Grace Michaelson

Smart Phones & Children

Feb
20

Lately my feed on Facebook has been bombarded by articles stating that children should not be allowed “Smart” phones.  While I agree that some of the concerns mentioned in these articles are possibly true, today I’m going to spell out why I allow my children to have Smart Phones.

I actually was probably the first parent in Middle School to start having my children carry Apple Smart Phones.  I am very comfortable with my decision and, in fact, will upgrade my children’s phones usually when I upgrade.  (i.e. They get my old phone.)

My biggest concern regarding the articles I’ve read about not allowing your child a smart phone is that they completely and utterly ignore parent involvement.  If my child had the same privilege on his or her phone, then, of course, it would be a very bad thing.  However, the fact that you might just possibly be a good parent makes it less dangerous.  Here is why:

  1.  My children do not have free access to their Smart Phones.  This is because, as their parents, I have chosen to say to them, “I pay for this, therefore you use it my way.”  Instead of banning kids completely from smart phones because you don’t actually want to parent them is ridiculous.
  2. At least on the Apple Phones, and I’m assuming the other phones have this, too, there are settings and safe checks to keep your child from getting his or herself into danger with their smart phone.  For instance, when my children want to download something to their phone, their phone automatically requests me to approve or deny their request.  Over the years, I will ease up on the control I have over their phones, because eventually I want them choosing these right choices themselves and not relying completely on me for their moral convictions.
  3. There’s this wonderful app on Apple Phones called “Find my iPhone.”  When activated, I am allowed to track my children’s movements when they are not with me.  I can also “ding” their phone if they are refusing to call me or pick up their phone when I need to get ahold of them.  Many, many times this has saved me from worrying about my children because I know 1.) They will always bring their phone with them in this day and age,  2.)because I act like a parent and require them to let me know where they are going, I know when they’re not where they are supposed to be when I track their phone, and 3.)I am not afraid of embarrassing my child in front of all their friends by dinging their phone (a very loud an obnoxious ding that the whole world can here) if they’re not responding.
  4. What about porn, and the like, you say?  Again, being the parent you’re supposed to be covers this option, as well.  Yes, the “easier” rode of parenting means I just forbid my child from anything that would be potentially dangerous to them.  However, if we do that, we might as well just place them in a box, hammer it shut, and don’t let them out until they turn 18.  What does that kind of protection do?  It causes the child not to learn from any mistakes they make while they are under your control and can train them in the way they should go.  Immature adults is what you get from it.  People who have no idea how to make responsible choices, have no idea how to combat the temptations of the “real world”, and lastly, children who will rush out and do everything you told them not to do because they have no moral compass of their own and no idea what is right and what is wrong.  Does this mean I give them access to porn, and evil that they can’t handle?  Of course not.  All smart phones have apps that allow you to block porn and evil.  However, the truth is, whether you give them a “smart” phone or a “dumb” phone, if your child wants to get a hold of these things, they will.  All “dumb” phones are equipped with internet access now.  There really is no such thing, as a “dumb” phone as we understand it.  So be a parent and teach your child what’s right and what’s wrong so that they will make choices that make you proud.
  5. I want to emphasize what my husband and I have done to safe guard our children from predators.  In a day and age where human trafficking is all over the news, it is hugely important that we keep our kids safe from these types of predators.  So, the rules of our house are simple:  1.) You don’t go anywhere you haven’t told us your going, 2.) You are home before city curfew for minors, 3.) Michael and I don’t go to sleep until all our children are home and safe, 4.) We have a secret password that we tell anyone we send to pick up our children.  Over and over again I remind my children not to go anywhere with a stranger unless they have my password.  5.)Finally, we’re not afraid to embarrass our children.  Again, we track their phone, if they’re not where they’re supposed to be their phone gets “beeped” until they respond.  No normal child will leave their house without their phone.  Once we had one of our children turn off the tracking feature.  He was grounded from all his activities for a very long time.  I sense a theme in this post, do you?  Be a parent.
  6. As far as social interference that a “Smart Phone” may bring:  My children have time limits on when they can and cannot use their phone.  Not at the dinner table.  Not during family time.  Not after bed time.  These are simple rules that teach your child that it’s more important to give their family and friends face time, rather than spend their whole lives in the virtual world.  Another thing: my children don’t get on Social Media without “friending” or “following” me so that I have access to their feed.  I also have wonderful people in my children’s lives who I know will “tell on” them if they block me from viewing something.  It does “take a village” to protect your child in social media.
  7. I’m not afraid to ask for my children’s phones and look through their texts if I feel they’re not being wise with who they text.  I don’t think this needs more explanation– except that this rule applies whether you give your child a “smart phone” or a “dumb phone”.
  8. Final thing:  Take the phone away if it becomes a problem.  We have no qualms from removing temptation from our children until they show they can be responsible.  The line goes like this:  “You can have a smart phone until I feel it’s unsafe or unwise for you to have one.”  If you’re the parent you should be, then your children will realize that you mean business.

As you can see, I do not believe it’s the “smart phone” industry that is dangerous.  The danger lies in permissive and unwise parents who are unwilling to put up protective boundaries for their children.  In every part of our parenting, whether it’s phones or computers, or just whether your child is going to wear designer clothes on your dime, it’s your responsibility to keep your child safe.  Sure, the easy way is to ban them from everything that may hurt them, but that doesn’t teach anything.  It makes you a bad parent.

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Proverbs 22:6

Who Owns the Bad Stuff?

Sep
14

As I was writing in my journal last night, I began to realize that what I was writing was the beginning of a good blogpost.  It is, in fact, a truth that people struggle with all. the. time.  Who takes ownership when bad things happen to good people?  Some of us take ownership ourselves.  Some of us try to make God own it.  Some of us force the ownership on other people.  Sometimes the ownership does belong to ourselves or other people.  Like if a person steals from you, then ownership belongs to the person who took from you. If you’re late too work too many times and you get yourself fired, then the ownership belongs to you.  What I’m talking about here, though, is about bad things that happen because we live in a world that is broken because Adam & Eve chose to break it when they ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  Bad things that no one can own–like a natural disaster, a death of a desperately wanted baby, or; like in my case, the injury of an innocent baby that left a child scarred for life.

Let me tell you Caleb’s story:

Caleb is now 16 years old.  He is well-adjusted, smart as a whip, and dreams big dream.  He doesn’t let anything stop him.  He believes he can do anything anyone else can do.  He has a Totally Involved Left Sided Obstetrical Brachial Plexus Injury.  What that means is that he has paralysis in his left arm and part of the left side of his face (Horner’s Syndrome), and it happened during his birth (Obstetrical verses Traumatic).

I remember his birth as clearly as it was yesterday:

There came a moment when the doctor said, “Uh-oh, we have a problem!”

Michael remembers looking down at Caleb and seeing that his head and neck were out, his cord was rapped around his neck, and that the cord was white because it was pinched off and not giving Caleb the life-giving fluid he needed to get through the rest of his birth.

The nurse called, “Code Pink!”, and the room filled with more people than I could even count.

Some were up on the gurney with me, some were holding my legs.  The doctor had three minutes to get my son out before he passed away.  Nurses were pushing on my belly.  I was screaming in pain, even though I had an epidural.  My husband was bending over me trying to calm me down.

I kept screaming, “God please help Caleb.  Don’t let my Caleb die!”

Then the two and a half minutes were done.  He was out.  No sound came from my baby.  His first Apgar scores were so low.  Then came a soft cry and I knew he was alive.  The neonatal doctor came over to my bed and leaned over with Caleb in his arms.

“I have to take him, but here he is.  There is something wrong with his face and arms.  Otherwise, we think he’ll make it,” He said, then he was gone.

I turned to Michael and said, “Go!  Go with him.”

I was left wondering what had happened, shivering from loss of blood, and my body broken.  Later I found out that I would need extensive surgery to repair my pelvic floor.  So who owns this tragedy?  I could blame the doctor, and yet my son is alive because of her quick thinking.  The truth is I spent a long while after Caleb’s birth blaming God.  How could He allow such a bad thing happen to an innocent baby?  I slowly came around to the truth that God was not to blame.  The truth is that He was instrumental in delivering my son from his death, or even brain damage due to oxygen starvation, or Cerebral Palsy, or many other possibilities that could have come out of a birth like that.  God, when allowing bad things to happen to His servants, always puts boundaries around those bad things.

Then I turned my attention to myself.  I blamed my body.  It became apparent that I had never dilated to a full 10.  Doctor’s could never explain why, saying only that I must have had a “man-like” pelvis.  So I told myself that I had injured Caleb.  I told myself I somehow controlled my womb and my pelvis and it was my fault.  Do you see how silly I was?  I had no control over this situation.  Only last month I finally found out the exact truth of why Caleb was injured.  Through the advancement of the last 16 years, we have a new CT method that shows a clearer picture.  They were able to see my pelvis and womb and found that I have both a tilt and a heart shape uterus, making it impossible for me to ever be able to dilate to 10.  The truth is, that if Joshua my oldest, had been only a few ounces bigger, he too would have been injured or possibly would have died at birth.  God, instead of doing something bad to our family, did many good things.  He has allowed our children to be alive and only allowed the worst to be a disabled arm that doesn’t even stop Caleb from doing anything he wants to do.

I would love to be able to assign blame for every bad thing that happens to me.  It feels like closure.  It feels then like it has purpose.  The truth is, though, as I have worked through the realization that there is no ownership to be given to anyone in the case of Caleb’s injury, I have also come to realize that there is no less purpose in bad situations that happen to people where ownership can’t be established.  Things that happen to us find their purpose when we allow God to do His thing in us.  That’s when the tragedies of our lives start to become purposeful and have true meaning–when God makes them into something for His glory and honor.

The Bible says that our world is broken and waiting for the renewal of creation.  Romans 8:18-22 says, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”  Someday God will fix His creation and there will be no more of this brokenness and sorry.  We can look forward to that day.  Until that day, we can find solace in knowing that we can trust God to give purpose to the things that don’t seem to make sense or that no one can own.  Bad things just happen to good people sometimes.  That’s just the world we live in.  That’s why we look to the future.

Revelations 21:3-4, “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

 

101 Dalmatians and Look-A-Like Vehicles

Jul
08

Do any of you remember 101 Dalmatians?  I was sitting in my car today, I must confess eating a Costco Combo Pizza and drinking a Pepsi, and watching people going to and from their cars.  I was eating there because I was trying not to be late to my next errand, however, today I was glued to my car, something that seems to becoming more and more of a tendency in my life.

I was suddenly reminded of 101 Dalmatians today and the scene in the park where you watch different dog owners and get to laugh at how each of the dog owners have morphed into looking just like their dogs.  As I watched the car owners go to the cars that they belong to I was oddly aware that they look just like their cars.  Now, I must confess that my humor and creativity is on the warped side of things, so what looks like one thing to me, probably doesn’t look like that to someone else.  However, I watched an outdoorsy kind of man walk across Costco’s parking lot and step into a four door Ford Truck.  Ha!  There was a Mom wearing 3/4 jeans and a stylish relaxed fit blouse, followed around by a couple of teens or maybe a tween- wasn’t sure he could have been 12- and they followed her right up to a perfectly matched SUV.  So, you get the picture.

I wondered at that moment if I looked like my car.  I was actually driving my husband’s SUV.  This summer, all three of my teens have jobs and we only have two cars and only one teen driver.  I’m hoping my middle son will be driving soon, but that doesn’t help with the car problem.  So that explains that constant occupation of my backside in the driver’s seat.  It seems that in this age, we’ve replaced walks in the park with our dogs with races down main street in our look-a-like vehicles rushing to get our children and family’s to their many assorted activities, and cramming our individual errands into spare time in-between.  Yesterday, I’m ashamed to say, I burned through 1/2 a gallon of gas, and I don’t even live in a big town!  We just have a busy family of three teens with three jobs, a husband who has to get to work, and then their’s my own freelance writing business that’s starting hopefully to take off.  Thankfully, I can get inspiration for my blog in interesting places like Costco’s parking lot, watching interesting people get into their interesting look-a-like vehicles before they are off to their next hopefully interesting errand.  Life! What a fascinating portfolio to write about!

Time to turn the key in the ignition.  We’re off to the races!

Balance and the Baby’s Cry

Apr
13

Family comes first, right?  So when your baby wants in your bed at 2 am that’s where he should be!  Or if your baby won’t sleep through the night, you should be up every 3 hours rocking her to sleep, because, hubby has to be at work in the morning and you don’t, and it’s cruel to make baby cry herself to sleep.  At least that’s what your tired brain is reasoning, but is that really the truth?

How do we as “The Mom” balance everyday parenting and marriage with our own needs?  Most of us end up sacrificing ourselves so much that we completely lose our identity.  Does this look familiar?

A typical mom's promise to her child at 2 AM.

A typical mom’s promise to her child at 2 AM.

Yes, this is all too familiar too us Mom’s who have given up all that make us who we are for the sake of our families.  We laugh at the memes about living in our p.j.’s and being unshowered, yet does it really feel good to live our lives to that level of sacrifice?

I know that I am on the other side of babies and you’re probably saying to me, “Well, it’s easy for you to say, your baby is 14 years old and not kicking you in your bed at night anymore.”  Yes, but my baby is trying to push me to the limit every time she turns around and my 17 year old wants to take my car and doesn’t understand why I can’t cancel my appointment so that he and his girlfriend can go on a date with my car!  So, all mom’s, in all stages, are in the same boat.  We’re all asked by our families to make unnecessary sacrifices, and the question is, why do we allow that to happen? What can we do to regain our identities in the middle of the chaos of raising a family and blessing our husbands?

I’d like to give you a few clues that I have been given to help you realize a little sanity in the midst of raising your babies/teens/spoiling grandchildren.  What ever stage of parenting you’re at, you should never have to forsake your own sanity and identity for that of your families needs.  God never once says in His Word “Take up your cross  and lose yourself for your family.”  He says instead, “Take up your cross and follow ME”.  What Chrisitanity was revolutionary for in the age the early years of the church, was the fact that it taught that God loves everyone, men, women, & children.

We’re ALL important, slave or free, rich or poor, men or women, to God and He does not want ANYONE to be sacrificed and marginalized.  We are created to live a life following God’s Will.  God’s will doesn’t involve losing our identity.  It involves God creating a New Identity (Christ’s Identity) in us, and if we’re so busy with our family that we’re marginalized and forgotten and sacrificed, how can God do that work in us?

I know that that sounds hocus-pocus.  In practice, how does one actually keep from losing oneself?

A couple of ways:

1.  Keep to your own backyard.  Keep in mind the idea that we are all tending an emotional backyard.  Each of us has our own negative and positive emotions (flowers and weeds).  If someone comes up to you and throws a negative emotion at you, it’s not your job to weed their backyard.  Don’t take it upon yourself to own their negative emotion.  It’s not your weed.  Keep to your backyard.

2.  Children are resilient.  They don’t need to be in your bed.  They can cry themselves to sleep.  They can even be locked into their rooms if they have to be.  Don’t worry, a fire is not going to burn them alive while you train them to stay in their room.  That is just a “weed” keeping you from teaching your child responsibility for their weeds.  You do not want to be responsible for being that parent who sends your child to therapy as an adult because they don’t know how to take care of their own backyard.

3.  You are a beautiful person.  You deserve respect from your husband, your kids, from other people.  Own it.  Demand it.  Demand it of yourself.  Get out of the jammies.  Take a shower.  Brush your teeth.  Even if you have a bad night.  Do it.  Feel good about yourself.  If the teen is being giving you a “Teen ‘Tude” and not giving your respect  take the car keys or the phone.  Get their attention.  You deserve this you Beautiful Queen, you!  You are the Bride of Christ, after all.  Again, remember who’s backyard you want to play in and that you’re wanting to train your kids to stay in their own backyard, as well.  No crossing into your backyard.

4.  One last thing, and this is so important.  Make sure God wants you to do it.  You are put here on Earth not to be Soccer Mom, not to be the Ultimate Housewife, not to be the Supreme Working Mom.  You are put here on Earth to do God’s will and follow Him!  If God didn’t tell you to sign your kid up for soccer, then you better not be doing it, even if it is your kid’s dream to be an Olympian!  And if God told you to start writing a blog about Zebra’s in a Horse-filled world, then you better do that, even if it doesn’t make sense.  God’s will trumps family priorities.  It’s so easy to think you’re supposed to be doing something because you’re a mom.  If you’re walking with God daily, hourly, by the minute, He’s going to tell you what you’re really supposed to be doing.

Go and get your life back… The life God really has for you!

 

Grief, How Angry Thou Art

Feb
23

What is grief?  What grief in it’s raw, real, natural state?  Does it just happen when someone dies?  No, I don’t think so.  Grief is loss.  Loss happens with all kinds of stages in life.

What does grief feel like?  For me it feels like a sob stuck in my chest.  It feels like the worst anger I have ever felt.  It feels like betrayal.  It feels like helplessness.  It feels like chaos.  For someone who is a type A personality like myself, grief is the last thing I want to experience.  Therefore, it is the one experience I must let myself experience and complete in order to stay healthy.  I can’t be the best mom to my kids or the best wife to my husband, or the best writer unless I allow myself to process grief.

I am going to lay myself bare here:  I am currently grieving.  As I write this article, my son is going through an experience that is totally grieving my heart.  I feel helpless to help him.  It is the last thing I wanted for his senior year of high school.  He is supposed to be enjoying his last year of high school, making friends, looking forward to his senior prom, graduation, making plans for college, dreaming for his future, making good grades.  Instead, we’re trying to fit all those things around a huge health problem.  This is not what any good mother wants for their child.  Therefore grief.

I think what has hit me hardest of all has been anger.  What happened to “do not let the sun go down on your anger”, Dear Grief?  Haven’t you heard of that?  You’re making me into a very bad Christian, do you know that, Dear Grief?  Wow.  Everytime I go through grief, the anger, and the intincity of the anger, surprises me.  Yet, this too is normal.  This too is the process.  This too must be allowed and must be owned.  It’s not owned as who I am, but as something that is OK to experience as part of grief.  The more I fight it, the less I will be.  I can’t stop grieving until I’ve allowed myself to be angry that I have lost that which I expected to keep.  

It’s OK Christian brother or sister, God can handle your anger.  He knows your angry anyway.  Trying to trick yourself so that you hopefully trick God is like trying to trick your mom that you didn’t eat the cookie when you were little.  Just calm down the mind games and admit it.  Your feeling anger and it’s OK.  That doesn’t make you a bad Christian.  It just makes you human.  Remember, Jesus felt anger, too.  He was grieved by the way his Father’s Temple was used for bartering and he took a whip and beat the crap out of everyone and overturned tables while being very angry.  God considers his son perfect and without blame.  Yet, his son was angry and grieved.  Interesting.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that, I’m learning through grief that I am not my feelings.  I am learning that anger is not something to be scared of, but part of the process to health.  I am learning that grief is probably one of the most painful things I will ever experience, but one of the things that I have to let run its course.  If I try to pretend I’m done with it before it’s finished, or if I try to stuff it, or if I try to impede its progress in anyway I can kiss my mental or physical or even spiritual health good bye until I allow the grief process its due process.  Therefore, to all my grieving partners, carry on.  This too shall pass, but let it pass…leave no pebble unturned.