Daddy Issues

This one might hurt a little.

‘Cause Father’s Day isn’t just fun and (baseball/bags/poker/tennis/golf) games. Sadly, this third Sunday in June can toss up all kinds of heartache and here’s why:

There’s a whole slew of troubled guys out there who happen to have reproduced.

And more than a few of their kids grew up… hurt. So many battle-scarred adults were wounded by the person responsible for protecting them:

Dad.

(Others were just collateral damage in his own private battles.)

All this means there’s a mess of kids – young and old – for whom Father’s Day seems a little ridiculous/offensive/pointless/painful. Or a lot.

I’d venture to guess that most of those troubled dads got that way because their dads were troubled.

(Unfortunately, it’s often an inherited trait.)

Doesn’t take a PhD in Clinical Psychology to figure out that a lot of deadbeat dads were raised by men who were chronically distant or distracted. Dismissive or demanding. Demeaning or downright mean.

Or maybe Dad just took off. Without thinking twice about the fallout.

Either way, daddy issues almost always come back to haunt somebody. Usually two somebodies:

Parent.

And child.

The sad truth is there are a lot of lousy dads. And even more mediocre ones. But the good news is there are some really fantastic fathers out there too.

My kids got one of the all-time greats.

His name is Steve… but he mostly goes by Dad, Daddy, Dizzle or (my personal favorite)…

Hoosier Daddy.

He’s the best of the best. Steady, strong, hardworking, humble, faithful, fun and fiercely devoted. He counsels, coaches, comforts, consoles. He folds laundry and settles disputes. He’s good with a mower, shovel, glove and putter. And he can grill a mean rack of ribs.

He plays with our kids and prays with our kids.

And he practices what he preaches.

He loves them. Dearly. Deeply.

Day after day after day.

Real love means sacrifice. For dads, it means willingly relinquishing their desires (perhaps their dreams too) so their kids can grow up healthy, safe and strong… and pursue their own dreams.

Being a good dad requires intentionality and investment.

Because you know how kids spell “love?”

T-I-M-E.

The best dads give their kids that gift, again and again.

(Even when it’s inconvenient or seems “unimportant” in comparison to other demands.)

If you got a dad like that, it’s pretty easy to respect, appreciate and celebrate that guy. But what if you didn’t?

Honor your father…

Anyway.

(Because God said so.)

Notice the lack of conditions/caveats/qualifications. It doesn’t say “Honor your father if (fill-in-the-blank).”

If he was honorable. Or admirable. Or available. (Or even around.)

It just says honor him.

Sometimes that means expressing gratitude (for a job well done) and admiration (for a life well-lived).

Sometimes it’s just acknowledging that he did the best he could. (Often this requires some hindsight… and humility.)

But if your dad was someone who abused you – physically or emotionally, intentionally or repeatedly – how in the world are you supposed to do that impossibly hard thing? Honor him?

Honestly, I have no idea. Because my dad didn’t abuse or abandon me. He didn’t belittle or manipulate or prey on me… he protected and provided and prayed for me.

Maybe “honoring” your dad just means allowing God to be your Father… and asking Him to help you not repeat the cycle of abuse.

Or maybe it means mustering every ounce of mercy and bravery that God offers and saying, “I forgive you.” Even if you’ve never gotten a glimpse of remorse or a whisper of “I’m sorry.”

Because forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.

(When you open it, you’ll find buried treasure inside. For some, freedom. Others, healing. Some, transformation. Others, a whole new identity.)

The truth is it’s our Creator who defines us. The real question isn’t who your father is… or even who you are… it’s whose you are.

Who’s your Daddy?

If you don’t already know Him, I pray you’ll get to know your Heavenly Daddy.

I just hope you’re not too wounded or bitter to even try.

Maybe you blame “our Father who art in heaven” for your troubled/absent/abusive one. You figure if He’s really God (all-knowing, all-powerful and all that) then He’s responsible for the dad you got (or didn’t get, as the case may be).

Fair enough.

But God’s not a dictator. He didn’t “make” your father do – or not do – anything. He isn’t responsible for that great big gash your dad left on your heart.

He just wants to be the one to stitch it up. (And make it better than new.)

He promises to be the Dad you never had: protective, patient, kind, strong, gentle, wise, merciful, fair, full of good humor and giver of good gifts.

He really is the… Best. Dad. Ever.

And He loves you like crazy.

From the bottom of my heart, I wish you a Heavenly Father‘s Day.

Wendy

P.S. Pretty sure if all dads were good dads, a lot of the world’s problems would vanish in a heartbeat.

When Mother’s Day Isn’t Happy

To all the broken-hearted women who wish they could fall asleep Saturday evening and wake up on Monday morning… this one’s for you. The women for whom Mother’s Day delivers a twinge of sadness… or a dull ache. A shooting pain… or one that sears straight through your soul.

This one’s for the precious mommas who can’t hug their grown children… because they’re separated by miles and stay-at-home orders and the threat of a deadly virus.

So Mother’s Day will be spent in what feels like the worst way:

Alone.

All the flowers/FaceTime calls/Hallmark cards/candy in the world – while lovely and appreciated – simply can’t compare to the sweet gift of togetherness. (< That is the most coveted Mother’s Day present of all.)

But there are some women whose sorrow won’t lift even when the COVID restrictions do. There are some whose sadness is soul-deep.

These are the women who hurt at every mention of Mother’s Day… and it has nothing to do with Coronavirus or quarantine or keeping 6 feet apart. These are the women whose heart breaks afresh every “second Sunday in May,” not just this one.

Childless mothers.

Those who buried their beautiful children…

Or never had them. (Because their bodies just couldn’t cooperate.)

They suffer excruciating phantom pains:

Of lives they cannot share. Embraces they cannot feel. Memories they cannot make.

So many moms who’ve lost a child to stillbirth or miscarriage or cancer or stroke or suicide or accident or abortion or estrangement… (Sadly, this list goes on and on.) Women who silently bear their burden of bereavement. At graduations, weddings, baby showers. On birthdays, holidays, all the days.

That kind of grief is real/raw/relentless.

For women like them, this “holiday” to celebrate mothers holds next to nothing.

Except anguish.

(And unfortunately, there isn’t a cardiac surgeon in the world who can repair that kind of broken heart.)

More than anything, mothering means nurturing.

And I can almost feel your ache to nurture… to teach and care and comfort and counsel. To feed a little body… and soul. I see your heart that holds more than enough love for another human being (or three). I sense your willingness to do almost anything just to be able to be – and do – what you wish.

Mother.

You long for the title – and its responsibilities – because you were made in the image of God – the very Essence of flawless nurturing. He is the perfect (and undeniably the most patient) Parent ever. Not only is He our Heavenly Father… He invented and ordained the art of mothering.

Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions. The Lord alone guided them… (Deuteronomy 32:11-12a)

So what to do when you’re aching to rouse and hover and carry and guide… and you can’t? (Or never could.)

Start with your feelings.

Notice them.

Feel them.

And maybe… if you’re feeling really brave… share them. (But only with someone worthy of your trust and willing to hear your whole – good/bad/ugly – story.)

Give yourself grace and mercy.

(And maybe some flowers and chocolate too.)

Listen, I’m not suggesting you pretend that Mother’s Day is your favorite day of the year. And I’m not trying to make it happy/breezy/sunny/carefree but possibly… hopefully…

Tolerable.

Tender.

True.

Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Parent. Soak up all the love gifted to you by the One who adores you… and has good plans for you. (Really.)

I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.  Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. ~ Jeremiah 29:11-12 (NCV)

Choose this Mother’s Day to honor your own momma. (Or her memory if you – like me – are missing her something fierce.)

Blessing her will bless you.

(Promise.)

The commandment ‘Honor your father and mother’ is the first one with a promise attached: so that things will go well for you, and you will live for a long time in the land. ~ Ephesians 6:2-3 (CEB)

Be kind to yourself. (Please do this, for heaven’s sake.)

It’s not selfish; it’s necessary. Like water/sleep/food/air.

Nourish and tenderly care (for yourself)… Ephesians 6:29 (NRSV)

And know that there are lots of moms out there who see you… and feel deeply. For you and with you. Your story matters to a whole lot of people who care.

Love and sympathy from one of them,

Wendy

P.S. Today is my mother’s birthday. (She’s celebrating in heaven… but I’m having cake here and now.)

Happy 75th Birthday to the very best mother and friend a girl could ask for.

 

Survivor: Summer Break Edition

It’s officially, finally, happily SUMMERTIME! (Except on the East Coast where they prefer to keep children holed up in stuffy classrooms until nearly – literally – Independence Day. May God help those wild-eyed, desperate… teachers.)

Now I know it isn’t actually summer summer. It’s the tail end of spring. But school’s out, pools/parks/playgrounds are packed, grills are fired up and the ice cream truck is making its rounds.

I’ll take a raspberry Sno-Cone, please. I know, I know… artificial colors and corn syrup.

(That crunchy ice, though.)

Despite the fact that the same kids who’ve been whining and fussing and moaning and complaining about school have finally been released from the routines and rigors of formal education, it’ll likely only be about 10 days – give or take – before they start whining and fussing and moaning and complaining again.

Just days after the kids have emptied their cubbies/lockers/desks and ditched their backpacks/lunch sacks/socks/alarm clocks, parents will hear that dreaded refrain:

I’m bored.

‘Tis the season.

The wearisome, exasperating, sweltering season of sunblock, bug spray, Band Aids, and… inexplicable boredom.

Mornings seem to last seventeen hours… and afternoons stretch for days. By dinnertime, Quiet, Calm, Kind and Compliant have vacated the premises. And their wicked cousins Whiny, Messy, Loud and Unruly have settled in for the evening.

If not for babysitters, central air and Advil, very few parents would survive until TFDOS. (The First Day of School… cue the Hallelujah Chorus.)

Don’t get me wrong. Boredom isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can spark creativity, increase focus, forge friendships… and give parents good reason to assign extra chores. And while I always maintained that it wasn’t my job to be a summer camp counselor/cruise director/party planner, I didn’t want to be a total killjoy either.

Once upon a summertime, I made a list (both because I’m a compulsive list-maker and because summer always seemed to suck the creative/playful/fun right out of me) of indoor and outdoor boredom-busters. Essentially a “bucket list” of activities, adventures and outings for the preschool/primary set. When the natives got restless, I’d turn to my strategic summer survival guide for ideas – and relief. Here’s a sampling:

Backyard picnic. (Basically – lunch outside on a blanket). Amazing how a change of scenery magically distracts and delights. Bonus: no spills or crumbs on the kitchen floor.

Coloring or drawing contest… or a painting party (for those who like to live on the edge).

Wash the car, water the flowers or clean the bikes. (Who cares if the plants get watered or the car/bikes get cleaned?) Keep a stack of towels by the door.

Make your own pizza. Got mozzarella and tomato sauce? I used to buy pre-made crusts, but if you’ve got flour, olive oil and such, let little fingers knead dough for a homemade pie.

Catch fireflies. Give the kids a clear glass mayo/mason jar and send them on an early evening expedition in the backyard. 

Snail mail. Write a letter or send original artwork to the grandparents or the troops.

Dance party. Create a playlist of favorites… and let ’em dress up and wear themselves out!

Lemonade stand. Proceeds to a children’s charity. (Let your kids deliver their donation.)

Photo contest. Hand over the iPhone, choose a theme (colors, nature, shapes, favorite things) and let them take 10 photos. Print and display the best photos on the frig.

Sugar cookie decorating. (Not for the faint of heart, but a tablecloth or tarp makes the frosting and sprinkles cleanup a little less daunting.) 

Blanket fort or bedsheet teepee. (Climb inside and read some books by flashlight.)

Leaf prints and flower pressing. Easy, artsy, frame-worthy fun.

Ice cream-for-lunch day. (Make sure it’s a nice day, so they can “detox” from the sugar buzz outside.)

DIY project: homemade play-dough, slime, suncatchers or birdfeeders.

Busy bags. Filled with sidewalk chalk, bubbles, stickers, puzzles, glow sticks and bath toys.

Plenty of (free or inexpensive) places to go too:

Library (story time). Nature trail. Outdoor concert or theater performance. Factory tour. Farmer’s market. Fire station visit. Free movie or museum days. 

Pool or water park. Pack up those floaties, sunscreen, beach towels, pool toys (including those unwieldy giant noodles), ear plugs, nose plugs, swim diapers (for heaven’s and health inspectors’ sake, please do not forget these), snacks and water bottles, swim shoes, change of clothes… Never mind. Just stay home and turn on the hose. Everyone will still get wet. And hopefully wiped out, so… naps for all. Including the parent(s).

I wryly (and somewhat wistfully) refer to 1990-2005 as the nap-and-tuck years.

Partly because I felt like I was constantly counting the minutes ’til nap time… or wishing for bedtime tuck-in. And God-willing, a little peace. (And quiet.) But also because…

Is there anything sweeter than watching your little one sleep?

Honestly, back in those rough-and-tumble, bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived, feeding/ folding/sighing/crying, cleaning-up and carting-around, daunting and desperate days, I soaked up every single sweet, snuggly, blissful and lovely moment to be had… and stored them in my heart for safekeeping. (Those little graces helped me soldier on.)

But the real game-changer/life-saver/sanity-preserver of the nap-and-tuck years was this:

Putting MYSELF on time-out.

Not. Even. Kidding.

When my strength was sapped, morale low, bedtime still hours away… and I found myself utterly emptied of kindness, compassion, patience, gentleness and anything resembling self-restraint, I’d drag myself into our closet… and lock myself in… until my agitation and aggravation subsided. (Yes, I was sometimes on mommy-time-out for an hour. And only twice did a minor catastrophe take place in my absence.)

I remember the kids staring wide-eyed the first time I informed them I was giving myself a time-out. They were stunned into relative tranquility… or maybe they were terrified? Either way, it got eerily quiet all through the house and I made a break for the stairs.

Sometimes, you just need to step away… exhale (or cry)… pray… and regroup.

And remember that (in the words of my dear mother and other sages):

“This too shall pass.”

Those really hard days will fade into distant memory. The endless summers will be a blur. And believe it or not, you’ll fondly reminisce about this. All of it. (Even the sticky fingerprints.)

You know why?

Togetherness.

Because someday those little people are gonna grow up.

And leave you.

(Oh sure, they’ll probably come back from time-to-time – for holidays, home-cooking or a much-needed hug. And, trust me, your heart will soar when they do.)

But they will lead increasingly separate lives. Just as they should.

Just as you raised them to.

Yes, dear parents of littles, the days are excruciatingly long… but the years fly by.

And someday… you will miss this.

More than you can imagine.

Wendy

P.S. If your kiddos are lucky enough to have devoted grandparents, godparents, aunts or uncles who are nearby/helpful/involved, thank the good LORD… and them. Often.