Helping our Daughters Navigate Through a Sexually Aggressive Culture

Today please welcome Sarah Ball, aka The Virtuous Woman Exposed, as she shares about how to help protect and teach our daughters in a sexually aggressive culture.

Sexually Aggressive CultureMy husband was shocked to hear from me that from the age of 13 -19, I had never had a job where I wasn’t sexually harassed by a male boss or coworker.

It was to be expected as a young teenaged waitress, for my boss to ‘brush’ past me, pushing his crotch against me, as I stood collecting food from the back. It was the running joke for him to make a comment about how perky my breasts were, and if he could check out for himself if they were real. It was even more common for old male customers to invite me back to their place, or for a drunken man to try and put a tip down my shirt. I wasn’t a waitress at a strip club if that’s what you’re thinking; I was working at a small town golf course, midday, every Sunday afternoon, and I thought it was normal, so I giggled.

It was not uncommon in high school either, for me to receive sexually implied comments from male teachers, or for another male student to pinch, grab or whistle as I walked down the hall to class.

As a college student, my friends and I had to be extra cautious at parties, making vows to not let any of us go off alone with anyone we didn’t know. This caution was before the date rape drug was mainstream. It still didn’t prevent some young college girls from being raped, or if they drank too much, sexually assaulted while they were passed out, which in my opinion is rape. This was not shocking news to us. It didn’t set off alarms and cause us to storm the campus, because it was normal to us. It was an expected part of college culture in Canada.

I was sexually abused at the age of 12 by a friend of the family, and at the age of 19 I ran out of a room seconds away from being date raped.

I have never not known sexual exploitation, and it’s not my fault.

We think we are so progressive as a culture, and we think we are getting this female exploitation theme beaten, but we are not.  We live in a culture that is so twisted in their thinking. Posts go viral on social media of women of all colors; shapes and sizes posing in their underwear, in the attempts to say all women are sexy and of value. Then, the next viral video is a post blaring outrage that women aren’t being taken seriously by the universities they were raped in. We are a culture of mixed messages, trying desperate to find a solution to our sexually aggressive culture, and failing miserably.

Even Christian culture is making it worse.

We are told to shelter our kids from the world and shove purity messages at them.  So we avoid talking about sex with our daughters, instead we just shelter them from movies and stories that reveal any sexual theme, and we call it a great day in the parenting world.

These approaches will not protect your daughter from a culture that paints its walls with sexuality–walls your daughter is eventually going to live under without you.

What we need is a reality check and a never-ending conversation with our daughter about it.

Ask my teen-aged daughter, who works at a fast food restaurant. She has been raised to stay a virgin until she is married and to avoid watching shows that are above a PG rating. My husband annoys the heck out of her, as he frequently bursts out into song “be careful little eyes what you see.”

I send her back to her room to change several mornings a week, and Modesty is Hotesty is a song on our family playlist (yes, that is actually a song!) Yet, my daughter, at age 15, shows up to work in the most unattractive; button-upped, mustard yellow, starched, stained, short sleeved, burger attire, and she still receives countless offers for sex by creepy customers and comments on her looks. She’s not flirting and she is not dressed immodestly. She is merely being a young woman, with a beautiful smile in a sexually aggressive culture.

So what do I mean by a sexually aggressive culture?  These recent Canadian statistics should share some light. According to The Justice Institute of British Columbia, these statistics will have us hiding our daughters under a rock.

One out of every 17 Canadian women is raped at some point in her life

A woman is sexually assaulted by forced intercourse every 17 minutes in Canada

Girls and young women between the ages of 15-24 are the most likely victims

80% of assaults happen in the victim’s home

70% of rapes are committed by a perpetrator who knows the victims (relative, friend, neighbor, colleague, or other acquaintance)

Approximately one half of all rapes occur on dates

62% of victims are physically injured in the attack; 9% are beaten severely or disfigured

Statistics Canada has found that one in four girls and one in eight boys have been sexually abused by the time they are eighteen.

 Source : www.assultcare.ca

Pause for a sobering moment.

I am not writing this to be a dooms-day prophet, but I am writing this to say, it’s not enough to talk to our daughters about virginity and shelter them from the media. One day our daughters will be university students, professionals, and young mothers, and we need to prepare them for a sexually aggressive culture without shaming sex, scaring them, and making them prudes.

This is one tough topic parents, and we need God’s wisdom to navigate them through it and I am so thankful that we have voices like Sheila’s who are initiating this conversation.

So where do we begin? How do we teach our daughters to love sex, to embrace their sexiness for their husbands, feel no shame, guard their hearts, and protect themselves from assault or harassment?

Let your daughters have an attitude!

I want my daughter to walk around confident, knowing she is carrying a treasure inside of her, proud of who she is and sassy. I want her to spit in the face of a man who tries to exploit her, not giggle shyly in embarrassment like I did.  I want her to be street-wise, knowing she has to be smart, and cautious, because she has a treasure hidden. There are a lot of pirates out there who will sail any sea to get it.

I want her to think boys are cute, and smile and giggle at the one she REALLY thinks is cute, and I want her to experience love. I want her to be able to pick out a good man from a line up of rats. I want her to marry that good man, and be a sexual goddess for him.

I don’t want my daughter to be a man-hater, be mistrusting or paranoid. I want her to respect men in authority, but respect herself more. I recently asked my daughter what she thought of the biblical teaching that husband’s should have authority over their wives. She responded – “I think God meant that he wants husbands to protect their wives, and you can’t have someone protect you if they don’t have authority over you.”  I love her point of view!

This is a big, tall order I am asking God for–and this is not a “sit down” and have ‘the talk’ kind of teaching. This is a lifetime of discussion and relationship we have to continually have with our daughters and our sons!

This is you, Mom, having the courage to reach into the skeletons of your past and share them, at an appropriate age, with your daughter. This is about dads, stepping up to be the 1st example of a GOOD MAN, and setting her bar high. This is about us as parents, allowing our daughters to feel safe enough to talk to us about anything. You don’t overreact, and scramble to find the chastity belt, you talk to her, you love her and you walk with her.

If it’s too late, and your daughter has already fit into the statistics, I want to tell you that I am so sorry. I also want to tell you there is hope.

I stood, face to face with my sexual abuser, under oath, 15 years after I was victimized. My eyes were blurry with tears, my hands shaking in fear. I was in immense pain, but I had a loving husband, waiting in the gallery to console me, treasure me and pour purity back into my heart with his love and respect for me.

 I also have a God who puts his arm around me, drawing a line in the sand with his hand against a culture that wants to stone me.  Hagar, Sarah’s bondwoman, – which you can read more on here – was sexually exploited, the woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears who was labeled a slut, and even King David’s daughter was raped by her own brother. This is not a new issue.

God always defended these precious women, pursued them and pursued justice. Jesus came to pour hope, value and purity back into a shamed culture, and we must look to him for healing.

So tonight, before your daughter goes to bed, give her a big hug, tell her how precious she is, show her how to drop kick a pirate and pray for her, a lot.

 

Sarah BallSarah Ball is the blogger behind Virtuous Woman Exposed, a columnist, freelance writer and mother of 5 children ages 4-15 and she’s exhausted just writing that. Her passion is to see women set free from shame, fear and bondage. She wants you to know that you can hold your head up high knowing they you are a precious daughter of God.  You can visit her blog at http://www.virtuouswomanexposed.com and you can follow her on FACEBOOK & TWITTER

 

 

Something a Screen Can’t Do: Hug Your Child

Today guest author Arlene Pellicane, author of the new book Growing Up Social, shares what this generation is beginning to lose–physical touch. Let’s wake up to our children, the gifts that they are, and be present with them. Hug your child today!

Hug your childSamantha is a fifth-grader whose family recently moved to a new community.  “It’s been hard this year, moving and having to make new friends,” said Samantha.  When she was asked if she ever felt as if her parents didn’t love her because they took her away from her old town, she said, “Oh no, I know they love me, because they always give me lots of extra hugs and kisses.

Like many children, Samantha’s love language is physical touch*; those touches make her feel secure and let her know that mom and dad love her.  The language of touch isn’t confined to a hug or a kiss but includes any kind of physical contact.  Even when you are busy, you can often gently touch your child on her back, arm, or shoulder.  Although this love language is very easy to express, studies indicate that many parents touch their children only when it is necessary:  when they are dressing or undressing them, putting them in the car, or carrying them to bed.  It seems that many parents are unaware of how much their children need to be touched and how easily they can use this means to keep their children’s emotional tanks filled with love.

A man named Bob has two children in elementary school and one in preschool.  When the two older kids were younger, Bob would often put them in his lap and read them a bedtime story.  Reading together builds a sense of oneness, a sense of love for kids.  But life got busier and nowadays, the older kids read on their own and his youngest daughter Lisa, four, is used to reading children’s books on an e-reader.  Bob rarely puts Lisa on his lap to read Goodnight Moon.  She sits by herself on the couch reading with her device.

An electronic reader may save space, trees, and be convenient, but using one with kids short circuits something important – physical touch between a parent and child.

Sure a parent can put a child on his lap and read an e-reader or play a video game together on a tablet.  But typically, when a child is engaged with a screen, he or she is not touching a parent.  He’s not being held in a lap.  He’s not sitting close enough to touch mom or dad’s leg.  When family members get used to engaging with screens, they lose the physical touch dynamic which should be a normal dynamic in a healthy family.

If your child’s primary love language is touch, you will know it.  They will be jumping on you, poking you, and constantly trying to sit beside you.  I believe my youngest daughter Lucy, age 4, has physical touch as her primary love language because she always wants to sit next me and one of her favorite words is “Huggie!”  She tells me every day to scratch her back, and the first thing she does in the morning is come in my room for her hug.

When you put your arm around your child, wrestle, or give him a high-five, you’re communicating your love and interest in being together.

Physical touch communicates love in a powerful way to all children, not just young children.  Throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school, your child still has a strong need for physical touch.  A hug given as he leaves each morning may be the difference between emotional security and insecurity throughout the day.  A hug when he returns home may determine whether he has a good evening or makes a rambunctious effort to get your attention.  Older boys tend to be responsive to more vigorous contact such as wrestling, playful hitting, bear hugs, high fives, and the like.  Girls like this type of physical touch also, but they like the softer touches of hugs and holding hands.

Screens can’t do any of these things, no matter how advanced they are.

Children need loving physical affection from a parent in order to thrive.  So the next time you and your child are in a room together, put your device down and hug your child.  No app can do that; only you can.

*Read Gary Chapman’s bestselling book The Five Love Languages to find out more about the love languages.

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven WorldAdapted from Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Arlene Pellicane and Gary Chapman. If you’ve ever felt like screens are taking over your family, or as if your children are losing the ability to have real-life relationships, you need to read Growing Up Social today! Reclaim your family. Don’t sacrifice it to a screen!

Arlene Pellicane 600x600jpgArlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife.  She has been featured on the Today Show, Family Life Today, K-LOVE, and The Better Show.  She lives in San Diego with her husband James and three children.  Visit Arlene at www.ArlenePellicane.com for free family resources including a monthly Happy Home podcast.

 

 

My Blind Spot of Shame: Admitting Your Mistakes

Admitting Your Mistakes: why sometimes it's hard--because we don't even notice them!

Do you have a difficult time admitting your mistakes? I do–and it’s not always a pride issue. Sometimes it’s because I have a definite blind spot.

On Fridays I like to run my columns–or my short pieces that sum up what I think about family, love, and society. Here’s a piece I wrote back in 2008 about the difficulties I have remembering appointments. Considering the school year is upon us, I thought many of you organization-minded mamas could relate!

Next time I go to the orthodontist’s office I will have to wear a paper bag over my head. I just forgot yet another of my daughter’s appointments.

It was easy to rationalize away the first one we missed. Keith had the girls that day, and we just didn’t share information in an appropriate way. In other words, I forgot to tell him. The second time, though, was entirely my fault, and I didn’t have a fallback excuse.

Feeling very badly, I promptly instituted a new fixture in our house: the calendar on the fridge. All our appointments were dutifully recorded, so that none could escape our notice.

However, the fridge door is not the most ideal place for a calendar that uses wipe off markers. People constantly rub against it as they stare, mouth gaping, into that appliance, in the process obliterating our appointments forever.

The third one I forgot, though, is still easily forgiven, because my mother’s best friend had died and we were rushing out of town for the funeral. How can an orthodontist compete with a funeral? In my moments of honesty, though, I admit that I would have forgotten anyway. It’s become a habit.

The strange thing is that I don’t forget anything else.

My dentist, doctor, and optometrist have nothing to complain about. I’m at every committee meeting, every family meeting, every church meeting. But when it comes to my daughter’s orthodontist, I have a blind spot. I just can’t seem to keep appointments in my head.

After the fiasco with the funeral we told Rebecca it was now her job to remember, since I was obviously not up to the task. She said she would. And she did remember, right after I yelled, in a panic, “Becca, when’s the orthodontist appointment!?!?!”. She checked her little yellow card, which she had helpfully stowed deep in her closet, so that she could find it if she ever had the urge to look for her old winter snowsuits. “Yesterday,” she meekly replied.

My husband once operated a full-time pediatric office, and I remember how we used to feel about those parents who continually missed visits. They’re scatter-brained, irresponsible, and pathetic excuses for mothers and fathers. And now I’ve joined their ranks. I feel like a slug, especially when I stare into my empty wallet and realize how much my lapses of memory are costing us. But we all have blind spots, don’t we?

And often our blind spots are exactly the things that bother us in other people.

I get so annoyed when people fail to show up to meetings I’ve called, but here I am doing the same thing. Similarly, I’m forever thinking critically of parents who feed their offspring junk, but to be honest, if my girls ask, “can we have chocolate before breakfast?”, my response is usually, “Is your father gone yet?”. And if the answer is in the affirmative, we all partake together, if just a little, because it’s common knowledge that the chocolate you eat before your day really begins doesn’t count.

Perhaps you have blind spots. You get mad because your spouse keeps the house in chaos, but every time your anniversary rolls around the significance of the date bypasses that part of your brain which reminds you to buy a card. Or your mother’s overindulgence of your children drives you crazy, but you fail to see how taking them to McDonald’s because you can’t be bothered to cook is proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Nobody likes admitting your mistakes.

It’s far more preferable to blame the rest of humanity for being worse than we are. Unfortunately, my orthodontist bills are making it harder and harder for me to do that. I have considered obtaining affidavits from my dentist and my doctor attesting to my exemplary record of attendance. (I did forget the time of a dentist appointment once, but I still had the date right, and that has to count for something.) I don’t think, however, that this will heal the breach. Only groveling is going to do it. I wonder where we keep the paper bags.

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5 Tips for Choosing Attractive Summer Sleepwear for Moms

Choosing summer sleepwear when you're a mom--and don't want to just wear ratty t-shirtsHow many of you wear ratty t-shirts to bed at night? Maybe it’s time for some better summer sleepwear!

Last week a reader from Hawaii sent me this question, and I promised to answer it before summer slipped away:

I have a conundrum.

I’m a mom of a 13, 10, and we do foster care for ages 0-6 yo but on the other side I have been married for 15 years and realized that my poor husband has been seeing me in ratty shirts and holey shorts for the last 13 years and he deserves better.  My problem is that I have to get up and feed the babies that come to our house and don’t necessarily want to redress while the baby is crying and if my 10yo son gets up that he wouldn’t see too much of me.

The other glitch is that I do have a robe but we live in paradise and have no AC so when it’s 80+ in my house I’m not interested in covering up more.

Is there any hope for me?  am I over thinking this?

Yes, there’s hope for you, and HOPEFULLY I’ve got some answers for you today!

I actually really enjoy clothes, but I know many of my readers HATE shopping. So I’ve put together a pictorial guide of nightgowns I think are modest enough for your sons to catch a glimpse of you, but still fun for your husband!

Here are some main things to consider when you’re looking for summer sleepwear that will actually work for you! You want:

1. Summer Sleepwear Needs to be Comfortable

It can’t be tight or fit weirdly around the bust/waist. The reason we turn to ratty T-shirts is because they are comfortable. They’re not tight, they don’t hug us wrong, and they move when we roll over. But so do lots of other sleepwear possibilities!

2. Summer Sleepwear Needs to Be Cool

You don’t want long sleeves, or anything that’s stifling. You don’t want stuff that sticks to you.But you also want these things:

3. Good Sleepwear Should Have Shape

You are a woman. And it’s okay to be a woman. It’s okay for your children to see that you’re a woman. The problem with ratty T-shirts is that they have absolutely no shape. You could be a man under there. And if you’re heading for bed–where very distinct man/woman things tend to happen–you don’t want to look like you couldn’t care less about being a woman. First, because it’s not nice to your husband. You’re the only woman he’s allowed to look at–so let him look! But second because it sends a message to  you: I’m not a sexual being. I’m not really a woman. And that’s not a good message if you want to get in the mood later!

4. Good Sleepwear Shouldn’t Let Everything Hang Out

At the same time, you can’t be mortified if your teenage son were to see you. I have some sleepwear that my teens don’t see me in, that I really only use for special occasions (like anniversaries, etc.). It’s NOT sleepwear, actually. It’s what you wear BEFORE you go to sleep, and you often don’t wear it for very long. But there is fashion that falls in the middle. It isn’t shapeless, but it doesn’t show a ton of cleavage or reveal anything to your sons you wouldn’t be comfortable with them seeing.

Yes, modesty is important, but you are in your own home. And it’s also important that your children see that you are comfortable in your skin and take pride in your marriage. So let’s try to find some summer sleepwear options that satisfy all four conditions:

1. The T-Shirt Look

Some women just LOVE t-shirts at night, mostly because they’re cotton and they’re comfortable. But LOTS of things are cotton and comfortable. And even if you want to do the t-shirt look, you can do it in a way that is at least a little bit more attractive.

Jockey makes some sleep shirts that are like T-shirts, but they’re longer. And they pull in at the waist and have a V, so they show you have some shape.

Here’s the Regular Summer Sleepshirt and the Plus Sized Summer Sleepshirt:

Jockey Women's Plus-Size Sleep ShirtJockey Women's Sleep Shirt

These are JUST as comfortable as T-shirts, but they’re much more attractive. So you can’t tell me that the only thing that’s comfortable enough to wear is an old T-shirt. It’s just not true!

2. The Classic Cotton Nightgown with Some Detail

Then there’s your classic cotton nightgown, with a very lightweight material but still some detailing around the bust to make it look feminine, like this Eyelet Trim Pleated Summer Nightgown:

Handmade Eyelet Trim Pleated Sleeveless Nightgown

Definitely looks feminine, but still very long so that you don’t have to be embarrassed if your preteen boys see you.

Here’s another one with smock tatting–this one emphasizes the bust more, but I still think it’s fine for your boys to see you.

Handmade Smock Tatting Lace Lady Nightgown

3. The Satin Nightgown with Some Sheen

Here’s a short flutter-sleeved nightgown that isn’t cotton, but is still cool because it doesn’t stick to the body. It’s feminine (V-neck and detailing at the shoulders) and it’s attractive, but it doesn’t let things “hang out”.

Vanity Fair Womens Short Flutter Sleeve Gown

You could even wear this one through most of your pregnancy because there’s room for baby, and it’s an ideal shape for those who are rather big on top.

Here’s another option with lots of detailing around the chest, but still really loose in the sleeves and waist/hips:

Shadowline Women's Beloved 40

This is your typical “Aphrodite“:

Precious Curves Women's Aphrodite Waltz Length Nightgown

Here’s another option that Precious Curves names “Hera“. This one’s a little more risque–there’s an opening under the bust–but I still think it’s an attractive option.

Precious Curves Women's Hera Waltz Length Nightgown

5. Full Length Nightgowns

There’s something about a full-length nightgown that is just very luxurious–and even sexy!  They really aren’t hot when you’re sleeping in them.

Shadowline has a wonderful line of nightgowns that are comfy and not too expensive (most, again, under $40).

Here’s a modest nightgown with straps that’s really cool:

Shadowline (31275) Beloved Lacy Nylon Braided Strap Long Gown

And here’s one that’s more form-fitting, and much more romantic, but still not mortifying if your sons see:

Shadowline Women's Silhouette 53

Precious Curves nightgowns  (the ones I mentioned above) also come in full-length, but here’s another option for a full-length nightgown:

Precious Curves Women's Cascade Full Length Nightgown

Personally, the nightgown that I wear the most is a full-length satin one (it actually was my mother’s 40 years ago!), and it’s so vintage and pretty. I just feel nice in it. So I think every woman who can afford it at all should invest in a full-length nightgown.

For summer sleepwear, I think you can by with one full-length and one shorter, more casual one. There are also the two-piece choices, of course, but I thought I’d just focus on nightgowns here. My feeling is that it’s perfectly okay for teenage boys to see you in any of these, though some of you may not be so keen on the ones that do outline the bust more. That really is a personal choice.

You can be comfortable and cool while still being attractive.

And that’s important–it shows our husbands that we respect and appreciate them enough to put in an effort, and it sends a signal to our own bodies that “I am a woman, and I like feeling like a woman.” If you want to keep your sex life alive, you need to send that message!

If you like some of these nightgowns, but there’s no money for you to buy something for yourself right now, you can always add them to your Amazon wish list, or–here’s a tip I love–create a Pinterest board called “Gifts I’d Like” and add things to it. Then show your husband how to access the board. Add stuff throughout the year, and then for birthdays, anniversaries, or Christmas, your husband can go choose something from that board! It’s easier for him, and it’s fun for you.

So there are my choices for summer sleepwear for those of us who are also moms. What do you think? What do you wear to bed? Let me know in the comments!

UPDATE: I’m getting some requests in the comments for ideas for 2-piece summer sleepwear that isn’t a nightgown. Sounds like a great idea for a follow-up post (and it will be fun because I had fun putting this one together!) So look for it soon.

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The Battle of Insecurity as a Mom

Today’s guest post is from Sarah Ball, aka The Virtuous Woman Exposed, talking about insecurity as a mom. I dare you to get through this without laughing!

Insecurity as a Mom--one mom's funny story about Pap smears, surgery, and The Perfect Butt

I had 2 health care appointments recently – one for an overall health examination, the other for an overall women’s health examination. It doesn’t look good ladies. The diagnosis? I have saggy breasts and a saggy stomach full of stretch marks and there is no cure.

My first appointment was an overall health exam. I sat there obediently waiting for the doctor to come in, all dressed up in my wrap-around blue cotton gown. (What does one wear to accessorize?) The doctor examined me from head to toe. Asking mental health questions along the way. First my reflexes, then my throat, then my stomach, then my breasts.

“You don’t have any body image issues do you?” the doctor asked as he mechanically circulated my mamos. “Um no” I answered. “Should I?” I thought to myself. That was an odd question for a doctor to ask while doing a breast examination.

My 2nd appointment was a few days later for an even more thorough women’s health exam. The dreaded PAP. Thank goodness they changed the recommended checkup to once every 3 years. I chose to snub my family doctor based on his handsomeness and go to a women’s clinic at the hospital instead. A friendly female doctor came in, casual and confident.

“She does PAPS for a living, this should go quick and easy.” I thought to myself. I answered her standard questions, got dressed into my blue gown (I hate wearing the same thing twice in one week) and I positioned myself into THE most socially awkward position known to Woman.

Being near 40 and having had 5 children, I know they are going to ask me to scoot forward, more…(awkward) a little more… (awkwarder) and a little bit more (death by awkwardness). I am always hesitantly but obedient.

After the dreaded PAP test, the doctor examined my lower abdomen. “You know…” she said in a friendly tone “There’s nothing you can do about that, you could do 500 hundred crunches a day and you’ll never fix that.”

If I had an Adams Apple (which obviously I don’t or that appointment would have been even more awkward) I would have choked on it.

“A lot of women have opted for surgery, that is an option,” she said as she moved her examination upwards. She began her breast examination. “Nothing you can do for that either” she said as she checked for lumps. “There is surgery though, lots of women just go and get both done at the same time, they call it the Mommy Makeover.” Unprompted by me, she preceded to explain the surgical procedure and options.

I swallowed my imaginative Adams Apple and came out of my awkward trance just enough to say, “I’m actually not that bothered by it. I work out, I feel good, my husband is attracted to me, and I’m a pretty confident person.” She responded with a sympathetic smile as if she thought I was lying.

I am glad to say my smear was clear and I am lump free, however, I came away from that experience a little confused about my self-image.

My thoughts took over…

“Should I have surgery?” I asked myself “Do I want to give up my baby scars for a giant smiley scar, only so I look good in a bikini and lingerie?”

“Do I want to have higher breasts, when I have nursed 5 babies and I am super proud of that?”

“Should I be insecure?”

“Does my husband secretly wish I would get surgery?”

I know that insecurity is a battle all women will face from the time they are a developing little girl to an aged woman.

I have a teen and a 7 year old and I can see it in them. But how do we surrender to this fight when society is in our face about it? We can’t escape it; it’s everywhere. Just when we seem to have crawled back to confidence (either post baby, or hitting a new age, or succeeding at weight loss) we receive another blow.

I remember getting hit hard with insecurity right after the birth of my 5th child. I had gone to a hotel swimming pool with my husband and my 5 children, one being my 2-month-old newborn. Bathing suits and new baby bodies are the biggest clash of a mom, but I had ‘been-there-done-that’ and I had gotten over it. So I thought.

We walked into the pool area; the older kids dove in with dad as I yelled, “don’t run!” I looked around, proud of my cute baby, and then I saw Her and I froze.

There she was, in the flesh, ‘victoria-not-so–secret,’ in person, leaning over the poolside table. She was standing and leaning over a laptop with her perfect butt propped in the air, leaning in her string, no nothing bikini.

Frozen, I grabbed my baby boy and held him close to my body like I was nude and he was my towel. I ran to the hot tub and quickly submerged my 5-times over imploded baby body and sunk. I sunk literally and figuratively.

She leaned for ten minutes with her butt purposefully and seductively in the air and I molted. My husband was off swimming with the other kids and I kept wondering, if he had seen her. “Of course he has! EVERYONE has!” I thought to myself. Later my husband reassured me that without his glasses (which he had taken off for swimming) he was blinded and oblivious. (Good answer)

But in that moment, I imagined myself thrust onto a bare stage in my full piece full figured bathing suit standing next to her and her butt. The world and my husband were the judge. I felt humiliated

“And the award for best breeder goes too….drum roll……Sarah Ball”

“And the award for sexiest body and playboy bent over a lap top leaning position goes to…It’s unanimous! The Butt!” The crowd goes wild.

This attack had come out of nowhere. I was instantly thrust into an inner battle and I was forced to come to terms with my stretched baby badges and cellulite and face this demon head on.

This was probably the most insecure moment of my life.

“Should I hate her?” I questioned,

“Should I blame her for dressing and standing so provocatively?”

“Is she purposefully trying to mark her territory, including my husband?”

I closed my eyes, I tried to imagine her giving birth to triplets, and it didn’t help. I told myself she would be fat and old someday too. Nope, she still won. I was losing this battle and losing it fast.

I went home in tears. I cried for days, with my reassuring husband who would look me straight into my puffy face and tell me he would love me and always find me attractive no matter what. (How that translated into “So you DO think I’m fat!?” I will never know) I didn’t believe him. I was a wreck.

Soon, The Lord led me to a very hard question… Was I enough? That was a 2-part question. Was God enough AND Was I enough for God?

I faced this question with truth. Not with some superficial denial that my stretch marks are a gift from God to remind me of the most amazing experience life has to offer. REALLY?! The experience of puking bile for 3 months because there`s nothing left in your stomach, excessive heart burn, bulging varicose veins all leading to the climactic moment of torturous pain?! No thank you!

The truth was – I am grossly imperfect in the world’s eyes. I am technically “disfigured” as far as the definition of a perfect body goes. I am an overweight, stretched out, saggy mom, but I am beautiful, I am adored and I am enough.

I had to come to the realization that my self worth does not and cannot come from myself, the world, or even my adoring husband. My self worth comes from God.

I choose not to have surgery because the battle is within, not external and no scalpel is going to win it for me. I am determined to meditate on becoming the most beautiful woman in God’s eyes.

 Song of Solomon 4:7 You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.

I WILL continue to eat right, exercise, look up 5 Ways to Make my Skin Glow, and drink plenty of water to make me look younger. I WILL still plan on wearing push up bras, pull in SPANX, and under eye concealer and I WILL always hate wearing a bathing suit in public.

However, I WILL keep meditating on God’s adoration for me, I WILL keep trying to respect my body’s changes, I WILL find victory in each insecure battle I face with the truth of God, and I WILL still go for regular awkward PAP tests.

Psalm 34:5 Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

sarah ballSarah Ball is a freelance writer, blogger and a mother of 5 children ages 3-15. She lives with her husband in a small town (by choice) in Alberta, Canada. You can follow her blog at Virtuous Woman Exposed.

Sarah says, “Head on over to my Virtuous Woman Exposed Facebook Page so we can be friends! You can also find me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Genetic Curse?

Genetic CurseIs the genetic curse real–are we destined to copy our parents?

In my quest to take a bit more vacation this summer, I’m rerunning some older columns. This one, which addresses this whole “genetic curse” issue, first appeared January 14, 2005.

When I was a kid my mother was always telling me to stand up straight. I really wish I had listened to her. A few weeks ago I threw my back out yet again, and the chiropractor and the massage therapist (no, that’s not as fun as it sounds) both came to the general conclusion—surprise, surprise—that I need to stand up straight.

My father and my grandfather were both very stooped. I get my body shape from them, and so I’m genetically predispositioned to slouch. Plus I’m at the computer way too much, which does very little for one’s posture.

I have two approaches to this problem. I could shrug, say, “what are you going to do?”, and go back to slouching, condemning myself to decades of intermittent pain. Or I can bite the bullet and cause pain now as I try to relearn how to stand up. I’ve chosen to go back to the toddler mode and boy, is it difficult. But at least I can walk again.

Our parents bequeath us many things, like hugs, smiles, love, and Christmas decorations we made when we were 7. But they also pass on a number of bad things.

Maybe it’s a tendency to gain weight just by looking at chocolate truffles. Maybe it’s a predisposition to alcoholism, health problems, or receding hairlines. Or perhaps it’s a personality issue: you’re too shy, too angry, too impulsive, too scared.

Unfortunately, at the same time as I have noticed the traits that my parents passed on to me, I have also noticed those that I have bequeathed to my own offspring. I am blessed with one daughter whom I love to pieces who is also the spitting image of me (minus the slouching), both physically and emotionally. All of the things that bug me about me I see in her, too. And I don’t want her plagued with my problems!

The funny thing about our personalities, though, is that our strengths are also often our greatest weaknesses.

For instance, my daughter Katie has a real ability to make people laugh. She’s a ham, and sometimes when you’re in the middle of disciplining her she comes out with something that is so funny you have to leave the room so she doesn’t see that she’s broken through your stern composure. At the same time, Katie is also the one who is hard to take anything seriously, or to work hard. While Rebecca is our little perfectionist, Katie would rather put on a ridiculous looking skirt, stand on a table, and twirl. I want Katie to learn how to be appropriate in different circumstances, but I don’t want her to lose her playfulness. In fact, I want to encourage her, because she has the gift of making those around her smile. But it needs to be steered in the right direction.

In the same way, my older daughter is a perfectionist, and takes life too seriously. Speaking as one who can identify, this is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because you tend to be a high achiever. It’s a curse because you make yourself miserable in the process. Learning to give yourself a break, to allow mistakes, to see areas where you’ve stumbled not as huge personal failures but as simply being human is vital to growing up without giving oneself an ulcer.

As parents, we’re the ones who can best see where our kids may be heading in the wrong direction, especially if those weaknesses are also in us.

But when we do see those weaknesses, we often over-reach in our criticism because we’re so sensitive about them. We don’t help our kids grow; we just make them feel ashamed. Let’s resist the temptation to lash out and criticize. Remember that every fault that we see probably has a flipside that’s positive. The best way to break this “genetic curse”, for lack of a better term, may not be to purge it altogether, but to steer your child see towards the positive aspect of this characteristic. Then you can help them minimize the negative. And now you’ll have to excuse me. I’ve been sitting at the computer too long and I have to do my stretching again.

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A Marriage Centered Family

Today guest author Amy Roberts of Raising Arrows shares great advice regarding prioritizing our marriage relationship, as the center of the home. Marriage before kids is the best way!

Marriage Before kids

As soon as I got married, I wanted kids. As soon as I had our first child, a year and a half later, I realized just how hard it was to be a parent. Then I started homeschooling. Then I had 7 more children! Next thing I knew I was neck-deep in obligations that were all 4½ feet and under!

It would have been easy…in fact, natural…to just disappear into motherhood.

Between morning sickness, diapers, schooling, and middle of the night feedings, my life seemed to revolve around these little people. Sure, my husband needed me, but he was an adult and not dependent on me the way they were. He could wait.

Or could he?

Let me ask you a question:

Do you have it in your head that once these intense mothering years are over, THEN you’ll have time for your spouse?

It’s not that you are speaking those word out loud, or even saying them in your head, but if you are always focused on the children and their needs, your actions are saying precisely that.

They are saying I’m too busy being a mom to be a wife. They are saying our marriage can wait. They are saying I don’t care about our relationship right now. They might even be saying, “You got me into this mess.”

We work hard at parenting. We agonize over decisions and behaviors. We research the “right way” to do everything from diapering to dating. But anytime there are issues in our marriage, we are quick to blame and slow to work at restoring our relationship. Our priorities are quite clear.

And quite off.

Our children need to see us working hard at being married.

They need to know what healthy adult relationships look like. They need a united authority and a stable homelife. The only way we can offer all of this is if we work to build a strong marriage where we remember what being a wife is like amongst the daily demands of being a mom.

Sometimes we need to put our husband’s needs above our children’s.

Sometimes we need to tell the children it is Mom and Dad time, and they need to wait.

Sometimes we need to implement schedules and routines that make the day less child-centered. (think bedtime routine here)

Sometimes we just need to take a moment to look into our husband’s eyes and remember how these children got here in the first place.

Don’t just let your marriage quietly crumble behind the scenes. You CAN be a good wife and a good mom. Working to build a strong marriage IS good parenting!

Amy RobertsAmy Roberts of RaisingArrows.net has been married 17 years to her high school sweetheart, Ty, and is blessed to be the homeschooling mother of 7 living children and one precious little girl named Emily being held in the Lord’s arms. As a conference speaker and author of several homeschooling and homemaking ebooks, including her newest release, Large Family Homeschooling, it is her deepest desire to encourage moms in the trenches to stay focused on what truly matters and live a life of abundant blessings in Christ. RaisingArrows.net A gentle voice. A firm resolve. An abundant homeschool life!

 

 

10 Ways to Stay Close as a Family

For Today’s Top Ten Tuesday, Dayna Bickham shares some great tips to stay close as a family.  It’s never too late or too far gone to build relationships–or rebuild them even! Here’s Dayna…

10 ways to stay close as a family
My family was not always close. It was an “us versus them” universe: a cosmic battle between parents and kids. I was a young mom who made lots of mistakes along the way. I thought that meant I would be stuck raising the products of that bad parenting for years to come. But there was hope.

Slowly we made changes that grew us closer as a family, gave my kids room to develop into productive teens, and relieved a mountain of stress from off of our shoulders as parents. Here are ten suggestions to make your family closer. They are all inexpensive and (fairly) easy to do.

1. Take an honest survey.

Ask your kid how you are doing. Make sure you ask both open ended and yes or no questions. Be prepared for whatever they may say in response. For example, I ask my kids things like this: “How do you know Mom/Dad loves you?” or “Can you name a time when I gave you good advice?” or “Am I a good listener?” followed by, “How can I be a better listener?” These are just suggestions, but kids will generally tell you what they need if you know how to first ask and then listen. Don’t bombard them with twenty questions all at once. Make these casual moments. Just listen closely for the answer.

2. Stop parenting from the couch.

I used to sit on the couch giving instructions to my kids from there as if it was a throne and my house was a fiefdom. I established my territory and soon my kids just stayed away altogether. They found their own sanctuaries – their rooms, a friend’s house, or in front of a computer. There was disconnectedness between us. When they weren’t showing up when I bellowed from the couch I started parenting via text. “Cln ur Rm” equaled clean your room and “DYH” meant do your homework. I realize that there are times when communication must come in other forms than face to face, but limit these as much as you can. Once I began entering their space and taking the time to “find” them in the other room our relationship began to grow closer. They also stopped yelling from the other room for me (wonder where they got that?) and that was a pleasant consequence I could live with.

3. Date your kids.

Each child has special interests, hobbies, and quirks. Spend time with each one doing something meaningful to them. Is one kid a science geek? Then go to the Natural History Museum. Is one an artist? Take her to a gallery opening. Does one live, eat, and breathe hockey? Go to a sports shop and check out the latest gear or go watch a local team practice. Not every “date” has to be super expensive or extravagant. Sometimes a trip to the local drive in and an ice cream cone are enough. Taking the time to spend time with them speaks volumes.

4. Eat as a family.

I know everyone has busy schedules. Practices, study dates, work, and other busy events pull at our time. But if we do not give priority to the things that matter then we end up with a life void of matter – otherwise known as emptiness. One meal a week. If the average family eats 3 times a day for seven days that is 21 meal times. Surely at least one of those times can be a coordinated effort to sit around a table together eating at the same time. During Tuesday dinner, Saturday breakfast, or Sunday lunch find time to talk to each other about your day, your plans, projects, or current events. Make it less about the food and more about the togetherness of it all.

5. Have a pizza night.

This is different than eating as a family at a table because first, it can happen less often (once or twice a month makes it routine, but special enough to take time out for) and secondly you don’t have to cook. Win – win. Rent a movie, order the pizza, and just spend some time relaxing together as a family.

6. Create an activities bowl.

This is super easy to do and gives your family ideas for inexpensive (often free) activities. I’ve got a downloadable list of 30 activities to get you started right here! If you’d rather do it yourself, just write activity ideas that are budget friendly down on strips of paper, fold them over and toss them in a bowl. If you are a more scheduled and structured type of household you can pre-assign one activity a week together at the beginning of each month, or if you are more spontaneous you can draw one out every Saturday morning and do whatever it says to do. Some ideas are seasonal, so you can throw those to the side when they are out of season – you can’t go snow sledding in July. (Maybe you Canadians can, but here in Texas, snow is never really an option.)

7. Check in face-to-face once a day.

Face time may be a new feature on your latest gadget, but it isn’t anything new. We all need to know we are seen and feel like we are being heard. Seeing each other face-to-face is one way we do that. If we are constantly ships passing in the proverbial night, then soon our lives become independent from one another and we drift farther apart. This is all about growing closer. So take the time to see your loved one’s face every day.

8. Figure out your kid’s love language.

Love languages are the way we hear or receive love in our lives. Some feel more loved when they are held, some when they are given gifts and others when you wash and fold their socks. There are 5 love languages altogether. This is a concept written by Dr. Gary Chapman and the wisdom in this approach to communication has borne out in my life over and over. You and your kids can take a test here.

9. Hug once a day for eight seconds.

This can be a part of your face time, but I highly recommend it. We hold the things we value close. We wear our favorite earrings, we feel at home in our favorite sweater, and we cozy under our favorite blanket when we feel under the weather. Holding these things makes us feel better. Apply that logic to your kids. Mom’s arms are special. They are where we feel the most loved. Dad’s arms are special too. They are where we feel safe. Our body language changes when we are hugged. We bond when we hug. We relax when we hug. You may not be a touchy-feely person, but every human needs physical touch to thrive. So hug your kids every day.

10. Stop yelling at one another.

I left this for last on purpose. The volume with which we communicate is as important, if not more important, than what we have to say. “I love you” is hard to believe if the rest of the communication you have is several decibels higher than average. I do not care how many times you say it. I used to yell (mostly from the couch) at my kids all the time. We fought constantly. They thought I was a nag and I felt like no one listened to me. There was no easy way to stop yelling. I just had to stop. At first I still wanted to, so I stage whispered through my teeth. My kids say when I did this for the first time it was one of the scariest moments of their lives. We laugh about it today. But it made them have to strain to hear me. Over time I lost the scary talk-through-the-teeth-like-a-crazy-woman look and the volume came down on a regular basis. The kids noticed. It took a few months of consistent effort, but it did work. We are better for it and have grown closer because of it.

You may or may not use all ten of these suggestions, but even small stones thrown into the water eventually make big ripples. You may think of some suggestions I might have missed. So tell me about what does and doesn’t work for your family? Leave your comments below.

Don’t forget to download my Family Activities Ideas!

Dayna BickhamDayna is a writer and speaker. She is also a wife, mother, and part-time missionary. She loves great music, food, and laughing. Above all she loves laughing. Dayna blogs at daynabickham.com. During the summers she leads mission trips around the world. Her passion is teaching people to hear the Lord for themselves and to pursue whatever He says with their whole heart. You can friend her on Facebook and Twitter. Dayna is the author of Chosen for Purpose: Overcoming Giants and Living Your Dreams, available at online retailers everywhere.

How God Used a Leaky Faucet to Fix My Attitude

how God used a leaky faucet to fix my attitudeToday’s guest post is from Shaylah Coogan from There Once Was This Girl, where she shares her life-changing story about her laundry room and choices that helped fix her attitude.

I am not particularly proud to admit this, but I had a bit of a breakdown this past weekend.

It was the last weekend of Spring Break, and I had the morning to the evening of every day planned out.   I was doing the breakfast dishes Friday morning, and as I opened the cabinet below our kitchen sinks, I noticed water where it shouldn’t be.  I pulled out the dish-washing detergent and some other junk I had in there. Lo and behold everything was covered in water.  Not only that, but the wood cabinets and the back wall had really soaked in the water draining from the sink…or I should say not draining through the pipes as it should.

The sink, the pipes, the faucet…all old.  We had a small leak at the faucet for some time now that we became comfortable with–ignoring since it wasn’t really causing any damage.  And about a year ago we noticed a few drips from the pipes below, but it was nothing a bit of patch work couldn’t fix up.  We should have known better that small, simple signs of damage are actually signs of impending doom to your budget.

Oh the budget!  I can’t very well leave that part out.  My husband and I have been on a kick for a few years now of paying off our debt.  We are making much headway with the exception of the house, two credit cards and my glorious student loan (I used the word “glorious” in an extremely sarcastic tone in order to refrain from the other words I would like to use).  In order for us to reach our financial goals, we stay on a fairly tight budget and it works!  For a good portion of the year, we are a one-income household which is nothing new to me as a former single mom.  

So over the years, I have learned to stretch a dollar in many, many ways.

Like using coupons, menu planning, stockpiling, creative cooking and freezing and also finding ways to cut costs around our home and in everyday expenditures.  This gives us more money for the fun things to do as a family, vacations and saving money.  We pay cash for things and if we don’t have the cash then guess what?  We don’t buy it.  It’s a simple philosophy that really works but really took some getting used to on my part.

I was a financial mess (did you think I’d say guru?!) as a single mom.  I didn’t know how to budget or save and I seemed to make dumb mistake after dumb mistake with my hard-earned money.   My philosophy was if I don’t have the money to pay the bill AND I don’t see the bill then the bill doesn’t exist.  Don’t judge me….I never claimed to be the smartest mom in the world especially when full of stress and anxiety.  For me single motherhood created this massive and overwhelming amount of stress that many times I couldn’t see the forest for the trees…if you know what I mean.

So…God blessed me with a budgeting genius for a husband.  Funny how He knows just what I need.

Lets go back about two hours prior to the “kitchen catastrophe”.  We are halfway through the month, the budget was already set and we had a trip planned in there for the end of March.  As I was checking my emails, I had two emails reminding me of two different upcoming invoices due at the end of this month.  One was a complete surprise to me and the other I had forgotten about.  So needless to say, neither were budgeted for.  The stress, anxiety and past emotions from my years as a single mom were starting to fill up the machine that releases my tears.  I fought back telling myself that these are things to not worry about.  Rely on God and give Him my stress, anxiety and worry.  And I did…and it worked.  Thank you Jesus.

“Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks.  And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:6-7

The only way I can make sense of what happened next is that the enemy heard my voice give this worry to God.  The enemy felt my mind erase my past experiences and emotions and felt me relax in peace of His presence. An hour later and we have a kitchen disaster.

I didn’t panic or stress out.  At least not right away.  At first it looked as though it was an easy fix then we discovered that the previous owners shoddy repairs and cheapness topped by our band-aids now meant a brand new sink, facet and plumbing.  I think many women might get excited about that prospect.  And I would have, IF the expense had been planned for, budgeted and saved for.  I began to think about the weekend plans wasted, the budget ruined, money gone and my mind quickly took a left turn and hurdled into my past struggles.  If only I could run that fast AWAY from those thoughts.  I lost my “Christ center” as I like to call it.  It’s my stillness where only He can calm the waves and helps me weather my storms.

With my “Christ center” far, far away, I became short-tempered with everyone.  Now I was the one ruining the weekend.  This was spiraling out of my control.

So I went to the one place where I was certain and with out a doubt, guaranteed to be alone with my tears, my anxious thoughts and worries.  A place where I could attempt to restore Christ at my center.

The laundry room.

No one touches that room.  I often wonder, do they even know how to find it?  Everyone goes out of their way to avoid the laundry room at all costs for fear of me popping my head out to say “hey come help me.”  So it’s become my sanctuary…all that’s missing is a comfy chair.  I don’t like to break down especially in front of others.  I refuse to be weak, is what I began to tell myself.  Once those thoughts passed and my toughness was breaking through my tears, I realized this was the enemy at work again and was pulling me into a prideful mindset that kept me in trouble so many years ago.

I remembered the Lord said “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing, now shall it spring forth; shall you not know it?” – Isaiah 43:18-19

The reminder of my past financial mistakes and the enormous consequences of those mistakes were creating roadblocks in my mind, once again adding distance from God.  He tells me in this verse that in order to look forward with joy in all things (even a small kitchen disaster), I must first let go and not dwell on my past.  Doing so will keep my focus on my past failures and the emotional turmoil of those failures and off of what God has in store for me now.

I felt as though God was telling me it is okay.  This is not a big deal.  You are stirring up old emotions and worries that have no place here.  My acceptance of this truth caused me to turn to leave my place of refuge and in walks my husband.  Straight into the dreaded laundry room to hug me and say this is not a big deal.  Don’t worry.

God is so awesome.

This “new thing” God suddenly sprang on us was lots of time together focused on solving a problem.  We messed up the plumbing and install a few times, learned from our mistakes (thank you YouTube!) and yes it messed up our budget a bit but that’s okay.  If there is one huge thing I have learned from my single motherhood days is that worry and peace cannot coexist and that every minute given to me each day is filled with choices.  Choices of peace, prayer, worship and thankfulness which bring me closer to Him.  Or choices of worry, stress, anger, resentment and anxiety to push me further away from Him.   It’s an easy choice.

shaylahShaylah Coogan is a Christ loving, 40 year old mom of two and a wife to a very patient and loving man.  As a former single mom, she has been following her purpose and calling by providing encouragement, support and guidance to other single moms in hopes that none of these amazing women have to live a life on the verge of breaking. Find her at her blog, There Once Was This Girl, or on Facebook.

 

Stages of Parenting: Living with the Ebb and Flow of Relationships

Stages of Parenting: Going with the Natural Ebb and Flow of Relationships

The only constant in life is change. Have you heard that before? Just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on life, and you’ve figured out a good routine, and your relationships are on an even keel, something happens to upset that balance. Marriage has different stages. Jobs had different stages. There are even different stages of parenting!

This week I wrote a hard series on my blog: dealing with sexual dysfunction in marriage. So many women write to me torn up with the difficulties they have–difficulties they never thought they would experience. Things were going well, and then–BAM!
I’m glad that series is behind me, because it was hard to write. Yet that attitude–that life throws you a curve ball, and suddenly everything changes–is perhaps the root of the problem.

We expect things to stay the same. We think that SAME is the point of life.

What if it’s not? What if life is supposed to be about change, and adapting to new circumstances? After all, it’s only through change that we grow. And I don’t think God wants us to be all relaxed, with everything all figured out, with our perfect routines and schedules. He wants us to have to rely on Him, and that means that life will be in a constant state of flux. Perhaps if we expected that, and understood it, we wouldn’t interpret regular, everyday things as huge curve balls.

Let’s look at the different stages of parenting to show you what I mean.

Our relationships with our children change over time, and that is a natural thing.

When the kids were first born, they were definitely more mine than my husband’s, in many ways. I fed them. I was with them. He played with them, but not as much as I wanted him to, although he was a great dad.

My youngest even played strange with him (and he was around a lot). She just wanted me, pure and simple. It probably had something to do with that whole nursing thing. Daddy couldn’t do that!

Then they hit one, and could run and laugh and play, and they became Daddy’s Little Girls. They’d go to me if they had a boo boo, but they’d play with Daddy. He was the fun one.

When Katie hit two she decided she preferred me again, and wouldn’t let Daddy tuck her in. That was hard on all of us, but she grew out of that, too, and Daddy became the fun one again. She would wrestle with him, and sneak up on him to see if she could pinch him without him noticing, and things like that. I was still there for the daily things, like getting her dressed, and making her meals, and bathing her, and she always came to me with those types of concerns, but Daddy was her toy.

That isn’t to say he didn’t discipline the girls; just that when they were little, let’s say up to about 10, they preferred him to me when it came to having fun. They preferred me to him when it came to talking things over, but in general they liked him.

When they hit puberty, everything changed. So much of what Keith had done with them was physical: wrestling, hugging, tickling. All of a sudden he had a weird time tickling Becca, and he stopped. It took a few years to renegotiate the “new normal”. And now, as our oldest has a relationship of her own with a guy, Keith has had to learn to deal with someone else holding her hand. It’s quite the adjustment! I’m having a much easier time with it than he is.

Sometimes I get frustrated because I expect him to parent like I do, but I have to remember that first year of their lives, when he didn’t play with them quite as much. He was still trying to figure out where they fit in, and they needed me. I think we’re going through that again. He feels like he’s on the sidelines, because they have all these “girl issues”, and their relationship needs a kickstart. But it will get one; I just have to be patient with all of them.

If you’re wondering why you’re husband doesn’t play with the kids more, ask yourself: could it just be a stage?

Or what if one of your children is preferring you to him right now, and it’s really wearing on you? Again, it could be just a fleeting stage. Katie only played strange for a few weeks. She only made me put her to bed for a little while. And it usually coincided with something big in her life, like she was learning to walk or learning to use the potty. Once these stresses were over she was okay again.

It’s not just men who have ebbs and flows, too.

I have had periods in my parenting when I felt as if I preferred one girl over the other, and it always sent me through heaps of guilt.

But when I look back, I can see that one was going through a difficult transition time, and was naturally more difficult, or moody, or stubborn. And it’s not as if it’s always the same girl, either. Quite often I’ll feel naturally close to one of them for a year or so, and then it will flip. I try not to show favouritism, and it’s not as if I love one more, it’s just that there may be one that I find it easier to be with. As time has gone on, though, I find that it’s more because of developmental stages than it is with them as people. I really do enjoy who they’re becoming.

Looking back on my life I can see years when I’ve had more energy as a parent, and years when I haven’t. I can see years when I’ve been closer to God, and years when I’ve been farther. I think this is natural. Perhaps if we kept that view of life in mind–that it’s rarely a straight line, but more of a series of hills–we’d be easier on ourselves, on our kids, and on our mates. Let’s keep the long term in mind. In the long term, if we’re consistent parents, if we love our kids, and if we nurture them, they’re going to turn out well, most likely. They will be our friends when they are older. They will follow God. But in the short term we may feel like failures with one particular child, or we may resent our spouse because he’s not as involved anymore, or we may feel as if we are doing a bad job.

I think families are more flexible and forgiving than we give them credit for. When your children look back, sure they may remember that one time you totally lost your temper and said something mean. But they’ll also remember all the great times you had, and that will be their primary memory. In the long run, two years that Keith spends renegotiating his relationship with them in these tumultuous years, or several years that I spend trying to get out of a self-imposed wilderness, won’t matter so much. It’s the collection of memories that are important, not each individual one.

So remember those hills and valleys. It’s okay if you’re in a valley; a hill is up ahead. And it will get better. The only constant in life is change, and change is a good thing. So weather those valleys, and keep praying. Another change is up ahead!