No Mom Left Behind: The Pre-teen & Teen Years with Courtney Dyer

Hi! Becky here and I am so excited to share with you some parenting insight from someone I personally admire – Courtney Dyer. She is warm and friendly to everyone and serves with a glad heart. I’ve come to know her through serving together at church. Through this time together, I’ve been able to watch Courtney interact with her teenage kids. On multiple occasions I’ve thought, “I want that kind of relationship with my kids when they’re older.” So how does she do it? Let’s hear it from her!

Please tell us a little about yourself:

My name is Courtney Dyer and I’m the Human Resources Director at Northridge. Before that I worked as a Project Manager for an investment company out in Boston. Married 21 years to my absolute best friend who pushes me toward the best things and makes me laugh every single day. Kids: Caleb is 17 (senior), Ruby is 14 (freshman).

How do you balance life in your home with the busyness of sports, academics, community groups, and the many other things that quickly fill up a family calendar?

There are seasons as a family where this has been more of a challenge than others. Rick and I are both people who like to be active, social and on-the-go – we love being involved in good things and so we’ve learned that we have to make deliberate choices to not overschedule our family. Sometimes we’ve done a decent job of that, but in other seasons I’ve felt like I should forward our mail to my Nissan. Going into the “family years” I knew that we would have to fight the tendency toward being overly busy and over-scheduled.

I look back at my own home growing up and I remember that “home” felt like it was the default; we ate dinner as a family as the norm rather than the exception. I have so many memories of just being at home together as a family. My parents limited our activities (sports, dance, etc.) to one ‘thing’ per season per child and that resulted in what seemed to be a good balance for us. I’ve tried to keep that in the forefront of my mind as Rick and I made choices that would direct our own family calendar. As we made these decisions together, I knew the temptation would always be toward MORE, not less. Our culture (and honestly even our personalities – the way Rick and I are wired) will tell us that this ‘good opportunity’ is something we ‘should’ do, whether for us or one of our children.

I’ve learned [slowly, painfully] over the years that anytime I feel like I “should” do something, I need to pause and evaluate it. “What’s the goal of doing this thing?” “What’s the cost of it, knowing that every yes means saying no to everything else we could be doing with that time, money, and energy?” And probably the deal-closing question has been to ask myself, “When our kids are grown and gone, what will we wish we had done?” Processing things in light of 5 or 10 years from now has helped me want to fight for more of less of all of the extra things that fill up a calendar and pull us in separate directions, away from home.

Courtney Dyer and her family

How do you grow your spiritual life as a mom? When do you find time to pray and read your Bible? Are there any specific resources (books, podcasts, etc) that speak to your current stage of parenthood that you would recommend?

Taking time for my own spiritual growth has changed and shifted throughout different seasons of my life as a mother. For me, my best habits are formed through pairing one activity with another. For instance, when my kids were very young, I worked full-time from home and would wake up hours before dawn to squeeze in a few hours of work before Rick left for the day. During those years, taking a quick nap (I’m one of those weirdos that feels totally refreshed by a 10-minute nap) while the kids napped in the afternoon was vital in order for me to keep my eyes open past 7pm. I knew I needed to be creative with my time, wanting some silence to focus on God but also desperately needing that nap – so I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t allow myself to nap until I had spent time reading the Bible and praying.

As the kids got older and my work scene changed, no day looked the same for me – and so what worked best for me in that season was to vow that I wouldn’t read anything else in that day until I had spent time in the Bible and in prayer. No news, no social media, no novels – until I’d spent some time pursuing God. In my current stage of parenting teens, I pair my time with God with my morning coffee. I don’t allow myself to enjoy that glorious cup of goodness without seeking God through reading and prayer. Identifying something I WANT (a nap, reading, coffee) and pairing it with something I WANT MORE (a growing relationship with God) has been helpful and life-giving for me.

A few books that have shaped our parenting:

What does serving the church look like for your family?

The best way to answer this question is by sharing a true story that occurred about 13 years ago. I was talking with my good friend Maria, and she excitedly told me that she and her husband were going to start serving together in kids ministry. I was a bit surprised because although she and her husband were incredible parents, I didn’t really think of either of them as “kid people”. She’s passionate about sharing her faith with women and walking alongside women going through difficult circumstances, and her husband was a techie. I’d never heard them talk excitedly about spending time with other peoples’ children. I pressed a little into what made them want to join the kids ministry team together instead of serving elsewhere in the church. Her response rattled me, and in turn shaped my own family to this day.

She shared with me how she didn’t like feeling so detached as a family on Sundays. They rode to and from church together in the same car, yet while actually AT church, parents and kids experienced completely different environments. She wanted church to be something that brought her family together, and since elementary kids being engaged participants in the adult service wasn’t really a possibility, she and her husband decided they’d step into their kids’ world and join the kids ministry volunteer team. She was excited at the idea of brainstorming together as a family how to make Sunday mornings the best possible place for kids to be. She was excited that on the ride home from church and then later sitting around the dinner table together they could debrief about the same Bible story because they would all experience it together in kids ministry. She was excited to get to know their kids’ friends from church a bit better, and to invest in more intentional relationships with those families. She was excited that their kids would see her and her husband serving together – they would get to model what serving in the church – together- looks like.

I was hooked. That night I started a conversation with Rick: “Guess what Maria and Eric are doing?” and I unpacked it all for him. We decided that we’d do the same, and we’ve been serving together in kids ministry ever since. As our kids have gotten older and graduated from the elementary environment on Sunday mornings, they’ve joined the team as volunteers. Putting on a kids volunteer t-shirt and arriving to church early each Sunday is just part of our family rhythm. I’m so grateful that I had that conversation with Maria all those years ago – it has absolutely shaped our family in all the ways she described.

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