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

 

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

When Life Brings Changes

 This has been a year of change for my family.  It started off with the loss of my dad, the birth of my granddaughter and then continued to include a new health diagnosis, job scare, marital struggles, the loss of two pets and now I’m facing the day my daughter (who recently became engaged) and granddaughter leaves our home.

 

Some of these changes have been devastating.  Others have been good but nonetheless, required a great deal of adjustment and at times, hope in the unseen.  Most have turned out well—there’s improvement with my health condition, my marriage has turned a corner and I have a new job that I absolutely love.  There are still some issues I’m working through, mainly the grieving process.  But all in all, I’m managing and I take absolutely no credit for that.  Only God.

 

Still…there is a lot of emotion in knowing your only daughter has become engaged.  And that she will be taking the next step and leaving the nest.  It’s a good thing.  But it doesn’t make it any easier to digest.  Having one already leave the nest, I know the pain and emptiness you feel in the beginning.  It does get easier.  So I hold onto that.  At the same time, I’m hit with a double whammy in that I will also see my granddaughter leave.  However, I know this will be good for her and she’ll finally have some stability.

 

Recently I was watching some old home videos, when my children were very young.  If anyone would have told me back then what this journey of motherhood would be like, I don’t know that I would have signed up.  I say that jokingly—sort of.  I guess what I’ve come to discover is that nothing can ever really prepare you for the sometimes oh-so-difficult trek.

 

The difficulties that stem from struggles and trials.  Even the difficulties that stem from good things but require adjustment or change.  The emotional ups and downs.  The mental exhaustion.  The physical depletion.  The worrying…the sleepless nights…the regrets…the victories…the blessings…the love.

 

Motherhood is a very complex life experience.  You never know what’s waiting for you around the corner.  Just one doctor visit can change a family’s dynamics.  One decision made by a child can alter the future.  One word can break a heart. One choice can devastate a relationship.

 

But there is a flipside to this.  One doctor visit can draw a family closer together.  One decision can see a miraculous outcome.  One word can mend a hurt.  One choice can restore a relationship.

 

I believe the good outweighs the bad of parenting.  I believe that hope outweighs doubt.  I know that God can move in any situation…even when it looks impossible.  Change will come.  Most of the time we can’t do anything about it.  But what we can do is learn more and more how to put our faith not in our abilities as a parent…but in the One who gives us everything we need to parent.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

Are You Parenting Out of Fear?

 There is sometimes a fine line between protective parenting and fear-based parenting.  The goal is generally the same…to keep our children safe.  But not all experiences—yes, even the negative ones—must be avoided.  There is a time for hard lessons to be learned, feelings to be hurt, lies to be exposed and dangers to be felt.

 

Why is this important?  Because too often in our attempt to parent based on fear, we keep our children from experiencing difficulties that may one day come at them anyway or to a greater degree than anticipated.  They do grow up.  They turn into teenagers with their own opinions and beliefs.  And then they turn into independent adults.

 

If we make every single decision for them, how will they ever learn to problem solve? 

 

If we choose all their friends for them, how will they ever learn to recognize a true one?

 

If we make sure they never lack, how will they ever learn to want?

 

If we control all of their surroundings, how will they learn to adapt? 

 

Parenting that’s based on protection has their best interests at heart…yet knows it will include some bumps in the road.  Parenting that’s based on fear has their best interests at heart…yet fights, manipulates, and controls to avoid those bumps in the road.  But bumps make up our journey in life.  They will always be there and try as we might to avoid them, eventually we’ll hit one.  Will our children know what to do?

 

Having two adult children and one just a couple years from that, I can look back and see how some of my parenting was based on protection and some on fear.  The truth is that in their earlier years, it was mostly based on fear.  I wanted to control every aspect of their lives.  In some cases that did more harm than good.  Some of those things we can laugh about today.  But for other situations, it resulted in unnecessary struggles.

 

When I shifted to protective parenting, it didn’t mean there weren’t challenges.  Yet every single one has turned around and resulted in something beautiful.  Whether it was an awakening in a child’s spirit, wisdom gained or growth as a person…each bump they were able to get over and keep on moving forward.

 

There is no right or wrong way to parent.  There is no magical formula or method.  There is no book or “expert” who can provide the answers.  The only thing I am sure of is that there’s more damage done in parenting out of fear.  It’s not easy to see our children struggle…to make mistakes…to choose the wrong path…to do things the hard way.  But these bumps don’t determine their final destination.  So put your trust in God and allow Him to lead their way.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

 

Managing versus Mothering

 Dictionary.com defines a “manager” as:

1) a person who has control or direction of an institution, business, etc., or of a part, division, or phase of it.

2) a person who controls and manipulates resources and expenditures, as of a household.

I just want to point out some key words…control, direction, manipulates.

Confession…

I spent far too many years managing my children than I did mothering them.  Because when I hear the word mother, I attach other words to it—such as nurturing, loving, and giving.  Not that I didn’t do those things!  Let me be very clear that I’ve definitely nurtured, loved and given to my children.  But at certain stages and seasons, managing seemed to overrule mothering.

If I were to guess when I began to see this truth, it was probably during the time my daughter became a teenager.  The challenges began almost immediately, causing quite a shakeup in our family and in my heart.  And then one day I found myself sitting in an emergency room because she had taken a dangerous combination of pills.

That moment changed our family.  But it also changed me as a mom.  I couldn’t manage this one.  I had managed everything else in my children’s lives.  I had controlled.  Directed.  And yes, I had manipulated.  Now I was helpless.  As crazy as it sounds, I’m not sure I would go back and erase what happened.  I believe God used that time to make a significant difference in my daughter’s life and in the way I would parent.

I truly believe that if I had continued to manage (instead of mother) my daughter during that difficulty, we wouldn’t be where we are today.  A relationship that was once shaky became solid.  Communication that was once nonexistent became open.

Although I am so grateful to have learned this during a critical time in my daughter’s life, it would have made a significant difference in my earlier years of parenting.  I would have been less frazzled, stressed and frustrated.  My children would have seen more patience, grace and kindness.

Mama…don’t get caught up in managing your children.  Mother them.  Even when you don’t feel like it.  Even when it’s hard.  The rewards you reap are worth all of it.

© 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