Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Our Toolbox

Photo by Goaliej54
I think that one of the biggest hurdles to gentle discipline is that most people have grown up with the false dichotomy of choosing between spanking (or other punitive methods) or doing nothing. They don't want to be permissive, and think that the only other option is punishment. If the only tools in your    parenting toolbox are spanking, time-outs, shaming, etc, the prospect of giving them up is very scary. So what are some gentle, effective tools?

* Proactive parenting
A large amount of misbehavior can be prevented or at least dramatically reduced by meeting needs before they become a problem. As an adult, *my* behavior tends to be less than optimal if I am tired, hungry, thirsty, bored, etc. Many potential meltdowns can be headed off with a snack, a change in activity, adequate rest, etc. Another part of proactive parenting means that instead of just reacting to problems, we teach our children appropriate behavior first. It sounds simple, but sometimes our children honestly don't know what they are supposed to do. Don't leave them to flounder! Set them up for success by teaching them what they should do.

* Play
Children love to learn through play. Role-playing games can be a tremendous way to practice appropriate ways of handling conflicts or unfamiliar situations, to model empathy, and to build a connection with children. Finding a fun way to do something can make unpleasant times much better for everyone. Get silly with them!

* Stories
Most kids love to hear stories. You can easily work in your own values without being overly preachy as you create characters that are learning the skills you want your children to develop. It is no surprise that Jesus told stories so often. It is a great way to open up further conversations, too.

* Equip them for big emotions
Many of us grew up where the only safe emotions to express were happy ones. It is so important to give out children healthy ways to express all feelings, including anger, sadness, frustration and so on. There are many healthy ways for our kidlets to express these. Words are one way, of course, but often words are inadequate. Dances--happy, sad, angry, wild--are beautiful ways to get those feelings out. Art work is another. My little ones would think of animals and tell me they were stomping like an elephant or roaring like a dinosaur. Building a comfort corner--a safe, soothing and comfortable place where they can retreat while they calm down--may help.

* Clear direction
So often we give vague advice ("Be careful") or a litany of don'ts without actually expressing in clear, understandable terms what we *do* want our children to do. There is research that shows that many children, especially at younger ages, do not even mentally process the "no" of a negative command. Even for mature minds, if I tell you "Don't think about crocodiles!", chances are, you are going to think about them even if you had no reason to before. Also, a long list is easily tuned out. Break things down to smaller steps, and wait before the next one if necessary.

* Redirect
We are so conditioned to saying no that we often overlook alternatives. If your toddler is hitting, teach them to give high-fives. If they are throwing things in a dangerous way, give them something soft like a rolled up sock or take them to a place where they can do it safely. We can find ways to honor their God-given need to explore and experiment that also honor our boundaries.

* Environmental controls
We try to structure the environment to set them up for success. When they are tiny, that means baby-proofing; as they get older, it can take other forms. Some people I know object strongly to this on the grounds that children need to learn to adapt to the adult environment. Eventually, they do. However, if we had an adult family member with physical or mental limitations, we would do everything in our power to make the environment comfortable and welcoming, and remove obstacles. Setting up an environment that takes into account the abilities of our children is part of them being members of our family.

* Listening
Are there ever times when you feel overwhelmed and your day seems to spiral out of control? Have you ever felt the relief of just having someone listen sympathetically and understand, even if they didn't change your circumstances? Our children need active listening, too. Often the relief of being able to get it all out without getting judgment or a lecture or even advice in response helps them to manage their big feelings.

* Connection
This may not seem like a discipline tool, but it is vital. Are *you* more likely to cooperate with people whom you feel a deep, loving connection, or those who seem to be critical, disapproving, angry or too hurried to pay attention to you? Filling a little one's love cup goes a long way towards empowering them to be able to act the way they should. If a child is begging for attention through their behavior, give them attention! Love and attention are not rewards we dole out for perfect behavior. They are legitimate needs, just as important as food, water and air. Also, I've seen people tell a child who is busily engaged in an activity instructions from across a room and then be surprised or angered that the child ignored them. I know that I get very focused on what I am doing and sometimes inadvertently tune out people around me. Make sure that you are connected and that they are actively listening!

* The Golden Rule
At the core of our parenting philosophy is treating our children the way we would like to be treated. In moments of frustration, if I pause and try to look at things from their point of view, I have been surprised at the insight I gain into their behavior and motivation. Looking at the root of the issue and not just the outward behavior is so important. Even when my actions and reactions would be different from theirs because of our individuality, they recognize when I am trying to look at their perspective and appreciate that.

* Rewind
If whining, unkind words, or other issues arise, it can be helpful to offer "do-overs" (for both of you!). and give the opportunity to reframe it in a better way. A bit of silliness helps, too. My kidlets tend to love verbal play, and suggesting that a whined, "Mo-om, I want some water!" be transformed into, "My beauteous mother, I would experience great pleasure and gratitude if you were to procure for me a small container with a liquid containing two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen," would give us both the giggles. (Of course, by the time they could actually say that they could get their own water, but you get the idea. :))

Get Off Your Bum. This is hard, I know. It seems much easier to say things and repeat yourself over and over until you get mad and punish, or ignore the behavior. If your words are to really have meaning, though, it will often mean that you have to get up and redirect or use other tools. And, honestly, it saves both time and emotional energy.

* Help
This can be loaded, of course, but for us it just means that we help. If one of the kidlets needs to do something and doesn't, we offer assistance. This doesn't mean doing the task *for* them, but rather doing it *with* them. If there are boundaries that need to be enforced, we help them do that without shaming.

*Brainstorm together
It is amazing how cooperative and creative children can be. If we explain our boundaries and needs, they can often help us find ways that all of us can be happy. This is an incredibly valuable life-skill, too. It encourages thinking outside the box and care and respect for everyone.

* Natural/Logical consequences
I almost hate to mention this because so often the consequences I hear about are neither natural nor logical, just thinly disguised punishment. A natural consequence happens without your intervention--a child doesn't wear a jacket and might get cold. A logical consequence is clearly related--if a child gets so overwhelmed with the amount of toys that they can't keep them picked up, some might be put away for awhile. I don't think logical consequences are fair to a child who is too young to understand logic, but I think that some degree of natural and logical consequences can be helpful at times. It is important to check your motives--are you trying to make them miserable, or are you helping them to learn? How, exactly, will it help? Is it respectful or vengeful?

* Understanding and patience
While boundaries are important, so is an understanding of child development. No matter how you approach some things, whether you spank of not, a three year old is still going to be three. Knowing what to realistically expect can save you both a lot of grief. Also, even though children learn at a remarkable speed, few of us can master any new skill without practice. Many things will have to be repeated over and over and over. That is just part of the learning process. We recognize it with math, reading, writing and many other things; it is true of character and behavioral skills, too.

* Avoid foolish consistency
Parents have been taught that we must be consistent and follow through with everything, or we won't win. In real life, this is usually just stupid. Do we really want to teach our children to never reconsider a decision, even when they are wrong? I make mistakes sometimes. Part of being honest and responsible means owning up to it and making it right. I've had to apologize to my children more than once. There have been times when I've changed my mind because I reacted hastily and upon further thought realized that my response wasn't the best. I'm not suggesting we give in to every tantrum or anything like that, but if you reflect on it and realize that you said no without a real reason or that you responded harshly, by all means be honest and correct your mistake.

* Example
Kids learn from what we do, both positive and negative. How often have you seen even babies mimic gestures or expressions that you may not have even been aware that they observed? If we lack self-control, and yell, hit/spank when we don't get our way, lie (either to avoid some undesirable consequence or to manipulate others), call names/shame them, refuse to share, pout and gripe when we don't get what we want immediately, or snatch things away from them, why shouldn't they do the same things to others? On the other side, they absorb a lot of positive things just by watching us. We never forced our children to say "please" and "thank you", but they were all saying it fairly consistently before they were two, just because they were used to hearing it.

* What about rewards, praise, etc? Aren't they part of positive discipline?
Many parents incorporate things like reward charts, prizes, praise and so on into their toolbox. Personally, I tend to think that they are just the flip side of punishment if the intention is to manipulate. We do occasionally point out to our kids the positive results of their choices ("Wow--you guys helped pick up the living room so quickly. We have extra time for the park now." "Thanks for being so polite and cooperative at the bookstore today. It makes me really enjoy taking you places.") We tell them on a daily basis how much we love and like them, but that isn't contingent on their performance. We've also found that specific observations ("Hey, you did that all by yourself!" or "I noticed you remembered to put that back in the fridge when you were finished--thanks") seem to mean more to them than a generic "Good job!". YMMV.

I have been blessed with many wise parents in my life who share their ideas when I get stuck. There are message boards such as Gentle Christian Mothers or the Gentle Discipline Forum at Mothering.com and others where parents are happy to give specific tools that worked for them if you post the situations that are causing discord in your family. Prayer and teaching our children God's Word is at our foundation, and is not just a discipline response, but part of our outlook on all issues. Obviously, we are still in the learning process, just as our children are. Even when we know better, we still make mistakes, and I am sure that there are plenty of things we don't know yet! Grace is for all of us. Adding new tools to our parenting tool box has helped, though, both with short term issues and in giving us greater perspective on long term issues. I would love to hear about the tools that you have, too!


After writing this, I began a series of unpacking and expanding each of the tools.  You can open up the toolbox with me here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting our good side

Have you ever noticed how different people can bring out such distinct aspects of your personality? I was talking with a good friend whose daughter is about the same age as Elena. She was telling me how several people consider her little girl to be clingy and overly-dependent. I know she wasn't making it up, but it still made me shake my head in wonder. We go to bookstores, the aquarium and other places with the kidlets fairly often, and her little one is always cheerful and plays happily with all of us. Our favorite places have a section with long aisles that have very low traffic, and she'll giggle and take off in typical toddler fashion and run around. Sure, she loves her mommy and always comes back before she gets out of sight, but I just don't see the clinginess those others see.

On the other hand, I have noticed that my own darlings respond very differently to some people, too. We go out all the time to the library, grocery shopping, parks, zoo, sometimes restaurants, wherever, and we frequently get compliments on their behavior. They are usually calm, polite, interact well with other kids and follow my instructions easily. However, there are a few relatives that for reasons I cannot fathom, somehow bring out total wildness. It horrifies me. I don't understand it, but as soon as they are in sight, the very worst side of my sweetlings comes out--and suffice it to say, they are the general opposite of calm, polite, interacting well with others, or compliant. It is terribly embarrassing, and there is nothing I can say to the effect that they are not always like that (in fact, rarely like that!) because it happens every. single. time. we are around them. I've talked to the kids to no avail.

As aggravating as it is (and I am still working on it with them), I can think of people that I know that somehow spark similar issues with me. For years, I would get around certain family members and revert back to feeling (and sometimes acting) incredibly childish. Around one friend, I suddenly began to complain and gripe about all kinds of things, even those that didn't really bother me. Conversely, I have been around some people that bring such refreshing to my spirit that I find myself full of peace and more confident just by spending time with them.

It would be tempting to blame my reactions on the individuals who seem to bring it out, but as I thought about common denominators, the people who seemingly provoke good or bad reactions are mostly wonderful people whom I like and respect. It isn't a flaw in their character or anything like that. The closest I could come to any kind of classification was that those who seemed to like and accept me the most seemed to bring out my good side.

My friends are a pretty diverse group. They come from many different cultures and backgrounds, and fall all over the spectrum in terms of religious views, parenting, politics and everything else. Most of them have significant areas where we are polar opposites, but our affection for each other bridges that. Even when we disagree strongly on things, our relationship remains strong as long as we each feel genuinely liked and respected by the other.

There are some people in my life where I get an underlying sense that they disapprove of me or don't like me. Even when there is nothing overt in their actions to indicate that, my perception causes me to bristle up and get nervous or uncomfortable. Then I freeze up or get weird. (Note: if I freeze up or get weird around you, that doesn't necessarily mean anything. It isn't always because of this).

It makes sense to me that in some situations our kids might also react from embarrassment or feeling unsure of themselves or of our approval. Maybe that brings out more childish behavior in them. Perhaps we can help them get on the good side by helping them to feel more accepted and liked by us. It is hard to do in the moment, I admit, especially when the behaviors are very unlikeable. And of course, we still need boundaries. However, boundaries can be firm without causing shame.

One of Joel's favorite sayings is, "I love you and I like you all day and all night (i.e., forever)". We also adapted the line from, "I'll Love You Forever," (which always makes me teary, even though some of the stuff when he is an adult weirds me out a bit) and tell each other, "I'll love you forever and like you for always." I think everyone desperately needs a safe place where they are unconditionally accepted. I think it brings out our good side.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hurry Up and Slow Down

We had such a fun day today. I woke up early and got a sudden inspiration: today would be a perfect day to take the kidlets to the zoo. We hadn't been in a couple of years, mainly because it costs money and is a bit of a drive. The kids have been studying animals so much lately that I knew they would enjoy it (and I could consider it part of our home-schooling activities). It's funny--on big things, I tend to obsess and research and think about them for ages before coming to a conclusion. On little things, especially ideas for something fun, I tend to leap into spontaneous actions, and get really frustrated if there are any obstacles, even when I know I am being unreasonable.

I was excited about the idea of the zoo, and impatient to get started. Joel and Elena woke up first, and Joel asked to make muffins for breakfast. As I've mentioned before, the sweetlings get involved with just about every meal. I know that it would be more efficient to do it myself, but I work at having patience. Joelito was in that same boat today. He decided to make special whole-wheat cherry banana muffins, but Elena insisted on helping. They mashed the bananas together, he sweetly helped her as she measured all the ingredients and then tried to mix them (thankfully, the random amounts that spilled out of the bowl didn't negatively affect the taste of the muffins!). He was able to help her without too much thwarting of her burgeoning independence, and they were pronounced yummy by all.

Then all three jumped in the van and the older two buckled themselves up and waited. Elena, however, was completely naked, and it took a few minutes to get her clothed. I grabbed drinks and snacks, and we took off. Once we arrived, we experienced more tempo disparity. Joel wanted to go straight to the crocodiles, and got more and more impatient at the other exhibits. Ariana loved to linger and read the info for each animal. Elena does not particularly like her stroller, so unless we were going fast, she tried to climb out. I was reminded several times by the kidlets that my legs are longer than theirs and that it is harder for them to keep up. In the back of my mind, I had the idea that we needed to get out money's worth by seeing the whole thing and had to fight the temptation to go through parts just so that we could say we had done it.

With several deep breaths and frequent internal reminders that all we were there to do was to have fun, we managed to enjoy the day tremendously. The kids spent far more time than I would have admiring the little yellow goslings. Ariana got to see the king snakes, copperheads and rattlesnakes. We had a fun time at the petting zoo (Elena was disappointed that she didn't get to spend more time with the sheep, although whenever one made a noise or moved she jumped and stepped back). Lunch was good and followed by lots of time at the playground.

We were there about three and a half hours, and I could tell that we were all reaching the saturation point, even though there were tons of animals and things that we hadn't gone through yet. Joel was bitterly disappointed to find out the the croc exhibit was temporarily closed. However, there was balm in Gilead--as we wearily made our way to the exit, we paused for a ride on the carousel. Joel rode on a crocodile, much to his delight; Ariana found a rhino, and Elena, who absolutely adores merry-go-rounds, was thrilled with her horsie.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. It got me to thinking, though, about how often we want to either speed things up or slow them down and how much energy and time that wastes. "Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God," ~ Jim Elliot

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Our Family Today

In previous posts, I've tried to describe our family and what all we've been up to, but since it has been a little while, I thought I'd give you a little snapshot of each of us, and anything new that has been going on.

My Amado: He has been very busy! This week, the new Hispanic Center that he is coordinating opened. I was so proud of him as I got to meet his coworkers and see all the people who were attending. We are all really excited about the opportunity. It is going to mean a lot more work on top of his full teaching schedule, but he loves new challenges, and is enjoying it already. I have the sense that this is going to lead to even bigger things, and I am full of anticipation.

Me: Now that the nausea is past, I am in the fun part of pregnancy. I feel huge--much bigger than in previous pregnancies, but not terribly uncomfortable. Allergies, however, are kicking my tail. I have had a few killer sinus headaches, and they always bring out the worst in me. Last night I was screaming at the kids to settle down and be quiet and realized that I was not modeling the behavior I wanted them to emulate. I am glad that grace is for moms, too! Teaching is going well. I have three classes for summer, so the month before the baby arrives will be super-full, but I am grateful for them.

I am looking forward to the birth and getting to meet this little person inside me! I don't have adequate words to express how grateful I am to my midwife, or how peaceful and joyful I feel about the homebirth. I'm still reading everything I can find on it. I enjoyed the Your Best Birth book (by the same people who did The Business of Being Born). In a quick sweep of the library, I had grabbed a book on having an easier labor, expecting it to have info on nutrition, exercises and stuff like that. I didn't read the whole thing, but the gist of it seemed to be to never, under any circumstances question the hospital policies or the deities in charge (any and all medical personnel) and get an early epidural like a good little girl. Um, yeah. Not exactly helpful, and I have no idea why they wrote a whole book on it. Going back to reading my Ina May books, and thinking of ordering a Sheila Kitzinger book with my next Amazon reward certificate.

I don't feel all that peace and joy at the moment about out church situation. Instead, I am really torn. I don't want to look for a new church or leave our current one, but we do need something to change. Interestingly, my two closest friends had both independently decided to visit another church in our area at the same time. I think we are going to join them! It may not be a better fit, but I know that being with my special sisters will be refreshing for me.

Ariana: She is growing up so fast! The Ames and Ilg books talk a lot about equilibrium/disequilibrium on half years. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with it, but last year I was getting concerned because she seemed sooooo timid and so willing to do what anyone else, particularly Joel, wanted her to do, regardless of her own inclinations. She has snapped out of that with a vengeance! The last several weeks I feel as though I am continually admonishing her to be quieter, not to mess other people's things, be considerate of her siblings, and all sorts of other things that wouldn't have even crossed my mind last year. I am glad that she seems to be finding her balance there, though.

She has recently discovered the Lord of the Rings movies, and absolutely loves them. This is the kid who usually gets scared by anything--commercials, passing comments, things that would never phase Joel. I thought the orcs, uruk hai and fight scenes would be way too intense for her, but nope. She hasn't been scared once! Although she did confide that Gollum disturbed her far more than any of the other creatures, and that his eyes are creepy, he doesn't frighten her.

School is going well. We are almost finished with the state objectives for first grade, though she is technically supposed to be in K still. Writing, art and music could use a bit more work, but she is ahead in reading and science. Math is going well, although she is still working on the last part of first grade stuff.

Joel: Ah, my little sweetie-bops! I have been exceedingly grateful that during Ariana's more intense stages he seems to grow a little more laid-back, and vice versa. He is super affectionate and loving, and seems to have a knack for having other people like him. He is very rule-oriented right now, and seriously recites expectations whenever we go anywhere. He will gravely tell me that we should all stay together and not run away, that we need to use quiet voices, and that we must all hop like bunnies or wiggle our tails like little fishies as we walk to and from the car. He still likes to cuddle close while sleeping, and makes sure that he is snuggled up to somebody every night.

He is very media-focused. I should probably limit things there a bit more, but he is so physically active that it is easy for me to brush off my concerns. He loves video games and Sponge Bob. He is extremely good at the games and can even beat Carlos some times, and me frequently. Maybe he will be a game developer when he gets older!

Elena: She, too, is growing up ridiculously fast (yeah, I know, they all do). She won't be two for a few months, and I had planned to wait another six months or so before any potty training to give her a little time to adjust to the baby, etc. However, we switched from cloth diapers to disposables when my nausea was so bad, and either she decided she did not like them, or perhaps she was just ready. Anyway, she has been consistently using the toilet for the last couple of weeks, and the last few nights has woken up dry and asked to go to the bathroom instead! Whoohoo! I wasn't going to pressure her, but I have no intentions of trying to hold her back, either!

She has been using sentences for several months, but her speech isn't always clear to me, and I know she gets extremely frustrated if I don't understand. Her personality is not nearly as mellow as the other two. She is either very happy and smothering you with kisses, or she is furious. Her tantrums are terrible and awesome to behold. Before she was born, I knew she would be a warrior, and she has left no doubt about her capacities in that area. She is incredibly tender with babies, though. Ariana never played with dolls (although she loved Carlos' old action figures), and Joel only played with them briefly. Elena loves dolls, though, and carries them around, kisses them constantly, offers them leche, and screams and attacks Joel if he even looks like he might bother them (in typical big brother fashion, he has learned that pretending to tickle her dolls evokes a very exciting response and teases her with it). She adores her new baby cousin, and gently strokes his and kisses him.

About a month ago she broke out in a terrible rash. I thought it was in response to a few bites of pastry I had eaten that contained eggs. I've been diligent about avoiding, though, and while it is better, it still hasn't gone away. Her face is pretty clear, but her tummy, sides, and the backs of her knees are still pretty bad. She has been tested before, and almost nothing showed up, so I don't know what to eliminate. We haven't used any new soaps/detergents/etc or introduced new foods. I hate not knowing how to help!

Like everyone, we have our ups and downs, but I am so incredibly grateful for the family I have and for the amazing grace that God has shown us.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A fashion rant

Those of you who know me in real life are probably giggling incredulously already. I am one of the least qualified people in the world to demonstrate any knowledge of or regard for fashion. Until I graduated from college, I basically lived in baggy T-shirts and jeans. Once I began teaching, my wardrobe was a simple rotation of black and khaki slacks with some solid colored blouses. I could probably sum things up by saying that my interest in shoes is so minimal that the only heels I have are ones my mother passed on to me about 14 years ago, and that they have been supplemented by a pair of brown sandals and one of black for summer, as well as a pair each of black and brown boots for winter (the brown boots were also given to me, around twelve years ago).

I appreciate other people who dress well. I am not sure exactly what caused my own fashion sense to become so terribly stunted. I could blame homeschooling, or not having extra money to keep up with trends while I was growing up, but I've met many homeschooled and/or not-wealthy families that are stylishly dressed. I think it is something similar to my issue with depth perception. I just don't have an eye that puts things together that way.

So what has aroused my ire? Maternity clothes. Now, I know that if I were willing to shop at better stores (aka pay more money) I would have more options. But, this is most likely my last pregnancy, and I don't particularly want to invest a lot of money in clothes that I will only wear for a few months. I've been able to use a lot of stuff that I had before, but two of the previous pregnancies ended in winter, and I am not the same size as I was in the summer one. At home, I tend to wear extra large mens' T-shirts and sleep pants, but unfortunately, that is not considered acceptable professional attire for work. With the warm weather I've been looking for short-sleeved shirts, and my temperature has risen even higher.

I found a few blouses that had nice fabric and colors that I liked OK, but the cut! They resembled doll clothes from several decades past. I tried a couple on and looked like an extremely large two year old. Puffy little sleeves, ruffles, bows--ick. I found some others that had a more adult style, but it was a bit...too adult. Perhaps I should add that I am extremely generously endowed across the bosom. Lactation has nothing to do with size, but if it did, I could nurse septuplets with ease. I am used to having to adjust for that. As I tried on top after top in assorted sizes, they either had weird lines that came only half way down my chest, bisecting my boobs horizontally, or they were so low cut that I could have breastfed my kidlets without even adjusting my shirt at all. Yes, I am an outspoken lactavist, but I don't need to be virtually topless to do it! I even found several shirts that managed to combine all three offenses--baby doll touches with a plunging neckline still meant for someone with smaller breasts.

Finally, I just started looking in the plus size section. Some of the same problems were present there, too, of course, but I found two very reasonably priced blouses that fit perfectly and were comfortable. It was a start, at least. I need another pair of pants, though. I have a black pair that fit, but need a brown or beige pair. Who knows, maybe I might get wild and branch out. Anyone want to be a fashion consultant for me? Allow me to add that if you nominate me for What Not to Wear, I would be far more grateful than humiliated. :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's a Girl!

We didn't get our ultrasound until Good Friday, because it is difficult to get a diagnostic ultrasound without using a traditional OB. However, my doctor is a big fan of homebirth (had 11 nieces and nephews born at home! :)) and was happy to order one for me.

Carlos was off, so we all got to go together. Baby wasn't cooperating too much positionally at first, so it took a little longer than I had anticipated. Having read about some of the possible dangers of ultrasound, I was thinking of actually telling her not to worry about gender and just do the essentials. She got everything she needed (and was surprised as Ariana read the captions for the cerebellum and other shots). Then Baby flipped around and she declared that we are having a little girl.

In every pregnancy so far, other people have seemed to be much more emotionally invested in the gender of the baby than Carlos or I. We accept the baby for whoever he or she is from the beginning and avoid focusing too much on whether it is a boy or girl until we know. (Of course, we have one of each, which makes that easier). The funny thing is, this time, more than any other, we all kind of had the impression that it was going to be a boy. It is the first time that we have been surprised.

Don't get me wrong--we are delighted with another girl, too. But it did remind me that one of the first things that I feel like God spoke to me about this baby is that there would be some surprises. So now, is the surprise that we were wrong, or that the ultrasound was wrong (or incorrectly interpreted, or whatever)?

I don't know, but we will be happy regardless of the outcome. We had already decided on Rafael for a boy (middle name uncertain, but we were leaning toward Alejandro). For a girl, Carlos loves the name Anastacia, I like Graciela, and we both really like Eliana (although with Ariana and Elena already, Eliana may be a bit much of a muchness). Suggestions are always welcome!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Wanted: A Shepherd who Welcomes Bleating Lambs

Photo by A Roger Davies on Flickr
I have been faced with a dilemma, and still haven't found a solution. I know that I am not alone--at least two other families we know have a similar situation. I love our pastors. I love our church. It was a great fit for us. The problem is that we are torn between two deeply held convictions and are having difficulty resolving them.

One of our beliefs is that our children's experience of church should not be a time of fear, sadness and separation. We've been hearing since they were born that all we need to do is leave them in the nursery, let them cry for awhile and eventually they will figure out that their cries are pointless and stop. That just doesn't mesh with the way God has treated us as His children, and we don't feel comfortable doing that to our babies.

Aside from the CIO part, all of our kids have food allergies, and there have been times when we would have a reaction from simply playing with Play-Doh. The idea of a Cheerio or animal cracker falling on the floor and being picked up by a toddler who will immediately ingest it is not just a germaphobe issue for us.

Additionally, while there are people whom we know and love working with the kids, there are also some that we either don't know or wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable in charge of our children. Several times in the toddler room I observed one of the scheduled workers screaming at a child under 18 months and hitting her repeatedly. I later learned it was her daughter, but that was still absolutely unacceptable to me. (I did speak with one of the church leaders, who told me that it was explicitly against the policy, but I observed it a few times afterwards).

One of the other policies is that unless you are a scheduled worker, you can't stay with your child. I understand where they are coming from, but that means there is no place for parents to be with small children. We do have a small nursing moms' room, but it gets crowded quickly and also means that my husband cannot do any of the care.

Our older kids are maturing enough that they can sit quietly in the service with us or go to a class on their own, but Elena is not quite two, and would be disruptive to others in the main service, but still wants to be with us.

It isn't just about toddlers, of course. We know of people who have mental or physical disabilities that would also cause them or their caregivers to be uncomfortable in a regular service.

So what is the alternative? We want fellowship with other believers. We want to be fed. We think a great idea would be a separate family room with a live feed of the service where a little more noise and movement would not distract others. Unfortunately, we lack facilities (or possibly it isn't a priority).

What to do?