Parenting as a Motherless Mother

opeBy Ope Malomo

During the summer holidays of my first year in high school, my mum fell ill, was admitted to the hospital and never returned home. Her death when I was only 11 shook my entire world, even more so because I had lost my dad only five years prior to this.

I had assumed that she would be around long enough to see me graduate from high school, complete my university degree and rejoice with me on my wedding day. We should have celebrated many milestones together. That wasn’t to be the case.

It has been 23 years since I was orphaned, and my pain has eased as the years have gone by. However, in recent years, two major events have reignited the deep longing for my mum: my wedding and the birth of my son. Of these two, motherhood is by far the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with, and at the same time it has been fulfilling and rewarding.

Despite having my lovely mother-in-law around to support me in the post-partum period, I was still overwhelmed with grief and loneliness. I yearned to have my mum close by, to comfort me as I ached from the pains of childbirth. I longed for her to cuddle my son and share stories of my childhood. Thankfully, I had very little time to be consumed by my thoughts, as most of my time was devoted to caring for my son, who craved my attention.

With each passing day, I am eternally grateful for the legacy my mum left behind. She modelled a positive attitude to life, service to others, generosity and devotion to her faith. These have been instrumental in coping with my grief as well as dealing with the challenges of parenting.

My experience as a bereaved child has shaped my parenting in many ways and taught me to:

  • Create loving and happy memories for my family to cherish in years to come.
  • Celebrate my achievements and that of my loved ones, no matter how small.
  • Have a positive outlook on life, no matter what challenges I may be facing. God makes ALL things beautiful in His time and ALL things will work out for my good.
  • Trust God with every aspect of my life including parenting. He knows my struggles and feels my pain. He knows exactly how to encourage me through His word and loved ones He surrounds me with.

I know not what lies ahead of my parenting journey or even my own personal life, but I do know the One who holds the future and I know His plans for me are of good, not evil. Because of Him, I can face tomorrow, come what may!

About Ope MalomoLOH front cover (for web use)
Open Malomo is a wife and mother of one cute little boy. She’s a project manager, business owner and mentor for bereaved children. Her book, Letters of Hope, offers encouragement and coping strategies for bereaved children.

 

Christmas in Your Heart

Image courtesy of Kittisak/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Kittisak/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here are 4 ideas for spreading Christmas cheer you can make yourself.

  1. Ornaments. Tree ornaments can be made from almost anything, including things you have around the house. Most of the raw materials are inexpensive to purchase and instructions for a variety of homemade ornaments abound on the Internet. (Here’s a craft site with dozens of ideas.) Some ideas of things that can become tree decorations include clothespins, Mason jar lids, pine cones, lightweight photo frames, buttons, fabric scraps, etc.
  2. Holiday cards. Have your little ones get creative and draw festive scenes, scan and print on card stock for handmade Christmas greetings. Using holiday stamps on card stock will work, too.
  3. Homemade wrapping paper. Turn your kids loose with stamps, glitter, markers and their imagination on a roll of butcher paper and use it for wrapping presents. Cost: Low-cost.
  4. Video cheer. Record an original family Christmas presentation with skits and songs. Make DVD copies and sent to far-off relatives and friends.

May you and your family have a joyous and Merry Christmas, and I’ll see you in 2016 with more tips, ideas and encouragement as we continue this parenting journey.

Until next time,

Sarah

A Friend’s “Bad” Influence

Q: My 9-year-old daughter has a 10-year-old best friend who is a model student and respectful of adults, etc. We’ve known her family for several years. However, there are some things that really concern me, such as her parents allowing her and her younger brother to watch movies I consider for adults and letting this girl have unsupervised access to the Internet. This friend is also allowed to use electronics all the time and to stay up on weekends until 1 a.m. I don’t allow my daughter to do any of the above.

What’s been happening is that when this girl has been over to play with my daughter, she wrestled with my daughter and left lots of bruises on her. My daughter has a problem standing up for herself because she doesn’t want to make her friend upset. I also worry about how they are pretend playing, what they are talking about because of the overexposure of bad media this seemingly good girl is exposed to. I can’t be with them every second or hear their conversations but I’m worried.

Is this girl a bad influence on my daughter? My daughter questions why she can watch everything her parents watch but my daughter can’t. I don’t want my daughter to have a best friend that is a bad influence or will be in years to come. I have talked to her parents about not allowing my daughter to watch certain things and they state that they wish they were more like me but it’s too late for them to take it away from their kids. Am I completely over reacting here?

Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: Your dilemma is one that all of us parents face at some point in our lives: Namely, how do we help our kids navigate the often tricky and sticky friend situations? I’m not sure how to say this without sounding unsympathetic but here goes: You are way too interested in this other girl’s home life and how her parents are raising her. As a result, you have gone into overdrive with your fears and concerns. As you state, it’s your opinion that allowing a child access to unlimited electronics and a steady diet of movies is harmful to her development and social interaction.

However—and this is a big however—the friend in question by all intents and purposes is a good kid who respects adults and does well in school. Your only quibbles are that this friend played a little too rough with your mild-manner daughter (who might or might not have left similar bruises on her friend—it takes two to play rough or gentle) and might have (again, unfounded fears!) talked about a show or movie that your daughter hasn’t seen.

I suspect the real problem might be that you are having trouble saying no to your daughter in the areas of electronics and movie viewing, and are questioning your own stance in light of the fact that these too are parents with a well-behaved girl who allow what you have seen fit to forbid. You’ve talked to the parents about not allowing your daughter to view movies without your approval and they appear willing to adhere to your restrictions.

Other than holding the line as to your own convictions regarding electronics and movies, you should let go of your angst about this other girl. You are not her parent, and the more you obsess with how she’s being raised, the more you will let fear be your guide in your own child rearing. Reactive parenting—that is, reacting to what everyone’s doing around you—is never good for the parent or the child.

So breathe, let go, and stop worrying so much until there’s concrete evidence that you need to worry. Concentrate instead on instilling character into your own child through prayer, example and Bible reading. Equip your daughter and she will be able to weather any storm life brings her way.

A Christmas Secret

By Angela D. Meyer

My sister (6 years old) and brother (11 years old) both ended up being mad at me. I was only four at the time. What did I know about keeping a secret?

My brother pulled me into his plans as I watched him wrap his Christmas gift to my sister. “Don’t tell her what I’m giving her. Okay?”

I agreed to be in on his surprise. It was nice to be included, though I’m not sure why he even let me watch. But there I was. He should have known better.

Part of his gift was a ball and the other was some trinket from his room. I’m pretty sure she must have been eyeing these items or else he had waited too long to conspire with my parents to come up with anything more original than that. I would like to think it was the former, but I remember how my brother treated us before he grew up. The second option is much more likely.

There weren’t many gifts under the tree yet. Perhaps a couple from grandparents and those from each of us siblings to the others in our home. But my parents always waited till Christmas Eve to put their gifts out. It added to the element of mystery I still enjoy to this day.

My sister and I sat at the top of the old wooden stair case, staring down at the Christmas tree in the living room and those few gifts tantalizing us with a promise of good things to come Christmas morning.

“Do you know what he got me?” My sister asked.

“Yes.” I was oblivious to where this was leading. Besides, I couldn’t lie.

“What is it? I want to know.”

It felt good to have the inside scoop. I told her. Easy as that. No arm twisting necessary.

She frowned. “Why did you tell me?”

“You asked me.” I couldn’t understand why she was mad. I watched her stomp away. My brother soon discovered that I let the secret out, then both of them were mad at me.

These days, I’m much better at keeping a secret and pulling off surprises. Whether it’s a gift someone really wants, an activity one of my kids wants to do or a surprise birthday party, I find it satisfying to pull off. It takes a little bit of sneaky and a firm determination to keep things to yourself. And thanks to my siblings, I have a healthy dose of both.

Have you ever revealed a sibling secret?

About Angela D. Meyer
Angela D Meyer
Angela D. Meyer, the author of Where Hope Starts, lives in Nebraska with her husband of 24 years and their daughter, who is in high school. They have one son in the Marines. Angela has taught Bible classes for over 35 years and you can find her on social media encouraging women to grow in their faith and to stand strong in life. Angela enjoys hanging out with her family, reading and connecting with friends. One of her favorite spots is next to the ocean and someday she wants to ride in a hot air balloon. Stop by and say hello to Angela at her website: http://www.angeladmeyer.com/.

7 Ways to Enjoy the Holiday Season

Decorations and music can bring cheer to any occasion and Christmas is no exception. Christmas also can cheer up our lives with the many light displays that range from the simple to the eye-popping. Check out these seven fun ideas that revolve around decorating your home, relishing the music of the season and appreciating the lights.

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  1. Decorating party. Get the whole family involved in putting up the tree and other Christmas decorations by planning a specific time. Serve hot chocolate, play Christmas music and turn lose your decorating muse.
  2. Remembering our animal friends. Pop plain popcorn and string the popped kernels with fresh cranberries. Place the ropes on an outside tree or bush near a window and watch the birds enjoy their Christmas treat. “Paint” pinecones with peanut or other nut butters, attach a string and hang up in a tree for the squirrels to enjoy.
  3. Caroling, caroling through the neighborhood. Gather together a group of songbirds from your family and friends for an afternoon or evening spent serenading neighbors. Practice four or five Christmas hymns and end the concert with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Consider visiting area nursing or retirement communities, hospitals or hospices and even your local mall (with permission!) to spread some holiday cheer.
  4. A musical Christmas evening. Sit by the tree and sing Christmas carols, have children or adults play Christmas favorites on instruments and read “The Night Before Christmas” or other holiday poems or short books aloud. Serve holiday cookies and wassail to get into the spirit of the evening.
  5. Attend a Christmas concert or play. Many churches put on free, beautiful productions of the Christmas story in songs and plays. Call area houses of worship, check local newspaper listings, and ask family and friends for recommendations of performances.
  6. Neighborhood lights. One evening, have everyone get into their pajamas and pile into the family car for a drive around the neighborhood to ogle the handiwork of your neighbors. Wrap up a plate of holiday baked goods to give to the owners of the house voted by your family as the most Christmasy.
  7. Light shows. Most localities have a light show within easy driving distance. These shows are generally in a park and feature large and innovative light displays. Weekends are peak visiting time, so if you don’t like crowds, pick a weekday evening. Our family has a tradition of going to see the local light show after Christmas to avoid the crush. Most venues charge by the car-load.

Next Tuesday, find out how handmade items can show your heart this season.

Until next time,

Sarah

 

 

5 Ways to Celebrate Christmas Throughout December

There’s no doubt that children love Christmas, but balancing your to-do list with their celebration expectations can be tiring for any parents. To spread the joy of Christmas all month long, check out these five ideas for celebrating Dec. 1 through 25 and beyond.

  1. Image courtesy of zdiviv/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
    Image courtesy of zdiviv/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Marking time. Advent calendars are a great way to help children countdown to Christmas Day and to interject the true meaning of Christmas in the process. Have your children count off numbers and then rotate those numbers to avoid squabbles over whose turn is it to place the star of Bethlehem in the heavens.

  2. Reading Christmas. Each December 1, we get out our Christmas books and holiday movies. Then every day that month, one child picks a book or movie for the entire family to watch or read together. Variations of this include wrapping the books and movies separate and having the kids pick something sight unseen. Consider a holiday-themed book swap with friends to get an influx of new material or visit your library to snag some books to read.
  3. Adopt a family. If you’re able, consider sponsoring a family in need this holiday. Area nonprofit groups like food banks often have programs that link a needy family with a sponsor. Our family does this each year and our children love to go shopping for that family’s children.
  4. Volunteer. Soup kitchens, food banks, and other nonprofit groups have need of extra hands during the holiday season, so consider signing up as a family to help out.
  5. Smile. Just having a cheerful countenance can make someone’s day. Try to smile as you go about your errands. Treat each sales clerk and cashier with kindness. Don’t be a Scrooge with your face!

Next Tuesday, learn about how decorations, music and lights can really brighten your holiday season!

Until next time,

Sarah

 

7 Ways to Be Thankful at Thanksgiving

With the ever-encroaching Christmas season threatening to overshadow the humble Thanksgiving holiday, here are seven ways to recapture the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

  1. Focus on praise. Giving God praise can take the spotlight off of ourselves. Scripture commands us to praise God. Use Bible verses, such as those from Romans 5 and 8, and Ephesians 1, to prime the pump of praise.
  2. Expect things to go right. How many times do we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas thinking about all the things that could go wrong? Reorienting our thinking can make the season less stressful and more meaningful. “
  3. Write thank-you notes. Use November to write letters of thanks to those who have done something for you that you appreciated. Even children can find this activity rewarding, and you may be pleasantly surprised at what they are thankful for.
  4. Have a prayer of thanksgiving before meals. Asking God to bless our food and families might seem like a no-brainer, but can be one of the things lost in our busy days. It’s a daily reminder of our many blessings.
  5. Hold off on Christmas decorations. Don’t put up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. When you pull out the holiday decorations before carving the turkey, you can be tempted to overlook Thanksgiving.
  6. Count your blessings. Even if things are less-than-ideal now, most of us have things—both big and small—for which we can give thanks. Going around the table and saying what you’re most thankful for can set the right tone going into the Christmas season.
  7. Give of yourself. Whether it’s helping out a neighbor or fellow church member in need or volunteering at a soup kitchen, serving others “makes our time more fulfilling and meaningful,” says Christie. Even if you can’t give monetarily, giving of your time can be a blessing to others during the holiday season.
Image courtesy of nongpimmy/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of nongpimmy/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Putting Thanksgiving in its proper place can help us to enter the Christmas season with a more joyful and relaxed attitude. We need to embrace Thanksgiving as our own, making as special and important as Christmas. We should remember that even on our worst days, most of us have more than many others in the world around us. Let’s remember to set aside some time to say thanks for those blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sarah

A Just-Get-By Attitude

Q: Our third grader has a “do as little as I can to just get by” attitude with everything. This year, we told him he has complete independence and that all his homework—including spelling words—were his responsibility and we would not remind him at all to do them. He knows our expectations are that he gets the equivalent of A’s or B’s, and he is capable of producing that level of work. However, at school, he doesn’t receive any consequences for not doing his homework or turning in his homework. His teacher doesn’t check the homework, which my son knows, so he rushes through it because it doesn’t matter. That means we end up checking it because we want him to know it is important.

With his personality being one that he does as little work as possible the first time around and hopes it is good enough, the school system will totally fail him in the long run. He will always know he can re-take a test and therefore not study the first time. He recently scored poorly on a unit assessment but the teacher will just have him re-test.

What should our actions be? Should we set up punishments at home since the natural consequences (bad grades from the school) won’t happen? We did ask the teacher to make him do his homework during recess if he forgets it or doesn’t do it. She did agree to this and he hasn’t missed a homework assignment since. What do we do as the parents to help him become a responsible person even when the school is working against us?

Image courtesy of photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of photostock/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: Ah, yes, the child who figures out what he can “get by with” can be challenging to motivate. But that doesn’t mean you throw up your hands in despair that he will realize that doing his best is for his best.

Since his teacher cooperated on his homework, you have a good avenue to take. First, though, you need to stop checking his work at home, which undermines your statement that he has complete control over his homework. Have another meeting with the teacher to express your concerns that he’s getting too many chances. Since you haven’t said that it’s a matter of material (i.e., he’s not understanding what’s being taught), then it’s better to nip this in the bud this year instead of in high school when the stakes are higher.

But you must be willing to have him fail completely and repeat third grade if necessary—otherwise, he might not figure out it’s better for him to do the work he’s capable of doing. Tell the teacher upfront that you are perfectly prepared to have him repeat third grade if he’s not able to do the work the first time around. Communicate your contentment with keeping the first grade on all assignments and tests (with the rare exception of everyone in the class needing a retake on a test). If necessary, meet with the principal and guidance counselor, too, if the teacher seems unwilling to do this.

Since she cooperated on the homework, she will likely cooperate on the tests/quizzes, too. And the best thing you can do is to convince the school that you’re serious about letting him fail third grade and repeating it—that puts his academic career squarely on his shoulders. Once the teacher agrees, inform your son that he’ll not be able to retake tests, quizzes, or turn in assignments late or incomplete with impunity. I’d even tell him that he’s in danger of repeating third grade if he doesn’t start caring more about his classwork and tests.

Things might get worse before they get better, so be prepared for him to test you—and the school—by failing spectacularly. But the good news is that he still has time to turn this around and become a better student. Remember, you’re not just wanting him to pass third grade on his own—you want him to have the ability to self-motivate when the stakes are relatively low, so he’ll be able to do so when the stakes are higher.

Another Dumb Dare

By Glenn Haggerty

My older brother, Bill, had a genius for scoping out pranks on the fly. With me in the middle, our younger brother, Brian, collected most of the flack.

When I was a young teen, my father bought, fixed up and resold rundown houses. Once he purchased a particularly disgusting dump with only one redeeming feature—a small kidney-shaped swimming pool out back. Dad hauled his three boys over for cleanup duty, then dropped us off to buy paint, with instructions to put trash into a nearby dumpster.

After Dad sped away, I turned and eyed the hovel. I cracked the front door and the odor of stale urine, open sewage, mold, mildew and rotting garbage scalded my nostrils.

Bill pushed the door open. “You could get a serious disease here.” He stepped inside. “Aw man, gross.”

I stomped in behind. “This is disgusting.”

Seriously wanting to slack off, we slow-toured the house. Opening each door revealed new piles of rubble and filth. The kitchen had rotting cupboards and food in various stages of decomposition—we didn’t brave the bathrooms. Holding his nose, Brian stumbled back out the front door for relief.

Meanwhile, the pool out back caught my attention, and Bill and I ambled out to inspect. The water was pea green, thick and putrid as syrup. Although not as rancid as the kitchen, the odor was still nauseating. Eyeing the structure further, I noticed a three-inch wide raised lip running the entire edge of the pool.

That familiar prankster look rippled across Bill’s face. He turned and we locked eyes. I knew his idea without a word.

“Hey,” he called to Brian, “come here.”

“Whatcha want?” came Brian’s muffled reply.

“Just come here,” Bill yelled. Then he softened his tone. “Wanna show you something.”

“Whoa,” Brian said when he joined us. “Looks like pea soup.”

I allowed a few seconds of gawking, then said innocently. “Hey Brian, I bet you can’t walk all the way around the edge of that pool.”

Brian eyed the edge, wheels turning.

“Naw, he can’t do it.” Bill set the hook. “Besides, he’s scared to try.”

“I don’t know,” I added slowly, “I think maybe he could.”

“Sure I can,” Brian blustered.

Twelve is an awkward age for anyone, and Brian, uncoordinated and gangly, didn’t have a chance. Bill winked at me as little bro approached the lip.

Placing his foot carefully and spreading his hands for balance, Brian slowly added the second foot. One step, two, then three four five in rapid succession—splash! He tumbled head first into the deep end of the green goo. A good swimmer, he came up quickly spluttering slime from his mouth. He leapt from the water shaking his head from side to side like a bass shaking a hook and screamed bloody murder.

Bonus. When Dad showed up, he took us home with our traumatized brother. But Brian got the last laugh. Mom forbade little bro from returning to “that pigsty,” so afterward, Bill and I shouldered nasty cleanup duty alone.

 Author Glenn 2014 JPEGAbout Glenn Haggerty

Glenn is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a graduate of Vision Loss Resources and Bethel Seminary, father of six and grandfather of six. He likes tandem biking and kayaking, and lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two youngest college-age children. Glenn is an award-winning author who combines his love for teaching God’s word with his passion for writing exciting fiction. Run is his first novel.

You can find Glenn at: www.Glennhaggerty.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Run is about a 13-year-old boy named Tyler Higgins, who has to navigate the middle school friendship jungle. But how can he focus on friends when a mysterious plumber casing the neighborhood threatens his life?RUN Cover Final 1

While chasing the cool kids through the woods, he tumbles into a ruined house where a shadowy creeper emerges from the basement. Tyler escapes, but for how long? The gigantic ninja-like goon sniffs him out and threatens to carve him up—along with his family.

Tyler finally connects with a rich kid, but a showdown brews. The plumber has a secret and lots of stolen cash—and Tyler’s friend is locked in on the plumber’s hideout. Now Tyler must risk his life or lose his new friend—permanently.

 

Crying Over Everything (And We Do Mean Everything)

Q: How do I handle it when my 4 year old wails over the tiniest of cuts or if she falls down without bruising or blood? I get that she need a bit of TLC but I’m getting tired of the pity parties that can happen for the longest time! I some more.

To be honest, I’m rather impatient with her. When I was little, I’d fall and cut myself badly, blood and all, and just suck it up after some initial crying. My daughter is a rather cautious personality though, so I see our differences.

I don’t want to seem harsh and uncaring but I still don’t think much of her boo-boos warrant such a lot of attention. However, she demands it, wails, says it hurts, wails some more.

Image courtesy of kdshutterman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of kdshutterman/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I don’t want to send the message that she needs to feel terribly sorry for herself, but I don’t really want to raise a princess-touchy girl either. What do I do?

A: We all have our finger-nails-on-the-chalkboard moments as parents, those situations that just drive us crazy. For me, it’s a whining tone of voice. For you, it’s the constant pity parties for minor injuries.

I sympathize because one of my children reacts the same way whenever a minor cut, accident or bump on the head happens. I received three calls from the school nurse about this child related to his bumping his head (no blood or swelling or bruising!) on the monkey bars at school during October alone.

Some children are more prone to over-react about the minor bumps along the way, while others tend to suck it up and move on with nary a shed tear. You happened to have been the latter and are raising the former.

What to do? You’re right in that you shouldn’t indulge her over-reactions, but nor should you make her feel bad for having them. What you want to do is help her to control her outbursts.

Designate a “cry” room, some little-used room, like a powder room or guest room. Tell your daughter that you’ve noticed she needs lots of crying time when she hurts herself and that you understand totally. That’s why, after bandaging her cut or giving her a boo-boo “ice cube” for bruises or aches (if you have such a thing), she can go to that special room and cry or wail as much as she wants to. When she’s finished, she can come out for a kiss or hug from you to “finish” the process. And if she forgets, you’ll remind her and lead her there.

It’s not a punishment per se, but a way for her to learn to regain control of herself, which is really what’s happening. That way, you’re not discounting her feelings, but giving her parameters in which to have those feelings–and thus helping her learn to control the feelings.