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Self Do It

Pretty much every child goes through the “all-by-myself” phase. Depending on the age of the child during the phase, they can also term it “self” or “self-do-it”. For some kids, it is a quickly passing phase, and they soon go back to their usual “I can’t do it” attitude, where they want you to do every single thing for them. The other kids, though, remain in this stage pretty much permanently, as it is part of their nature. Toddler Walking

At times it can be exasperating: your two-year-old son wants to button his nice shirt “all by myself” when you are already late for a dinner engagement. It is easy to usher them along and quickly button their shirt, saying something like, “I can do it more quickly. Don’t worry; you can do it next time.” Or even (let’s hope not), “You’re taking so long! Can’t you go any faster?” For a child who is entering the stage of trying to figure out things, solve problems and find solutions, a reaction such as the above can hurt a child’s desire to try and find solutions or work things out for themselves. At that age, anything is possible, and it is our reactions that determine whether this can-do attitude remains or it degrades into a can’t-do frame of mind.

I have noticed it is sometimes the oldest who has more of a “I can’t do it” mindset. However, younger children need to see their older sibling (or siblings) accomplishing and succeeding; then they see it can be done. What is more, their reaction is often, “I want to do it too!”

Helping your child (and importantly, your oldest child, if you have more than one) build a positive attitude about their abilities will build confidence not only for that child, but the younger one/s to follow.

Case in point, I am the fifth of the six “kids” in my family. When I observed my older sisters or brother mastering a skill or undertaking a new challenge, I wanted to do it too. When my brother began to memorize his times tables, I started to do it as well, even though I was not yet officially “learning” it in my schoolbooks. When my sisters took typing in high school, I pulled out my mom’s typing book (from the ‘70s) and used her archaic typewriter (as in, you make a mistake, you pull out whiteout to fix it) and began to teach myself touch typing.

I recently noticed something: though I am grown now, it is still my nature. When I see someone doing something interesting, or something I don’t know how to do, the two-year-old inside me says, “self do it” and I find myself a tutorial or simply jump in and begin to figure it out. From computer skills to graphic design, from photography to writing, from teaching to cooking—my range of interests run wide and I love to master new skills.

Back to your two-year-old who is still working on his buttons. Stop for a minute, take a deep breath, and then cheer him on. You have a wonder child in the making; or didn’t he tell you yet?—nothing is impossible.

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Summer Days a’Coming

Two Girls in Swimming PoolThis morning I saw a comment from an acquaintance on Facebook, about the upcoming summer break and having more time with her children. I followed the discussion thread, which got a little heated because of the variety of responses by mothers. A homeschooling mother was looking forward to summer for different reasons than her counterpart whose children go to school. Some mothers didn’t seem to be looking forward to the summer. One admitted there were times when she didn’t necessarily “like” her children, especially when they’re all at home. Another mother responded with, “How can you expect others to like them if you don’t like them?”

Yes, it was a little heated. After all, summer is around the corner.

Last week I did my finals for the semester. Tomorrow is my kids’ last day at school. I spent some time this week just thinking about and trying to plan for summer. Due to the busyness of the semester and other things going on at home and with my family, I feel that I’ve lost ground in my relationship with my children.

One of them has been going through a phase that is lasting longer than I expected. I’m starting to fear that it is turning into a perspective on life rather than a stage. This worries me because it has to do with having a “can’t do” mindset about things.

I know that, as a mother, my first responsibility this summer is to my children … as it always is. If one of them is going through something and it’s coming out through their words and outlook on life, it needs attention.

There are plenty of other things going on. I’m teaching courses for the first time in my life (and for a woman who still struggles with social anxiety, this is a huge thing. I’m shaking in my boots and though excited I’m asking myself, What on earth did I get into?)

As soon as I drove away from campus last Thursday after finals, my mind started racing ahead to everything I can read this summer, everything that I hope to write … and then skipped over to home improvement projects. My sister and her kids moved out this last weekend, so with the kids’ room changes, I have more than a little bit of cleaning and organizing to do.

I had to stop myself. I want the kids to enjoy their summer. A few years ago, I made a comprehensive (and overly ambitious) summer plan. Needless to say, we accomplished maybe one item on it. This summer, although I worked on a schedule of sorts, I tried to leave it a lot more flexible this time around.

I know they’re eager to swim this summer. After all, it’s Fresno and temperatures are already pushing past 100. (And I’m hoping that swimming will make up for my lack of exercise during the first five months of this year.) We’ll have chores and a Bible class before swimming/activity time, which will knock two things off my mental “teach-my-children” list.

Cleaning up after themselves, with the three of them living in the same room over the past year, has slid more than a little bit. Having chore time together will help us begin on the right note.

Bible class time is another thing that drifted to the back burner, during school days and even some weekends. That is one thing I need to keep as a priority. I know what grace and patience and faith my times with God grant me and I want my children to experience something of the same.

That’s the general idea of our schedule, at least the most important things: fun, faith, and family. I have a few other ideas/ projects/ hopes for the summer, but need to wait until I’ve had time to discuss them with the kids and see what they are hoping for.

So overall, if the discussion hadn’t already been so heated, I think I would say I’m looking forward to the summer. I’m excited about spending more time with my kids. I know there will be challenges – sibling disputes, messes left around, uninspired moments – but the prospects far outweigh any difficulties. After all, it’s a whole season of fun and sun and crazy-excited kids with the world ahead of them. What could be better?

What are your plans this summer? Do you go on vacation? Relax at the poolside? Tackle a family project? Please leave your thoughts and input below. We can share ideas about how to make this a great summer for both parents and children.

Moment in the Mundane

Lindsay Story Pin

Read the rest of the story here

Brotherly Love

mashed potatoesMy younger son, Aiden, came down with a fever in the middle of the night. By ten in the morning, he was on the upswing, and I was completely exhausted.

By mid-afternoon, however, his fever returned with a vengeance and he didn’t want me to leave his side. I was trying to figure out how to make dinner before the two older kids and my husband went for our mid-week Bible study.

My older son, Allen, came into the darkened room. “Does Aiden need anything?” he asked.

Aiden was resting halfway on my lap and it was all I could do to sit still, thinking of everything that needed to get done.

“No thanks, Allen,” I answered, attempting to move out from under my feverish son.

“Don’t go anywhere, mommy.” His hot hand held on to mine.

So much for that.

I called Allen back into the room. “Actually, there is something you can do.” Even in the darkness, I saw his face light up.

“Can you peel and wash a few potatoes for dinner?” I told him where to find them and the potato peeler.

“Sure, mom.”

By the time Aiden had fallen asleep enough for me to slip out of the room, Allen had peeled and washed the potatoes.

“Can I do anything else?” He was almost jumping up and down.

“Do you want to cut them too?”

“Sure!” We worked side by side until Aiden woke up again, calling for me.

While I was back in the room, Allen washed and cut a plate full of celery sticks.

After dinner was finished, Allen hovered around the room, keeping an eye on Aiden. He ran to get him water, got a damp cloth to cool his forehead, and brought one stuffed animal after another.

“It’s such a quiet evening, mommy,” Allen told me, “without Aiden talking.”

I thought about a typical evening, with Allen starting some activity and his little brother commandeering it – wanting to play with his cars or his Legos or draw on his art board. Usually, anything that Allen wants to do, Aiden is right in there, often taking charge in his not-always-so-gallant manner.

And this evening, when Allen could be playing in peace to his little heart’s content, he’s hovering around his little brother like a hummingbird.

I remember when I was young, my mom often quoting a verse to us six not-always-so-loving siblings: “Let brotherly love continue.”

Now that I’m a mom, all I can say is, “Amen, pass the potatoes.”

The Sibling Effect

Girl Holding Little SisterI’d seen the “sibling effect” clearly—and regularly—when it comes to rivalry, but this was something entirely new.

I had been looking after a toddler a few times a week while her mother worked. She was close in age to my son, so it wasn’t a big deal. I would read to them together, take them to the library, put them down for naps, and they got along pretty well.

One week, this little girl’s older sister stayed with us as well while her mom worked. Suddenly, I noticed the toddler’s behavior change drastically.

I would announce, “Time for a diaper change,” or “Time for a nap,” and she would literally run for cover, hiding behind her sister. If I insisted, she would begin to cry her sister’s name, so she would come and “rescue” her. Needless to say, I took a back seat during that week.

I was worried about the following week, when her sister would no longer be around and it would be “just the three of us” again.

I needn’t have worries.

Once again, she was her independent and playful self, chasing my son around the room, playing puzzles with him and eagerly running to the table when I called, “Snack time!”

I don’t think she consciously altered her behavior when her sister was around. It was just what I have started to label “the sibling effect.”

When her older sibling was around, it was her hero, her champion, someone with whom she felt the safest and the most comfortable.

When we become God’s children, Jesus becomes our “big brother.” The effect should be somewhat the same as the sibling effect I noticed with that little girl.

We run to Him when things go wrong.

We look to Him for comfort and assistance.

We turn to Him when we’re in tears.

We let Him hold us and reassure us that everything is going to be okay.

After all, isn’t that what siblings are for?