way of Parenting…That’s Okay Because It’s Not Your Job to Meet Their Expectations

 

I’ve had many a person disagree with me about decisions I’ve made in parenting.  Everything from my educational choices for my children to when I determined it was okay for them to walk home from school.  I’ve been criticized for being too strict and at other times, not strict enough.  I’ve been questioned on what I allow or don’t allow, the rules we enforce in our house and how I handle discipline.

 

If you think it doesn’t happen to you, it does.  Sometimes it’s just not voiced out loud.  But it doesn’t matter.  Because in the end you are accountable for what you do with your family.  It’s not your job to meet others expectations.  The responsibility of motherhood is a heavy enough load without adding other people to it.

 

© 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

Two Words Every Mom (and Dad) Should Say

You’ve blown it.  You mistakenly blamed your child for something he didn’t do.  Maybe you raised your voice a few notches louder than necessary.  Or perhaps you broke a promise.

 

Deep down you know your child deserves an apology.  Yet you wrestle with saying the words…I’m sorry.

 

Maybe it’s pride standing in the way.  It could be that you never received an apology from your own parents.  Or you just don’t believe that someone in a position of authority should have to apologize.  In some cases it might be you don’t believe you’ve done anything wrong.

 

But here’s why “I’m sorry” are the two words every mom (and dad) should say to their children:

 

It shows you care about your child’s feelings.

 

When someone else’s reaction is over the top, when another person wrongs us or accuses us of something…it’s natural to feel hurt (or angry, embarrassed, etc.).  The point is that you FEEL something and our children are no different.  By not apologizing, you are dismissing their feelings.  But when you acknowledge your mistakes, it shows you care.

 

It holds you accountable.

 

Regardless of the fact you’re an adult and the parent, it’s important to recognize our wrongs.  Apologizing holds us accountable for our actions and will cause us to think twice before making the same mistake again.

 

It demonstrates humility.

 

Children should respect their parents…no question.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t mess up and when we do, that we just brush it under the rug.  Sometimes we have to swallow our pride and admit to our wrongs.  Saying “I’m sorry” is one way we can demonstrate humility to our children.

 

It fosters forgiveness.

 

Unless we apologize for our mistakes, there isn’t much room for finding forgiveness.  And it’s not enough to say “I’m sorry.”  Asking our child’s forgiveness helps him/her to grow in this biblical principle…not only in that they will seek forgiveness when they have done wrong but they will more likely forgive others who hurt them.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

 

Don’t Miss Out on the Joy in Parenting

 In the midst of challenging stages we may be in with our children or even difficulties that seem to have no end, there is joy to be found in parenting.  Like anyone else, I appreciate the days (sometimes weeks or months) when everything is going well and my world feels right.  It’s so much easier to appreciate the role of mom or dad.  But it’s important that even if we’re not in that place, we don’t miss out on the joy that can be ours.

 

Here are some ways you can find joy in parenting (regardless of what’s going on):

 

Surrender.

I’m not talking about surrendering to depression or the thought that things will always be hard.  Surrender yourself to God.  Give up the pursuit to over-manage your children, to attain perfection, or the need to play the role of Holy Spirit over your family.  Surrender your children to God and trust that He has a purpose and plan far beyond your comprehension and/or the circumstances you’re currently facing.

 

Know When to Say Yes and When to Say No.

If you happen to be a people pleaser, saying yes tends to come more naturally.  But it’s not always a good thing—even if what you’re saying yes to is “good.”  Recognize when you’re in a stage of life that saying yes would cause you to be stretched beyond your limits or negatively affect your family.  Which means that you must learn how to say no.  Don’t try to make excuses or blame someone else (it’s easy to put it off on your spouse).  Take ownership of your no.  Having a balanced life is an important key to finding joy.

 

Increase Faith So You Fear Less.

You won’t gain increased faith by fearing less but you will fear less with more faith.  Trusting God with your children and life in general will bring greater joy.  Because instead of the focus being on your circumstances, it’s on God.  The enemy of your soul wants to rob you of joy by instilling worry and fear.  Don’t let him become greater than the One who brings peace in the midst of a storm.

 

Learn to Relax.

Some parents (raising a hand here) are oftentimes wound so tight they don’t know how to relax.  I’m not just talking about getting away to do something for yourself (whether it’s lunch with a friend or going outside to read a book)…although, those are important, practical ways to relax.  I’m referring to the way we sometimes freak out over the smallest stuff.  How we waste energy and time fretting about things that don’t really matter in the long run.  Let kids be kids and remember that messes can always be cleaned up…that they won’t always be that age and one day you’ll miss even the challenging moments of parenting.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

Parenting Is Hard

One of the most difficult and yet rewarding roles in life is being a parent.  You can read every book available on parenting, attend classes taught by “seasoned” parents and listen to the advice of those who have gone before you.  Yet nothing can ever truly prepare you for what’s ahead.

 

That first baby brings you such delight.  You marvel at every little thing he does.  Even cleaning up her first diaper mess is a joy.  Soaking in the new baby smell, you feel confident about parenting.  Then the reality hits.  After several sleepless nights, hardly finding time to shower, walking around with spit-up in your hair and feeling like a zombie…you realize that parenting is hard.

 

Then the 2’s and 3’s hit.  Toddlerhood has its fair share of delightful moments.  Adorable chubby cheeks, dandelions picked for mommy, hugs and kisses and laughter at the funny things he says.  But tantrums and messes quickly remind you that parenting is hard.

 

As they slip into the elementary school years, their personalities shine.  You begin to really appreciate the greater freedom you have as they become more and more independent.  And then you deal with a variety of issues that remind you once again…parenting is hard.

 

Then come the teen years.  They’re making strides in life, preparing for independence, setting and meeting goals.  You can have more adult-like conversations with them.  Yet rebellion, bad decisions and attitude can knock the wind out of your sails.  And again, reality sets in that parenting is hard.

 

The day your child turns 18 is only “magical” in that legally he’s an adult.  But it doesn’t change the fact that as your child moves into adulthood, parenting will still be hard.

 

When something is hard, we tend to view it in a negative light.  Yet anything that comes easily is much less appreciated than when you’ve had to work hard for it.  The time spent on your knees in prayer…the dedication you’ve shown in doing the best you can…the sacrifices made…the grace you’ve dispensed…the things you’ve given up…and the love you’ve shown even when it wasn’t returned or appreciated—these efforts have been worth it.

 

Parenting IS hard.  But that’s not a bad thing.  Never will you grow more as a person than when you’ve filled that role as a mom or dad.  So even in the midst of difficult and challenging times, remember that God will see you through.  When you look back, it will be with great appreciation you realize that despite the battle, you’re still standing…even when it was hard.

 

© 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