Book Review: Grace Based Parenting

couch, coffee table, cup. text: Book Review: Grace Based Parenting

Checked this book out from the library mostly as it pertains to my current parenting of two little rambunctious boys.  It turned out to be one of the best parenting books I’ve read to date!  I really enjoyed the writing style as well as the overall message, and the more specific advice.

I will admit that I don’t know anything about Dr. Tim Kimmel – I was drawn in 100% by the title.  Who doesn’t want to base their parenting in grace?  Goodness knows I lose my patience daily, and usually feel like my overall attitude could stand a heavy dose of more grace (both from the Lord and to my kids.)

This book is very definitely from a Christian point of view, about Christian parenting. I believe it has some ramifications for any family, but it is heavily aimed at the family looking to infuse their daily interactions and overall parenting and homemaking philosophy with more of God’s grace.

book cover - Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel

First, let’s talk overall theme.  This book is, in a nutshell, about how to show your children boundless grace without sacrificing structure and moral standards, or falling into permissive parenting.  Initially I assumed that it was going to go in those directions, and that I would just glean what I could but not swallow the whole theory.

I was wrong.

Dr. Kimmel repeatedly admonishes parents not to flex when it comes to true moral issues, or true physical danger.  He encourages parents to show a graceful response whenever possible, without jeopardizing the spiritual health of the family.  One example that I think about daily is of a child who insisted on sleeping with a chair on his bed.  This is a silly request that seems inconvenient and unnecessary, but it’s not harming the child, it isn’t a moral issue, and it will likely blow over eventually.  I think about that example when my son wants to nap with his shoes on, or put his placemat on his head as a “hat,” or wear mismatched clothes, or dig in the dirt.  If it’s not harmful physically or spiritually, let them do them.  Let them be unique creatures.

This philosophy is based in an absence of fear.  Dr. Kimmel speaks out directly against fear-based parenting – the type of home where everything that could potentially cause sin is strictly off limits.  Where the rules are many and rigid to try to protect the children from everything unsavory.  He expresses what I already felt to be true – these types of environments have the opposite effect from what was intended.  By not allowing children self-expression or exposure to other human beings and their ways of life, the children don’t learn to rely on God or to stand up for their moral standards because they never have to.  They can’t function in regular society because they have entered atrophy by being in such a “cloistered” environment.

He encourages parents to parent from a place of ultimate trust in God.  That if we truly trust God to help us guide and protect our children, we needn’t put innumerable rules in place, and won’t feel compelled to do so.  We can let them chose things like hair colors or music or tennis shoes without fearing that they’re headed for their ultimate demise.  The author is actually quite hard-hitting here, which I appreciate.

This style of parenting, naturally, lead to acceptance of our children’s unique gifts and quirks, and a stronger relationship with adult children who have felt valued and relevant to their family from little on.

Writing style -wise, I enjoyed the balance on anecdote, secular quotations, Bible verses, and actual parenting advice.  I don’t tend to like books that are too heavy on anecdote, or refuse to include any quotations or examples that are not straight from Scripture.  It was easy to read, structurally, but very direct and held no punches.

And the author referenced Mr. Holland’s Opus, so that’s an automatic win in my book!

I feel like, overall, I enjoyed this book because it resonated with me.  The author stated (much more eloquently than I could) what God’s grace looks like in parenting.  He expressed many truths that I already feel are very important, but coming from an outside perspective this seems more poignant.

10/10 would recommend! 

Click the book cover to find it on Amazon.  (Affiliate link!)

 

 

On Being Almost 30

Maybe that seems young to you.
Or maybe it seems old like a dinosaur.
Whatever.

I’ve enjoyed periods of self-reflection before most of my milestone birthdays… probably because I’m an introvert.  I tend towards existential quandaries.
But 30 seems different.

At 14, 16, 18, 21, I was just wildly excited.  You know, the way you’re excited for Christmas.  I figured something big and amazing was coming because of this age I was turning.  Somehow I would wake up that morning and suddenly be more mature, have extra privileges.  And of course, I did incur some of those extras when I turned those ages… but also they were a bit of a disappointment.  My life wasn’t much different when I woke up those ages.  I still yearned for another milestone.

At 25, I thought I’d really made it.  I could finally rent a car.  I was convinced that when I was 25, others would be able to see the adult in me.  I look young for my age, and have felt (as many do in my generation, I think, more on that later) that I wasn’t taken seriously as an adult.  I had been married for several years already, graduated college, had a full-time career, was expecting my first child.  But I felt like that number, 25, would signify that I was truly a “big girl” and people would take me more seriously.  Value my opinions.  Stop trying to help me and tell me what to do.

The thing is, once you’re in your 20s, nobody asks your age.  They might still think you look young for your age, but they’re not going to ask.  Adults don’t ask other adults how old they are.  So nobody ever asked, I never got to use that cool new number “25” that I thought sounded so mature, and nobody treated me as more of an adult.
Essentially, 25 was a big letdown.

Here I am, almost a decade of marriage and 2 kids later.  Almost 30.  And this year, everything will be different.

Because I’m not anticipating anything.
I’m not waiting for other people to treat me like an adult.
I’m not hoping someone asks my age rather than assuming I’m 17.
I’m not looking forward to the maturity I will gain, or the new experiences I can have, or the extra dose of privileges afforded me.

I am already content.
The big difference here is that I don’t mind if people assume I’m a teenager.
I don’t need to proclaim my age to feel validated.
My worth as an adult is not defined by how strangers (or even acquaintances… even family!) treat me.

I’m sure I will encounter the same patronizing that I did in my 20s.  I’m fairly certain it’s inescapable for my peers and I (again, more on that later) but that’s alright.  People can’t help their natures.

The difference as my 30s approach is that I know that I’m an adult.  I know how hard I work at having my life together, raising my kids, keeping my home, and helping others.  I have my own standards for adulthood, and I’m meeting them.  My life is organized around my own priorities, and the only validation I’m looking for is from my immediate family.
I’m not waiting for 30 like a momentous occasion, after which some kind of amazing changes will happen for me.
I’m welcoming 30 like an old friend.  I’m already comfortable in my own skin, and with my own life.  I have absolutely no qualms about being 30 (I do not feel at all “old” or like I’m missing out on some kind of crazy fun that my 20s supposedly should have been full of.)  I feel like my 30s, as a range of numbers, will finally be accurate to describe me.  Maybe I don’t look my age, yet, but inside I know that 30 is how I feel.

Accomplished.  In control.  Content, settled, level-headed, confident.  Caffeinated, to be sure, but not in a panicked frenzy chasing after someone else’s version of “grown up.”

Let Go of Mom Guilt: Put Yourself on Your Schedule

Among the HUGE list of “Things I Was Clueless About When I Became a Professional Mom” was the entire concept of planning.

But that’s a topic for another day.

This is just about planning YOURSELF.
Yes, that’s a thing.
Yes, it’s a thing you need to do.
Yes, it will actually improve your parenting.

Whether you’re an on-paper planning aficionado, or all your vague scheduling is in your head, think about it.  Where are YOU on the schedule?  When do you partake in your hobbies, or personal growth activities, or real, intentional leisure time?

Hint: “whenever I can fit it in” is the wrong answer.

That’s how I operated for over a year of full-time at-home parenting.  In practice, it turned out that I did hobbies/personal growth/intentional leisure exactly zero times per week.  Really, almost zero times per year!  Not okay.

The result was a very grumpy, lackluster momma.  One who felt irritation rise at the very first whine of the morning, who felt guilt and exhaustion every time she spotted the half-finished novel on her bedside table.  (The novel I promised myself I would finish before moving, and didn’t finish until months afterward.)  I was a mom who didn’t even feel at leisure on vacation – I would bring along a hobby and it never made it out of the suitcase.  Ugh.

Enter 2017.  This year began with a little Parents’ Getaway (something I always said I’d never need or participate in.)  The epitome of scheduled leisure.  I planned this little vacation to intentionally include nothing but scheduled leisure – the dead of winter in Wisconsin, in the middle of farm country, in a tiny vacation home with nothing but two bags: one of face masks, board games, and novels and the other of groceries.
And this spurred an entire lifestyle change.  (No exaggeration!)  I realized that the only thing preventing me from reading, relaxing, etc was that I didn’t treat it as important.  That if I didn’t create pockets of time for my own adult brain, I was going to lose my patience/sanity/creativity/intellectual prowess during my years as a professional parent.  And that prospect was NOT ACCEPTABLE.

So here’s what I did:  I took out my planner (because I’m old fashioned!) and quite literally penned myself in, every day.  In the first slot of my planner, every day, I schedule a cup of tea and either blog writing or professional development reading.  In the very last slot, every day, I schedule fiction reading, movie nights with my husband, nail painting/face masking, etc.  The last weekend of each month, I spend my early morning at the local coffee shop (read: my literal happy place) setting goals for the next month. I actually think about this at the start of every week and pen. it. in. with equal weight as my cleaning schedule and meal plan.

And a lot of the time, I actually do it!  I don’t fall asleep on the couch at 8:30 thinking of all the wonderful things I could do, but feeling like I should do housekeeping instead.  I don’t drag myself out of bed to the sound of little boys pounding on bedroom walls.  I’m actually pumped to get up early each day for my “me time” and I can dive right into a relaxing activity as soon as the kids are tucked in at night.

It’s given me the “permission” to nurture myself, in addition to looking after the hearts of my family.

And a peaceful mom runs a peaceful home.

What’s a hobby or leisure activity you claim to love but never have time to do?
Make an appointment with yourself!

Top 5 Investment Purchases | Five on Friday

We don’t spend a lot, or own a lot.  But here are the top five items we have decided to spend hard-earned money on, that bring us joy and/or enhance our life.
List form!
1. Kitchen Aid stand mixer
2. Kitchen stool for the kids
3. Dining set (seats 16!)
4. Cordless vaccum
5. Smartphone
The description box of the video contains all pertinent links.

Book Review: The Connected Child

 
Find on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2kVZggW

 

This is a great parenting book even if all of your children came into your family biologically.  While it is directed specifically at helping children who do not have strong attachments or who are not used to authority figures, it’s great for toddlers!  Many of the tips are related to the Love and Logic approach, and more are just good sense parenting of children who are exhibiting defiant behaviors.

Surely I’m not the only mom whose “threenager” exhibits defiant behaviors.

I enjoyed that this book is authored from the perspective that a warm, nurturing home and simple living is best for children with any number of difficulties.  The authors actually came out and said that families should strictly limit their “business” and activities outside the home so that they can focus on parenting and nurturing, unhurried and unobserved.  I agree with this so much!  (I should write a blog post about it.)

“Many families live at breakneck speed.  they hurry to work, to day care, to civic meetings, and to social engagements.  They ferry the kids from scouts to soccer to piano lessons to school and back again.  the parent becomes the chauffeur with a checkbook, someone who waves good-bye in the morning and barely says hello again at night.  As parents whip through these hectic days, children are expected to just tag along, absorb life lessons, and feel connected to their families.  But an at-risk, attachment-challenged child just won’t get it.  Adopted and foster children need lots of individualized, focused time with their parents in order to catch up developmentally and to form close and loyal family bonds… parents who are seriously committed to helping a troubled and challenged child thrive will vastly increase their odds of success by making a fundamental policy decision: to slow down their lives and put their child’s needs first.  Joining the women’s league can wait for a few years; this youngster can’t.”

That.  One of the most poignant paragraphs in the book, affirming what I believe to be true about family life.

This book would even be a good refresher for parents whose families are well-established.  You learn something new every day!  (My mother just came out of my mouth.)

Format-wise, this is a quick read.  I finished it in three days because I had to return it to the library, and I’m a procrastinator.  It is broken up with lots of headings within the chapters.  There aren’t too many anecdotes (I don’t enjoy excessive anecdotes) but the authors did provide examples when helpful.  There are also checklists and tables of information sprinkled throughout, some of which would be very useful as actual checklists.

The books ends with a chapter about the parents’ own childhood and attachment levels.  This is something I’m noticing is prevalent in preparation for foster care or adoption – everyone is very concerned that you get in touch with your own childhood experiences and any emotional difficulties you might have.  This chapter (the entire book, really) actually provides an encouraging perspective, and offers practical ideas for resolving or improving your personal emotional state (and your whole parenting style) rather than giving the impression that imperfect people shouldn’t parent.

Which, obviously, they should.  We are all of us imperfect!

In conclusion…

10/10 Would recommend to any parent/prospective parent!

Reflecting: Making Tortillas

The other night for dinner, I decided to make homemade tortillas.
That sounds uninspiring, maybe.
I remember when I first “learned” to make tortillas.  I use some quotes there because my attempts were awful.  But I “learned” to make them during our first year of marriage.
(A little background: We got married at 21 and were both full-time in private college for an additional three semesters.  Picture a historic, falling-apart apartment above a crafts&gifts store, with no internet and a leaky kitchen ceiling.  And heat controlled by the city, in Minnesota.)
Back then, I made homemade tortillas because we were, frankly, broke.
I had no aspirations of being a homemaker.  I didn’t even think I wanted children, and I certainly had no interest in giving up my (future) career.
But honestly, most of our groceries came from a food bank run by volunteer ladies in our college’s basement.  God bless those ladies, and the people who sent donated food.  We ate well, considering: cereal for breakfast, ramen noodles and bagged pasta sides and farm fresh eggs.
But I was determined that we would have tacos.
Tacos were a very important food to my (new) husband.  His family had big taco feasts when he was growing up – lots of chopping and grating and heating up in preparation for a big spread around a huge oval table with lots of siblings, nephews, significant others.  I had experienced these family taco dinners firsthand, and I knew how much he loved the whole atmosphere.
If we were to have tacos, those tortillas had to be free.  And free meant making them myself, with flour and oil from the food bank.
I remember investing $3 in a crappy grocery-store rolling pin to make my husband a pie on his first married birthday.
I remember taking our iPod touch down to the local coffee shop to get some WiFi, to look for a recipe for tortillas.  Then writing it down to bring home, because the iPod wouldn’t save webpages.
I remember them tasting like oily flour, and being strangely transparent, and way too thick to actually roll into a taco.
I remember my sense of accomplishment at having made a family taco feast out of nothing but sweat and stubbornness.
Then my thoughts turned to more recent years, where our financial state has been more secure.
Years where I never gave a second thought to store-bought tortillas, where I had the luxury of being picky about the percentage of my ground beef, where my complaints about taco feasts mounted because “I didn’t feel like washing up all those dishes” or “it was too much chopping to bother with.”
And here I was, in my beautiful new kitchen, stepping around my toddlers, scattering flour everywhere, making tortillas.  Almost a decade after that first time.  A completely different woman, a completely different wife, living in a way I would have never imagined back in that leaky kitchen as a college student.
Making tortillas because I thought it would be a fun culinary adventure.  Because I could.
 
And they turned out beautifully.
What I mean to say, friends, is these tortillas remind me of how blessed I have been in my adult life.
And of a time when I put significant effort into homemaking without even realizing it.
And that now that I have the luxury of time and money, how much more should I work toward creating that “taco feast” kind of atmosphere.
Grace.

 

Loneliness

Professional motherhood is great in a lot of ways.  But goodness, it’s lonely.

It seems nearly impossible to find anyone that is actually in my same season of life.
I meet lots of wonderful middle aged folks.
Lots of wonderful peers who don’t have children.
Lots of mothers with small children who work outside the home.

And maybe this is low self-esteem talking, but none of these people can possibly really want me in their life.
With me comes two messy, loud, funny little boys.
A definite schedule of being in my home during nap time, every day.
The truth that I will fall asleep on the couch by 9 pm (if you’re lucky.)
A 30-year-old who wants to be treated as an equal adult, not like your psuedo-children that you are “helping get a start in life.”
A mom who wants to talk about anything other than her job of raising children, but can’t for the life of her stop talking about them.

People can’t possibly fit all of that into their hearts, can they?

And I’ve met lovely people recently.  People who are very kind and friendly and welcoming (we moved six months ago) and even say things like, “We should get together for coffee/dinner/board games some time!”

I have never actually gotten together with any of these people.
They never actually went the next step of making plans.
Which means the suggestion was just a nicety.

Surely, out here in the wide world of the internet, there are other mothers who feel lonely.  And that is why I’m writing and recording.

Let me assure you, there are more of us!
This is the beauty of the internet.  Though it has its share of mom-shaming and political saturation and “perfect” life comparisons that leave you feeling irritated and down on yourself, it also has community – if you can find it.

Leave a comment.
Watch a video.
Visit the Facebook page and post.
This is your official invitation to join me for coffee!  Right now, today.  You will get a response.   I can relate – so can lots of others.

Let’s stop being lonely.