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Entries in Parenting (72)

Friday
Oct172014

Children, not clones

I really don't like waking up to a dirty kitchen.

I don't like an unmade bed.

I find it hard to sit and read a book if there is unfolded laundry in a basket, or unwashed dishes in the sink.

Clutter in the house makes it hard for me to concentrate.

Nit picky

These are just a few little nit picky things that I don't like, but which my children have no difficulty with. In general, I don't like clutter. They are quite okay with it; I've seen their bedrooms in their houses. They manage to work among unmade beds, empty plates, laundry on the floor, and Coke cans piled up. Dirty is one thing; they have an aversion to that. Clutter, though, is okay.

Did I not teach my children to clean up after themselves? Of course I did. It was part of the larger lesson of stewardship, taking care of the home we lived in. When they lived at home, I asked them to pick up their things and they did so.

My children are adults now. How they keep their homes is their business. You can think I'm a failure as a mother because my children don't keep house like I do (yet), but the fact of the matter is that some people don't mind clutter. My children are among them. And they have a father who doesn't mind, either. Lots of people feel more creative in clutter.

They're big kids now

It's very tempting to think that correcting our children is simply a matter of asking them to stop doing something and then having them comply immediately and forever. We all have annoying habits, and we can all be assured that we as parents do things which annoy our children. Once they get out on their own, they can live as they want. They make their own choices. Every bad one isn't because we didn't "correct" them enough. There comes a point when they are teenagers when too much hovering and criticism starts to sound like "blah, blah, blah," to them. At some point, you let the child make a mistake and deal with the consequences. My three kids have all had to face such a situation at school whether it was suffering a bad grade because of procrastinating, or spending money they shouldn't have. 

Ultimately, we are raising children, not clones. They may live differently than we do. We want them to embrace the truth of God's Word, but they may not replicate the lives they grew up with. They may prefer to live in places we wouldn't live or have hobbies we didn't have. My husband and I watch hockey; my boys heckle us for it. They watch shows which I think are stupid, like Arrested Development. One of my sons likes to poke fun at me for enjoying British crime dramas. We are a family of readers, yet one of my sons prefers to draw instead of read. These things are fine. It's tempting to think that parental success means that our kids must do exactly what we want them to do as adults. That isn't true.

We have our own vocations

I have seen this become an issue with young women. My daughter, at the age of 25, is not a stay at home mother like I was. She has a different vocation than I did and do. At one time, I did not understand the principle of vocation and the fact that she didn't seem to want to embrace the things I did made me erroneously think that she was somehow rejecting God's plan for her life. If you want to frustrate a teenager, by all means, try to force her into a mold. I don't recommend it. Yes, I hope some day my daughter will have children, and I trust she will care for them when the time comes, but I'm not going to relegate her to the "bad girl" corner because she's not living my life. All I want for all of my children is that they love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls, and minds, and love others as themselves in whatever vocation God gives them. To assume they can only achieve that with my plans is pride, pure and simple.

When our kids are at home and under our constant care, it's tempting to believe that they are always going to do everything we suggest. They won't. They will leave home and have the freedom to ignore advice and do what they want. While they are at home, then, our task is to teach godly principles and godly wisdom. Their lives may not look exactly like ours in the details, but if they are embracing wisdom and demonstrating a teachable spirit, that's a good thing.

Friday
Aug292014

Of howling, hairy toddlers

I have a Beagle named Luna. Since I have become an empty nester, I feel like I'm living with a four legged toddler, except that this toddler has no hope of becoming rational at any time. On the upside, it's okay to lock her up in a cage when she's unruly.

Like a toddler, she believes everything belongs to her, especially the couch, although she cannot understand why I don't want her up there when she's licking her hindquarters.

Like a toddler, she has poor manners. Luna has no shame in satisfying her passion for cat food by pushing the cat away from his own dish as he eats. He's pretty stupid, though, because one swipe with an open claw, and she (like a toddler) would run away crying.

Like a toddler, she is a drama queen when she gets caught for her many infractions. Being sent to the crate when she's been busted is generally met with a lot of sass, as she lets out her houndy yelp when the door closes. That is followed by a pitiful wine of resignation. I wonder if the neighbours think we're beating her.

There are toys all over the the place, covered in drool, just like a toddler.

The other day, when she was successful in robbing the cat of his dinner, her hasty ingestion led to her vomiting the entire contraband all over the back door rug; a minute before I was supposed to leave the house. That is when I thought to myself, "My life has become consumed with a hairy, howling toddler." My self-pity didn't last long, fortunately. But this is indeed life as an empty nester. The pets take on a strange significance.

Yes, I miss my kids. This is year eight since the first one went away. They have busy lives, and while the first year away from home saw each of them return more frequently, their independence means that coming home isn't as easy. I've noticed their absence more this year. The quiet is more tangible because it's longer and the sound of their voices returning isn't as frequent. Luna, who desperately loves her pack, feels the same, as is evidenced by the her joyful apoplexy at their return.

But life is good. God is good to me. I am healthy, I can take care of my house, I'm not sitting in a hospital bed or confined to my own at home. I have enough to eat and a roof over my head. In between battles between the cat and dog, I have a full life. This is the way it is meant to be. We raise our children and then we watch them fly. If I became too consumed with melancholy at their absence, I would have a problem. I have had my moments, but when you have a dog who has learned to tip toe so she can sneak up behind the cat while your back is turned, life is intereseting. I'm studying more, reading more, thinking more, and working with my hands. Soon, I'll be back at teaching on Sunday and helping in the young mom's bible study. 

In the past few weeks, I have seen the bloggers who have shared about sending a child to Kindergarten, to high school, or to college. I nod along, because I know what those things feel like. Some share the reality of very mixed emotions. It's exciting, but at the same time, difficult. I get that.

Ladies, it gets easier. Being alone and without career is forcing me to really seek God, to really test that exhortation I frequently hand out: "Find your sufficiency in God." When the day lies open before me, and I feel like I don't know what to do with my time, God has a way of filling it with not only activity, but simply himself. In between missing my kids, I've had precious moments when I am left saying simply, "Thank you, Lord."

For all those women watching their babies fly the coop, it really does get easier. And if you're really bored, I know the name of a good Beagle breeder.

Friday
Aug222014

Maybe we could be easier on the boys

When I was a teenage girl, I was boy crazy. This interfered with my education. A couple of years ago, I was looking at pictures at my parents' house and found my old report cards. The difference between my 7th grade report cards and what I achieved in high school was quite striking. While I always loved reading, I'm afraid I was more worried about boys than anything else. I was relieved to get out of high school, where one can actually worry less about such things.

The Temptation to Hover

When my daughter became a teenager, I was concerned she would repeat my mistakes. My concern led to hovering, and that probably interfered with her deveveloping male friendships. Note I said friendships, not romances. I think it is healthy for boys and girls to be friends. Looking back, I think I was (like many other women) worried about every boy who came along becoming a distraction.

We do worry about our daughters' purity. Please do not misunderstand me and believe I am saying we don't have to worry about such things. Teaching our daughters biblical attitudes towards young men and other girls is a crucial part of their development. But it isn't the only thing teenage girls need to learn.

Other Distractions

There are other distractions that are just as serious, and in a day and age when more young women than ever are pursuing advanced education, it is something worth thinking about. While a boy can be a distraction that leads a girl down a path that is far from the Lord, so can academic achievements. Having a 4.0 grade average can be a wonderful thing, but it can build an attitude of self-reliance. If a young girl succeeds in school, it will definitely help her in life, but it can also make her rely on herself and not God just as easily as that cute boy she's been mooning over. 

Pride in Accomplishments?

I am not discouraging study or education. My husband and I both have university degrees, and our children are all in school. My daughter is in year eight (yes, eight) of school, preparing for approval for her doctoral dissertation. She's an excellent student. But I wouldn't want her to find her identity in those achievements rather than Christ. I wouldn't want her to place her hope in her academic ability rather than Christ. I think sometimes because education is good, and it equips our daughters to live as adults, we don't think it can be a problem. It can. While we are worrying over her dating in high school, we should also watch carefully her attitude toward her own accomplishments. Does she recognize God as the giver of her academic success and thank him for it? Is there the hint of pride in those accomplishments?

Teach Her to Serve

One way I think we can teach our girls to balance their time is to find ways to serve. Instead of every extra-curricular activity being about them, how about finding time to work with the kids at church, or volunteer with people less fortunate? Or how about serving a grandparent, an older neighbour? How about finding time to use that great intellect to tutor someone? That intellect ought to be used to further the Kingdom of God, not just a girl's portfolio.

The Beginning of Wisdom

I do agree with the many who are concerned about dating issues with their daughters. Having raised three kids to adulthood, and going through our own experiences with the issue, we were very attentive to that. But I can tell you that sometimes, we worry too much. Anything can trip our children up; or us, for that matter. Anything can lead to sin. Don't forget to watch for other things. It may be that the thing that tempts your child doesn't wear saggy jeans and and a sideways baseball cap. It might be the lure of a grade point average.

Proverbs 9:10 reminds us: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." Our daughters need to understand the difference between knowledge and wisdom. All of their academic knowledge may teach some wisdom, but only God will teach them the wisdom they need to live a godly life.

For a related post, check out Melissa's piece at Out of the Ordinary on a similar theme.

Friday
Aug152014

Two things I know for sure

There is a courtship/dating theme a-buzz on the interwebs again. Oh, how I remember those days when it was my teens, and I was reading and thinking about this. I read just about everything on the subject, was too sure of myself in most things, and likely more opinionated that I ought to have been.

The matter is complicated because how we guide our children is influenced by our family situation/dynamics. The truth of the matter is that what works for one person doesn't for another. There are still a lot of questions about the matter, and there are a lot of things unanswered. 

But I do know two things from watching it up close and personal. 

First, if the goal of the dating/courtship scenario we adopt for our families is based on a desire to avoid our own bad dating past, we have the wrong motives. This is not about us; it's about guiding our children. And it begins with being made in God's image, and how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to deal with each child as an individual while at the same time upholding biblical principles in each situation. This isn't about how we can make up for our own mistakes.

Second, whether you call it dating or courtship, if your children have a relationship that becomes too serious for their maturity level, and it ends, it will quite possibly be devastating. It will feel very much like a divorce. And it will affect your entire family, especially if that special person became like one of your own.

My young adult children have expressed the opinion that especially in church youth groups, boys and girls are not taught to be friends. Once they are into puberty, the warnings begin, and it is almost like the are instructed to be wary of the opposite sex. There is more worry about what can go wrong than developing friendships. I think they may be on to something.

For an excellent book on the matter of dating and relationships, check out Sex, Dating, and Relationships. I wish it had been around when my kids were teens.

Tuesday
Aug122014

Share in the joy

Recently, my son shared with me what he's been doing at his summer job. He's an intern at the church he attends. He absolutely loves this job, and I am so thankful to hear the joy in his voice when he talks about it. I'm thankful to hear him say it's the best job he ever had. It's even more sweet because over the past year, I've watched my son go through the biggest trial of his young life.

There was little I could do for him other than pray. He had to walk through the trial to reach the end of it. I know it was hard. I know he struggled. I had to be careful how much I asked because he's a big boy, and he doesn't need his mommy hovering. At the same time, I didn't want to appear like I didn't care and wasn't sensitive to his grief. I wanted so much to relieve the pain and sorrow. Even though I knew his grief would leave scars of a good kind, I wished things were easier. I wanted hugs and home cooking to be enough, but he needed more than that. He needed the grace and love of his Saviour. It is always hard to see our children as anything else other than the wee ones we cuddled and cared for; it was harder over this past year, because I could see a pain I could do nothing about.

But God was faithful, and I knew he would be. I prayed that my son would see it, and he did. Seeing that he has turned a corner toward healing is a gift. As mothers, we pray for these moments; these moments when our children see the faithfulness of God in their own lives. Those moments make up for those nights when we lay awake, hoping and praying they will be okay.

It was my privilege over this past year to share the burdens of my son, and to weep with him. And now the darkness is dissipating, and the the sun is out. Now, I have the blessing of sharing in his abundant joy.

Of course there will be other trials. I have three children, after all, and I don't know, nor do they, what's coming. But for the moment, I will revel in this joy of knowing that my child has learned a lesson, straight from the hand of God and into his heart. He has learned that it was good for him to be afflicted, that he would know God's statues. (Ps. 119:71)