Kay Wyma: Help Me Be a Peaceful Parent (Like, Now)
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Kay WymaKay Wyma is a mom, blogger, vodcaster, and author of four books in which she has tackled, with candor and humor, some of the troubling societal issues that impact us all. Kay's writings have led her to appearances on TODAY, CNN, Hallmark's Home & Family, and more. Before staying at home with her kids, she held positions at the White House and Bank of America. She lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and five kids. Connect with Kay at kaywyma.com.
Maybe you’d love to parent with thankfulness, kindness…but sometimes, things get ugly. Author Kay Wyma chats about parenting toward grateful, connected kids.
Kay Wyma: Help Me Be a Peaceful Parent (Like, Now)
Kay: I don’t even want to talk about the hard stuff we live through—only because it might make people compare and go, “Well, she has every right to be sad,”—well, so do you in whatever thing is going on in your life. For me—and this is just us—we have found that living life honestly, next to each other, has been the most helpful thing.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
One of the things you talk about, quite often, is that I’m joyful.
Dave: —football? [Laughter]
Ann: Besides that—yes, football for sure—[Laughter]—but I’ve heard you say, “Oh, she’s so joyful.” Honestly, sometimes, I’m surprised by that; because I don’t see it.
Dave: You are surprised?
Ann: Yes, I am surprised, like, “Really? Do you see that?”
Dave: All I know is, a couple months ago, you had a day when you weren’t positive; and I felt like, “I can’t function. If my wife isn’t positive, I fall apart.” It was like I realized, “Wow, you are such a source of strength for me; because you bring an optimism and positivity.” When that was lacking that day, I was like, “Wow, I want that and need that so much from you.”
Ann: Thanks for saying all that, by the way; that was really nice of you.
Do you think it bugged our kids, though, when they became teenagers?
Dave: Well, they told us it did. [Laughter] I think they told us that yesterday. Didn’t you just have a conversation: “Mom, could you just empathize with my pain rather than just telling me, ‘It will be okay’?”
Ann: Yes, because I’m always jumping to “But God…”
Ann: Sometimes, I wasn’t good at sitting in their pain with them. I’m still learning how to do that, because I hate seeing our kids in pain; but why are we talking about that?
Dave: Yes; we’ve got Kay Wyma back in the studio with us today. Welcome back to FamilyLife.
Kay: Thanks so much.
Ann: We love having you with us.
Kay: Yes; it’s just so fun being with you guys, because that is one bear of a topic; because watching someone in pain is so hard.
Dave: Obviously, you have written a book called The Peace Project,—
Dave: —which is a 30-day experiment of being thankful, and choosing kindness, and practicing mercy. But I could tell, even as you were talking at lunch, and then reading through your book, you’ve gone through hard times. I mean, we all have in the last couple of years.
Ann: And you have five kids,—
Ann: —and most of them are adults.
Ann: And you have a 14-year-old, and you’ve been married over 25 years.
Ann: So you’ve lived through some pain.
Kay: We have definitely lived through seasons of extreme hardship.
Dave: So talk about what we were just talking about. How are you choosing thankfulness—
Kay: How you do it?
Ann: Or how do your kids respond?
Dave: —positivity—even trying to lead that and model that, as a parent, with your kids?
Kay: I think I’m so glad that you said “positivity,” because it’s got to go deeper than that. Because if it is the positivity, then I’m in trouble; because then it’s going to sound like they have to feel good all the time, and that’s going to leave them flat—and me, too, quite frankly—because there are legitimate sad days.
And we’ve definitely—man, we’ve had some sad days/really, really sad—but hope reigns eternal. That’s the key.
Ann: And it’s not that you are glossing over the pain;—
Kay: No; never.
Ann: —I think that’s the difference.
Ann: If you’re faking positivity—
Kay: —or just wanting it so badly: “You can’t hurt.”
Kay: The truth is this world is full of hurt, and full of not great things, that happen to really great people. We talked about that, too: bad things happening to good people; good things happening to bad people. I mean, there is just—it’s not always an A + B = C—it just isn’t. In the world’s economy, it is: “If you do this, then you get this...” And that is what we strive for, because we live in this world. It’s all been said: “If I do these things, then my kids will have this GPA,” “If I do these things, they’ll get on the team.”
I know that your kids haven’t made the team, or gotten the part they wanted, or have been left out of a party, or all of these kinds of things. That would trip us up if we really buy into that ideology—that I’m handing a lot over to an outcome—a ton. And these are human beings, and they are worth a lot more than handing them over to stuff like that.
Ann: Oh, yes.
Kay: Why does Solomon say that we can live all of this stuff with joy?—because joy isn’t circumstantial; it just isn’t. When hope reigns eternal, it is the Person of hope that has defeated everything.
So for me, personally, I have lived a lot. I’ve lived calling out the name Jehovah Sabaoth; which is, Lord of all the Seen and the Unseen, especially in a carpool line, because there is a lot going on. There is tons going down in that world in a middle school or in a grade school—
Ann: Yes, yes.
Kay: —or whatever—that is unseen. We know how bad that can hurt; and to be able to put in the place of the One who all of that bows to, that changes things so that, when that kid gets in the car—that stuff is real, and it’s legit—but it doesn’t own them.
Ann: What is that like? We talked earlier about how you started this 30-day project, and you brought your kids into it.
Kay: I did; yes.
Ann: Let’s say you are practicing thankfulness; and you’ve got a middle schooler, who climbs in the car who just had a terrible day.
Kay: Yes. I might have done that, Ann. [Laughter] I think it was on our first day, actually.
Ann: Was it?!
Kay: This kid gets in the car; and I’m like, “What do you have to be thankful for?” He looks at me; and he goes, “Nothing!” I was like, “Nothing?! Nothing?!” He looks at me and goes, “Not one thing.” I was just like, “Well, let me tell you what to be grateful for.”
Ann: She’s me!
Kay: I was like: “I had just come from a funeral; and the day before, I had been at a different funeral of a friend of mine, who had cancer, leaving her four-year-old.” I still cannot believe I went there, but I did.
Dave: You did.
Kay: I’m watching my child tear up, because he’s like—which I would be, too; it was a terrible thing to say to him—“Well, at least, you are alive!” I mean, it was awful. He looks at me; and he goes [tearfully], “I just want you to know that the one thing I’m afraid of is life without you.” I was just like, “I am so sorry!” I’m profusely apologizing as we are, literally, bumping onto this road.
This isn’t an experiment that was like [cheerfully]: “Here are the golden things that happen all the time.” It’s just real; it’s sort of like we didn’t know what we were doing. It sounded like a great idea because we had walked through some stuff that proved to us that, when you practice things—thankfulness, kindness, and mercy—it bodes well for you; but we didn’t know what we were doing, so that wasn’t just a beautiful highlight.
However, as is so often the case, meeting it honestly—where I was like, “That was wrong; I was wrong to do that. I am so sorry,”—for me to give myself a break and go, “I really am sad. I’m sad because I’m sad for what’s happened.” I shouldn’t have brought it out on that kid, but he meets me there, too; and then he, hilariously, is finding something to be grateful for as we’re leaving.
But it is just/these are real moments. And for me—and this is just us—we have found living life honestly, next to each other, has been the most helpful thing. I don’t even want to talk about the hard stuff we lived through—only because it might make people compare and go, “Well, she has every right to be sad,”—well, so do you in whatever thing is going on in your life.
There are hard things; and to be able to openly, honestly meet these and live, next to each other, not in shame.
Ann: Yes; and I’m thinking, “How can a listener do that?” Let’s say they haven’t really done anything like this before; and they are listening, and maybe, they are thinking, “I am going to do this.”
Kay: Yes; “Please do.”
Ann: Yes; they/say they are sitting down at dinner—maybe, they have elementary to high schoolers—what would that conversation look like?
Kay: “Let’s try…” “Will you try…” “This is something I want to try…” “I think it really will help you, and here is how it helps: so that when you are going down the hall, and you feel like, in the school…”—which [is] big; and everybody is watching out for themselves, because it is “Fight for yourself,”—you know?—people’s lives depend on it. Really, they feel like that—their social lives, their friendships—and everyone is looking at them. They all have this feeling like: “Everyone is looking at me.”
One of the greatest ways to dial that one down: “Listen to someone.” Listening is one of the biggest acts of kindness that we can ever do: listening to hear. To be able to practice that myself, so that I’m listening to my kids—hearing them rather than formulating an argument, or what I’m going to say next—actually, what it does to them is it makes them feel like a human being of worth; okay?
Ann: And then did you guys, at dinner time: would you talk about how you demonstrated it or how it was hard? What did that look like?
Kay: Well, we don’t normally sit down at the table together. There were periods that we did do that; but as our kids got older, that wasn’t really possible. Our dinner time can often look like—we’re just on the couches—you know?
Kay: I talk to them whenever I can.
Ann: You just take whatever opportune moment you may have.
Kay: I do. Ann, when—years ago, I quit carpooling with people—I just decided that those moments of being able to talk to kids—especially a boy—were so rich that I never cared if they didn’t speak; but I didn’t want anybody else in the car, who was not in our family, just for those times.
Ann: We did the same thing on family vacations. We stopped having their friends come for a while, because—
Dave: It seemed selfish, but it really—
Ann: —oh, we had some of the deepest conversations that we’ve had.
Kay: It’s really helpful; yes.
And there is something about being in the car too. I mean, you’re not looking at each other; so good stuff can happen in the car. Silence might happen in the car: you’re sitting next to each other; you’re in the same space. So there is something good happening, no matter what. Super inconvenient for me—but I have, for years, worked everything around those carpool times—so that I could have those to be exclusively for them. That may not be what everybody does.
Choose a few times to be able just simply be in the car with your kids. You can say something or not say something, because it doesn’t always have to be a “teaching time.” Just listen to them—ask open-ended questions—“What did you think about this?”—without telling them what they think. The younger you can start doing that, the more they start formulating their own thoughts. Again, it’s re-humanizing; because most of the things in their world are objectifying them: it comes with grades; it comes with teams; it comes with where you are on a ladder.
Kay: Those are just a part of life here; but those make a person an object, because it’s like: “If I have an ‘A,’ I’m okay,” “If I have an ‘F,’ I’m not okay,”—whatever those things are. Anything we can do to re-humanize these amazing people, who are next to us, who are yours; because you can love them really well/like better than anybody. Do it because they just want to be loved, and they want to be seen and known.
Guess what?—you do love them; we do all this stuff because we love them. Spend time with them, and like them, too; because they are amazing people.
Ann: One of the things that we did, too, was I always had food on the island—
Ann: —when they were coming home; because kids just congregate to food.
Ann: Then, as they are sitting around just eating, I would just ask some open-ended questions, even about: “How did you feel today at school?” A lot of times, boys wouldn’t answer that; so I’d kind of have to go incognito and ask some other kinds of things before I went there. [Laughter] I just wanted to hear how their heart was doing.
Ann: But I like that idea of getting their eyes on somebody else, and that mercy aspect and the kindness. We just did it—I was with our grandson at Christmas, and he was two—I said/I grabbed him; I said, “Bryce, let’s look around.” This is what I said to him—he is two, and I think it can start so early—
Kay: Oh, it can.
Ann: —“Let’s look around.” I said, “Jesus, who would benefit from this $20 bill today?”
Dave: I told you: she’s always giving strangers money. [Laughter] We were in Chipotle®. I came back to the table, and they had this story.
Ann: I just said, “Did you see anybody?” Then this man was walking by, and he bumped into both of us. I whispered in his ear, “Oh, that’s the man.” I said, “Excuse me; we just wanted you to”—and this little two-year-old—he sticks out his hand; and he says, “Merry Christmas!” And he hands this man this money. This guy is like, “Hey, dude! Thanks, man. That’s amazing! Thank you.” But I just thought, “Man, it’s never too early to start to be praying.”
Kay: It isn’t; I love that you brought that up. I had one of the gals—I don’t have young children anymore—but I have a reader, who has reached out to me on more than one occasion; because her daughter has been so impacted by this book. Even going to soccer practice, she shared a story about how the days had been tough; because her best little friend wasn’t talking to her anymore; it was getting very uncomfortable. They had started reading this book together—she and her little daughter—
Ann: How old was she? Do you know?
Kay: I think she is probably seven or eight; I mean, not very old at all. She texted me; and she said, “My daughter just got out of the car. When she did, she got out with a different attitude than she had the days before; because for a second, she started to think about the ‘Why?’—like, ‘Why is my friend not treating me very nicely?’—she realized that there was stuff, that was hard, that was going on in her life. She took that moment to move it to compassion instead of doing what we do: ‘Well, if you are going to treat me that way, I’m going to treat you this way.’”
Kay: It shifted her. That was a little child, like, “Really.” That’s where it’s sort of like: “Why should we do this stuff?”—because it can change a generation.
Kay: You want to know how to be able to have a Congress that speaks to each other—like nicely, and kindly, with respect—start grooming it from a very young age. By the way, it makes them feel good. It’s not like: “Do this…” “Do this…” “Do this…”; they are doing it because it makes them feel better—which is where I hope that we get—to where it is just a reflex to be able to instantly go to compassion, just in that: “I have no idea what is going on in that person’s life,”—or to compassion with the people, who are close to us, where you kind of do know what’s going on in their life; but you don’t like them being mean to you.
Well, to be able, again, go from a place of wholeness—which is what this mother was doing for that child—“Let me remind you whose you are/whose you are, and who He says you are”; so that she could even get out of the car, and not have it be some over-spiritual thing; but just be able to be nice to this little girl, who had kind of been mean to her; because she was so hurt. We know that phrase: “Hurt people hurt people.” But again, this isn’t a call to be a victim; this is a call to come from a place of victory.
Dave: Well, it is interesting—one of the stories that you tell, I will never forget; and I’ve never heard you tell it; I just read it—was when you pulled up, I think, to an intersection. I think there was a homeless guy—
Dave: —asking you for—tell that.
Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Kay Wyma on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear Kay’s response in just a sec; but first, I don’t know if you have kids, like I do, but don’t miss this tip as your kids are getting older: “Keep them talking. You want to be the go-to person for the hard stuff with your kids. So pry open the space for conversations that matter.”
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Alright; now, back to Dave and Ann’s conversation with Kay Wyma, and a time when a homeless person did something totally unexpected at an intersection.
Kay: Like I said, we’ve had some periods of really hard days—a lot of them, involving our kids, whom I really love, and I really like them—I like them; they are great people. I was sitting there with one of mine, who was very, very hurt. He had some stuff that has just not been great that he’s on the other side of—as far as, on the other side—he was on the receiving end of things that were not good.
We had been in the car; he was in the car with me. He wasn’t saying anything. I was so happy to have him sitting next to me. We pull up to an intersection, and it was during COVID time. And people really are legit, having a hard time. People still are having a hard time, even though we are glossing over it, and making it look like it’s nothing. Inside, just below the surface, there is hard stuff going on in people’s lives.
We pull up; and there is someone standing there, who was asking for money. At that period, I really did—I’m like you, Ann—I was like, “What have we got? What food do we have?” I roll down the window; I’m like, “Anything we’ve got is yours.” I didn’t have anything; I didn’t have much—I think I had a five dollar bill and maybe a bottle of water—it just wasn’t much, whatever it was.
I handed it to him, and I asked him his name. His name was Tawan. I just said, “Tawan, you know, this is all we’ve got. I just want you to know that I see you, and I’m sorry for what is going on; and the Lord loves you.”
He looked at me; and he said, “Well, what is your name?”—which I’ve never had that happen before. I was like, “My name is Kay.” He said, “Do you mind if I pray for you?” Right there, in the intersection, he prayed for me. [Emotion in voice] He prayed for all that was going on in our lives that he might not know about. I was so moved by it. I didn’t even know what to say. I stood there—because right there—it was like a piece of heaven was occurring right there in an intersection—with two people from, very clearly, different backgrounds, different situations going on in our lives—but coming together in this way that was so beautiful, and rich, and powerful that I just wouldn’t have expected in an intersection.
I rolled up the window, and I sat there with my son. I just was/I was floored by it, and so was Tawan as he is waving us bye. I don’t know what that did for him; but it certainly did so much for me, because what I needed that day was that prayer that he prayed over me. That’s what I needed. If our little somethings that we gave him was something that he needed, what a beautiful way to have two people be able to connect with each other—I think that is such a big part of all of this—it’s connectedness; it’s re-humanizing; because one thing about people: we’re the imago dei.
Kay: We are the part of creation that is created in His image/in the Lord God’s image. That’s a lot of people of great worth who are walking around beside us. Dare we see each other that way and treat each other that way?
Dave: That’s interesting, hearing you tell that story. It occurs to me that it’s like, in some sense, you hear the story, and you think, “You’re going to be a blessing to Tawan”; and he ends up being a blessing to you. If anybody, probably, could have been ungrateful, it’s him, standing there, needing a handout from somebody. Somehow, he is choosing—
Kay: It was a beautiful day.
Dave: —you don’t know him well—but he is choosing thankfulness. He practiced your project: he practiced kindness and mercy.
Kay: It brought dignity into everything: in that situation was dignity.
Ann: That is what the Father does.
Ann: He always lifts us up and gives us dignity. I think that’s remarkable. I was crying as you were telling it just, because we get to do that as Jesus-followers and His children.
Kay: It’s people together.
Ann: We get to display His love.
Ann: We need each other.
Kay: We do; we really do.
Dave: All I know is—reading your book and talking to you—is I want to look up; I want to look around—it could be a stranger at an intersection; it could be my sons and daughters; it could be a neighbor—they are around me to be seen by me. You said it earlier: “I get to love them for Christ. Christ is going to love them through me.”
Kay: That’s the key.
Dave: I can’t do it if I’m not grateful, kind, and merciful—it will not happen—but if I can allow His power to fill me, it will overflow, literally, into my cul-de-sac, into my family room.
Kay: Yes—which is such a mysterious and weird thing to say—because it’s like: “What does that even mean?” I don’t know, but you get to live it. Maybe, there are things we can’t put words on. I feel like that is one of them; because: “What does it mean for Christ to live through you?” “What does it mean to be His hands and feet?” It’s unbelievable when it is, and that is where I think it’s the soul difference.
Ann: Me too.
Shelby: You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann with Kay Wyma on FamilyLife Today. Her book is called The Peace Project: A 30-Day Experiment Practicing Thankfulness, Kindness, and Mercy. We’ll send you a copy, as our thanks, when you partner with us by giving at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, I’ve got the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, here. You know, we really need partners in order to see this ministry happen; and it’s people who make it possible. Isn’t that right, David?
David: Yes; I just want to take a moment and thank those who give generously every month to help FamilyLife Today—and so many other outreaches of FamilyLife—like website articles, and Weekend to Remember® getaways, and our global ministry thrive.
I recently heard from a couple, and the wife told me they had been married 25 years. She said, “We were on the fence. We almost didn’t come to the weekend getaway because we were ready to take a break after 25 years of marriage. This weekend was a God-send. God is using your ministry to heal and mend. Praise God for you.”
I just want to say, as we hear that comment, I want to thank you. Praise God for you: those of you, who are partnering with us, and helping one home, at a time, grow closer to Jesus.
Shelby: Yes; thanks so much for making this ministry a possibility and a reality. We appreciate you. Again, when you partner with us, we’re going to send you a copy of Kay Wyma’s book, The Peace Project, as our thank-you. You can do that at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329; that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, life’s inconveniences, disappointments, and trials can leave us confused, and cynical, and eventually bitter. Well, how do we overcome all of that? We’re going to talk about that next week with Dave and Ann and best-selling author Paul Miller.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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