What if her interests aren’t “good” enough? (How I’m raising an independent woman.)

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My daughter and I were watching TV together over the Christmas holiday. A commercial came that was glorifying new cars.

(Side note: I’ve trained my kids to analyze and pick apart commercials. Their critiques of products sold on TV are hilarious.)

JoeAnna (9 years old) looks at me and asks, “What’s the big deal about buying a new car? Why do people get so excited about it?”

“Well, it’s kind of the same feeling as getting your driver’s license when you turn 16. Learning to drive is exciting, and some cars are more fun to drive than others.” I reply.

“Is it illegal not to have a driver’s license?” She asks.

“If you’re driving and you don’t have a license, then yes. You’ll get in big trouble.”

“But what if you don’t drive, do you have to have a license?”

“Well, no. You do not have to get a driver’s license.”

“Oh good. I think I’ll just roller blade where I want to go. I could get a job as a waitress and live here when I’m an adult. I think I just want an easy life.”

“That sounds good to me!” I say while trying not to laugh.

***

My dear Joe is a hard nut to crack. She lives in her own mind so much that it’s often difficult to get her full attention. Example: “Joe, please brush your hair.” I find her brushing her teeth. Only the word “brush” penetrated her brain.

In her mind, she is constantly creating big plans for expanding upon her latest obsessions: Legos creations, Daily Prophet articles, MLP collections, etc. She dreams big, plays big, and feels big. As she navigates late childhood, I’m watching her try to categorize everything. Black or white. Good or bad. Easy or hard. As she processes this information, she’s making her own connections that aren’t always reliable. Like, everything hard is bad (or should at least be avoided).

And I can’t blame her. Who doesn’t want to avoid pain at all costs?

While I recognize the importance of teaching her to stretch and reach for personal goals, I believe it’s more important at this stage in her development (forming categories of safe and unsafe things) for her to know that I’m always, unconditionally safe. I want nothing more than for her to grow into a woman who confidently believes that her mother supports and loves her no matter what.

But she won’t grow in believing that I am truly safe if I don’t value her current plans for her life. If I hear her statement that she wants to live with me forever, and I refuse to affirm that, then I am not listening to the cry of her heart.

She can’t grasp the reality that as she evolves into an adult and ages into her unique self her interests will change. Right now, she believes that because her feelings are big, her feelings won’t change.

If I correct her feelings and try to tell her that she will change her mind (because I’m sure she will change her mind), then I am pushing her to spread her wings too quickly. I do not want her to be scared by thinking that I want her to be independent of me too soon. If she doesn’t feel ready to be independent of me, then any thought of a future where she isn’t in the comfort of a safe place will be avoided.

The truth is she will become independent of me – that’s the whole goal of parenting a child into adulthood. Healthy independence is gained through embracing personal responsibility and identity, and it should not be confused with individuality.

So, I am fighting to keep her heart safe while fueling her individuality, honoring her feelings, expanding her personal responsibility, and praising her attempts at doing what she views as “hard.”  

To put these goals into action, I’m designing a life project for her that I believe can do 2 things:

  1. Reassure her that the life she wants (an easy one) is fine by me. I want her to be affirmed that I love her just because she is and not because she does. I know that her heart craves security, so I vow to be her safe place by offering her loving words and deeds.
  2. Curate opportunities outside of our home for her to see and experience what her future could hold. I want to give her a taste of a loftier future. By seeking out other caring adults who have similar interests to hers, I believe she will see that trying and reaching are worth it.

I’ll write more on what this “Life Project” will entail as we get further into it, and I hope that if you have a child who feels stuck or avoids work that you will not approach them with a “get going” attitude.

Maybe they don’t need to be motivated.

Maybe they need to just be accepted.

Maybe my Joe just needs to hear:

I am for you, and I will be with you. If being a waitress is truly what fuels you and causes you to come alive, then I will be your biggest cheerleader (and biggest tipper too).

 

*** I’m sharing this story with Joe’s permission.

 

My Key for Calm (holiday season or not).

What I Learned and What I'm Into September 3

For me and my kids, music is in our bones. We can feel it in ways that are unexplainable. 

“Music is all around us, all you have to do is listen.”

August Rush. The storyline isn’t that great, even though it is very sweet and sentimental. I had to agree with the critics on this one. But the value for me in the film was in appreciating and feeling the music. The scene when the boy is talking with “Wizard” (Robin Williams) and they look up at the night sky, “Wizard” talks about how the whole universe is filled with music. It’s always around us, all we have to do is listen. Watch this little clip to see what I mean. 

For some of us, music is innate. It’s a power, a mood, an atmosphere. It reaches inside to grasp the spirit and has the ability to change the course of feelings and actions.

Knowing this to be true, I’m careful about the music I play in my home because music affects me so deeply. I almost hold it at bay not wanting to feel or get carried away by it; I don’t want to be driven by an outside force.

Also, I’m a highly-sensitive-person and the stimulation from a house full of kids plus music loud enough for everyone to hear equals one overwhelmed and frustrated me.

B2S Day 18 Chores grace and sale 3

But I turned on Eric Clapton during our chore time the other day. I had a high standard for my kids with regards to wiping down walls and cupboards. One child noted that he really liked the music, and I think we all did. It helped to boost our moods and busy our hands. The guitar and drums helped our minds to zone out as we stuck to the physical tasks, and it also shut our mouths because no one wanted to talk over the music.

Sometimes words fail me. They fail my feelings, my desires, my commands. They fail me in battles, in chores, and in bonds. So I’m learning to use music. It’s something that is a science and an art.

Figuring out the balance between the style, rhythm, instruments, energy level, and lyrics is difficult and I have definitely made wrong selections. I wish I had a guide for home school life with kids and music because when I make a bad selection, I end up feeling worse than if I had just kept the house silent.

Toddler Jamming on a Uke

I want to keep trying to figure out the role of music in our home. If I would have given up on using music, then I would have missed out on the magic of changing all our moods and the course of the entire day.

Music is my key for a calm home. For a calm heart. I must be willing to engage in the balance and willing to get some notes wrong because for my kids music holds a magical ability to guide their actions in ways that words cannot.

When I use music and what kind of music it is:

Chores: I pick music I like that is upbeat. This is not a time for silly kid music or chores will derail into a bigger disaster of brooms, wrestling, and rags – someone usually gets hurt. My current favorites are: Eric Clapton’s Greatest Hits, Lindsey Sterling, JJ Heller’s Loved, or anything else that sounds good to me in the moment. The key to using music for chores is to use music that the kids won’t be able to sing along to or music that has a driving beat that will get their little hands busy instinctively.

Quiet time: Instrumental or lullabies. I’m really picky when it comes to quiet time music. Not all lullabies or instrumental music are created equal. I can’t tell you how many times I tried a new lullaby CD from the library that had a weird song on it or a random upbeat song that threw the whole mood and atmosphere of “quiet” out the window. There’s nothing more disappointing for a mom (me) than a quiet time ruined by a kid who is over stimulated and jumping and/or shouting from their bed. My current favorites are: Hillsong Kids Jr. Piano Lullabies Vol. 1 This collection is the most beautiful and calming CD I think I have ever found. I simply cannot listen to it enough. When my toddler is in quiet time, I turn up the monitor so that I can enjoy the CD too. Other lullabies that I’ve loved are the Hidden in My Heart CDs. These are scripture based songs (some word for word scripture) that are sung in soft, calm tones. The music is straight truth for little hearts and soft like a blanket to listen to.

Get-the-wiggles-out: Music made for kids. My current favorites are all the Slugs and Bugs.  Andrew Peterson and Randall Goodgame have tapped in to the child-like spirit of fun and silly and have created songs that appeal to all ages. The melodies and lyrics get stuck in my brain and make me smile. Their music proves that you don’t have to write annoying lyrics or play bad music for it to be “fun” for kids. The Laurie Berkner Band has a great CD for getting wiggles out too. But one of my absolute favorites for getting the wiggles out, while at the same time getting classical music in their brains is: Say Hello to Classical Music. This CD came with our kindergarten curriculum package from My Father’s World – and it is by far the best part of the whole kit for us.

Morning Time: Worship Music. There are simply too many favorites to list here. Sometimes we listen to the radio, sometimes we listen to older CDs or Pandora. We love music that points to the glory of God; it starts our day with an upward focus and I notice that this helps everyone’s mood as well. It’s simply right to remember why we are here and to be thankful for a new day to be alive. The perspective of worship music helps us in the morning or all throughout the day. For an even more powerful worship focus, I love Michael W. Smith’s DVD New Hallelujah.

Kid-ucation Emmett

And The Piano Guys gets their own category of ANYTIME music. We all enjoy their music so much. Watch this video to see what I mean. The way they wove Amazing Grace into this Fight Song is brilliant.

For more information on highly sensitive people check out Parenting a Highly Sensitive Child. This post may be helpful in determining what music should and shouldn’t be in your home.

Also consider reading more:

What helps keep your home calm? Do you use music to balance the ups and downs in your day too? I’d love to hear recommendations in the comments!

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Assigning New Friends as “Best” Friends :: Warning Signs of Loneliness in Kids, Part 5

Joe under horse

When my daughter was little, going to the park was never about playing on the swings or sliding down the slide – it was always: who she would play with.

Who will be there? My daughter would beg.

I don’t know, you’ll have to wait and see. You can always make a new friend. I would reassure.

Her little extroverted side would shine in this setting. She was not shy to pick a girl about her size and introduce herself and ask: Do you want to play?

On our way home from the park, she would ask me about her new “best” friend – when will I see her again? Can we have her over to our house? Her excitement from gaining a new friend was bittersweet. I felt so bad when I would have to say, I don’t know her parents. We don’t know their phone number. You may never see her again.

She was always eager to give the “best” of herself to someone new.

Telling her over and over that she may never see that new friend again hurt her, and eventually it taught her to hold back. The hurt didn’t change her from outgoing to shy, but it stole her joy. She started to recognize the loss from giving herself was greater than the gain of a new “best” friend that she would never see again.

As she grew up, I noticed a slight change in her attitude toward making new friends. She was still eager to play, but less excited about finding a new friend. The questions turned to friends she knows are in her life on purpose. After leaving the park, she would ask: when will I see my cousins again? When will we play with friends from church?

One day after watching her play with “new” friends, I saw her tire of it. She came over and sat down next to me and said that she didn’t want to play anymore. This is when I realized that the whole time she had been questioning about these friends, she wasn’t angling for a large quantity of friends – she had been sizing up the quality of her friendships. The time and energy necessary to play well was being given to people she would never see again, and she didn’t like that thought. She wanted to invest herself, she wanted to build something bigger than just a one-time-deal.

She wanted companionship.

Joe and Graham at Butterfly Garden

After seeing this change in her, I knew it was on me to find the solution.

She was lonely, and the solution was going to cost me more than just a quick trip to the park. I would have to find a way to build consistent relationships into our routine. Being a homeschool family means we have the freedom and responsibility to socialize on our own terms. It means we rely on each other to learn and discover how to make lasting friendships.

And not too long ago, I came to the realization that I didn’t know how to do this for myself.

So I’ve put myself on the same path to friendships as my daughter. We talk about it often. How can we be a good friend? Who are the people that we want to know better? How can we balance planning for established friendships and inventing new ones?

Am I modeling this commitment to relationships?

I want our home to be a safe place for my children to let their emotions show. For that to be true all the time, I have to be willing to encourage their excitement at appropriate times and in appropriate ways. This goes back to the root of loneliness: the need for support and companionship. And the first place a child will have this need met is at home. So am I happy to see my kids? Do I smile when receiving them? Showing feeling and even excitement to be with them will build a good foundation for understanding what being a good friend is supposed to be like.

I don’t have to be my daughter’s best friend, but I can show her what one looks like.

Need to catch up on this series? Find links to Parts 1-4 here.