the thing about fear.

A crying yell jolts me awake. I blink my eyes a few times to make sure I wasn’t just dreaming it, but her voice pierces through the darkness again. My feet hit the cold floor as I slide out of bed and make my way downstairs.

I find my five-year-old, Lily, sitting up in her bed. I start to ask her what’s wrong, but she doesn’t give me the chance.

“I had a bad dream,” she says.

“You did? I’m so sorry,” I say as I push a blond curl away from her face. “Let me cover you up, so you can go back to sleep. Everything will be okay. Mom and dad are right upstairs.” She settles back into her pillow, and I pull her comforter up to her chin. Her breathing has slowed, and her eyes are already closed when I kiss her forehead and quietly leave her room. I make my way through our house, quiet once more. Back in my own bed, I’m reminded of myself at age five, of the many times fear woke me from my own sleep and my parents had to assure me everything would be ok. Has she inherited my propensity for fear?

What’s more, am I teaching her how to face it?

///

I was afraid of almost everything as a child.

When I was four, I slept with a baby monitor next to my bed, so I could whisper to my mom in the middle of the night if I was scared. My parents’ bedroom was on the other side of the house, and, of all the possible options, I constantly worried that a mean version of Santa was going to sneak through the door between our rooms and cause some kind of trouble.

By the time I was six, pirates had replaced my fear of mean Santa. I would lay in my bed, shrouded in darkness, and peek through my blinds to make sure there were no ships, planks, or skull flags in view. Never mind the fact that we lived on a cement road 1,500 miles away from the ocean.

Each year brought a new scenario to add to my list. After meeting a family friend whose daughter had a serious illness, I would fall asleep convinced the inside of my body was incurably diseased. My parents had to pick me up early from a weekend trip with my grandparents once because I had a feeling our house was going to burn down in my absence. I even made my mom hang my lost teeth on the door of my bedroom because I wasn’t interested in a strange fairy coming anywhere near my pillow.

Each of these fears had one thing in common: the night. The setting sun had a way of illuminating the fears that plagued me, and as I would lay still in my bed each evening, my mind would race, spinning circles around itself.

I wish I could say I outgrew my fearful tendencies, but I’m still a natural worrier and master crafter of worst-case scenarios. Fear still catches in my throat at times and burrows into my pounding chest all while I’m trying to fall asleep at night. It’s relentless.

I have tried, again and again, to talk myself out of feeling afraid. I tell myself there is nothing to worry about—that my fears are irrational. I think, “Everything is going to be okay,” but then I quickly remember that I don’t have the power to predict the future. Even if it is unlikely that something will happen to me while I’m away from my kids (a small adjustment to one of my predominant childhood fears) or that I am harboring some kind of incurable disease, there is still a chance.

“Everything will be okay” is moot. There’s no way to know.

Except God knows. And this is the beginning of my hope.

So much of fear is rooted in the uncertain, the unknown. So, its counterpunch is what I can know.

And what I know is that God promises to always be with me. That he promises to fill me with peace. That my life is secure in him forever.

When I stand firm in what I know, I have words to speak to the fear.

///

The next night, I stand beside Lily’s bed, my fingers stroking those same blond curls, thinking about the previous night’s conversation—unsettled by how I addressed it. My assurance that “mom and dad are right upstairs” isn’t the hope she needs when fear strikes in the middle of the night. She needs the answer which will actually help her face her fear.

“Mom?” She interrupts my thoughts, her blue eyes looking into mine. “I don’t want to have any more bad dreams.”

“I know you don’t. I don’t want you to either.” I kneel down next to her bed. We talk about how God is always with us and how He promises to give us peace when we feel afraid. I ask her if she wants me to pray for God to help her not be afraid while she sleeps.

“Okay,” she says slowly, “but, can you also pray that I won’t have any more bad dreams?”

This is the crux.

God doesn’t promise a life without bad dreams, so I can’t either.

Instead, I offer her what I know.

“You might have more bad dreams, Lily,” I say while my fingers comb through her hair. “Even I still have bad dreams sometimes. But God loves you so much. And when you’re afraid, He’s always with you. No matter what happens, if you love Him, you’ll never be away from Him.”

She turns over on her side, satisfied for the moment. We pray together, and I kiss her forehead before I leave her bedroom. As I pull the door closed behind me, I realize this won’t be the last time we have this conversation. Like all of us, she will have to learn to navigate the things that scare her throughout her life, and she will have to let what she knows be bigger than what she feels.

I say a quick prayer that this is the beginning of her hope.

 


 

psssst! Each month, I send out a newsletter containing a few thoughts about all the things I read, write, love, and think about. If you want to get in on the fun, you can sign up HERE! 

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the one about head lice and the Gospel.

I am pouring my second cup of coffee when I hear my phone ring in the living room. I have just returned home from our hour-long morning drop-off routine and am ready to sink into the couch and watch Sawyer play with his trucks.

I expect to find my mom on the other end since she’s typically the only person who calls me at 9:00 a.m. on a weekday morning but instead see the name of Lily’s school on the screen. I answer the phone almost certain I will hear the voice of the school nurse on the other end and am not mistaken.

“Mrs. Flinkman?”

“Yes.”

“Hi, I’ve got Lily here in the nurse’s office. We found a small infestation of lice on her head, and I’m going to need you to come pick her up.”

I groan inwardly and suddenly feel very itchy. “Oh. Okay. I’ll be right there.”

Twenty minutes later, I’m standing in the nurse’s office with Lily at my side and a sheet of lice removal services in my hand.

“You’ll need to take all your kids to get checked and treated before Lily can come back to school.”

Lice protocol, it seems, is a little bit different than when I was a kid. I am told as I pick Norah up from preschool that lice have mutated and are resistant to the box kits you can buy at the store. So, apparently now I’m dealing with mutant lice.

My warm cup of coffee and relaxing Thursday morning turned into mutant lice in less than an hour.

Once home, I strip every piece of fabric from our beds and wonder how I can keep the girls’ heads from touching any surface in the house until our lice removal appointment at 3:30. It’s at this point—as my attempts to keep it all together are crumbling into complete hysteria—that Jake wakes up.

He takes Lily into the bathroom with a magnifying glass and emerges three minutes later.

“It’s dirt,” he says matter-of-factly. “The kids were playing in the trees in the backyard yesterday, and Lily’s hair is dirty. She doesn’t have lice.”

Jake’s diagnosis is confirmed later that afternoon when the mutant lice expert separates every section of hair on each girl’s head looking for nits.

“I don’t see anything that even resembles lice,” she says as she hands me a certificate declaring all of my kids lice-free.

As if this day wasn’t already weird enough, I am now in the possession of official documentation to prove it.

Hours later, Jake and I collapse on the couch. Our freshly bathed kids are asleep on clean sheets, and all that’s left for us to do is laugh.

I’ve been wondering since then though if I would’ve been able to laugh that night (or every single day since) if our kids actually did have lice. How would I have told this story differently if that had been the ending? What’s more, would I have told it at all?

The idea of bugs living on my kids’ heads freaked me out most of that morning, but to be completely honest, I was less worried about the actual bugs and was, instead, more concerned about the stigma that might get attached to our kids upon returning to school. I didn’t want this to be a label that stayed with our family. I didn’t want it to change the way people viewed us.

I suppose I could write that off as a protective maternal instinct, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that my fear about lice really reveals a pride that has burrowed deep down into my heart. A pride that I didn’t even realize was there.

I think almost daily about transformation and the abundant life God has shown me. I think less frequently about what He has saved me from—the wretchedness of my own heart. But where is the joy in my transformed life if I don’t first acknowledge where I began? Or, more importantly, where I need to begin?

I’m not a good person who has figured out how to live a great life. I’m a sinner—the same as anybody else—whom God has transformed and continues to transform. And the joy of my salvation comes from acknowledging the breadth of that spectrum.

All it took was a few hypothetical mutant lice to remind me of the beauty of the Gospel. Admittedly, that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write, but I’m thankful all the same.

cheerio dust.

Every morning I step on a cheerio.

This is not hyperbole. This is just a regular part of my morning routine.

Turn on the news. Crunch a cheerio into the floor.

It’s as predictable as the moment I can expect to see the girls emerge together from their room: 6:58 on the microwave clock.

No exaggeration here, either. The moment their clock gives them the green light (literally), they are out of their beds and in the kitchen to join me and the rest of the Good Morning America anchors.

Sawyer usually wakes up as soon as the cereal hits the first bowl. Two steps toward his door and I crunch another cheerio. With this pause, I am quickly passed by the girls, eager to greet their little brother.  

I could finish the rest of the breakfast dance with my eyes closed.

Egg in the skillet. Toast in the toaster. More milk in the cereal.

Water. Vitamin. Coffee.

Shhhhhh. (Can a girl just listen to what George Stephanopoulos has to say?)

Wash hands. Wash faces. Sweep floor.

Miss a cheerio.

Crunch.

Every morning it’s the same. There are no breaks for weekends or weekday holidays. There is no delayed start for sickness or overall exhaustion.

The rhythms of my mornings just do not change.

Ever.

And yet, I’ve come to find that I like these predictable beats.

I like the breakfast routine because we all count on it.

It’s expected. It’s together. It’s safe.

It’s one of my favorite times of the day.

Cheerio dust and all.

two minutes and forty-three seconds.

My life felt like a scene from a movie tonight for about two minutes and forty-three seconds.

I had just finished a three-kid bath when “Something That I Want” by Grace Potter came through the portable speaker.

I threw a purple hooded towel over Lily’s head and tousled it through her hair. She laughed, and while I pulled her in close to me to kiss her forehead, I caught Sawyer and Norah out of the corner of my eye. They were face-to-face and smiling at the other end of the bathtub.

I sent the girls into their bedroom and carried Sawyer to his with the speaker in hand. I squatted low to get a pair of pajamas out of the bottom drawer of his dresser and promptly lost my balance and fell backward.

Sawyer craned his neck to look at me and laugh and then the girls burst into the room, half-wrapped in towels. They dog-piled us and added to the laughter.

Everyone was happy.

And that made me happy.

This parentsofsmallkids life is something, isn’t it? It moves both slowly and quickly all within the same inhale of a temper tantrum and exhale of extended grace.

It’s filled with juxtapositions and monotonies¹ and failures and victories and stresses and questions and (more frequently than I’d like to admit) months-old spots of dried spit-up.

It bogs me down sometimes.

But then God lets me look in on it from the outside. Tonight, for two minutes and forty three seconds, I saw only my kids’ smiling faces while the scene evolved (thanks to Grace Potter’s peppy number).

It was the scene in the movie meant to remind you that everything is going to be okay. That despite the chaos and conflicts, these kids are loved.

That they’re happy.

I’m no perfect parent (see: too sharp tone tonight when four-year-old decided bedtime might be optional). But I do love my kids, and tonight I was reminded that that deep love goes further than I often realize.

When I looked at my kids tonight, I saw a happy childhood and a reminder to keep doing everything I can (which is certainly not done out of my own strength) to love them well each day.

These are hard years. But they’re good years. And I refuse to wish them away.

I’m thankful for moments like tonight because they remind me to live more fully in my kids’ childhoods with them. To laugh. To smile. To let them smother me even though they aren’t fully clothed.

Oh, and it’s also worth noting that our laughter-filled dog-pile ended when “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” came on next, and in fitting fashion, in the music queue. The girls were promptly sent back to their rooms to get their pajamas on.

This mama doesn’t mess around with bedtime. (Ask the four-year-old.)


¹ sometimes I make up words. this is one of those times.

a story about a worm.

I saved a worm’s life today.

Lily spotted it on our morning walk. She stopped her scooter just past it, knelt down above it, and said, “Mom! It’s still squirmin’!”

Sure enough, there it was, smack in the middle of the sun-soaked sidewalk, baking on the concrete, and squirming ever so slowly.

I really only did what any good, conscientious citizen would–scooped it up with a nearby leaf, dropped it off in some dirt, and laid the leaf on top of the grass above it so the sun wouldn’t keep drying it out.

And you know what? I feel preeetty good about the whole thing.

I find anymore that it’s so easy at the end of the day to focus on all the things that have gone poorly.

The sharp tones. The unnecessary impatience. The moments of divided attention.

Recently I have found myself fixating on these moments during the quiet of the evening after all the kids are in bed and agonizing over my shortcomings.

Of course there’s something to be said for analyzing the day’s game tape and making changes as necessary, but there’s a lot of good in each day too. And I think I spend too much time overlooking it.

My new practice, then, is to pay more attention to the good as I end each day. In those quiet evening moments, I’ve been trying to make a habit of thinking about all the ways we loved and responded well throughout our days. To cut myself some slack and celebrate our successes.IMG_9947.JPG

So, here’s to the worms.

I was present with the girls in that small moment, and that’s something I want to remember.

Here’s to the books read. The twisted flower crowns. The patient correction.

Here’s to the times I left my phone in the other room, so my attention only had to be divided in thirds rather than fourths.

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These are the kinds of things I want to end my day thinking about, so that I’m more likely to repeat them tomorrow.

That’s right. We’re gonna keep on saving all the worms.

It’s definitely worth it.

the beautiful monotony of motherhood.

My morning wake-up call came at 6:45 this morning. The baby.

And when I walked in his “room” (I can’t be the only mom who has to use this word loosely for all children to come after the first), there he was, beaming his two-toothed grin at me.

We walked downstairs and pushed play on the unchanging morning routine.

Lily was next. Usually she lays in her bed hollering for me to come in and get her, but this morning she snuck into the kitchen while I was cutting a banana. She went straight to Sawyer and said happily, “I haven’t said, ‘Hi,’ to you yet!”

She left behind an unusually quiet room, and when I went in, I found Norah standing silently in her bed waiting for me.

“I didn’t scream and wake Lily up today!” she said proudly.

I swooped her up and let her jog into the kitchen with the other two. I heard, “Hi, Soy-ler! Are you a happy boy?” as I turned the fan off.

The rest of the morning went pretty much as it always does.

Cereal. Vitamins. Negotiations for more food.

Coffee.

Clothes. Pigtails. A showing of Peppa Pig to ease into the morning.

Coffee.

Books. Babies. A real baby who just wants to eat paper and spit up all over the carpet.

Coffee.

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We move through these rhythms together each day. They are mostly unchanging regardless of the day of the week or the schedule of the day.

Monotony gets a bad rap in parenting, and I get it. Life can start to feel a little bit like that movie Groundhog Day except instead of waking up to Sonny & Cher, it’s a chorus of yelling and/or happy screaming (it’s weird over here sometimes).

But monotony is also my friend.

I realized it this morning while I was slow sipping my coffee.

As we have worked hard to build routines for our kids, we also have inadvertently (and more importantly, I suppose) worked to build trust. My kids are never surprised to see me in the morning. They wake up and they do whatever they need to in order to get my attention, but (at least I don’t think), they’re never worried that I won’t come. They just innately trust that I (or Jake) will.

I’ve been overthinking motherhood all week (this, of course, shouldn’t surprise anyone). I spent a lot of brain energy looking for deep metaphors in things like can openers and making long, uninventive lists about all the things being a mom has taught me.

I tried to organize my thoughts a few times, but the words just wouldn’t come, so I put them back in the drawer with the philosophical can opener and moved on.

And then this morning, as my kids moved all around me doing their various morning things, I felt a small twinge of gratitude. An odd feeling, really, for a day much the same as all the others.

But that was it. It was the monotony of my morning which revealed the more beautiful things that have grown from its soil: Trust. Togetherness. The sense of being known.

These days we’re building so many foundations. Laying the groundwork for future expectations and experiences. And today that tiny twinge of gratitude reminded me that the work we’re doing is important and lasting.

Our kids are known. They are loved. They are learning to trust us.

And those are the words I want to remember today.

april book review + giveaway

I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I read two books this month. Two! With days to spare even!

I started the month off with No More Perfect Marriages by Mark and Jill Savage (more on this one later).

Then, a couple weeks ago, I caught word of a newly released book of essays called The Magic of Motherhood.

Now, since this is a space of complete honesty, you should know that the only reason I bought this book was because I wanted to be entered into a drawing for a $100 Target gift card. (I know. I’m a walking cliché.) All I had to do was buy the book, take a picture of it in my Target shopping cart, and post it to Instagram. Easy enough.¹

All this to say that I had no expectations for what I would find inside.

And, subsequently, what I found inside was something really, really wonderful.

The book comes from Ashley Gadd and the contributing writers of her blog, Coffee + Crumbs, a site which, as far as I can tell, exists to connect and unite mothers. A sort of virtual, “You are not alone,” if you will.

The writing I found inside this book is some of the most beautiful non-fiction writing I have read, and I don’t throw around writing praise lightly. I read essay after essay after essay and the writers kept putting exact words to so many of my own feelings about the various facets of being a mom.

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But I think what I love most about this book was that each writer was able to extract something good and beautiful from every challenge faced on the road to or during motherhood. It was honest about the sometimes brutal realities but also heartening. There was no wallowing or complaining. Instead it focused on how the hard parts make us stronger. More beautiful. More centered on the important.

If you’re a mom this book will speak to your soul (whatever the circumstances surrounding that journey have looked like for you). It will remind you that you are not alone in your feelings and fears and joys and sorrows and loves and aches.

And it will, I think, help you see more beauty around you.

•••••

You had better believe I’m giving The Magic of Motherhood away this month. (A new copy though because I’m not parting with mine.) If I could fund it, I would buy this for all my mama friends, but one is better than nothing, I suppose.

(Oh, and shout out to Rachel who should be somewhere in the middle of All the Light We Cannot See by now.)

So, if you want me to send you a copy (no strings attached AND just in time for Mother’s Day!), you have two options:

  1. Comment straight on this post.
  2. Comment on or reply to whatever social media outlet led you to this post.

Just throw up those hand-raised emojis or give me another recommendation and I’ll add your name to the drawing. Next on my queue are Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle and Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.

(The latter of which is thanks to many of you!)

I’ll pick a winner for this one on Tuesday, two day. And if it’s not you, well then, that’s a pretty good excuse to get yourself to Target to buy it. You won’t regret it.

magic of motherhood right


¹ I didn’t win the gift card. I do feel like I won in the long run, though. 🙂

motherhood and when you lose sight of who you are.

For me, it happened right around the time my first baby, Lily, turned one. Our first real summer.

Gone were the days of toting a sleeping infant wherever I wanted to go. She was mobile and had fallen into a routine, and so, by 7:30 every night, I was on my couch scrolling through pictures of all the summer fun my childless friends were having.

It was in those quiet evenings in my own home, that I started to feel lonely and trapped and a little aimless.

It’s strange in those early days of motherhood, I think, because your former life is still such a tangible relic. You feel the same as that carefree version of yourself and yet a million miles away at the same time.

You lose yourself a little. You forget who you are.

It probably happens at a different point for every mom, but I don’t think it’s an avoidable reality. At some point, you’ll likely find yourself staring into a mirror and wondering, “Who am I?”

Now, I (obviously) don’t know everything about parenting. I don’t know how to get babies to sleep through the night or how to convince a three-year-old to wear shorts or how to get two preschoolers to play longer than 10 minutes together without someone crying.

But that question? The one you ask yourself while staring into the finger-smudged mirror? Well, I do know that the answer changes everything.

Sure, you’re a mom, and that fact has great implications and impact. But that’s not all you are.

And, if you spend your days defining yourself only by your ability to put kids to bed or feed a tiny army, well, unfortunately you’ll always come up short.

Because that’s not all you are.

We’ll always come up short if we base our worth on the things we do.

There’s not much sure footing in parenting anyway, is there? Just when you’ve got a handle on something or feel pretty good about where you’re at, the tide comes in and shifts the sand underneath your feet.

Nothing stays the same. It can’t. When people are involved, tiny or grown, everything moves and adjusts and muddies and changes.

Well, except for one thing.

One Person.

I lose sight of my identity still sometimes.¹ It happens on long, whine-filled days or weeks where Jake and I pass only like ships in the night. Weeks when I remember how much easier it all used to be before this season.

And it’s in these moments that I remind myself who I am.

Loved. Chosen. Redeemed. Confident. Complete.

I am who He says I am. Nothing will change this fact.

And that’s all the matters.

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The days are still whine-filled (we’re working on this one, believe me). Jake’s hours are still long. The sacrifices parenthood demands are still real and hard and draining.

But I choose to live in light of Truth.  I choose to wake up each day and hang my hat on who Christ says I am. To be thankful for the sacrifices asked of me because I see how they have refined and shaped me; how they have taught me to love more fully. How much better I am because of them.

I know that lonely, aimless feeling of motherhood well. Doesn’t every mom?

But I also know the feelings of joy and restoration and wholeness that come from knowing who I really am. 

That girl on the couch three years ago? She was just on the cusp of the good stuff.

I think we all are. It’s just a matter of choosing.

 


¹ This is a recurrent theme in my life. I started thinking about identity 13 years ago (what!) when I read the book Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson. In it, Anderson lists 27 aspects of who we are, and because the Internet is a magical tool in which everything is hidden, I found them all here in this handy PDF file in case you’re interested in reading more.

what happened when i started saying “yes” to my kids.

As of late, I’ve become keenly aware of the number of times I say, “No” or “Don’t” or “Stop” each day.

  • Don’t sit on your chair like that; you’ll fall.
  • Stop putting yogurt in your hair.
  • No, you can’t wear that; it’s too small.
  • Don’t play on the stairs.
  • Stop putting your feet in his face.
  • Don’t scream like that.
  • No, it’s not time for a snack.
  • Don’t lick her tongue. 

(Parenting is so weird, isn’t it?)

It’s a constant reel.

Usually, the negative statements are necessary. If I never said, “No,” the girls would have bellies full of play dough and the baby would have gone headfirst out of his door jumper at the hands of his big sisters by now.

It comes down to health and safety and general necessary obedience usually.

You have to say, “No.”

So then I decided to start saying, “Yes,” as much as I possibly could.

And in this quest, a few things have happened.

•••••

The Avoidance of Unnecessary Power Struggles.

Lily has very specific fashion preferences and pays no mind to whether or not her clothes match. Now, I know some parents are all, “Oh, but it’s so cute when they dress themselves in ridiculous combinations,” but as someone who can’t sleep unless my pajamas match, this is not me.

But, as much as I can, I’ve been trying to let go, because when she gets to choose what she wants to wear, that’s one less battle I have to worry about during our day.

It’s a simple new litmus test, really (and this goes for more than just clothes): Am I saying, “No” for her benefit or mine?

If the “No” only benefits me, then I tryyyyy to let it go.

Try is the operative word here.

The Language Goes Both Ways.

Not only have I been trying to saying “Yes” more, I’ve been trying to be more positive during our conversations in general. You know, counter every “Stop talking like a baby” with a few “I love how you used your words”.

Yesterday, Lily told me that my necklace was “really beautiful.”

And this morning, as soon as Norah woke up, she said, “How was your sleep, mom? Good?”

Kids hear everything don’t they?

I’m realizing more tangibly now than ever that if I want my kids to be positive and kind and gracious, then those are the words they need to hear me say more than anything.

I Became More Present.

When the girls ask me to do something, (if possible; it’s not always) I’ve been trying to say, “Yes” immediately.

This has eliminated (for the most part) the phrase “Just a second” from my vocabulary.

So often, when that phrase comes out of my mouth, “a second” turns into something more like 3 or 4 or 5 minutes during which time, they get bored and find something else to do without me.

No good. (It’s especially no good when it say it because I know they’ll get bored and find something else to do without me. Oy.)

So now, whenever possible, I try to leave my phone (the obvious main culprit for my distraction) in another room, and say, “Yes, I would love to read that entire stack of 33 books right this second.”

And it’s so. much. better. to be present with them in those moments. I feel it at the end of our days when I reflect on our time together. It feels like I did something right.

Oh, and I have most of our children’s books committed to memory now, so there’s that too.

•••••

I’m a work in progress. Just this morning I drew a hard line and told Lily she had to wear pants that matched her shirt. (I did look the other way though when she added a skirt that most certainly didn’t match the ensemble. Baby steps.)

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Every day is laced with small failures. The “No” I said too sharply, the selfish “Stop” because I was annoyed with the noise, or the “Don’t” that only came out of my mouth because I didn’t want to get off the couch.

It’s easy to get bogged down by those moments, but I’m finding that the more intentional I am about my positive language, the less power the negatives have over my thoughts at the end of the day.

The days intentionally filled with, “Yes” or “I’d really like to” or “That’s a great idea,” well, those are the days I’ve started feeling really good about.

Of course my days will still be filled with “No.”

I’ve got graham cracker intake and overall baby safety to manage, after all.

I guess I just want to make sure that my days are filled with a lot of yeses too.

I mean, how many more days of endless stacks of children’s books or heaping piles of dress-up dresses do I really have ahead of me?

 

the terrible twos: can we change the name?

The script is pretty predictable.

Surely I’m not the only person who has had the following conversation with a stranger in Target:

Oh, she’s so cute.

Thank you!

How old is she?

Two.

Oooooh, the terrible twos.

Now, I’m used to people saying unhelpful and/or unnecessary things to me in public, and it usually doesn’t bother me. These conversations are well-intentioned and genuine more often than not. Plus, I’m not one to turn down adult interaction of any kind any more.

This one though? Can we please call “The Terrible Twos” something else?

Why?

Because “The Terrible Twos” implies two things. Neither is true but both are easy to believe.

First, the phrase “terrible twos” suggests that there is a beginning and an end to this first hard stage of toddler-ing. That you just have to make it through this one terrible year and then you’re scot-free! That the terribleness will cease once that third birthday rolls around.

It’s also problematic because it can make you think that the terrible things only happen at age two, and I think the unfortunate side-effect of this one is that it gives some people a false sense of security.

These are the people who, when you tell them your kid is two, respond with an overly dramatic, “Oh, just wait. Three is way worse.”  

Now, I only know as much about parenting as a little over three and a half years can teach you.

(So, very little.)

But I do know something with utmost certainty:

You can’t avoid the terribles.

At least that’s what Jake and I have decided to call them.

organic

The tantrums. The power struggles. The point at which a light bulb turns on in your child’s head, and she realizes she can challenge your authority.

Maybe your kid will start to test your limits exactly at two. Maybe it’s two and a half. Maybe your kid is pushing three and a half and you think you’re in the clear.

You’re not, I’m sorry to say.

The terribles will come for you, too.

BUT (oh, for the love, of course there is a but), the terribles don’t have to beat you.

These kids of ours? The ones who throw 45 minute tantrums because of the color of a dinner plate or rip chunks of hair out of a sibling’s head?

(These are definitely not scenarios which I have witnessed firsthand.)

They have been entrusted to us. They are ours. And, if we don’t love them well, who will?

Plus, I’m also resolved to believe that the terribles will end.

That with consistency and grace and thoughtful correction, we can make it through this stage of parenting (relatively) unscathed.

At least, people tell me this, and I’d like to believe they aren’t lying to me.

But also, we’re starting to see the shiny side of consistency and follow-through with one kid, and it. is. refreshing.

And just in time for another to start toeing the lines of obedience.

The terribles are coming for her too.

And even though I don’t know exactly how long the phase will last and that it likely won’t be over in a single year, I do know that we will come out on the other side better versions of ourselves (especially the toddler).

And that I won’t ever call them “The Terrible Twos” again.

Who’s with me?