On Parenting

Not having blogged here seriously for a long time, I am not going to apologize for that now. You may find some of the reasons if you read between the lines- or maybe not.

warning: this may turn into a long post. it will certainly go deeper than I have on this blog for a long time. you may not want to read what I have to say. don’t say I didn’t warn you

How did I find myself inspired to write here today? On this topic? I visited the blog of a long time blogger who has become a new mother. She said this:

Looking after a newborn baby is really, really hard. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done. It’s mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting, and it’s relentless. People keep telling me that it gets better or easier. I hope so. I’m pooped. ~Meg Pickard

When I read that, I remembered back …way back to my first introduction to motherhood, and yes, that is very much a description of how I felt at the time. I don’t know if there was a generation more unprepared for parenting than mine- at least among those who were like me.

Why do I think that?

  • We had jumped from ‘Leave It To Beaver’ and ‘Father Knows Best’ to ‘The Brady Bunch’ and ‘All In The Family’
  • Smart Girls prepared for careers, not families; and Supermom wasn’t going to show up until much later.
  • We had come from smaller families, and didn’t help raise siblings, and our moms and dads were all getting divorced. At least in my circles. Elsewhere in America, too, if the statistics tell the story.

How did this play out for women like me? We were sorely under-prepared for taking care of babies. We were socked with that relentless exhaustion and tried to play catch up with learning how to change diapers, adjust to feeding schedules, and generally learn parenting and household skills on the fly.

Humans are survivors- and women like me and our babies survived. From our survival lessons came the supermom syndrome. Which, for me, translated into a frenzy of trying to make everything “work”. And if you were like me you could make everything look pretty good…. on the outside. A house of cards, if you will.

This is getting ominous sounding, don’t you think? Well, in some ways it was, but in others- there were good times, there were some things I would do again, but the overall tone of life? No. Perfection makes a hard taskmaster, and I would trade that for making “Nurture” the keynote of our family. As it was, the keynote was more of “Accomplishment” as framed by my environment.

The reason I would change that focus and tone might be found in the name of a category I have on this blog, one that I haven’t yet found heart enough to fill up, but perhaps this post will be filed there,”Broken Heart Devotionals”.

Because another hard truth not told to new parents is the fact that not only can you fall deeply in love with your babies, but that they can grow up and break your heart. Not all of them, not inevitably, but it is one of the possibilities. And a parent needs to recognize that. It could change our focus and remove some of the deception that seems to infect every generation in some way or another.

I’m not going to get all sappy here, and I am certainly not going to imply that this is the inevitable outcome. Perhaps for some it isn’t in the cards, not even as a possible condition, I don’t know. I do know that when such heartbreak hits, it can come as a complete surprise… the same arrival of surprise that the exhaustion brought to an unprepared, naive mother in those first few months. With the same impact to your psyche, and your sense of what life should be.

Do not mistake facing reality for regret. There is no regret in the wonderful people that came into my world. I am happy for each individual child being a part of my world and the world at large. There is only sadness that I didn’t understand that nurture and tenderness, taking time for small moments, and living the love I felt for those people was more important than anything.

Anything.

And if I were to sum up my advice, thoughts, and stories on parenting in one thing it would be be that last paragraph and its emphatic underline.

But I have more to say. Just don’t let go of that one nugget of truth, which is the only real piece of advice I wish to pass on.

Sifting Through The Sand Of Motherhood

Sand, because motherhood will both polish you and wear you down. It will get in your shoes, but it is also lots of fun to play with. In the right conditions it will focus you on the truly important things of life, even if a little late.

To go back to that mother’s observations which I began with:

It’s also really boring much of the time. No-one tells you this. In fact, I think it’s probably frowned on to say it. But if you’re used to being surrounded by agile minds conducting fascinating thought-experiments and verbally jousting at work every day, looking after a baby gets pretty tedious rather quickly, especially when they’re too young to play or engage much with their surroundings. There’s something about the relentless monotony of routine (is it feeding time again? So soon? I could have sworn we just fed a few minutes ago…), and the fact that your brain has been sucked out of your ears by exhaustion, and the need to be constantly entertaining or on the move. It’s knackering.

I see some things have not changed much from my generation. I think we gave that attitude to the next generation as something of a legacy. Perhaps it was the gleam in the eye of our divorced mothers, and we inherited it ourselves? It said, “Smart girls are bored by the dailiness of the life of Motherhood”. Not that this was the essential point of Pickard’s post- it wasn’t. I simply plucked it out as saying what I, and many like me, felt- to the letter. Or thought we felt because we were supposed to feel that way as modern, hip, thinking women. and whether you think a certain way, or think you ought to and subscribe to it- it boils down to the same thing.Many of us Baby Boomer mothers struggled with it in one way or another.

I think it is ‘Supermom’ residue, personally. which is the opposite of “Earth Mother” persona. E.M.’s have to live in this society,too, so I don’t think they get off scot-free. They are, however, more apt to take time for their mothering, as part of their identity.

It’s Not All About Mothers

Mothers are not all there is to the forming of a child’s life, and psyche. But I do think, that like fathers in their way, mothers of my generation went sort of AWOL. And we got mixed up about what makes a good mother. We got too much into the debate over working and not enough into the conversation of what loving a child looks like.

And even if mothers do things right, it doesn’t insulate them, their families, or their children from the vicissitudes of our society, which has lost its mooring. Really, it has. No one can even define the semantics of our roles or actions in any substantial way today.

But thankfully, one thing stands against all the assaults and assails of whatever is wrong with us as individuals and as a society, and that is that “Love Never Fails“.

It really doesn’t. If you really love your child or your spouse, or any relationship with true care and concern for them as a human being, as someone that matters, then you will go a long way toward nurturing that soul. And they will thrive from it.

Don’t get sidetracked about what that love looks like. Don’t get fooled by some made-up experts rules. Do things that puts the wellbeing of that person on the top of your list.

Being a Christian, I don’t think there is any defining lesson on what that looks like more than you might find in I Cor. 13, the Love Chapter of First Corinthians. I don’t think we can make up what love is like any more than we can make up what nutrition our child needs. There are certain hard wired realities in humans and in life.

We could be more wise about disseminating real facts on that. Just like real facts on neo-nate development. Certain things happen and develop at certain stages, humans need certain things to thrive. Lets be very real about what those things consist of and how to properly deliver them to each other and to our families.

Love has elements of attachment, elements of freedom, and elements of hands-on actions. There are many recipes for a healthy relationship, and part of life’s challenge is to use the elements in a way that produces a whole human being.

For those who found themselves in Hell’s Kitchen, there is a new day to work at creating a life of Home cooked, life giving, wholeness making Love. It will be seasoned with humility, because it is hard to start over, to let go of preconceptions, and to admit we make mistakes.

But I’m very hopeful we can do this.


All right. I guess that is all I have to say about being a parent, and what I hoped to communicate. Til later, friends…

The Throwaway Society

I find it tragic that we have moved from being merely cavalier about making everything disposable to becoming empty users of other people. We have whole segments of our society that we consider nothing more than something to use up and then throw away. As though a soul is no more than an old tissue. Wipe up and toss.

And right now I am thinking of the “we” as Christians. God knows the painful state of the rest of humanity. God knows; and when I catch even a glimpse of His heart, its pain is too much for my soul. I cannot look upon our inhumanity to each other. I can’t face it.

Whole people are considered useless and burdensome, Dirtied and spoiled.

But that is not God’s attitude, view, or valuation. Where have we failed to see as God sees? And why? Why are we throwing away precious souls? Did it start with rationalizing abortion? or earlier? Did it start with valuing our belongings as more important than the humans around us and in our families? Is it rooted in trashing our Christian teaching and morality? Not our country’s ‘morality’, OURS, our personal mode of valuing and treating others. The Church’s teaching, value standard, and morality. Did we toss out our love and compassion…and now we think nothing of turning our backs on those who hunger for the love of God? Forsaking the mandate that we clothe them in the restored innocence of the garments of salvation. Why aren’t we throwing these garments over their naked wounded bodies?

Why do we think we are serving God when we can’t love? When we reject even our brothers and sisters who aren’t what we want them to be?
…let alone those outside the walls of the Church.

It isn’t the message of a false tolerance, an indifference that lets death creep into every vein while we use up what there is for our own designs. Don’t mistake that real love for others has anything to do with sickening and stinking philosophies that crush souls into the politically correct machinery that is called love by our throwaway society- the origination of the users and abusers who seduce simple souls into the web of their agendas. That isn’t the place of refuge and peace. That is more like Hotel California.

But it also isn’t the empty promises of a hypocritical church. Of us as hypocrites who mouth words of love and strike with swords of division and hatred… while refusing to call it hatred. No, let’s call it self protection, just preserving our self existence. Yes, let’s call it that.

Do you… for one moment… think that God is smug and comfortable alongside you as you lay waste to others and reject them while you gather so festively in your own small tribal feasts?

It is time to gather them in. It is time to invite in the broken and marred. Welcome the scarred and the pierced. The maimed and despairing, the ones forgotten and disposed of…. by the throwaway society.

Hunters of God… it is time you appeared. Not to wage war and bring down, but to go searching and catch the fearful and fleeing and tell them…. there is sanctuary. there is a safe place, and a place to find shelter and healing, and compel them to hear that they are loved, they are wanted….

Before the final darkness falls.

Fight Like This

I was listening to Radioworshipnet, and that led me to listen to a number of songs by a group, Decyfer Down, on youtube. When I go to this one I started thinking about it in spiritual terms. That is what I do. So, anyway, I thought about the energy in metal music, and the tatts, and all that … I thought about the fight that is before us in our time, in our society, and here are some things that crossed my mind.

Are Christians training? Are they training for the fight that they are engaged in? are we in fighting form to stand against the stream of destruction as heroin floods our city streets? as death stands near on every street? as the present generation looks for answers and finds our churches singularly lacking? Are we prepared/preparing?

Well, then I thought about prayer, and I thought about the scars on our souls… like tatts we have of alienated children, of broken relationships, of failed attempts to mirror heaven and counterfeits of the Kingdom of God. And I thought of how we can have that destroy us or turn us into fighting machines… not machines but beings who fight the good fight. Who put as much energy into prayer, into denying our own selfish wills, as much effort into engaging this generation as any band, as any “connection”…. and fighting in a way that is being called for.

And I don’t think you go into such things with a puffed up confidence in your own strength and ability. I think you go in with a desperation… that you have to win, that everything depends upon it.

Christian Self Esteem

More about the core self, because that post, ‘The Best of Me‘ needs clarification and more thinking. The idea that we get wrong ideas, and then perpetuate them, about who we really are has been one of those swirling, vague, and just out of reach concepts for me. The light just dawning as I enter my sunset season.

I don’t mourn my late entry into this concept since enlightenment has its own time and sequence. We try to find it early in our lives, but our culture, or our own wills, -a number of things, really- , intervene. In terms of eternity, perhaps the important thing is to get it at sometime while we can still do something about adding to the cultural consciousness of it.

We sometimes see Christian doctrine as a static thing. And we are so tainted by modern ideas of what evolution is, that we resist the idea that Christian revelation is at all organic. Simply because our view is that evolution means transposing, when in Christian revelation it is a widening of the vision. “Here a little, there a little, line upon line” until a clearer vision of truth is evident.

“Who am I?” takes a different track… to “Does anyone know me?”, even myself? It is the “Message in a Bottle” transit from feeling alone, and that no one knows me, to understanding that we are all in the same basic situation.
A human condition. But to end there, with that “Message” is to be somewhat despairing, if one really understands the message to begin with.

The more we discover who we are… and what is true of humanity… the more despair grabs hold of us. It gets to the point that the platitudes no longer provide the emollient that they once have. “We are only human”…
Perhaps that is why God takes time to send His message that He does know us, in ways that we find hard to imagine.
Take these for example:
Jeremiah 1:5
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”
Psalm 139:13
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
Isaiah 49:5
“And now the LORD says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD …”

The bottle gets found, the response is there… but we never leave our island, we never even look to see if we are truly on an island. That famous little maxim comes to mind: “No man is an island”*, yet we all have a tendency to feel so, especially in this disjointed post modern world. Until, through interjection of revelation, through driven to despair, or by happy chance.. or grace… we find a reality far from the lies we were told, or that we chose to believe.

This is the beginning of Christian Self esteem. To see what God’s image was meant to look like, what we were meant to look like… to be. It is a beautiful picture of worth and value, of fruit and music, of kindness, goodness, self-control, faithfulness, joyfulness… a realization of paradise within.

How do we catch that view?
Certainly it can’t be until we throw off the old one.

Matthew 10:39
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Notes*
John Donne, Meditation XVII

The Blessed Life

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
~ Matthew 5:4

What do you think of as the “blessed” life? Do you picture the American Dream… a large house, new clothes, a nice suburban family life? Or is it a satisfied ambition, fulfilled talents and dreams, good health? Is it a life with few regrets? A feeling of happiness?

What is the Blessed Life?

How great the contrast between the definitions humans beings apply to the word ‘blessed’ and the ones of God’s choosing! Most of us agree with Job’s friends, and few believe that mourning in life is the sign of a blessing. I haven’t. Not even when I read those words, today, in the beatitudes listed in Matthew. I still do not view mourning as a blessing, or trials as a joy … the way James exhorts in James 1:1-3. I have to wrestle, struggling to twist my mind into a way of considering things that is completely foreign.

There is little in church messages to help me to conform to God’s view on this. Instead, I condemn myself, and am supported in the opinion that every trouble in my life is my fault and evidence of how displeased God is. We are that saturated with a view of blessing so contrary to one who lives as resident of God’s Kingdom.

Jesus promised us abundant life, but we have interpreted that to mean that we are materially wealthy and upwardly mobile in our society. We forget that He plainly said, “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses”. It is a matter of how we measure blessing.

How do you measure blessing?

It also isn’t a matter of whether men speak well of you.
Or how popular you are in your sphere… or elevated in your career … or even what influence you hold. Yet, isn’t that what we call living a blessed life?

How does God measure the blessings of a blessed life?

Many of the measurements are acquired character. Some are the patient trust and waiting upon God for outcomes in our situations. All are, one way or another, tied to how we relate properly to our Maker. Not once or twice in a lifetime, but everyday. If we seek God, we will find the blessed life… not always smooth and trouble-free, but with a happy ending.