Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey

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The Emotional Aspects of Food Allergies, Part 2

{Cute pic, not sure WHAT THE HECK the caption means though!}

If you are the one with new food allergies, my heart goes out to you. Hopefully your family is doing all they can to make this transition as easy as possible for you. It can be hard for them too. Here are a few ways you can show love to those who care for you and live with you as you deal with food allergies.

 Express thanks. Most likely the person who does the shopping and cooking is pouring a lot of time and energy into helping you. Sometimes they will try a new food or recipe with good intentions and it will fail, you won’t like it, or it feels like you are eating the same thing a lot. Thank them for their effort anyway. It will get better, and feeling appreciated is a great motivator to your caregiver. When my husband affirmed my efforts, I felt like a boulder had rolled off my shoulders just to know he could tell I was trying my best to help.

 Offer input; communicate. Be part of the solution. Look for recipes, be willing to try new things, ask if the family could look for a safe option for your favorite foods. Let them know what you miss the most or what you’d like to try.

 Check your attitude. You have suffered a loss—not like a death, but still a loss. There is a lot of emotion tied up in foods (especially celebration foods), so let yourself go through the grieving process as you let go of those old things and learn to enjoy new ones. Hopefully your family will honor your feelings. However, also focus on all you can eat and the yummy options that are available. Seek to be positive as much as you can. The world is still a delicious place! You will have times of sadness and even anger, but try not to take them out on your family who loves you most.  And don’t begrudge your family members foods they can have that you can’t. One of the sweetest and most mature things my daughter does is to let her siblings enjoy an occasional treat without making them feel guilty.

 Don’t complain. Have you ever been around an old person who wants to tell you about her blood pressure, her gout, the corn on her foot, the latest visit to the doctor, and every detail of every health problem? No one enjoys that conversation. No one wants to hear about all the things you can’t eat either. I hope I don’t sound heartless here, but there are many other things to focus on in conversation besides your health problems. Unless the person asks, has similar issues, or offers you an unsafe food, it’s best to keep talk about your allergies to yourself (especially in social situations). Constantly bringing up your allergies makes others uncomfortable. It’s socially unacceptable, just as it’s unacceptable for me to bring up health problems I may have. Find other things to talk about.

 Have hope. At first it seems hard, but you will eventually find food options you enjoy. If you are young, you may outgrow your allergies. Also, some people claim to have overcome food allergies with special diets. Maybe that is an option for you. This trial did not take God by surprise. He wants to do great things through it. Look forward with hope!

Find Part 1 here

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Grace Based Parenting, Chapter by Chapter

Virginia Knowles of Come, Weary Moms is going through the book Grace Based Parenting chapter by chapter and writing her thoughts.

I remember when I first heard about this book and my knee-jerk reaction was that grace-based parenting must mean boundary-less, permissive parenting devoid of rules or expectations of obedience. Coming from my default position of parenting that focused highly on behavior (under the guise of “training”), which was actually more about winning and controlling than discipleship, I made a lot of assumptions about a way of raising children that included the word “grace.” I’m nothing if not stubborn, and it took me many years to realize that my way, the way of the “child-training experts” I had followed most of my life, created adversarial relationships with my children alongside superficial obedience, and that this formula-based method didn’t begin to address the unique challenges of some of my kids (despite the condescending assurances of the experts that the challenges were entirely my fault).

And to tell you the truth, that’s still where I am in a lot of ways. I’m not writing as someone who has perfectly obedient children or who has figured this parenting thing out. I admit humbly that I’m no model mom (although it might look that way on days when things are going extra well). Thanks to our unique circumstances, I find that the training, teaching, and discipleship aspects of parenting are an immense challenge, more like walking through deep sand every day than running with confidence down a neatly paved path! This part of being a mom is a million times harder than I anticipated, especially once I realized I couldn’t “formula” my way to a model Christian home.

You see, these are the influences that shaped my view of parenting my whole life. Parenting was simple in this paradigm. If you train and discipline your kids properly and consistently, they will be godly and well-behaved. Poorly behaved children are the result of bad parenting, no exceptions. Well, a child with profound, visible special needs might get a pass, but that was about it.

So imagine my surprise when the formulas didn’t work. To say I was disillusioned is an understatement.

Formulas work often enough that they can be convincing. A couple of my children would be poster children for a formula method. If I leaned on that method, I’d really have no reason to depend on the Spirit or my relationship with them, because a few episodes of consistent discipline and they would conform to my wishes for years, if not for life. They’re just made that way. In fact, I have to be careful that I don’t create situations where they feel responsible to keep me happy, to make up for any misbehavior of their siblings by being “extra good”, or to become smug little Pharisees, thanks to their pleasant, pleaser personalities.

I feel like I’m rambling, but I say all this to point out why I eventually bought Grace Based Parenting. Learning to parent by God’s grace, as he parents us, led by the Spirit instead of behaviorist “experts” is a constant journey of mind-renewal. I daily have to let God change my thinking, the way I interact with my little ones, the way I teach and train them. I am learning to communicate and build real relationships with them. I say this humbly. I mess up daily. I hope I get it right eventually, at least right enough to not make a total disaster of everything. If I do it will be only God, not me.

Does this mean a rejection of “child training” or discipline? Not at all. What these elements look like and how they play out in our family is something I’m constantly learning and growing in. Meanwhile, I look to God, accept his grace over my past and present failures as a mom, and seek with all my heart to extend that same grace to my little ones.

Please join me as I enjoy Virginia’s thoughts and read along, adding my own. Thoughts on Chapter One to come soon.

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The Emotional Aspects of Food Allergies, Part 1

I’m sure anyone with limitations of some kind finds that there are specific emotional issues that come into play in addition to logistical ones. I’m starting a 3-part mini series about how to deal with the emotional aspects of food restrictions. Just remember, I’m right in the throes of figuring this out, but here’s what I’ve discovered so far. 10 years from now hopefully I’ll know a lot more.

 First I’d like to address the caregiver, since that’s the perspective I deal with on a daily basis. As caregiver, you probably don’t know exactly what your family member is going through unless you have been there, no matter how you try to empathize. So don’t act as if you do. But here are a few things you can do to help.

 Be positive. Try not to act inconvenienced by having to prepare special foods or change the way you cook to accommodate those with allergies. I’ve succeeded at this some of the time and failed some of the time.

 Be as creative as you can with the resources you have. Just keep trying things within your family members’ limitations. Don’t become discouraged if something is a bust or if no one likes it. Pick yourself up and try again. I have a (albeit short) running list of foods that were a big hit. I’m rotating them back through the meal plan. I also have a list of things they don’t like or are tired of. I’m always on the lookout for new things to try. I keep a list of those on my fridge, along with where I found the recipe for future reference. This is constantly at the forefront of my mind when I plan meals, shop, and think about food.

 Offer non-food rewards and treats. The kids and I came up with a long list the other day, which I’ll post this week. Gently move your family away from the idea that celebration always means food.

 Honor the grieving process. Your family member hasn’t lost a loved one, so of course it’s not that kind of grief, but they have experienced a loss. Throughout history and cultures, food has held an important place in memory, celebration, and tradition. There’s so much emotion tied to food memories and experiences. When your child realizes that he’ll never again be able to enjoy Grandma’s famous peanut brittle or eat cousin Johnny’s birthday cake, it brings feelings of isolation and loss. Be gentle and understanding. Don’t take it personally if your family member is angry or sad. This doesn’t mean you have to coddle them, just respect their feelings.

 Focus on atmosphere. You might not have a lot of variety on your table, but you can still clean the dining room, light a candle, put on some soft music, add a pretty centerpiece, and use real dishes. Offer a blessing. Guide the family toward uplifting conversation at the table. At our house we each share the best thing that happened that day. We’ve also enjoyed conversation starter games. Good conversation and a pleasing atmosphere can make even a simple meal fun. The table should be a safe and positive place. Will this happen 100% of the time? No, but it’s something to shoot for. Remember Proverbs 17:1: “Better a dry crust eaten in peace than a house filled with feasting—and conflict.”

Find Part 2 here

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