Things I Learned From Having Children

[repost from 9-24-04]

My first two births were the usual medically “enhanced” type. It wasn’t until my third delivery that I had the natural birth experience with full awareness of all the stages. It was in the final portion of labor, the “pushing”, that I experienced something resident within the human soul.

Labor is called labor for a reason. It is some of the hardest work that a person may experience, and it comes with both urgency and no means of retreat.

It was in this I learned that there is place within, after all ones strength seems to be spent, that a second wind can form. A lift above the pain, above the exhaustion, to see through to the goal…. to finish the task.

The Finns have a concept and particular word for this. It is “sisu”.

“Sisu is a unique Finnish concept. It stands for the philosophy that what must be done will be done, regardless of what it takes. Sisu is a special strength and persistent determination and resolve to continue and overcome in the moment of adversity. A combination of stamina, perseverance, courage, and determination held in reserve for hard times.”

A reserve.

A woman can have that within. She can have a second strength, an ability to reach beyond herself and beyond all she thought herself capable of, to rise above the difficulties….. it is there to be tapped into when necessity requires.

I have often thought of the experience of this when faced with other things that I felt were intolerable, that were seemingly insurmountable. It centered my hope and my confidence.

We are marvelously made.

Pray For The Children

Pray for the Children

By Ina Hughes

We pray for the children, who sneak Popsicles before supper,
Who erase holes in their math textbooks,
Who can never find their shoes,
And we pray for those who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
Who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
Who never “counted potatoes”,
Who never go to the circus,
And who live in an X-rated world

We pray for the children, who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
And we pray for those who never get dessert,
Who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
Who watch their parents watch them die,
Who can’t find any bread to steal,
Who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
Whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
Whose monsters are real.

We pray for children who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
Who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
Who like ghost stories,
Who shove dirty clothes under the bed,
Who never rinse out the tub,
Who get visits from the Tooth Fairy,
Who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
Who squirm in church and scream into the phone,
Whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for the children whose nightmares come in the daytime,
Who will eat anything,
Who have never seen a dentist,
Who aren’t spoiled by anybody,
Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
Who live and move but have no being.
We pray for the children who want to be carried and for those who must,
Who we never give up on and for those who don’t get a second chance.

For those we smother and…
For those who will grab the hand of anyone kind enough to offer it.

A Day In The Life… of a parent

I was going to post on culture, I want to post on culture, but the soap opera angst of being a parent wins over. Why does Bill Murray’s Ground Hog Day seem like real life to me? Maybe because my husband and I keep hitting the same old road bumps.

This is especially true of our parenting journey even though we have vastly changed many things. We are loose, less demanding, we listen more and criticise less…. but does this get us the home pass free? No.

My husband, dipping into a now well berated woe-is-me why do we go through this mode, got some things to truly feel woeful about after I “explained” why I feel like I’m the only adult in the house. Although, he was good about it and explained back why that wasn’t so…. and I did end up giving him good advice which I intend to take myself: instead of concentrating on what you’d like not to be as a person, why not concentrate on the person you’d like to be? That way your actions and intentions are more likely to accomplish something. There’s something about the backward look that can be less than educational when it comes to making the positive changes. It doesn’t seem that is the way it works, but it does.

Must have something to do with what we fill our minds with….

Anyway. Parenting. All of our older set of children felt we were too restrictive. Fair enough. So on our younger set we have been both more lenient and encourage the usual social activities.

We have chauffered and made accomodations for numerous teen activities for numerous teens… no problem right? Right. So long as we always say yes. But today we said one no, and the whole teen contingent went slightly …um… emotive. Except the one who gets to go on said outing. We said no to one child , who at 13 seems young enough that there will be other opportunities, and we felt ( we felt, but I was handed the message decision “Go ask your Mom”) that maybe she should slow down some of the social schedule. At least for this one social event.

Tears, talks, my husband going very cave-like in that miserable state that men enter . I explained in my unrepentant self that you weigh things, you make the decision, you take the fall out, that is what mature responsible people do. You can’t please everyone. Very hard for my husband who wants to buy that book “Approval Addiction : Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone”. I tried to get him to buy it couple weeks ago “Oh, there it is, why don’t you buy it now, isn’t that the book you were talking about” “Yeh, later, I have too many things to do, I won’t have time to read it” . Well, now he’s mentioned that he needs to read it.

I don’t know. I don’t think understanding this personality situation takes away the pain. And it is painful to have to say no and get the responses that no oftentimes brings.

With raising teens, it is hard to know just what works for the longterm goal. The Mature Responsible Person. The person who can make their own happiness and come through dependably for those dependent on them. Those kind.

Like we try to be , but often fail at exemplifying.

Sometimes I, the one who usually has had strong opinions and convicitons on just about anything…gets throughly confused. I mean, sometimes I just want to say, “I don’t know anymore, leave me alone”. But I just go ahead with the information at hand, and do what seems to be best. What else can you do? You pray, you want the best, you’ve gone to the parenting seminars, and read the Bible studies. You absorbed who knows how many parenting articles in any number of Ladies Magazines. Talked with parents who have been there and those in the middle of….. but all is not clarity and light.

Talking and tears is what it is. I’d cross my fingers at this point if I thought it would help. But instead we just tread on through, hoping we hit the higher ground.

[And those experts who are so very sure that everything works out if you just do this and just do that? That give the Bible 1,2, 3’s on how to raise the perfect person? I have my doubts about them…. I have my real strong cynical and sceptical doubts….]

And the husband who looked like he wanted to bang his head on the wall? Do almost anything to just make the pain stop? He did probably the most useful thing of all: the private, sympathetic, Dad talk.

Whew…. good thing for Dad’s. Dads can be the best fixers, best shoulders to lean on, best lots of things I can’t think to name. We each have our place in this moving experiment called “family”. Ever changing ever challenging…ever humbling.

And tomorrow is another day.

Post-Partum Penciling

Penciling, because that is best I can do on the subject, but I can’t really blog on other things until I try to put together what I’d like to say on this.

It’s a situation complicated by the clash between what we expect to happen and what actually can happen. I thought Amy‘s story did a good job of rendering the one against the other in her experience… I don’t know if it was written intentially that way, or that is just how it tends to fall naturally in our mind.
Birth is supposed to be joyful as an event, but… I mean to be the best possible mother …but… my body…the circumstance… me… what is happening and why isn’t the way I was led to believe it would be? the way I hoped it would be?

This can happen in various circumstances, but giving birth to your children is one of those huge milestones of life. When we struggle with how that unfolds for us, it is so huge. Crushing, if it doesn’t go as planned, many times.

We are individuals, we bring in individual strengths and weaknesses, often the sort we have no conscious control over. So if depression postpartum hits you hard, with or without complicating factors, it is a serious matter for you and those you love, and that new baby dependent on you. But often times you are helpless.

Before I say anything more, I just want to say that everyones birth is unique, even each birth that the same woman has- each is a unique experience. Birth is a natural process, but one of those that carries the possibilities of risk. You have to face that. With or without medical help you cannot guarantee the outcome 100% . And that has nothing to do with you- you just try to get all the odds in yours and the babies favor, and this is what I’d like to look at.

I have had ten different births, in different circumstances. Some were very different from the others, one had severe postpartum depression, one had none. I can’t compile any sort of “finding” from this, I can just share some of what I think.

I think that support makes all the difference. Loving support is a major factor in outcomes for women on many levels in their birth experience and their mothering. I am convinced of this.

Unfortunately, we isolate women, we expect unhuman strength: pop those babies out and get on with the business of life. The real business, and ignore your need for recovery, ignore the fact that interventions may have seriously interfered with your bonding, and be a man about it.

That is right…be a man… pretend you don’t have the needs you do from the complete body and emotion experience you have just gone through. It wasn’t always this way, but we don’t dependably have the love and support we need. And I don’t mean from the main man- he may give all he can and it still isn’t all that is needed. We need other women, some who do practical things, some who do emotionally meaningful things. And we need someone to share with when we feel we are going over the edge.

Most of us get by without the ideal levels of support, but the more we have the richer all our families are for it.

The better off the children are.

And this can entail simple things. A hired doula for a couple weeks. A helpful friend to do laundry, ones mother. This was ( I don’t know if it still is) a part of the success that the Netherlands had with lower infant mortality. The mothers had a helper at home, after the birth.

Hospital births have interventions that interfere with birth and bonding, but no one practically expects American women to change from hospital birthing for the most part. It should be compensated for, however. The old time Church ministry of lovingly prepared meals for the family are one thoughtful support. Breaking off the false face of being the perfect mother from the get-go might help, too. Maybe just whatever comes from an organic relationship of wanting that woman to be successful in her mothering- simply an openness of attitude around her.

And that makes me think… that at birthtime, we ought to make it all about her. More than someones wedding day- which is that one day that is supposed to be all about her; on the birth day of someones baby we ought to make it a honeymoon time of being all about her: her comfort, her celebration, her tears, her feelings. Sort of an account from which she can draw as her life becomes all about her baby for a time. We share in the tremendous effort and joy that brought forth a child into the world- we gather around as community.

Can we do this? Is this too hard? We have strapped on so much luggage for the new mother. It is surprising that there is desire to go through the reproductive process at all…it must be that our hearts have more say than we realize.

In postpartum depression, however, some of what we need to give is a listening ear, a space where the fears can be shared, and the disappointments expressed. I believe that support will do much to dissipate the power of depression, but if an individuals need is more than can be dealt with in this way, at least the support can help in the healing process.

Much of the business of life is in the daily details of relating…. and not in the boardrooms and public image. We are not machines, we are not resources to be spent, we are women. In birthing, we give much of ourselves and we need some recovery. We need encouragement and nurture in learning to love and allowing the blossoming of our maternal instincts.

That is the reality. Celebrate with the happy, embrace the despairing…. isn’t that wisdom?

Romans 12:15,16

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Be of the same mind one toward another.

Mamas

I sent out some interview questions, but I thought I would simply post them here and link when I get responses. If you are not a mother of many- that is just fine, just mold the questions to your own situation and let me know the link in the comments section. Open to whoever wants to participate!

Ready, set, go…
Continue reading Mamas

Family Matters

There are things roiling beneath my surface, and they will coalesce into later posts, for now -if you are in the temper for thinking about demanding revelations and exposures- then here is some reading matter for you.

First on the list, Greg has two entries on the role of Father. He begins with an introduction, and then moves further into his own experience and observations. while he feels “that a father’s absence seems to have the most damaging impact upon male children.” I would say that the impact for women is more like U-boat while for men it is more like a destroyer. Both carry heavy payloads, but one is more visible than the other. He also pinpoints a salient point in all this: that men in our culture often feel helpless in the face of family responsibility. “What’s important in all this, though is that the shame my father felt was not directed at me, as I perceived it was, but rather at himself for being unable to stop what happened to me.” This is not easy reading, friends.

The second article which I found via Parableman, is Off the Top’s “Stay-at-home motherhood: domestic bliss?” I’ve touched on some of her points in my own posts on the Mommy Wars, but this is one more layer.
she makes some points such as:

  • “there’s such a societal standard for appearances, it’s awfully embarrassing to be seen looking like a rag heap and needing a shower!”
  • “I [did not have time for] even basic things like being able to take a shower, trim my nails, use the bathroom without a baby hanging on me in a sling, have the house even marginally kept, have a conversation without constant distraction or interruption”
  • “Society needs to get down and dirty with the realities of motherhood, and help these heroes of our civilization out!”
  • “children need to learn not to expect Mommy to be directly attending to them constantly….that they are the center of the universe”

There is lots more there…. I think it expresses the common cry for help that women are either too ashamed to express or that they submerge in escaping altogether through saying yes to a ‘you are only worth your work” type of world.

All these things are thrown together in my mind with some of the thoughts from the “abortion” discussion. I have to tell you that it rankled me to have some male author say my thoughts ( generally addressed) were “irrelevant” because I don’t shoulder the burden of society more thoroughly. When we discuss abortion and reproduction every woman has relevant thoughts. Our voice is important. I intend to speak a little more on these things, and I don’t really care if it has little impact because I can’t manage to be a popular blog. Every voice counts, and the more consideration we give to our say, the more it adds to the dialogue. That is what I think, anyway.

Parableman spoke of a type of coercion. I think that is what woman are often subjected to in our society-maybe most societies- especially when they begin to awake from the lies prevalent in their culture. Whatever those lies are.

And hint -hint: don’t ever tell a woman like me that what we have to say is irrelevant when it impacts our lives and our families…because you have just aroused one bulldog of a reaction. Maybe it’s like that saying about “hell hath no fury….”

Maybe because there is more than one sort of fire.

Society’s message about women and their worth, its policies that impact that, the lies that damage and erode our potentials and the scope of our roles…. These all have importance of the gravest weight in our thinking, these things demand our consideration even if they are unpleasant, and contentious and difficult to untangle.

Lies I Was Told

In the discussion on parenting styles, Mommy Wars (working moms vs. SAHM), twixter woes, and related topics, I thought I would list some of the lies I was told in my own generation ( tail-end of babyboomer). They went like this:

  • Don’t have more than two or three children
  • divorce is better for the kids than unhappy parents
  • You can’t afford more than two or three children
  • Making a home doesn’t count, having a stylish home base does
  • You are only as worthwhile as the paying job you hold
  • Being with children deadens your mind
  • You have power to mold your children contrary to any other factor
  • You will not be able to wait til they are in school!
  • You will have a life again as soon as your children are in another’s care
  • Your generation is different- and better
  • Old fashioned mores aren’t applicable anymore

Those were just the ones I grew up with, after becoming a Christian I took on a few more lies:

  • Children need discipline starting early- show them who is boss by making them “cry it out”( leaving them in the crib)
  • Your children should be exemplary examples of what you can do with them
  • They, and you, need to “act right” – the way the great WE deem best
  • Christian women who ‘work’ are better than Christian women who don’t
  • Volunteer for everything you can
  • Be at church every time the door opens
  • Don’t have so many children that it crimps your volunteer availability
  • Christians who dress right and dress well and who have children who do, are better
  • Women ought to shut up- especially you

The thing is, you have to wade through lies that don’t appear to be lies …everyone else is giving their lives to the same prospects…and you are all on one great lemming run together. Along the way are interventions of revelations, stop-and-view-the-results moments, harrowing experiences of seeing other people’s lives fall apart, and some honest looks at what your Bible really says; along with reading historical accounts of people and hearing speakers that found insights into alternatives. Supported with actual results.

But sadly, those last two examples are few, most is “live and learn”. It seems the norm for humans to go through phases of reassessment. In fact, maybe all these discussions on twixters? Maybe those are the reassessments of the thirty, forty and fifty somethings of today. Who are ready to give the very best five years of their lives to raising those ungrateful kids… and then feel they deserve a grand retirement with all the frills as compensation. Like their moms and dads received.

Twixters?

But, you know, life as we have known it in the past couple decades seems like an unusual blip on the history of the generations being responsible for and to each other. There is so much out of balance that the corrections look like they will be very harsh. I hope not, but I think that it will take more honesty than the present discussion has given forth. It will take more than snarky Simonisms, tongue-clucking, and slick commentary.

Perhaps it will take a social valor we find uncommon, in finding the course and staying true- with all the sacrifice that means for our own little kingdoms and fairy tale castles in the air. I am not sure we have the heart for it, to tell the truth.

Our lies have made us so comfortable….not unlike our kids……

Twixter : Yuppy Hothouse Produce

I could be very wrong in this. Very wrong. But I was following the discussion on “Twixters” a bit and it occurred to me that it is an unlikely phenomenom for large families like mine. I think what got me started on this line of thought was this phrase “A flat screen television, it seems, takes priority over getting an apartment and growing up. Besides, I’ll bet Mom does a great load of laundry and makes a mean lasagna.” From Kay R. Daly

When you have a big family it soon becomes obvious that you can’t play housemaid to more than two or three slovenly pigs. Oops. I mean pampered princelings and princesses. It is not humanly possible…. without making sure that at some point it is over. But the Yuppy lifestyle of fawning parenting along with a schedule that would drive presidents mad doesn’t allow for time or will to suffer stand-offs or mistake-laden training sessions in growing up.

However, in saying that, I must also say this: I read through the little list of parenting tips by Daly and I don’t know if she has any children past pre-school age, but I have to beg to differ with her. Some of her advice was a bit sophomoric. If that is all it takes to raise kids right more of us would have had an easier time of it.

It isn’t all the parents fault.

Although some of it is. And that goes back to my submission that each generation buys into certain lies and needs to get themselves out of that entanglement and onto a proven track.

You see I have raised children that are now in that Twixter generation, and they have struggled, though only one to the point of returning home for a temporary retooling of life choices. My kids were raised with hard work and having to earn their own way. They have been putting themselves through those overpriced educations and they have been taking care of their own expenses…since age 18. I don’t completely recommend that, but if you had drill-sargent me as a mom you would’ve seen that as freedom and paradise, too.

I am not raising the younger children with as much vinegar stringency as those first five. I have had to work very hard to strengthen ties and give guidance to my older ones… they would have accepted it better if I had not bought into such silly ideas as “letting babies sleep through the night”, and “first time obey”. Not all children are so compliant; boy, I wish I could have put someone with that idea for just one week in my household in those years. I had children that would have broken that idea quickly. I have a better suggestion: get the parents on the same page about how those children should be trained, and what is expected. Start there.

Earliest mothering needs to be intuitively felt along…. and completely supported by those closest to the mom. That doesn’t happen as much as it should and that is how you raise tiny babies…. Babies need pure love and as much as you can muster.

The lie that women just need quality rather than quantity time with their children…that there can be absentee parents and well adjusted children- I don’t believe it. I haven’t seen it. There are families that are bound together in united work ethics or causes… those can work and things like that, but if you aren’t bonded in some way, don’t kid yourself. Humans of good character and ability do not just happen. They are nurtured, somehow, someway.

But back to the Twixters…. I maintain that if we will not take a good hard look at our own misconceptions we sure won’t do much to rectify theirs… I think Jesus said something along that line:

First remove the beam from your own eye…. and then you will be ready to remove the splinter from anothers.

From generation to generation some things don’t change….

Twixters?

Vodkapundit, Steve Green is bemoaning -albeit apologetically- Kids Today. And he has company in linked Ed Driscoll‘s blog.

They, drawing off a Times essay on Twixters feel that children are overindulged into staying immature and irresponsible. That societal shifts have created a new and mystic environment.

I say it is the same old dilemmas dressed in new clothes. And my! What a wardrobe of fantasy garments are available.

The challenge for each new generation is to decipher their particular form of cultural lies that they are asked to buy into; but other than that, the themes of finding meaning, purpose, and belonging are quite familiar in the story of man.

It is just that today’s generation has been told that there are no markers to the path, and they are trying like mad to blaze a trail for themselves with marred maps and missing map legends.

So in the laundry list of parental mistakes and society’s shifts, which are the real cause for the pile of work we find before us?

How does that list look? Mostly like questions.
Continue reading Twixters?

Childhood Messages

I have been considering those childhood messages:

You are wanted.
You are loved for yourself.
You are seen for who you are.
Your needs are not a problem
You are safe.
You will be taken care of.
You will not be betrayed.
Your presence matters.

And I am trying to come up with a plan of implementation for improving these for those children still under my roof… and those who are fledged, as well. One thing I have worked on for a couple of years now is more positive communications -both in quality and quantity. I think I need to up my efforts on that, but that is just a matter of emphasis.

What I really should have is some idea of where I have had blind spots, and how to build the breaches in the walls of inclusion and enclosure for the relationships. From the messages that I have had back over the years, it seems the two most complained about have been the “You are loved for yourself” and
“You are seen for who you are” messages. I am not sure what to do to improve those .

Still thinking.