Friday, December 29, 2017

A Date?

Dear unknown man who is thinking about taking out a single mom,

The following do’s and don’ts have been personally experienced. You might find them helpful. You might find them offensive. I’m just one single mom out there who chose to write about the things she liked and didn’t like on her first dates. Of course, most of this won’t be an issue if a relationship develops, but as for a first date

1.    DO offer to pay for her sitter. Before you drop your jaw in disgust, I do fully understand that this might be deemed super high maintenance. Here’s the thing: She has said, “yes” to going out with you which means she likes you enough to work all day, come home, stay off the couch, get dressed up, wear make up past 7:30 pm and then pay someone to come keep her kids in order to spend time with you. Way to go dude! Count this as a major win! It takes a really great guy for me to do all of that. Now, concerning the babysitting, this will most likely cost around $30 - $40 for the evening. The going rate these days is $10 an hour. Most guys don’t think about offering to pay for this, which is completely fine, as this is not at all their responsibility. BUT! Several years ago, I had a man offer to pay for my sitter (the only guy to ever do so) and it took me so incredibly off guard…in the most wonderful way you could ever imagine. Your date might politely decline, (I did) but nothing screams, “I’ll take care of you AND your family” like footing the bill for the sitter on your date. This will show her you are thinking about all aspects of the evening, including making this night as easy on her as possible. For her, this will go far beyond the normal thoughtfulness. She’ll be impressed, yes, but also she will feel very, very cared for.

2.    DO stand up any time she leaves or returns to the table. I teach at a private Christian school and it is a policy at our campus for a class to stand when a visitor enters the room. Last month I had to walk into a class of seniors and they all stood as I walked in. Oh my word. I felt like I had just stepped off Air Force One, and was being saluted by dozens of marines. I think I actually bowed involuntarily because of the feeling of humility that came over me.  If your date is indeed a single mom, there has most likely been a man in her past that wasn’t super respectful to her, so while she probably already has you on a small pedestal simply from your normal way of treating her, going above that norm would be a true luxury. Stand up when she leaves and stand up when she returns. She’ll highly respect you for it.

3.    DO make sure to ask a few questions about her kid/kids. (As if #1 wasn’t high maintenance enough, I’m going to throw this in there too:  DON’t ask too few questions, she will assume you don’t care. DON’T ask too many questions, she’ll be weirded out by your abnormal interest. I would suggest 3-4 questions and then move on.) These are the little beings that she prays for every day. She has stayed up countless hours with them on sick nights, nights with bad dreams, and nights with awful bathroom accidents. She thinks about them with every decision she makes: vacations, budgeting, which house to buy, what schools to attend, her work hours, what food to purchase, everything. They changed every perspective she had when they were born. They are a massive piece of her life.  She’ll thank you for asking about them.

4.    DO always, always, always pay for dinner. No exceptions. I was out with a guy one time and he said, “I can’t pay for you and Wes. I don’t have the money.” I didn’t mind at all! If anyone understands a budget, I certainly do. Then, one hour later, we ran a few errands together and he bought quite a bit of dollars worth of oil for his dirt bike. It was over three times the amount our meal was. There is a difference between having a hard time financially and just not wanting to pay for her and her kid. Decide beforehand if she is worth it. Once you’ve decided she is worth taking to dinner, please pay for it. She might offer to pay, (I do) but hear me…DECLINE and INSIST. I don’t care if she makes quadruple the amount of money as you. Pay for the dang dinner. She'll truly appreciate it.

5.    DON’T press her to meet her kid/kids. Let her decide when the time is right. Some moms don’t want to introduce their kids to their significant others for a very long time. Give her space. Enjoy getting to know her for the time being. She’ll be grateful for your patience.

6.    DO be open and kind if she brings her kid/kids on your date. Every mom is different. Some moms bring their kids on every date so that the man will know what real life is like. If this is the case, then enjoy her and her tribe. It’s completely okay if you decide that this isn’t for you, but for the date’s sake, have as much fun as you can. She’ll love your compassion.

7.    DON’T say, “I’ve never dated a single mom before. In the past, I’ve been closed off to the idea, so I’m trying to be more open about it.” I had a conversation with a man who said this to me and I immediately translated that to, “I never wanted a woman with kids, but now that I’m older there’s no one left, so I’m having to date moms and I hate it.” She personally won’t like hearing it (I wanted to punch the guy in the throat), but she will also feel really defensive for her small cubs. You don’t want to finish your meal with a sharp-clawed grizzly.

8.     DO say, “You are a great mom. I admire all that you do for your kids.” Right now, she is doing this on her own and even though she may have found her groove and is doing pretty alright in life, compliments on her motherhood are not only welcome, they will be treasured by her for eons of time. You can never go wrong by speaking of her motherhood kindly. You’ll see her face light up and beam as if she has just been given the Congressional Medal of Honor. If you’re willing, compliment her motherhood as much as you can. It will give her pounds and pounds of refreshment.    

9.    DO walk her to the door at the end of the date. Do not be the guy who offers “the awkward walk back”.  No girl, I repeat, NO GIRL wants her date to watch from the car as she walks to the door, especially on a first date.  So many unsettling thoughts will race through her mind in the 6 seconds it takes her to get to the front door knob. Where’s that dude looking right now? Is he driving off already? Is he watching me? What if I fall down? I'm so ready to get these heels off. Why is he still in the driveway?  Do I turn around? I can't wait to wash my face. If I do turn around, do I wave or smile or…? UGH. The whole thing is eerie and awkward, and flustering and awkward and worrisome and awkward and also the complete opposite of chivalrous. For all that is noble, just walk her to the door. 

Here's to first dates!

Monday, December 18, 2017

I finally told Wes to MAN UP.

“You will not cry about this any longer. That is it! It is time to MAN UP. If you want to be a navy seal, this is your first lesson. Sometimes, you just gotta be a man, so GIRD UP.”

That is what came out of my mouth to Wes yesterday while riding his bike. You know, the bike that he said he would neeeeveeeeerrrr ride? He asked me if he could go outside to ride his bike without training wheels. I stared at him dumbfounded and wondered if he was having a seizure.

Once out on the hilly terrain of West Creek Drive, he started out really strong. He was riding, unafraid of any turbulence and also sturdy, like a robust mountain lion. (That might be a motherly exaggeration.)

Then we took our standard turn for the worse. Hi fear.  He began grabbing at me and leaning at a 90-degree angle towards my direction. I’m like, “How are you gonna steer those handles while ridin’ parallel to the street? And just how is your hiney still on that seat while you’re inclining like that?” Then he began diving off mid ride, arms flailing randomly.

And he was beginning to cry.

I had no time for this. I knew he knew what to do. I had seen him do it before. I knew he had the skills. I had seen him use them before. All of this erratic behavior boiled down to one thing: fear. I had HAD it.  I was about to push him off the bike myself. Like hard. To the street. (Please make note that I did not push him off the bike myself. To the street.)

As a mom, most of us are nurturers at heart. I am no different. We coddle, we protect, we pull them into our little human cocoon and tell them everything is going to be all right. And I honestly think this is best thing we can do for them.

Until it isn’t.

I once heard someone say, “Why do we have ‘safe places’ filled with play dough on college campuses for the students who’s presidential candidate lost the campaign, when we have other college students out in Afghanistan fighting for our freedom?” It seems the term “cupcake generation” really does ring an accurate bell.

I think important pieces of becoming a man begin at the age of six.  There will be hard times. Things will not always go his way. What I do now in those moments is what he will do later in those same moments.

Well, our training started yesterday…

I began with a short, but flashy pep talk. “Nope. We are not quitting today. Look, this is something you already know how to do. It is time to stop letting fear get in your way. You are going to punch that fear in the face.” He began to chuckle. He thinks punching anything in the face is freaking awesome.

I started pushing him down the middle of the street yelling, “I’m a MAN! I’m a MAN! I’m a Navy Seal! I’m a Navy Seal!” Then he started laughing (through his crying) and chanting it with me. Loudly. “I’m a MAN! I’m a Navy Seal!” Over and over down the street, back and forth in front of the house, we were shouting and chanting and making a real scene.

And guess what?  He actually manned up. Is that even a phrase? Manned up? Whatever, I’m making it a phrase. He manned up!

And once he did, I saw that robust mountain lion again. The confidence and the pep talk got his adrenaline going. He was so fired up from all that roaring and macho hollering, you would have thought he was getting ready for Navy Seal’s training of hell week out in the middle of the woods. When he finished and hopped off his bike, he talked a little deeper, walked a bit taller and he might have had a tiny piece of hair grow out from his chest.

When we came back inside, I hugged him, told him how proud I was of him and sent him off to shower. As he walked down the hallway I heard him saying, “I’ll punch you in the face fear. I’ll take you out.” He could feel the excitement in his achievement and I figured we could work on his pride later. I’d let him have his moment.

Yesterday did something to him in a really, really good way. “Manning up” like that gave him something, and I think it was a deep 6-year-old sense of triumph. Victory and conquest were his and he felt it, largely.

And it did something to me too. It made me want to give him more opportunities to to do the hard stuff. Now don’t think for a second that I won’t still shelter him, shield him and love on him, of course I will. And I will still let him climb down from the tree when he’s scared and I’ll let him say no to rides too daunting at Six Flags, but occasionally, when I feel the moment is right, I will mandate that he mans up. It is good for him, and for me. Let's take out this cupcake generation and give our boys plenty of opportunities to be men.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Hey Whore

It was consistently hectic in the mornings as hundreds of first and second grade children would walk down our hallway each trying to get to their classroom first. Shoving, pushing, running, these were all part of the daily humdrum.

I would stand at my door each morning to greet my students (and also to help the 6 year old rush hour traffic which was not that different than highway 820 during construction, including both honking and hand gestures).

Ahhh, there she is. I see Jessica, this pint-sized little diva, who was secretly one of my “favorites”. She sashayed out of the cafeteria and was headed down to our class, ready to take on the world. Jessica was lively, but obedient and sometimes, situationally sweet.

She also had a particular way with words. Let me illustrate. One day I overheard a few of the girls talking about “Hannah Montana”…Jessica was, of course, in on the conversation and decided to add her 2-cents by saying, “Well girls, I hate to tell you but Hannah Montana is a hoochie!” Disheartened chaos ensued, “Miss Osborne, what’s a hoochie and why is she calling Hannah Montana that?” “AAAAAA! Ask your mom. She can tell you. Let’s start science.”

This particular day Jessica was almost to my classroom door when I heard her little feminine screech high above  60+ students in the hallway. 

“Hey whore!”

Yes, exactly.  Immediately, I began rifling through the hallway trying to pinpoint her in the crowd. I can't find her! There are so many kids in here! Why don't we have less kids in this stinking school? Admitting that I was becoming a wee bit nervous might be an understatement. Thirty seconds later I heard it again, “Heeeey whore!” Beads of sweat began to drip from my forehead originated from sheer panic. My heart felt like a hammer and I was envisioning myself breathing in and out of a paper bag for the rest of the day. Where was she??? All the 'best practices' had vanished and I began barreling through children knocking them out one by one when I again heard the roar of those horrifically gruesome words.


Oh. My. Word.

Where are you God? Can a teacher get a little help down here?! Better yet, just take me up in a fiery chariot. I'm pretty sure I'm losing my job today.

God must have heard me because I finally found her. I bent down breathless and panting and said, “Jessica, my goodness Honey, who in the whole mighty world are you talking to like that? We don’t use that kind of language at school.”

 She looked at me as if I was the fool and said reassuringly, “Miss Osborne, don't worry. That is his name.” Then it dawned on me, “Oh dear goodness, I’m going to have to somehow explain to this precious little thing that ‘whore’ is not a name we use at school. Insert final panic and hallucinations of furious parents and maybe even a law suit or two.

At my wit’s end, I asked her to point this child out so  she could at least say, “I am sorry I was shamelessly yelling such appalling words at you this morning.”  

Jessica stood there, chin still high, chest still out. Her posture said nothing of humility. She pointed to this small-ish, lanky, brown headed boy.

I took one good, long look at him.  The laughter that followed was one filled with hysteria (and huge, huge, huge relief).

I looked at proud Jessica and said, “Oh my, little miss, look at me. This is very, very important for you to remember. His name is… Jorge.”  (Hor-hay, NOT hay-hor)

Needless to say, Jessica made my year fun and wildly entertaining. I sure miss her. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

To Remember: The song that soothed my 6 month old baby.

God consistently asks His people to remember Him. He told the Israelites to put up stones to remember where they walked across the Jordan. (Joshua 4:1-7) He tells us to take the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of what He did on the cross. (Luke 22: 14-23)  He asks us multiple times in the Psalms to remember who He is and all He’s done. (Psalm 77) I think part of the reason He tells us to do this is because, in His omniscient ways, He knows it is easier for us to forget than it is to remember.

I didn’t have to worry about Wesley’s non-believing father for the first 5 years of Wesley’s life. We came to our own church, had our days at home and didn’t have to worry much about his father’s cult background. As of January 2016, that all changed. Wes’s dad began taking Wes to all of his cult meetings and to do door-to-door false preaching. It shatters my heart every time.

Recently, as I drop Wesley off and I leave to go home, I sense one overarching thought that swarms heavily over the feelings of panic, dread and tearful rage, “Remember me, Lauren. Remember all I have done before this day. Remember who I AM.”

One such moment, when Wesley was very young, has been divinely etched into my memory. This is one memory that I think back to as I drive away from the kingdom hall.

When Wes was about 6 months old, he hated being in the car. He would cry non-stop. I didn’t stress about it too much because we didn’t drive to many far away places as a young baby, though I did take a few trips back home to College Station to visit my parents. On one particular trip, he began crying before I even had him buckled in.  I was thinking, “Seriously dude? We have 3 hours ahead of us. You’re gonna have to get it together.” Ummmm. He was 6 months old. I must have still been a bit delirious from all the sleepless nights to think he would understand me.

I began listening to some of my favorite Christian music hoping to at least drown out the sobbing for a short time. For roughly 30 minutes, not a single thing worked. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the car with a screaming kid, but 30 minutes can seem like an eternity. One trip prior to this one, he cried the entire 3 hours, so I was already beginning to freak out when we hit the 30-minute mark. I knew I could not do another 3 hours like that.

The howling had begun to grate on every nerve in my body. I was trapped. He was trapped. He was screaming. And I was about to be screaming too.  Then a new song came on, one with an African beat by Selah and mysteriously, Wes quieted down. While it was strangely peculiar, I was breathing deep and hopeful sighs of relief. I thought, “Oh my goodness. Is it over? Are we going to have a nice ride now?”

But no, as soon as the song was over, the roaring began again. “Great. You obviously don’t know how to worship the Lord little man. COME ON!” Then I thought, “Hmmmm, I wonder if…No, surely not. It couldn’t be that easy.” I was up for trying anything at this point, so in desperate optimism, I played that same song again. It was a God-given MIRACLE, people.  Like, seriously a dream. It worked! As soon as that song began, he went silent. I could not believe it.

You can probably guess what I did next. Yes, yes I did. For the full 3 hours, we listened to that one song on repeat, again yes, that one song on repeat, all the way to College Station. And guess what? I didn’t hear a peep out of him for the rest of the way. You do what you must do when you need a little peace and quiet.

I was talking to my best friend, Beth, on the phone several days later laughing about how high maintenance my kid was for needing to have this one song played so that he would relax. We laughed together and then it was her that said, “Isn’t that interesting?” I said, “What do you mean?” She responded, “The song…that quieted him down.”

As I hung up the phone, for the first time, I thought more seriously about it. And then this surprising sense of God’s hand was exposed. I hadn’t seen it before Beth mentioned it.  

The song.

That song.

The only song that would soothe my 6-month-old baby. 

An old sacred hymn.

“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”

I will remember this. I will always remember this.  God showed His hand during that 3-hour car ride. He was writing divine lyrics onto my child’s 6-month-old heart. He was transcribing His plan into my child’s mind and spirit through the melody and stanzas of a song written 150 years ago. I will remember that He is the great I AM. 

The Laundry

Our First Meeting Me: “B, this is a fantastic washing machine.” B: “Thank you!” I stand flat footed in front of the washer. I ...