I love January because I love thinking deeply about life, about where we’re going and such. The first of the year is such a natural time to do that, don’t you think?
This year I thought I would start by writing a bit deeper about my own parenting journey and how it has changed throughout the years and what it really means to "Parent Below the Line." (It's a game-changer!)
I was married young, at the age of 21, to my college sweetheart, Russ Doerneman. We met at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln while on a Newman trip to South Padre, Texas.
After five years of marriage we finally had our first child, Eric, in 1993. (We had thought one of us was shooting blanks.)
The best part about Eric was how much he slept. He took multiple naps every day for his first two years. I thought that was normal. He also played intently and quietly for hours on end, lining up cars and trains and such. I thought all kids were like that.
Then we had Rachel in 1995 and Mitchell in 1996. Oh my stars. Those two didn’t sleep or eat or nap or even play quietly like Eric. I knew I had my work cut out for me. Thankfully they were cute, with dark eyes and dark brown hair.
Matthew was born in 2000. He had blue eyes and reddish hair, a true Doerneman. Plus he was a chunky thing, which I loved.
A year after Matthew was born I had my first miscarriage, which changed my perspective on LIFE. After much prayer and deep discernment, I decided to give my fertility to God, knowing He could plan my family better than me. I had absolute confidence that when I saw Him face to face He would NOT wring His hands and tell me, “Um, Lori, so, here’s the deal. You trusted me too much.”
Bridget was born in 2003 and Thomas came along shortly after, in 2004. Many people freaked out that “we had more kids” but I knew there was a plan and those kids were part of it. So I absolutely and almost gleefully ignored those people that condemned us.
We adopted Malaysia in 2007 (she was 4 ½ at the time, which was a little older than Bridget) and David was born in 2008. Both of those children were more or less miracle children. (I love our adoption story but it was not easy to add a four-year old into the mix. I wish I could go back and do that all again, with the knowledge that I now have.)
Along the way, we had five more miscarriages, which we know are actual children with eternal souls. Heaven will be a party.
Now. Some big truths about my mothering: I thought my children would be perfect. Why did I think that?
Well, truth be told, they were cute and they were mine and I was so freakin' in love with them!
Plus, it's a natural thing, I think. It wasn’t really wrapped up in my ego (or at least not too much). God, the Perfect One, created my children. And they were given to me as innocent babies (or as a four year old, in the case of M). They were all breathtakingly beautiful in their own way.
My mind could not conceive of them ever being super sinful. Naughty, yes. Rebellious, yes. But I knew that Russ and I would be there to straighten them out and all would be well.
What I have learned: there is no such thing as perfect. And if you are newish mom, you might as well just let that one go. Your kids will do things that will blow your mind. They just will. It’s called the human condition.
I have also learned that I am extremely human and as such, I have not always met my children’s deepest needs. I have not always been in tune with how they were feeling or thinking. There were times that I didn’t listen well enough or react well or guide them properly.
We have missed appointments, deadlines and one ACT test. The children have ruined our furniture, wrecked our sleep and spilled coffee over most of our home. They have strategically placed furniture over said coffee stains.
But guess what? All of that is pretty normal. No family is “perfect” and we will all be off course much of the time.
What I have learned through the years is this: life's not about being perfect. It’s about being PRESENT. And the best way to do that is by Parenting Below the Line.
What the heck is that? Well, it’s a concept that Eric came up with and I cannot wait to share it with you. It’s so good.
By the way, Eric is now 28 years old and married Jessica Ragas on March 19, 2021. If you like mushy love stories, you can read their story here.
Eric is an interesting mix between his dad and his mom. He is an engineer yet he uses words really well. And one day (several years ago) he told me that he had never really seen anyone describe the struggle of addiction in a way that made sense to his soul.
So Eric just sat down with a white board and asked the Holy Spirit to be present. After a couple of hours of drawing on that white board, he basically came up with this:
There is an underworld of lusts, temptations and such. Most kids just go along their journey, being with their parents, going to school, etc.
Parents know of this underworld but they don’t really talk about it to their child, knowing that the things in that world are not appropriate for their child.
Then one day that child is introduced to something in that underworld. Maybe they stumble upon it. Maybe a classmate shows them something out at the playground or by their lockers. No matter. The fact is this: they are shown something that is graphic and well, they are shocked. It is new. Odd. And exciting.
That’s when the child has a decision to make. Do they talk to their parents or do they hide this?
Because we had not prepared Eric for this underworld, when he stumbled upon an inappropriate ad on late night television, he kept it from us. The ad made him feel new feelings that he had never experienced before.
This is what that looked like/felt like for him:
He saw this thing, he was sucked into it, and he felt like he could not share it with us and so he hid it from us.
He lived one way “above the line” and another way “below the line.”
He wanted to be good. Yet he was compelled by this other “thing.” He knew that we thought of him as good. Yet he knew he was opening himself up to this “bad” world. And there was real pain in that very real split.
Now, I discovered that my child was sucked into this underworld many years later, when I walked in on him as a junior in high school. It was at that moment when I realized many things.
I have a fairly strong personality and it absolutely, totally pissed me off that this THING had entered my home under my watch. I felt like the World’s Worst Mother.
That moment, however, was a huge gift to our family. Why? Because I was able to truly see what was occurring below the surface. I was shocked, yes, of course. But I am a mom. My kid was in trouble. And I was going to help him as best as I could.
And thus began our ministry, although I didn’t know it at the time. I just started educating myself about this underworld and I became SUPER OPEN about everything I was learning. My kids learned things about thirty seconds after I did. Ha.
This is what I now know to be true: as parents, we MUST talk to our children about this underworld.
That’s the “dare” part of our name, “The Parenting Dare.” I know it’s not comfortable and I know it feels like you are ruining your child’s innocence by talking to them about this “THING” but it doesn’t have to be odd or awkward. It can and should be just What We Do as parents.
Again, we call it Parenting Below the Line.
It just means that you acknowledge that there is an underworld and that you will equip your child in such a way that they will understand what it is when they see it and they will come to you for guidance.
It is the best gift that you can give to your child. Now, some of you might be thinking, that’s great, but how do I do that exactly? Well, for those of you that want guidance, we created a Proactive Parenting Course where we ACTIVELY walk you through the steps and stages of how to talk to your child easily and effectively about very big topics. (All in age-appropriate ways.)
I love this proactive course and I wish I would have had it available to me when my Eric was younger. I know I cannot go back in time, but I can help mothers understand the dangers that are in their children’s lives.
The other big truth about mothering that I didn’t understand at the outset is that EVERYTHING boils down to relationship. When I mean everything, I mean everything.
Children want to be IN an authentic relationship with their parents. That means they WANT to be seen, heard and appreciated. They want to be loved. They want to be sought after.
Does it have to be perfect or pretty or pin worthy? Nope. It just needs to be real. That means you see your child. You notice. You smile. You ask good questions. You enjoy.
Yes, discipline. Yes, yes, yes. But I have found that when I work really hard at creating an atmosphere of acceptance and “hey, I’m so glad you are here” then the behaviors take care of themselves.
When we parent below the line, talking openly about all topics, the kids know that nothing needs to be hidden. There is no shaming or blaming or other such nonsense.
Don't you love that? The truth of the matter: I believe in us as parents. I believe we can learn and grow and adapt. I KNOW we can parent our children below that line, equipping them in truly powerful ways.
You are an amazing parent. Your children look up to you and need you. No, you don't have to be perfect. You just have to be present.
Links Mentioned in this Post:
Our Adoption Story
Eric's Wedding Story
Our Proactive Parenting Course
Here is a link to this post: "What It Means to Parent Below the Line" (please share with those young moms and dads in your life!)
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