Work It Out: Why I Let My Kids Fight

Picture it:

It’s Thursday afternoon, and your kids are watching TV after school. It’s not quite time to get dinner started, so you take the moment of quiet to sit down and read a book. You’ve just gotten comfy and…what happens next?

You know the drill. It could be Saturday morning when you’re trying to sleep in, or Sunday afternoon when you’re trying to enjoy family time or Monday morning while you’re doing laundry. Just about anyone who has kids can tell you that just about any time you get settled doing something of your own, you can just about guarantee the kids will start fighting.

“MooOooOoooOooMMm!!!” (Why do they always use that same awful voice?!)

When my kids were babies, I couldn’t wait for the day they would be old enough to play together, and I’m not gonna lie, it has been incredible. My kids have always enjoyed a close friendship, but when they are small, the line between a child’s “hug” and “hit” is rather blurry. I had to stay close by because frequent intervention was just part of the game. They fought over toys, what show to watch, who was sitting where, what color cup they had. I played with them — or did my thing in the same room when I could — so I could help them navigate how to be in relationship with another human.

Now my kids are 12, nine, eight, and four, and they have learned a thing or two about getting along. They still fight about toys, what show to watch, who is sitting where, and…okay they don’t really care about colored dishes anymore, thank heavens. And while I have been telling them their whole lives to respect one another, share, take turns, and be kind, I know this will remain a struggle until they all move out and get their own spaces.

But now that they’re older, I let my children fight.

Keep reading this post on Knoxville Moms, where it originally published on March 12, 2020: click here!

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I’m a Mean Mom

I have a confession. I don’t mean the kind of confession you make with head hung and eyes averted with shame; quite the contrary, I am proud to admit this to you and the world:

I am a “mean mom.”

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. I’m really not mean mean — I don’t treat my kids badly or call them names or neglect their needs. In fact, my kids don’t even call me mean…it’s their friends that do. You see, I’m mean because of all the very normal, accepted, harmless things that I simply won’t allow my kids to do. 

I have a 12-year-old daughter whose entire 6th grade class basically lives on TikTok, but she doesn’t have the app. I mean I do, so I can watch her friends (and occasionally catch her in her friends’ videos), but she can’t have that app — or any social media for that matter — because she doesn’t have a phone. Or an iPod. Or a tablet. Or any kind of personal communication device. And she likely won’t get one until high school. She texts her friends from my phone (while I follow along on my watch, as needed). She FaceTimes them on the desktop Mac stationed in our living room. Her door stays cracked when friends are over, and she has a very, very, very short list of friends with whom she is allowed to spend the night.

I have eight- and nine-year-old boys who love video games. All their friends are playing Fortnite, but not my boys. They get one hour of video games per day on the weekends only, and they can only play LEGO or sports games. If they fight, the game goes off for the rest of the weekend, so yep, sometimes that’s seven whole days or more without their favorite pastime. Their sleepover list is even shorter.

I have a four-year-old preschooler who is obsessed with Paw Patrol. I know he could be enthralled countless Paw Patrol videos — not to mention his other favorite characters, like Daniel Tiger, PJ Masks, Elmo, and more! — available for free online. He may uncover a deep passion for toy unboxing or kinetic sand videos, but my poor little baby doesn’t even know these things exist, because he’s not allowed to use YouTube; nope, not even the Kids version. YouTube in our house is only to be used on our smart TV in the living room, and only under direct parent supervision to ensure no auto play or random video scrolling takes place. The big kids love DudePerfect, and I have found some really excellent resources this year while I homeschool my 4th grader, but it hasn’t changed my rules about YouTube. It’s my way or the highway, kids.

Continue reading about how terribly I treat my children on Knoxville Moms, where this origianlly published on February 15, 2020: click here!

Do Something, Say Something, or Just Listen?

My daughter starts middle school today. 

I could tell you that, after more than a decade in youth ministry, my husband and I kinda know what to expect with this phase, and that’s true. I could tell you that my daughter is in many ways a carbon copy of me at that age, which helps me read her and know how to respond, and that’s true. I could tell you that I’ve read all kinds of parenting blogs, student leadership books, attended conferences and trainings, helped other parents, and here I sit writing for a parenting blog, so I am equipped with a lot of information, and that is also true.

But am I ready? Heck no.

Everyone told me (and I knew they were right) it’s different when it’s your own kid. I have loved hundreds of teenagers over the years, dozens of them felt close enough to be my own kids, but it’s different when it’s your own kid. I have done a lot of good for a lot of people, helped a lot of people through the teen and tween years, reassured countless other moms that it’s going to be okay, but it’s different when it’s your own kid. And for all the knowledge and experience I have with other students, it’s different because it’s my own kid.

One of the hardest things I have seen parents of teens struggle with, and the thing I anticipate being most difficult for me, is giving our children room to grow, wonder, try, and especially fail. Life is hard for kids, and I dare say it is harder for kids today than it was when we were in their shoes (here’s why). As a mom, especially one with so much information, I want to help. I want to fix. I want to protect. 

But sometimes my job is just to listen.

Continue reading on Knoxville Moms, where this originally published on August 1, 2019: click here!

“Start Them Young” And Other Things I Am Probably Failing At

Recently I read a really inspirational post about teaching our kids to have grit, to pick themselves up when they fall and keep pressing in to achieve something difficult. “Start them young,” the author said, because our kids will certainly face these challenges, and as parents, it’s our job to set them up for success. So true, right??

You’ve probably heard or read a bunch of stories like that: talking about safety, responsibility, consent and bodily autonomy, confidence, kindness, combating racism/sexism/xenophobia/bigotry in all its forms, sports, music, body positivity, nutrition, etc., etc., etc. You have to start them young learning these things or eventually it will be too late and your child will probably become a sociopath, or at best a big ol’ jerk.

I’ve been raising babies for more than 11 years now, and I’ve been leading students even longer than that as a youth pastor with my husband, and throughout those years I have said this to myself more times than I can count. I’ll read an article or hear someone’s struggles or walk through a difficult time with someone and make a mental note to “start them young” when it comes to teaching and preparing my kids for life’s challenges.

If you saw my mental list of all the things I’m going to teach my kids, you would certainly agree that I am the best mom to ever live, and my children are most definitely perfect.

The problem is, well, I have a tendency to lose that mental list.

Continue reading on Knoxville Moms, where this post originally published on May 25, 2019: click here!

Reading With Your Older Kids

It has been said that the best way to get to know someone’s heart is to experience art with them — listening to their music playlists, watching their favorite films, reading the stories that make them come alive. I’ve written before that my family bonds over shared movie memories, and this year I’ve been learning not just to bring my kids into my world of art but to intentionally insert myself into theirs.

One of the deepest connections I have felt with my 5th grade daughter has been reading “with” her…well, more like alongside her.

Read more at Knoxville Moms, where this originally published on January 23, 2019: click here!

No Means No, Not “The End”

A while back, one of our amazing contributors, Autumn, shared her concerns about some life and career advice from author Rachel Hollis in the post, “Girl, No Means No.” Specifically, Autumn addresses the many MLM entrepreneurs and salespeople in general for whom, as Hollis suggests, “No is not a reason to stop. Instead, think of it as a detour or a yield sign. No means merge with caution.” Please click the link and read Autumn’s post for yourself, because it is awesome, but the gist is that no actually does mean no, and honoring a firm no is for our own well-being. You can be a successful businessperson and chase your dreams and live the big beautiful life you want without imposing on others who are trying to do the same without you or whatever you’re selling.

The big question for us moms, though, is how do we teach our kids both resilience in the face of obstacles and respect for the lesson of rejection?

To be sure, we want our kids to have the sense of confidence and determination to “not take no for an answer,” pursuing other paths, other buyers, other publishers, other teams, whatever it is to achieve that for which their little-and-one-day-big hearts are passionate. But we have to temper that with “no means no” when it comes to personal boundaries and the importance of honoring laws, limits, and regulations put in place for our safety. Usually no does not mean wait, slow down, try again, or try harder; most of the time, no is for our own good, and kids need to know that too. How can we teach both at the same time?

What if we told our kids, “No means no, not ‘the end'”?

Keep reading more on Knoxville Moms, where this originally published on December 12, 2018: click here!

Mommy Needs a Time Out

Deep breath.

Alarm off. Eyes still shut. Inhale, exhale. I’m gonna do this, you think. Today is going to be a good day. Happy thoughts. Good vibes. Only love today. And, if you’re like most moms, I’m not going to yell today.

Somehow I don’t think my kids’ days start with such positive affirmations. They often wake up whining — literally the first sound out of their mouths is whining or crying about something. They’re fist fighting before breakfast. The attitude is out of control. Hitting. Complaining. Disobeying. Oh, the back-talking.

Then I feel it, bubbling up from within, a roaring boil of mama bear emotions: GET IN YOUR ROOM RIGHT NOW AND DON’T YOU DARE COME OUT UNTIL I SAY SO!!!

Well, so much for affirmations.

If you can relate to this scenario, you’re not alone. In fact, 88% of parents say they have yelled at their kids in the past year (the other 12% either have infants or they’re lying), the majority reporting multiple times per week. Truthfully, some yelling is okay. If your child is about to walk into the street, touch a hot stove, or otherwise endanger themselves, yelling is often the fastest, most effective way to get their attention. And then there’s the less-okay but totally relatable kind of yelling; the I-have-told-you-no-less-than-15-times-to-get-your-shoes-out-of-the-freaking-kitchen-why-can’t-you-just-listen kind of yell. If the number of times I have seen this picture in my Facebook or Instagram feeds is any indication, I think we’re all in the same boat with this one:

Why must every wife and mother become a stark, raving lunatic before anyone in her household takes her seriously?

While we can all relate to that feeling, anyone who has been there probably also knows yelling loses its effectiveness when it becomes the norm. So how do we stop the cycle? Your household may need to introduce the Mommy Time Out.

Keep reading this post on Knoxville Moms, where it originally published on June 1, 2017: click here!

Tickle My Back, Mama

“Will you tickle my back, Mama?”

I breathe in a deep sigh and try not to let it out so loudly that he notices. It’s already 45 minutes past bedtime, I still haven’t cleaned up from dinner, there is a load of towels in the washer growing mildew, I have to come up with a grocery list to order before midnight, and my husband hasn’t completed a sentence since he got home without being interrupted by some child needing some thing. I so do not have time to tickle anyone’s backs, and of course, if I do one, the others will hear and want me to do theirs as well.

*sigh*

“Just for a second, hon. Then Mommy has work to do, okay?”

Bedtime has always been a struggle for me. I used to read blogs and hear stories and see friends’ Instagram posts about those precious moments of quiet baths, stories, and snuggles with their little ones before bed. It seemed so easy in the books — use this infant massage technique to calm your baby, and watch her drift right to sleep! Be sure to choose a quiet book to read before bed to help your toddler settle down! Watch this adorable video of a 4-year-old praying so gingerly as she has heard her parents do each night!

In our house, there was none of that.

Bedtime was always rushing, chasing, yelling, spanking, crying, moving, exhausting. Three of my four children get hyper when they are tired, so nighttime is a lot less quiet cuddles and a lot more exasperated, empty threats to [fill in the blank] if so-and-so gets out of bed one.more.time, I swear I am not kidding this time!

Generally speaking, for the nine years I have been a mom, I have not enjoyed bedtime. At all.

One day a few years back, I was slowly-but-surely losing my mind as I tried to get three toddlers to take naps at the same time in the same room, and my 2-year-old asked me to tickle his back “like Minnie (their grandmother) does.” No doubt the first thought to run through my head was Sweet Brown yammering, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” However, seeing that I was desperate and my sanity was on the line, I took a chance and conceded, “Okay, sure, but you have to lay still, do you understand me??” His face lit up even as his little eyes closed and he nuzzled his face – still stained with ketchup from our dinosaur chicken lunch – deep into the pillow. “Yes, mama,” he whispered.

Continue reading this story on Knoxville Moms, where it was originally posted on April 6, 2017: click here!

Confessions of a Former Gym Rat

gym rat
noun phrase

An athlete; a person who frequents gymnasiums; someone who prefers to spend leisure time working out in a gymnasium over other activities;

addict, freak, junkie, nut; someone who is so ardently devoted to physical training that it resembles an addiction

I used to hate my body.

Ever since intermediate school, I have been curvy, and I never saw anything cute or sexy about it. In 5th grade, my power tumbling coach refused to teach me a back handspring because she said I was too fat to spot. I started shopping in the juniors department when my peers were still decked out in Limited Too, and by the time they graduated to Abercrombie & Fitch, I was clear on to the women’s section. When I got my first job at Cracker Barrel and my work uniform was a button down shirt, I had to wear my dad’s because I popped the buttons off all the ladies’ shirts.

Even when I was younger and only slightly overweight, I hated my body for all the problems it caused.

Then I had three kids in 3 1/2 years, and suddenly I found myself not just curvy, but clinically obese. Clothes didn’t fit, my skin looked like cottage cheese, and I was absolutely miserable. I hated my body like I have never hated anything in my life. I hated it so much that I realized my feelings were a real problem. I couldn’t keep living – or thinking – like this.

I started with small steps: positive self-talk and researching how our bodies benefit from good nutrition and activity. I decided I was going to lose the weight, not because I hated my body and deserved to be punished, but rather because I loved my body and wanted to take care of it.

Being a stay-at-home mom with three kids three and under left me with few options for working out, so I started going at 5am, after the baby’s early morning feeding and before my husband left for work. At first I would do 15 slow minutes on the elliptical machine and leave looking like I’d just run a marathon. Eventually I gained endurance, and I started seeing some results on the scale. My clothes fit better. I felt more energized. I chased my kids around the yard without needing to sit down. When I started to see just how amazing my body is when I take care of it, I was hooked. You could find me at the gym every day from 5:15-6:30am, then back again at 10am for a group fitness class. I used every area of the gym, even the “men’s” weights, just to prove that there’s no such thing as “men’s” weights. I lost all the extra pounds I had been carrying, and I looked and felt better at 28 than I had at 18. I loved working out.

I was a proud gym rat.

A few years into it, life got… different.

Keep reading this post over at Knoxville Moms, where it was originally posted on March 13, 2017: click here!

I Shave My Face (And It Is Awesome)

It was one of those unforgettable moments that stay with you forever.

The Story

Late in 2002, I was a senior in high school and on a date with a boy I thought was pretty into me. (Turns out he wasn’t, BUT I DIGRESS.) Sitting in the car at the end of the night, we were making silly small talk, frequently glancing at each other’s lips, wondering if our first kiss was imminent. (It wasn’t, BUT I DIGRESS.)

Because I was like pretty much the most awkward and least sexy date that poor guy had probably ever been out with, I somehow (no, I don’t remember how it happened, but really, I don’t think I want to) made a pitiful attempt at a cute, flirtatious joke by making some comment about his lack of facial hair and how I probably had more hair on my face. Look, I know I was weird, but please stay with me. Thinking I was coyly teasing his manhood, I was surprised when he scored the ultimate comeback with a casual, “Yeah, I noticed.”

This is the point where I wish this story was an episode of “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” so I could see her hilarious expression and laugh until I cried, but alas, it was me, and my recollection causes tears of another sort. I fear what my face may have actually done in that moment, because I very vividly remember what my stomach was doing (lurching). He must have noticed my horrified expression and realized that kiss we were working up to wasn’t going to happen now, because he tried to apologize. “It’s okay! I mean, my mom has that too!” WORSE. Worse worse worse worse WORST. I don’t remember what happened after that moment, or really anything that ever happened after that (other than later finding out he had also been simultaneously, probably-less-awkwardly, pseudo-dating my friend and then dumped both of us for some girl in Ohio, BUT I DIGRESS), but I do know that was the first day I started caring about my facial hair.

Read the rest of this honest but informative post on Knoxville Moms, where it originally appeared on July 20, 2016: click here!