Parenting Makes My Brain Hurt

Parenting Makes My Brain Hurt

I’m on my third parenting book in two weeks. My brain hasn’t hurt this much since college. I texted my mom a couple weeks ago and asked if she had any of Kevin Leman’s books. Mom has been in ministry helping parents for nineteen years now, so I knew she would have something for me. She brought me several classics, one with a cover featuring some sweet early 90s hairstyles. And one that was published the year I was born.

We are entering a new season of parenting, one with new joys and struggles. Charlotte is now old enough to hold her own with her sister, and while she might be smaller she is no less powerful. They love each other fiercely and also fight fiercely, sometimes both in the same 60 seconds. The questions are getting harder, the emotions more complex. And I can admit that parenting feels largely like trial and error. I can also admit that I have a lot to learn.

I remember studying for organic chemistry summer of sophomore year. An entire semester’s worth of work crammed into five weeks with a test every Friday. We went to class for two hours every morning, then lab for five hours four days a week, and finally to the library to study after that. (Do not ever take organic chemistry over the summer. But if you must, make sure your chosen college is within close proximity to a Cheesecake Factory.) My brain literally hurt that summer and not just because I was living on caffeine, Aleve, and cheesecake. But this parenting thing is a million times harder. (Also, I do not live near a Cheesecake Factory.) (And I no longer have the metabolism of a nineteen year old.)

But as hard as it is, I won’t stop learning. I won’t stop trying or growing or adapting. I will keep reading and listening and seeking out mentors. I will keep pestering those further down the road with a million questions. Because this matters. They matter.

In his book Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down, Kevin Leman tells the story of managing a local city league softball team. They were playing for the league championship and the game was close, one run down with men on second and third and two outs.

“Striding to the plate was Murph, our second baseman, who hadn’t had a base hit in his last five games–in fact he hadn’t even gotten the ball out of the infield … Our feeble cheers soon turned to groans as the opposing pitcher put two quick strikes past Murph, who stood there, bat on shoulder, as if frozen by fear.”

Leman then got the idea and went over to the guy and told him he had one pitch, “Hit the next pitch or I’m pulling you out of the game and sending in a pinch hitter.”

Murph hit the ball, the team scored two runs and won the game. Leman continues the story, “Later Murph stopped me as I headed for my car and asked, ‘Why did you tell me to swing at that next pitch or I would get pulled out of the game? How did you know I’d hit it? ‘I didn’t,’ I told him. ‘But I had to do something to wake you up. I’d rather you went down swinging than stand there with the bat on your shoulder and lose the game for sure.'”

Leman concludes the story with this parable for parents, “Raising children is a lot like being at the plate with two outs and everything riding on the next pitch. You can stand there with the bat on your shoulder, hoping to draw a walk. You can even ask to be pulled for pinch hitter, but the truth is, you get only one swing at being a parent, and you might as well make it a good one.”

A couple book recommendations, both by Dr. Kevin Leman–Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours and Bringing Children Up Without Tearing Them Down. He also has a podcast that I just started listening to during runs. Search “Kevin Leman” on the podcast app. And there’s a newsletter you can subscribe to at birthorderguy.com. I’d love to hear your favorite resources for parenting.

Cheesecake, anyone?

Second Best Parenting Advice I’ve Received

Second Best Parenting Advice I’ve Received

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetFirst things first, the best parenting advice I’ve received–date your spouse. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Some people say it, “Keep your spouse above your kids” or “Make your marriage priority over your kids.” But I like it said, “Date your spouse” because it gives me an easy action step. Plan a date. Once you become parents it’s easy to start to feel like business partners running an enterprise (aka a house and munchkins) but dates remind me of us. Dates are where we get to have fun and eat food without someone asking, “How many bites do I have to eat?” Where we get to talk about stuff other than teething trials and potty training mishaps. Dates are the memories that glue us together and keep us from losing our sanity.

But on to the second best parenting advice I’ve received. This piece of wisdom came from a sweet friend who happened to be my former neighbor. Surely, God knew I would need her in my life so he planted me next door to her for several years. A few months ago she had watched our girls one night so we could take the aforementioned best parenting advice and go on a date. After that night, she wrote me an encouraging letter and shared a piece of wisdom an older mom had given her back when her kids were younger. She said, “Don’t worry too much about things you know will change with time and guidance–potty training, shutting down at bedtime, picky eaters who don’t want healthy food. They will not be 18 and still wearing a diaper and eventually they will crash from lack of sleep. But concentrate more on issues of the heart.”

I read those words and felt lighter, like someone who’s just arrived at a warm coffee shop and shrugged off three layers of winter wear. Concentrate more on issues of the heart. Some things I just need to let go of. That isn’t easy for a mom who struggles with perfectionism, but it’s necessary.

When I was seven months pregnant with Charlotte, Lydia, out of the blue, started waking up around 5 AM. I was exhausted from being in the final weeks of pregnancy and, at the time, I was the furthest thing from a morning person. I got so mad and frustrated at her waking up early until I finally realized, several weeks in, I just had to accept it. I had to change my expectations. A month or so later, she resumed her normal wake-up time, but I had learned a life-changing lesson.

When my girls walk across the stage at graduation or when my man walks them down the aisle or when I watch them hold their own children, I won’t care about when they potty trained or whether they ate broccoli without complaining or how many times they came out of bed every night with one more question and needing one more hug. I will care about their hearts. Are they loving and kind? Are they compassionate and fighting for injustice? Are they brave and trusting? Those little hearts are being shaped right now. And I must let go of some things so I can concentrate more on issues of the heart.