Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Give US Grace – parenting advice for moms of infants and toddlers

I've mentioned my mom's group Bible study before. We are studying through Give Them Grace and enjoying the discussion very much. We have a number of mothers of very young kids with a few moms of older, school age kids. Give Them Grace has been such a convicting, encouraging study for me, mother of a kindergartner and 1st grader. My boys can express themselves and understand me. They are starting to process the gospel, and I praise God we are at that stage.

However, I've been trying to implement grace-based parenting ideas for several years. I wish someone had told me years ago that the person that most needed grace in those early years with infants and toddlers was MYSELF. The baby and toddler years are TOUGH. They are very different from the early school years, though they too have their struggles. The toddler years are crazy, and we need different expectations of our parenting in those early years.

I was at peace for the first few months with a newborn—I knew those first months would be dominated by feeding issues and trying to get my child on a schedule. But I didn't realize that the survival mode I was in in those early months would actually go on for years. I thought I should be progressing faster than I was. Part of my problem was that I had a number of friends with similarly aged daughters who communicated much faster with their mom than my boys did with me. The other problem was that my little ones did not take in a new environment by observation, but by exploration. I've noticed some little ones who hang back and observe in new environments. But my boys walked in a room, noticed a door, and start opening it and shutting it to figure out the hinges. How does that outlet work? What's a fire alarm? How does this thing I've never seen before taste? It was pure survival in our home for a good 4 years. Sure there was nurturing. There was training, correcting, and management. But the overarching theme of it all was simply SURVIVAL.

As a mom finally out of that stage, I recognize the symptoms in my sisters in Christ right in the middle of it. Stress in our marriages. Stress in our friendships. And so much stress just in our heads and hearts. In light of all that, I have a few points of advice I wish someone had shared with me.

1) Preach the gospel to yourself. You will not survive this stage without meditation on all God has said over you in Christ. Chances are your figure at this stage isn't going to help your identity. Your homemaking skills aren't going to help your identity. If you are relying on your external successes at this stage of life to give you meaning, you are sunk. But let this time, when you can not keep up a facade, reveal your true heart, and then turn to God in that desperation. He has a good plan for your life, and part of that good plan are these years of simple survival nurturing your young children.

2) READ YOUR BIBLE. I talked in my last post about this. God promises supernatural strength through His Word, and you KNOW right now you need supernatural strength. You may only have 5 minutes (even if you have more time, you likely don't have the brain power to process more than that). The Psalms bring me so much comfort at stressful seasons of life, primarily because the majority of the Psalms were written during stressful seasons in the Psalmist's life. His cries to God echo mine in the stress of life, and God's answers to him always encourage me.

3) Don't let women at other stages of life pressure you with expectations of what you can accomplish at this stage. When your children are little, forget color coordinated meals. It's ok if there's laundry in the basket or your bathroom needs cleaning. If you have a choice between doing dishes and taking a nap, use paper plates and take the nap. Rest helps so much with the stress of life at this stage. You will be better able to nurture your children and keep them safe if you've had a nap.

Eventually, you'll emerge from this stage. Your children will start communicating with you. They will reach a point developmentally where you can start communicating the essence of gospel grace to them. But you'll never communicate it to them until you first get it for yourself. And the early years with infants and toddlers, as we are stripped of our abilities to do for ourselves what we once easily did, are a prime time for us to understand God's grace to us more deeply than we ever have before.

28 comments:

  1. Dude. This is right on time. My daughter is almost 2 and I am 9 weeks pregnant. Life is rough and my house is an embarrassing mess. Thank you for the truth...I am printing out these reminders. :)

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  2. I thought your first point said "You will not survive this stage without MEDICATION!" ha,ha Yes, we need to meditate on God's word and his promises. My kids are older now, but we have seen a gazillion parenting books and to be honest, there is only one way to parent-- by praying for wisdom, doing what is right, repenting when you do wrong, and teaching your children to do the same.

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  3. Your last few posts make me think that you've been following me around! Seriously, these are apples of gold in settings of silver for me. Thank you for speaking God's truth to the needs of my heart.

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  4. I have an 18 month old and am almost 19 weeks pregnant with #2...thank you for sharing this wise, timely message!

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  5. Thanks for the feedback, all. I'm so glad this was helpful. God bless you and keep you close during this season!!

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  6. I needed to be reminded of this. My youngest just turned three and I am homeschooling my two older kids 11 and 8 (w/Aspergers)and I find I forget having a toddler boy still puts me in survival mode much of the time especially since my 8 yr old is far from independent. Anyway, thanks. Passed it onto my friends with littles on FB as well. And boys, so hands on EVERYTHING :o)

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  7. Thanks from a mother of a 4yr old boy and 1 yr old girl.

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  8. Thank you so, so much. I have a 21 month old boy and a 6 month old boy. My 21 month old is a very, very late talker (he says maybe 5 words with any regularity). He understands a good amount of what I say (in terms of directions, at least) but I sometimes want to bang my head against the wall at how little I feel like I can communicate with him. And YES YES YES to the exploration! I can tell you have boys, because you described my life exactly!

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  9. I can't tell you how timely and refreshing this was to read after a really, really tough morning with my little ones. Pure grace. They are so precious to me and I feel guilty that these days feel so hard. Thank you for reminding me where, really Who to turn to.

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  10. Wow! Came across this blog from a friend on FB. How timely for me. I have a 2 and half year old and a one year old both boys. And how you described your time compared to other kids who watched and communicated is so much like my life. And I feel tension with friends b/c of it, mostly b/c they don't see the difference either. I appreciate so much your focus. Maybe I should go read that book too! Wow! thank you so much

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  11. Perfect timing on this post! I am in the throws of this season of life right now with a 4 year old, a 2 year old and one on the way. Thank you for sharing!!!

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  12. I remember well the survival years and almost feel like I have returned to them since I had a surprise baby two years ago. I now have a two year old explorer, a 4th grader, 5th grader, and 7th grader. Needless to say, life stays interesting at our house. I'd like to recommend a book about parenting young children. It is full of grace for moms! The book is called Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic. She has a blog here: http://www.lovingthelittleyears.com/. The book is available on Amazon.

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  13. I'm forwarding this post to a friend who is in this stage. We were just talking about this yesterday. Thanks for the great reminders, Wendy!

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  14. this spoke so much to me today. I often feel in survival mode! I have 16 month old twins and 26 weeks pregnant with #3. The Lord led me to your blog and used this post to encourage me today when I needed it..thank you for being His vessel!

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  15. i went to a recent seminar on this offered by the author and her daughter. loved them, their concept and am reading the book. wish it was around 35 yrs. ago! i'm just not good at connecting the dot by myself like they did.

    you are so right! we need to "get" grace for ourselves first b/f we can pass it on to our kids...truly. this book helps a lot in that way. it is like learning a foreign language, there is nothing about grace that comes naturally to us. we are more works oriented than we even realize. being americans doesn't help.

    learning the language of grace will continue to be a trial and error thing for us. books like this certainly help.

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  16. Thank you so much for this encouragement! I have a beautiful 2 year old son and 1 year old daughter and are expecting #3 in the new year. I needed to read this today.

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  17. I really needed to read this today. I have a 14 month old and am 24 weeks pregnant with baby #2 (well, really baby #3 but my oldest is in high school, so he doesn't really count as a baby anymore!)

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  18. Can I just say that I so need to hear this! I'm trying to preach the gospel to myself each day... And each two hour time period my newborn wakes up! Some ladies here in Dubai started a blog about grace for young moms (Domestic Kingdom) that I read sometimes, too. It helps to know I'm not alone in feeling desperate for God in this season, but needing to be reminded to actually seek Him.

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  19. Fantastic-- will be forwarding this along-- great application points!

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  20. This post is so meaningful. I have 3 boys, ages 4, 3 (they are 14 month apart) and a 20 month old. Our littlest suffered a significant brain injury after birth and we are learning to be parents to a specials needs child and manage 2 other boys. Thank you for the reminder to leave things and take a nap when able or that 5 minutes in the Psalms is ok. I daily forget to give myself grace through Christ.

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  21. This is so good, so incredibly right on. I have two boys, 2 years & just shy of 4 years...oh all the exploring!
    It's so good to be reminded that you are not doing it wrong just because you are in survival mode still. Thanks!

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  22. found your blog through a posting of a friend on facebook, was going through your posts and found this one. Really needed it today (and always), I'm such a check list person and I find it so hard not measuring my worth by things I can check off. God lead me into ministry and motherhood and so its a continuous struggle. But God is so good and has taught me so much, and brings me reminders such as this in the tough times. Anyways, didn't have much to say but thank you for your words and your faithfulness to God, He is using you and He deeply loves you! :)

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  23. So important as a mother to remind ourselves we dont have to be PERFECT ALL THE TIME! Actually we will never be, and should just face this reality! I am a mother of 2 kids, which are now in the best phase, age 6 & 7! But, believe me my life was a "nightmare" about 4 years - raising two small kids in a foreign country far from family support was though! It all seams to be a blur when we look back, but I am confident that we made it by GOD's Grace! What you wrote is right, we need a rest, we need to be wise in using our time, and I had to learn to multo-task and do less complicated meals, running the washing machine while cooking, and in my case it did help me to have one room in the house which was always organised and toyfree - to be my retreat corner!! God bless all the MOTHERS - especially of small kids!!!
    WASH - Brazilian living in the UK!

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  24. Thanks for this....I, too, wish I had read this about 22 years ago. As a recovering Pharisee, I was a perfect parent...before I had kids. Now we have a 22 yo, 20, 16 and 14 yo and I am just now coming out of survival mode! Seriously, I have lived this for years. And, unfortunately, been on both sides. As a sinner I love to quantify and try to keep the law. But God keep pursuing ME! I am finally figuring out grace, learning to turn off the guilt both in my head and out my mouth, and apologizing continually to my children and husband as God reveals ANOTHER layer. I am heartily tired of people telling me 'how to'. Women in the toddler years: LOVE THEM. Give grace. Trust in Jesus. Love your husband. Rest. Don't listen to condemnation. DO listen to those who may be telling you truth--and the only way to tell what is true is to compare to scripture. Just becuase someone is telling you something you don't like, doesn't mean it is not true, regardless of how it is presented. And finally (and first), love the Lord your God and rest in him alone. Karen

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  25. this was for me!!! thank you from a mommy to a 14 month old boy and 33 month old UNPOTTYTRAINED girl:):)

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  26. I just cried, after another busy (happy, but BUSY) day with my 2yr old and my 2week old. Thank you! <3

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