Thursday, June 26, 2014

Let Them Be Little...and You Be Imperfect

Our grandsons Max and Mav are potty-training.
I remember those days.

The kids remember loudly and publicly when they need to go one time, and then the next time a mess signals it is too late. And it's not as if their Mommas don't have anything else to do. Both mothers have smaller babies, truly infants, demanding much time and attention , too, with teething and nursing and learning to communicate a variety of wordless messages. The conditions are not nearly optimal for oopsie-free training. So, there are plenty of mistakes...and messes...and sometimes a mom gets grumpier than she wants to be. When a mom gets grumpy, it's not long before the guilts catch up with her.

If you've been a mom  with a normal sense of responsibility (or a dad, for that matter) for 10 minutes, you're familiar with the guilts and inadequacies that dog the steps of a parent. "Why did I say/think/do that? I must be the worst parent in the world. I am failing--my children deserve better than me."

Absolutely normal to think. Absolutely untrue and unhelpful to believe. Here's the news. The challenges of life don't diminish as they get bigger and older. You'll second-guess yourself and feel like a failure so many times over the next years--you could reserve a weekly hour in therapy to try to deal with yourself if you don't get a grip on the truth.

Here's the truth. You need to let them be little and let you be imperfect. Yep. Even when they are teens and bigger than you, they are going to be mess-makers, in different ways. And some days you, the parent, will lose your cool.  I had plenty of days when I cried and knew when it came bedtime I was lucky if I could pull out a C- that day for my parenting skills. A few moments in those days were flat out F's.  And yet, by the grace of God, those flying flunker days were outnumbered by the amazingly adequate days. Some days I wowed myself with a Grade A day. Here's the most awesome and wonderful thing--my children have a very forgiving memory. If the notes and Mother's Day cards are to be believed, they think I'm one of the all-time greats.

My phenomenal Dad says he blew it on many occasions when we were growing up. Funny. I don't remember that either. I do remember the climate of our home---warm with love, laughter, encouragement, and apologies. I remember the humility and commitment of my parents. I remember our prayers and dinners together and night-time making sure all was well before bedtime.

Let the kids be little. Don't freak out because you aren't perfect. Allow yourself to learn and grow through their messes and your mistakes. Very few individual moments will be remembered, but the love and humility that sets the thermostat in your home will be. "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." I Peter 4:8

And, hey--if you need to say "I'm sorry" to one of your littles for a less than perfect moment today, for God's sake (and theirs and yours), get off the internet and go say it. Now. GO. You'll all be glad you did.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How to Be a Hero :-)...No, really.

My beautiful daughter-in-love Jessica is afraid of ants. She hates them with a vengeance that is hard to overstate . An ant was crawling up the bedroom door (OK, to give her credit, it was a big black ant--and she swears they 1) never travel alone, and 2) always leave an invisible trail so their friends can find them) and she screamed like she was being attacked by a grizzly. "JAKE!!! AN ANT!"

He scurried down the hall, smashed and disposed of the offending critter. If she only could have waited, the little guy is only created to live for 45-60 days, so he was on his way out anyway. :-) "Oh, thank you, Jake!", she gratefully laughed, and all was right with the world again.

When Jacob came back up the hall, shaking his head and smiling, I said, "You're a lucky man, Jacob. The bar for being a hero at your house is pretty low."

Truth is, being a hero to those who love us is pretty simple for all of us. Just do what Jacob did. Take their needs and requests seriously, whether you understand them or not. Don't tell them how they should feel. Respond quickly when they ask you for help. Laugh with them, not at them. Find their quirks charming. And...well, that's a really great start. Try that and your hero rating will start inching upwards.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

D-DAY Plus 70

70 years ago this weekend, June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. My Dad was one of those real American heroes. He and the other members of the 101st Airborne blackened their faces, and, inspired by Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower, telling them the "eyes of the entire free world are on you", climbed into C47 airplanes, and took off in silence for France. Dad says no one spoke a word. They sat with heads in hands, everyone lost in their own thoughts of family and freedom and the very real likelihood they would not return. Dad said there were just a few clouds, and he was stunned at the number of ships he could see in the shadows of the water. When they reached their destination, they leaped out into darkness, landing behind the German gun placements. They were there to provide cover and take out enemy troops as Allied soldiers came in waves to storm the beaches.

 Ron Hutchcraft shared, "A few years ago Steven Spielberg used his cinematic genius to help this generation get a taste of what that victory cost. 'Saving Private Ryan' had to carry a strong 'R' rating - because of the brutal D-Day violence it portrayed. Hollywood has no rating for how awful it really was."  Dad, Lt. James Mason, only saw a couple of the men he led into the fray again. Charlie and I stood in awe and grateful agony on a long stretch of Omaha Beach outside of Carentan where Dad was eventually wounded on June 21 after days of battle. We were speechless at the sheer courage it took to come ashore. Dad said, "I knew we were doing something really big. Eisenhower knew we were; Churchill knew we were. And we knew the success of this depended on us."

They did do something big. The heroism of the Allied troops who dropped from the sky and waded ashore that day defies words. They knew they faced death--many died in the jump or in the boats before they reached shore.  The beach was not friendly--it had landmines on the ground, Nazi sharpshooters and artillery on the sheer cliffs above, weapons focused to mow them down. But still they charged. They gave it all.

And we can be so glad they did. 70 years later we are here because they did. I tell Dad, "Dad, you're a real hero."

He says, "No, I am a soldier. I did what soldiers do. I would do it again."

"Thanks" is not enough, Dad. Not for you, not for any of the men who did what soldiers do. Some soldiers die, and many did. As long as I live, I honor you all. And I ask that God will help me always believe in something enough to die for it. Easy to say. Harder to do. Much harder. But you did it. And we are all so glad you did.