Sunday, November 24, 2013

Embracing Boyhood: Finding Joy in Little Boys

We are blessed with four girls. Dramatic, gentle, quiet, nurturing, self-controlled, calm girls.

We also have three boys. Rambunctious, curious, destructive, loud, busy little boys.

When our first son was born, I didn't realize that boys were wired SO differently than girls.

At only eight weeks old, he would awake from a sound sleep with a grin on his face and his little feet kicking rapidly.

He was loud. And silly. And wild. He was amazingly

When he started walking, he wasn't content with coloring or looking at books like his sister.

Instead, he stuck his hand in toilets.

He climbed up on the kitchen table.

He jumped off  anything and everything.

He played BIG and loved BIG and the only time he was STILL was when he was asleep.

I remember the first time I tried doing "school" with him. He had just turned two years old so I put him in his high chair and gave him a coloring page and a handful of crayons.

I told him to color, then turned to my four year old and got her started with her schoolwork.

By the time I turned back around, he had broken all five crayons and dropped them all on the floor, one by one, and was watching them roll away.

"All done, Mommy!" he exclaimed, with his hands out-stretched and waiting.

I sighed.

(You mamas of busy boys know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you?)

I had my first lesson about little boys that day. And while I'm still learning, today I wanted to share a few of the lessons I've learned since then.

How to Find Joy in Little Boys:

1. Embrace the Difference.

It's easy to look at your little *boy* and compare him with your friend's little *girl*, and wonder what am I doing WRONG? Look at how docile she is! Her little girl will be content to sit and play with a bucket and shovel in the sand for an hour while your little boy is throwing the sand (to make a windstorm, Mommy!), jumping off the side of the sandbox (I'm flying, Mommy!), and running off a hundred times in the first ten minutes of the play date.

You just can't compare boys with girls. Their entire physical, emotional, and educational make-up is different. God made them that way---so DON'T compare.

We mothers are GIRLS and so we often don't understand the way our boys think. It's unfair to expect them to act like little girls when they are wired so very differently.

After church one Wednesday night, when Nathaniel was four, his teacher approached me.

"Nathaniel said he doesn't want to color in class."

"I know. He doesn't like to color at home either."

"But he says it hurts his hand to hold the crayon that long. I think he's lying and you should deal with it. He needs to learn to color."

"Well, I will talk to him about it. But he isn't lying. He really, really has a hard time coloring for a long time."

I was tempted to come down hard on my little guy after this conversation. But then I realized something. This teacher was comparing my little guy to the only other child in her class--a GIRL who LOVED to color and did so elaborately.  My little guy had many strengths, but coloring just wasn't one of them. :) Don't compare boys to girls. Let them be different. It's okay.

2. Embrace the Energy.

We have three boys (ages 9, 6, and 4 right now). Just one of my boys has more energy than all four of my girls put together.

If I fight this fact, and expect them to sit all day, docile and quiet, I frustrate both myself and them. :)

Every single day, these precious little boys awake with a seemingly endless supply of energy.

If you can learn to laugh at their antics, redirect their rough play ("Balls are for throwing OUTSIDE. Here are your shoes."), and engage their energy in creative ways, you will find such JOY!

*Be a Mama Bear and get down on the floor and TACKLE your Baby Bear.

*Surprise your little boy by grabbing his hand and jumping with him across the parking lot.

*Have him stand to do his homework, run to his room, and crawl to the kitchen table.

*Let him "race" to complete every task. "How fast can you pick up all of these Legos? Ready, set, GO!"

The next time you find yourself frustrated at your little boy's energy level, think outside-the-box for a way to exercise that energy in creative ways.

3.Embrace the Opportunity to Train .

Sometimes parenting a child brings you to a point of frustration.

My husband and I always say that there are two options for frustrated parents.

*One--lower or change your expectations so the child can meet with your joyful approval.

*Two--train more efficiently for the desired behavior.

Yes, little boys are different than little girls. Yes, they are full of life and energy and we need to be understanding and creative in our interactions with them.

BUT--they are NOT un-trainable! They absolutely CAN learn self-control, gain a quiet spirit, and be obedient!

My boys LOVE to play "rough", to sword-fight with sticks, to chase the girls, and to wiggle through their schoolwork. :) But all three of them were sitting quietly through multiple church services at a year old. All three of them would stay on their blanket time for thirty minutes by a year old. These may not be goals you have for your little boys, and that's okay---each family has different goals, expectations, and experiences.

But every little boy can begin to be taught how to channel all of that energy into appropriate behavior.

Now, my boys are not quiet little robots by any means. :) When I take them all shopping they get antsy and sometimes very foolish. :) They are still a glorious work-in-progress.

Aren't we all? :)

I have found the key to not being frustrated is by setting the goal HIGH but working towards that goal with baby steps.

If he can't sit still for an hour, try 10 minute increments. If he is has too much energy to focus for three hours on his schoolwork, try shorter bursts of time with a lot of physical activity mixed in. Give lots of praise and tiny rewards when he gains skills that don't come easy to him. Stay positive.

Appreciate the fact that your little boy's most annoying qualities will most likely be what drives him to be a successful man someday.

Let me give you an example. Remember my two-year-old-crayon-breaker/thrower? He still doesn't love to color. But he will read (without moving or getting distracted!) for over an hour now. He will RUN to accomplish any little task for Mommy. He is by far my most nurturing, protective, tender little soul. He is still loud. He is still busy and energetic. But he is learning to turn that energy into productivity.

That early riser who never seems to need sleep? He's going to jump out of bed to go to work each morning with a smile.

That energizer bunny? He's going to work circles around his laid-back college friends.

That loud, embarrassing, over-the-top little guy? He might be a preacher, unafraid of what people think, willing to speak the truth at all costs.

That curious, take-everything-apart, destroyer? He just might change the world with his inventions.

Perspective is EVERYTHING. Embrace your little boys for who they are--and who they will become.

Set goals for your little boys. Help them learn to focus, to complete tasks in a timely manner, to stay quiet when necessary. But don't just EXPECT them to obey---TEACH them how to do it.

Little by little, one baby step at a time. :)

When I began parenting BOYS, I was frequently frustrated. I wanted quiet, still little angels and was shocked at boyish behavior. Thankfully, the Lord worked in my heart, gentling me toward these sweet little men. Now I wouldn't trade my busy boys for all the "quiet" in the world. :)

Embrace Boyhood--and you will find such JOY in little boys!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Long Overdue Update

It's been WAY too long since I've done a plain old regular update on our family. I will use the common excuse--life has been crazy-busy--and it is, in fact, true. :) I really really desire to write so much more than I actually do. But then I get behind, and instead of just posting in short little bursts, I just stop altogether for awhile. I appreciate the emails and messages when I've been absent for a time!

I'm including a bunch of more recent pictures in today's post, just for fun. :)
--At the Zoo!

--Seven at the zoo
 We have been in full-time ministry for six months now. We sold EVERYTHING in our home and moved into a 35 foot travel trailer.

Yes, that means all nine of us are in a very tiny space, all of the time. :)

 Maybe the next post will show how we live now.  I have grown to love our life in the trailer! The adjustment hasn't always been easy but God has been so so faithful to give me the strength to face such a huge change. He is good!

--Brent and Alyssia
 Our 15 passenger van has seen over 25,000 new miles since June. Every week we present our ministry (Little Fish Ministries) to new churches. Our hearts are in South Africa now but we know this time is vital to raise prayer and financial support.

Please pray that we can raise our support quickly and that we will have many partners for our South African orphan ministry!
---A picture of the three of us for Alyssia's yearly report to China
 The children have adjusted well to our lifestyle change. Johanna struggled at first (which we expected) but she has settled in nicely now. I know I've posted a bit about the huge challenges we faced at the beginning of Johanna's journey. I will be honest and say that it was very hard at times. We stuck to what we know to be true----that God would give us strength and wisdom to parent this child He had so clearly called us to----and I am so happy to share that things are MUCH better now. The skills we have learned as we have followed the Lord down this unknown path have better equipped us for future ministry.

---Johanna (16) :)

 EVERY child is a treasure and deserves to be loved and nurtured.

--From preemie to "big girl", Gabriella
Our tiniest treasure is finally growing! Gabbey is over 25 lbs now. She has turned into quite the little social butterfly, too. :)

---Eliana, 11, going on 16 :) She has grown many inches this year!

 My Ellie is growing into a lovely young lady. It makes me happy and sad all at the same time. I'm thankful for the blessing of older daughters to share in the joys (and work! lol) of our family

---Fun at Daddy's expense :)

---Say CHEESE! (See how tall Eliana is now?)

--Ellie and her sweet friend, Emily

--Noah, 6
 Noah. Sweet little middle child. He is such a cuddlebug. I love watching him learn to enjoy school. He is in the tooth-losing-stage and always seems to have a tooth coming or going.

---Nathaniel, 9, my young man
Nathaniel was such a busy, curious toddler/preschooler. He and Ethan are my energizer boys. :) If there is something to climb, hit, tackle, or cross, they are GOING to do it. No fear. I love the way Nathaniel is maturing into a little young man. He LOVES LOVES babies and is incredibly gentle and good with them. This past few months, Nathaniel has discovered the world of BOOKS and is loving reading every day.

---Ethan is FOUR now!

---Gabbey and Lyssie are both FOUR now, too!

---Birthday books from cousin Ruy!

---Chinese baby dolls from Nana and Grandad for their birthday (my parents)

---Not babies anymore! My "big" girls.
My "babies" are all four now. :) This should mean more "free time" for Mama, but with our ministry change and life-on-the-road, all of that "extra"?? time seems to be accounted for. There are no more diaper bags or strollers (for now anyway) and we are enjoying the sweet blending of our adopted/biological family. If you remember, we adopted all three girls in just 9 months and that change took a little adjusting time. Now it feels as if we were all always together and we are embracing the new opportunities the Lord is bringing our way.

Remember, I blog over at Little Fish Ministries, too, as time allows. I'd love for you to follow me over there!

Thank you for your patience with my infrequent blog posts. If heart's intent were allowed, I'd have thousands of posts by now.

They're just all written in my head for now. :)