The day I stopped crushing my husband’s dreams

There are two things that never fail to make my husband cry: baseball movies (The Rookie has a one tissue warning) and the military (homecoming videos? Two tissue warning…or five).

I like to give my normally stoic man some good-natured teasing about the baseball sniffles, but his love of the military goes a lot deeper than that.

His family has a long history with the military; his father served; his grandfather served; his various uncles and cousins have served.

I remember a sun-lit day when we were dating, as we walked across campus, just two care-free college students, dreaming about our future together.

“What would you think of me joining the military?” He asked, glancing in my direction.

Fear clenched my stomach. No. I thought. I don’t want that life, the unknowns, the fear, the loneliness, the part that comes before the homecoming video.

“I don’t want you to go in the military,” I said gently. “I don’t want to be apart from you.”

He nodded but his brow creased. “I don’t want to be away from you either. But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I mean, my dad, my Pop…it’s in my family, the pride of it. Plus there are so many great benefits.”

“I know,” I swallowed hard. “But I don’t want that life.”

I really, really didn’t. The thought of military life scared me beyond all reasonable thought.

The conversation didn’t come up again…

…at least not until after we were married.

He’d come home from work, to me and our twin babies and our two year old marriage.

“So, I’ve been thinking…”

And we’d talk about it again…and again.

And each time I said, “No.”
No!
NO!

I mean, did he see our life? We were barely making it; I was barely making it, taking care of the house and two babies all by myself in a town where we had no family support.

To me, all the military meant was separation and deployment. Moving, unknowns, scary, scary stuff.
Wash, rinse, and repeat.

No, NO! I did NOT want that life.

So, he kept doing what he does best: Working hard, taking care of us. He rose early and went to the same job every day that he had held since two weeks before we got married.

Years passed and he rose in the ranks, from helper, to lead man, to draftsman, to assistant supervisor. He received well-deserved raises. He reached as high as he could go in his field.

But he wasn’t happy. He was a hard worker but he wasn’t doing the type of work that he really wanted to do.
So after I finished grad school, he decided to go back to school for a math degree.

Three years passed.

We added two more babies to our family. One degree turned into two and he graduated with a 3.9 GPA, a BA and BS in Mathematics, all while working 50+ hours a week to support our family.

To say I was a proud of him would be an understatement.

Degrees earned, he set out to find a new job, all while faithfully working at his old one.
“At this time next year…” we told each other hopefully.
Application after application after application.
“By next fall…”
A year passed.
“You know, I really thought by Christmas…”
“Me too.”

Then, one day he came home for lunch and said, “So, I’ve been thinking…”
“Uh oh!” I smiled, knowing the crazy ideas that always followed that phrase.
“I’ve been thinking about the military idea again.”

My smile faded.

Here was this man, this man I loved so dearly and fiercely, this man that I had made life with, who worked so hard day after day, year after year, asking me again to consider his dream.

I had been saying no to the military for almost 10 years but it wasn’t going away.
MilitaryWifeThe dream was lodged there, in his heart, and even though he—we—I kept stuffing it down, it kept rising up, bobbing to the surface.

And I saw so clearly in that moment, a truth that broke my heart: I was a dream crusher.

I was crushing my husband’s dreams with my paralyzing fear of the unknown, my love of security, comfort and sameness.

But, during that thirty minute lunch, when he asked that question, I was tired of loving my fears more than I loved my husband.

I didn’t want my fears to hold him back. I wanted my love to push him forward.

So I stopped saying “No.” (I didn’t say “yes” either [remember? Military = worst fears!!!!])

Instead, I took his hand and said, “Do some research. Let’s look into it.”

“Really?!”
“Really, really.”

It was the first step.
Love. It helps you be brave.

To be continued…

How have you supported your spouse’s dreams…even in the face of your own fear?
Share your story below!

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mom who’s scared of an Autism Diagnosis

Dear Mom who’s scared of an Autism diagnosis,

I get it. I’ve been there too.

Not that. Not my son.
Not Autism.

I told myself he would grow out of it.
He didn’t.
My friends told me it was “just a boy thing.”
But it wasn’t.
I chalked up our challenges to his prematurity, the fact that he is a twin, to…anything but that.

I get it. An Autism diagnosis is scary.
It means that this isn’t going away, that it isn’t immaturity, or quirkiness, or pickiness, or sensitivity.

It’s for Life.
And you’re worried about what people will think of him.
You’re worried about labels and stigmas, and the fact that everything you know about Autism isn’t like your child.
Your child is special, amazing, unique.

But he’s also exhausting, challenging, confusing, and your heart feels shattered every other day and sometimes every other moment.

And you’re wrung out, tired of chasing, coaxing, soothing, wrestling, pleading, convincing, defending, of being terrified every time you walk out the door, or enter a store, or visit grandma’s house, or introduce a new food.
Mostly you’re terrified that this—whatever it is—may be your fault.

Maybe you didn’t do the right things during your pregnancy, or during your birth, or during your hospital stay, or during those newborn days.

Mostly you’re afraid that you’re a bad mom. Because, really, (you tell yourself), if you were a “good” mom, he wouldn’t be the way he is.

Dear, dear Mama—hear me now.
You are a good mom.

You are a good mom because you are trying.
You are a good mom because you are worrying and wondering.
You are a good mom because you are seeking answers, even if the answers leave you so scared that you don’t even know how to pray.

Because the answer may be Autism.

I remember.
I was terrified too, so for a long time, I ignored it; I hoped he would grow out of it. I hoped, and prayed, and forced myself to be “better” so he would be “better” too.

But things didn’t get better. They only got more confusing because I couldn’t explain away his behavior anymore, not to my family, or friends, and to myself.

I had no words.

I reached the end of myself, my mother-powers, my justifications, my wonderings, and what-ifs.

So I took the leap and sought professional help for the answer.

And it came: Autism.

It crushed me and put me back together all at the same time.
It suddenly all made sense, all the pieces that were simultaneously foreign and familiar.

They fit.

I finally had a name for everything we had been experiencing for 8 years.

And do you know what? My son, my beautiful, funny, loving, quirky son, didn’t change because we got the diagnosis.
He was Autistic all along. We just didn’t have the words to explain our reality.

But when we did, when we knew the word and accepted the word and said the word—Autism—things changed.

It was the key to open the doors that we needed to get help for our son, and for us too.
Autism opened the doors to therapy, to counseling, to school support.
But even more than that, it opened the doors to understanding, to compassion, to greater patience, to better parenting.

It helped me accept my son…and myself. I wasn’t a bad parent.

And neither are you.

I was just scared. I know you are too.
I get it.
AutismDiagnosisBut here’s the truth: Autism may not be the path you would choose, but if your child is Autistic, you’re already on it.

Right now, you’re in the dark.
But a diagnosis turns on the lights.

It’s blinding for a little while, but then? You’ll be able to see, really truly See.

You’ll be able See your child for who he really is, with all his gifts and challenge, his possibilities and potential.
You’ll See yourself more clearly too, more gracefully and tenderly.
And you’ll be able to See where you end and where others begin.

Seeking a diagnosis is a big step. It’s huge and scary.

The truth always is.
But you can do it. You can take this step.
Because you’re a good mom, and all good moms are brave.

Wishing you all the love, peace, and joy in the world because you have so much Good in store for you,
An Autism Mom

Want to read more of our story?
Benji’s Story: Our ASD Diagnosis
10 Signs of High Functioning Autism that I missed
Yes, labels can change a person (but not the person you think!)

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please like and share! Thank you! 🙂

This entry was posted in Autism.

Christian Mom, Public School Parent (it doesn’t have to be an oxymoron)

So you’re a Christian parent…who sends her kids to public school?

Me too.

I know, it’s not an easy decision. There’s a lot of pressure out there to do the “right thing.”
Maybe public school wasn’t your first choice.
Maybe you’d love your kids to be in private school, but it’s too expensive.
Maybe you wanted to homeschool but it just didn’t work out.

Or maybe you’re in a good public school but you feel that pressure, the pressure that says, “How am I going to raise my kids to be Christians if they are in a public school classroom?”

I get it. I know that pressure.
My parents felt it too and they responded by homeschooling me for 12 years, along with my siblings. They were intentional.

I made a different schooling decision than my parents. But I’m intentional too.
And you can be too.

Here are Four Lessons I’ve learned in the last five years of being both a Christian Mom and Public School Parent.

1.Trust the Holy Spirit to do his job

When I was a teen, I was super concerned about the spiritual condition of my boyfriend’s heart. Yeah, he said he was a Christian, but was he doing his devotions every day? (I’m rolling my eyes so hard at my teenage self). In good Christian girlfriend fashion, I nagged him about it until one day, my best friend said, “What are you doing? Are YOU his Holy Spirit?”

We should pray for, teach, and remind our children each day of God’s love and truth, but ultimately, we need to trust that God has their best interest in mind and loves them even more than we do.

More: I can’t raise my children to be Christians
God, Autism and The Fruit of the Gospel


2. Sheltering vs. Shaping

So often we think that the World is a dark, scary place and fear that public school will corrupt our kids. We want to hide them away, shelter them where it is safe. But, the truth is, the sinful nature starts in the heart. Environment can have an influence (good or bad) on a child’s decisions, but a decision to make bad choices ultimately starts in the heart.

My kids are sinners (some days more than others) who need God’s grace, just like every other child in their school.

I can’t control the hearts or actions of all the other kids, but I can work on shaping the character of my own sons. We all want to protect our children, but we have to work inside the heart if we ultimately want to protect them from bad influences.

More: How Homeschooling didn’t stop me from being a jerk

3. Take the lessons as they come

I was a bit stunned when my second grader came home from school one day and asked, “Mom, is there a bad “F-word?”
And I thought, Are we having this conversation already? In second grade?!

Was I ready for this?
Was he?
Was now the right time?
But if not now, when?

Ultimately, it was a gift, an amazing, awkward, halting, hilarious gift of a conversation. It may have come earlier than I wanted it to, but his innocence meant that he wasn’t embarrassed to come ask me about something he had heard at school.
After all, as his parent, I am also his first teacher, and I am going to take the lessons as they come, however surprising, unexpected, and premature I think they may be.

Because, if not now, then when?

More: The Day I Taught my son the F-word
At my son's baptism last week
4. Be Intentional

While it may seem “easier” for Christian school or homeschool families to integrate the Bible, theology, or alternative historical or scientific narratives within the framework of their school day, public school families are just as able to provide this type of education to their children as well.

You just have to be intentional.

In our family, we integrate our faith through daily prayer, memorizing verses in AWANA, listening to Bible music CDs every night, weekly church services, and by talking—all the time—about living like Jesus, loving God, and loving others.
We talk about evolution AND creation.
We talk about kids at school who don’t have dads, about marriage, sex, about loving others, and God’s plan for families to be healthy and strong.
We talk about all kinds of things, intentionally.

No matter what educational system you choose for your family, true education of the heart and mind takes effort, as well as the mindset that often times, the best learning takes place outside of the classroom.

Are you a Christian public school parent? Me too. It’s ok to raise your hand and admit it. We’re in this together, walking this path, making good choices for our kids, teaching them to love God and love others with intentionality.

God bless you, mama, both today and the rest of the school year.

What about you?
What educational choice did you make for your children? Why?
What fears do you have about public school (or private school or homeschool?)
How are you being intentional today to help your kids grow, learn, and thrive?

Share your story (or questions!) below!

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What’s best for you vs. What’s best for your kids

My twin boys start 3rd grade in a little over a week. Each year I am amazed at what a steep jump each grade seems but even more so this year.

We have had an amazing public school experience so far, but if there’s ONE thing that bugs me about public school, it’s the “testing focus.”

And 3rd grade…that’s when standardized tests start.

Third Grade: It’s where things get real.

I was homeschooled from 1st-12th grade and loved it. There are so many gifts that homeschooling gives that I would like to bequeath to my sons as well.

Both my sons LOVE school and I want them to keep that attitude as long as possible. With the testing pressure looming large, I found myself wanting to reduce that pressure*, all the while seeking to preserve the joy and love of learning that they already possess.
So, I started doing some heart-searching and brain-storming about whether or not public school was still the best choice for our boys.

An exciting opportunity presented itself in our town: A new hybrid school that is a blend of homeschooling and private school. In this school, the children attend class on Tuesdays and Thursdays and are taught by a professional educator. Then, on the home days, the students review and reinforce their lessons with their parents.

The school is launching this fall and I was beyond excited.
I scheduled a private meeting with the woman who is founding the school and we talked educational theory for nearly two hours in my living room.
I went to the start-up meeting for parents who were interested in being part of the core team.
I promoted the school on Facebook and invited people to come to the public information meeting.

I loved this idea.

And yet…

I didn’t know if it was going to be the right fit. I wanted it to be. I LOVED the hybrid school idea. The focus would be on a love of learning, not testing.
The parent/teacher balance seemed ideal, the perfect blend of freedom, creativity, and homeschool/traditional school.

But I was struggling with the fact that I didn’t know if it would be a good fit for my sons…and me.

My boys have special needs in various forms between the two of them—ADHD, Language Processing Learning Disabilities, Anxiety, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Autism.

Even during homework time, our tempers flare and emotions run high—as much as I love them and want to give them the best, could I actually be the best teacher and mother to them on the days we would do school at home?

Some days I was sure: Yes, I want the best for them. This would be the best. I can give them this Best.

Other days, I was struck with the starkness of my own reality: Is this what is best for them…For me?

Would I be able to be the mother I wanted to be if I was teaching them the majority of our days at home?
As stressful as it is being the mom of two special needs kids, did I want to add the responsibility of “academic teacher” too?

Would they thrive?
Could I handle it?
Do I really want to do this?

As 2nd grade came to a close in the spring, I still had not made a decision. I was paralyzed between the scenario of what is best for my kids vs. what is best for me.

One day, I brought it up with Benji’s counselor. After I laid all my arguments, desires, dreams, and doubts before her, she said something that jolted me to my core, and ultimately helped me make a decision between public school and the hybrid school.

“The thing is,” she said carefully, “What is best for you is what is best for you kids.”

Her words stunned me.

What is best for ME is what will be best for my kids?
How can that be? Wasn’t a mother supposed to be selfless, always sacrificing, putting her kids wants, needs, and desires before her own?

Could I embrace this truth? It seems so counter-intuitive.

But it brought light, clarity, and peace to my conflicted soul, and after she said this phrase to me, I knew what my decision would be.

We would continue in public school for 3rd grade.

The truth is, I knew in my heart of hearts, that in order to preserve the best mother/son relationship with my boys, I needed to delegate the role of “academic teacher” to someone else, namely the wonderful, professional regular and special education teachers at our public school.
I have been working hard to reduce stress in my life lately because I have realized that when I am less stressed, I am a calmer, more loving, more patient mom.

Choosing the hybrid school would have been an amazing experience but I know it would have been a huge stressor as well.
Many days, I feel like my relationships with my sons are fragile.
With all their special needs, I need to do all I can to reduce the stressors that could strain those relationships.

Would the hybrid school have been good for my sons? Oh yes! I believe they would have loved it.
Would it have been good for me? Probably not, and that means it was not the right decision for my sons either.
Sometimes, being a good mom means doing what is best for you—and in doing that, you are doing what is best for you kids too.

I don’t know if the advice the counselor gave me pans out in every situation. I’ve applied her maxim (What’s best for you is what is best for your kids) to many imaginary scenarios and, weirdly, her advice rang true in each situation. Hmm…

What do you think of her advice? Is what is best for you what is best for you kids?

Share your thoughts and story below!

*Of course, as a parent, I have the option of opting out of the end-of-the-year standardizing testing for my children if I feel that this is best for them (and for me too!)

PS. Our (Good!) Public School Experience
I quit my job (because I can’t do it all)

When Mommy has a Meltdown

I had a bad, bad morning yesterday. My husband went to a fishing clinic that had been on the calendar for two months. He took our one and only car and I was at home with our four sons all morning.

The kids argued with me.
They argued with each other.
They screamed the screams that make you pray, “Dear God in heaven, make it stop!”

In an attempt to make the day better, I suggested a bike ride. It was a bust, full of whining three year olds, busted shoes, and a dog bite.

Tiny things, really. But they all piled up, one on top of the other and I was miserable. I was crushed. I hated everyone and everything, including the neighbor and her stupid yappy dog.
By the time my husband got home at 2pm, I felt like crap, both emotionally and physically. I was supposed to go Big Grocery Shopping but instead, I crawled into bed, nursing a headache behind my right temple.

My husband came in to check on me. “Are you okay?”
“No.”

I was not okay. I was having a motherhood-induced break down: A Mommy Meltdown.

Meltdowns are a pretty normal occurrence at our house, but for my kids, not me. I’ve gotten particularly skilled at preventing and/or handling meltdowns for Benji, my 8 year old Autistic son.

A lot of times, I can anticipate situations that will stress him, cause his sensory system to overload, and diffuse his triggers skillfully.

Just this morning I had carefully avoided two potentially disastrous situations.

Benji is very sensitive about his shoes, so sensitive that he owns exactly one pair of shoes that he wears for all occasions.
His shoes have to fit just right.
They have to be flexible.
Most importantly, they have to be tight.

Fine motor struggles have placed tie-shoes as impractical for right now (that’s me, avoiding daily meltdowns over the frustration of tying shoes. We’re getting there…) so he has Velcro.

The thing is, the Velcro on one of his shoes is worn out and the shoe will not stay tight.
“Mom! Mooooom! My-my shoe! It. Will. Not. Stay. On! UGGG!!”

He was ramping up fast. I had to quickly nip his meltdown in the bud. I went into solution mode: I dug out my snap press and snapped pressed those shoes and BAM! Problem solved. The shoes were snapped and tight.

We could now go on our bike ride.

My snap solution only lasted for about 5 minutes, until Benji’s twin brother rode over his foot while Benji was stopped on the sidewalk.

Another meltdown was rolling in but I got there quick, soothing and logicking, and being firm and kind. He calmed down, rode home on the loose shoe (miracles of miracles!) and we fixed it and tried bike ride, take two.

I know his triggers. When I can avoid them, I do (shoelaces).
When I can’t, I pull out my bag of solutions, tricks, therapy tips, and my low, calm, firm voice, and diffuse the situation.
When all that fails, I ride the wave of the meltdown with him.

I am a Meltdown expert. I am experienced and prepared.

Except when it comes to my own Meltdowns.

Time and time again, I am stunned by my own emotional breakdowns.

I don’t recognize my triggers until my mood is so bad that snapping at my kids feels like second nature.

I’ve become an expert at anticipating my children’s needs…all while ignoring my own, until I’m curled up in my bed, crying, and wondering why I am such a “bad mom.”
My husband talked to me for a long time. He held my hand and listened to all the little things that made up my Bad Day. He asked me questions and made me laugh.

After a while, I said, “Thanks for talking to me. It really helped.”
“I think that’s what a lot of your problem is” (he has a way with words, my husband).

“What?”
“You’re lonely. You don’t have the support like you used to.”

And he is right. When my twins were little, I had a strong group of mom friends who were my lifeline. We saw each other weekly and supported each other through those rough, little years. But when our kids reached school age, the group slowly drifted apart.

I miss those days. It was a good season of my life. And while many things have changed, the truth is that I still need friends, both old and new.

It’s a lot of effort to make new, good friends (that’s an understatement). But I’m trying.
I went out this morning to a community gathering at a playground. I fought the urge to just silently watch my kids from the bench and instead, I struck up a conversation with a woman sitting near me.
As it turned out, we had a lot in common.

After my morning out of the house, letting my kids play, and having adult conversation (even though my 3 year old still whined a cried a lot), I felt whole.

I feel like crap when I don’t take care of myself:

When I don’t drink enough water
When I wait too long to eat
When I forget to take my vitamins
When I don’t take the time to rest when I’m tired
When I don’t make the effort to cultivate friendships

That’s when I have a meltdown, and I spiral into sadness, overwhelming irritation, and anger.

Like my son, sometimes even with my best intentions, meltdowns can still happen, even if I do all the right things.

But I’m going to work on taking better care of myself, especially recognizing my own triggers, and working towards meeting my own needs so I can better meet the needs of the people I love the most.

PS. 10 Simple Ways to Reset a Bad Day
When you can’t do it all, ask for help
7 signs that you’re doing too much…and what to do about it

Surviving? Thriving? (and everything in between)

“I feel like I’m just surviving. And I hate that. I want to feel like I’m thriving in motherhood, not living for nap time or just trying to make it through the day.”

It was an all-too-familiar post in a moms Facebook group. In fact, it was so familiar that I could have written it myself, perhaps a few years ago.

Or yesterday.

I have four boys ranging from 3rd grade to 19 months. Two of them have special needs and all four have enough energy cause strangers to cast pitying glances in my direction on a regular basis (“four boys? Bless your heart!”).

Most days, usually before a single sip of coffee hits my lips, my boys are already running circles around me, slamming into walls and each other, asking me questions about TV shows I haven’t watched, all while I beg them to stop talking about Pokemon long enough for me to scramble eggs with some semblance of my sanity still intact before 8:02am.

“What are your plans for the day?” My husband texts me. “Other than survive.”
I smirked at our familiar banter, our fellow commiserating at raising four kids together. But I sighed as I responded, “I wish my life were more than that.”

Like the mom in my facebook group, I often feel like I am in survival mode, just trying to stay on top of meals, laundry, appointments, and arguments, usually feeling like I am failing miserably, drowning in the “I’m hungry!”, “I have no socks!”, “We’re running late!” and “He hit me!” refrains that make up the soundtrack of my life.

Where is the thriving in motherhood?
Are other moms thriving?
Do other people, actually, THRIVE?

I say “thrive” so many times in my head that it loses all meaning and annoys the heck out of me, like when my three year old says “butt butt!” fifty million times in a row.

“STOP!” I holler at my three year old.
Stop. I bid my mind and heart be still in their frantic search for “thrive,” like some bygone quest for the fountain of youth.

The truth is, there is no magical fount of Parenting Bliss, where we can drink deeply as mothers and forever see our children as delightful angels who never stink, who never fight, who never whine, who never talk back, who never make us want to lose our ever-lovin’-minds fifty million times a day.

I’ve been waiting for the thrive, for things to “get easier and better” since my twins were babies and things just get “different,” especially since we’ve added two more boys and an Autism diagnosis into the mix.

“Thrive” hasn’t emerged, but a new truth has, the truth that parenthood isn’t an either/or kind of gig. It isn’t “Survive” or “Thrive.” It’s both/and.

Or even better, it’s neither.

It’s Real Life.

It’s Real Life with its highs and lows, bear hugs and arguments, selfies and selfishness, picky eaters and ice cream sundaes, shouting and I’m sorry’s, therapy appointments and first-days-of-school, blow-outs and birthday cakes, first smiles and sleepless nights, so much anguish and so much love.

It’s everything that drives us insane and makes life worth living: It’s Real Life.

Some days we may feel like we are just surviving. Other days we feel like we’re nailing this whole parenting thing: We’re thriving, if only for five minutes.

But really, it’s a false dichotomy, an either/or that will always leave us discontent or wondering if we’ve really arrived.

Real Life makes room for more, for raising tiny humans, for grace and forgiveness when we screw up again, for the surviving and the thriving and everything in between.

Where are you at today: Surviving or Thriving (or somewhere in between?)
Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please like and share! Thank you! 🙂

Homeschool, Public School, and the heart of Socialization

Socialization: if ever there was a polarizing issue in the homeschool movement, it is this.

I was homeschooled from 1st-12th grade in a time when parents, like my own, were forging a new education path for themselves, their children, and for future generations.

So much has changed in the homeschool movement (Example: I just read a novel where the main character was homeschooled and it was a NORMAL thing, not some fringe, weird, reinvent-the-wheel movement. WHAT??? Incredible!).

However, so many of the attitudes and beliefs within the homeschool system remain the same, especially ideas about socialization and the negative influence of public schools.

I read a blog post recently about this issue. The author is a homeschool mom who wrote about the negative socialization issues that her children are avoiding by being homeschooled. Here’s an excerpt from her post:

 Yes, my kids are missing out on being socialized in a schooled environment. And you know what else? I’m extremely happy about it!
I do not want them socialized to conform, fit in, gossip, bully, compete, and lose their compassion and individuality.
I want them socialized to have empathy and understanding for others, to be helpful and cooperative, to be friendly and accommodating.
Putting a group of kids of the same age and social skills together does not achieve this. We’ve all been there.
If you’re worrying about homeschooled kids being socialized, you’re worrying about the wrong group. We’re doing just fine thanks.

I was brought up to believe and defend this notion myself, the idea that the homeschooled environment of family, education, and faith would “save” me from the pressures and social corruptions that are inherent in the public school environment.

However, while my homeschool socialization was different and positive in many ways, there were still cliques, mean spiritedness, and shutting people out. Human nature is still human nature.

Here’s a sad story to illustrate my point:

When I was in high school, my friends and I wanted to have a party. No, not THAT kind of party—a happy, fun, homeschool kind of party! A GAME NIGHT!

I organized the whole thing, a tournament board game night. We had to have a certain amount of people to make the tournament a success so I chose the guest list with care.
I only wanted my best friends there, my fun friends (not anyone annoying or weird).
So I purposely excluded one of my friend’s brothers.

The night of the party, my friend confronted me and asked if her brother could come. I actually protested: “We need a specific number of people to make this game night a success. Sorry…”

She was disappointed and frustrated: He really wanted to come. He didn’t’ get invited to very many things. Can he come?

“Fine,” I huffed. “He can come.”

I was in a bad mood for the whole party.

As an adult, I am so ashamed of how I acted. My heart really aches to think of my attitude and actions, as, knowing what I know now, I would guess that this boy was on the Autism spectrum, just like my son. He was very smart, socially awkward, and very, very keen to talk about his special interests. I didn’t know anything about Autism back then. All I was thinking at the time was that he was annoying and awkward and I didn’t want him at my party.
I was mean, petty, excluding, and a snob. I was a “popular girl” who didn’t want to invite the “weird kid” into my group.

I was a homeschooled girl who never went to public school and never hung out with “bad influences” (ie. Public schoolers).

The “Socialization” the author talks about in her article wasn’t a public school vs. homeschool issue.
The way I acted was a result of a selfish, sinful heart.

Many parents, both today and when I was growing up, believe that the homeschool environment will “save” their children from “evil,” social or otherwise.

But this isn’t true.

Bullying doesn’t have to happen in a classroom; it can happen in sibling relationships.
Competition and feeling superior to others happens at kitchen tables, not just in classrooms.
In my homeschool group, full of children who could spout off thousands of Bible verses, “prayer request” was a synonym for “gossip.”
And you all just read my damning story about my own lack of compassion for a boy who I felt was too “different” to be my friend.

As much as we want to protect our children from the world, we, as parents, can’t save them from their selfish, sinful human nature. Ultimately, only God can do that.

I appreciated the desire and sentiment of the mom who wrote the article.  I get it, I really do. I was homeschooled myself and I had to defend my homeschooling experience as “just as good” or “even better!” to every person I met.
However, after growing up and gaining some perspective about my educational experience, and now being a public school parent, I’ve realized that my homeschool experience was simply “different.” And different is great—but it doesn’t make it morally or socially “better.”

Homeschool or Public School both offer gifts and challenges to a parent, and it is up to the parent to shape the character of his or her children with the gifts and challenges presented.

I remember many mornings when I walked my boys to school and we saw a boy getting off the bus. The boy had some special needs and often had a hard time making the transition from the bus to school.

As the boy screamed or flailed, my son frowned and said, “That’s Landon. He screams a lot.”
“Why do you think he screams?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t like him. I don’t like to sit with him.”
“I think Landon has a hard time communicating what he needs or wants. What if you couldn’t tell people what you needed or wanted? How would you feel?”
A pause. “Mad…and sad.”
“Maybe you would feel like screaming too.”
“Yeah, I would feel like screaming.”
“I bet Landon feels the same things you do. He wants to be understood, and he wants a friend. If he makes you feel uncomfortable, I understand. But I always want you to be kind to him. He’s a person, just like you.”
My son nodded. “Okay, Mom.”

Character shaping and enlarging small hearts can happen any time—around the kitchen table learning fractions, or walking to school each morning. But an immature and selfish heart will find it hard to grow when the barriers between “us” and “them” remain intact.
It’s been many years since I was that snobby, selfish high schooler. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve had my own children. I’ve learned even more since my own children have been diagnosed with special needs.

I’ve learned that my experiences as a first generation homeschooler were unique and different, yet neither “bad” nor “better.”
I’ve learned that socialization is usually “mainstream” or “avant-garde” but that doesn’t make it right or wrong.

I’ve learned that it is up to parents to teach character, morals, and how to treat others with kindness, compassion, and respect and that, homeschooled or otherwise, it takes effort and patience to instill these Positive Socialization values within our children.

PS. My kids are now the Public School Kids I used to judge
The Day I Taught my son the F-Word

Maybe “Radical Acceptance” starts with me

On Friday night, my husband stayed up with me till 11:30pm, as tears ran into my ears, trying to tell me true things about myself and the hard, hard road called parenthood.

It had been a long day, after a long week, after a long two weeks.
Let’s face it, the summer is getting long.

“If I was really a good mom, I’d enjoy being around them all the time.”
“Why do you say stuff like that?”
“Because it’s true!”
“It is not true. You have this ideal in your head, like the Perfect Mom. Stop trying to be the Perfect Mom and just be yourself.”

He was right, of course.

I have these ideals in my head of “Perfect Mom.”
Perfect Mom loves being around her kids all the time.
Perfect Mom reads the Bible to her kids every day.
Perfect Mom always disciplines with wisdom and a calm demeanor.
Perfect Mom limits screen time to the recommend 30 minutes a day.
Perfect Mom patently listens to her 8 year old twins read out loud for 20 minutes (each!) each day.
Perfect Mom cherishes each moment of Summer vacation as a time to connect and grow with her children.
Perfect Mom loves to play outside, and especially take her kids to the pool!
Perfect Mom is patient, kind, and loving all the time.

But I am not Perfect Mom. I am constantly falling short of my own ideals and then I get angry. I blow up because I am tired and my house is messy and my kids drive me nuts (because they are not Perfect either) and because I am STILL NOT PERFECT.
I read an amazing blog post this weekend about Radical Acceptance of your child.

Que more tears because, damn it, if I am not struggling with this too.

When I am not slamming myself for not being Perfect, I’m passing the buck to my kids for not being Perfect either.

The article challenged readers to strive for Radical Acceptance of their loved ones, as it is family members who often struggle the most with wishing their Imperfect loved one was different.

I’m going to be honest: Sometimes I wish my kids were different. I wish parenting them was not so hard.

But most of the time, I wish I was different. My kids don’t need to change: I do.

And in many ways, this is true.  I have a lot of growth to do.

But, if I am going to love my four little neighbors, the children God has given me to love and live with, I have to love myself too.

The mother in the Radical Acceptance article wrote, “Living with a person who wants you to be fundamentally different than you are… is toxic.”

Perfect Mom is always crushing me with her ideals, leaving guilt and bitterness in the wake of her unrealistic expectations.

Maybe Radical Acceptance has to start with me.

Maybe Radical Acceptance of who I am as a person and as a mother is what people mean when they say you need to have Grace with yourself as a parent.

I need to stop fitting myself into a mold of Perfect Mom and start accepting who I really am as a person, and what I, Brittany Arpke Meng, bring to the table as a mother to my unique children.

I need to stop forcing myself to become a version of perfection that I will never attain. That is toxic, both to my boys, and to me.

I need to accept my gifts, my limitations, my triggers, my talents, my need for rest, as much as I need to accept the truth God looked at my children when he made them and called them Good.

And then He gave them to me and said, “Here. I have a good, good gift for you. I love you. I want to give you good things. Cherish them. And be gentle with yourself as I am gentle with you. When I made you, I called you Good as well.”

Please, share your wisdom:
How do you parent like “you”?
How do you kill the Perfect Parent and just accept yourself and your child for who you were both meant to be?

 

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know? If so, please like and share! Thank you! 🙂

Who’s YOUR SuperMom?

“She’s incredible. She’s got 6 kids AND she’s a foster mom. Plus she’s getting her degree online right now. Oh, and she’s gorgeous too. She’s amazing!”

My friend, nodded and smiled. “She’s your supermom, huh?”
I blushed at her next comment. “See, you’re my SuperMom, with your four kids and your writing…”

I thanked her, feeling humbled.

SuperMoms.

We all have one, an amazing friend that we admire and stand in awe of, a woman we love and cheer on and wonder, “how does she do it?”

When my friend gave me that compliment, she blew on the coals of my mothering confidence, making them glow a bit stronger.

The thing is, most of the time, we all feel like we are barely making it, like we are just surviving instead of thriving. We all need a boost, to be told, “You are amazing! You are doing a great job!” You ARE SuperMom!”

Whose confidence can you build up today? Do you have a mom friend:

Who is getting her degree while raising little ones?
Who is a tireless (to you!) single mother?
Who has a great sense of humor (especially about things like bodily fluids and teething)?
Who is pregnant and patient?
Who is a selfless volunteer?
Who is creative and crafty?
Who brings home the bacon and fries it up too?
Who is an amazing cook?
Who is a giving foster mom?
Who battles health issues and still takes amazing care of her family?
Who is kind and beautiful and a total badass?
IMG_5808TELL HER. Go ahead.
Text her.
Email her.
Post this blog post to her Facebook wall and write: “You are my SuperMom. You inspire me because…”

And you will stoke the fires of her soul. You will build her up and make her strong.

We all need to be told we are doing a good job, that we are valuable, that we are seen.

Plus, being an encourager makes YOU a pretty awesome SuperMom too.

Who is YOUR SuperMom? Encourage her today!
Share this post and your heart with the women in your life. <3

PS. I don’t need to be intimidated by what you are good at and Stop saying “I don’t know how you do it” and say this instead

Yes, labels can change a person (but not the person you think!)

“I thought about pursuing a diagnosis, but the teacher said, ‘do you really want him labeled?’”
“You know, when kids get labeled, they’re stuck with it their entire lives!”
“Some kids are just different. Do you want a label pulling him down?”

Our society really hates labels. Wait, scratch that.
Our society really fears labels.

And for a while, I did too.

Here’s a big, scary one: Autism.
Here’s another one that earns a lot of eye-rolling and tongue clicking: ADHD.
And a final label, the one schools resist with rolls of red tape: Learning Disability.

Labels.

I get it. They’re powerful and scary.
There’s power in speaking names, in giving words to silent fears that have only existed in the What ifs…and Please not this… of a parent’s mind.

For a while, it was easy for me to pretend that if we didn’t put a name to my sons’ challenges that they weren’t really real.
Yes, I was deluded and reality of my life smacked me out of that fantasy world soon enough.

But I resisted, hard and long, because I didn’t want the label to change anything.
I didn’t want labels to change the way people thought about my sons.
Most of all, I didn’t want it to change my sons.

In reality, I didn’t understand what labels really, really are.

But here’s the truth, and it isn’t as scary as I once thought it was:

A label is a word or definition that brings clarity to a situation and opens the door to services or aid.

That’s it.

Now, sometimes the definition is so huge that it takes weeks, months, or even years to wrap your head around, to try to understand, to grieve, and to accept the truth the label brings.

Like, Autism.
Like, ADHD.

But as huge and heavy as the label might be, it’s primary purpose is to be a key: it opens the door to knowledge, to counseling, to occupational therapy, to speech therapy, to IEPs, to 504 plans, to new parenting practices, new friends, new ways of looking at the world.

New ways of understanding my sons.
But here’s what the labels did NOT do: They did not give me new sons.
The labels did not paint my sons from head to foot with bold, black stereotypes.
They did not present my sons with a platter of excuses to not be or become everything they are supposed to be and become.

The labels did not change my sons, at all.

But the labels did change me.

They changed me, all at once, and slowly too.
They have forced me to peel away my pre-conceived notions about disabilities and what it means to have special-needs kids.
They have urged me to love unconditionally.
They have given me permission to forgive myself for what I didn’t know before and comforted me with the truth that I am not a bad parent and that I really am a good mom.

They have given me knowledge, drive, passion, a new vocabulary, and a thicker skin.

They have brought me peace and have urged me towards contentment and acceptance, both of myself and my sons.
My sons, my Micah and Benji? The labels didn’t change them. They were always and will always be themselves, fearfully and wonderfully made.

Words are powerful and the powerful labels we’ve accepted as true have only given me the power to be the best mother I can be to my two precious boys.

Labels can change a person, but not always the person you think.

As a society, why are we so afraid of labels?
Do you love someone with a label?
Has a label changed you, or your loved one, for the better?

Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know? If so, please like and share! Thank you! 🙂