A Crisis for Our Kids

I’m stepping out of my comfort zone here. Way out. Stepping into the land where truth and anger and opinion collide. It’s hard. I’m afraid of the people who will disagree. I’m afraid of the reactions of others. But it’s time to speak out.

America, wake up. We have a crisis.

Well, truthfully, we have more than one. But I think many of our issues are linked in one way or another to a certain crisis.

We have a crisis in parenting.

Unfortunately, we are muddying the waters a bit with these “mommy wars.” We are drawing out debates about breastfeeding and bottle feeding or working versus staying home. There are times where there can be, and are, multiple “right” choices. But, I think we go too far when we say, “No matter what choices you are making, you’re a good mom (or dad)!”

No. Sorry.

Breast or bottle? Work or stay home? Public school or private school? All can be right. All can be a positive and affirming choice for your family. But NOT all decisions are this type.

If you insist that 2+2=7, I’m doing you no favors by smiling, nodding and agreeing. We cannot lay down a blanket statement that all parenting choices are the right choices.

There are some decisions that are NOT best for your child. Not even okay for them. They are choices that are shaping children in ways that are harmful and even dangerous, at times.

If we want change, it has to start with the most influential people in a child’s world. Parents.

We must stop allowing our children to “call the shots.” Children need boundaries. They feel more secure when they have them. The world is a large and scary place – even for adults. Our children need to feel that someone is helping them define that very large place. When we do not, we create children who try to define it themselves. Often, they are defiant and destructive to themselves and others. Frequently, they are disrespectful and antagonistic. We cannot continue to make excuses for this along the vein of “all boys act that way” or “kids all act that way sometimes.” Blatant disregard for others, willful disobedience, pathological lying, violent behavior. All of these are not normal. They are not acceptable. We, as the adults, must draw those lines and not tolerate these behaviors. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fun sometimes. But it is necessary.

As a parent, you are committing to 18 to life for this tiny human. It is a commitment that means putting them ahead of your own desires and whims. It means that, sometimes you must dish out and follow through with a punishment that hurts you as well. When your child is defying you, you cannot allow him or her to dictate what happens. I know taking away the technology sets you up for fit-throwing, whining and – frankly – less time to get done what you need to do. But, if technology is what makes an impact, you’re going to have to Mom-up (or dad-up) and do it. I get that grounding your kid means you may not get to spend the weekend on the boat. But, if that makes an impact on your child, do it anyway.

Frankly, I see far too many parents who have delivered a child and popped that little one in front of a screen until it’s time to march him or her into the halls of school. I’ve met too many who never told their child “no,” lest they seem mean or have to deal with the meltdown that may ensue. Your child does not need you to be their best friend, nor do they need to be your wing man. Your child needs a parent.

Wake up.

Our children are trying to deal with adult problems because we have foisted them upon their young shoulders. Kids are trying to be the go-between from mom to dad or trying to figure out how to manage a younger sibling’s behavior. Kids are listening to one parent bash the other parent – the one from whom their child gets half of their genetic material.

Children are demonstrating destructive behaviors that threaten others. Behaviors that will get them kicked out of the classroom today and will make them unemployable tomorrow. They are not held accountable and an excuse or person to blame is always at the ready.

It is a crisis. And the solution begins in our homes and in our families.

I am by no means perfect. I lose my temper. I over-react. I can be too critical. But I refuse to stand by and let my children slip down the slippery slope caused by a lack of effort in parenting. I apologize. I try to do better. I try to make the choices that are best for my kids. Not the choices that are easiest and the least disruptive for me.

Change can happen.

Change must happen.

And it starts with parenting.


Boys and Girls

When I headed off to college, my parents bought me a canister of pepper spray. They attached it to my backpack and told me to use it if necessary.

When I walk to my car in an unfamiliar place, my keys are sticking out in between my fingers and I make an added point to be aware of my surroundings.

And, yet, I have been a victim of sexual assault. And it was with someone I knew. And I never reported it. I didn’t say a word about it for years.


For almost ten years, I was a “boy mom.” And, honestly, I taught them all of the same things about vigilance that I had been taught. We talk about scenarios when strangers approach you or when you’re walking or riding bikes away from home. Our oldest takes martial arts and our younger son is a wrestler. We talk about how these can be used to defend and protect (but never to attack). I’m sure, when the time comes for them to head off to college, I’ll talk with them about how to watch and listen to your surroundings.

Having boys doesn’t make me immune to the dangers in the world. I want to teach them as much as I can about keeping themselves safe because I know that, no matter how hard I try as a parent and as an educator, I cannot rid the world of people who want to harm others. I cannot change of all of the people whose hearts are so filled with hate that it spills into their words and actions. I wish I could “fix” the people who feel and act this way, but I know that – unfortunately – is impossible. When the suggestion is made that no one should have to carry pepper spray or learn self-defense, I agree! And yet I know that the sad reality is there will always be someone out there with malicious intent.

But, I’m also a “girl mom” now. And, to be honest, the biggest thing I worry about teaching her is to stand up for herself – even when no one believes her or when they downplay what has happened to her. Sadly, that’s what I see for our girls today. When they get the courage to speak up, too many times it is seen as “not a big deal” or an exaggeration. Sadly, it only takes a handful of people who make something up or stretch the truth, and the general public seems to want to assume everyone else is doing the same.

Parents – We have to do better. We have to do better for our boys because I’m afraid that being a boy is teetering on the verge of becoming synonymous with being an abuser, or at least being disrespectful. Because there are too many men who don’t seem to respect women, even the good ones are taking the fall. It should go without question that we teach all of our children that other people’s bodies are not their playground, nor are other’s physical features a place to target comments and conversation. Further, we have to start teaching our boys to stand up for victims. Not to automatically minimize. But to listen and truly hear. To understand and to take the side of right…even when it is difficult or unpopular.

We have to do better. We have to do better for our girls so they can recognize behavior that crosses the line and they can have the strength to report it. Because it’s hard. Because, no matter how hard we try, victims generally do feel shame or embarrassment. Because if it isn’t reported, it keeps spreading and sometimes, others truly don’t know what is happening without a report. And, of course, we can never, ever forget that our girls need the same lessons about respecting others and their bodies that we give to our boys. Girls are not inherently innocent in this and, as parents, I don’t want to see us shift this issue so far toward the boys that girls think they are above it.

We have to do better. Make a difference in your small corner of the world. You never know the impact it might have.


Bringing Back Christmas

It’s been all over Facebook. Probably the news too. If I could bring myself to watch the news, I guess I would know.

Are we bringing Christmas back? Did it never leave?

What I want to know is what it means to bring Christmas back.

To me, it isn’t about the wording on a card. It isn’t whether a Starbucks cup has a “Christmas” scene or not. (This would be true, even if I had ever been to a Starbucks. Or if I had ever been a coffee drinker.) Frankly, it isn’t even whether a nativity is displayed in the White House.

Oh sure, I’m a sucker for Christmas decorations. For me, one of the best parts of renovating our town’s square was how the black lampposts wrapped in lights and garland look like they’re from a movie. I love all of the different interpretations of nativity scenes – big and small, plastic and illuminated, wooden and painted. And, I confess, although I generally throw out cards for birthdays and anniversaries, I have an overflowing bucket of Christmas cards. Some old enough that you can see families expanding and babies becoming big kids, just by pawing through the stack of cards.

I love Christmas.

But, if we want to bring it back, I don’t think it’s about any of those things.

By setting a date to remember Christ’s birth, we set aside a time to reflect on the greatest gift any of us could ever receive. And it wasn’t bought on Black Friday. It didn’t come with shiny paper or a designer Christmas tree.

It was all about love. Unvarnished. Plain. Unadorned. But so deep.

If we want to “bring back Christmas,” I think we had better start with love. More love for people whose lives and struggles we can’t begin to understand. More love for people who have different opinions and even different beliefs than we do. More love to cover the multitude of sins in the world and in our own lives.

I know I’m guilty of not loving enough. So, today, this Christmas season, I’m going to try to do my part to bring more love…and I suspect I might just find the “real” meaning of bringing back Christmas.


Sometimes my breath catches as I carefully unwrap each of them. Waiting with anticipation to see which memory will unfold – which little package holds color or light or tears or joy.

As I hang the moments on the tree, I walk back through my memories. So many events and people are there on my tree.

There’s the angel that hangs near the top every year. She lives on my tree to represent my sister who didn’t get to live long enough to even have a “first Christmas” ornament. She hangs there because all I’ve ever had of her is a heart-shaped tombstone and an angel on the Christmas tree.

Every year, there are more ornaments with a carefully written date. In my hand, permanent marker notes the passage of time from days of being engaged, to newly married, to parents, to everything else life has been. There are years that changed our lives and years that we changed.

There are ornaments from my grandma. One shows not only Mary and Jesus, but the fact that my grandma was a valued part of a church ministry that was gone before I was even able to make a memory. Another is a nativity in an eggshell, and I can’t help but wonder if the crafter ever thought this ornament would have a prominent place on a tree for over thirty years.

Some remind me of the giver. One given for our wedding, from a sweet neighbor who is gone too soon. It reminds me of her laugh and the goodies she delivered. Although it’s Christmas, it calls to mind the Halloween and Easter treats she put together for our boys…but never got a chance to for our girl.

I hang a flower with a picture of a boy I will never again see. I knew him so little. He was here for a month and then gone. Lost because he is an orphan, and therefore doesn’t seem to matter much in the midst of the Russian and Ukrainian political upheaval. But I will continue to put his picture on my tree, because I will never know if he has anyone else in the world putting his picture on their tree.

In the past few years, I’ve been intentional about placing ornaments that remind us of what truly makes the season special. A nativity that I nestle in the branches, a wise man given by a former pastor, a star with scripture – all to help us not get so caught up in the holiday that we forget Jesus was the best gift ever given (so we might as well stop trying to top that one!).

Yet, I don’t shed tears as I decorate the tree. I’ve learned all of these things are a part of the journey. I’ve learned to stop wishing the past was different and to start thanking for the lessons learned from the pain. What happened then led to what’s happening now. And now looks pretty good from where I am.


Adult in Training

No long post today, just two anecdotes about our fifty year old – err, I mean eleven year old.

Me: How was jiu jitsu? Was it what you thought it would be? Do you think it will be beneficial?

(I never stop talking, apparently. I’m pretty sure I frequently ask four questions all at once.)

E: Yes, I was quite pleased with the experience.

The next day…

Me: Oh my gosh, how was the movie!? Was it as good as the book? Did you guys have fun?

(See note for previous questions…)

E: Actually, I would highly recommend it!

Cracks. Me. Up. And I’m pretty sure I don’t even notice all of the times he speaks like an adult. It’s just him…until he gets so excited about something he can’t sit still and I can see the little boy that I’m pretty sure will always live inside.

Oh, and I’m starting to realize there may be a reason A talks non-stop. She clearly gets that from The Dad…


Snow and Other Holiday Things

Home Alone is one of my favorite Christmas movies. Always has been.

When I was younger, one of my favorite parts was the complete chaos when everyone is staying in the same house, driving each other crazy, with the house seeming to burst with action. I grew up as an only child, with a mom who was an only and a dad whose family was so big (and not particularly close) that we rarely got together. All I wanted was a big family like that. Knowing each other so well, they can drive each other absolutely insane – yet gathering in the same house like a gigantic sleepover.

As an adult, I started noticing that – not only in Home Alone – but in every Christmas movie, ad, TV episode – Christmas almost always came with plenty of snow and some big community event on Christmas Eve. Snow dusts the evergreen branches, making them look like a holiday card while everyone makes their way to the town square or community center or huge neighborhood gathering (of course bearing food, singing carols or other Christmas-y things). Cars are driving past perfect views of white hillsides and powdered roads.

The problem?

None. Of. That. Is. Reality.

I know, it creates an image or it sets the scene. I get it. Really, I do.

But can I say that I actually spent way too much time being disappointed in reality? Completely let down when the snow didn’t come. Depressed that I don’t live on a street where there’s a fantastic holiday gathering for all of the neighbors. Downcast when rain sprinkled the holiday lights. Wistful that family get togethers are great – yet don’t last all night and into the next day.


Is that actually what I would want?

Once I got past what I wanted Christmas to look like, things got so much better and brighter. Of course, I’d still rather have snow than rain. I still love family dinners and parties – the more the merrier. But, I also love things I’ve always loved about Christmas…

The feeling I get when I imagine the manger scene so many years ago,

The joy of finding a gift that is perfect,

The songs that fill the season,

The children’s Christmas program at church,

The decorations everywhere.

I’ve always loved those things. But when I push the curtain of “supposed to be” to the side, I find that I love them more. ❤️

(But I’m still wishing for a snowy Christmas!)


Unpopular Opinions

I don’t want to give our kids everything they want.

It’s true. I’ll admit it – even though it seems to be an unpopular opinion.

We live in a time and place where we have enough. Far more than enough. Our family goes out to eat more often than I’d actually like, takes a big vacation every year and we have enough books to start our own lending library…not to mention clothes, tech devices and other things. When I actually think about it, it’s embarrassing.

Definitely, we draw lines. My mom, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Frugality, once said I’m so tight I squeak. So I’ve been known to be a bit tight-fisted (although I’m loosening up). Yet, I look around our lives and our home and know we have more than we actually need…and much more than many people around the world.

As a result, no, I don’t really want to buy them everything they want. First of all, they’re kids. I’ve worked with enough kids to know that sometimes they “want” something because their friends have it or it looks cool…not because they will actually use it. Secondly, we do not need more stuff…and definitely not stuff that doesn’t get used. Finally, and unpopularly, you don’t get everything you want in life. I know they are kids and I don’t want them to suffer, but saying “no” sometimes doesn’t really upset me at all. (Truth: our kids don’t ask for much anyway. We’re probably just blessed in that respect.) Our goal is to raise successful adults. Which we believe means teaching them, in age-appropriate ways, things they will need to know in ten to fifteen years.

So, it’s out there. I’m that mom. My kids don’t get everything they want AND I don’t feel a bit guilty about it.

All bets are off for when we eventually become grandparents though.