31 Days of Instant Motherhood

Parenting is Hard. 

At the church where I work, we strongly believe that children and youth ministry is not just for children and youth, but also about equipping parents.  At the top of our resource page online we simply have these words: 

Parenting is Hard. 

For years I have known this fact.  I truly respect parents for all the hard work they do day in and day out trying to raise up children to be respected and respectful human beings, to give them a clear picture of their identity and purpose. (That’s not to mention the huge task of being the primary faith nurturer in their child, whether they want that role or not.) 

Yes… Parenting is Hard. 

There’s all the logistics of balancing all the activities and events, schedules and “who needs to be where, when.” There’s figuring out boundaries and figuring out how to, over the course of about 18 years, gradually give them more and more independence.  There’s the practical struggles of the sleepless newborn months and the helping with homework when 5 x 5 somehow isn’t so easy as it just simply being 25 anymore. 

The logistics and everyday “stuff” of parenting is hard.  

But then there’s the heart stuff… the character building … the teaching a 2 year old “let’s learn how to share” that somehow, perhaps overnight it seems, turns into discussions about bullying and breakups, sex and suicide, driving cars and deciding on colleges. 

Parenting is hard. 

This is nothing new to me. As I said before, I completely recognized this fact and try to be the biggest cheerleader I can be for the parents I see around me… friends with kids, the parents of students in our ministries, strangers on the street. Nothing I’ve learned so far as an AFS mom (which has been a lot) has been things I didn’t already know on some level. However, I pray that as I experience some of these things first hand, I’ll be an even better cheerleader moving forward.

So parents out there, you’re doing a great job. Even when it feels like this is the craziest job you’ve ever had, even when you mess things up, even when you’re not sure how in the world to handle a situations… yep, even then, you’re doing awesome.  Parenting is hard, but you’re not alone… look around you… MILLIONS of other people are doing it right alongside you.  It may FEEL like you’re alone, but you’re not. Reach out, encourage each other, walk with each other.  We need each other! And above all, lean into Jesus.  He’s got energy when we’re weary, wisdom for the tough decisions, grace when we feel like we’ve messed, and love. Yea, he’s got a lot of love… an abundance actually. And he wants to pour it all over our lives so that we can pour it out into our children.  Lean in, parenting may be hard, but it’s also amazing!

31 Days of Instant Motherhood

On Mom Time – Efficency 

I’m all for being as efficient as possible and often think through a day or tasks to see what might be the best game plan for getting everything done.  This skill has become extremely useful as a mom and I’ve even managed to be even more resourceful with my time.  An example was Wednesday night.  I went straight from my work at the university and timed it right to get to the high school with about 2 minutes until Elisa’s game started.  I was originally just planning to hang around after the game before her Homecoming Powderpuff game, but then realized I had a whole hour.  Instead of sitting on uncomfortable bleachers for an unnecessary hour I instead went and got gas, picked up the groceries I needed for tomorrow, dropped the perishables back off at home and made it back in time for kick-off.  Not only that, but I actually remembered some shopping I needed to do for work at the grocery store and got it all done in one trip instead of having to go out tomorrow during work to pick it all up.  Yay for efficency!  Yay for a Tonawanda win for the volleyball game!  And yay for a senior win at the Powderpuff game. 

Now if only my daughter could remember everything she needs on any given day and prevent extra trips to home… 

31 Days of Instant Motherhood

A little about the Faroe Islands

Many of the questions I get (and I’m sure Elisa gets even more of) all revolve around where she is from.  One of the reasons I even signed up for this host parent gig was because of my love for travel and exploring the world and cultures.  This provided a chance for me to give someone else an opportunity to do that while welcoming all the things I love about travel into my own home.  That being said, here are some things I’ve learned so far about the Faroe Islands:

  • There are 18 islands that make up the Faroe Islands.  It’s located up by Norway and Island in the North Atlantic Ocean.
  • The Faroe Islands, Denmark, and Greenland all make up what is known as the Kingdom of Denmark. In that way it is kind of its own country and kind of not.  The Faroe Islands has its own currency (but also use Danish money), flag, and language, yet is still kind of under the rule of Denmark. The best comparison I’ve found would be like Puerto Rico and the US.  
  • There are about 50,000 people between the 18 islands making up the population of the entire country.
  • The school system is different than in America. Compulsory school goes through 9th grade (though they learn many “high school” topics long before 9th grade).  You can go one additional year (Grade 10) if you would like, or you can go straight to what they call college. From what she’s describe it seems like somewhat of a mix between upper level high school and early college, kind of like a community college here in the US.  They pick a specific educational path focused toward certain types of jobs and go for either 2, 3, or 4 years.   They typically don’t start college until at least 17 or 18 years old.  It is very common for students to go abroad for one year during their late teens. Some just go to Denmark. Others, like Elisa choose to go further.  This is especially helpful for them to become more fluent in another language besides Faroese which is, obviously not a very common language in the world.  Students begin learning Danish around grade 3 and English typically in grade 4, to help prepare them for any careers that may take them outside of the Faroe Islands.
  • Food overall is differnt in the Faroe Islands than here. There is more fish in their diet (which of course would be a similarity if she was placed in a location near the coast and not with a host mom who grew up in landlocked Kansas).  Where cows are prevelant in America, sheep is the main animal of the Faroe Islands and is common in their diet.  From what Elisa has said the best tasting and most traditional dishes in her country all smell horrible haha.  It’s been hard to replicate foods here in America, but we did manage to Skype with her mom a few weeks ago and have her walk us through making Faroese pancakes! 
  • The country is absolutely gorgeous!  I guess I’ll end with sharing a few pictures Elisa sent me before she arrived.  I look forward to a day in the future when I can come visit her homeland and experience it all firsthand! 

31 Days of Instant Motherhood

Culture is more than a country 

As I finished Monday’s blog post I couldn’t help but think there’s more to it than simply calling someone “daughter” and that being that.  I think of stories Elisa has told me about her friends who are also on AFS adventures this year around the world, one elsewhere in America and the other in France.  Both of them are currently in the process of being relocated to new host families.  

I’m not trying to say anything bad about these two students or their initial host families, just that in general this is a process that doesn’t always go smoothly. Think about it for a minute… a child grows up within a specific family with a specific family culture for years, in a specific country with a specific country culture.  Meanwhile, across the world another family is formed with a different life experience, in a culture with all of its own little specific details.  Then one family pics up a teenager from the other family and tries to instantly make the two mesh.  Add in that in some cases they may only speak a few words of a common language and, like I said before, it’s not quite as easy just saying “this is my daughter”. 

I am beyond thankful for many things that have helped in the transition process for me and for Elisa.  First of all, she speaks AMAZING conversational English. This has helped us out immensely as we have figured out life together.  Also, while going from single life living on my own to that of single mom has been quite the transition, there are only two people trying to mesh not a whole family.  

That’s not to say there haven’t been challenges with that.  For example, from what I can tell the area in which she lives back home it is much safer and logistically easier to get around which means there was lot more freedom and independence given teenagers in her culture.  This has made the concepts of curfew and letting me know where she is and having to have rides in a car everywhere a somewhat challenging transition for her.  On my end, I’m used to not having to really connect with anyone else’s plans when making plans of my own.  When you couple one person not used to telling people where they are and another trying to make plans based up on where the other person is (not to mention that teenagers typically don’t have “plans” and just spontaneously ‘do stuff’) we’ve both had a learning curve. 

What I love most though in all of this is the new family culture Elisa and I are creating together. It’s of course still in the works but it involves lots and lots of laughter for which I am thankful.  It involves a balance of having the honor of serving her as my daughter doing things like packing a lunch or washing her volleyball jersey mixed with teaching her how to do things on her own.  It involves learning how to use snapchat and hearing about her day at school.  It involves tough conversations and time to goof-off. It involves planning with space for spontaneity.  It’s all about taking time when cultures collide to try to understand each other and figure out a new normal.  In some cases, like that of her two friends, it just doesn’t work out.  I’m so thankful that for us, it has! 

31 Days of Instant Motherhood

Elisa the World Traveler becomes Dora the Explorer

Her trusty map and backpack in hand we sent off Dora the Explorer to school today for her first experience with Homecoming Spirit week.  Got the full mom experience of staying up until way past my bedtime helping her transform her backpack, create and old looking map, and provide moral support as she freaks out about walking into her high school dressed like a children’s cartoon character.  Despite limited time and resources I’d say we did a pretty good job pulling it all together.  Good luck Elisa for TV Character Tuesday.  (Now just to find a hat and boots we can borrow for Western Wednesday!?!)

31 Days of Instant Motherhood

No she’s not just a roommate… 

Now that I’ve gotten used to it, I find it kind of humorous when people are unsure how to refer to Elisa, especially if they don’t know her name yet.  For example, a man at church a couple weeks ago asked me “How are things going with your … uh… friend… uh… roommate… uh … person.  I figured out what he meant and said things were going well.  As I spoke more, many of the things I said implied that it was a parenting role. His response was “Well it’s not like you’re a mom or anything… more like a sister or a roommate, right?”   

Others also have hesitated to use terms like “mother” or “daughter” and to be honest, it was super weird for me at first too.  But now, it’s just casual language for me. The cashier at Aldi commented on how she was excited they had lasagna noodles now. I replied with “Me too. Lasagna is my daughter’s favorite food.”  When someone else asked me where I was heading the other day, I said I was on my way to my daughter’s volleyball game.  Perhaps the funniest one was when a coworker mentioned to a mutual friend how we hadn’t seen each other much since I had a kid now and the friend didn’t know what to do and was confused by the thought that I had a daughter he didn’t know about.

So yea… it’s weird … and yes, she’s not my “real” daughter, but she IS already family.  I sign on the “parent/guardian” line on permission slips and look forward to escorting her for her volleyball senior night next week. I stay up late helping her with homework and pack her lunch each morning.  I’m teaching her how to do laundry and we share dinner together in the evenings. 
I agree, it’s not conventional, and perhaps a little weird at times, but this call as an AFS Host Parent goes beyond simply providing food and lodging for a year-long guest.  Oddly enough, I think that would be even more stressful.  Call her whatever you want, but for the next 7.5 months (and even when she goes back home) Elisa is family… yes, I even call her my daughter. 🙂