This is the why.

I’ve talked a little about why I’ve felt so drawn to foster care. It’s something we considered in growing our family for years; the desire to love other children as much as I love Cooper; and because it’s pretty clear what God thinks about loving the orphans and innocents.

However, I would say if there is one moment that completely altered my future and this heart for foster care, it would be the moment my mother trapped me in a bathroom and sat on me.

It’s a running joke between us now, but it certainly wasn’t funny at the time. I was about 12 years old and my parents were getting a divorce. I was never the kid who believed I broke up mom and dad; in fact, when they would tell me it was nothing I did wrong, I would bite back, “I know. You guys are the ones who screwed everything up, I’m not taking the blame for it!” I was angry, bitter, hurt, pubescent and the only one of the children old enough to fully grasp what was going on at the time. The divorce was not easy or happy, either. It was messy and I was often caught in the middle of two adults while being caught in the middle of childhood and adulthood.

While I was content firing my wrath fueled by heartbreak and hormones and confusion at just about any adult in my family, including my dad and my grandparents, it was my mom that got most of it. Because she was there and I subconsciously knew she wouldn’t ever leave me or hate me.

This subconscious action of firing my rage only at people I knew would never leave plays a big role in the rest of my life, including how I knew Brian was the one for me. But that’s another story for another day.

I don’t remember specifically what I was so angry about that night, but I was screaming at her from the top of my lungs. I was ready to run away or do any number of things to make her feel like I felt. She somehow caught me in the bathroom and blocked the door so I was trapped. Being unable to escape only furthered my rage. I tried every method I could think of to get out, all the while sobbing and screaming, until she had her arms around me and I was pinned to the wall on the ground with her sitting on me. She was relatively calm, even through tears and working through my anger, and the theme of her words was clear: there is nowhere you can go, there is nothing you can say, there is nothing you can do that will make me stop loving you.

That’s it.

Before we started foster care classes, my mom asked me why we were doing this.

“What if you get a bad kid, like what if they try to set your house on fire or something?”

And I told her it was because those “bad kids” just need someone to lock them in a bathroom and sit on them.

Which is to say they need someone who loves them so much that even though that someone may be going through their own personal hell, it doesn’t pale in comparison to the fire of their love for that kid.

Because see, for each person that calls us saints, or selfless or generous for taking on foster care, I’ve got a hundred stories about how fiercely I’ve been loved, even when I didn’t deserve it. The only thing that separates me from those “bad kids” is someone telling me over and over again that there is nowhere you can go, nothing you can say, and nothing you can do that will make me stop loving you.

This woman worked her tail off to make sure we had every opportunity that every other kid got. She wore clothes until they came BACK in style a second time so we could have new clothes regularly. She constantly set aside her own needs and her own pain to try to take away every pain she possibly could from her children. I can only imagine how difficult and lonely this time in her life must have been. She is absolutely why I am a strong, opinionated, determined, feminist woman. Not because she necessarily is determined or feminist (though I’m definitely giving her strong and opinionated), but because she has laid her life down so that my life could be set up to freely become those things. This woman loved me like Jesus before she even knew what that meant.

I don’t know what the future holds for us in this process. I don’t know if the plan involves adoption or more biological kids or what ages/races/stages we are in for, but they were all taken out of their homes because they weren’t taken care of as they should be. What I do know is every kid is just one unconditional love away from being labeled a “good kid” or a “bad kid” and I have a flawed, imperfect, but still absolutely incredible teacher in how to be just that.

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This is the mission.

We are three weeks in to our foster care classes and we’ve got this week off for the holiday.  We’ve had mountains of paperwork asking a wide range of questions from where are the smoke alarms in our house to what were the worst memories of your childhood and how have you processed them as an adult. We’ve had one homestudy  visit so far and have a list of things to do to get licensed, including locking up all paint, chemical cleaners, prescription medicines and exposed wires.

We keep getting asked how the process is going and it’s all much more complicated than I can so simply answer. Every week we leave our perfect little boy with a sitter and spend three hours learning how to become professional tragedy managers for children who’ve never been given the love, protection and opportunities that Cooper is given daily. We hear stories about real-life cases and analyze plans of how to best care for these children. We practice thinking like parents whose children have been taken away and like children who’ve been ripped from everything they know (for better or worse) and dropped into a stranger’s house. All of the things we try to protect Cooper from as his parents, heartache and hunger and abuse and people out to hurt him, we now have to learn how to work through the aftermath of those exact events in children we know almost nothing about.

So we can’t say it’s going great. In a perfect world there would be no need for foster care because children would be loved exactly as they should be loved. But in this world, there are unspeakable horrors put on innocent children who grow into adults that pass on what they’ve learned. So while we can’t simply exclaim our excitement as if we were expecting children in a more traditional manner, I’ve never felt more like this is our mission field and we’re preparing for battle.

We’ve fielded lots of questions, so I thought I try to cover as much ground as possible to give some answers and insight. Questions we’re commonly asked:

1. Don’t you want any more kids of your own?

From the moment Cooper took his first breath, I knew I did not love him because he came from my body. I love him because he came from my soul. So while I don’t entirely know God’s plan for our family, I know it is not confined to DNA or even permanency. I imagine many pieces of my soul will be all over the world before I’m done in this life.

2. What if you get a really bad kid?

I serve the Creator of the stars and this God, knowing every unholy thought that’s passed between my ears, chose to descend His throne and rescue this bad kid. If He can do that for us, this is a small thing we can do for them. We’ve been learning a lot about looking at kids not as problems, but as children having needs that aren’t being met. A child that’s acting out is expressing some major grief the only way they know how.

I’m not saying this to make me look great. I’m partially saying it so when things are terrible and I want to give up, this will be here, ready to kick me in the butt. I’m partially saying this so you will see what I see. And I’m partially saying it so you will help me see it when I’m dealing with phone calls from principals or kids that scream how much they hate me. I’m not saying it will be the easiest form of parenting, and I’m going to need help.

3. How could you possibly give them back after you got them? I would be way too heartbroken.

Listen. There’s risk in every great decision you make. Buy a car, you risk a car accident. Get married, you risk divorce. Your house could burn, you could lose your job. You could lose your baby.

We can’t base our decisions on the chance for heartbreak. Life is only this beautiful because of the risk for heartbreak. Moreover, we have a chance to share the immense amount of love we’ve been filled with from our people to a little person or two. Our hearts can take this much more than a little heart can take us not risking heartbreak. We know we’re jumping in to some really hard stuff in our future, and we’re choosing it because we’re called to do some hard stuff in our lives. This isn’t just some step to check off for which we haven’t weighed the risks. This is the mission.

I’m thankful to be surrounded by people whose hearts have been set on missions similar to mine but also those with missions different than mine. This newly emotional me can’t handle the weight of every flavor of brokenness in the world and sometimes when I try I am quickly crushed. But I have many friends and family members who have been called to love refugees, or the homeless, or those with medical diagnoses, or who fight against abortion or sex trafficking. If you don’t feel called to foster care, that’s fine. I’m not asking everyone to get on board with my mission. But you only have this one life, and it would be terrible to waste it all on yourself. Find your mission and change the world with it.

 

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Step Two.

Nearly five years ago, I wrote a blog entitled Step One.

Five years ago. A lot of life has happened since then. The day after writing it, I found out I was pregnant. Shortly after I found out I was pregnant, I heard that heartbeat. And then I didn’t hear that heartbeat. And my world crumbled.

If I’m being honest, even when I thought I had emotionally healed from my second miscarriage, it still was a big scar that I would often touch absentmindedly. I don’t think I could fully handle the weight of all of it, so I just stopped. And I think God did an amazing work on me in that season of life, because He knew the end of the story and what I needed to do to get there.

When Cooper came along, everything became infinitely more complicated. Pregnancy was not just hard, it was terrifying. I believed the only hope for this child’s survival was to get him out of my body, the body that kills babies. And then he was born and within a day, was whisked to the NICU. This boy burst my heart like I envision the galaxy exploding into existence, like that moment in the Wizard of Oz where everything that was gray turns to color. Everything that was dark was suddenly so intricately and precisely beautiful. I’m sure Cooper’s doctor had no idea to do with the heaping pile of mother in the corner, crying over this child that in comparison to the other children in that NICU, was in perfect health, just needing a little observation. He didn’t know I was sobbing for the loss I’d already experienced and how I would survive a black hole in this brilliant new galaxy of mine.

It didn’t take long for me to realize there are children in the world who aren’t as loved as fiercely as I love Cooper. And that idea was heartbreaking. Instead of a biological child diminishing my desire to adopt, it ignited it. I have the power to love someone like God does as much as I possibly can, no matter how damaged or hurting or unloved they’ve been.

Our plan was to wait until Brian graduates in the spring and then we’d start training for foster classes. But then Brian’s class was cancelled; his graduation postponed. I was disappointed. Brian suggested we just do classes now.

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So here we are. Step Two. Fingerprints inked, backgrounds checked, classes enrolled. We start in one week.

Ironically, the day we got the phone call that we were accepted into the foster care classes, I was feeling like a pretty worthless mom. Motherhood is hard and messy, and I’m not just talking spit up and diaper changes. It’s constantly exposing who you are when someone won’t stop crying and you’re out of solutions. It’s constantly wondering if you’re doing the right thing when just a few years before you were so confident. It’s being challenged by all these emotions that are foreign and hard to fully understand and I had child who was in all kinds of pain and sick and I felt like a failure as a mom. And then someone calls and asks me to take the next step in becoming another human’s mom.

Grace is a beautiful kind of thing. As quickly as I started freaking out wondering how I could possibly make this work adding more chaos and stress to the pile, I realized I was believing lies. I had been so confident this was my path and then I actually begin to walk it and I immediately have a force trying to pull me off.

That’s a pretty clear sign we’re going the right way.

Today Cooper is healthier and full of affection. He takes such care of my heart when I need it.

We know it’s going to be hard. The stories we’ve heard about children in the foster care system is nothing short of heartcrushing. We live in such a broken world where babies are brutalized and unloved, more often than not because their parents were also brutalized, unloved, and don’t know better than what they already know. It’s a cycle of brokenness and sin, and we have the power to intervene and break that cycle.

I don’t fully know what this looks like. In the process, you can be as specific as the age, the race, the eye color, the disposition of the child. They just have that great of a need that you can be picky. I don’t know that I want to be that picky. We know we want to make sure any children that come in to our house wouldn’t be susceptible to harming Cooper. We want to challenge him to love people hard, but I don’t want to hurt him physically or emotionally in the process.

We don’t really know what things like childcare, school, all that stuff will look like. In our experience, any time we’ve made specific plans like that, God gently corrects us to remind who is in control.

So the biggest plan is to trust God has a plan. And He’s going to put us in front of whoever He wants us to be in front of for as long as He wants us to. We know we’ll probably experience some big heartbreak and big growth. And in that amount of time, however long God gives us with them, we will love that whoever with everything we’ve got so that child will know, at least once, what it’s like to be loved as fiercely as we love our child.

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Feelings and other things I hate.

On nearly a daily basis, I’m asked some variation of how I like parenthood or how I like my baby. Usually I respond something like, “It’s great. I’m a fan.” Maybe I’ll add a joke about how I like him and we’re going to keep him. I’m not good at sharing the depths of my heart in a conversation that was more intended for small talk about the weather. Let’s be real: I’m not good at sharing the depths of my heart even in situations that call for it. Because that answer isn’t the whole truth.

How do I explain to a random person the sense of euphoria I get when this bite-sized human grabs all of my hair he can fit in his tiny fists and yanks it toward his head so he can drool all over my chin with a giggling open mouth for his interpretation of a kiss?

The idea that someone who really can’t offer me much of anything bringing me so much joy is a little outlandish. But there he is. Doing the simplest thing like grasping a toy and I’m enraptured. I’m beaming with pride and I’ve become “that mom” who tells really boring stories about her kid because to her, they are THRILLING. Words do not do justice in describing how I feel when watching Brian play on the floor with our baby. It’s intense. And I don’t really get it.

Feelings are mostly new to me. I had spent a good measure of my life shielding myself from feelings that were used as weapons against me until the shield became my world. It was an opaque perspective of all the people around me; distorted and not quite sharp enough to be full reality. Becoming a mom was that moment in Wizard of Oz when everything turns technicolor; the view instantly became sharp and more colorful than I could ever have imagined.

It wasn’t all beautiful and full of bright colors; it’s new and sometimes scary and not unlike what my kid experiences discovering this life. I find myself aching for the poor, the refugees, the orphans in a way I could never even comprehend before. There’s so much hurt in this world that I can get overwhelmed with anguish. I regularly look at the people in my life who have always lived in this technicolor world and ask them how they even bare it. Where I used to think emotional and overly-compassionate people were weak, I now find them to be more brave than the rest of us. They face this world in all its hurt and sorrow and still see the beautiful bright colors while I had always hid behind a shield.

It’s a process, discovering this new place. I use this metaphor in my daily life as I try to explain my frustrations. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a foreign country and I’m starting to learn the language, but there are still barriers. Brian was always so good at understanding how non-mom Megan felt because there wasn’t that many options to choose from on the emotion menu. But mom Megan isn’t even sure what some of these new feelings are, so the best I can explain it to him is having a language barrier and how do you say, “I think I might be hungry,” in Feelings language?

If I stare at my boy long enough, I’ll start crying. If I watch a show and the main character’s loved one dies, I’ll start crying. If I see a video of a soldier surprising their family with their return, it’s game over before the reveal.

I’m sure most of the people who have dealt with me and my emotionally stunted responses over the years are rolling over this. That Megan. She’s ridiculous. Welcome to the real world. It’s about dang time.

I was always repulsed by people who responded with their emotions, because Jesus used logic- his brain, not his heart. But the reality is he used both. To be only one or the other would make him fallible and logic does not always trump emotion. If that were true, logic would state if someone accuses you of being the savior, you show them all your power to shut down any argument. Logic would not go to the cross for all of humanity. The brain says save yourself, the heart says save others.

I am not yet fully immersed and fluent in this new place, but I’m learning. I doubt anyone would yet accuse me of being emotional. The result has mostly prompted me to action- I have a much greater fire to fight for those unable and love people aggressively. It’s a response of deciding to be brave. I’m choosing to set down my shield and step out into this world, no matter how scary it might be. Because it’s also pretty incredible too.

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Words of Wisdom for My Younger Self.

I read this blog post recently that had asked hundreds of people what they would tell their younger self. The things we know in hindsight- the things I wish I could tell myself in hindsight- the list is long and important. I’m so thankful for grace. Some have a theory that people never change. Some people have a theory that you should live life with no regrets. I think both of these theories indicate a stagnant life. THANK GOD I’m not the person I was when I was 19. Thank God I’ve changed. I’ve had the courage to make mistakes and learn from them; I totally think there are things I should have done differently. The idea that you should live a life with no regrets is so incredibly arrogant- how can you honestly say you believe every single thing you’ve done in your life was perfect?

So here are just some of my regrets, a list of some of the things I would tell my younger self.

Don’t be Afraid of Adventure

My mom laughs at me because when I was a kid, we did this camp thing where she had to convince me to climb a 20 foot rock wall and zip line down. I’m pretty sure I was almost in tears, I was so terrified. The funny part is somewhere on the timeline between there and now, I became this woman that mountain bikes, hikes through ancient ruins on top of mountains, travels the world, ziplines hundreds of feet above rainforests. The things I was so afraid of are now the very things that thrill me. I only wish I had started sooner; there’s so much adventure to be had in this world.

You Are More Than the Size of Your Pants

I have spent way too much of my life worrying about the shape of my body and how it looks to other people. I have spent way too much of my life hating my body. My body is strong. It is covered in stories of this amazing life. It is in a constant state of change, from being a body of adventure, to a body that carries a child, a body that enjoys food and exercise and fresh air and enveloping the people I love. I will never have the body I used to have and I don’t want it. The body of a teenager does not have as much life in it as this one. Just because it’s smaller doesn’t make it better.

Emotions Are Not for the Weak

For much of my life, emotions were a weapon used to hurt me in some way or another. My response was to learn how to build walls to shut people out, switches to turn off feelings that attempted to rise to the surface. I got so good at it that I became robotic and worse, I was proud of my robotic nature. People respond emotionally without thinking through consequences and it ends poorly. I believed I found the solution to that problem. But Jesus isn’t devoid of emotion; He is a balance of emotion and logic. Cutting out one isn’t any better than cutting out the other. Learning this started to break cracks through the walls I built; Cooper bursted them wide open. He has created an emotional geyser in my heart since the moment I knew he existed. It’s been a battle, all of a sudden having all of these emotions that I don’t know what to do with. I’ve described it to Brian as being in a foreign country and not knowing anything about the language or culture. Parenting has given me a spectrum of feelings I didn’t even know I could feel, but it has already taught me so much about how to have compassion and empathy for other people. And that’s not a territory for poor little weak people who can’t get their feelings locked down; it’s vulnerable and courageous. Because you willingly go into a situation knowing you can get hurt or destroyed and do it anyway, like Indiana Jones.

Do Not Get Engaged to That Guy When You’re 19

Seriously. Just don’t. I believed I was mature enough to be married at 19. When you’re 19 you believe you are ready for the world instead of barely out of the barely out of school teenager who doesn’t even know who they are yet. I could not be convinced otherwise; I was- we were- the exception to the rule. We were in love and knew what that meant, or so we fully believed. I wish I could tell younger me that there will be a man that comes along just a few years later who will set your soul on fire. Wait for him. Don’t waste your time on boys that you have to convince yourself to love or convince yourself love you enough to be The One; God already picked out a man that knows the road map of my heart.

You are Not the Things That Have Happened to You

I think this is still something I’m continually learning. I hate being the victim in any story. I roll my eyes at princess fairy tales because it is always this damsel waiting for a man to save her. I am not a damsel in distress. But I often convince myself I am a victim of the bad things that have happened to me and it is because of those things that I am or behave a certain way. It has created bitterness in my heart, weakness that I have the ability to overcome and then choose not to because I resign to just being helpless to my circumstances. To a degree, you learn from your experiences, but I have the ability to become better from those experiences, not be crushed by them. I can make different choices. I can be the hero instead of the victim.

You Are Worth The Time and Energy

Probably because of some of the things I had to learn above, it took me a while to recognize my own value. I spent a lot of my life settling for second-rate relationships and friendships because I thought that was as good as I could get. But a few people have given me better than that, and it has helped me realize that I am worth it. I am worth people not only taking from me, but also giving to me. That’s not to say that there aren’t any relationships where there is more giving than taking, but that I should recognize when people are phoning it in and don’t care. Because people are worth investing in, and I’m worth people actually investing and caring.

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The Mom Shame.

Parenting is hard. Like the good kind of hard, where it takes a lot of work but the return on the investment is just immeasurably worth it.

I mean, this is five minutes of my life:

coo smiles

My heart overflows for that toothless smile.

There’s so much talk about parent shaming, and when I was pregnant, there were things I was prepared for. Breastfeeding versus formula. Cloth versus disposable diapers. Vaccinations. Home school versus public school. We knew where we stood on those popular debates and I was confident in our decisions. Frankly, I’m pretty confident in most of the decisions I make- I don’t get too worked up on how people view our marriage, my career, my health. I know what works for us and while I’m willing to take in the perspectives of others, I’m not constantly questioning my choices once I’ve made them.

Parenting is a whole different ball game. The one person whose feedback I really want can only give it to me in coos and cries. But the WHOLE world gives you feedback that’s based on their thoughts and experiences.

I prepared for breastfeeding women to judge me if I had to feed with formula. I haven’t felt that once. What I HAVE felt is men, who couldn’t possibly understand breastfeeding, ask me why I wouldn’t want to give my kid the real thing. I’ve felt women with no kids watch me pull out a bottle and look disapprovingly. I don’t think it’s fair to have to explain how hard I tried for two months with extreme dedication and failure to someone who doesn’t even have boobs. Or babies. Or to anyone for that matter.

I prepared for strangers to scowl at me when my child has a meltdown in the middle of Target and interrupts their knick-knack shopping. I haven’t felt that once. What I HAVE felt is like my whole being is called in to question by people whose opinion matters to me, people who have been in my exact position at some point in their lives and must have forgotten what being a new parent is like, just because I was shorter on diapers or bottles or toys than I anticipated needing while out of the house.

I prepared for parents in a similar season of life to analyze all my actions compared to theirs, but for the most part, those parents have the most empathy and grace, even if we don’t agree. But I’ve sat in multiple rooms with groups of people with zero kids who have compared me to how their sister/cousin/friend raises their babies. Usually the conversation goes, “my sister/cousin/friend does this with her baby and I think it’s wrong, but YOU do it the right way.” I can’t help but wonder if when I’m not in the room, the opinion is reversed, an attempt to make the person being addressed feel superior. But I feel crappy when someone compares me to another mom, especially when they don’t know what parenting is like. That mom is doing her hardest and loving her kids with everything she’s got. I’m not better than her just because my baby sleeps through the night or holds his head up better.

The Mom Shame. I expected it from moms. But man. Last night during church, Cooper started crying and I headed, as is usual these days, into the nursing moms room to keep from disturbing the message. And there I saw the usual suspects who usually have to head into the same room for the same reason during church. Typically they stream the service into that room on a tv; last night it wasn’t working. So we sat there, all us new moms, and talked about our struggles, our plans, our babies. And it was wonderful. I felt united, like it was fight club or something (and I’m talking about it so I’m ruining it!). I walked out of there feeling that old confidence again for the first time in a long time. I’m so thankful for the relationships growing with those women and for that little room full of crying, feeding, playing, pooping babies.

I used to be that non-parent that watched all the new parents and made snap judgments about what they were doing. It didn’t feel like judging; I considered it an unbiased, objective critique. I wasn’t saying those parents were BAD at what they were doing, just pointing out the comparisons, room for improvement. I’d watch the disciplinary language a parent would use to their kid and do the same thing to their kid, because I thought I was helping.

But the parents never asked for any of that, especially not from me who didn’t know what I was actually talking about. Sometimes hypothesizing how something will work doesn’t work and if you aren’t involved in the experiment, you can’t actually declare what is best. There are certain things we decided before we were parents that once we became parents and got some actual insight, totally changed.

We were dead set on breastfeeding and it didn’t work out. Our new decision: the best way to feed a baby is by feeding it.

We decided Cooper would spend two weeks in our room and then move to his crib and co-sleeping was a DEFINITE no. Our new decision: my sanity is more important to Cooper than whether he sleeps in a crib or pack n’ play and I sleep- we all sleep- much better for now with him still in our room so I’m not constantly worrying if he’s breathing or getting his swaddle over his head. And napping with a baby on your chest is one of the most stress-relieving, glorious things I’ve ever experienced.

We probably rock our baby too much for some people and we never let him cry it out. He favors Mom and Mom favors him so he doesn’t get passed off to other people that much. I’m selfish with snuggles. Maybe we will change those things later. We’ll see what works for him.

The best thing for new parents is not the judgment or the comparisons to other people, it’s being a support. Get them a glass of water or a meal, help throw away dirty diapers or grab a napkin for spit up. We don’t need critiques because we’re already questioning ourselves better than anyone else could. Cooper is happy and growing like a weed and that’s what is most important. When I see other parents now, there’s so much more empathy and grace than when I didn’t know firsthand how it all worked.

So let’s start a No Mom Shame environment. Let’s help and problem solve instead of shaming. Because, as a new parent, you are doing the best damn job you can and this job is hard. Your kid is happy and growing like a weed. You’re nailing this parenting thing.

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State of the Parent Address

Having to wait for our prayers to be answered as parents gave Brian and me a lot of time to watch other parents, watch children, read and research about parenting and develop exactly what we wanted to do and be when God blessed us with our own family. We worked on our own hearts and our own relationships with God, our relationship with each other and did all those pre-baby bucket list items like traveling the world, going on dates and pursuing hobbies that would be more difficult with a baby.

Fast forward five years to September, when we learned David Cooper Griffith was in the world. Suddenly things like Christmas and family and discipline were pushed from theories of non-parents speculating how they’d do something to real practices that would impact this little life. EVERYONE has an opinion on how parenting should go and every opinion is different. And in case you’re wondering, no one keeps those opinions silent. They all have an idea of how we should raise our kid.

We want to stick to the principles we’ve talked and prayed about. There are definitely some areas of parenting that require bending and fluidity; I’m not planting my flag on every little detail. But there are some things we want to stick to and we want to be held accountable for in our community of family and friends helping us raise our children. Chances are good when there are hard moments, I’m going to need some reminding of what is most important. So consider this our state of the union address for parenting. These are the things we want to stand firm on as parents, no matter what.

God First.

The number one thing we want to teach our children is about God’s character and His impact in our life. He is the reason we are spouses and parents, but most importantly He is our hope and salvation. God is the boss. We will follow the rules of the bible and discipline accordingly. In today’s world, that looks pretty radical- words like “obedience” are more closely associated with dog training than parenting. But the joy of obedience is being and feeling protected by unconditional love. God disciplines those He loves and it is because He loves us SO much that He asks so much of us- He asks for our all. He would do anything for us and has made the ultimate sacrifice for us. We want to teach our children how wonderful God is both through our words and through trying to emulate His example.

Dad Second.

If God is the head of our house, Dad is His second in command. Mom is an authority of the kids, but I’m Dad’s helper; I ultimately defer to his judgment. If Brian is being obedient to God and I’m submitting biblically as wife and mother of his kids, then the whole house is happy. It’s how God built the family to exist. When the structure is out of order, the family suffers and usually the kids jump on the opportunity for mutiny.

My Love is Unconditional and Unearnable.

I never. EVER. want my children to question my love for them. I promise to communicate through ALL the love languages, not just the ones I am most fluent in, so nothing gets lost in communication. This doesn’t mean helicopter parenting or coddling, but it does mean setting down my phone, my work or my priorities to spend time with them. Sometimes it means letting them crawl into bed with us when they’re scared, even though some studies say not to. It means spanking followed by discussion and prayer instead of timeouts, because God never disciplines us by removing us from relationship with him. Our decisions will be rooted in making our children feel safe and protected, not based on what they do. Feeling the need to behave a certain way or do a certain thing to make your parent love you is a terrible way for a child to live and a terrible way to treat the tiny people God called us to protect and care for in the example He set for us. I want my children to know there’s no amount of failure that will make them lose my love and there’s nothing they can do to earn my love.

Women are Valuable.

While Cooper is currently an only child, our hope is to have more children. I want Cooper to respect and cherish his sisters, protect them like treasures. I want him to treat the girls around him with respect as if they were his sisters. As he gets older and interested in romance, I want him to look for a woman who shines because her self confidence is engrained in her worth to Jesus. My hope is for him to find a woman who isn’t afraid to challenge him to be a better man or have her own voice and her own dreams. I don’t want Cooper to look at women like sexual objects to be devoured and discarded. I believe this starts way earlier than when he’s a teenager. You’re not going to see Cooper wearing shirts that say “hunk” or “chick magnet” or anything like that. My daughters will never wear anything that says anything on their butt. Is Cooper going to remember wearing a onesie that says, “babes love me” when he’s six months old? No. But there is a culture where girls are raised to think Barbie is how they should look, fairy tales are a reality and if a boy hits you, it’s because he likes you. And then we wonder why women have body issues, unrealistic expectations of how romance works or stay in abusive relationships. If Cooper (and future children) can be removed from that in a small way now by just choosing to wear different clothes, it will help propel good choices of bigger decisions in the future.

Santa isn’t Real.

This is probably the most controversial (maybe?) of all the things we plant our flag on, believe it or not. In short, we’re not going to tell our kids about a man they can’t see who wants them to obey their parents and be kind to everyone they meet and gives them good things they need and want, only to find out later he’s not real. Because then when we go to tell them about Jesus, why would they believe He’s real? Our kids should not obey us because Santa is watching and bringing presents. Then they believe things are important and they will get those things if they do right for a specific period of time. We want them to obey because God says so, because it’s for their good.

You are Entitled to Food, Clothing, Shelter and Medical Attention. Everything Else is a Privilege.

This is a famous sign on Alcatraz and I like everything it stands for. Certainly it doesn’t mean life will be like prison, but the point is to value the good things given to you in this world. We live in a world where each generation seems more entitled than the last. I want my children to value working hard for what they get in their education, careers and families. I want them to value their toys and gifts, but not demand more as if it is owed to them.

These are things we have thought and prayed over for years and have not come to lightly. Our hope is that the people in our children’s lives will respect and honor these decisions, even if they don’t agree. This parenting thing is challenging, but amazing and we can’t wait to see how our family grows with these ideas in place.

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