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Entries in Parenting (71)

Monday
May192014

Praying for young dads

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to visit with a friend for a couple of hours. During our visit, she filled me in on what her son is doing. I always liked him; such an easy-going, kind young man.

He's now married with children. His wife recently delivered a baby. As my friend talked about the new baby, she shared with me some concerns about her son. She was concerned about the extra domestic responsibilties he's taking on at the same time as he is taking on more work responsibilities. She is worried about how he handles the stress. She seemed almost reluctant to mention it. She observed quite accurately that it isn't really popular to suggest that men have a hard time at anything these days, even in Christian circles.

While it regularly grieves me to hear how some men treat their wives and families, I also know some young people whose mothers did things that would curl your toes. Sin affects both moms and dads. And I understood my friend's concern for her son. Even though we may not think they do, fathers battle stress and anxiety, too. And the weight of the physical and spiritual care of their families is very real. 

My husband was always great at taking over things with the kids during those years when we were in the thick of parenting small children. Even if he had perhaps struggled with a bad day at work, he was seldom grumpy when I would unceremoniously thrust a crying baby at him when he walked in the door and had barely removed his tie. My husband does not get anxious, and I think over the years, I may have taken advantage of that. I think I should have made more effort to give him a break on the weekend, rather than staying out all afternoon with the girls, poking around in the fabric store. He really didn't complain, but I should have thought about it. That's how love is demonstrated: we put someone else first.

I have two sons, and as I contemplate them with wives and children some day, in addition to praying for them regularly to be able to deal with the serious responsibility of being a father and husband, I'm going to encourage my husband to regularly talk to them and encourage them in that pursuit. How often do young men get that kind of encouragement? Where is the book entitled, "Help for Overwhelmed Dads?" I know there is attention to life in the workforce, but what about coping regularly with the reality of having lives dependent upon you? 

Stress is real for fathers. A man has to work at a job he hates but can't quit because the four other people at home must eat tomorrow. A father cannot finish his education because supporting a family and paying tuition is cost prohibitive. A father is unemployed, and every day, he feels the weight of it. Add to this the care of his children and loving his wife. Yes, fathers have stress, too. I have personally seen that unemployment can make a young man feel trapped and isolated, sort of like being confined to the house with sick toddlers for days on end.

Like my friend observed, it isn't popular to say that men have it bad at all. I don't believe for one minute that it is necessary or wise to compare who has a more difficult job, a husband or a wife. We each have our tasks, our vocations, and God equips us to do them. That doesn't mean they are trouble free. Instead of comparing who has it worse, we should be praying for servants' hearts. And the sad reality is that it is still more acceptable for a woman to share the details of how stressful her life is, while men are supposed to be quiet about it. Let us remember that the Scriptural exhortations to avoid complaining are directed to both men and women.

Today, I am more adept at recognizing when my husband is stressed out. I'm thankfulf for that. I wish I had been better when the kids were younger, but as always, he doesn't look back and complain about it.

Monday
May122014

A mother by any other name

Here are some post-Mother's Day thoughts, for what they are worth.

In recent days, I have seen articles pondering the question of what to call homemaking and motherhood. Is motherhood a job? Is being a homemaker a "profession" like others? Is it a "choice?" It's a complex issue, one not really answerable in a short blog post.

I can't honestly say I thought a lot about those questions when I was a young mother. Life was too busy. The task seemed painfully obvious: I had children who needed me, and I cared for them. I had a husband, a home, a local church to serve in, and was studying for my degree part-time. What did it matter what it was called? Would being called a "domestic engineer" have made a night with an asthmatic child shorter? If I found being called a "housewife" objectionable, would I have packed it all in and quit? No, the name didn't seem all that important. The only time I really pondered it was when my Seventeenth Century European History professor suggested kids were better off having a mother who worked rather than one who was like me, dependent upon a husband's income, and a general drain on society. I never liked that class, anyway.

Now that I am older, I have had time to think about such things. Perhaps it was good that I didn't try to define it when I was younger.

Motherhood is a vocation. If you are unfamiliar with that term, do check out Rebecca's definition. In a nutshell, God gives us work to do. Whether it's working as a nurse, sweeping a floor, or fixing broken appliances, God gives us vocations to serve other people, and through which we bring honour and glory to Him. God gives us the vocation of motherhood. If you have a child today, regardless if whether or not you "felt" called to be one, you have been called to be a mother. The evidence of that vocation is the child (or children) you have. Now, work in that vocation to the honour and glory of God. Whether you call yourself a "domestic engineer" or have no problem saying you are a "housewife," your vocation is clear. This, of course, does not rule out balancing more than one vocation, including a job outside the home. But neither vocation is more sanctified than the other. The point is to work at whatever vocation God gives us for His glory and not our own.

My vocation has been in my home for 25 years now, and while it has evolved with the change in my circumstances, my task is still before me, and I'm still going to do the work before me as to the Lord. If I go into my vocation for the purpose of gaining the affirmation of other individuals rather than to serve God, I'm going about it all wrong. I suspect that many of these terms we conjure up are less about the work at hand and more about the need to gain acceptance from others.

Whatever we call ourselves, our primary "name" is Child of God. Whatever vocation we are in, or how they change over time, we will always be God's children. That is a name I can embrace with all certainty.

Wednesday
Apr092014

It wasn't my job to be a cool parent

When my daughter was 16, she had a group of friends over. While they were there, I happened to stop in my daughter's room to ask her for one of he CD's. That was in the olden days when people actually used CD's.

One of my daughter's friends thought it was "cool" to have a mother who liked similar music. I don't even remember what the CD was. But at the time, in my vanity, it was a little fun to be considered cool. My husband and I were working in the youth group at that time, and some of our kids' friends did think we were cool. We were the parents who would take car loads of kids to see concerts, who welcomed them in our home whenever they wanted, so that worked in our favour, I guess.

It's tempting, when our kids are teenagers, to want to be considered cool. After a while, we may even adopt their unique lingo. When our kids were teens, the word "woot" was particularly enjoyable to use, and yes, I used it. I probably thought it made me sound even more cool, but actually, I suspect they were all rolling their eyes. We have to be careful that when our kids are teens, we don't use that time to re-live our own teen years, this time with the benefit of some years of wisdom. We are not teenagers, and grown people who act like them look foolish. I know I looked foolish at times, and I'm trusting in the mercy of those who witnessed it.

Recently, while at a meal with my boys, I used the word "stoked." That was a bad move on my part. I don't even know why I used it, except for that I see it used a lot, and by people who aren't teenagers. I see it used by grown up people with children, so I figured, why not? Well, my 22 year old son looked at me and said, "Did you just say 'stoked'?" I was immediately self-conscious, and I turned to my other son and asked him if that was allowed, and he said "I wasn't going to say anything, but it did sound kidnda weird."

Even as young adults, our kids seem to sense that there is a difference between themselves and their parents. 

Of all the hundreds of mistakes I made while parenting teens, the biggest mistake I made was worrying too much about being cool. It wasn't my job to be cool. It was my job to be the parent. And if it meant being unpopular, then so be it. It wasn't my job to emulate their dress or speech in order to show some kind of understanding or solidarity with them. Yes, I had been a teenager once, but to them it was in the Dark Ages.

It was my responsibility to follow Ephesians 6:4, which addresses fathers, but includes mothers:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Recently, as I was teaching what Proverbs had to say about wise parenting, we discussed the possibe ways we could provoke our kids. The contrast to provoking, introduced with the word "but," is bringing them up. The biggest way we can provoke our children is to not do our job. Sometimes, trying to be too cool means we may miss being the parent. The problem with trying to be too cool or too much of a buddy is that when we inevitably have to start being the parent and put our foot down, our child may think, "Why are you being such a drag?" 

Of course, we don't have to be combative or harsh with our children, but there does come a time when we have to be really firm, and that may generate resistance or conflict. Worrying about being too "cool" might make us a little unwilling to do the real job of parenting; you know, the discipline and instruction thing. Looking back, I wish I had shown a better balance.

Now, being a grandparent? I think that wll be the "cool" time, because all of the hard stuff will be left to the parents, and I'll get the fun. Lord, willing, anyway.

Tuesday
Jan142014

Where have I gone wrong?

One of the first things that ever came into my head during a time when we struggled with our teens was, "Where have I gone wrong?" I don't think I'm the only mother who has ever asked herself that question seriously.

We bring our children into the world, and we begin the process of raising them for the glory of God. We care not only for their physical needs, but their emotional and spiritual needs. We teach them the Bible, memorize Scripture, sing children's worship songs, read stories that teach biblical principles. We take them to kids' clubs, church, and youth groups. We do our best to live what we believe in front of them, asking forgiveness as well as giving it, showing mercy, grace, love, and faithfulness. We are not perfect, but we try. It's all so exhausting.

When our kids look as if they are rebelling, it is a natural thought to wonder "Did they hear a thing growing up? Did they learn anything?" At those moments (and I've had a few) I took comfort and instruction from the wisdom of my husband. He reminded me of two important things:

First, God is not finished with them yet. Just because it seems that our kids are walking away from God does not mean that their story is over. And second, if we take the blame for their mistakes, do we by implication take the glory for their successes? 

That last one was an "ouch" moment when my husband first asked me that question, and in the deep places of my prideful heart, I probably was doing exactly that. And I suspect I'm not alone.

Parenting is not a linear experience whereby perfect parenting equals perfect children. The reality is that godly parents do raise rebellious children. Some very godly parents raise children who rebel very seriously, and perhaps are never converted. Salvation is by grace through faith alone, not through family lineage.

It's easy to have retroactive "mommy guilt" at my age when I watch young parents raising their children. I see them doing things I now wish I had done. The regret I feel is evidence, once again, that I am failing to remember that God was indeed in control of our lives when they were younger. And He knew what He was doing.

This is where my feelings interfere with reality. I must remind myself that my kids were taught the Word. They all made professions of faith. If they aren't where I hoped they would be now, I cannot take responsibility, and I must continue to trust God that he who began a good work in them will bring it to completion (Phil. 1:6). Parents will not be perfect. This does not excuse us from working hard to be the best parents we can be, but we must remember that it is the Spirit who sanctifies them, not us.

My children are not perfect, but they are growing up. I am confident that they know the truth of the gospel. Can I make them obey? No. It's up to them. We are responsible to teach our children the gospel, to train them up in the way of the Lord, but the credit for our successes does not belong to us, it belongs to God. If we believe that perfect parenting results in perfect children, we may be disappointed at some point. And we may actually be taking credit which does not belong to us.

Wednesday
Oct232013

Real men eat quiche 

Real men eat quiche.

Real men cry.

Real men read Nicholas Sparks.

Real men like to shoot things.

Real men like to watch football.

Real women like to decorate.

Real women wear dresses.

Real women have long hair.

Real women read Calvin's Institutes.

I think we can all admit those are some silly criteria for determining what is a real man or woman. There seems to be varying opinions about what makes a man and woman "real."

I am clearly naive, because I thought there was very little to understand. Yosemite Sam is not a real man; my husband is a real man, made in the image of God. I am a real woman, not a Barbie doll (or a G.I. Joe). 

Lore Ferguson touched beautifully on this subject here, reflecting on the fact that we are made in the image of God. Being "real" is being created in His image, not something constructed on celluloid, paper machier, or simply in someone's imagination.

Often, what people really mean is that real men/women DO certain things. And more often than not, it's a case of "real men/women do what we do."

In some paradigms, my sons are not "real" men (young men, that is; they're both under 25) because they don't have an interest in taking a car engine apart, watch football, or go hunting. They're musicians; nerd types. What is very real, however, is that they are always kind to young ladies, go to school while working part-time, pay their the rent, cook their own meals, do their own laundry, and take their turn cleaning their own toilets. Oh dear, maybe I have raised them to be women?

As I thought about this, I was drawn to the words in Micah 6:8:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Young men may read Chaucer, go mountain biking, or bake pies in their spare time, but those things don't make real men. When we talk about real men, it begins with being created in His image. If we're talking about whether or not someone is a good man or a godly man, that's a bigger question.

Along with recognizing the reality that they are made in His image, if my sons pursue what is in Micah 6:8, I think they'll be on the right track. They won't look like a mature, godly man of 65 at this point in their lives, but I had them here over Thanksgiving, and after viewing my empty refrigerator after their departure, I'm quite certain they're real.