Posts tagged parenting
Trampoline Parenting: Equipping Our Children with Grit To Bounce Back From Adversity

Last weekend, my husband shared with me the trending Hamster/Hampster Twitter thread, knowing that it would grab my attention. The story is about a young 20-something woman in the workplace who is unable to accept correction or criticism from her boss and defaults to calling her mother to be rescued. Regardless of whether this particular story actually occurred or was fabricated to make a social statement, the story is indicative of what is occurring on college campuses and in the workplace. More importantly, the narrative paints a tangible picture of some of the challenges we face as parents today and the pitfalls to avoid as we move forward. (You can read the original Tweet thread here.)  Bottom line, there is an overwhelming number of millennials who continue to rely on their parents to mediate for them and solve the problems that they are not equipped to handle on their own. Or perhaps more accurately, parents have continued to intervene and create dependency in their children instead of equipping them to launch successfully. 

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We live in a society that has rapidly moved past helicopter parenting to snowplow parenting. The helicopter parent hovers relentlessly over the child out of fear and over-protection, micro-managing every move and decision the child makes. The snowplow parent takes it one step further and intervenes -- removing all obstacles, challenges, or problems for the child. These parents have been faulted with writing papers for their children, calling bosses, showing up to interviews, all motivated by a basic principle that their children can do no wrong and all obstacles will be removed in an effort to prevent any discomfort. 

According to one study, only 1 in 4 children are considered resilient. A lack of resiliency is on the rise with many contributing factors as we are parenting the smartphone generation, both hovering and snowplowing, while simultaneously encouraging individualism and celebrating a self-focus. We are setting our children up for failure when we continue to place them on pedestals, treating them as if they can do no wrong. We teach them that if any one tries to correct or challenge them, we will run to their rescue while pointing fingers of accusation at teachers, coaches, referees, even college professors and employers, and blaming them for “mistreating” our child. We have taught our children to undermine authority, reinforcing that the world is out to get them instead of showing gratitude and appreciation for the mentors in their lives who are simply trying to do their jobs. We live in a culture that demands the bare minimum from our children while everyone receives a trophy just for showing up, regardless of attitude or apathy. We have made our children our idols: living life to serve them rather than equipping them with tools for success. 

This is not reality. The real problem is that our children are not perfect. They will make mistakes. They will fail, but the fall is a lot harder and farther when they have not been prepared with the grit to fall and bounce back.

As a mother of three myself, I would challenge us as parents to consider that we are missing an incredible opportunity to give our children the gift of providing them a safe place to land when they do make mistakes while providing unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace.

While deeply rooted in love, our parenting styles have shifted from Helicopter (protecting) to Snowplow (removing ALL obstacles), and yet, this kind of parenting is damaging to our children. Our children are being robbed emotionally as we have removed opportunities for them to experience real life and the challenges that shape and help them become resilient. The reality is that life has challenges. We will all face obstacles in life, but children require a Trampoline Parent that teaches them resilience and provides them with the tools needed to bounce back from adversity.  As adults, we know it is our mistakes and failures that have taught us valuable life lessons and how to be resilient.

It is no wonder that between social media and being placed on a pedestal, there is a lot of pressure on a child when they know they aren’t perfect, but are having to live that lie. Our children are having a hard time becoming adults when we have removed all barriers, and created a false sense of reality for them. They don’t know how to handle disappointment, challenges, and failure. 

Due in part to social media, depression and anxiety are soaring while suicide rates have increased. It should be no surprise that only 1 in 4 (only 25%) of young people are considered resilient given the toxic combination of comparison magnified through social media while being incapable of taking correction and failing because they have not been equipped for resiliency.  

While the 20-something referred to in the Twitter thread does NOT represent all millennials, the story does draw attention to a cultural flaw and dangerous path we are headed for as a society. Rather than providing encouragement and discipline, teaching character with humility, or providing a soft place to land when failure inevitably happens, we have been in the business of raising weak “snowflakes” that melt under pressure while we sit in the driver seat operating the snowplow. No wonder millennials are struggling with their identity and are quick to blame others for their own shortcomings and insecurities. Removing all obstacles sends a strong message to our kids that they are not capable and we don’t believe they can succeed on their own. We create a perpetual dependency on us rather than equipping them to launch successfully. 

The home is the most important foundation for building character in our children. Parents should be their children’s biggest supporter, encourager, counselor, and advocate. But, in the process, we can’t miss the opportunity to teach our children unconditional love, grace, forgiveness, and character. Teaching our children humility and a willingness to learn and listen to others will instill a respect for those around them. Kids want to know that we believe in them. We must stop sending them the message that they are incapable of success without our hand-holding. We must remove the entitlement mentality that they can do no wrong while blaming others.

Parents must role-model respect to teachers, counselors, and coaches, rather than pretend their child is blameless. Teaching truth in love, we must encourage and challenge our children to become pillars of character standing for truth and justice rather than melting under the pressures of life. We all desire to see our children become successful strong leaders, but we have missed an opportunity in how we have taught these lessons. The most successful leaders in our world are humble, teachable, compassionate leaders willing to learn from others with grit and resilience to bounce back when faced with disappointment. Parents have an incredible opportunity to teach our children resilience and instill character, raising up a generation with a backbone that faces obstacles rather than running from them. 

TODAY.com Parenting Team Parenting Contributor

Chimene Shipley Dupler, founder of Passion4Moms, is an author, speaker, and life coach equipping moms to impact the next generation. Introducing and coining the phrase Trampoline Parent, Chimene spends much of her time addressing the Smartphone Generation, culture, and technology and how we can best provide tools for success with grit and character.

New Year Resolutions

As we enter a new calendar year, this often compels us to an eager anticipation for a sense of newness—a fresh start.  Whether it is driven by an urgency for change or a comfort in new beginnings, many people use January as a way of re-setting lifestyle choices or patterns they want to implement. The calendar gives us a natural transition into new beginnings. 

I love the distinction I recently heard Senator Ben Sasse offer between habits and addictions. The only difference between habits and addictions is that if it’s something good that we want or desire it’s a habit, but if it is something we don’t want or is bad for us then it is an addiction.

Many of us begin a new year with good intentions for a fresh start with a bold determination for building new muscles of habits we intend to keep, but often we fall back into old patterns and addictions.

The word resolution (n) is a firm decision to do or not to do something; the quality of being determined or resolute. The word resolute (adj) is a firm determination to do something or (v) decide firmly on a course of action. Both words come from the same meaning with a resolve to take a new course of action. But in order for us to build the muscle of “habit” we must be resolved to follow through with a resolution.  Resolutions technically are more than just goals, it is a resolve for action. 

Moms, what does this look like practically in our lives, in our homes, and for our children?

The Bible uses the word resolved on three occasions. All three references refer to a resolve to know Jesus and walk in purity and obedience. 

Psalm 17:3 “Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.”

Daniel 1:8 “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”

1 Corinthians 2:2 “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

David resolves to keep his mouth from sin. “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” which tells us this is more than just watching the words that come from our mouth, this is a heart transformation of a life that seeks to know God and reflect the image of God.  Daniel resolved to not defile himself although his place of life and work provided him essentially anything he could have wanted.  He created space and boundaries to look different from the world and honor God. And finally, Paul is resolved to know Jesus fully. He dedicated his life to bask in the presence of the Almighty to know God and make Him known. He was resolved to not let distractions (although probably good things) get in the way of knowing Jesus. 

Moms, I think there is a lot we can learn when it comes to resolutions and how we teach our children about resolutions in life. While healthy eating habits and exercise or ridding our life of addictions is good and keeps us in balance, where we put our resolve each year (each day) should be like the examples set before us.  If I resolve to do anything in life, my resolve is to know the Father heart of God so that my heart and mind are transformed into His likeness. My deepest desire for my daughters is that they are resolved to know God and make Him known living out their purpose in being created. 

As we begin a new year, may we challenge one another to be resolved to know a Father God who loves us and sent His Son to die for our salvation. When this becomes our primary focus in life, and we like Paul, are determined and resolved to know Jesus and make Him known, this allows us to maintain boundaries, protect our homes, and our time as we point our children to Jesus. 

Am I Distracting my Child from Their Purpose?

Sitting in church on a cold February morning, the Pastor was making his way through the book of Ecclesiastes.  And then it hit me. As I was listening to a message on things that distract us from the meaning of life, I was convicted.  Before I share with you what specifically I was challenged with in my life, let me first be honest. 

I am enamored with "things." I struggle with wanting a bigger house, more furniture, more clothes, more jewelry. In fact, these are things I deeply desire and even can justify why I should have.  Maybe you can relate? And "things" aren't bad. Living a lavish lifestyle and having plenty, in and of itself, is not bad. Abraham, one of the most prominent men in the Bible, was just one of many whom God blessed with "stuff." Wealth is not bad. God Himself pours out His blessings and provides not only essentials, but abundance for His children.

But something struck me in a new and fresh way that wintry Sunday morning.

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As the snow softly fell outside the window, I heard an ungodly statistic fall on my ears. The amount of excess that is disposed of and thrown away by American families is insane. American children have more toys than all of the other children in the world, and yet we don't even value the surplus and abundance we have. So not only is there a gratefulness issue of not appreciating and valuing what God blesses us with, there is a distraction issue. Again, let me be honest. Truth be told, my children have abundance when it comes to things. Their toy room has looked like a freaking toy store at times. Each one of my girls has always had a heart of gratitude and they appreciate and value what they have been blessed with. They go to great lengths to take care of and not destroy the toys they have been given.

Toys serve a great purpose. Independent play and imaginary play are born with dolls, action figures, or stuffed animals.  Sensory skills, coordination, and manipulation, as well as creativity, are mastered when playing with Legos or play-doh. My conviction has less to do with the abundance and more to do with the heart. 

The first challenge is obvious. Are we giving our children an abundance out of our desire for them to live lavish lifestyles to the point that we are not teaching them gratitude? Are we filling their rooms and closets with so much stuff that we neglect to teach them to be grateful and to be stewards of what they have been entrusted with. Do we teach them to take care of their belongings and to have hearts that are thankful, recognizing that they are not entitled to a plethora of toys, books, clothes, or electronics?  We have a generation that is demanding because our children have been taught to be entitled since birth.  We feed their sense of self and then wonder why they are so entitled, selfish, and ungrateful. This leads to my bigger concern as a mother. 

Am I distracting and hindering my children from their intended purpose? Am I contributing to their demise? You see, if I actually believe that my children (and myself) have been created for a purpose, then I must know what that purpose is. I believe the Bible clearly states that God has created each and every one of us with a purpose.  And while each of our individual skill sets look differently and our gifts vary, our purpose is the same. The Bible tells us that ALL of creation was created for the glory of God. God's desire in creating mankind was to bring Him glory and for us to have fellowship with Him. My purpose, and my children's purpose, is to know God and to make Him known--to bring Him glory. That is when it hit me. 

At what point am I contributing to distracting my children from their intended purpose in being created?  Am I giving my children so much that I am feeding their desire to serve self? Am I giving my children in abundance to the point that they are not lacking, but are instead feeding pride, and a sense of entitlement that they deserve what they have? Do I keep my kids so busy, so distracted, surrounded by so much "stuff" that I am actually contributing to their demanding that self is put on the throne of their lives instead of God?  By giving them abundance, am I teaching them that the world revolves around them? 

We are all at war. We are at war and in constant battle to fight for who will win control of our heart. Where is our affection? Satan would love nothing more than for us to stay distracted. Because when we are distracted and are feeding self, we are not making room for God.  We are placing ourselves on the throne of our lives, serving self, and making ourselves gods. But we cannot serve two masters. As a mother, I am challenged to make sure I am feeding what I want to actually want to grow.  I am convicted in areas where I am contributing to teaching my children to feed self, rather than living out their purpose for which they have been created. 

Adoption: Welcoming Sons and Daughters

I remember sitting on my couch during a 6-week recovery from major surgery.  It was summer of 2003 and there was no Facebook, so I was limited to daytime TV since I could not drive or keep my eyes open to read a book due to the pain medications.  I soon filled my mornings by watching 2 back-to- back shows on TLC:  “Birth Days” and “Adoption Stories”.  I was drawn in by the emotional and happy moments these reality TV families experienced; tales of how they came to love the babies they bore the first hour and adopted the next.  I cried happy tears for those families I did not know, but I also knew deep down that they were tears for my own longing to get married and have children of my own.  

I was 37 at the time and had always wanted to be a wife and a mother.  I had a successful career as a medical social worker for 15 years, and for many of those years I enjoyed the perks of being single.   As I started to close in on my 40’s however, worry set in that marriage and becoming a mother would never happen for me.  The medical world backed up my fears, telling me that I was running out of time for motherhood.  Sometimes it was difficult to see so many of my friends get married and then welcome all the new babies that soon followed.  My weekend social calendar was full of both bridal and baby showers for years.  During my quiet times with God, I sensed Him telling me He would work it out, that I just needed to wait a little bit longer.  Walking closely with God during those times gave me hope.  

As I thought about it years later, those TV reality shows were a part of the hope He gave me and they left a lasting impression on me.  I believe they were placed in my life at that time to prepare me for what God had planned to come.  I remember loving these 2 reality shows because either way those babies joined their families, biologically or through adoption, both were wonderful and special.  Those reality families loved their babies whether they birthed them naturally or adopted them.  I also realized that it was then, during my recovery from surgery, that God planted the desire in me to experience both a “Birth Day” and an “Adoption Story” of my own.  

At ages 41 and 38, Karl and I were married and we knew that since we both wanted at least 2 children, we needed to get started right away.  I was a little sad that we would not have some carefree time as newlyweds, but I also knew the urgency of our situation.  The road to having our children was relatively short, but rocky.  Our daughter, Emily, was born after the heartache and anticipation of 4 back-to-back IVF cycles.  After a spontaneous miscarriage and some more infertility treatments a year later, we knew the final chapter of our Birth Story was written and we were ready to start our Adoption Story.  

Adopting was indeed, a very different story.  There was a mountain of paperwork, interviews, and fingerprints to be examined.  And then there was the waiting.  Throughout the whole experience there were a lot of questions, some that we did not see coming or know how to answer right away.  We had not anticipated the level of detail that the adoption application itself would entail.   Would we accept a child or any race or ethnic background?  If not, which ones?  What if the biological family had a history of cancer?  How about mental illness?  What if the mother smoked, drank alcohol, or took drugs while pregnant?  And if some drugs were ok, which ones weren’t?  What if the child was the “product” of a rape?  How about multiples?  Some of these questions were “easy”, and others stopped us in our tracks and caused us some considerable thought and discussion, as we wanted to make sure we were equipped to handle any situation that might come along—as if that’s even possible!  

Other  “interesting” questions came from the people around us.  Perhaps they meant well, but their questions indicated to us that they were leery of adoption.  “Do you think you will be able to love both the children the same even though one is yours and one isn’t?”  “Why would you want to raise someone else’s kid?”  Wow.  It was hard sometimes to not be defensive since we knew this was the plan for our family, and we had little doubt that we would love our adopted baby just as much as Emily.  

The reality is, we are ALL adopted by God, or at least have the opportunity to be adopted by God.  Galatians 4:4-5 says, “ But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under that law, that we might receive adoption to sonship”.   God walked with us in some amazing ways through our adoption of Abby because He reminded us that we are all adopted by Him and that was the whole purpose of sending His son, Jesus.  

God welcomes all of us who believe in Him to become his adopted sons and daughters.  There are no limits when He adopts us. He doesn’t require an adoption application and if He did, it wouldn’t matter which boxes we checked and which ones we didn’t.  He already knows all there is to know about each of us and He accepts us right where we are.  His love is unconditional.  He loves ALL and wants ALL to come to know Him and become part of His family.  His love is vast and beyond anything we can fully comprehend as humans.  He loves us fully and equally.  

Eight, almost nine, years later I can tell you with certainty that we love our Abby just as much as Emily.  She is ours, no matter how she came to complete our family.  We can’t imagine life without her and firmly believe that she is the child God planned for us.  We don’t even think about her being adopted, unless we are talking about adoption (which I love to do!)  I like to think of Emily as the gift God gave us, and Abby as the treasure He lead us to.  

Abby sometimes doubts that she is loved as much as Emily because she knows she is adopted.  When she expresses her doubt, we do our very best to convince her with hugs and every “love word” we can think of.  Still, sometimes she isn’t quite convinced.  In those times we tell her she needs to make a choice to believe us, even though her inner voice still tries to make her think otherwise.  It’s that way sometimes with us too; we wonder how God could love us enough to adopt us.  But that’s the whole reason Jesus came- so He could welcome each one of us into His family, in spite of our imperfections. Sometimes, in the midst of doubt, we just need to step out in faith and believe.  And when we accept His love for us, He will always be there to welcome us as His sons and daughters.

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Sherry Fischer grew up and still lives in Northern Virginia.  She obtained her Bachelors Degree (James Madison University) and Masters Degree (Virginia Commonwealth University), both in Social Work.  Sherry worked in a hospital setting as a Medical Social Worker/Case Manager for 20 years.   Sherry married Karl when she was 38 and is now a full time stay at home mom to Emily (12) and Abby (9).  When the girls were preschoolers, Sherry was an active participant and eventually served as a leader for Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS).  Once both girls were in school full time, Sherry joined the Passion4Moms team, where she is currently the Director of Hospitality and enjoys writing periodic blogs. For fun, Sherry enjoys making cherished memories with family and friends at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland.  

Growing Pains

One lazy Sunday morning I walked into my son’s bedroom and noticed he wasn’t there.  When I entered my daughter’s room, the scene that I saw would touch any parent’s heart. Emma was gently cuddling her brother so that he could fall back asleep, as he was still sleepy. My husband and I later commented on how sweet our children were with each other and how we were so blessed that they got along so well.  We may have spoken too soon that day as later that morning they had a huge fight that led to many tears and hurt feelings. When I heard the fight begin I did what I usually do which is to try to let them figure it out on their own before I intervene. However, this time the feelings and voices were escalating pretty quickly with no nearsighted resolution.  One child was red with anger and the other was crying inconsolably. I decided everyone needed a “time out” to process their feelings and calm down. After everyone had some alone time, we came back together to talk about what had happened. Elam’s feeling were hurt because he felt that Emma had blamed him and judged him for not building the right roof in Minecraft. Emma was mad because she felt that Elam was blaming her for the fight. 

After I dealt with the children and we came to a resolution, I realized something about the situation. I saw my own actions in the root of this fight, which is being quick to judge.  My sweet children were replicating what they see in me. Ouch!  I reflected back on times in which my first response is often a judgment statement instead of a question to clarify behavior. If I’m talking to my daughter about something and I see her make a face, I will say, “Change your bad attitude” without first inquiring what she is experiencing. On many occasions it is not a bad attitude it might be that she is feeling bad about what she did. 

One of the many challenges of parenting is observing your children replicate your faults and weaknesses. It’s so hard to witness that.  So what is a parent to do when this happens? Well, the first step is admitting and acknowledging that there is an area for growth and even confess it to your children.  During our talk after the big fight, I confessed to the children that I had been so guilty of judging their behavior on many occasions and they had learned that from me. I strongly believe that being a perfect parent is not attainable and being a parent who admits when he/she fails it is far more impacting on a child’s life that the ideal of unattainable perfection. Admitting our need for growth in a certain area is an essential point in growing into a better parent and a godly person. It is amazing how God can use parenting to help us see areas in our lives that don’t honor him. Admittance is an important step to growth.

When I observe an incident with my children and see my own behavior in theirs, I often feel guilty. I feel so bad and often think that I have scarred my children for the rest of their lives. How could I let this happen? Those are often my initial thoughts, but then I am reminded how God’s grace is always sufficient. An important step in growing as a parent is allowing you to feel God’s grace and to forgive yourself. Being hard on yourself will not promote change like the way grace does. Grace prompts us and empowers us to change. Guilt helps us realize there needs to be a change but the guilt itself will not change anything. When I am too hard on myself or am constantly apologizing to my children for the same offense, I am essentially teaching them to be hard on themselves. It is another behavior that I am emulating to them. I don’t want my children to grow up being hard on themselves so I need to show them to have grace on themselves by showing grace to myself. The feeling of guilt itself will not lead to growth, but it can prompt us to want to change. Ultimately, it is through God’s grace that we can find everything we need to be able to change.

I have learned I am more apt to change when I have a game plan. When I see my children behaving like I do, I realized I need an action plan so that I don’t commit the same mistakes. That day my kids and I memorized James 1: 19 that reminds us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” Reminding myself to listen first before placing judgment on one’s actions would help me in growing in that area.  I went back to God’s word. What does God say about this issue and what honors Him? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves when we are seeking to grow in a certain area. I now ask questions before I make statements.  For example, when my daughter is making faces when I am talking to her, instead of stating you have a bad attitude, I ask, “Can you tell me what you are feeling?” or “ You are making a face and I am not sure what it means.” My action plan has helped me in taking the right steps to change and grow into a better person that honors God.  You may also find it helpful to do some research by asking other parents on how they handle certain issues or behaviors. Your area of growth may be the same as mine or it may be different. Whatever that area is, determine an action plan so that when you are in trigger situations you will react differently.  

Ultimately, growth comes from God. It is through His grace and His word that we can change. Ask God to help you grow. Ask Him to help you listen to His gentle reminder when we aren’t honoring Him. Remind yourself that you will make mistakes along the way but with the help of God you can become the mother that God has destined you to be. 

Staying in the Lane God has Assigned Us

From a very early age, I trained as a runner. As early as first grade all the way through high school, I ran every track meet, from sprints to long distance.  One of my favorite races was the relay races which allowed us to move from competing individually to competing as a team. Regardless of the race being run, one thing was consistently drilled into our heads as competitors: STAY IN YOUR LANE.  

The moment your foot steps across the white line and you veer into someone else's lane you would be disqualified. Why was it so important to not step across that little white line on the hot Texas asphalt? Stepping across the line interfered with the other runners, potentially cause them to trip and fall. Staying in our own lane provided a safe place that allowed us the freedom to do what we had been trained to do, run our race to the best of our ability. 

One thing I learned quickly is that my eyes had a tremendous amount of power over the rest of my body.  By glancing to the left or right or looking over my shoulder to check the distance of the girl in the lane next to me, I would cause my feet to stumble and risk stepping over the line, disqualifying me from the race. My coach would always say to us, "NEVER look over your shoulder, run your own race."  By keeping my eyes straight ahead, I kept my eyes on the prize of that finish line. I was not distracted by those around me; I was motivated, but not distracted. 

I don't know about you, but often times I struggle to keep my eyes on my own race, more often than I would l would like to admit. I take my eyes off of my own race as a mother. I begin to look at how other moms parent their children, or how successful their life appears juggling and multi-tasking the demands of a busy family.  It is particularly hard when I see someone a few steps ahead of me in a season of life; I begin to unfairly compare my life to hers.  

Social media and the world of comparison we live in with "selfies" and documenting the highlights of each day taunts us constantly. It is as if the runners around us flaunt the fact they are running the race better and faster. We become distracted and consumed and our eyes begin to wander. 

Fearing that I am not measuring up to those around me, comparing my parenting to another, and shrinking in insecurity that I can't "do it all," I take my eyes off of my own race. I risk my own race by looking at those around me. I must stay in my own lane. 

Living in the world of comparison paralyzes us from living and living well. The insecurity and comparison tend to fade away when we realize the calling we have before us in the assignment of our own children. My job as a mother becomes my own priority, and I can’t compare myself to you and how you are doing as a mom. I must begin to learn to navigate how to stay in my own lane. I must stop comparing, and begin running in my own lane and own it.

Fear breeds insecurity. Insecurity breeds comparison. Comparison takes our eyes off of Jesus. When I can keep my eyes on my own race, I become consumed with running my race well. I keep my eyes on the finish line when my life is over and I hear my Father say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." My eyes are on eternity. I have a place of influence in the lives of my three daughters and an opportunity to point them to Jesus cheering for them to keep their eyes steady on what God has placed before them. As a family, we are running life as a team, not as individuals.  One day, I will pass the baton off to my girls as they are the next generation. When our eyes are on the finish line and our eternal home with our Savior Jesus Christ, we no longer are distracted or worried about where we are in the race.  Our goal is just to run our race well. Comparison leaves. As I learn to stay in my own lane, I can cheer for you as you run your race. 

Excerpts of this post are from The High Calling of Motherhood by Chimene Shipley Dupler.

The Summer Bucket List: Making the Most of the Last Days of Summer

No time during the year flies as quickly as summertime.  It seems school lets out and we feel the freedom of summer for only a few short days before we are back to packing lunches and managing homework.  I am primarily a stay at home mom to our 2 girls, currently 11 and 8.  During the school year, we spend our afternoons and weekends running from one activity to the next, so when summer rolls around, we are ready for a break!  We typically enjoy lazy days at the pool and spend a good deal of our time at Deep Creek Lake with family and friends.  Soon enough however, the first day of school comes and I start to wonder where the summer went and what we did with our time.  Did we make the most of it or did we squander it?  Will I look back in 10 years when the girls are gone and wish I had spent the time differently, if I can even remember how we spent the time at all?  

As Emily, our eldest, started progressing through elementary school, I came to the realization that not only did each summer pass quickly, but the summers would soon, in the not so distant future, look different as well.  The girls would become more independent, and start making their own plans that sadly, wouldn’t always include me.  Realizing that both the summer days and years were moving much too quickly, I decided that I needed to become more intentional with how we spent this time together.  I also wanted to remember these carefree days without regret, both at the end of each summer and years down the road.   I didn’t want to just “coast” through another summer.  

I’ve always found “to do” lists helpful. Writing down everything I need/want to do helps calm me when I am overwhelmed, and also helps me structure and prioritize my time.  Quite simply, “to do” lists help me get stuff done!  (And few things feel as satisfying as checking another item off the list!)  And so, out of my desire to be more intentional with the girls, combined with my love of lists, the Summer Bucket List was born!  It started as a spontaneous idea – one in which I jotted ideas down on Post-It Notes.  I just happened to have a block of 3 different colors of Post-Its, so as I wrote down ideas for summer activities, I mixed the colors and started sticking them up on the wall next to my desk in the kitchen.  The girls loved the idea and started contributing their own ideas.  

As a family (dad included!), we had a great time that first summer picking and experiencing activities on the list.  As we “checked” another item off the list, we removed the corresponding Post It Note from the wall, so we could easily assess which activities were left.  When the first day of school came around that year, I didn’t feel the same angst I had in the past; I could look back at the picture I had taken of the original list and remember all the things we had done.  I was still sad that summertime was over, but I felt a certain satisfaction, knowing we had made the most of our time.    

Over the last 4 years, our Summer Bucket List has evolved.  While there are still plenty of fun activities on the list, the girls will tell you there are some new “work items” on the list as well.  Going to the pool with friends is coupled with setting a reading goal for the summer and sometimes earning a coupon book from the public library. This year we added reading a book together.  Learning Something New, like how to dive into the pool or riding a 2-wheeler, is always something we include on the list.  Purging and re-organizing the girls’ bedrooms is another new activity that we added this year.  I’m not sure it’s a “fan favorite”, but I think at the end of the day (and it did take the larger part of the day!), we all felt that together, we had accomplished something good.  Another one of our other favorite bucket list items is volunteering our time and helping someone in need.  This year, we are donating school supplies and helping to pack the backpacks that will go to the kids in our area who need them.  

Do we always accomplish every item on the list?  No.  And that’s ok.  The list is not meant to create stress.  Frankly, we usually end up with too many items on the list that we can realistically accomplish in our short summers, but I don’t want to dampen anyone’s spirit by not including all of their ideas.  Sometimes the things we don’t get to do carry over into the fall or the following summer.  Do we have some days when we don’t do anything on the list?  Of course! And we enjoy these days and don’t feel badly about not crossing something off the list every day.   

The point of the Summer Bucket List is to inspire me, as a mom, to be intentional with block of unscheduled time that summer naturally brings.   The Bible tells us in James 4:14 that life is short.  The New Living Translation puts it like this:  “Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here for a little while and then it’s gone.”  Wow.  That is a powerful reminder of how quickly our time on Earth passes by.  And here we are, just a few short weeks away from summer’s end.  If you feel like you’ve made the most of this summer, fantastic!   Keep going!  If you are feeling a bit discouraged, it isn’t too late to make a mini bucket list.  Gather your family, jot a few ideas down, and go for it!  Make the most of these last few weeks and enjoy the time together!  

Sherry Fischer-HeadShot.JPG

Sherry grew up and still lives in Northern Virginia.  She obtained her Bachelors Degree (James Madison University) and Masters Degree (Virginia Commonwealth University), both in Social Work.  Sherry worked in a hospital setting as a Medical Social Worker/Case Manager for 20 years.   Sherry married Karl when she was 38 and is now a full time stay at home mom to Emily (12) and Abby (9).  When the girls were preschoolers, Sherry was an active participant and eventually served as a leader for Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS).  Once both girls were in school full time, Sherry joined the Passion4Moms team, where she is currently the Director of Hospitality and enjoys writing periodic blogs. For fun, Sherry enjoys making cherished memories with family and friends at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland.     

Boundaries with Social Media

If you are like me as a mom, you have seen all of your friends amazing vacation pictures of the summer, and you are holding your breath knowing all the first day of school pics are coming.  Social Media is an amazing tool to stay in touch especially with friend's and family who live far away, but sometimes it feels like this new way of connecting, social media, becomes more divisive than connecting.  Often times, I find myself comparing to others and feeling inadequate or insecure, especially as a mom. 

Social Media pretty much feels like middle school all over again. Why do we do this to ourselves? The drama of who has more likes, who can post the best vacation pic, who has the most creativity, who has the coolest VIP encounter consumes every post. I mean, seriously, it feels like social media is the perpetual state of living out middle school drama no matter how old we are! Social media has many positive opportunities to engage with people we would normally not be able to keep up with in life.  There are many pros to the tools we have available at our fingertips today. However, like anything in life we can take something that is good and create extremes that become a negative or have some downsides.

If your like me, I have noticed a couple of things that have happened over the last few years of scrolling social media. I have noticed that we not only put up our best moments that are well edited to enhance a perception of a perfect life, but we have also created a platform of comparison. It becomes an unspoken competition or need to feel valued or have an identity by posting our daily lives especially those moments that make us look successful.  We begin trying to “out-do” one another. This is filtering down to the next generation and we have kids that are looking for accolades by how many “likes” they get on an IG post rather than interacting face to face. Again, I love the benefits of social media. However, I am also seeing some negative effects on families, not only for moms, but for kids as we are looking to keep up or find our identity by someone clicking a like on our edited photos.

The question becomes am I longing to be more like Jesus or am I longing for “likes”.  We are being consumed as moms, and even as kids, with a pressure to compete which only leads us to feelings of depression when we can’t keep up. We are putting an undue burden on ourselves and our kids to measure success by edited highlight reels of moments rather than who we really are as a person.  This is not reality and can be really emotionally damaging.

We need boundaries when it comes to social media. There are times I can become discouraged or depressed by just seeing someone else appearing to be more successful because of pictures they post. We must create boundaries by limiting who we follow and how much time we spend on social media.  If you know a particular person is a trigger for feeling depressed or inadequate, don’t follow them. If you don’t have the self-control to limit how many times you go on social media or how much time you spend on it, then further measures need to be taken such as removing the app from my phone or having some accountability for how much time we spend on social media. And finally, to be honest, I do think we should think through the WHY behind our post.  Are we creating a place to make us feel valuable and important searching for worth and identity through how many likes and comments we receive or are we finding our worth and identity in our Creator? It is important that we as moms understand we are modeling for our kids where to find our identity.  Again, social media is an amazing platform, but we must not let it control our mental and emotional outlook on life or our identity which should be rooted and grounded in Jesus.