Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Growing Grateful Kids Part 2: Refuse Worry

A few months ago I started telling you about the first chapter of a book I was reading for an online book club, Growing Grateful Kids: Teaching Them to Appreciate an Extraodinary God in Ordinary Places by Susie Larson...and then I stopped!  I meant to continue on to the other chapters a long time ago but I guess I got side tracked by all of our eating and traveling.  If you are interested and you missed it, you can read about the online book club and Chapter 1 here.  Anyway, here is what I learned from Chapter 2:  Refuse Worry.

At the very beginning of the chapter is a quote that pretty much sums up what I learned about worry.  "Worry is an indication that we think God cannot look after us." Oswald Chambers.  My first thought was...hmmmm...I'm not much of a worrier....this isn't really an issue that I have.  Of course I always start out thinking that issues do not apply to me...but this book has opened up a whole world of things about myself that I need to work on that I didn't even realize.

So back to the "non-worrier" me...My friend Jenni has even told me (during hectic end of the grading period report cards, paper work etc.) that she had decided to be more like me. She was not going to stress out about school paperwork, it would all get done, and she was going to work on being more laid back and relaxed like me.   After a classroom observation by a former principal, she told me I had the most patience she had ever seen and I never appeared to be out of control or flustered.  And they are both right...most of the time I am extremely "go with the flow" and it takes a lot to get me worked up or stressed out.    However I am discovering that there are other times that I worry about things that haven't even happened yet or that are out of my control.

For instance:  When I met Michael I was teaching in Wake County in Raleigh at a school where I was offered trainings and conferences on a regular basis and I was given most any resource I requested.  Wake County had often times been recognized in the news as being one of the top school systems in the nation.  My school prided itself on using the latest teaching strategies and keeping up to date with current trends in education and I regularly had teachers from other schools coming to observe me teach (as well as my other teammates) and view our classrooms.  My first few years of teaching were amazing and I was given so many opportunties to learn and advance my experience as a young teacher.  This county was where I had always planned on my future children attending school because it was an awesome school system.   

The county where Michael lives is a very rural area and is able to offer far less than my beloved Wake County.  Michael attended a private school in the area which was absolutely unheard of to me...I was a PUBLIC school teacher.  I couldn't fathom why anyone would go to a private school and I couldn't understood why you would live somewhere where the schools were not labeled one of THE BEST.  I know this sounds harsh on my part but you have to remember being at the top of the education field was my LIFE.  I made it a point to live somewhere that I could advance my career as much as possible.  Michael's experience is the complete opposite.  He had always envisioned his future children going to the school he attended.  This gave me heart palpitations.  For the first time in my life I have actually considered home schooling when I have always said it was something that I would never do.

Kellan's education is one thing that I feel very strongly about (I felt this way before there even was a Kellan!).  And remember when I said I wasn't much of a worrier and it just wasn't an issue that I have?  I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I was worrying about where our future children were going to to go to school before Michael and I were engaged!  I am also not exaggerating when I tell you that worrying about this subject has kept me up many, many nights.  It is also an ongoing disagreement between Michael and I and has led to lots of tears.  I always get emotional when we argue over something that I really care a lot about or something that really makes me mad.  I probably should not say that we argue because its not that we are both yelling at each other (actually if anything its more than likely me yelling and Michael just patiently listening...if I'm completely honest) but just that we both have total opposite feelings on the topic.  I could never be a lawyer. There is no way I could ever get my point across without sobbing, which I'm guessing is not a good tactic.  Right now its more of an ongoing frustration because its not something that we have the answer to quite yet.

So I'm sure you're thinking what in the world does this have to do with the book?!  Going back to the quote at the beginning of the chapter, me spending all of these countless hours WORRYING about something that we are not even going to have to deal with for another 4 years has gotten me nowhere.  On top of that its like saying that I do not trust God to take care of my children and provide them an opportunity for a good education. Instead of being grateful that we live somewhere that provides a stable family business where my husband works, in turn allowing me to stay at home with our son, a vehicle and finances to take my children to any museum, play, concert, shopping center that my heart desires.  This chapter opened my eyes to needing to turn this worry over to God and realize that he will provide the school whether it be me homeschooling or placing my children in great teachers' classrooms.

The more I read and thought, I realized that I am a "closet worrier." I rarely express my worries outloud...not even to myself really. They are just constant thoughts in my head. Am I doing everything "right" as far as raising Kellan? Am I feeding him the best foods? Am I spending enough time doing the "right" kinds of activities with him everyday? Is my house clean enough because I spend too much time playing with Kellan and making his food? Am I doing the right thing by staying home and being a full time mom?  But then if I went back to work I'm sure I would be worrying about NOT staying home with him.  Financially are we doing the right thing by becoming a single income family? 

The list is never ending! Worrying is such a habit that I didn't even realize that I'm always doing it!  Becoming a parent brings on constant worries and its hard to turn them off.  Knowing that I need to turn my worries over to God and actually letting go and doing it are two different things.  I have a feeling this will be an ongoing work in progress.  My goals are to focus more on the positives in my life and thank God for those because there are a lot more of them than negatives.  I also need to pray more about my worries instead of spinning my wheels with my unproductive thoughts.

One other topic this chapter covered was voicing our fears and worries in front of our children.  If our children are constantly hearing us talk about how stressed and worried we are, how can we at the same time expect them to have faith that God is ultimately in control?  The world we live in pushes children to grow up entirely too fast.  When I was a classroom teacher I would regularly have students share issues from their home life that, in my opinion, they should not have even known about.  As parents, we are the adults, it is our job to be strong and find solutions...that is just part of it.  Financial concerns, relationship conflicts with friends or spouses, among other things, are not our children's burdens to bear.  I know we can only shield our children from the "real" world for so long but I want to make it a point to give my children a real childhood and prevent my worries from becoming their worries.  And as we know, kids are smart!  They pick up on everything and its difficult to hide very much from them.  So the only way to keep my worries from becoming their worries is for me to get serious about turning mine over to God and having faith that he is in control.

I loved this quote, "We plant seeds with every word we say.  The thing is...are we planting weeds or something beautiful?"  Are we filling our children up with positive words and outlooks on life or negative, gloomy, doomsday words and views?  And of course we are not perfect.  We all have days where we have more than we can handle and our children will see us lose it!!  That is inevitable...we are human.  But Mrs. Larson says "When our kids see us blowing a gasket, they also need to see what the restoration process looks like."  Just like us, our children are going to mess up too and its up to us to teach them how to ask for forgiveness, pull ourselves together, and regain a positive perspective.

This book has given me a lot to think about, a lot to work on and has taught me a lot about myself.  I plan to post about some other chapters sooner rather than later.  And for those of you that actually made it to the bottom of this and suffered through my muddled is your reward. :)

This, of course, is what good parenting looks like.  Shoving a pair of sunglasses on your baby, holding his hands down, and laughing at him while you take pictures.  Oh least he doesn't look worried :)

And this is how I found these two after I returned from the restroom.   There was actually a game of peek-a-boo and a lot of giggles going on but they were not captured in the picture. :D

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