By / Dec 14

Can we be honest and agree that after an exhausting day with toddlers, facing bath time is a true test of perseverance? By the time evening comes, the mom skills are simply depleted. A parenting hack I found useful when my girls were little was transforming into some form of alter ego. A secondary, alternative version of myself somehow ignited the energy to grind out bath time.

One of my favorite transformations was Mrs. Wishy Washy. She was the perfect combination of Mary Poppins’ magic and Mr. Banks’ crotchety disposition. Dirty children were detested by her, and she had no sympathy for filth of any kind. My wide-eyed toddlers watched as I resigned my duties and exited the bathroom, and then burst forth as Mrs. Wishy Washy. Without time to blink, my girls eyed a woman flailing a washcloth and howling that their mother had lost her plot. In constant complaint, Mrs. Wishy Washy began cleaning two toddlers and barking orders to lean left, turn right, and present their hands. Warnings against throwing a fit were common, and the girls usually remained silent. Before you could say, “Buckingham Palace,” bath time was over. Thank you, Mrs. Wishy Washy. 

The Weeping Widow brings laughter

So, it was no surprise to my girls when another alter ego, the Weeping Widow, emerged in the weeks following my husband’s death. Loss had obliterated our home and drained all joy and laughter. During that time, our church engulfed us with support. They put their love for my family into action by providing food and supplies. I didn’t have to cook for 40 days! 

It was somewhere around the 18th meal when the Weeping Widow made her debut in our home. I had just ended a call with a sweet parishioner and made the announcement to the girls that a meal was en route. Suddenly out of nowhere, the girls stood in defiance and declared that they would puke if that meal included ANY potato salad. They continued on a long rant about the amount of potato salad they had been forced to consume. I will admit, we did receive unusually large amounts of it. Nevertheless, when I saw them turn into ungrateful, Hebrew children, I transformed into the Weeping Widow.

Sporting a limp, and in my best English accent, I slid to center stage and pretended to greet the woman bringing us our sustenance. I expressed gratitude for her efforts then sternly warned her that if her meal included any potato salad, my children would throw up! I apologized for being the Weeping Widow—unable to provide proper meals—then demanded that our kind friend turn around and get us fast food. After all, preventing a vomiting incident was the ultimate goal. 

A few silent seconds exposed their thankless attitudes, and after our eyes locked, we all began to laugh. The laughter stood out against the backdrop of grief. I was suddenly aware of the lack of laughter that had crept into our home. You will be glad to know that when the sweet lady arrived, she handed us a delightful casserole with no potato salad. We sighed in relief and laughed some more. That day, I became quite fond of the Weeping Widow alter ego. She brought laughter back to our broken hearts. 

I’ve been walking through grief with God and the Weeping Widow beside me for two years now. Grief in God’s hands leads to holiness and purpose. I now realize God has entrusted me with the Weeping Widow for good works and laughter that he planned in advance. 

James 1:27 in the ESV Bible says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this, to visit the orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” The word “visit” means to inspect, observe, or relieve. I believe God gave me the title of Weeping Widow to be on mission—a divine design enabling me to minister to women who have suffered loss and bring relief to them. 

What title has been given to you that enables you to be on mission? Don’t hate or resist suffering, but allow God to use it for his mission! Think and pray about how you can use it this holiday season and throughout a new year. And I encourage you to enjoy a belly laugh or two while doing it!

By / Jan 27

Toddlers are an interesting bunch. They have their own plans about what they want to do and when they want to do it. And they will pick their attitude while they are doing it, thank you very much!

So, what do you do when you have a toddler who’s a picky eater?

Three basic strategies

  1. You will eat what we are eating, or you will eat nothing.
  2. You will eat what we are eating until I get worried enough, and then I will give you what you want.
  3. You will eat what you want to eat (I will make you your own meals).

Because picky eating (or at least, refusing to eat) is almost always a phase, children will survive with all three. I have seen about 1000 different strategies for handling this situation—some work for one child but would never work for another.

Ultimately, picky eating is not about eating…it’s really a matter of trust and control.

A matter of trust and control

TRUST: So, why should your toddler trust you? They’ve only known you two years.

Your child is still learning to trust that you are someone who has his or her best interest in mind. They do not know that the awful broccoli you are forcing them to try is actually good for their body in the long run. Their minds simply cannot see the big picture the way we can.

Sound familiar? Do we ever have trouble trusting that God has our best interest in mind? I know I do. Growing up I memorized that I should “trust in the Lord with all my heart (Prov 3:5),” but that’s not so easy in the moment. I know that “God works everything for good for those who love (Him) (Rom 8:28),” but when things are not going my way, it doesn’t exactly make sense.

CONTROL: In addition, every toddler desires control. At this same stage of learning to trust you, your toddler is also learning that they don’t have control over their lives. You tell them where to go and when. Oh, and before we leave, you have them sit on this huge toilet and go potty first. They will push back in some areas.

Maybe they will become a touch more defiant. Maybe they will refuse to be potty trained or have stool withholding and constipation. But, picky eating is probably the most common area that toddlers attempt to regain some control. It’s a good choice for them because you cannot forcibly cause them to chew with a hand on their forehead and chin. (Even if you could, how would you force them to swallow?)

Does this sound familiar? Do we ever have trouble letting go of control? Guilty. As someone who managed medical school and maintains a busy schedule as a full-time pediatrician and a part-time writer, surely I have some measure of control over my schedule, right? Yes, until, I’m overdue on a deadline, supposed to round on newborns at two hospitals, and need to take my son to school (On a snack week. Thanks for the heads’ up!).

Choosing a strategy

So, what do you do with your picky eater? I think you pick one of the three strategies and go with it. Don’t fret over what everyone else will think or if you are doing the right thing. The strategy is not the important part.

The main goal is avoid turning mealtimes into a battle ground. Yelling and screaming probably will not encourage your child to eat, and in the long run, might backfire. Fortunately, we have a God that doesn’t bully us into trusting Him. He comes alongside us and acts trustworthy (Psa 111:7). He doesn’t force us to give up control, but he shows us that in doing so, we will actually be more at peace (Isa 26:3).

At the same time, you can and should talk with your toddler about the heart issue surrounding their eating habits. Their hearts are ripe for the harvest. Some helpful phrases are:

“Did you know that mommy loves to give you good things? That she wants what is best for you? I know it is hard to understand now but I want you to eat because it is good for you to help you grow big and strong.”

“Remember how daddy wants to give you good things? That’s how God is. He wants to give us the best for us also.”

At this age, you are setting the framework for how you and your child will interact for years to come. I think it’s a great time to establish a relationship of trust and love despite the stress involved. Having trouble? Look to the example of how your Father loves you through your picky tendencies, eating included.