Hi! Becky here, again, and this time I get to share with you from someone I recently met but already love. I had the opportunity to join MOPS this fall, and in addition to all the younger mothers like me, I met my group’s mentor mom. It took about two meetings before I figured out that I already know her son so I became very excited to get to know her better. Her name is Barb Van Houten and she is fabulous. I just know you’ll enjoy what she has to say.
Please tell us a little about yourself:
My name is Barb Vanhouten. My three adult kids call me Mom, our seven grandkids call me Nana and my husband of 46 years calls me his Favorite. Really, he does. I am a Licensed Optician by trade and work very part time which makes it even more fun. Did I mention I am an extrovert? I’ll try not to talk too much.
How do you connect individually with your children?
I desire to take an interest in whatever my kids and grandkids are into. One son is a prolific singer and I listen often to his amazing expressions in song. I also ask him to help me when I’m writing a song. He can whip up an arrangement of my simple tune and make it something special. When I go to our grandkids concerts I make notes about each song and write a card to each one telling them what I noticed, felt and liked. Later I ask what they enjoyed singing the most and the least. One of my favorite ways to connect is a date with one at a time. My younger grandson often chose a trip to the food bar at Wegmans to load his plate with all his favorites and then we would sit and chat. Afterwards we were off to a toy department so he could show me all the special things on his wish list. You find out so many interesting things about a kid (or adult) on a date.
How did you teach your children about God?
When our kids were little we went as a family to church and special kids clubs. At home we read books about God and used a kid’s version of the bible for them. We played lots of videos and music with messages of truth in a kid friendly format. One of my favorite times was praying with the kids. We would do “Popcorn Prayer”. Each person could only say one quick sentence and then pass a turn to another. It is so freeing to pray this way with kids. They can pray as many tiny prayers as they want after giving someone else a turn, of course. Sometimes it gets silly but that’s okay. We are praying together and setting an example forever. My adult daughter and I just prayed this way a few months ago while we were waiting for my husband to get out of surgery. So precious to me…and her too.
How has the way you relate to your children changed as they’ve grown?
My daughter is now the one to tell Me about retreats and women’s classes. We do some of these things together. I am mindful not to give advice to her unless she asks. I’m mindful, but not perfect. LOL I ask her questions about what’s on her mind and what her thought process is. She asks me about things I’m going through and is very caring. The teen years were not so much like this. Be patient. God is so good.
Advice or encouragement for other mothers?
I wish I had learned long ago that each person has a unique gift and personality. In the past few years I have been studying the difference between introverts and extroverts. This has allowed me to understand and embrace these precious differences. I am the only extrovert in a family of introverts. Yes, I mean both my family of origin and my husband and kids. I remember feeling like I was weird because I was different. My advice and encouragement to you would be to identify the personality types of your family members and friends and talk about it. I wrote a song called “Will You Be My Friend?” Part of the song goes like this: “Will you be my friend? I love how you are quiet. Will you be my friend? You think before you speak. We are different, you and me. But, what a boring life it would be. If everyone was just like you, or if everyone was just like me….ey yie yie!” I think I would like to be the extroverted female version of Mr. Rogers. I know too many people who are misunderstood because they are a bit different. Maybe one of your children needs loads of play dates and another really wants to curl up with a good book. Both scenarios are just right. I would tell my kids that their mom (ME) has a strong desire to talk to people. That’s the way God made me. I would tell them it’s really good that they may need time alone and natural for them to be super tired after being with other people too much. I would tell them I love how they really stop and think about things. I would spend time finding out what they think….but I would give them time to think about it and I would take a breath to give them a chance to share. I would celebrate the unique nature of each of us, including myself. God made me chatty. But now, I am going to be quiet so that you can have a chance to think. Thank you for listening. God bless all you mommas.