Nice Girls

Playing war

After my girls watched Mulan for the first time, they decided to play war. This had not been a common pastime until that afternoon. But the way in which they “played war” differed considerably from any way I had seen it played before. I was fascinated.

No guns, tanks, bad guys, good guys, or sounds of grenades punctuated the sunny afternoon on our deck. No, instead, they began to rationally discuss why they were having this war and what could be done to make everything peaceful and OK. They shook and everything. It was the Camp David Accords right there in my back yard.

it was then that I learned girls and boys might play war a little differently.

Mulan is my favorite Disney hero. I love this girl who stops being the docile sweetheart, a role she isn’t terribly good at, and learns she’s a warrior inside.

Who is this girl I see?

I was never good at the docile sweetheart thing, either. But I tried so hard. I tried for years. Decades. I felt incredible guilt when I failed, because that personality trait simply wasn’t in my toolbox.

I tried because nice girls are . . . nice.


Lies, lies, lies.

Can we stop telling girls the lie that it’s more important to be nice than to be real?

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In a fascinating article in the Harvard Business Review, Deborah Tannen writes,

“The research of sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists observing American children at play has shown that … girls learn to downplay ways in which one is better than the others and to emphasize ways in which they are all the same. Most girls learn that sounding too sure of themselves will make them unpopular with their peers. A group of girls will ostracize a girl who calls attention to her own superiority and criticize her. Women are less likely than men to have learned to blow their own horn. And they are more likely than men to believe that if they do so, they won’t be liked.”

They won’t be liked. If you want to be liked, you have to be nice. And being liked trumps all.

How badly do you want to be liked?

Christian women have an added reality in that so much of Christian culture tells them (and not their male peers) to be “good.” By which we mean, be submissive, sweet, gentle, and modest. While it is true that Peter said to women, “(Women) should clothe yourselves with the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,” (I Peter 3.4), it is equally true that Jesus said the gentle would be blessed (Matthew 5.5).

Jesus calls himself gentle (Matthew 11.29). Paul and Peter caution both men and women to be gentle always (1 Peter 3.5, Titus 3.2, Galatians 6.1). Being gentle, biblically defined, means having a spirit that relies on God alone for defense and accepts His decisions. Its having a heart that refuse to be offended or act out of self-righteous anger. It appears to be a quality to aspire to no matter what one’s gender.

Now, I am not averse to gentleness. Particularly in these civility-deficient times in America, a little meekness would be refreshing. Refusal to be offended? Off the radar, it seems. I wold love to see a modicum of kindness anywhere.

What I have trouble with is the notion that it is solely a girl’s province—no, requirement—to be nice.

Can we stop telling girls the lie that it’s more important to be nice than to be real?

Nice or gentle?

Being nice and being gentle (or meek) are not the same thing. Let’s teach our girls (and our boys) to aspire to the latter and give the other side eyes. It is not to be trusted.

Women, let’s stop being nice when we want to be warriors.

Let’s stop being afraid to let people see the warriors we are because we’re afraid they won’t like us. Why are we afraid to lose the affection of people who clearly don’t deserve our loyalty?

Let’s stop downplaying who we are because we’re afraid it’s not nice to appear capable.

Let’s stop accepting the notion that gentleness and ensuring we are heard and counted are exclusive goals.

Let’s stop equating lukewarm, vapid, “niceness” with the tough work of biblical gentleness. It takes a strong woman to trust God with your defense. Meekness is not for weaklings.

It’s time to teach our daughters to be heard. They can be gentle and be strong.

Also, teach our sons the same thing.

Back to School Tips from a Finished Mom

c6def-img_3171For the first time in approximately 3700 years, I realized last fall that I did not have to care about when school started. Or ended. Or did basically anything at any time, except as it pertained to driving through school zones. I was done. Three kids more-or-less-successfully shepherded through school with a complicated combo of public, home, and private schooling. But we did it.

Those years were crazy, partly because I made them so with all the expectations I put on myself to be Awesome Mom. I do not wear that title well. The tiara slips. But Iwanted to.

I did the Pinterest lunch ideas before Pinterest existed. Ask my kids about the eggs. They still remember those eggs. I’m not positive they always ate them, but they remember them.

I created elaborate birthday parties at home. I chaperoned field trips, at least until I lost a couple kids at the Field Museum. It was totally not my fault they were not as fascinated by the minerals display as the rest of us. I even chaperoned a high school trip to Orlando, and that is hardcore, people.

And now it’s done. And I’m writing a post on five back-to-school tips when no child in my home is going back to school.

To see that post and find the five tips for back to school–real tips, not “how to pack the perfect lunch” tips, read on where this article was recently posted here.

Seven Olympic Events Moms Would Win

a18dc-img_2055We’ve been watching Olympics here. It’s the only time I am interested in sports. (Except when the Cubs are playing like nobody’s business, of course.) It’s also the only time I watch TV, although, in the spirit of transparency, we are not technically watching it on a TV. We don’t have a TV. So we are streaming Olympics in a complicated mix of totally legal maneuvers which involve Canadian announcers, who are Canadian polite and never get excited about anything. Anything.

But I have some suggestions. I feel it is completely unfair that most Olympic events are for the young. And the coordinated. So today, I offer to you—

Seven Olympic categories that should exist:

The Summer Vacation Floor Exercise

Contenders must maneuver a grocery store with three kids, each possessing his own mini cart, without losing a child, forgetting one item on the list, or cussing loudly enough to be heard when said mini cart hits her ankles for the fifth time. Then, she must perform five drop offs at different locations at least four miles apart, two of which must be at the same time. After this, she is forced to listen to 500 taped versions of “I’m bored” without making one negative facial expression or comment. Face palms or eye rolls are automatic disqualifiers. Finally, she must cook dinner while simultaneously getting four kids out of wet, sticky swimsuits, wiping all the water off the kitchen floor, making sure some of that “water” did not come from the dog who was not let out earlier, and find enough money in the couch cushions to go on a decent vacation for one week to somewhere that does not involve a tent.

The Facebook Slalom

Competitors race to see how many “likes” they can receive for one post while “liking” as many other posts as possible in the time limit provided. Extra points are awarded for posts that do not include cats or babies. Bonus for using multiple emojis in sequence.

Closely akin to this is . .

The Social Media Marathon

Contestants see who can waste the most time on social media without resorting to videos of the Kardashians or dogs gone wild (which are essentially the same thing). Buzzfeed quizzes are strictly prohibited. Anyone can spend hours there—it’s not a challenge. Extra points for burned meals and missed school pickups.


The Multitask Decathlon

Athlete must, in one hour: cook dinner, help interpret long division, let dog outside, answer five emails, deliver twelve text messages regarding car pool schedules, grade the seven essays she didn’t get done during her “free” period because two students needed to discuss their parents’ disapproval of their future careers as Pokemon Go guides, schedule repair for the car that is making a “grrriiiiiieeeek” sound again, let the dog in, wash enough forks for eating dinner, and explain to her six-year-old what “you’re an animal baby, it’s in your nature” means and why, no, that boy in her class should not have said it. Extra points for not hitting her spouse with the dinner pan when he walks in and asks, “What did you do all day?”

The Toddler Snatch and Grab

Competitor is first put on hold with Comcast so that she knows putting down the phone risks getting back in the queue for another 35 minutes. Then, toddler is introduced, who promptly undresses, covers her naked little body in Sharpie marker, and escapes out the front door. The person who can present a clean, clothed child and repaired internet within the same day wins. (No one has yet claimed this gold. But it could happen.)

The Chicago Winter Moguls

Driver must complete course which includes black ice patches, unplowed stretches randomly placed, SUVs weaving in and out of traffic, and freezing rain. At end of course, driver must park car in space currently half-occupied by a seven-foot drift of plowed snow and enter arena in heels and dress with no traces of salt or water. Running out of gas is an automatic disqualifier.

The Fast Food Free for All

Competitor approaches drive up window and manages to order six different meals, all yelled to her at the same time from the back seats, each with special instructions, two allergy-free, and have the correct meals given to her at the next window. Fastest driver with no mistakes wins.

I would totally dominate at these events.

Your turn. What is your new Olympic event? What would you like us to petition the committee to add in four years? Your comments are appreciated.

7 Things to Tell Our Little Girls



May is a crazy month for us. We pile on Mother’s Day, a birthday, and two anniversaries. As we’ve all just celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday, and we’re celebrating so many occasions this month, I thought it might be tine to revisit a post from a while back on moms, marriage, and all those things we tell our girls are part of who they are. If it is part of our lives, fantastic. I salute you, moms everywhere.

I am one of you. We are blessed beyond measure.

But what if it isn’t? What if we tell our girls a lie when we talk about marriage and family as if they are the essence of God’s intent for them and their biggest goal?

Lies we tell

One of the most pervasive lies we tell girls in the church is this—Your purpose in life is to be a wife and mother. Period. Other things added on might be fine, if they don’t distract you, but they are not the main event.

Don’t mistake me—being a wife and mom are fantastic aspirations. They are even better realities. I like the gig, especially now that those kids can cook dinner and run errands.

But—wife and motherhood are roles; they are not identities. Deeply ingrained, heartbeats of our lives, yes, but not indicators of our worth and fulfillment.

Because, see, if we transfer our identity to anything other than who we are in Christ, even a very good thing, we hang all of our self-worth on our job performance at that thing. (And let’s be honest here. My own job performance at the wife/mom things has hovered between abysmal and “You’re fired!” at times. The struggle is real.)

We give up the only identity that lets us know why we’re alive. And we make ourselves redundant when that “job” is over.


I know—you‘re staring at me through your screen with bleary sleep-deprived eyes and assuring me that this job will never be over. You will be changing diapers and overseeing homework and negotiating completely illogical arguments until the end of your natural life.

Except you know this isn’t exactly true because look at you. You were once that breastmilk-spewing tornado in your mother’s arms. You grew up. And too often, when our children grow up, if we’ve wrapped our sense of self around them, we stand there staring at the door wondering who we are and what we’re going to do now. What we’re going to be now.

All because of that one lie.

Why take this very good thing on as a lie we tell girls? Because it denies so many women a chance to see their value apart from their relationship to husband and child. If you have daughters, it tells them they cannot be complete or capable for God’s work in their own selves. If you have sons, it tells them they are a girl’s savior.

Men and women are partners in God’s kingdom. They make lousy saviors for one another.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Genesis 2.18

Bear with a little Bible school here. The word “helper” (ezer) is used in the Old Testament almost exclusively as a description of God helping us. Hardly a needy role. The SAME WORD used here for Eve is used for God, repeatedly, to imply strong helper—an arm of power when another is weak and needs assistance. Eve was created to be what Adam needed when he could not handle life on his own—and even when he could.

And “just right”? It means a perfectly matched partner. Someone willing and able to join Adam equally in that whole “Fill the earth and govern it” shindig. Nothing secondary about it.

Men and women are partners in God’s kingdom. They make lousy saviors for one another. 

So isn’t this a mandate for the role of wife? Not if we look at all the independent, capable single women of the scriptures. (Seriously. Look some time.) It’s really a mandate for women to be strong partners with men in God’s design for creation. Those could be single women, young women, older women, widows, married women with small children, divorced women, black, white, or hispanic women—any woman. All women. Created to be instruments of God’s kingdom on earth, first and foremost. We were not created for Adam so much as for the job he had to do and could not do alone.


It’s quite a wonderful thing that many of us enjoy that partnership as a spouse to someone we love like crazy. Modeling a joyful marriage partnership to our children is one of the best things we can do for them. One of the other best things? Model to them that our purpose and identity  come from Jesus alone—not one another.

Instead of a lie, how about we tell them some of these things?

–Tell our little girls that they are waiting for no one but God to give them a purpose in life.

–Tell our little boys that girls who know their purpose are the most fun to come alongside.

–Tell our little girls that needing someone else to define them will always leave them empty.

–Tell our little boys that it’s far better for a girl to want to be with them than to need to.

–Tell our little girls that if they don’t know they’re beloved, beautiful, strong, powerful, and accepted through Jesus they will never truly know it from someone else.

–Tell our little boys the same thing.

Tell them both that marriage and parenthood are beautiful and worthy of all kinds of sacrifice and effort.

But tell them that walking with the will of God is even better.