This past weekend was jam packed for Adam and I. On Friday night and all day Saturday we attended a parenting conference Hope Conference 2014. It was geared toward foster and adoptive parents, of which we are neither, but there were so many things that were said that are pertinent to any parent who's trying to parent well. There are many "take aways" for me that I'm still processing, but I was thankful for some of the "tools" that the Monroe's shared that I can now put in my toolbox in order to get outside of my "default mode" of operation with my kids.
Their main point was that from the beginning, we were made for relationships--with God and others. Our approach to parenting must always focus first and foremost on God and people (who are made in His image), rather than parenting methods, techniques or systems. Michael Monroe kept asking the question, "how do you measure successful parenting?"---I could go off with answers to that question in a a myriad of directions, everything from: assessing how my kids are learning educationally, spiritually, socially, etc. to what character qualities are being developed in them, how many Bible verses they have memorized, do they obey the 1st time every time (no!), are they potty trained by 3 (which Emerson is not!) Parenting is truly such a hard job. It's not the same for each of our kids, there will be struggles for one and then it'll come easier for another, there's the balance of training them in a way that each child can relate to and understand. There's not a "pat" answer…A+B doesn't always equal C and just because one thing works with one child doesn't mean it'll work with another…parenting is challenging, exhausting and keeps me in a place of real dependence on God.
Michael Monroe kept saying, successful parenting isn't just that "they live happily ever after" which is easy to fixate on as parents, sure, we want our kids to be happy and we want things to come easy and we want there to not be hardships---but thats not real life. What defines successful parenting should really be summed up with--- "and they lived faithfully ever after". When parents are always faithful to look to God for how to direct each individual child, to seek His face as they try to navigate the rough spots, by being open to God and asking Him what steps to take, it is really acts of faith for each parent. The Monroe's pointed out that things in our kids may or may not get "better" (God in His design has made us very capable of change so change is possible even if we've come from very hard places--usually-- "re-wiring" can occur); the child (in the end) may choose to walk away for a time, but those situations don't measure the "success" of our parenting. The Monroe's said parenting is unlike any other job out there, because "outcomes don't always measure success!" I thought that was such a freeing concept.
There were several other things that really stood out to Adam and I. We have one child in particular who struggles with what I'm beginning to realize might be sensory issues (everything from banging in his crib to needing to wash his hands constantly). The Monroe's had a lot to say on this topic and had a plethora of books to recommend, which I must get on Amazon and order several of, because I feel like there's so much to learn on this topic. We also heard a lot about how prenatal stress can create risk factors for kids. They shared about a recent study that showed a direct correlation between a mothers stress level and her baby's stress level by comparing each of their cortisol hormone levels after birth…they were almost identical. So as Adam and I thought back about that pregnancy we realized that I was under quite a bit of stress at the time (Adam was in the throws of finishing his Master's program and working full time, we were trying to sell our house which is stressful--but on top of that we were selling at the holidays--which is a really stressful time all on its own, we were trying to find a new job, and move to a new city all right after giving birth to our precious little guy, literally we moved two weeks later.) So it makes sense that there would be some residual effects from all of that. So, instead of us thinking some of these annoying behaviors are just that, ANNOYING…seeing that there may be some reason for these behaviors has given me more compassion and grace towards them, and it's made me want to investigate ways to help deal with the behaviors in a way that is really effective.
They suggested that we must parent with a balance of nurture and structure. I tend to lean more toward structure so in order to connect with my kids, I don't have to bring down my level of structure, but I do need to focus on bringing up my level of nurture. So in those moments when I want to send this one particular kiddo to the bathroom to wash his hands (for the 50th time today) they would suggest I go with him, help him get the soap, help him turn on the water and with a soft tone and nurturing care, wash his hands and dry them for him. Instead of harshly throwing on his shoes (that he wants to have on during ALL waking hours) they'd suggest I lovingly place him in my lap to put on his socks and shoes and use those few moments to connect with him instead of constantly being irritated by them. It's all simple things, things that don't take a ton of time, but it changes my response to him and therefore changes the dynamics of our household from me being regularly irritated to me being more compassionate and loving toward him as I acknowledge his different needs. I know, it's simple, but really transformative in my perspective.
There's so much more that I'm still processing and thinking through but if any of this has been encouraging to you or challenging in some way, I'd like to point you to the Monroe's website (www.empoweredtoconnect.org), where they've uploaded a lot of their conference videos, research information and lists of books that they suggest parents read as well as books for children. I found all that they shared to be so incredibly fresh and encouraging! Michael Monroe said it best, this type of parenting---this switch in your normal mode of operation-- "is the highest cost with the least convenience" but it is worth it! Don't we all want to learn to love our kids better, don't we all want to connect daily with each of them? We all want to live "faithfully ever after" but it takes intentionality as well as hard work.
After the conference, we attended the American Heart Associations, Heart Ball. We literally just went from one event to the next with a few minutes to freshen up and get ready.
It was fun getting to be apart of an event that helps to fund an organization that has become so near and dear to our hearts now because of Ava Jane.
When you hear the startling statistics its unbelievable!
-About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
-Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
-Every year about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack.
-Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in the United States, affecting nearly 1% of―or about 40,000―births per year.
-The prevalence of some congenital heart defects, especially mild types, is increasing, while the prevalence of other types has remained stable. So research continues to help find answers and cures.
With Ava Jane, we just had one defect, Coarctation of her aorta, and we were so thankful that it was just the one and that it was surgically fixable! So as we listened to people share their stories and watched the videos of other kids who have struggled, this disease once again took the fore front of our thoughts. We are so grateful for the people who gave in order to fund research that helped save Ava Jane, so we were glad to be given the opportunity to fund research that will help save others. It was a great evening celebrating all the lives that have been touched and as we got to see what it can look like when many ban together to help defeat a disease!
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
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