Encouragement

RLL 67: Our Daughter Goes to a Dance

RLL 67: Our Daughter Goes to a Dance

This is probably the only picture in which we weren’t doing something ridiculous…which is an accurate representation of us as people as well.

This is probably the only picture in which we weren’t doing something ridiculous…which is an accurate representation of us as people as well.

I was on the phone with my best friend recently, and I related to him how my older daughter is now almost 15, she’s growing up, and she would be attending a school dance this weekend. He said, “Doesn’t that make you scared?” And I said, “Yes. All the time. Not a day passes without me praying for my kids. But I also can’t stop it, so we need to do the best we can to help her do well as she grows up.” (Full disclosure: I learned that from my parents and in-laws…I would have been OK trying to keep my kids as kids for many more years if it were solely up to me.)

After that conversation I started thinking about how we, as a large blended family, can help our kids to grow, develop, and learn as they mature. This week’s opportunity to do that was that our oldest child was going to be attending a dance. Because of that she and her stepmom (my wife) went dress shopping, then decided to alter a dress we already had, then asked my mother-in-law to do the alterations, and hey presto: a dress for a dance was made! In addition, our daughter asked if her mother could come over in the afternoon before the dance to help her with her hair. And this is where it could get sticky.

In the past, we’ve had many conversations among the adults in our blended family about “parent” things that we want to be involved in. We try hard not to step on each other’s toes or to unintentionally assume roles that would cause jealousy or resentment. So when Carly asked if her mom could help her with her hair, our immediate response was, “Of course!” We were reminded this week of two lessons that I wanted to share with you.

Carly was unimpressed with my attempt to pose the same way she was. I have no idea why; I nailed it!

Carly was unimpressed with my attempt to pose the same way she was. I have no idea why; I nailed it!

1) We always want to encourage positive cooperation between both houses. This is true for a lot of reasons: logistics are complicated, people are busy, and cooperation is better than a lack of it. But more importantly, we want to cooperate also to set a good example for our kids. My parents divorced when I was in middle school, and they continued to work well together through the end of my father’s life; that made a powerful and lasting impression on me, and so we have tried to do the same thing in the lives of our children.

2) We want to encourage our kids to have strong relationships with everyone else in our blended family, not just ourselves. I want to have an amazingly strong relationship with each of my daughters, but not at the expense of their relationship with each other, their mom and stepdad, their stepmom, or their little brother. I want to encourage them in all of their familial relationships because then our family will be more harmonious in the long run. So if Carly wants her mom to be able to help her prepare for a big-deal event, we want to try to accommodate that as much as possible. When they tell stories about what their brother did when they were with their mom last week, we want to listen; not just out of politeness, but out of genuine interest and curiosity, to let them know we care.

This kind of moment makes all the rest of life worth it.

This kind of moment makes all the rest of life worth it.

Carly’s mom came over and helped with her hair, my wife and other daughter went with Carly to do pre-dance pictures with her friends, and then Carly had an amazing time at the school’s dance. We had an excellent time all working together to love our kids. And for that, I’ll always be grateful. Is it easy to make things like this happen? Not at first, no. But the more often you do it, the easier it gets.

Action step: This week, look for ways to actively cooperate with the other household and for ways to encourage your children in having positive relationships with everyone else in both houses as well.

RLL 57: Puppies and Pictures--Memories and Encouragement

RLL 57: Puppies and Pictures--A Bit of Encouragement

The pups and I slowing down in the evening

The pups and I slowing down in the evening

This week, like every week, was very busy: basketball practices, school work, preparing for finals, rehearsing and revising an upcoming presentation, and of course, putting up more Christmas decorations. However, this week also brought with it some unexpected encouragement through our dogs and in looking through old pictures of my daughters. In sharing these things in the blog this week, I want to help you be inspired and encouraged as well.

One night this week I found myself overwhelmed with work to do: essays to grade, revisions to make, other school work, all while what I really wanted to do was just spend time with my kids and wife. When I reached a stopping place in my work, I went at sat down on the floor with our pups, and well, you can see the result in that picture above. I was beat! It’s also been a very rain-filled couple of weeks where we live, and the dogs are normally pitiful because they’re scared. Then they get stir-crazy because they haven’t been able to be outside. This week, for some reason, they were hardly ever pitiful and crazy, and it made a giant difference because instead, they were great: snuggly, mostly calm, and always wanting to be where we were.

My older daughter and my first niece, both very excited about this birthday cake!

My older daughter and my first niece, both very excited about this birthday cake!

The other encouragement this week was that my daughter’s school asked for a toddler picture of her, so that meant my wife and I spent time looking through old pictures of the girls, and it was pure fun and joy! We saw such sweet pictures of the girls, from newborn pictures through early childhood, many of which I’d forgotten. I saw pictures of them playing and laughing, pictures of them sleeping and eating, and pictures of them just being kids.

These two bits of encouragement were just what I needed to help me through a difficult week, and so I wanted to do two things: one, to share them with you in hopes that they’d make you smile; and two, to ask you what encouraged you this week? A conversation? A photo? A memory? Christmas decorations? A conversation? Whatever it was, be sure to share it with someone else and give them a bit of encouragement as well.

Action Step: Consciously choose to try to encourage at least one person today by sharing something that has encouraged you!