The Judgment of Onlookers Means Nil

I read this article in my newsfeed today, and these are my thoughts:
There was a day a couple years ago that I brought the kids to the zoo. My sister and I spent the entire day on our feet, with our combined 10 children, making the day fun and exciting for the little ones. I was enjoying my sisters company but also very exhausted so after the zoo was getting ready to close, we decided to meet up at a playground by our houses. My youngest daughter at the time was about 2 and wanted to swing in the baby swing but I was just too exhausted and a lady who was pushing her child offered to push mine. Normally I’d hop up and do it because a) that’s my kid and b) what would onlookers think of me, ignoring my kids desires like that. lol Instead, I expressed deep thanks because of our long day at the zoo and how tired I was and just wanted to sit and visit while the kids had a little more time to play. I watched from that bench as this fellow Mama kindly pushed my daughter as she stood with her child as well.
How often I felt the burning looks of onlookers in grocery stores, playgrounds, and especially as I climbed in our vehicle for the 3 months I was apart from my husband as he prepared to join us after we moved. They had no clue that I already spend 24/7 with my children as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, and for those 3mos I was filling the roll of their daddy as well and had to bring them with me anywhere I needed to go and had zero moments to myself except for briefly in the evening after I got them to sleep. During that time, there were days I brought the kids to the playground and told them, ‘you’re going to want to show me all the fun things you can do, but today I’m going to relax and keep an eye on you while I play solitaire on my phone.’ and I ignored what everyone was probably thinking of me as they called my name and I told them not right now; there were days I brought them to the playground to stay occupied so I could have uninterrupted chats with my husband and family/friends back home from the state we just moved from; there were days I had all my kids with me at the grocery store where people acted as though I was too strict with my kids (one woman actually suggesting that I shouldn’t spank my child for running off because CPS could take my kids – my response was, I’d rather spank my child and deal with CPS than lose my kid or they get kidnapped… thanks for the unsolicited advice lady); I don’t know if anyone thought anything of it, but there were multiple times I got us all into the van to go for a drive because I needed to get a breather and barked at the kids to climb in, snapping at them and stressed. I was not a perfect mother, nor am I now, but my world has consisted of trying to balance caring for my kids and trying to make sure I’m in a healthy place to do that… and sometimes I get a little spastic when I’ve not taken care of myself and on occasion, people get to witness that. lol
Even while having my husband home with us, he works from before breakfast until after supper… so on his day off, I run errands alone. Some evenings when he gets home, I go spend time with a friend. And sometimes, he’s so tired after working such a long day/week, we have our daughter keep an eye on the baby while he and I relax.
People are so quick to judge. I don’t believe it takes a village to raise a child, however, the encouragement we have received over the years has helped me to be the Mom I need to be. Never ever has an ounce of hate or guilt tripping ever helped me to do better or be better, it only either heaped guilt or frustration on me. And I promise you, many snapshots in my day might make us appear to be tired or frustrated, maybe even neglectful, but there are a thousand other moments that aren’t caught – the many 20-60min conversations with my daughters about their emotions and hormones, or as they grieve or process things; the many 5-10min conversations that happen because of questions that the kids have about growth and puberty, how the body works, or a question having to do with their schoolwork; the snuggles, kisses, I love you’s, and I miss Daddy’s; the many times of getting up in the night to check on kids, get drinks, calm fears, change diapers, feed babies, soothe sick and fussy kids, etc.
It takes a lot more to be a good mom than looking up from your phone at the playground. It takes a lot more to be the mom your kids need than simply not yelling. It’s all the moments in between. Do we love on them, do we kiss them, do we take responsibility for our mess ups and own them, are we repentant, do we validate their feelings, do we teach them about grace, do we help them find their voice to speak up for themselves, are we their safe place despite our imperfections? I’ve often thought, if only I was yelling all that stuff at them, then maybe the neighbors might hear how much I truly love my kids outside of that moment of insanity when I had it up to my neck and lost my temper and the window was open. lol
At the end of the day, the judgment of onlookers means nil. At the end of the day, I have to shake off where I failed so miserably and take courage to go forward to do better where my kids need me the most. I take those failures as lessons in being a better human in general, and allow God to use them in teaching my children how to be emotionally healthy as well as spiritually grounded; to learn in everyday life the message of love, repentance, grace, forgiveness… and for that, I’m grateful.

Freebirth is Not Illegal

Freebirth is not illegal. It’s also not illegal to practice self-care and to only utilize the medical community when there is a need. Last I checked, it’s also not mandatory to seek a medical perspective for matters regarding health (aka well child check ups).

That being said, please spread the word so people stop reporting families to CPS for having a freebirth, for taking responsibility for their own health and the health of their children, and for seeking the assistance of a medically schooled individual only as a need arises.

Furthermore, just because you disagree with someone’s personal health choices, still doesn’t provide reason to report a family to CPS. If you’re truly concerned, take a minute to get to know the family yourself and IF there is further concern (true neglect, abuse, an unsanitary living situation according to the appropriate standards of that is considered unsafe) – and they are uninterested in learning better, healthier, and safer ways of caring for their family, then take further action. CPS is not to be the first call you make. It’s the lazy call – and it is devastating for families that are not doing anything illegal or harmful with their precious little ones.

My family dealt with CPS in 2013 and the fear alone of the power they have made my husband and I a mess for months despite our case being closed almost immediately – one social worker has the authority to determine if children are to be removed immediately and further investigation to be had… and not all social workers take action based on the appropriate standards.

I know women afraid to not take the advice of her doctor out of FEAR that they will report her to CPS. This is WRONG. Doctors are not gods! We are our children’s parents and it’s legal and SMART to get second and third opinions to determine our best options to care for our families.

Please consider this before picking up that phone and calling CPS. I’ve heard of more cases of CPS involvement where they shouldn’t have been than in cases where they should have been. All too often, I hear stories from people about how they should have been removed and no one did anything or the opposite, they were removed and the entire family dealt with trauma as they fought to prove their innocence and get their children back.

CPS can be a great asset to families in need and to hurting children. Let’s utilize them where they are needed, please, and stop harassing families that do things differently than you. Thank you!

Only In Our Wildest Nightmare

Whyyyyyy did I keep reading the threads about the gorilla and the trash people have to say about the mawwwwm! I’m not a perfect mother (surrrrrpriiiise! I know that one probably blew your mind haha) and my family has experienced our own set of traumatic scenarios. My 4 year old could have died when she was 11mos and when she was 23mos old. Both events were extremely traumatic to my family.  I don’t care if the mother of the boy who fell into the Gorilla pen should lose her children or not, but everyone had an opinion before anyone knew anything about her. Nothing anyone else says or thinks will makewhat happened to her, her son, or the gorilla worse or better… but if you heard what happened and thought she should lose her kids, then you could think the same thing about my husband or I who devote our entire lives to our children.

This whole social media frenzy reminds me of the aunt who sued her 8 year old nephew. There was much hate as she was dubbed the worst aunt ever but the lawsuit was a technicality that the insurance company told her was the only way to get her medical needs covered (check out the video here: Who’s to say this isn’t the very case in the current situation where the mother is now suing the zoo. Maybe not! Maybe she’s just looking for a handout! But the possibility is there and yet people are sending every woman with her name death threats, hate mail, and have even attacked her place of business to try to force it to shut down!

We had CPS meet with us after my fourth born child got out of the house (she was almost 2 at the time and we thought she was safe upstairs with our other kids, who we let stay up late to watch a movie as a treat on my husband’s vacation) and the social media hate was so awful and presumptuous. People declared that my husband should be castrated, that we shouldn’t reproduce, and that we were yet ‘another family living off welfare’ – which we weren’t, not that it mattered! A map of our address was included right on the front page of our local newspaper. In another article, they had the information wrong and didn’t include a man’s name they were referencing so it expressed that it happened to us THREE times rather than ONCE, further misleading the public and my husband ended up shutting down his Facebook.

CPS came and talked to our kids and to us and the case was quickly closed, but the DA didn’t drop the charges for a year (coincidentally after the hype had died down and we pushed against the three different plea agreements they offered that all involved him pleading guilty). We’re so thankful for my in-laws who helped us financially so we could hire a lawyer… but not knowing for a year if my husband was going to lose his job or go to jail or if we’d have to pay thousands of dollars in fines was just awful and scary!

Additionally, we had the trauma of what might have happened if our neighbors hadn’t found our daughter after crossing our busy street and potentially crossing another, and while we were relieved she was safe and sound, the anxiety was still there. Reliving what might have been with the nearby water, our pool out back, a car that could have come by, if the wrong person found her… I can’t let my mind linger too long… My husband barely slept because he needed to know where the kids were at all times, I didn’t feel safe to let the older kids play outside alone and we were terrified that if they got hurt in anyway the DA would group it with the child endangerment charges and we’d lose our kids to the state.

It’s just so easy to judge a situation and spew uninformed opinions and hate instead of seeing how to help. In our case, CPS was involved due to the police being called and it involving a child, but CPS is in place for abuse and neglect situations – taking your eyes off your child for a second is not negligence. If that were the case I couldn’t sleep, pee, shower, make a phone call, check the mail, or even type this… and the list goes on. Negligence is failure to provide reasonable care. Abuse is to treat a person with cruelty or violence. People are so quick to declare negligence and abuse, but there are very real cases of negligence and abuse that we should be this passionate about! If only child sexual assault got this much attention in social media! How informed the masses would be!!!

If you’re thinking that it would never happen to you. Good! I pray it doesn’t! I’m a mom who keeps all my kids close when I have them with me. When I go grocery shopping, I have baby wrapped, littlest toddler in the seat, older toddler standing on the end of the cart, and my three older ones walking on the sides with a hand on the cart. If you were in the store nearby, you’d hear me correcting each child every so often as they let go or dart away or touch things or yell too loud or or or… It’s not that I can’t handle that many children. I do, every single day. Sometimes, my 11 year old just wants to skip down the aisle without looking where she’s going and nearly runs into a couple coming from the opposite direction; sometimes my 2 year old is kicking the baby in my wrap and I’m teaching her that it’s not kind, and to be sweet and loving to others; sometimes my 7 year old son sees something cool and shouts to my 4 year old to look and she gets so excited she just has to get a closer look, letting go of the cart and running quickly to examine! Each of these moments I address to teach them and train them to be kinder humans, more aware of their surroundings, control their impulses, and stay close so I can keep them safe…

It’s not that a woman can’t handle her children if one gets away from her. Children aren’t robots and should be allowed to learn in the safest ways we deem necessary and without being confined to a stroller – who can even see the animals at a zoo from that low?! If I had only one child, s/he’d still be standing at the end of the cart at 4 years old and I’d still be handling it the same way I do now. I wouldn’t have him or her in the stroller, I would allow him/her to enjoy the world around them! It’s not due to lack of sleep or forgetfulness. Deliberate parenting is giving children the room to grow and be independent, while doing our best to see into the future to prevent any disasters from taking place. We don’t put knives on the edge of the counter, we keep scissors up high, we unplug the toaster, we turn the handles of our pans while on the stove…. then you walk into the room to get your 1 year old up from their nap and find them painting on the wall with their poop; or you check on your quiet 2 year old and you find her on the washing machine that she climbed onto by pushing the chairs over, cutting up paper with the scissors she saw you put away; or your 3 year old swimming in margarine on the kitchen floor; or your 7 year old eating out of the trash; or your 11 year old talking to the construction men through the fence next to your yard… etc. etc. etc.

Each of these moments are handled gently and carefully because we want to prevent them from getting hurt and to prevent them from doing it again… and anyone with young children knows that they run fast if they believe it’s a game or think it would be funny, or if they think you’re going to stop them. Older ones you can have conversations with them over and over and over again, but you still have to give them room to make those safe decisions on their own over time… I don’t know this woman who’s son fell into the Gorilla pen, but I do know that what happened to her could have happened to me. Not because I’m negligent, tired, or I have too many children… but because children are amazing little people who want to explore and learn and have adventures, and while we are to keep them as safe as possible and we strive to see the future, sometimes they are a little faster than we are, they are more clever than we could have anticipated, and they are better climbers than we could have ever imagined…. and we never could have expected our baby ending up in a Gorilla pen… only in our wildest nightmares!

My Heart

We were in the van and driving home, and as I was scanning through the stations, the song Piece by Piece by Kelly Clarkson came on so I stopped and I was singing along with it. I could see my 11 year old looking at me and then looking away a couple of times in the corner of my eye, so I asked her what’s up.  This was the gist of our conversation.

Me: “What’s up, hun? Whatcha thinkin’?”
DD: “Well, what is she singing about?”
Me: “Well, she’s singing about her husband and how he’s helping her to see that a man can love well and be a good daddy after her own father left her and hurt her heart when she was a little girl.
*processes that and tears well up in her eyes*
Me: “You okay? How does that make you feel?”
DD: “Sad that she experienced that from her dad…”
Me: “Anything else… ?”
DD: “It just kinda makes me think… *breaths and a tear rolls down her cheek* …it just kinda makes me think about you and your dad and how he wasn’t there for you.”
*tears well in my eyes*
Me: “Yes, my dad wasn’t there for me when I was a little girl and I needed him. Your Daddy has helped me to feel loved and important, and I’m so glad you have him to always be here for you when you need him.”
*She looks out the window and positions herself upright. Clearly trying to stop crying.*
Me: “Do you want to talk more about it?”
DD: “I don’t think so…”
Me: “You look like you’re still feeling very deeply about it.”
DD: *thinks* “I think I want to just cry and cry.”
Me: “It’s okay to just let yourself cry. It’s sad and wrong and I’m blessed that you feel so deeply for the hurts others have in their lives.”
DD: “Okay.” *Let’s herself cry as we hold hands and I continue to drive until a few minutes pass* “Mama?”
Me: “Yes hunny?”
DD: “I’m really glad you’re my mom.”

Being More Like Jesus

So I saw a meme about how hugs and kisses don’t spoil a child and thoughts began swirling… is this something people really believe? That it could SPOIL a child to give them the basic human need of physical affection?

Imagine if a woman wanted a hug from her partner and his response was, “I don’t want to spoil you.” In our society, people would think he’s a jerk, maybe even drop a jaw, or say something about how he needs to treat the woman in his life more tenderly.  Heck, if a dog wanted to be petted by his owner, we’d see it’s very basic need to be cared for and shown that basic expression of love and value.

In the same respect, how could physical affection, love, and cuddles spoil (diminish or destroy the value or quality of something; harm the character of) a child? I just don’t understand how the belief that rejecting a child’s need for touch and expressions of tender loving care can help make them better people? Isn’t the world harsh enough without living with it in the home? Shouldn’t we as parents be offering something set apart from the world; something that reveals the love of Jesus in the midst of evil that surrounds us?

I’ve not always been the most tender mom, it’s something I’ve been growing in since I started having children and as I work through and overcome my own hurts. I’m tearing down what I’ve built up to protect myself from the pain of others.  In this process, I’ve discovered that I’ve hurt my children in similar ways that I was trying to protect myself from. My children shouldn’t be expected to accept this fault of mine, no matter how or where it originated.  Still, I hope as I change my ways, I allow an opportunity for the Lord to teach them what grace looks like for those willing to end that part of themselves that mistreats others; that isn’t perfect and is healing. I take full responsibility to them and I hope that their own hearts to love others will offer me the grace I hope for. Not by guilt or shame, but by love.

I pray they forgive me for my own mistakes. I pray they love me, not only because I’m their mom, but because I’m human, because I’m real, and because I impact their life in a beautiful way, even if at times full of flaws. I pray they see my repentance as I strive to allow God to transform the broken pieces to become beauty… to allow God to take the ashes of my life and create in me something new and lovely.

The legacy I want for them is to have a mom that revealed God’s transforming love; o see a mom who loves God above all else, seeing who I started out to be and continue to see me grow and change, all the while setting my own needs aside to care for them when they need me; not neglecting myself but loving myself to the extent that I want them to love themselves. This is the love I want for them. Sacrificial and yet assertive; forgiving and yet bold and confident; trusting in God and His path for their lives.

I just want them to have joy in the midst of this harsh world… and that is here at home, where they should be the safest. ♥

I guess what I’m trying to say is that physical affection for some people, speaks louder volumes than words. Kissing boo boos and wiping tears, hugging and comforting hurt feelings, reassuring fears with our presence… this makes children feel braver and more secure, encourages a more adventurous spirit and ignites a desire to take risks.  It’s not in rejection that we teach these things. Rejection creates a need to hold things too close or at a distance that can’t hurt us.

When God holds us close, we have a desire to leap… when He feels far away, we crawl inward and feel lonely and isolated. I want my children to be brave enough to go the depths and distance that God calls of them.  I want to be a stepping stone for them, not a wall. I want to be more like Jesus