We’ve got more questions from you! What can you do when your child is struggling in a tough season? And what about when you know they might fail? Julie Lyles Carr has some encouragement and a challenge for you in this latest episode with your questions!
Hey friend. I’m Julie Lyles Carr and I’m back today on the AllMomDoes Podcast with a series of questions from our listeners. We love hearing from our listeners from the podcast because you come up with some of the best stuff. You let us know, the things that you’re grappling with, the challenges you’re facing, the things you’re curious about, the places you need encouragement. So I love getting to do these Q&As every so often as we move throughout the year, as we’re in our fifth season of the podcast. And so we’ve got some great listener questions that we’re gonna be talking about today.
We’ve just come off of a series on the seasons of life, and so a lot of these questions have to do with navigating through various seasons. And I loved this question that we received. It says, how do you practice joy in all seasons? You know, we do have a variety of different kinds of seasons, right? We have seasons where we’re really busy and seasons that are calmer, and seasons that are exceptionally difficult, and seasons that seem especially sweet and easy. And so I think that this idea of how we have a continuity of joy in our lives, in our attitudes and our perspectives. Is a really interesting one because we’re talking about being able to have joy regardless of the circumstances around us.
Now, joy is one of those words that I think is kind of slippery. If you’ve been around here you know, I love words. I’m a writer, I’m an author, I do a lot of ghost writing, I do a lot of copywriting, I work with different companies to help them think about the words that they use to explain the mission and the purpose and the story of their organizations. And so words mean a lot to me. I spent a lot of time on the names for our kids. I did deep dives into all of the etymology. Etymology is the study of where words come from, and it really helps you get down to the core of the essence of the thing and what people meant when they used these particular words. I especially love digging into the old Hebrew and the Koine Greek and the Aramaic when it comes to studying scripture because there is so much richness there to get into what these words, connotations and denotations mean. And what that means is a denotation is like the exact specific, here’s the hard copy meaning. The connotation is how we use those words and the things that are associated with those words, and how that influences our understanding of the meaning of those words.
So yes, I mean, I’m obviously showing it. I’m a huge word nerd, and I love, love, love words. And joy is one of those words that I find to be really interesting, particularly in the faith space because maybe you’ve heard this preached. I know I have; I’ve heard messages on this. Hey, I’ve probably even said this a few times. Joy and happiness are different, and it’s not necessarily about God making you happy. God wants you to have joy and da, da da. Okay, I’m, I’m gonna confess, right? The deeper I get into understanding the word joy, I gotta, I gotta be honest, when I look at the Hebrew, when I look at the Greek, um, happiness and joy seem pretty intertwined, they really do. In the Hebrew, the Hebrew word for joy, we see the word joy used in scripture about 165 times. So it’s in there a lot. And there are a few different words that all mean joy that are used when talking about joy. But for example, there is a Hebrew word called simcha, and that is a word for joy. And when you look at the original Hebrew, it means joy or mirth, which can mean kinda like giggling and laughter, means pleasure, it means happy issue, like a happy result, happiness, a glad result, Gladness. There’s another word for joy, and it’s called kedva, and it is gladness and joy. And before you say, well, but you know, let’s talk about the joy of the Lord. Well, that’s, that’s actually, that’s actually the Hebrew word that’s used in that scripture in Nehemiah 8:10, the joy of the Lord is your strength. That’s kedva, that’s that gladness, that joy. Then in the Greek, when we get into the New Testament, we find a word for joy called chara. And this comes in a verse, for example, you shall have great joy at his birth when it’s being discussed in the book of Matthew that that Jesus will be coming. And so there is this cheerfulness, this calm delight, this gladness, this exceeding this of joy of joyfulness.
So however you wanna parse happiness and joy and gladness and all the rest. Joy is about this gladness, a calm, delight, great pleasure, and yes, an increase of happiness. Happiness in your joy. So it is kind of all those things. I realize that’s a little nuanced, but I think it’s important because sometimes I think we can diminish the feeling of what joy is supposed to be by talking about the things that it’s not. And maybe there’s a place for that. But when I really dig into the origin of these words, there is happiness and joy. There is gladness and joy. There is a sense of expansion and of fullness and of satisfaction and pleasure. And I don’t want us to miss out on that when we talk about, how do you practice joy in all seasons? Well, I don’t want you to think it’s something subdued. I don’t want you to think it’s something lesser than happiness. I don’t want you to think that it’s not about having tremendous pleasure because it is. And so if we’re gonna aim towards something, even in a difficult season, we better know what we’re aiming for because otherwise we may land on something that we think is kind of joy, but might not really be in the fullest sense of what Jesus promises us in John 10:10, to have life and have it in the full.
So what can we do in terms of practicing joy in all kinds of seasons? Well, here’s something that’s gonna sound kind of strange. I’ve decided for myself, I can’t say there’s a chapter and verse on this, but I’ve decided that joy is a discipline. And yeah, even when you think of joy as a form of happiness, I think it’s a discipline. And the reason I do, I can give you an example from raising all these kids of mine. I would have times that I would load up my kids and would take them to go do something. Let’s say we were gonna go to Sonic and get a slushy or something like that, and I would have kids for whom they were super excited that they were gonna get this slushie. They were so excited about this outing to Sonic, and then I’d have a kid or two who would be having no joy in this season of going to Sonic because they were already looking at the fact that they weren’t gonna be allowed to get tater tots on this particular round, that today’s Sonic budget was only going to include slushies, and they would be upset and have no joy. Now, what was going on there? Well, there is a discipline to looking toward what you do have and what you’re getting to do, even if in the tough times. Even in the happy times. I mean, I’ve been the girl too, that sometimes on a beautiful trip or getting to be part of a beautiful wedding or some incredible experience that I was getting to have, I can still sometimes be the girl who’s looking for the tater tots. I mean, sorry to confess, but seriously.
And so regardless of the season that you’re in, you can still decide to see what’s missing, or you can decide to be happy, to find joy in what is. And I don’t mean this in a super naive way. I can remember that some of the times I have laughed the hardest were in some of the most difficult circumstances I could imagine. Significant illness and my father’s last illness, the things my mom went through, my brothers and I would huddle up and take care of what needed to be taken care of. And it was hard, really difficult. And somehow in all of that, with the relationship I have with my brothers, we also managed to laugh. And the kind of laughing where you are on the floor rolling, and yes, as some of that potentially a stress response. Of course, I understand the psychology of it, but I’m telling you, I had such joy in being with these brothers of mine in these difficult moments. I had joy in being able to see the legacy that our parents had given us in our relationships with each other. I had joy that I had these two people that we could just unwind and unpack in this way. I had joy that there would be some random thing we would find as we were cleaning out my parents’ house, and I had these two people that we could just go into hysterics over it. And I had joy that I had two people I could cry with and deal with this situation. So I’m not talking about some kind of avoiding what’s really going on and pretending like a tough season is not what’s happening. I’m talking about engaging and being intentional to find things to laugh at, to laugh in the tough times. I mean, it said in Proverbs 31, that’s one of the things about a woman of worth is that she knows how to laugh at days ahead. That is a discipline of joy.
I think another thing we can do in terms of practicing joy; you may be in a season that just seems sort of meh. Nothing’s really wrong, but nothing’s really shiny. You’re just kind of there. You’re in the doldrums. You know, that is a great time to practice joy, to be about the discipline of joy. Because there’s nothing really tugging you hard either way, emotionally. And so what you can do in that moment is you can refuse to let life feel mundane. The joy that can be found in the simple day, the joy that can be found in walking to the mailbox with your kids just to see what’s arrived. The joy that can be found in taking one of your kids on a mom date by themselves to go to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for dinner. The joy that can be found in driving in that carpool and heading across town to pick up kids from soccer, and you put on a song from high school that you haven’t thought about in a long time, and it just lights everything up and you find joy in it. When we refuse to buy into the lie that simple, calm, rather bland seasons are somehow mundane. When we choose to practice spotting and celebrating joy, even in the quiet. It’s a huge training ground for developing that muscle of experiencing joy. And that’s why I’ve come to believe that sustainable joy is an action. See, I used to think that joy was something that was gonna come and find me in a season of my life, that I would just be going about my daily business and I turn a corner, and there it would be: joy. Ta Da. But what I found is that joy, while it doesn’t seek to be secretive or elusive, it is something that I have to go and be intentional to find, to call it out, to spot it, to thank it for arriving, to experience it, to embrace it, and to not push it away. Because you know, sometimes we have seasons where we don’t wanna feel joy. We’ve decided this is super hard and we don’t want to be distracted by anything that feels good, thank you very much. And so to have this sense of moving toward joy, be searching for it, be looking for it, and at the same time to have our arms open to receive it when we do find it, that is an action we can take whatever season we are in.
Obviously proportionally, sometimes our joy may not be in proportion to the level of challenge. Sometimes our joy can feel so big that it’s just amazing to experience and seems to cover over anything that might be a little dark and, and those are great moments when we can have them. But overall, the discipline of joy, the willingness to say, joy can come in a lot of forms. It can be a deep content, it can be happiness. It can be when you’re glad about something. It can be when you get the giggles. All of that. All of those things are evidence of joy. We don’t have to over spiritualize what joy is. We don’t have to make it harder than it has to be. We don’t have to be super technical. But when it shows up, to just call it out and go, wow, that was just a moment of joy that was really, really beautiful. That’s a way that I think we can begin to practice joy in all seasons.
Had another question, couple questions come in that feel related to me. The first one is, how do you make sure you are encouraging your kids in their seasons, even when you are scared or unsure for them? And then there’s a question associated with it that I think is really close. It says, how do you let your kids fail when they enter a season? Ooh, such a good one. I was walking along Lake Michigan. My oldest daughter lives in Chicago and we were walking on Lake Michigan and there’s this, this little spot where I’d call it a sea wall, but of course we know that Lake Michigan is not the ocean, but boy does it feel like it, right? For any of you who have seen the Great Lakes, it really does feel like you’re at the edge of the ocean. So there’s this place where there’s this build out, it actually goes close to where the aquarium and the planetarium is, if you’re, if you’re familiar with Chicago. And it’s sort of like a concrete sea wall and people walk along there, you can ride bikes and depending on the wave action of the lake and all of that, that little spot is beautiful. It’s amazing to walk along there. But this one day when I was walking along there, there was a young woman in front of me and she slipped and fell. It can be very slippery depending on where the waters come up and if there’s a little bit of algae or moss or anything. And she slipped and fell, and she busted her knee open pretty well. Well, I’m your kind of girl that even though I was just carrying this little mini backpack and I didn’t have a lot with me, did I have a first aid kit? Oh, oh yes, I did. I mean, come on friend. I’ve been a mom for a long time, and I did. I had all this stuff, and my daughter was cracking up because I bust out my little kit and I’ve got all this stuff and it’s all in miniature cuz I just love all these little tiny things that you can put inside other little tiny bags inside your little mini backpack. Yeah, that would be me. So I pull all this stuff out and we help get this woman bandaged up and on her way and. You know, I have to say if that’s indicative of how I kind of mothered also, um, yeah, I definitely am the kind of person who carries that Mary Poppins bag that I try to have any possible outcome because I’m always forecasting, Okay, well if somebody’s slip and fell, or if somebody, this happened, or if this happened or if this happened, do I have some stuff I can take with me that would help resolve that situation? Everything from extra Advil to have you ever seen the charcoal pills you can give somebody if they’re having a stomachache or something? Yeah, that’s me. I got all that in that little bag.
One of my brothers is very much the same way as well. We talked about it on a recent visit we got to have that he’s always on the lookout for what could go wrong. And when you’re wired like that, at least to me it’s, it’s a blessing and a challenge because it’s almost impossible for me sometimes to not see the dangers or the challenges out there. And when you mix in there for our kids, that heightens it even more, right? Because we wanna go ahead of them. We wanna do the best we can to make sure every base is covered. We wanna save them as much as we can from challenge and hurt. But here’s something that I’ve definitely had to pull back, particularly as my kids have gotten older, and I talked about this a little bit in an episode in our season series that I did on back to school, and you might wanna go check that one out when it’s the season of going back to school and what some of those things mean and some truths that I’ve learned through the years. So I touched on this in that episode, which is our kids really need to see when they’re heading into unfamiliar territory, they need to see that we believe that they can do it, that they’re gonna be okay. That even if things don’t turn out the way we hope that they’re going to be able to troubleshoot, that they’ve got the strength, they’ve got the smarts, they’ve got the ability, they’ve got the grit, they’ve got the perseverance to be able to do it. And I get it. Like I said, I’m the mom running behind everybody with a First aid kit, but I would not want my children to interpret my sense of feeling a little scared, unsure for them with thinking that they think that I don’t think they can do it. I certainly don’t want that to be for them.
The other thing that I think we have to get honest about when we feel scared or unsure for our kids when they’re in a season where there’s challenge or a lot of change, or they’re taking on new responsibility or they’re maturing. I really do think that part of my hyper prep nature on stuff like this is I really do love taking care of people. I want people to feel taken care of, but I got to be really honest. Somewhere in the bottom of the swirl of that, you know, fairly pure cup of “I just wanna take care of people” and there’s probably a few flecks of control in there too. And in those times when you’re feeling scared or unsure for your kids, I do have to say, do a little pulse check. There may be something in there that you are sensing that your ability to control things or, ok now I’m stepping on toes, but here we go, or control them, control their actions, control their decisions. That’s starting to feel shaky and that generates that sense of feeling unsure or scared for them in a new season.
Here’s the deal. Our kids are not always gonna make the decisions as they move into new seasons in their lives that are the decisions that we wish they would. They’re going to go rogue sometimes. They’re going to do things that that would not be the thing we would choose. Whether it’s they’re choosing a job that we wouldn’t take and we think they should have had this other opportunity, they should have run with that. They may choose to go to a university that is not the one that we wanted for them. They may choose to date someone who is not our choice. They may choose to be mean to somebody at school, and you may get called in and told that, no actually it’s your kid who’s kind of being the bully. All of those things can feel scary for our kids in a season.
Now, there are also other seasons for our kids where it’s not through their actions or decisions or behaviors or this expansion of their responsibilities or their freedoms that can make us feel unsure. There are times our kids can just be going through really hard seasons that have nothing to do necessarily with their choices. For example, the seasons that we went through when our two daughters who are differently abled, when we were getting those diagnoses, when we were taking those super steep on ramps to trying to figure out next steps and all of that. Those seasons felt so scary and unsure for me because there was a lot riding on the decisions I was making for my girls in those times. However, I never wanted my girls to feel like that what we were facing, we couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t advocate on their behalf. They were both very young at the time of their diagnoses. One was significant hearing loss, one was cerebral palsy. But certainly, when they got into more cogent ages when they were 4, 5, 6 years old, and we had these extensive therapy schedules and we had all this stuff we were doing at home and all of these medical visits and all of the things. I certainly did not want them to think that the times that were emotional for me or hard for me because of the season they were in, was any a reflection on them. So that distinction is really important. If your child is going through something and you’re walking alongside as coach, as advocate and you are feeling the heaviness of it, the person to process that with is not your child, depending on the age they are. Now that my girls are older, one is married and she’s in her twenties, the other is 15. We’ve certainly had phenomenal conversations about my journey as their parent through those days, their journey as a child experiencing some of those days. But we didn’t put that on them in those seasons of their life when they were younger, when the focus needed to be on getting them to the next step. It is all right if you are feeling overwhelmed and unsure in a season like that for your kid. I just wanna encourage you though, process in the right places, vent in the right avenues. Your child is not the person to process this with at that time because you, I’m sure, don’t want your kid to think that they’re a burden or that you don’t know what to do, or you are overwhelmed. I’m not saying you should lie to your kid and say that you’ve got all the answers, but what you can say very truthfully is, well, we’re gonna get some help with that, we’re gonna find some answers. We’re gonna find some people who can help us. I think that is a really important thing to do, that even when we feel unsure, if our trust is in God, then the answers are going to come. If our trust is in God, he’s going to make a way through. If our trust is in God, we can lean fully and rest in that, even when we don’t have all the answers, even when we don’t know when the outcome is going to be. And when we model that for our kids, that’s incredibly powerful. Even as we navigate feelings of feeling unsure, unstable, A little scared.
Now that second part of that question, which was how do you let your kids fail when they enter a season? Oh, so good. The first time my oldest daughter took a few steps outside when she was just beginning to learn to walk, and she fell and skinned her knees on the gritty sidewalk. I cried. Yep, I did. I mean, you can imagine by the time we got to her siblings, number seven and eight, I was not quite so precious, but I was very upset the first time that she fell and skinned her knees. My initial thought was, I can’t let this happen again. Do I, do I need to put knee pads on her? Maybe I’ll only let her wear long pants. I mean, it was just a whole wash of emotions. I can look back on that and laugh because I wasn’t a mom in my first foray into parenting with my oldest daughter. I wasn’t a super nervous mom, I wasn’t super hyper about certain things. I mean, she ate dirt and she played, and I, I wasn’t really worried about some of those kinds of things, but it was almost this sense of, oh man, I let her fall and now she’s got bloody knees. It’s my fault. That was where I kind of came apart because I just felt so bad. I felt like somehow that her failure was my responsibility. But here’s the deal, you can’t learn to walk without taking a few tumbles. We know that one of the fastest ways for us to learn as humans is to blow it a time or two and for it to hurt. And whether that’s emotionally, whether that’s slamming our finger in a door, like we know that there’s something about pain that is a great indicator to us about what we wanna modify and what we wanna do differently. And when we don’t let our kids fail, they don’t have the advantage of that lesson. Now, I know you’re familiar with terms like helicopter parenting and things like that, and it is a real phenomenon and I understand where it comes from. We love our kids so intensely, we wanna do so right by them. It’s just difficult to get ourselves out of the way and let them fall when they need to fall on occasion.
One of my brothers has had a really fascinating career in all kinds of medical technologies, and he has worked with a lot of fascinating crazy-smart people. I mean, off-the-charts kind of scientists and researchers and developers, absolutely fascinating. But he and I were having a conversation that around 10 years ago, he started to have this very interesting phenomenon. He would have a candidate that he would be interviewing for a position, and this would be a position for something highly, highly technical in chemistry or genetics or all kinds of things, biomedical research. He would have in front of him the resume of someone who had their PhD and had gotten it very young in early ages by their mid-twenties, who had been a stellar student, who had done all these amazing things, which is why my brother would be interested in them as a candidate for this. And then, wawawah, something would happen. Literally moms and dads, and a lot of times moms to be fully in disclosure here, would call. Okay, just, just take a minute. Would call asking how the job interview went, or where the job offer might be standing, or if there were any questions that needed to be answered following the receiving of this, of this beautiful CV from this potential candidate, their child. Okay, let’s just unpack this. We are talking about candidates who had clearly gone to some of the top educational programs in the United States and graduated at the tops of their classes in highly technical, very difficult, arduous degree programs, and their moms and dads just couldn’t help themselves but to call and make sure they were gonna be okay because they didn’t want ’em to fail. Now that might sound a little extreme except that I began to run some research around this phenomenon and found that no, this was happening all over the country with a lot of different people in a lot of different situations. You know, I get it. We wanna protect our kids. I understand. But part of that learning curve is letting them go out there, try. Sometimes they’re gonna nail the job interview, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they are gonna date the person that you already knew was gonna break their heart, but they have to experience it. Sometimes they have to act out in a situation and get the consequences of that situation in order to grow, in order to move forward.
We see all over scripture and Jesus reminds us that there is an important process of pruning, and it means that we have things in our lives that are gonna get pruned, and it means our kids are too. And the reason that God designed life to work like that is so that we can bear greater fruit. If we are not willing to let our kids get dirty, putting their roots in the ground and to grow in directions that might not be the best, but then to stand back and let God, to let consequences, to let natural orders of things happen to then direct them in the correct way, well then how are kids gonna ever really grow and grow up? I think so much about Jesus’s story about the prodigal son. Can you imagine in today’s helicopter world how that story might have gone differently? There was a young man and he demanded his inheritance from his father, and then his father loaded him up and took him to every dive and every drug dealer, and every bar and every, you know, casino available. And finally, the young man had had enough and said, Dad, why don’t we go home? I think I’m gonna straighten up. No, that is not how Jesus told the story. It was the father saying, All right, okay. And he sent that kid out to fail. To fail. Why? So that kid ultimately could succeed at discovering what really mattered in life and what really mattered in terms of people who love you and what really mattered in terms of having family around you. That’s how he learned. So yeah, I’m not a fan of letting my kids fail at all, and believe me, I’ve had moments. Okay I haven’t called anybody about my kids’ job interviews. I just wanna clarify. But I’ve had my moments and I get it, and I understand the temptation. But sometimes the fastest way for our kid to get through a challenging season, a season where they’re making decisions we don’t agree with, a season that they’re facing a lot of stuff or they’re, or even a good season where they’re trying things and we’re just standing back going, Oh man, I know they really want that lead in the school play. Or, I know they really want that position on the team and I don’t think they’re gonna get it, and maybe I should get in between that and not let them experience what’s gonna feel like a failure for. Well here it is, friend. Get outta the way. Let ’em fail. Let ’em fall. And may they always know that you are there to walk next to them and experience it and to be a place they can call home, a safe place they can come back to, a safe place where they can process. When we really love our kids and we’re determined to love our kids through all the seasons of their lives, that means that we also embrace for them and are supportive for them in the seasons that are really hard and in the seasons in which they have to learn some hard lessons, either because their own behavior or simply because sometimes that’s just life. They haven’t done anything wrong, it’s just hard. Well, the best thing we can do is for them to know that we love them and we’re there. We don’t have to get in the middle and try to prevent them from learning the lesson that life has to give them in this.
Well, I hope that’s of help. I really love when you send those in, keep setting in those questions. I’ve got some other great ones coming up that I’m holding in reserve some great things about being part of a cross-cultural marriage and some things about processing things when you’ve had a parent, when you’ve been raised in a home where you have someone who really struggled with some mental health issues. Some really phenomenal questions that we’re gonna be digging into on another round of a Q&A, but I do wanna let you know this, we have a new series, it’s getting ready to kick off. It’s coming up next week. It is going to be on growing deeper in your spiritual life. I am thrilled with the guests that we’ve been able to have as part of that series. I have some thoughts about the development of spiritual growth in my own life as well. Some of the things that have really worked and some of the places I’ve really messed up that I’ll be sharing with you. So I can’t wait to see you next time on the AllMomDoes podcast. Be sure and check us out on the socials at AllMomDoes, and I’d love to hear from you too, I’m Julie Lyles Carr all the places. I’ll see you the next time on the AllMomDoes podcast.