Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: motherhood (page 1 of 5)

Imperfect Parenting and the River of Goodness

One of my greatest parenting successes has been convincing my children that a trip to IKEA’s “Smaland” is barely a step down from COSI. We treat it like a museum or McDonald’s PlayPlace – an event designed around their fun. (Little do they know, mama is accumulating a cart full of garlic presses and organizational bins.)

So on the Random Friday With No School, I decided a trip would be the best use of our time. JJ was off to other productive work, so all 4 kiddos and I headed to Canton. The lady working Smaland was less than excited to see me (she tried to exclude both my youngest and my oldest, but we easily fell within the height requirements on all fronts), probably because we take up 2/3 of the available kid allotment. They had fun not jumping in the balls, and I found the necessary non-brass light fixture. The kids opted for lunch in the Ikea cafe, so we headed upstairs.

Prior to walking through the line, we had a team meeting to clarify expectations: once food was ordered and on a plate, there was no changing of the minds. Everyone executed.  The line was a tad tricky, and we made it through without tears until we sat down and the youngest discovered that french fries had not come with the meatballs he requested. Mama was going to share, but there was no convincing him of anything. Trading plates of meatballs didn’t work. I couldn’t just take the other kids’ food – I’ve learned this the hard way. You just end up with more tears. The other kids were looking at me, waiting as patiently as possible for ketchup while the baby of the family melted into a puddle on the chair. And in my arms.

It was clear there was nothing I could do to save the day. I was powerless until he actually put some food in his belly and overcame the Hangry. I couldn’t leave him to get the ketchup. I couldn’t get him to settle down.

And then, the oldest took a handful of his fries and laid them on his brother’s plate. The other two kids followed suit. They dished off food until the tears stopped. We were finally able to fetch the condiments without nasty looks.

While I had maintained most of my composure during The Episode, I know my Bigs felt the energy of my defeat and frustration. For the rest of the meal, my oldest was beyond helpful, refilling water and ketchup without being asked. He hugged me no less than 4 times.

In the midst of their mama’s powerlessness, my kids stepped up. They realized that to make the best of the situation, they would all have to come together and help one another. This is a lesson they could never learn if I were to continually make the problems go away.

I can preach to them that we belong to one another or tell them to serve and love using more than their words. These will be quotes on a printable until I give them opportunity to put on shoes and take the ideas for a run. Without the chance to do it, they may never know what it feels like to live their values, which we all know is a whole lot different than simply believing something.

I’ve never felt like a perfect parent, and I’m confident my kids are aware of my flaws, so “imperfect parenting” isn’t just about me and my shortcomings. I’ve heard other parents talk about how in our mistakes we can show our kids grace and the need for forgiveness. But I think accepting our imperfections has wider implications.

To parent imperfectly means to stop filling 100% of the holes for my kids and let them learn how to clean up a leak. I think we should give them a chance to let their heart whisper “hey, go get a towel!” and then allow them to feel the sense of goodness that comes from doing a good thing that has grown from their own place in the world.

What if kids learned to trust their ability to do what is right and good?  What if they learned they actually have the capacity to change a situation, even if it’s only in the enjoyment of a meal as a family? Isn’t that still something worth doing?

Goodness is like a stream running throughout the universe. Sometimes we’re swimming in it, and sometimes we’re not. But I’m not sure the Goodness River is something that you can toss your kids into; they have to learn to jump. As a parent, the best thing I can do is to dive in as often as I can, and assure them that they’ll float when I see them standing on the banks, contemplating a swim. And, as they come up from under the waters, greet them with a smile that shows them how proud you are that they’ve decided to take the plunge.

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Called to an Apron

Originally published November, 2013

Last night while JJ was bathing the baby, I recalled one of my favorite memories from serving the church. On the last night of our mission trip to Mexico, one of the adults on the trip washed the feet of his high school aged son. I was supposed to be the leader of the trip, and there I was, hiccuping back my tears. (Let’s be fair: everyone was crying. It was the last night of the trip, we were inspired from the work and teaching, and dead tired. They probably had Michael W. Smith playing in the background.)

Why is it when one washes a 4-month-old, it’s called parenting, but when the feet are 16 years old, it becomes servanthood?

Not to take away from the service of rearing small children – I do this daily, and I liken it to service. But I’ve never cried at bath time – at least, not over the power of the moment of washing my children.

Perhaps service becomes more powerful when we do something for those who could do it for themselves.

“Service”generally gets paired with those who need help – we feed the hungry, educate the poor, provide clothes and medicine for the sick. These are good things and we need to continue to do them – out of respect for humanity, following the example of Jesus, under the command of God to live justly and have mercy.

But I might not categorize these as service. These are alms, caring for those who Jesus holds dear, the least of these.

When Jesus talks about becoming a servant, he’s washing the feet of grown, capable men. And not just men who want the best for him – he’s washing the feet of his betrayer.

In our culture, we value the power of the pulled bootstrap. We want self-sufficiency and productivity. One of my goals as a parent is raise contributing members of society – and these are not bad things. But I’m not sure they were the goal or example of Jesus.

The 5-year-old is now in some sort of laziness stage, asking us to do all kinds of tasks that he has been doing for years – getting a glass of water, retrieving his socks from the drawer, putting away toys. My response sometimes is frustration – do it yourself, child! I wonder, though, if the example set before me in John 13 is put on the apron and serve. To live an example that I will serve those who are capable because I love them.

We worry about this kind of service, probably out of fear that we’re being taken advantage of – a power struggle. I heard a message by Jonathan Martin where he said, “We’re all about being a servant until someone starts treating us like one.” That’s our fear: that people use our service as an excuse to lower our status. Our hard-earned climb.

But the entire story of the upper room began with, “Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron.”(John 13:3). It ends with the command, “If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it – and live a blessed life.”

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Raising Nerds

While at the lake, the young boys contemplated fun things to do that didn’t involve screens. Now one to contribute, my eldest offered, “I had math homework. That’s fun!”

Part of me is so very proud. This will put me in a top-notch nursing home someday. Upscale with organic applesauce and fair trade decaf coffee. Only the best and (most expensive) for this genius’ dear mama.

The honest part of me will say it scares me. If you’ve had a child, sibling or even a dog, I think you know the feeling. A sense of wondering, will he be included? As his mother, I love him in a particular and all-encompassing kind of way. I’m aware the rest of the world doesn’t have such thick ties – they’re free to love their favorite parts and tease about the rest, which is terrorizing.

We want our children to be loved and accepted. This is why we buy Under Armor, yes? Those little 10-year-old bodies don’t need power-wicking and compression. We’re buying a Sense of Enough because we desperately want them to be enough. To be included. Whether or not we had a place there, we want our kids to sit at the Cool Kids Table.

Except, I would argue, we actually don’t.  We just think we do.  Most of us don’t want to make cool the ultimate goal – it’s simply the most visible one. If other kids are flocking to your kid, then your kid must be someone good, right?

We mistake popularity for connection. I think perhaps  when we say we hope for our children to be “included” what we really wish is for them to be known and loved for themselves. We want them to have friends who appreciate and honor them. We want them to feel the connection we have with our closest friends, families and partners. (Or that which we wish we had.)

The easiest and most readily-available solution is to help them become what is likable. There’s a profile out there (one, I would say, that is much more rigorous for young girls, but that is another post). Depending on your context you have to put in the ingredients for the right amount of brains (but not too nerdy), athleticism (in our parts, there’s never too much of this), good looks (but not to the point of vanity) and charm. When we succeed at this potion, society readily responds by asking other children seek out this prototype.

I absolutely love that I’m raising a little nerd. I think it’s cute and inspiring. I don’t want him to change – to love math less, to care if his clothes match more. But I do want him to be accepted. To be valued. True friends will do this, I know.

The easiest thing to do is ask him to be like everyone else. The risk of hurt and rejection seems slender when there’s less differentiation. As usual, I’m not in this for easy – I want the good. But I’ll be honest… living my values is hard, especially when my kid’s childhood is on the table. What if I’m wrong? What if these values aren’t worth it? What if the hurt he feels when he’s not popular leads him to other, less desirable ends?

I tell you folks, this parenting gig – it’s not for the faint of heart. Especially when you’re trying to change the world at the same time.

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