Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Finding Our Purpose and Acting On It: Part 1

I finished my first book of March!  It was actually on my February book list, but I didn't get around to it.  I'm grateful that I got it read, because it was a great story with a motivating message that just reinforced the journey that I'm on.  As I've mentioned several times, I have really taken to reading non-fiction books and especially am intrigued by people's experiences and journeys to get where they are now.  This book was no exception and if you're looking for a little inspiration, reassurance, or motivation, it may be a great book for you to read.  It is called Undaunted:  Daring to do what god calls you to do by Christine Caine.

You see, I'm still in that place where I'm a little uncertain, a little hesitant, in what path I'm supposed to be taking.  What role(s) am I supposed to be fulfilling right now?  What is my purpose?  How can I make a difference in my corner of the world?  I always have a million ideas spinning around in my head and I feel passionate about helping other people and raising well-rounded, compassionate, caring children.  If I really sit down and think about my goals and where my heart lies, I can come to these conclusions that my purpose must include children, education, and those less fortunate.  I have come to this same conclusion since I was a little girl.  I knew from a young age that I'd be a teacher.  I always wanted to be around children and jumped at any chance to babysit.  I would make baked goods to sell at garage sales and donate the money to a charity.  It's been wired into me from the beginning and I don't think it will ever change. 

Now that I clearly understand what I'm drawn to, I suppose it's time to evaluate how I have been incorporating those passions into my life and how I can "go bigger."  I can see that being a mother is one of the roles I'm supposed to fulfill in life and that's what I'll touch on today.  Maybe sharing my experiences, struggles, joys, and frustrations with an audience of those experiencing similar situations is my way to go "bigger" in that role.  Maybe one of you has been encouraged or relieved to find that you aren't alone from something you have read on this blog.  Just to know you aren't alone can be a big relief!  

While having a big family isn't for everyone, it was our desire to do so.  Being a mother to many children, especially so young and close in age, is a challenging, rewarding job.  We have our good days and our bad, but at the end of each day, our children are tucked into bed knowing that they are loved, cared for, and special.  Do I always feel great about our day and how I handled things?  No.  Are there days where it is heartbreaking to watch my children struggle?  Yes.  Do I find joy in our family and the love we have for each other?  Yes!  Though we aren't perfect, we do the best that we can.  At the core of it all is our faith.  It is important to us to teach our children about God and to guide them in prayer each night.  It is also the way that I end each day (though I will admit, there are times when I'm so exhausted I wake up to realize I completely fell asleep in the middle of my prayers!).  We may not be the most religious family in the world, but we are building a foundation for our children and family that will continue to grow.

*Today I'm going to share with you some personal thoughts on some reasons I feel kids in our society are struggling.  Not all of you will agree, but this is something I feel very passionate about and I'm willing to go out on a limb and share these thoughts.  Today I feel like this is my purpose:  to put myself out there and maybe inspire some thought and conversation on this topic. 

As I mentioned last week, our kindergartener is having trouble at school.  Many of you reached out to me to share that your child has encountered unpleasant experiences at school and that you are shocked at how young our kiddos are being exposed to cruel behavior, inappropriate social interactions, and teachers who aren't looking at our children as individuals but by what know.  It is sad, it is troubling, but most importantly it is just not acceptable.  If these behaviors are starting this early, where are they heading in the future?  Bullying is the hot topic now in education and society, but how much action is being taken?  There are protocols for everything, but when I hear my son share his experiences about telling a person in charge when he is being picked on (both verbally and physically), their response seems to be less than helpful (for example, "See if you can make him stop.").  The responsibility, however, does not lie entirely with those we entrust our children to everyday, it lies with us, as parents, as well.  From my perspective, I feel that we have two major responsibilities:  Are we teaching our kids how to cope and deal with these experiences?  Are we providing an environment at home that is focused on being kind to others, spending time with our children, and monitoring what they are being exposed to?

Our children need to feel valued and important.  I understand that life is busy and many are balancing work and children, but we still need to make time to spend with our children that is relaxed, fun, light-hearted, and pleasant.  If a day has been stressful and crazy (I understand this well!), the least we can do is sit down at the end of the night, snuggle up with our kiddos, give them our full attention (no tv, texting, emails, etc.) read to them, and ask them about their day.  How will we ever know how they are feeling, what troubles they're having, or what wonderful experiences they've had that day if we don't ask?  How lonely that must feel to be brushed off because Mom or Dad are too busy, stressed, or tired.    I think we need to make it a point to have one late afternoon/night a week that is reserved for family fun time.  Play a game, watch a movie together, or go somewhere fun that is family-friendly.  Make it a tradition-kids love them (and parents will, too)!  We chose to be parents and it is our most important job.  We need to make it a priority to be present and available to our kids.

When I sit and think about what has changed in the past 25 years since I was in elementary school, the first thing that comes to mind is technology:  computers, tablets, smartphones, video games, you name it.  I feel like these advances in technology are taking away from what kids really should be doing:  interacting with others, playing, using their imaginations, and learning how to occupy their time without having their faces glued to a screen.  One of my biggest pet peeves about going out for dinner (or anywhere in public really) is seeing kids sitting at a table playing on a phone/tablet.  Why aren't we teaching our kids how to socialize and behave when we're out and about?  How about having a conversation, playing a game of tic-tac-toe, or coloring like we did when we were younger?  Yes, it's great to have our kids quiet, but if you really think about it, how are we preparing them for their future socially?  How are they learning to self-regulate?  To interact with others?

In our busy world, it seems so easy to have our kids watch tv, play video games, or play on the tablet or computer to keep them occupied. While this can provide a lot of educational opportunities, we can't forget about the simple act of playing.  Kids need to be creative, use their imaginations, move their bodies around, be silly, and have fun.  There needs to be a limit (and a short one at that) on how much time our kids are partaking in these activities.  While advances in technology have made our lives much easier, I don't think they've been as beneficial for our kids as many would believe.  I've heard teachers who work with middle and high school students talk about how many kids just don't know how to interact anymore.  They don't talk, they text.  Their faces are always buried in their phones.  Instead of doing things with their friends or playing outside, they're hanging out at home indoors playing video games and watching tv.  I'm sure this is trickling down to the elementary level as well. This is not a positive trend!    

Finally, we need to really think about what we are allowing our kids to watch and what types of games we are allowing them to play.  There is so much violence out there, both fictional and real, and we wonder why our kids are acting the way they do.  We, as parents, need to set the limits and relay our expectations to our children.  Ultimately, we are the ones in control.  One of the most disturbing tidbits my son came home with from school one day was about the shootings at Sandy Hook.  It was the first school day after the horrible tragedy.  While we had taken the time to sit down and discuss what happened with him, we did not give a detailed description and kept it fairly vague, as we felt that it was developmentally appropriate for him.  We kept the television off any news channels that weekend and the days that followed.  I was appalled when our son came home giving me a graphic account of what had happened at Sandy Hook.  I had recorded and watched the news and knew that the child that had shared this information had done so also.  My first thought was, "Where are this child's parents?"  Why are we allowing our young children to watch these things?  Yes, there is a lot of hardship and tragedy in this world, but that doesn't mean that the nightly news is the way our children should be learning about it.  I had a difficult time processing what had happened, I can't imagine what a young child would think!  

This post may come across as a big rant or preachy, but these topics are something that I have given a lot of thought to and talked with my husband and friends about at great length.  None of us are perfect parents.  We don't always make the best choices for our kids, but as a society, we need to take a step back and really think about how we can shift this sad state we're in.  These kids are our future.  We need to step up, speak up, and help our kids be kind, compassionate, caring people.  Somehow, some way, we need to make a difference.  It starts in our homes, but that may not be enough.  How can we reach out to our community to make an even bigger impact?  What can we do to make a difference in our corner of the world?




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