I joined my friend Jessica Beebe from Remembrancer Photography for a photo shoot today. We’re getting some photos ready for a new blog I’m developing. (I’ll keep you in the loop as launch day arrives.)
I posed and pretended to be America’s Next Top Model. We laughed and strutted down the hallway of our beautiful church building. As she shot moment after moment, I learned some things about connecting with people.
1. Lean in :
It physically shows your interest. You become engaging and open to the conversation or event before you.
2. Lean back:
It physically shows a lack of interest, an aloofness, even a superiority.
This caused me to wonder if the same holds true in one-on-one conversations. Sometimes, I sit back to listen to someone because I’m more comfortable. Do I seem aloof or uninterested? That’s not my wish.
With my children, I occasionally stand over them and dictate the days events. Granted, as a parent a certain amount of superiority helps move things along, but if I want them to know I’m really interested in what they say and what they think, will the simple act of leaning in convey my inner thoughts?
This will require investigation.
Have you noticed other types of body language cues that help you connect better with others?
Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr
Do you remember the amazing things you did with boredom? You learned to shuffle cards. You rode a bike with no hands. You built models or wrote stories. What a treasured life we lived!
Now, we have so many activities designed to occupy our time or our kids time. We can go to the public pool, the park, play sports, take classes, play video games, watch television, or surf the internet. We pack our moments so full, there’s little space for other experiences.
We do it because it’s expected. We fear making poor choices, and we don’t want boredom. What’s the thrill of boredom?
On its surface, boredom causes lethargy and decay, but if guided by caring parents who see a plus within a boredom experience much more occurs.
a future musician minus boredom….no intrigue, no musical development, no passion.
a future artist minus boredom…no mistaken sketches aiding future development, no creative color blending, no mixing of mediums.
a future computer tech minus boredom….no knowledge of deeper computer reasoning, no understanding of why people sit there in the first place, no ideas for improvement.
a future magician minus boredom….no finger dexterity, no ability to shuffle a card deck, no show.
a future mom minus boredom…no doll games, no babysitting, no practice, no skill.
Many great and small feats begin with a little undirected free time. At first it flusters the mind and body, not knowing what to do. But with a little elbow room and a touch of guidance from a mom or dad who cares, kids venture outdoors, pick up paintbrush or pen, read, write, examine, experiment or build.
Maybe that’s why God wants us to honor a sabbath. From rest comes creativity. His creative juices will never be topped, and He rested.
My choice today:
Allow a little boredom and keep eyes open to offer needed direction.
We adore them, those worming, squirming, strong-minded kiddos of ours. But that doesn’t mean we get them. Closeness to them matters more than job security and a good credit line, combined. Yet, try as we might our ownership manual never arrived in the mail.
We must push their buttons and coax their minds in the hope that we will parentally succeed where others have failed. What can we do?
5 steps to better bonding with the most complex gadgets we have, our children:
1. Ask questions.
Not inquisition style, but inquisitive style. We ask because we care. Their thoughts are way more fascinating than TMZ. Even silly questions build foundations.
I enjoy ones like, “If you could bring any toy with you on a long plane ride, what would it be?” Remember, when they answer, they share their opinion. Opinions aren’t wrong.
2. Think ahead and make the questions complex.
Remember the good ‘ol days, when your family asked you questions, and you responded with the standard one-word response? Conversation didn’t get very far.
Solid questions require thought. If you were answering, could you respond quickly in one word or with detail. Kid convos which include details grow the conversation, lack of details kill it, and not in a good way.
3. Answer questions.
If our children know they can approach us on any topic, and they won’t be chastised or criticized, the likelihood they’ll return for more questions increases. I knew a teacher who had a poster in her class which stated, “The only stupid question is the one you never ask.” If we stick to that attitude, our kids know it and welcome our involvement in their lives.
We will have to let them know we’re open to their questions, though….especially if we have older children. A simple statement like, “Do you have any questions for me?” opens the conversational door to our lives. We will have to repeat the phrase often before we hear strong content questions, but silly ones still help them trust us.
4. Make eye contact.
Ever have someone talk with you who doesn’t look at you? It’s disconcerting. This happens to children constantly. We often need to stoop down to make eye contact, and this small workout pays off more than regular trips to the gym. It shows how valuable we feel they are.
5. Plan play times.
Not play-dates with friends, but family play time. Make sure it suits your family’s personality. Play could involve word games or rhyming. It includes video games or Twister. Play can be as detailed as a full-fledged family baseball game or as simple as a round of Angry Birds in the doctor’s office waiting room.
As parents ,we often tell our kids what to do and not to do, but play enables us to simply enjoy being together, because we like one another. You could sign up for every movement activity in town and join team after team, but if your family doesn’t enjoy time together, you’ll miss valuable connections which last a lifetime.
My choice today:
Make the effort to build bonds with my kids.
In comments, share ways you strive to build better bonds with your kids.
The outdoors inspires me like nothing else. It’s colors and shapes, scents and sensations all grab my imagination and stir my thinking. I love taking a walk with our stubby dog, Wall-e, and looking at the variety of plants which decorate our roadside.
Have you ever really looked at a garden or even the plants in the neighborhood?
In Pasadena, California sits the Huntington Gardens. Within a few acres, you stroll through a cactus garden into a rose garden which neighbors a Japanese garden and even orange groves sprout within reach. Its variety entices the senses.
I began gardening at my home in my early twenties. Years later, I’m still expanding my little gardening prowess, and have unexpectedly learned much about people and families because of it.
It’s become a guide to helping me and my husband grow our family. Today, we begin a series called “Lessons from the garden”. Maybe it could help you too.
Lessons from the garden:
1. Everyone is beautifully unique.
From the stature of a pine tree to the delicate tulip, each plant carries its beauty on its proverbial sleeve. Were the world loaded with only one plant, we’d be bored beyond belief. Take a walk and notice the different tones of green or shapes of leaves. They tip up or sideways. Some flower petitely and some burst with gigantic blooms. Appreciating a garden means taking it all in.
In the same way plants grow uniquely within their space, so do children and families. One could say, “A rose is a rose,” but it wouldn’t be true. Based on location, how it was planted, what kind of attention it receives and what attempts to attack it, each rose grows differently as does each child. Some need more attention and some flourish with little effort but the beauty exists within both.
“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11
My choice today:
Notice the unique beauty in each member of my family.
(coming tomorrow- more unexpected lessons from the garden)
As parents, we ache to see our families succeed. Our hearts long for that picture perfect, almost Andy Griffith life. Okay, so Andy Griffith is old and black and white, but come on, they never argue and always encourage with the right words at the right moment. Who doesn’t want that?
Our families are outrageously complicated, but we do have multiple choices to help our family develop into the true beauty we’ve always dreamt it would be.
Here are a few ideas I’ve discovered about building a healthy family:
1. Overcoming chaos in our lives is a post about how easily we can get caught up in what other people think we should do. Let’s break the mold and allow our family to be unique by not enabling chaos to control our decisions.
The day I gave birth to my first daughter, a friend promised I’d understand God’s love better than ever. In some ways, I’ve seen the truth of this statement. In other ways, I understand God’s frustrations better.
If God is our heavenly father, then we parents can relate to how He might feel with us occasionally. Today is one of those days. Maybe it’s happened to you too.
You start with the best intentions. Tell the kids, step one: do this. They do it. Awesome. Step two: do the next thing. One does it, the other swears you never said a thing. To clarify, you calmly restate step two. Your wonderful child does a completely different activity convinced the guidance came from you. They state this opinion quite adamantly and with great emotion. The calm and uncalm collide. What?
You find yourself seated on the floor bamming your head into the wall, trying not to become angry at one small person’s inability to understand the English language. What went wrong?
My days look this way occasionally, and then I remember my friend’s promise. In spite of my frustrations, I adore the blond people God created through me. I believe in their present and their future. My love continues even as the wall banging comes to a head. I guess I am learning about God’s love for me.
I do the same thing. I read in scripture about what kind of life God wants for me. I hear sermons on improving my faith walk and I think I understand. Then, I do what my confused brain has instructed, only to find myself praying for forgiveness because not only did I mess up, but now I have a big clean up. Has that happened to you?
I wonder, does God occasionally wish He created a wall to bang His head against?
As the parent seeking to help my child get unstuck and grow, sometimes she needs a time out. She needs a different choice, a calm uncomplicated choice. Once the emotions subdue, she’ll be able to start fresh and take another crack at getting step two done. Or, I might give up on step two for today and delay it for another day. I remind her of my ongoing love. We continue our relationship, in spite of wall banging moments.
If we’re the ones causing God to want to bang His head, what can we do to start fresh?
My choice today:
Give myself a time out when I find myself messing up. Pause. Calm down. Try again. He still loves me.
You volunteered. You’re already doing it. You may not realize it yet, but if you are a parent, you serve as a mentor.
Mentoring is all the rage. All the cool kids are doing it.
From salesmen to CEO’s, people seek out wise mentors to take them to the next business level. They’ll pay big bucks, take classes, and invest in books. If you write, you need a mentor. If you garden, you need a mentor. Chefs require mentors, and so does much of life.
Find someone you respect and trust, ask them if anyone ever guided them. Chances are you’ll hear about that amazing person who helped them on the next career track. So, it’s only a career thing, right? Wrong?
Have you heard of life coaching? That’s a form of mentorship. Therapists and counselors serve as a type of mentor. Those stinking mentors are everywhere. Wish you had one?
The first and main mentors in our life develop from the continuous caregivers with whom we live out the first years. Our speech patterns and style of walking get copied by the kids.
If you are a parent, you know it’s true. Our kids echo back to us the things we say, and it often doesn’t sound as good as we thought it would. We cannot teach by merely saying the right words. If you’ve had a mentor, you know observation is the best teaching tool.
Dancers first see dance teachers move the pattern, then they can recreate it. Parents send their kids to driving school, knowing they will follow what they see. As the saying says, “Experience is the best teacher.”
Heads up Mom and Dad, they don’t do as we say, they do as we do. If we chow down on candy repeatedly, the odds show they will too. If we drink excessively, visual example teaches more than DNA. If we jog or read or eat leafy greens or indulge in tons of T.V., well you get the point.
It’s a big responsibility and occasionally is scares the snot right out our noses, but that’s parenthood baby. All the whining in the world won’t change the truth, the day we became parents, we became mentors.
So, knowing that truth, let’s decide what we most want to teach. Guess who has to learn it first? That’s right mentor Mom and Dad, we have to learn it to teach it. If we don’t, they’ll learn what we really teach, whether we like it or not.
If you’ve seen the movie, The Princess Bride, you know the name Inigo Montoya. His lines, performed during a fabulous sword fight by the amazing Mandy Patinkin, have become iconic.
If you aren’t familiar (and you should be, so get that movie from Red Box), he spent years hunting down the six fingered man who killed his father. Upon finding him, he repeatedly stated, “Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father, prepare to die!” Until he finally did kill that man.
When we land on Father’s Day, I have felt like shouting that phrase at something or someone using my best Inigo Montoya imitation. Have I mentioned my father died when I was 10 years old?
Now, I’m a bit older, and I’ve endured multiple Father’s Days. I used three main approaches to this day.
1. The “hide-out” approach.
If I didn’t acknowledge the day’s existence, it really didn’t matter.
2. The “get-out-of-my-face approach”.
Since many friends sought to reveal my hide-out and help me with my definite anger issues. They wanted me to focus thoughts and energies on the many father figures I had in my life. Their intensions were good, but I couldn’t receive them.
3. The “nanana- I’m-not-listening” approach.
When the do-gooders in my life wouldn’t be put off, I altered my stance. This one stuck around for quite a while. I could numbly walk around and create my own invisible force field, which I considered to be my protection from feeling the horendous pain of parental loss. That pain never goes away.
If you’ve lived through the death of a father, or he’s separated from you for reasons beyond your control, you know what I mean. Maybe you’ve found your own approaches to dealing with this day.
I could have stayed in my hiding places, but one day, something changed.
I was asked to speak in front of many people on Father’s Day, about Father’s Day. The friend who made the suggestion received multiple blades mentally tossed from my mind. But due to my respect for him, I acquieced to his request, though I was tempted to make a run for it.
I wondered what I could do, what could I say? My first thought was, “Father’s Day sucks, thanks for coming,” but I searched for a better tactic.
Over the years, I’ve developed a habit oftaking any issue I struggle with to God. I learned I could talk with Him about anything and He never judges me. He’s the best listener, ever. He gives me guidance in unusual ways and it’s always fascinating to see Him at work.
So, I began digging through my Bible for any visual of a great Dad. My eyes became drawn to certain specific scriptures. When Jesus waited, knowing His arrest drew near, He prayed, “Abba Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.” Abba, was his way of expressing closeness to his father. Another time, He told the disciples to pray saying, “Our father in heaven…..”
Jesus claimed God as His father, but also invited us to accept Him as our father.
I had to sit and absorb that thought. Really soak it in.
Over the years, I’d known God as my best friend and confidant. His power couldn’t be surpassed, and I could appreciate Him as the King of Kings. But, I couldn’t comprehend Him as my father. Until now.
I remembered a song I loved to hear as a teen. It told the story of the prodigal son in a different way. Benny Hester sang of this boy returning home after having messed up on an immeasurable level. But rather than tell the story exactly as scripture shows in Luke 15:11-31, he sang as if it were God (the Father) greeting him when he returned home.
The song says, “The only time I ever saw Him run was when He ran to me, took me in His arms, held my head to His chest, said my son’s come home again. Lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes and with forgiveness in His voice, he said, ‘Son, do you know I still love you?'”
As I write this, I hunted it up on YouTube. Click here to listen for yourself. The memories flooded back into my heart. I made that song and thought my own, you can too. I changed the word “son” to “daughter”, and it was mine.
The father I lost is still missed, but my heart lifted at a new thought. There was another Father first, one who offered guidance to mine whether he took it or not. One who cares deeply for me and you, and offers Himself in every way a father can.
He guides and encourages and strengthens and listens. God, the Father, is my father and always was.
While I understand and appreciate Inigo Montoya’s bitter pain, I choose not to embrace it for myself. So can you.
My Choice Today:
To accept the Father I’ve always had and appreciate the One who has been available for me from the beginning. I choose not to stay fatherless on Father’s Day.
Take the Father’s Day poll about your earthly father here:
When our first little girl was born, my husband and I didn’t sit down and say, “Let’s teach them the opposite of everyone else.” Yet, when it comes to the tooth fairy, we’ve become rebellious.
On the day her first tooth became loose, we hit decision corner. Do we follow the pack and play tooth fairy, or create something else? Come on, if you know us, you know that’s an easy one. We often choose creativity over conformity. But what to do?
We came up with the idea of Mommy/Daddy surprise. We told our mini munchkin, we had asked the tooth fairy to visit other houses so that we could do Mommy/Daddy surprise. I know it sounds ambiguous, but hang in with me.
As the tooth loosened and separated itself from her mouth, excitement burst forth. We took pictures of the new hole in her mouth. We cheered for her newest stage of growth, and she looked at us with unbridled joy.
“What kind of Mommy/Daddy surprise do I get?” she asked.
We hadn’t yet decided. To give ourselves more time, we followed tooth fairy tradition, and told her to place the tooth inside a bag, and lay it under her pillow. We informed our kindergartener, she would discover the surprise in the morning. I would be under her pillow, instead of her tooth.
At that moment, it occurred to us that Mommy/Daddy surprise could beanything we wanted. She had no predetermined ideas. After all, everyone else had a tooth fairy, but she had mysterious parents.
Over the years, we’ve given Sacagawea gold dollars, necklaces, small games, a drawing, a poem, or whatever else our minds dreamt up. The mystery never fails to thrill, as each child finds a treasure under the pillow and wonders out loud, “How did you do that?”
My eldest has begun appreciating the journey through her sister’s eyes. She could realize the answers to long sought secrets of how the surprise gets accomplished. For that reason alone, we’d keep up the family tradition.
But yesterday, when I had to have a tooth pulled, I saw another reason to continue.
My oldest put together a packet for me. She drew me a picture and wrote a note. She took some of her hard-earned cash and packed it into an envelope. She handed it to me, while I held an icepack to my sore jaw.
“It’s a Rachel Surprise,” she said.
My heart leapt. I never imagined she’d want to do such a thing. Who knows, maybe when they grow older, the tradition will continue within their family.
I have to admit, twenty-five cents never looked so beautiful.