My Boys - they're not so little anymore

My boys are growing up, and always want to be on the move now, so I filled our summer schedule to the brim. The teenager is especially fond of chasing fun. Slow days at home grow tiresome for him. But in the midst of all the going, I'm holding tight to the not so distant past, and all the memories of slow afternoons doing crafts and playing dress-up and eating popsicles when they were small. Tonight I came across a sweet little journal entry from four years ago, and it made me all weepy. I just had to share it here, for those of you still knee deep in park dates and naptimes.

 

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(March 2014) The other night I peeked in on my middle-est, long after he was supposed to be asleep. Instead of sleeping he was playing, propped up on his elbow, adjusting the 30-some mini-figures on his nightstand. As he worked he sang quietly to himself, "I won't grow up... I don't want to go to school... just to learn to be a parrot... and recite a silly rule..."

I've been thinking of the story of Peter Pan lately myself. My name is Wendy. And the name Wendy was first imagined, penned and introduced to the world by Scottish novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie. Audiences in England and America alike fell in love with Peter, the boy who never grew up, and Wendy, the lost boys' play mother.

Standing on the cusp of a new season, I've been thinking of Wendy Darling and her lost boys. How dear she was to them, to darn their socks, tell them stories and put them to bed at the end of their adventurous days. While I don't darn my boys' socks, (I buy new ones at Target), I know the sweetness of story books and bedtime kisses on soft faces.

In the end, Wendy Darling returned home to England at the end of her adventure in Neverland, she didn't stay a little mother for ever. And my season with littles is coming to an end as well.

 

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A few weeks ago my littlest guy, in his last days of five, went to his friend Rosie's birthday party. He found her a pretty necklace with her initial spelled out in rhinestones, and wrapped it in white paper that he then painted with pink and purple hearts. The day before the party Rosie told Asher that she'd be wearing a princess dress to her party, so Asher came home and immediately went digging through his dress up bin.

I watched at the party as the two of them played with other children; chasing balls, blowing bubbles, and spinning hoola-hoops around their tiny middles. And the thought occurred to me, this may be the last time he asks to have a lightening bolt painted on his face! This may be the last time ANY child of mine plays, unashamed, in a knight costume in front of strangers.

Gulp.

This imaginative, smiling, cookie eating, sippy cup toting season is indeed coming to an end. And my heart feels the pang.

 

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Sweet Potato Pie is right!

Perfection.

And yet it's all close enough to remember the scratchy constant noise of that annoying toy, and my concern over feet on the kitchen table. Oh to go back and smell his sweet cheerio scented neck and hold his miniature pants, and here the scratchily-scratch of that obnoxious battery-operated toy.

Slow down, Mamas. Slow it down.

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Say Yes

Say yes to markers and crayons and water colors and sticker books and PJ's until noon. Keep a tub of cookie dough in the fridge and say YES as often as you can. Tickle backs at bedtime, even when you're eager for your own back to rest. And take plenty of pictures. Take pictures, but not at the expense of making memories. Make memories and make popsicles and make memories of those popsicles melting down arms and dripping off elbows on hot summer days. And say yes to the sprinklers, though you already did today. Say yes again. Push them high on swings and say yes to caterpillars and frogs. And let them wear their Yoda years everywhere they go for two years straight, because one day they won't fit and you'll be washing them and folding them up and putting them away into a bin of memories.

 

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Wendy Darling knows the fine art of raising boys, but also when the end of a season bids her farewell. I'm standing there today. So say yes in my honor today, when your child asks you to get down on the floor and play legos. Say Yes.

Depression and Motherhood - The Mom Club Few Talk About

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519GcurDeYL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to my friend, author and board certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson. Recently, I asked Dr. Michelle if she'd be willing to write a message for my mom-friends who are currently struggling with depression.

Some of you know a bit of my experience with depression, as I shared snippets of my own dark journey in chapter 18 of Triggers. And so it is with an insider's perspective that I fully endorse Dr. Michelle's new book, Hope Prevails, and appreciate her ongoing support for moms.

I pray you find courage and companionship as you journey through the dark and into the light of healing and hope. For hope truly does prevail!

 

Depression and Motherhood

a guest post by Dr. Michelle Bengtson

 

“No one understands,” she whispered, as she brushed her hair off her face and accepted my offer of a tissue to dry her tears that gently flowed down her face.

 

“Oh, I think more people understand than you realize. The problem is that people just don’t feel comfortable talking about it unless they know others understand. But I do understand—I’ve been where you are.” I explained.

 

“You have? But you always look so joyful, and put together!”

 

“I am now, for the most part, but I still have to do the work to stay here.” I paused for a moment, taking a sip of my iced-tea, letting that sink in for a moment before continuing. “But I’ve gone through depression a couple of times in my life. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It was very dark. But each time, I was right where you are…feeling alone, like no one else understood.”

 

“But no-one I know ever talks about it openly. Is it very common?”

 

I smiled before answering, not because the answer was a happy one, but because we all just want someone else to say, “me too,” and if we all knew the statistics, we would know we aren’t alone. We’re in a club that few talk about. “By 2020, depression is going to be our greatest epidemic worldwide.  In fact, more than 9 million women in the United States suffer with depression every year. I’d say that’s pretty common, wouldn’t you? And I was once one of them.”

 

She shifted on the couch, clearly becoming more comfortable as she acknowledged we had more in common than she previously realized. She dried her cheeks and leaned in, beckoning me to continue.

 

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“I wasn’t much further out from my pregnancy than you are now, just a few weeks, when I ‘went down under’ and then got help the first time. My mother was the one who realized I was suffering from post-partum depression. I had never known anyone who had suffered from PPD before, so I was ashamed. I thought there was something wrong with me. My baby was perfect, my husband was supportive, my home was beautiful, and yet I was falling apart. I cried all the time over nothing and anything. My mother knew what was wrong because she had gone through it, so she encouraged me to see my doctor for help and it made all the difference in the world. It was after that that I realized many women suffer, but often in silence, ashamed. But there is nothing to be ashamed of. And it’s treatable!”

 

We talked some more about my experience with post-partum depression, and then her own current experience… not sleeping, having no appetite, being irritable all the time, crying for no reason, not wanting to do things she used to enjoy, not wanting to get out with friends or family.

 

Then she was curious about my other experience with depression, since it ran deep and wide in her family. She feared the demands of motherhood, and the stress it could have on her physically, and emotionally.

 

What she didn’t realize, and what many doctors and therapists don’t discuss, is the fact that there is also often a spiritual component to the disorder. When we don’t consider that spiritual component, we’re really just putting a band-aid on it, hoping it’ll get better.

 

According to Scripture, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

 

John 10:10 declares, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” In the case of depression, the thief comes to steal our joy, kill our peace, and destroy our identity, but we can thank God that he doesn’t get the last say! Because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, hope prevails, even in depression!

 

Part of the reason I wrote my book, “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” was to share not only my story but my clinical experience, helping people address the spiritual component of depression and heal it from the inside out.  

 

We have a very real enemy who attacks us incessantly, primarily through our thought life. Have you ever had thoughts like, “My kids would be better off with a different mother”? Or how about, “This is just too hard. I can’t do this.” Do you ever find yourself thinking that you’re a failure?

 

Can I let you in on a little secret? The same enemy who wormed his way onto the scene and tried to destroy Eve, the mother of all living things, is out to try to destroy you too! Those thoughts you have about your inadequacies as a mother? They aren’t your thoughts. They are from the same enemy who made Eve doubt what she knew to be true. And if he can get you down or depressed, he knows you’ll be less effective in your mothering responsibilities—the most important job you’ll ever have.

 

But the good news? God promises that, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

 

Here’s what you need to remember: God chose you to parent your child. He is 100% for you. And He loves your child even more than you do, so He hasn’t left you on this journey alone. He will guide you through this parenting journey, working ALL things together for the good of you and your child! The best way to fight back, is with the truth of God’s word.

 

When you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know what to do,” remember, “God will direct [your] steps” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

 

When you berate yourself believing that you “aren’t smart enough,” remember God promises, He will give you wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30).

 

When parenting is difficult and you feel like you can’t go on, remember God promises that His grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

When you are at the end of your parenting rope, and you don’t know what to do, remember that God promised that He will supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19).

 

When you are afraid, remember where that fear comes from, and know that instead, God has given you power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

 

And perhaps my favorite: when you have made a mistake as a mother, and find it difficult to forgive yourself, remember that God has already forgiven you (Romans 8:1), and you can use this as a teachable moment with your child.

 

I see them as they come into my office day after day, week after week, each so similar, yet individual and unique: mothers. Some initially surprised, but ultimately honored by, and then fully embracing their God-given call to motherhood. Some longed and desired to be mothers for years. Regardless how they got there or how long they’ve been in that role, they have all had their share of insecurities, doubts, and fears about their adequacy as a mother, often made worse when they’ve fallen prey to the torment of depression. But there is help and there is hope available. You are not alone, and you don’t have to suffer in silence.

 

Because of Him, #HopePrevails

 

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Author, speaker and board certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson is also a wife, mother and friend. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Michelle Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She is the author of “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and blogs regularly at DrMichelleBengtson.com follow her on Facebook or Instagram for more encouragement.  Order a copy of Hope Prevails today!

 

 

(This post includes affiliate links)

How do I ask my husband for help?

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I could see her in my mind as I read her email:  

"I'm typing this with one hand and one thumb, wondering if you could help me - I'm struggling as a mom and wife. To give a little context... Right this minute I'm holding in my arms my sweet 16 month boy. He's my only child. This is not how I'd prefer to do his daily 2 hour nap time, but here I am. I'm kind of struggling with parenting. This 2 hour naptime is one of many reasons I find myself desperately craving a break. I don't have family that supports us as we fumble through parenthood. We feel rather alone. But what's become hardest for me right now is the inequality of free time (personal time, me time) that my husband and I each get. He is able to take off for a whole day to do things like bike ride thru the countryside or go on a day long relay run with friends and out for dinner. While all that I can get is an hour or two to go to the store alone or clean house because I'm so very behind on taking care of things. I feel like God would probably want me to just let this issue of inequality of free time go - aren't we called as mothers to sacrifice more than our husbands? He has a job he loves and coworkers he enjoys. I guess I don't see how he could have a greater need for more free time than I do. Can you help me? How do I ask my husband for help?

 

This woman could have been me six years ago - only my 16 month old baby had two preschool aged brothers running around in their Thomas the Train underwear, dripping popsicles on the carpet and leaving facets running in every bathroom in the house.  All the while I tried to get the baby back to sleep.

By the end of the day, with dinner finally on the stove, my husband walked in with a broad smile and a fresh haircut.  All three boys yelled "daddy," then ran to him with enthusiasm, but all I saw was the haircut. He'd said he would be home early that afternoon, but obviously early meant he now had the time to stop for a haircut.  I hadn't had a haircut in 16 months.  I was out of moisturizing cream.  I haven't been to the dentist in two years.  But he stopped for a haircut.

All the scripture I'd hidden in my heart came rising up and rang in my ears, "Greater love hath no (woman) than this, that (she) lay down their life for (her family.)" It was my own translation of God's Word, as I resolved to serve selflessly at home. So I smiled back at my guy, pulled my tangled hair back in a bun, and pushed my needs down further still.

Except eventually, without fail, I'd break down crying - and it would ultimately all bubble up and out with hot tears in just the wrong way, at just the wrong time.  And he'd feel attacked.

This was our cycle for many years.  He worked hard all day and tried his best to be present when he got home.  I worked hard at home, trying to not resent him for the casual way he still seemed to get all his needs met.  As I did dishes and bathed kids and folded laundry, he'd tell me about which friend he was able to meet up with for lunch that day, or I'd find a movie ticket in his pants pocket as I started the eleventh load of wash.

We didn't learn to communicate well in those early parenting years.  And it never felt like I could share my struggle with other women because their advice never settled right in my spirit.

 

"You need to tell him what you need!  You should have more help.  He needs to do this... You tell him that you want him to..."

 

So I retreated further into what I imagined Christian submission looked like, all the while pushing through resentment, muscling my way through bitterness, until the next time it all bubbled up and out again.

And then one Sunday, sitting on the patio at church while the children enjoyed a second hour of Sunday school, we decided to ditch our adult fellowship class and simply sit and talk.  And I mean, we really talked.  I wasn't crying and he didn't feel attacked.  Truth be told, it sort of felt like a miracle, even the memory makes me tear up.

That Sunday was the beginning of something extraordinary.  And every Sunday thereafter, for the next few months, we sat together on the patio hearing and healing.

 

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Here are four practical things I learned as we sat together on the patio at church week after week:

 

1) GOD CARES ABOUT MY NEEDS - While God designed moms to sacrifice and "lay down their lives" for this intense season at home, He never intended for us to actually DIE!  He is absolutely enamoured with moms.  He loves us to the moon and back.  We are the apple of His eye.

We are as much His children as our children are His children, and His love for us has no end.  He came that we might have life, abundant and free.  But He knows full well that mothering is hard, and wants us to have His help in the weary years with our young.

 

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:11)

 

There is nothing harsh nor demanding about God's love for mothers.  He wants to gently lead us through our days and our trials. Sitting on the porch, my guy with a coffee and me with a sweet cup of chamomile tea, I began to learn this.

 

2) BELIEVE THAT YOUR HUSBAND WANTS TO HELP YOU - Early on in our marriage we coined the phrase "EXPECT THE BEST." I'll be honest with you - we both forgot a time or two in the busy years with babies, but we've always come back to this basic creed. EXPECT THE BEST.

Can I tell you something about your husband and mine? They never set out to take advantage of us. Your man didn't marry you with this hidden agenda of using you like a maid and a cook, a wet-nurse and a sex-toy. He took those vows seriously, and he still does.  It's possible he simply doesn't know what to do right now.   But he wants to. You know he'd take a bullet for you right?  That's not elusive.  But you and your needs... somehow that can be.

His vow was to love and support you, cherish and hold you, in good times and bad, during those precious honeymoon years, and these pressing ones with little people waking us multiple times through the night for months on end. He's tired.  You're tired.  But commit to believing that he has good intentions where you and the kids are concerned - even if you can't see them today, believe they are there.

 

3) CREATE A WEEKLY SAFE ZONE - Finding a safe block of time each week to address your challenges can be life altering!  Knowing that I had that Sunday hour coming up gave me hope daily, because I knew that he would listen with ears purposed to hear my heart.  I didn't explode because "Sunday was coming." That gave me great comfort.

Now I know that many of you don't have the finances or family nearby to make a date night feasible, but figuring out some way to create this time together each week is crucial.  Maybe it's a Thursday night date night on the couch, or on the back porch under the stars. Something, anything, as long we it's safe and consistent time together.

 

4) ASK HIM FOR HELP - Sure, you knew this was coming, but there's a twist in my advice.  Don't outright tell him how you want him to help you (Unless he's the kind of man who asks you to tell him exactly what you need.) Instead, try to remember that at the core of most men is a heart that wants to rescue and serve.  Share with him what needs you have that are going unmet, then ask him to work with you to make a schedule that will allow you to get those core needs met. Engage him by asking for his opinion, not just his help. 

 

I said something in this price-range:

 

"Sweetheart, my only time alone these days is when I run to the grocery store, and I always feel anxious when I'm gone, like I need to hurry back and start making dinner.  I know that you don't want me to feel stressed, but I do.  I cold really use your help to come up with a consistent schedule that wouldn't just give me more time for errands, but would allow me to fit more of the things I need and enjoy (without baby) back into our lives again.  Work outs, friendship, my interests. I feel like I'm losing myself right now, and I need you to rescue me.  Would you help me?  

What do you say we look at your weekly calendar and figure out two times a week for me to get out to get things done.  And maybe one Saturday a month when I can go to the hair salon or shopping with friends or just take a walk on the beach or whatever.  Maybe I should choose a weekday every few months so I can get to the dentist and the doctor and that stuff.  Do you think I should hire a babysitter for those days since you have work?  What do you think?  Do you have any other ideas?

 

As the weeks go by, my guess is that your husband will see how basic yet crucial your needs really are - and as your joy begins to wax and your resentment begins to wane he will likely suggest more ways to communicate his love to you. "You know, we really do need to have some date nights that aren't at home.  Would you set up a babysitter so I can take you out."

It might not go as smoothly as I'm painting the picture here, but it's a start - a good, safe, healthy place to begin.  So take a deep breath and remember that you are loved by God, that He never intended you to actually lay down your life to the point of death during these mothering years. Remember also that you are loved by your husband too, and that communication is possible.  So find a safe time and place, ask him for his help, and expect the best.

 

With much love and respect for all you do,

Wendy