...And boy am I glad we did. Aside from the really great (NOT perfect - more on that later) day we had as a family, doing something completely new for us created a really great opportunity for us to see things about ourselves, our children and parenthood that I had never seen before.
We don't really care if our kids think we're fun police (although we do like having fun together as a family), but we did like the idea of giving our kids some responsibility (I think that this is what most of us misunderstand about a yes-day - its actually giving children MORE responsibility than usual, not less), and we were very curious about what they would choose for us to do together if they had (mostly) zero restrictions placed on how we do family time.
...but here are some things that I learnt about motherhood, myself & my children that really made the whole experience worth it:
I don't think that they derailed our day much, I was just surprised at how much anxiety the experience generated. I am not in a crazy shame spiral about it or anything - I choose to make it ok - in that I see it as something to see, know & learn from, not something to judge and heap shame on myself over. Like everything in life, we can't change or address what we can't see and I am grateful for the opportunity that this day gave me to see something that I am hopeful for change over :)
2. I set my own bar for "supermom" waaaaaaay too high
One of our greatest fears around a yes-day was that our kids were going to want something from us that we weren't capable of... that they were going to ask for something we couldn't give them... and so we just avoided ever making room for them to ask.
Meanwhile, our children's requests were simple and easy. Our children's wishlist wasn't insane, it wasn't even that indulgent (accrording to our standards anyway)... it was thoughtful, fun and revolved around simply being together. Swimming, water games, walks in the park, unlimited swinging, splash pads, more swimming, a visit to our old farm, more swimming, movies with slushies & more swimming & some Starwars.
It made me realize that I have been holding back from really embracing the simple joys I am able to give to my children, because I focus so much on the more extravagant and elaborate 'joy' that I can't.
3. A great day does not equal a perfect day.
Life doesn't need to be perfect to be good.
There is magic, but it doesn't look like the movies. It's much more special than that. We just need to be willing to see it without them (the movies that is).
When I am following Christ and learning how to live from him, the exact opposite of my lived experience would be true. That Christ would lead me away from and teach me how to live free of hustle, burnout & overwhelm! (gasp!)
1 Samuel 16 tells us the story of how David came to be anointed as king in place of Saul.
Jesse presents his sons to Samuel in order of his assumption of who was most likely to be chosen. In their culture, men divided the privilege, power and wealth of their households to their sons according to their birth order, so Jesse leans into his culture’s values and perspectives when choosing who to present to Samuel for his consideration, and in what order.
It appears as if David’s own father didn’t think he was king material. Not only did his own father not even present him as a candidate to Samuel - he wasn’t even invited to the banquet being hosted at his own house. According to the people who “knew him best” his place was in the field with the sheep.
Or what if it had nothing to do with whether or not he had potential to lead a nation - Think about his track record as a shepherd: David could kill lions and bears with his bare hands. Maybe it’s not that his dad didn’t think he was good enough to lead a nation, maybe his dad just didn’t have anyone as good as him to care for the sheep. Ie: my theory anyway is that MAYBE he wasn’t invited to the party, or presented to Samuel for consideration because his dad was protecting his own interests, and his decision had nothing to do with what he saw/didn’t see in David (later, when David kills Goliath we see how David was able to go to the battlefield with a care package for his because his father did in fact, have people he could delegate the responsibility to :P)
Samuel (the prophet/man of God) looked at each of Jesse’s sons and evaluated them according to what he thought a king and military leader should LOOK like. It literally took the voice of God to be like: seriously... how well did that work out for us last time - There is someone else.
Friends here’s what I’m seeing:
- People keeping you in their place for you is probably more about it being convenient for them that you stay there. Ie: it represents a truth about them, what they think they want/need; and may have very little to do with you at all.
- If God wants you in a certain room, he will get you in there.
- The fields in which we feel “stuck” shepherding can change everything...
The most popular song of all time.. (Look it up) is psalm 23, even notorious BIG/gangsta rap has a version!
A hymn, written by David, inspired by his time as a shepherd about HIS shepherd.
That psalm has gone on to bless and inspire and change the lives of millions of people around the world for thousands of years.
There would be no Psalm 23 without David’s season tending to sheep.It went beyond and into places he could not have even begun to comprehend.
Don’t limit yourself, your ideas or reach because you can’t see as far as God can.
Just create it because it’s what’s coming out of your heart in adoration, in worship, in service. Put it out there, and let God take care of the rest.
In my own life I have spent way too much time feeling bound & held back by what I believed to be other people’s perceptions of me. I have stood aside, waiting for others to see, name and celebrate what I had been hoping was there all along. My hunches about David’s father cannot be substantiated - and I guess that's the point of the story- we can never know for sure what's going on inside someone’s heart & mind - and we don’t need to: our challenge or our act of faith is to proceed along the path we have been called to in spite of our fears, assumptions and desire for acceptance or approval that we may never get.
if you would like to join an incredible community of women pushing through their unbelief and transforming it into confidence and calling then consider joining a free Facebook community I moderate called "Succeed past the self-sabotage" - and check out free training, resources, great discussion and more!
For years I was praised & rewarded for being and giving and doing anything anyone needed.
For years I stretched myself to just shy of my breaking point:
Working anything from 2-4 jobs to pay the bills
While completing my bachelors degree remotely (but still traveling back and forth to a major city for 3-4 days at a time every month)
While volunteering every other additional hour I had at our local church.
I was losing weight rapidly.
I was frequently sick.
I was anxious - and experiencing extremely painful and debilitating chest pain more and more frequently.
I angry, resentful & bitter.
On the outside I was the model church goer, basically embodying the checklist of requirements that was implicitly and explicitly given to us in exchange for what I was so desperate for: Those elusive feelings of belonging.
On the inside I was a completely different person… but a polished exterior can only get you so far for so long.
Sooner or later the mess on the inside starts to seep through the cracks, and as much as I tried to prevent that - one day mine did too.
That was when I learnt that what I was doing was far from selfless - sure, the actions checked all the boxes - but on the inside it was completely selfish, it was all about me and for me, basically exchanging labor for love, exchanging commitment for community, exchanging every fibre of my being for belonging.
My box-checking was motivated by fear - not compassion - and the more I allowed myself to be propelled forward by fear, whatever compassion was left inside me was being suffocated by comparison.
I was merciless and gracless on the inside, and I was starting to use the same standards of “never-enough” as my ruler on the people around me too.
It wasn’t until after an explosive emotional meltdown at work that I started to see the truth of who I was, and who I was becoming for what it was.
I was hustling for my worth, trespassing on the emotional property of the people around me in a desperate attempt to discover who I was, and whether or not I mattered…
Here’s what I learnt about “doing the right thing” - It's not about what it looks like outwardly, but what's going on inside. I did the right things, but for the wrong reasons. Its also not just about the actions themselves. It's also about the fruit that those actions bear. My outward “right thing to do” actions were bearing fruit of bitterness, jealousy, strife, anxiety, hopelessness, depression, gossip and illness.
We need to be so careful of what we call faithful. Good. Christian. Are we talking just about behaviors or about the orientation of our hearts? My good, faithful, Christian actions were putting men on a pedestal and my own belonging was my god. The beliefs that were driving my actions were completely devoid of love, faith, trust. I believed that I had to earn my place in the world, in my church and in heaven - I was completely engulfed in the quest for self-righteousness - I was far from grace. In fact, I looked down on grace, was repulsed by it even. How dare I or anyone for that matter rest in the truth that they are loved as they are, and that in Christ, they are enough - that whoever and whatever they bring to the table - in whatever condition - is all they are expected to bring.
My choice was simple - continue on the familiar path I was on, journeying on toward a lifetime of brokenness and dysfunction driven by fear… or choose a new one, completely uncharted, armed only with faith and the hope that on that new road toward wholeness, I would not be alone, and that there was indeed a person of value worth discovering out there. I would need a completely new set of navigation tools, deeply held beliefs, and as it turns out - new traveling companions out there, but my options were basically new and scary - or death.
I chose new.
If you would like to hear more about my story, and the tools/skills & wisdom I discovered and nurtured on my journey as a recovering people-pleaser - why don’t you sign up to receive the introduction and prologue of my new book, “The Hearted-Centered Woman’s Guide to Healthy Boundaries” - you can do that HERE.
I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea. I was alone at the center of Waco's tourism hub with my 2 bigs, a very rambunctious toddler whose only speed is FAST, and no stroller.
Destination: The Magnolia Silos.
My oldest daughter’s choice: It was spring break and each big got to choose one treat and special outing - and she wanted Jo’s famous cupcakes and a stroll around the grounds in the sunshine.
I could have chosen a PDO day (I wish I had) but I believed in myself and Ellie (actually I didn’t - we were just out of time and I felt obligated to keep my promise).
The whole adventure was doomed to failure and I knew it from the minute we arrived at the parking lot.
Part 1: The cupcake line of doom
To procure a Magnolia Silos cupcake you need to wait in the Silos Bakery Co. line - which usually winds around the corner and up the street where you wait patiently, quietly, out of oncoming traffic for your turn. Noone told Ellie - we were chasing, catching, releasing her for about 30mins (how many gray hairs can a woman grow in 30mins?) before she was let loose inside the bakery while the other kids took their sweet time deciding which flavor cupcake to get.
I could feel the anxiety (and rage) bubbling up inside of me - this was DEFINITELY a BAD idea, but salvation was within reach - on the other side of my older two’s indecision was the green space where toddlers could run and play to their heart’s content.
Or so I thought.
Part 2: Green space (a toddlers playground)
Magical in theory.
Toddler is on a rampage sabotaging at least 5 different family’s game of corn hole, standing in and squishing the cupcakes I tortured myself to procure before realzing there are no fences in Magnolia- just lots of space, people, and most importantly - breakables. So many breakables.
After running after and retrieving her 6 times in an attempt to leave my bigs to enjoy what was left of their cupcakes in peace, I could basically hear the timebomb inside of me ticking away. We were on the brink of a maternal Chernobyl.
It's time to go home.
I didn't need to do much work to figure out what my boundaries were in that moment - what was required of me to create a fun-filled afternoon out at the Silos was not within my possession - we needed to try again another time.
This is where my morning nearly went even more pear shaped.
I am the mom. I am supposed to be the leader//strong//together//calm one - part of my cultural upbringing leans me into embodying this in a stern, no-nonsense, “because I said so”, armored-up posture with my kids, and especially when I am basically swimming in mom-shame to begin with. I need that feeling to go away, and when I don't catch myself on time, I become a jerk so that I can stop feeling so powerless.
What I have learnt about what I am pre-disposed to is that it cuts me off from my children in moments when we need connection with one another most.
I have learnt that I can ask for what I need, without demanding it. I can lead my children without controlling them. I can make an executive decision, and still be completely honest about where I am at and why I have decided what I have. ie: I can treat myself and my children with dignity, especially in moments when shame is doing its best to strip us of whatever dignity we have.
I was about to blow-up at my children, so we needed to leave. But my daughter had been looking forward to and planning this outing for weeks - In an attempt to save face, nurture my wounded pride and hide away from all the mom-guilt and mom-shame that was piling up inside of me by the second - I could crush her creative spirit with one solid - “because I am the mom and because I can”...
This is what I chose instead:
“Guys, I am very sorry to have to do this - I need to take responsibility for how poorly I planned out our week. I chose the wrong day for this and I own that. I also didn’t plan for the support I would need to have a blast with you today, and on top of all of that I am feeling very overwhelmed with fear for ellies safety, for your safety and to be honest, for what I am imagining the people around us are thinking about me as a mom. My fear and my pride has bubbled up out of me as anger, frustration and impatience. Please forgive me for being unkind, and for cutting our time together at the silos short. Please let me try again another time.”
My big kids looked at me blankly for what felt like an eternity before they leaned in and gave me the biggest, bestest group hug I didn’t even know I needed. Ellie even climbed in for some of the action.
“Ok mama, but could we try taking Ellie to the garden section for a minute first. I bet she would enjoy playing with us on the toadstools in the corner.”
“Ok. Let's give it a try.”
They were right - they all had a blast, the toddler was more or less contained and I got to sit for 5mins at a time.
We made it to the car in one piece and then drove through Cameron Park with all the windows open while we sang at the top of our lungs.
The Silos were a bust, but we had a pretty awesome day, and we got home exactly how I hoped we would: more connected and closer as a family.
Mama friends, here is what I hope you hear:
You’re allowed to acknowledge you can’t do something if you don’t have the capacity to do it.
You’re allowed to/should be setting boundaries with your kids if how you’re doing motherhood right now is filling your heart with resentment and frustration.
Taking responsibility and being held accountable doesn't have to have anything to do with shame. I think they're badges of honor.
You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not to be a great mom.
Don’t take your two your old to Magnolia without an extra pair of grown-up hands, leash or a stroller with industrial strength straps. It's just not worth it.
I shared in depth about this experience in a Facebook I created and moderate called “Healthy Boundaries for Heart-Centered Women.” - If you would like to watch it, and catch up with a whole bunch of other free resources like:
- How to say no without ruining your relationships
- 31 Things I have learnt about boundaries from the Bible
You can hop on over and join by clicking here.