Mothering Screens Rather than Monitoring them

mothering screens

I was recently over at iMOM with a guest post on my heart for my children when it comes to “Screens.” We are the first generation of mothers who must brave this new territory and it can certainly be overwhelming but I believe we can honor their childhoods when we choose to “mother” rather than merely “monitor” this aspect of their lives. I am by no means an expert, but if you’d like to read my “6 Solutions to Screen Problems” and then tell me a few of yours, I’d love to enter this discussion with you!

Dirty Eggs- A Practice in Vulnerability

Dirty Eggs

Did you know that in other countries they don’t keep their eggs refrigerated?  They are just stored at room temperature, on the counter, in a basket, and they don’t go bad.  When my chickens first started laying, I was nervous that we wouldn’t gather the eggs quickly enough and they would rot before we got them to the nice, safe, sterile fridge.  

Then I learned about the “bloom.”

The egg bloom is an invisible coating from the chicken’s body that seals the eggshell’s pores.  It serves as a shield and a strengthening agent, keeping bacteria out and moisture in.  With the bloom in place, the egg is protected and strong- just as it is.  An egg will stay fresher in its natural state, than it will washed and preserved in the fridge.

Interesting.

Now, if you don’t have chickens of your own, you may not know that those beautifully colored, organic eggs get a little dirty in the process of being laid.  Chickens aren’t very discriminating birds and they will lay their eggs in the same place that they lay (AHEM) other things.  When the kids bring the egg basket in each day there are feathers, dirt, and (AHEM) other stuff stuck to them.  I may dust them off a bit, but I do not wash them.

See, in washing off the crap and feathers and dirt, I’d also wash off the natural, magical bloom.  Clean eggs rot a lot faster.  Sometimes when friends are over and see my basket of dirty eggs I feel a little embarrassed.  Like I have to explain that it’s not laziness or an oversight.  That there is something important and strong under the filth.

Obviously, I wash the eggs before I crack them open to use them, and I wash them before I pack them to sell.  There are times that clean eggs are called for.  But in everyday life, dirty eggs on the counter is a practice in vulnerability.  It’s a standoff with our sterile, hygienic, unblemished culture.

God has me on a couple of really vulnerable journeys right now.  Really.  Vulnerable.  And let me promise you that I have been really tempted to clean up my crap before I came to the table.  Really.  Tempted.  I want to dust off the dirt and the feathers and show up pretty and unblemished too.  I want to put my best, most put-together foot forward, and then rush to safe sterile places of life, friendship, marriage, and faith.

But then…

We’ve all felt it, haven’t we?  The wilting and rotting when we show up all clean and shiny and not at all our selves?  Not at all honest with our junk, nodding polite heads and staying in the hygienic middle ground rather than the gritty corners of real life?  Not at all vulnerable – expiring by the second?  Feeling the hope seeping out, and the unmet expectations creep in?

But I’m trying to learn the lessons these dirty eggs and this invisible bloom are teaching me.  Do I trust that God sent me to these places, on these hard journeys with what I need to survive?  Do I trust that there is something strong and important underneath my ugly too?  Something needed and magical?  Something invisibly keeping my nature in tact, the presence of God in, and the rot of the world out?

Clean eggs are acceptable, I get it.  No one would choose to buy dirty eggs at the store.  We are repulsed by the idea of it.  Clean people are acceptable too… cleaned up marriages and parenting and homes and answers.  There are plenty of places my crap isn’t welcome and I wouldn’t be safe with my feathers showing.  Noted.  But there has to be a space I can come vulnerable, real, natural, surviving and thriving underneath the dirt.

Dirty eggs stay fresh longer.  

Shiny stories rot pretty quickly.  There is no magic in the gleam.  We trade a cleaned up outside for a dying inside.  Or we are brave and risk our dirt and feathers showing, knowing that vulnerability really is a bloom.  It blooms safety and healing and conversations and space for well, space.  

Don’t clean up too quickly.  Safe, sterile, and unblemished are overrated.  Let’s all us dirty eggs find a basket on a countertop and outlast the fake smiles and carefully crafted answers together.  Let’s trust the we are strong and protected not in spite of the bloom of vulnerability, but because of it.

Why We Bought Another Trampoline- Honoring Their Childhood

Trampoline

My kids got another trampoline for Christmas.

Not another as in, now they have two, but another as in a replacement for the one that had fallen apart. And to be fair, we got our money’s worth over the last decade of jumping… Jumping with friends, jumping with the hose on, jumping with balls, jumping during the day, jumping in the middle of the night, jumping like a ninja, jumping like a tiger.

And not just jumping… reading, playing, fort-making. sleeping.

Lots of trampoline sleepovers happen on the Ranchito. It’s an easy yes. Snacks packed, sleeping bags fetched, usually Dad’s electric lantern in tow, and they all pile on for night under the stars. Sometimes they’re cold, sometimes they’re hot, sometimes they’re a little scared, but they’re always happy.

And honestly, it’s what I pray they remember the most.

Honoring the childhoods’ of my sons and daughters is a pillar in my mothering that becomes all the more load-bearing as they get older.

Do you feel it too? The overwhelming crush to reduce motherhood to management... Manage the schedules of the small adults the world is trying to steal from us? From childhood? From play? From the land of trampolines and imagination? Manage their activities, and meal plans, and grades, and friendships, and every single second of their entire lives?

I have preached it before and I will preach it again… Not on my watch!

And let me be clear… as of last week 1/2 of my four children are officially teenagers. I’m not talking about Blues Clues (is that even a thing anymore?) and Cheerios.. I’m talking about wrestling matches, and punching bags. I’m talking about I-don’t-even-want-to-know-how-much-$ in Legos and Nerf guns. I’m talking about Go-Karts and “yes the cross-country team can walk over after practice and jump in the freezing pool.”

I’m talking about laughter.

You may have heard that “LAUGHTER” is my Word of the Year. I wasn’t happy about it at first. It felt less than inspiring and spiritual. It felt… well, it felt childish.

HA! Okay God, I see you.

As my children get older, I realize that laughter will be glue for our family. It’s what they value. It’s what they want to participate in. It’s what draws them and their friends in and what keeps them around a dinner table. And laughter simply needs space to live.

As Christians, we like to tout joy as holy- and it is. But I’m just saying that joy no one can see or hear isn’t all that powerful or convincing. Joy out loud is laughter and it will live here this year.

So I’ll watch the animal videos again. I’ll try to understand the Vines and the inside jokes they still want to tell me about. I’ll participate in the GIF wars and sit through the Will Ferrel movies.

I’ll never say, “Aren’t you a little old for that?”

My 9 year old asked for a wagon for Christmas and I watched her bravely stand by her request as adults and children alike questioned her on it over and over.

“A wagon? What are you going to do with a wagon?”

“Like a little red wagon?”

“Aren’t you a little old for a wagon?”

Not on my watch.

She loves the wagon. (It’s a big purple wagon by the way). She hauls stuff all over the Ranchito. She helps with the groceries and chicken feed. She gives her dogs and her little brother rides. She takes the sleeping bags and snacks out to the trampoline for the sleep over.

Long live wagons and trampolines.

So some of my kids do really well in school and some struggle. Some of my kids are EXTREMELY COMMITTED to their “sports” and some can take it or leave it. Some of my kids never miss an opportunity to socialize and some need a little encouragement (AHEM) to participate. Some are self-starters and some are great at sleeping in. Some are a bit moody these days and some are hysterical. And it is my joy and job to honor the childhoods of each. It takes attention and intention. It takes flexibility as that charge changes daily. And I’m thinking it’s going to take a lot of laughter.

My peace and quiet, my tidy house, are ransomed at it’s cost most days and I figure there will be years to come for that.

Around here we love shark movies and ballet. We love Pirates of the Caribbean and Guardians of the Galaxy. We love family fondue nights and road trips. We love to rescue animals and to grow plants. We love Michael Jackson and Bethel Worship. We love John Christ and Taylor Swift. We still dress up to go out in public most days and a light saber is never out of reach. We drink a lot of hot chocolate (from scratch of course) and eat a lot of popcorn. We fight sometimes but we laugh too.

Long live childhood. Not just historically or generically. Let it live long in your home. Let it linger into the teenage years. Don’t rush it. Don’t let the “hurry sickness” of the world rob your kids. Be a mother, not a manager. Be the gatekeeper for childhood. Guard it and participate in it. Laugh like it is warfare, because I believe it is. Anyone can manage… only you can mother.

I pulled in the other day, on my son’s 13th birthday, and he and his buddy were jumping on the trampoline like the kids they are. Give them space and they’ll remember that they’re not too cool to play.

So if you need permission to buy another trampoline for your teenagers, here it is. If your big kids want a wagon, get it. If you need to push pause on all the activities to have a dance party to Vanilla Ice in your kitchen, do it. Don’t shush the laughter in the name of peace and order. Don’t get sucked into the lie that it’s your job to manage them.

Childhood is hallowed ground. Laughter is holy work. Let it be part of your legacy, the Land You Leave. The magic of it will live long after the years pass if we honor it today.