Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Just Bein' a Pest!

I'm still here!  Oh my word has it been awhile since I've written.  I just wanted to share something that Emily and I wrote and shared at a Mother-Daughter Picnic at church on Mother's Day weekend.  It was truly a blessing to be able to do this with Emily and to learn so much while preparing. (I took a lot of this from my last blog post in March)

Southbrook Moms & Daughters
Hello fellow moms!  My name is Amy Kissel and this is my daughter Emily – she is 12 and in the sixth grade. This is the first time that I’ve been a mom to a daughter who is 12 and in the sixth grade!  I sit before you not as an expert in mother-daughter relationships, but as a fellow mom, leaning on God and you lovely ladies as we forge on!  When Kathy called me about a month ago and asked me if I’d like to talk at this picnic about being intentional and purposeful in building our relationships with our daughters – I immediately thought that this would be a great opportunity – I had just recently become very aware of the dangers of the ‘real world’ that Emily is growing up in and how I needed to be praying more for her, educating myself and spending intentional time with her.  I feel as though I may have taken a ‘mom break’ for a few years…I’ve kinda been coasting.  We got through the toddler years, past preschool and into elementary.  Once we got to elementary - for the most part the kids were pleasant to be around and becoming more and more independent by the moment. Woohoo! Mom relaxes, kicks back, starts taking some time for herself….only to have my eyes opened completely wide this year and a kick in the pants to action…wake up!  I have got some important work to do.  So back to Kathy’s question of speaking, ‘yes, yes, I’d like to do that.’  Then…the enemy got a hold of me… ‘What information do you possibly have to convey to these moms??  Some of them seasoned moms – some of them pros at this??’ ‘There are plenty of ladies who have been there, done that and their girls are well-adjusted, pleasant, Jesus-lovin young women ---- those ladies should be up here tellin’ us all what works and what don’t…what in the world do I know about this??!!   Yikes!  What have I done?

But…I continued to pray and asked God to give me some words for this…and in the process realized that this actually was going to be a huge blessing to both Emily and I as I took the time to learn some things, open my eyes and prepare a bit.  You see, Em and I don’t always see eye to eye.  We butt heads, we both take things too personally, and we make each other angry.  I wouldn’t say that our relationship is one that just naturally ‘happens’ and brings joy to each other on a regular basis…but oh how I long for that!  So, I read some books, some articles, talked to some wise moms I am blessed to know and then I asked the question to my facebook friends and family, “moms of tween and teen girls:  what do you do to be purposeful and intentional in your relationship with your daughter/s?”  I got several private messages of encouragement, an invitation to coffee, an ‘oh girl!!’ and a ‘we’ll get through it’ pat on the back…but every time someone replied I got tears in my eyes.  We’re all in this together.  Look around the room…you have a network of support right here – there is so much wisdom...

Being intentional means living with purpose.  Having a goal or specific outcome in mind.

So, if we’re talking about being intentional in nurturing our relationships with our daughters, what would be our goal or specific outcome?  Maintaining closeness and open communication and a healthy relationship –that way when the bumps come, we can work on things together.

We may be quite similar or complete opposites of our daughters..but we must learn to work together, embrace differences and understand them.  Ultimately women want love, understanding and acceptance – we want that…and our daughters want that too.

So, from my talks with other moms, books read and prayers said, I determined this:  In order to build into my daughter’s life it will take: Prayer, Education, Selflessness and Time.

Prayer:  This is our most important step.  Remembering that God loves our daughters even more than we do – I should be talking to Him constantly about her.  She is more important to Him than she is to me!   I admit very ashamedly that I have not been praying for my children very often at all…like I said, I’ve been coasting.   Prayer will bring power to us through the Holy Spirit but it will also alleviate our fears and anxieties!!  Perfect!  We need that, right??!!  Praying with our daughters create a closer bond and allow them to see how much you take to God in prayer.  There are books and lists on things to pray for for her, but just praying simple prayers are good too!  I prayed a ‘help me.  I can’t do this’ prayer recently concerning my parenting and He was quite quick to send me some help.

Education:  I laugh a lot that I 'live in a little Christian-bubble' with a perfect little life and am so naive to what goes on in the world - I look at people 'around here' and think they're all good - that there is nothing really evil going on.  I will not laugh about this anymore.  It isn't funny nor cute that I've been 'sheltered.'  This is the point in my life that I need to educate myself to what kids are into.  What slang word is what, what social media is what, what girls do on Friday nights…What they will face so I can talk to her about it before she faces it. I sat her down before 6th grade sex ed to tell her the Biblical version like many of you did/will because she will learn it – I’d rather she hear it and hear it correctly from me first.  I want to know what’s going on ‘out there’ so when she does need to come to me I don’t have a complete breakdown cause I’m so unaware of what is out there – does that make sense?   I feel like I can easily educate myself on some parenting skills by talking to other moms who are further along on the journey whom I trust.  As I was telling a friend who’s daughter is 5 years further along on her journey about a situation the other day – she quickly pointed out what I could do – I welcomed it.  Yes, please give me some of that wisdom!  Education – A perfect place to look for it would be in the Bible.   What does God say about raising our kids?  Are there other reliable resources out there that I can turn to?  Recently I’ve read some great information about the differences in the world we were raised in vs. what our daughters are facing today.  I need to expect that how I was raised and what worked then is going to be different than what is going to work now.

Selflessness/ Humility:  Jeff just talked to the kids about how he was experiencing some peer pressure with his friends recently and what he did to resolve that.  And I just told Emily how grumpy I was because I was tired last night.  Our kids seeing that we make mistakes, we have to deal with stuff…and how we do it…and sometimes fail at doing it.  Hopefully they are learning a little by example – weaving life lessons into our own stories of experiences.  Daring to be real and allowing them to see that we are not perfect.  Apologies when we need them and asking her to forgive me…  God is helping me with the ability to not take it personal when Emily is in a mood and lashes out at me.  The ability to practice self-control and not lose control and become a 12 year old girl too.  I don’t really need to get the last word in.  He’s teaching me to bite that tongue.  Selflessness – putting others before self --  focus on her and her interests and loves…learn about them and become interested and want to know all about it.  Take the focus off of myself – selflessness.  Listen.  Really listen…not the toddler mom type of listening ‘the half listen’ where the toddler is saying mom mom mom mom and then a bunch of syllables of a sentence you don’t understand and you just smile and nod and say ‘oh…yes, absolutely’ but you have NO idea what they said…  Or the half-listening that I sometimes do when she launches into a story about something that I’m not quite interested in or I don’t really understand.  These are the moments I need to drop what I’m doing and learn all about what I don’t understand and become interested in it because SHE is interested in it – because SHE is important and I love her.  THIS is what is important right now.  God has given my daughter to me to parent…to love…to pour into for this time..and we are only here for a moment.  Ok – remember my facebook question?  Moms of tween and teen girls – what do you do to be purposeful and intentional in your relationship with your daughter/s?   One of my cousins answered my question with this:  “I really think it's the little things that matter most. I purposely read the types of books she loves so we have those to talk about. Add a special touch to her lunch or a special treat in the car when I pick her up at school if she is having a rough week. In addition to right after school, I know the time she is most likely to be talkative is right before bed. Thus even though now with high school soccer she is often up late at night doing homework, I stay up with her so we have that time together when she is most likely to open up.” That is filled with thinking about another more than yourself.  Another slant to Selflessness and Humility – not trying to change her.  Not trying to steer her towards things that I’d love her to do or wear or be more like.  Probably my favorite comment to my facebook question – “Remember she is not you.”  Ouch!   Embrace who she is becoming and what her passions are…even though they aren’t mine – she is different than me!!  I admit I've tried to steer my kids toward things I'd love to see them succeed in...mainly so I can be validated (which is selfish instead of selfless). ..’look what my kid can do’.  I'd love to live through them and have them succeed at things I couldn't.   Emily tried out for volleyball this past year.  I was so proud and so excited that she was doing it.  When she didn’t make the team – guess who cried about it?  It was an eye-opener to me that that particular activity was MY dream and I needed to check myself and my intentions…

Time:  Emily and I don't have a lot in common that we love to talk about.  But, she just read the Divergent book series and she loves to talk about what she's reading.  So, I started reading them too.  It gave us a nice way to talk through some of the books.  Every relationship we have requires effort and intentionality.  Intentionally schedule some time to do something that she enjoys together.  One facebook friend mentioned that she has started watching her daughter’s favorite show with her.  Another says that they do dinner and a movie together once a month.  One says : “Grace and I share a circle journal. She writes a prompt and I respond to it then I write a new prompt and she responds to it. Sometimes it's a doodle, sometimes it's recalling a family memory, sometimes it's a Q &A, We aren't consistent with getting it back and forth, but I always love when it shows up on my bedside table or in my purse. Fun!”  I know that might stress some of you out to have to write in a journal – but others might really benefit from it.  Expressing yourself with writing is a lot easier for some…like me.  I remember when I was a preteen…I wrote my mom a note and left it on the laundry basket “I’m thinking I need a training bra, don’t you think?  They’re starting to get bigger.”  I could NOT utter those words to my mom during that time.  It was awkward and embarrassing.  To this day – I feel like I can communicate so much more eloquently with writing than with speech – so – maybe some of you might want to give it a try!  Other ideas for time together:  Walks, painting toenails, seeing a movie, a weekly breakfast, going to a certain restaurant that the rest of the family hates…  A year ago when I noticed that there were some hormones going on in the house.  I walked into Emily’s room to tuck her in and I told her that I am here…you can talk to me about anything and everything.  You can ask me anything.  This is your time.  Every night.  I will come in your room and tuck you in and if you want to spend time talking…it’s yours.  I’m yours.  It’s been good.  I’ve also realized lately that even though my girl looks more and more like an adult – she still wants hugs, hand holding and cuddles at times – of course if we’re in public I will let HER initiate this so not to embarrass her!  I’d much rather give this to her than her wanting it from someone else.  Emily and I are going to do our first mother-daughter Bible Study this summer with another mom and daughter.

So, to be purposeful takes Prayer, it takes Education, it takes Selflessness and it takes Time.  Oddly enough that spells out “PEST” and oddly enough – this is what Emily and I both have pinpointed as the one characteristic that is most harmful in how I’m relating to her.  I tend to be a nag, a pest…always pointing out what needs to change, what needs to be done.  Yes, I have major control issues – God is helping me with it!  When Pastor Shane spoke a few weeks back about our “Whatever” – our one thing that we need to surrender to God  - I was awakened when Colossians 3:21 hit me over the head.  “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”  I realized that the majority of my interactions with Emily were me being a nag.  I’ve just realized as I’m embarking on this new phase of life that I need to change my parenting – I am not parenting a baby, toddler, or elementary school daughter.  I need to trust how we parented her/what we have taught her up to this point that Emily does know deep down right and wrong... but now realize that it's going to require a different type of parenting – one where she needs to make some decisions on her own, that we don't give advice and correct and teach at every single opportunity but make sure she does know she can ask for advice.  That not every battle (the little things) needs to be fought.  She needs my relationship more than my instruction at this stage of life and to know that we are here and we want to be here. We are now her guide instead of her driver.  We’re still her parent, not her peer, but I am here…I’m present…I’m engaged…I’m available.   I’m slowly relinquishing control a bit at a time while trusting God because He has good things planned for my daughter.  In my absence, He is there.

Emily's Part:

To be purposeful/intentional in our relationships with mom – daughters need to remember to be a PEST too!
P- Pray
Pray with and for her and your relationship.  Spend some time with her to just talk to the Lord.  Have that special time of 1, 2, 5, 10 minutes or however long you feel like praying.
E – Education (remember she can be a source)
Remember that mom went through so much of the things we do…hormones, body changes, friend troubles, being made fun of, crushes, dating, hard choices…she understands a bit of it!!  She knows how to deal with some of the things you are going through.
Ask for help when you need it.  She is always there for you.  You don’t have to face this world alone, she has gone through it and understands what you are feeling and might have some advice if you want it.
S – Selflessness/Humility – part of being selfless is doing stuff when I don’t really feel like it – because it is good for me and our relationship.  It’s also thinking about her feelings, too.
Share your feelings as much as you can.  Don’t keep them curled up in a tiny ball and push them to the back of your mind.  You will end up exploding at someone.  I mean, you saw what happened with Elsa right? Your mom can help you unpack your emotional backpack.  I mean, I know sometimes I am not the best example for this because I am not good at sharing my feelings but, I am trying to get better.
Be kind to her.  Try not to let hormones get the better of you.  Try not yell at her to get out of your room. Remember parents have feelings too!  Realize it is hard at times for mom to see you growing up and not needing her as much.  Sometime she may think that you are still her baby girl and need to be taught when you don’t.  Remind her from time to time that you are not a baby.  Remember that mom does want what’s best for you.  She is not out there to get you, she wants to see you succeed.
Whew!  We're glad to be done - hanging out at the picnic now!
T – Time 
Suggest time together when you feel like you need it.  I usually ask for this when I am emotionally unstable and need answers to my questions.
She will be there…she’s my mom.  She’ll be there even when friends change.  It’s a permanent relationship. And God hand-picked her to be mine.  God knows there is no other mom that would be better fitted to raise you than the one you have now.