The past week has been filled with work on my next book, “Slow Down, Mama!” as well as a sweet trip to the coast and Los Angeles. I had the privilege (and stress) of being the speaker at a high-school graduation. I love sharing my heart through public speaking. Somehow, even though I know no one remembers what was said at their commencement (unless the talk was given by J. K. Rowling or Steve Jobs, or by a Navy Seal Admiral about making your bed), I still got the jitters as I prepared to share with this group.
After the graduation ceremony, I had the rest of the day open. I decided to take Highway One down the coast to Los Angeles. The lovely drive included stops at a few beaches for walks and some seafood. Once in LA, I settled into my Airbnb back cottage on a tree-lined street in the foothills. About a third of a mile from where I stayed I found a quaint village with shops including a Patisserie and a Cucina. Lovely. I spent about four hours of uninterrupted writing time nestled on the couch with the windows open.
Let’s Talk About Shame (or Not)
Throughout the drive I had my current audiobook on the car stereo. I’m listening to Brene Brown’s talk, The Power of Vulnerability. I have to warn you in advance that this book may induce a life-quake. She’s talking candidly (with a few choice expletives dribbled throughout her speech) about shame and grief. I have my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. Beyond that, for a season in my 20s I pretty much made seeing therapists a pastime. I pick expensive and not-so-fun hobbies, I know. You understand I’m no stranger to the concept of shame. I’ve come a long way, and yet, as I listen to Brene Brown, I feel like someone walked in on me while I was peeing in the Starbucks restroom – as in, “Um, yeah, this is awkward.” I feel exposed and unable to escape what is being revealed.
Yep. Summer fun at its best.
At this point, you may ask yourself why I would even carry on with this book. Burn it; forget it; buy a slimming swimsuit and drink something with lemon in it over ice. It’s summer after all. Have some fun. Save shame exploration for a more suitable season, like winter. Truthfully, there is no good season to look at the fact that you experience shame and you beget it in others. I mean who wants to do all that soul searching, really?
Here’s the deal. I have come to realize something pretty important. My goal in life includes being intentional. Though that word trends in books and courses these days, it still means something special to me. I want to live a life of purpose, making the most important relationships, values and choices central. In order to grow into intentional living, I have to be freed of gunk standing in the way.
Brene Brown emphasizes “wholehearted” living. One of the qualities of a wholehearted person is that they have a deep sense of their own worth and lovability, and they feel they belong. As I started pondering her research and the distilled lessons she shared, my mind traveled to motherhood (of course).
I started asking myself about shame in parenting. Am I conveying to my children at a deep level that they are valuable and intrinsically belong in this world, in our family, and to God? This thought alone could start a spiral of shame, but I watched for that. I want to really explore what I’m doing and where I’m missing the mark. It seems to me mothers ought to be the safest place on earth for their children.
No Perfect Parents
A while back I wrote about the overarching message we are sending our children. I’m acutely aware of two things. One is I will leave gaps in my children’s lives and hearts. It’s inevitable that I will parent imperfectly – even hurting my children in big ways sometimes. The other truth I know is that God will fill in the gaps I leave. I am grateful to know both these truths.
I want to remind myself and you of this before we go into the ways we can increasingly become sources of security and affirmation for our children. Otherwise, we may just turn on our perfection engines and head off trying to do this perfectly, which ironically produces mass quantities of shame every time we fall short. So, let’s be done with all that waste of time and energy and just realize we’re going to grow and do better, but never ever be perfect.
I have thought of a few key things I think we can do as moms to make our children feel safe and loved:
Cherish Your Child
Our children are precious and we have limited time with them. To cherish them we need to be present in the moment, loving them as is. One way I’m doing this is to fast from social media for the summer so I can fill water balloons, hand out popsicles, run through sprinklers and take spontaneous road trips.
Listening and Sharing Thoughts and Emotions
Wholehearted living involves making a place where we can speak honestly to one another. Recently my son has been trying on some disrespectful tones. This morning I sat with him and said, “Rather than issue a consequence, I’d rather talk about some solutions.” As I made room to listen to him, we had a good heart to heart. He shared his frustration and even his anger at some things. He candidly gave me feedback as a mom. I didn’t get defensive or cut him off. I heard him out and we talked about how to improve the situation.
Kind and Firm Limits
Children need healthy boundaries. The best limits are set with a kind and loving tone while being firm and predictable. If we are too kind, our children learn to manipulate and see us as pushovers. If we are too firm, we lose their hearts as we demand compliance. True obedience is rooted in love and a desire to please. When we take fear out of the equation, we allow our children the room to choose to obey. In last week’s post, I talked about the reason children need to learn from healthy consequences. Love includes good, balanced discipline which ultimately leads to our children feeling very safe with us.
Leave Yourself Margin
In our busy world, we can end up going at the speed of light with overcommitment. Often our family gets the dregs when we live a frazzled life. Then we are not the mom they need. Good motherhood takes time and sacrifice. To be present and patient we need to leave some margin in our schedule so we can give our children our best.
Heal Your Own Heart
Parenting is joy and parenting is hard work. In order to be a safe place for our children, we need to heal our own hearts. This may involve some mentoring or therapy to be free from what encumbers us. Then we can send our children the vital message: you are lovable and you belong.
Can I bless you as a mom?
I’d love to support you in your motherhood. I’d also love to have you join Hearts Homeward so I can send you my weekly letter of encouragement and inspiration as well as including you in specials and freebies when I offer those. Would you give me the privilege of pouring into your motherhood?