Raising Boys of Integrity – but first, my mistakes…

As the days start to warm up (although right now it’s literally snowing outside my window) – Jason and I love to take a brisk walk after dinner. The boys usually ride their bikes or scooters and off we go around the ‘hood. I know it sounds lovely but if I’m fully transparent – we’ve started to wonder why we even try. The boys usually cry because they don’t get a choice in the matter and then they argue with us about their mode of transportation. “Mom, we will just walk with you.” {Um, no honey, ride your bike so that I an talk to dad and also so I don’t have to carry you after about about 2 blocks!} I guess we really do love something about the walks because it never fails that there is some sort of a fight in making it happen.

A couple of weeks ago, we were winding up our walk and I shared some frustrations I was feeling toward Jason. In my heart, I really thought that being honest with him would be helpful. Whether I didn’t choose my words wisely or whether he simply wasn’t in a place to receive them – let me just tell you – it didn’t go well.

Things started to escalate and by the time we walked in the door, I told Jason that I had regretted even bringing it up. He then responded to that in a not-so-kind way and it sent me over. the. edge.

Weyal. I turned around, yelled at him in front of the boys, and told him – he was being an @$%. I marched to the back of the house – trying to get as far away from everyone as possible as the guilt and shame started to set in. I wanted to just be alone but I heard Jason’s footsteps coming down the hall. Did I want to talk to him? Absolutely not. So I told him don’t even come close. {I can be feisty.}

Jason left me alone and I was left wondering what just happened and what I should do. My boys witnessed me yelling at Jason – which isn’t the very end of the world – I don’t want my boys to think that marriage is all Carebears and rainbows. But I knew what I said was wrong and how I reacted was wrong. There would need to be some repair work with each of them.

My shame told me to hide and not come out. Don’t make eye contact and just tuck this far far away. I’m a mistake and a worthless mom and wife.

My heart, on the other hand, told me that we all make mistakes and I’m not the sum total of them. And that even this could be used as a teaching moment for my boys.

I dusted myself off and was able to apologize to Jason for my behavior later that evening. And over the next couple of days, I sat down with each of my boys and asked them how my outburst made them feel. One of my boys cried immediately when I asked him {he might be my sensitive one!} and he said it made him sad. Sadness was a word all three of them expressed. Another common feeling they shared – scared. {Ouch.}

After validating how each of them felt, I talked to them about how much shame I felt after it happened. And how badly I wanted to hide and not talk about it. We then talked about the antidote to shame – intimacy – and what it looks like to be fully known when everything in us just wants to hide. I then genuinely apologized to each of them for making a mistake. This took several conversations over the next week with each of them – it wasn’t quick and easy, let me tell you.

With that said, here are three critical concepts (from the story above) that we can teach our children as we work toward helping prevent them from developing sexual integrity issues –

The first – Talking openly and honestly about feelings and giving affirmation and validation for them – this can’t be overstated. Giving our children space to explore and share their feelings is one of our biggest jobs.

It’s not easy – we hear “I’m frustrated” a lot in our house and I oftentimes want to bark back – “well then, figure it out”. (How is that for validation and affirmation?! Eeks!) I’m working at taking a breath, stopping what I am doing and asking for clarification on the feeling/s and what has prompted them. (Spoiler alert – usually I’m the cause.) It can be exhausting and oftentimes inconvenient. However, giving our children a safe space to talk about how they feel will help them manage their feelings in healthier ways. We use a technique called mirroring from this book that I am happy to discuss in a future blog post – it works really really well.

The second – naming shame and talking about how it affects us and the best way to work through the shame – this is a big one people. Where there is shame – there is acting in. Where there is shame – there is hiding and secrecy. By the time my boys hit 1st to 2nd grade I started to see shame play a role in their lives. We are constantly looking for signs of shame in our boys and then working at helping them name it (if indeed it is what they are feeling). However – we might get even more mileage when we talk about our shame (case in point – story from above) and what we want to do (hide) versus what we need to do (pull it all into the light).

And last – apologizing and seeking forgiveness when we do something wrong. I think humility is a huge part of this journey for our husbands and the quicker we can instill humility in our children – the better. Apologizing and seeking forgiveness can be tricky because for some people, apologizing can cause shame. It’s important for our children to see that making mistakes happens and while it’s painful for all involved – our mistakes can promote empathy and humility and grace.

All three of these habits are critical to help my boys live a life of integrity.

It’s getting real ladies. My boys are getting older and just as I wonder why we even try with going on evening walk/rides; I also wonder – is it possible and even worth trying to raise boys to one day be men of integrity?

The answer is yes – it is worth trying. Prevention on the front end is worth every anxious heart beat, every stomach-ache, every awkward conversation. Will it be perfect? No. Do we need help? Yes. We can’t do this alone. It’s going to take us all, including God.

Dear God – Help. Amen.

xo – Shelley

photo credit


Kicking Shame to the Curb – A story from 1987 and today

I remember it so well.  The shame.  One of my earliest memories of wanting to try to hide my entire being.

It was the summer after 4th grade.  I had become friends with a girl down the street and she had an idea of a prank we could make on a boy in her Sunday school class.  We were going to call his house and invite him to a surprise birthday party.  We agreed on all the details of the party and made the phone call.

We asked for him to come to the phone and gave him the details of the party.  He agreed to come.  (To be clear, this surprise birthday party was for his close friend at his close friend’s house.  Said close friend wasn’t having a surprise birthday party.  It was all a concoction that I knew was so wrong to carry out, but I did anyway.)

It wasn’t until the next week that I heard my friend had asked this boy about the party during Sunday school class.  That’s when he finally knew who placed the call.

It wasn’t long before my parents found out.  And they insisted I go to his house and apologize to him and his family.

I remember being sick to my stomach as we drove over there.  I’m pretty sure I was kicking and screaming the whole way.  I even remember the struggle my dad had in pulling me out of the car.

I only remember the boy’s father coming to the door, not his son.  The cruel look on his face was enough for me to know that what I had done was horribly terribly wrong.  I remember not being able to talk.  I just stood there with tears rolling down my freckled face.  He waited with his arms crossed.  Waited with a mean look on his face.

He would have waited all day staring me down, it seemed.

I finally peered up and said what I was told to say – “I am sorry.”

He sneered at me and told me what a horrible terrible thing I had done to his son.  How embarrassed his son was.

I made my way back to the car.  Not feeling one bit better after that interaction.  And that’s all I remember.

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I wonder today – was this when shame made it’s way into my heart?  Into my soul?  Is this when I started the real struggle of feeling like I had to be perfect in order to be acceptable?

Remember – shame is an indictment on our being.  It’s saying “I am a mistake.”  “I’m a mess up.”  It’s one of Satan’s top tools that he uses to keep us from freedom and from basking in the sweetness of God’s grace.

The antithesis to shame – it’s intimacy.  It’s being fully known and sharing the mistakes we make.  It’s risking – truly, it’s taking a leap of faith and hoping, praying that someone, anyone will accept us just as we are, mistakes and all.

Because shame is such a strong undercurrent in what Jason dealt with in his addiction, I am very weary, very careful to try not to pile the shame high on my boys.  Please hear me say – I am not impressively great at this.  It takes one that struggles with shame to pile the shame high.  I know how to do this.  And I regret the mistakes I’ve made in this area with those I love.

And yet, one of the things I love about parenting is trying to redeem the broken pieces of my past, of Jason’s past.

That brings me to last week.

I walked out of my office with sweat coming through my shorts – it was so hot –  to see one of my littles blowing air through a straw and onto applesauce which was then splattering all over the kitchen.  The sweet sitter I had with the boys was frantically trying to clean it up, paper towels everywhere.

I was so confused, overwhelmed and hot that I brushed the whole incident off and whisked the sweet sitter (she is so sweet, really) away on her bike.  It wasn’t until later that I started to process what had happened.  Had my precious son really been blowing air through a straw and watching the applesauce hit the floor, counter and walls?  Yes, yes he had.

I knew I needed to help him see that what he did was wrong.  But how could I also make sure he knew he is loved all the same?

I started by exploring with him – how could he make amends to the sitter?  What could he do to make it up to her?  Maybe an apology?

The memory I shared above came rushing back.  The shame hit me again.  I wanted to hide under the coffee table.

I shook it off.

No, no, no, I didn’t want my son to feel shame.

So how could I handle this in love and yet not heap on the shame?

We talked about the fact that we all make mistakes – that’s why we need a Savior.  We talked about some of my mistakes.  I reminded him that he is loved no. matter. what.

This is what we settled on – he wrote a note to the sitter, apologizing for his choices.  Jason then took him to the grocery store where he used his own money to pick out something yummy for her – an amend of sorts.

As for the delivery of the note and candy, I gave him a choice – did he want me to talk to her upon arriving at her house and he could stay at the street?  Or did he want to talk to her?  We started our walk over to her house.  I held his hand and made sure he knew how much I loved him no. matter. what.

He decided he wanted to come to the door with me and say hello.  We knocked, but there was no answer.

I was so disappointed to not get a chance to show my little guy that saying sorry doesn’t have to be a scary thing.  It doesn’t mean he’s a terrible horrible person.  It is simply acknowledging that we hurt someone with our choices and we wish we could take it back.

We placed the note and the Twizzlers in the mailbox.

We turned and started our walk back home, me basking in the fullness of knowing there is grace for my son and not only that – but I believe he felt it.  There was more there, too – I was also able to bask in the fullness that there is just as much grace for the little girl that made that awful choice way back in the summer of 1987.

Kicking shame to the curb.  Now that’s redemption.

xo-Shelley

How I’m choosing to parent differently because I’m married to a man that used to look at porn

I don’t want to be different! I want to fit in, be part of the crowd! No, this is not your child talking. It’s me – hitting my fists against a pillow. Resisting, screaming, begging to be normal. So many questions surface: Will I be accepted? Loved? Chosen amidst the difference?

You see, we have a story of broken love.

In a nutshell, my husband chose porn and affairs over me.

choosing-to-parent-differently

Looking back, there were things that predisposed him to these choices. His sexuality was awakened at a young age when he was exposed to pornography. He was lonely and disconnected emotionally from those he loved – so much so that he thought he was a mistake. He started to use his sexuality in order to cope with the negative feelings of life – all in secret and in shame.

By the time we were married, he was living a double life. A life where he appeared to only have eyes for me; but when I wasn’t around, he acted out sexually with other women both online and in the flesh.

It’s been 13 long years of recovery and today our love is mended. Sure, there are scars, but God has given us a second chance on life, on marriage. God has blessed us with three young boys that we desperately don’t want to set up for failure when it comes to sexual integrity.

So when it comes to parenting, we are trying to do life differently. (And I’m kicking and screaming half the time!) Because honestly, sometimes I feel like it’s the kind of different that isn’t even cool. It’s the kind of different that offends others and makes other moms roll their eyes and smile cruelly. I’m going to be really brave here and share a bit about what we are doing different in raising our boys to give them the best shot at a life with sexual integrity. Deep breath …

{Head over here, to the MOPs blog, where this post was initially published, to continue reading.}

And don’t forget to come back here if you’d like to leave a comment.

xo-Shelley