Dear parents of one-year-olds

News | January 30, 2020

Dear parents of one-year-olds,

Thank for your commitment to parenting! It is not for the faint of heart, and we often need reminders that we are not alone. This blog post is one of those encouragements. I reached out to staff and church members and they shared some insights about their memories from childhood, parenting journeys, grandparenting, and just favorite books and rules for the road.  We hope you’ll use this resource but also, that it might connect you to some of the people you see here. If you notice one of these people at church sometime, feel free to reach out and get to know them. Blessings on the vocation of parenthood. As we’re fond of saying these days, you got this.
~Pastor Kendra

Karen Holden, Book Corner Manager

My favorite childhood book was The Little Engine That Could. I didn’t own it but checked it out at the bookmobile every chance I had. When I first became Book Corner manager, I immediately added it to our children’s section. Of course, I’ve given copies to my grandchildren.

The book is kind of long so the kiddos have to be able to sit still for a few minutes; preschool age is perfect. It teaches the “I can do it” attitude. Even if I’m the smallest and the least likely, if I have a positive attitude and work hard, I can do it. “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” turns into, at the end, “I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could.”

Cable TV was very new when my kids were little and we didn’t have it. The only shows my toddlers and preschoolers were allowed to watch:  Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. In this digital age, I recommend cutting way back on the screen time and highly recommend PBS’ Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

I also recommend lots of unstructured playing outside time. Run, walk, pretend, explore, swing, play.

Karen Strusz, St. Paul Preschool director

A schedule is SO important especially eating and sleeping.
Children learn best through hands-on-play (avoid screen time).
Share the love of reading by reading to your child everyday.
Play outside – let kids explore their environment. It’s OK to let them get a little dirty.
Take your child to the store with you. Talk about the colors, shapes and sizes of items that you find.

Kendra Thompson, pastor of children and family life

I loved babywearing when my kids were little. It was a great way to “snuggle” them – but also be hands-free. This picture is of our family hiking the North Country Trail in Wisconsin, but I also wore my babies making dinner, sitting at my computer, getting ready in the morning, or comforting them for naps. At my previous church, I even helped lead an outdoor service while wearing Andi! Snuggles are great. I have loved nurturing my kids with hugs and stories and affirmations. Babywearing helped with that when I sometimes had to be a “multi-tasking mom.”

Paula Durham, business manager

As a grandma, I keep a library for the grands that is separate from their own books.  I try to have books that they don’t have but also some of my kids’ old favorites. I have several dinosaur books and lots of kids’ reference type books from Scholastic or National Geographic. Also Waldo books.

I love Old Turtle and Jill Esbaum’s books and give those as gifts to new moms and new grandparents.

Andy Langdon, youth director

When my kids were little, we made a concerted effort to snap pictures, not just of special events, but everyday moments that embodied our kids’ personalities, behaviors and lives. Each year we made a commitment to turn those photos into a yearbook of sorts for our growing family that we have printed. These books are still most treasured in our family as kids have grown. We get them out as we tell stories to our kids about who they have always been, who we’ve invited into our lives, and where we’ve placed priorities. I get out the books and flip through pages when I feel nostalgic for those days, and marvel at the ways that we’ve changed. The scrapbook is faded memory for many families, but it’s easier now than ever before.

Katy Warren, associate pastor

I’m not a parent… so I’ll yield to those with much more expertise. But I’ll say that one of my favorite books as a child was Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. It reminded me that no matter how bad a day was (as a parent or a child, I suppose), there was always hope for things to be better the next day.

Hayden Kvamme, pastoral resident

Favorite books:

Littles and How they Grow

A Place for You, Little One

Christine Lassers, St. Paul member

It’s OK to ask for help. You’re not alone in this journey. Build your village and USE them.

Everyone has an opinion – take what you want from them. You’re the expert on your child.

Best sippy cup to keep a drink cold – Thermos (but they can leak if held in a certain position and it’s not best to give on a long car trip unsupervised – trust me)

You cannot make a child eat, drink, or sleep. I have lost many tears and gained many grey hairs on this battle.

When raising your child in faith they will use God to back their beliefs/stories. (Like red pants and an orange shirt match because God put them next to each other in a rainbow)

Find the humor in life with kids.

Rachael Suddarth, St. Paul Sunday school teacher

If you are eating at a restaurant, order your kids’ food immediately. It keeps them from getting too hangry.

Every night before the boys go to bed, we have a small family worship time. We read the bible, sing simple worship songs, and pray. It is a nice way to end the day. After we turn off the lights we play 20 more minutes of music on their ipod while they fall asleep – hymns, worship songs, Jars of Clay, Gungor.

For littles – Jesus Story Book Bible is excellent

For olders – The Action Bible – graphic novel format, has a much more expanded telling of the bible compared to other children’s abbreviated versions

Best books in general – Doggies by Sandra Boynton (well anything by Sandra Boynton); Peek-a-who by Nina Laden; Pouch by David Ezra Stein; Anything that is Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willem

Nancy Ingelson, St. Paul Member, Lutheran Deacon & Former Staff

The Waiting Gift in Lullabies

Good night, dear God, it’s time for bed, time to rest my weary head.

Take care of me and those I love, keeping watch from above…

Squirmy-squeally, wiggly-giggly three-year-olds, minutes before bedtime. Two-, four- and six-year-olds preferring action over naps. Newborns so hard to put down…Gosh, but it’s tough to stop! And who needs down time more than the grown-ups here?

It’s been my experience as a mom and a grandma that little ones come equipped with a disposition toward the Holy — real life skin-and-bone invitations to us grown-ups to come to a space and time where God is waiting. Rocking chairs, crib-side, pillows on the floor; car seats, door frames, grocery store — moments and places that offer something of God’s grace.

Lullaby. Ritual. We can find help with these on line, in books, from each other. We can make them up. They’re waiting in hymns—away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head; and in songs we know—take, oh, take me as I am, summon out what I shall be. Set your seal upon my heart and live in me. Such times as this can help us experience  the kind of trust Jesus was talking about, calm in the mystery of the presence of God.

I’m not a great singer, but I believe in lullabies as a way to that special place and time with children. Maybe it’s bedtime, maybe it’s morning. Maybe it’s a song of love after a hurt. So I sing. The kids don’t care about my pitch or the quality of my voice. They don’t “do” embarrassed. They don’t notice that it’s getting harder for grandma to get up off the floor. If they do, they don’t say so. What they do notice, what they do get, is real presence just for them.

Somehow, the things contained in lullaby moments find a way into their little souls…and ours.

Dear little ones, I love you so. I will never let you go.

Take my hand and trust in me. Near you I will always be.  Amen.

Peter Pettit, teaching pastor

I learned that one of the best life-hacks for a veteran parent is to stumble across a disinterested, non-needy way to ask your adult children what was best about their growing up. Then listen carefully and enjoy. Repeat! Here are some reflections from my conversation with our grown daughters and their spouses:

Read with your children – a lot for a long time. Snuggle and let them take over the reading as they are able. Then making sure they have all the books they want and can read, and more.

Sing your children to sleep and use favorite hymns and songs from your own faith life. Find a few constants that they hear hundreds and hundreds of time over their early years. Perhaps, include one or two in a foreign language, if you can; it may be that the “otherness” of it enriches their sense of how big the world is, or that their inability to understand the words makes the melody more compelling and haunting. In any case, both our kids named the Hebrew songs we sang in their lists.

Have “a thing” with each child. Each parent and each child – one-on-one – something that is distinctively theirs to share and that persists through the years and into adulthood.

Have “a thing” that is the whole family’s together.

Build and name and indulge family traditions.

Respect them as whole people from the very beginning, even as you support them in being the growing, exploring, not-yet-fully-formed people that they are.

Let them be kids, but talk to them like real people.

Let them make their own decisions about what they want to do/explore (sports, music, art, etc), and give them the freedom to change their minds.

Give them Legoes.

BAGELS! “Bagels” is a practice Jenn and I got into her junior year in high school. Once a week we’d drop Sarah at middle school and then go to a bagel shop for a half-hour, just the two of us. Jenn will still call me and ask, “Can we get a bagel?” That means there’s something she needs to process.

Show them what commitment is – TMI and PDA are actually a good thing.

Peter W. Marty, senior pastor

The greatest joy of parenting is to envelop kids in one’s embrace — in this photo it’s my arms around our Jacob and Rachel. But the parent’s’ embrace is always for the sake of, and for the reminder that, the child also needs to grow his or her own wings. In other words: hold them close and let them go, each and every day. From the first day in kindergarten to the day they leave for college or the military or some workplace, it’s hold, hug, and kiss … but also push off, set free, empower.

We practiced this every night at prayer time. Not once between the day of our kids’ birth and the start of high school did we ever miss bedtime prayers. No matter where we were in the world or how upset we may have been with somebody else in this little family of four, we never missed. The ritual was to lay on the floor of any bedroom in the house, usually the kids took turns choosing. Once the squirming settled down, each member of the family offering a spontaneous prayer for what he or she loved about the day, was worried or concerned about, and anything else in all of creation and human joy or suffering that might enter one’s mind. Then, we spoke the Lord’s Prayer in unison, after which we sung a two verse song about Jesus being a tender shepherd who lives “near me and in me.” (See me if you want me to teach it to you.) After all this was done, the kids were tucked into their beds for a good night’s sleep. We turned them over to God, essentially un-hugging them to be their own selves apart from the family. Hug and unhug. Embrace and set free. Hold close but push off.

This is the calling of parenting. Susan and I practiced it every day of the kids’ lives, sometimes with better success. As I look back, it’s what gave strength and happiness to our family and, I believe, a future for our children.



One comment on “Dear parents of one-year-olds”

  • Jill Esbaum

    January 30, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    Wow, all of these are so thoughtful and creative and love-centric. What a joy to read and discover! (And Paula, THANKS! That was a sweet surprise.)

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