Sunday, February 27, 2011

GD as a Second Language

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline!

This post was selected as one of the Crème de la Crème of gentle discipline blogging! Click on the image to view more Crème de la Crème posts!
If you have ever learned another language, then you are especially equipped to understand the learning curve for gentle discipline when it was not the language you grew up speaking.  Most of us grew up speaking punitive parenting.  After several years, we became fluent in shame and punishment.  The thought patterns were so ingrained that we could respond automatically.  Then, as we became parents ourselves, we decided to learn a new language--one of respect, empathy, and peace.

Learning a second language is challenging.  Some people will find that they have an aptitude for it--it seems pretty easy for them, especially if they were exposed to a lot of gentle discipline in childhood.  Others will find that it takes tremendous effort.  Either way, it is possible to become fluent in GD.  It just takes commitment and a lot of work.

In the beginning, there is the challenge of learning a new vocabulary.  Many start off with basic phrases, like greetings and so on.  Then they start to memorize numbers and the alphabet.  In the same way, you can give yourself a script of some of the basics in gentle discipline, or some of the situations that you most frequently encounter.  Believe it or not, the most basic things are often some of the most difficult to master, because they are so deeply embedded in our thought patterns.  I love Naomi Aldort's SALVE for this:

Along with the new vocab, it is important to learn the structure.  If you can grasp the patterns for verb conjugation, you can learn the language.   In Spanish, that means dropping the ending from the infinitive of the verb so that you have the root, and then adding a new ending to indicate the subject.  In GD, it means getting rid of the old ending to actions, and finding the root of the issue.  Once you know what the true subject is, you can add a new ending to reflect that.  Each new tense has new endings to learn, but once you grasp the basic principles, you can adapt much more easily.

Books are helpful, of course.  In the beginning, they can help you learn grammar and vocab, and as you begin to read more and more books in the target language, you start to pick up on more subtle nuances, more colloquial phrases, and usage patterns.  Reading books on GD can be very helpful, both in the beginning to show you the basics and as you progress, to deepen your understanding and expand your toolbox.

In order to really become fluent, though, you need to immerse yourself in the language.  Speak it every chance you get.  Listen to it daily.  Surround yourself with native speakers, if you can.  If you are around people who speak your first language all the time, it is incredibly difficult not to go back to it.  In the same way, it is extremely hard to practice GD if you are constantly hearing and seeing punitive parents.  Do everything you can to immerse yourself in GD--give yourself daily exposure.  Listen to gentle, nonviolent words--if you don't have real life friends to practice with, find GD models on the internet or wherever else you can. 

Move past translation into whole thoughts.  Most students start off trying to translate the language.  It is understandable, but much of the time, it doesn't work.  I once had a student tell me that on the weekends, he and his friends get a little wild.  He put it through an online translator, and came up with, "Mis amigos y yo obtenemos un pequeño salvaje."  (My friends and I obtain a small savage.)  With gentle discipline, if you are trying to translate it through a punitive program, you will wind up frustrated, looking for "consequences" that will make your children feel bad enough to change their behavior.  Even if your words are GD, it won't work until you change your very thought patterns.

Never allow fear of embarrassment to keep you from speaking.  If you are unsure of your skills in the target language, it is extremely difficult to force yourself to speak in public.  If you are in a publicly embarrassing situation with your child, GD suddenly becomes a hundred times harder.  You fear the judgment of those around you if it doesn't come out as smoothly as you would wish.  Remember that how you respond to your child's actions is far more important than how your child is acting.

Practice, practice, practice.  Every moment is a possibility.  Be intentional.  Study in advance--don't just show up on test day and wing it.  Chances are good that you will fail the test unless you are constantly practicing.  Don't wait until you are angry and frustrated--work on things before they get to that point.

Overcome discouragement.  Learning a new language is often discouraging.  It takes time.  If you have spent an entire lifetime immersed in punitive parenting, it is unlikely that you will be completely fluent in GD in a matter of days.  I've spoken Spanish and English for years, and still make mistakes in both.  Even  native speakers screw up from time to time--how much more those who are still learning the language!   Don't allow the occasional misstep to make you decide to go back to your original language.  Sometimes parents get frustrated and want to bounce back to punitive parenting.  (And, FYI, speaking punishment louder won't make you better understood.)  Apologize and try again.  If you look at your progress objectively, you will be able to see how far you have come!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Lesson from my Petite Chef

After the post on taking her desire to cook seriously and giving her more responsibilities and freedoms in that area, Ariana has gone to town.  This morning, I mixed up some pancake batter, but left it because the baby was fussy.  I walked into the kitchen, and she was happily frying up pancakes.

I am, to put it mildly, a bit of a control freak.  I noticed that she dripped a little batter.  That she was starting to flip a couple of them too soon.  That a different angle with the spatula would be easier for her.  I opened my mouth to tell her.  Then the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge.

None of the things I wanted to say was harsh or insulting.  I wanted to "help".  But in spite of my motivations, I could see it play out in my mind, just as it had played out in my past, with the radiant sparkle in her eyes dying down just a bit with each word of advice or correction until all the luster was dulled.  I took a deep breath.

She looked a little worried.  "Mom?  I messed up on a couple of these."  I smiled and told her that I did that sometimes, too.  In fact, it is a known rule among chefs that the first pancakes just don't turn out quite as good as the rest of the batch.  They were fine.  The anxious look faded and I received a blinding smile.  And you know what?  She was able to see for herself what she needed to do to make the next ones better.  I strongly suspect that most of the time, pointing out flaws is not particularly enlightening.  In my experience, most of the time people are already aware of the flaws, and encouragement is more constructive than criticism.  But, oh, how hard it is not to mention what could be better!

I left her to finish up, and when I returned, she had sliced bananas on top of the remaining pancakes and had dusted them with nutmeg.  Forgetting all that I had just learned, I asked her if she thought that the nutmeg might be too overpowering since it has such a pungent flavor.  She stood by her product.  I tried one, and had to apologize.  She had used a light touch, and instead of overpowering, it perfectly accented the banana.  They were delicious!  Oh, me of little faith.  All of the crunch of a waffle, but tender inside, yummy flavors.

Even more than a hot breakfast that I didn't have to cook, what I got out of this morning was another lesson in trust, in letting go, in being thankful, in moving past perfectionism, in joy, and in keeping my mouth shut.  It seems that I need this lesson far more than my seven year old needs a cooking class.  Thankfully, I have a patient and loving teacher.

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Passionate Petite Chef

 I had an argument with my seven year old today.  I wanted her to get out her schoolbooks.  She dawdled.  She sighed.  I pushed and pressured.  She balked.  I threatened.  Not my finest hour, by any means.  Here I am trying to coerce her into learning, when I keep having to repeat my own lessons over and over!  I breathed.  I questioned and listened.  She burst out with what she really wanted to do.  Eyes glowing, she told me how much she really wanted to cook something.
The apron was a gift from her bisabuela. :)

Since she was two, my first born has been telling me she wants to be a chef.  This is probably in part because of my reliance on the Food Network when she was small.  The TV was often on as background noise (I know, I know), and it was one of the few channels that Carlos and I both enjoyed that was always age-appropriate for the little ones.  Before he was even two years old, she and Joelito were staging epic Iron Chef battles.

Furthermore, she comes from a long line of good cooks on both sides.  I was born in Puebla, which at least guarantees that I will enjoy good food.  My mother and both grandmothers were excellent cooks.  My adopted grandma from England loved to cook and loved to share that with me.  She always encouraged me to have fun and experiment.  My inlaws are from Mexico and Puerto Rico, and make fabulous food.

Ariana was diagnosed with food allergies as soon as she turned three.  We had to eliminate wheat, corn, eggs, dairy, peanuts, olives (and EVOO), and green beans.   I had to start cooking everything from scratch, because there really isn't much available when it comes to processed food that doesn't contain at least one of those allergens.  I was also appalled at how clueless most people were about food.  I would explain that she had a wheat allergy and they would insist that she could eat bread or pasta because it was white, not wheat.  Or that butter didn't count as dairy.  I wanted to make sure that she knew what was in food first hand from an early age.  So pretty much from the time she could stand on a chair, she (and later each of her siblings), has been helping me in the kitchen.

Today, after listening to her desire, I reminded myself that this is one of the reasons that we homeschool.  She went to the computer and began looking up culinary instruction videos.  She watched several on knife techniques and how to chop an onion.  We talked about the importance of holding her hand so that her knuckles are next to the knife, not her thumb or fingertips (thank you, Anthony Bourdain!).

Then she radiantly set about making her dish of choice, a curried chicken salad similar to the one at her favorite tea shoppe.  She pulled the chicken breasts from the freezer and thawed them.  She filled a pot 1/2 full of water, added the thawed chicken breasts and boiled them.  She drained the water, cleaned the chicken breasts and shredded them.  She chose all the extra ingredients, from poppy seeds to cilantro, and added them, thoughtfully considered then rejected the idea of raisins, tasting carefully to make sure the seasoning was just right.  Finally, she served the chicken salad on croissants.  I limited my role to that of a consultant, and let her do all the actual work.

They were good.  Really good.  In fact, Carlos wanted another one, but they were all gone!  This isn't unusual.  She made multiple dishes for Thanksgiving last year on her own, too, including a delicious corn bread dressing from scratch.  She makes desserts for us on a regular basis.  By the time she was five, she would go fire up the stove and make sincronizadas for herself and anyone else who wanted a snack. 

I think there is something in our culture that makes us want to treat children's passions with a knowing, indulgent smile and pat on the head for the sheer cuteness.  But we don't want to take them seriously right now.  We might agree that there is potential for the future, and that they have an aptitude or knack for something.  But their passions at this moment are often viewed as nothing more than frivolous play.

While the details of her future culinary career change from time to time, Ariana has been saying for the last five years that she wants to have her own restaurant (most likely a tea shoppe).  Today, as I watched her competence and pleasure, I realized that this is serious for her.  Regardless of what she may attempt in the future, this is her passion right now.   It isn't just cute to watch a barely-turned seven year old cook.  This is what she wants to do.  And instead of just indulging her in it, I am going to treat this as seriously as she does.

We agreed that from now on, she will be responsible for at least one family meal per week, and most likely an entire day's worth of meals.  We will collaborate on menu planning, she will help me purchase the ingredients, and on the days when she cooks, I will be her sous chef, limited to assisting in any way she needs, but that she will be the chef.

I am looking into culinary classes for children in our area, and plan to make sure that she is able to focus as much as she likes on cooking during our days.  I don't know what she will do in the future.  I am sure she will eat ;) but who knows whether she will ultimately choose to cook professionally.  However, regardless of what she chooses, I want her to know that I take her dreams and passions seriously, and that I have confidence in her.  She will be much more apt to believe that then if I preheat the oven for her future by taking her seriously right now.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wherein I (Mostly) Agree with the Mainstream Mags

Magazine stand
During my first couple of years of mommyhood, I eagerly read every issue of every mainstream parenting magazine out there.  I nodded along with each bland, middle of the road article.  After a few months, though, they all began to sound like reruns of the same cheesy infomercial:

Breastfeeding:  Breast is Best!  For a limited time only! (6 months.  1 year, max.)  Supplies are limited! 
(You probably won't make enough, anyway, or at the very least will want to get away some.  You also need to add rice cereal by 4-6 months.)  Go hands free!  (Make sure someone else feeds the baby once in awhile, so that they can bond, too.)

Sleep:  Are you tired of your baby sleeping like  Then you need to try our sleep training program!  Just pay three easy installments of CIO, and you will get more sleep, guaranteed! (After all, your baby doesn't really need to nurse during the night after [insert arbitrary time period] and is probably just doing it out of habit.  Of course, it is hard to listen to them cry--we aren't heartless--but we know that it is being done For Their Own Good.)  And our approach is gentler on the stomach! (We don't advocate leaving them in their vomit.  Just let them cry in gradually increasing intervals).

Punishment:  Try our diet-consequences!  Our punishment-lite has all of the flavor, none of the guilt!  Just combine one minute of time out per year of age, add a sticker chart and several "Good jobs!", apply consistently, and you will see results!  (For maximum results, add at least one meaningless choice per day--aka blue shirt vs red shirt--so that your child has the illusion of control.  Those attitudes will melt right off!)

I won't even get into the bimonthly reprint of the same article telling us that it has been thoroughly proven that the mercury in vaccines does *not* cause autism, but it is such a classic that it hasn't changed since 2004. 

But, snark aside, there is one topic that I basically agree with them on.  Surprised?  Me, too.  I won't try to read too much into that.  But with one major caveat, I agree with them on favoritism.

We all know that playing favorites hurts.  But what about when it is your child, not the parent, who plays favorites?  Despite our best efforts not to let it get under our skin, it can still sting.  In fact, one of the preferred arguments in favor of formula-feeding is that the baby will be too attached to the mom (literally) and that dad will get left out.

I've talked with a lot of moms who mention that in those first several months after becoming a parent, their husbands do feel a little left out of the loop.  The mom and baby are bonding and so focused on each other that they don't seem to need anyone else.   Sometimes the dads are hesitant to try or take any displeasure by the baby personally, and just default to letting mom care for the baby.  And some moms reinforce the dad's feelings of inadequacy through hovering, "helping", or correcting.

Our oldest daughter has always been extremely close to me.  And I suspect there were times when her toddler cries of, "Mami do it!" hurt just a bit.  It would have been easy to blame breastfeeding.  Instead, we gave them more time together and more ways to connect.

With each new child, one of my favorite things has been to watch the increased closeness that the toddlers develop with their dad.   While I try to reassure them a lot, and tandem nursing provides plenty of mami-time, they always wind up doing a lot more with Daddy. Watching him snuggle them to sleep, calm tantrums with play, and do fun things with them provides much needed peace to all of us.

I don't know if part of it is simply his increased comfort level with babies, or if it is simply a personality thing, or what, but the last two have showed a distinct preference for Daddy, even as infants.  Our seven month old squeals with delight as soon as he walks into the room and immediately raises her hands and calls, "Dadee! Dadadee!"  If he waits for more than a split second, her indignant squawk of protest makes it clear that she is outraged by the slight.  As he cuddles her, her face beams satisfaction.

When I have to work or just want to meet a friend for coffee or do some solo shopping, I am comfortable knowing that they are with him.  Does he do things differently than I would?  Sure.  That isn't a bad thing, though.  In fact, I believe that they benefit from seeing how different people handle things differently.  Flexibility is important for everyone.  There have certainly been times when a toddler told us coldly that "Daddy/Mami doesn't do it that way!" but we all learn more from that.  Sometimes the kids adjust, sometimes we do.  Either way, it is good.

So, my advice to parents going through a distinct stage of preference on the part of the child pretty much boils down to what "they" would say:  Don't take it personally.  This too shall pass.  Give both parents the opportunity to parent without you parenting the other parent.

My one deviation is that I do not think that the other parent must feed with a bottle or miss out on bonding.  Even with my marathon-nurslings, there are plenty of moments in the day for the other parent to step in and have close times with the baby.  (My personal opinion was that if one parent is handling all the input, the other can be responsible for all the out-put.  While my husband has definitely done his share of diaper duty, he isn't quite 100% behind that one, but as I said, flexibility is good.)

If this were a magazine article, I would try to tie it all up with a cute bow.  I won't, though, because I know it isn't always that easy.  I have the best possible scenario--a wonderful husband who is devoted to his kids and fully trustworthy.  He wants to be with them, and they want to be with him.  Even so, each of the kidlets has expressed favoritism at one point or another.  It isn't a competition, though, and we continue to discover in more ways that we are all on the same team.  I still need to work on a catchy commercial slogan, though.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Essentials

Relationships.  Love God, love people.  Nothing else matters.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love in the Time of...

Image by Gúnna on Flickr
Not cholera, thank God.  Just gastroenteritis.  For some reason (I suspect vaccines, but it may not be related at all), our seven year old is knocked out by every tummy bug that comes our way.  The rest of us can bounce back quickly, but it takes her forever to get over it.  This last one hit her especially hard.  Hard enough that I took her in to the after hours clinic yesterday, and was grateful for the meds that they gave us, and I am much more the wait-it-out and don't-medicate-unless-you-have-to kind.

In our life many years ago BC (Before Children), my husband and I would enjoy romantic weekends.  We might take a little trip or just stay home, but regardless, it would be a time of leisurely passion and enjoyment together.  It might involve a special meal or flowers or chocolates or special gifts.  One year he wrote the most beautiful love letter, and typed it out into the shape of a heart!  My Beloved has always been incredibly romantic.  He is also creative.  This weekend was considerably different from the BC ones, but nonetheless, he made it romantic.  Some highlights:

* Getting up at 3AM as our daughter was vomiting.  Knowing that she was pretty dehydrated by this point, I kept her awake so that I could have her drink Pedialyte every few minutes.  The baby's radar went off as soon as I got up, so Carlos comforted her while I took care of Ariana.  Then, instead of going back to bed, he stayed up with us and watched movies on Netflix together.  Drinking coffee in the dark at around 4:30 AM and snuggling close together while taking care of a sick kidlet is romantic if you want it to be.

* Taking care of phone-related chores that I have been letting go.  I mentioned in my phonophobe post that I really dislike talking on the phone.  Somehow, some creep got ahold of my phone number and has been spamming me with porn.  Ick, ick, ick.  I've called several times, and the phone company has been very kind, and even offered a blocker program for free.  Except it didn't work.  I got another pic from the blocked number a couple days ago, but was too busy taking care of the kidlets to bother with anything.  Yesterday he spent a long time with customer service, but was able to get things taken care of once and for all.

* Adjusting our TV service.  We cut back several months ago to the most limited package available to save money, but we also lost nearly all of our favorite channels.  He negotiated with them yesterday and was able to get all of the favorite channels back (I can now watch Food Network and Top Chef again, and Elena can watch her beloved Yo Gabba Gabba) for less than we were paying for the basic package!

* Snuggling together and watching an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay, thanks to the aforementioned negotiation.  Laughing together at how, regardless of whether he is making brownies, ice cream, moussaka, waffles or anything else, Bobby adds chiles.  (As chile-lovers ourselves, we can sympathize).

* The way he noticed how our two-year-old has been feeling left out and displaced with all the attention required by the other kidlets recently.  He has gone out of his way to tenderly and patiently fill her love cup, making sure to include her and let her know she is special to us, too.  Yeah guys, tenderness is as sexy as it gets.

* Grabbing a delicious dinner to go, and going for a walk in the shopping center while they fixed for us.  The perfect opportunity to have our arms around each other, to walk holding hands and talk about plans for the future and yet still not be away from the sick little ones for long.

* Fixing me his famous banana smoothie for breakfast.

* Finding ways to make me laugh, even when I am loopy from lack of sleep, worried about our sweeties and in desperate need of a shower.

* Taking care of biohazardous laundry without being asked.  I don't blame people for not reading my mind, but I sure appreciate it when they do!

* Taking advantage of every opportunity to hold my hand and give me that look.

Don't get me wrong--I loved all the special times before we had kids.   They were very nice.  But the energy and creativity to make me feel in love in the time of gastroenteritis?  That is amazing.  He is amazing.  <3

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Survival Parenting 101

Image by Perfecto Insecto on Flickr
For the last three nights (or maybe 4?  I can't remember now) I have been up since around 3 AM with a sick kidlet.  Funny now, but when my daughter was first born, I couldn't believe how little sleep I was getting, despite all the horror stories.  I was sure that no one could cope with that level of sleep deprivation and still function.  Three more kids, and my perception of normal has changed somewhat.  The last two babies seemed so much easier to adjust to than the first two.  Moms don't get days off, and we do what we have to do.  However, there are several things that I rely on after a particularly short night.  In random order, since my thoughts are about as organized as hyper butterflies right now:

1.  Water.  Staying hydrated is crucial for me, especially since I am nursing three.  When I don't get enough sleep, I get loopy and have to remind myself to drink enough.

Image by Ballistik Coffee Boy on Flickr
2. Go easy on the caffeine.  Sounds counter-intuitive, I know.  Coffee is a staple in our house.  Even the kidlets adore cafe con leche.  After nearly 8 years of pregnancy and/or breastfeeding, we usually do decaf, but especially if I am exhausted.  I tried doing the real thing when I needed an extra boost, but found that at best, it just made me shaky, and at worst, triggered a migraine.  One cup is my limit now. 

3.  Pray.  Without ceasing.  Even on good days, I need God's presence.  How much more do I need to rely on His strength when at my weakest!  Recognize your own signals when you start to feel overwhelmed, and use that as a trigger to pray, meditate, breathe and re-center.  This works better as a daily habit, because when you are already at the edge, trying to remember anything, including your child's name, is difficult.  We tend to go into autopilot mode, so build a good program into your daily life. 

4.  Adjust your expectations.  For everyone and everything.  If that means more screen time for the kids than you normally allow and that the floors don't get cleaned, so be it.  Your physical, mental and emotional energy is limited.  Don't waste any of it on non-essentials.

Image by ericmcgregor on Flickr
5.  Connect, connect, connect.  Pour the little energy that you do have into your key relationships.  Their emotional support is critical.  Love on your partner.  Love on your kids.  I know how desperate you may feel to have time for yourself.  Really.  But if you start pulling against each other, it just depletes you even more.  So regardless of how tired you feel, try to keep your little ones' love cups filled.  They are much more likely to give you a break and go play on their own if their need for attention is met first.

6.  Change your environment.  Sometimes, going some place different helps reset everyone.  On the other hand, you may need a day to veg at home.  For us, going out usually works better.  Sunshine is a must for me on those days, and if the kids can burn off energy and make noise outside it is less likely to induce a headache. If you do decide to go out, remember number 4.  Expect it to take however long to get everyone ready and out the door as it takes.  Be as flexible as you need to be.

7.  Eat well.  I admit, my four favorite food groups are chocolate, cheese, salsa and anything fried, (washed down by plenty of coffee, naturally).    When I am exhausted, I crave junk and have no willpower.  However, I know that my body needs extra fuel and that a sugar crash will just make things worse.  Treat yourself to a good green smoothie, a yummy salad and plenty of protein.

8.  Take advantage of the brief, fleeting seconds you get to relax.  Ideally, you could arrange a couple of hours for a nap.  Realistically, that might not be an option.  Take every opportunity to breathe deeply.  If you are sitting down, rub your own neck, hand or foot (unless you can get someone else to do it for you).  Squeeze pressure points.  Sniff an essential oil that brightens your mood.  Drink a cup of herbal tea.  Even a moment can make you feel better.  And if that translates into locking yourself in the bathroom, humming loudly with your fingers in your ears and eating chocolate, well, that is OK, too.

9.  Call for help.  If there is someone you trust who can take over for you, call and ask for help.  Even if you can't get away completely, there may be a teen who can come and keep an eye on the kids while you nap, or hold the baby while you fix lunch, or whatever.  Just having someone to share part of the load can be a lifesaver.

10.  Music.  Blast your favorite songs.  Or, if that would bring on a killer headache, play something soothing.  Turn on some nature sounds (I like Dan Gibson on Pandora), let the kids make their own tent in the living room and pretend that they are camping.  With luck they might even take a nap.  (Not likely, but sometimes a healthy dose of denial and/or fantasy is necessary on days like this).

These days (and nights) are part of parenting, of course.  But if you find that it is a chronic problem, then you need some long-term solutions.  Rethink your evening routines or sleeping arrangements, or scale other things back until they are manageable.  It isn't healthy for you or your kids for you to be short on sleep most of the time.  But for the inevitable times, breathe deeply and remind yourself that this, too, shall pass.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Tiger Mother Vs. The Bear Mother

Photo by Gúnna on Flickr
 I recently read the book, Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me:  Christians and the Spanking Controversy by Samuel Martin.  I was extremely impressed.  To my delight, he has also written an article on Christian mothering, and has graciously allowed me to share part of it here:

Many people of late have been talking about the book written by Amy Chua “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” I have not read the book yet. I‟ve read the following article though and I thought it might be interesting to offer some ideas on this whole issue. My point of reference in this regard is the Time magazine article found at this link:,8599,2043313,00.html

I am not sure what Ms. Chua‟s religious orientation is, but as a Christian, I would like to introduce you to an equally if not more ferocious mother: “the Bear Mother.”

Anyone who spends even the most limited amount of time watching nature programs will know that a tiger does not stand a chance in fighting a bear. A bear is much more ferocious and fearful.

So here now is where I am going to get a little Biblical and we are going to talk a little about the ferocious Bear Mother. She is far more ferocious than Amy Chua or any other Tiger Mother ever thought of being.

The Bear Mother
When King David was facing the insurrection of his son Absalom, we read a very interesting passage which described him and curiously it ascribes to him the probable feeling of one “enraged.” (II Samuel 17:8) Certainly, if your own son was plotting your murder and to depose you, one would not have the happiest feelings at that moment naturally speaking. Yes David was probably pretty angry (more like devastated and heart broken as we learn from his later reactions about his loss of Absalom) and one who is “enraged” is compared of all things to being “like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field.” (II Samuel 17:8)

Of all the choices to describe an enraged person, the Biblical writer here chose a female bear robbed of her cubs as the most extreme description to describe rage. In the mind of the ancients, in their world view, there was not a more violent expression of rage than that exhibited by a mother bear whose cubs had been taken from her. There is an important teaching here I think for us today. This teaching is not only for mothers, but in this short discussion, I want to focus in on mothers a little bit. This is dedicated to all mothers. Love you mom. And also to my wife and mother of our children, Sonia, love you darling.

The Bear and the Bible
We have all read the stories in the Bible about bears and some of them are quite interesting. However, let us have no doubt that here in Israel in ancient and even fairly recent times, bears did exist (they are extinct now). Going back to recent times it is noted that “in the time of the first Crusades these beasts were still numerous and of considerable ferocity; for during the siege of Antioch (in modern day Syria - a short 250 mile journey from Jerusalem), Godfrey of Bouillon, according to Math Paris, slew one in defence of a poor woodcutter, and was himself dangerously wounded in the encounter.” (CBTEL [Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature], vol. 1, pg. 797 – article „Bear.‟)

I won't rehearse the many Biblical references to bears, but rest assured that we are talking about “the genus Ursus being meant in the Hebrew texts…” (ibid.)

Note also what is recorded again in CBTEL which is very relevant to our discussion here.
“The sacred writers frequently associate the formidable animal with the king of the forest, as being equally dangerous and destructive: and it is thus that the prophet Amos sets before his countrymen the succession of calamities which under the just judgment of God, was to befall them, declaring that the removal of one would but leave another equally grievous (v.18,19). Solomon, who had closely studied the character of several individuals of the animal kingdom, compares an unprincipled ruler and wicked ruler to these creatures (Proverbs 28:15). To the fury of the female bear when robbed of her young there are several striking illusions in Scripture (II Samuel 17:8; Proverbs 17:12). The Divine threatening in consequence of the numerous and aggravated iniquities of the kingdom of Israel, as uttered by the prophet Hosea, is thus forcibly expressed: “I will meet them as a bear bereaved of her whelps.” (13:8; see Jerome in loc.)., which was fulfilled by the invasion of the Assyrians and the complete subversion of the kingdom of Israel. 'The she bear is said to be even more fierce and terrible than the male, especially after she has cubbed, and her furious passions are never more fiercely exhibited than when she is deprived of her young. When she returns to her den and misses the object of her love and care, she becomes almost frantic with rage. Disregarding every consideration of danger to herself, she attacks with great ferocity every animal that comes in her way, and in the bitterness of her heart will dare to attack even a band of armed men. The Russians of Latachatka never venture to fire on a young bear when the mother is near; for if the cub drop, she becomes enraged to a degree little short of madness, and if she gets sight of the enemy will only quit her revenge with her life. A more desperate attempt can scarcely be performed than to carry off her young in her absence. Her scent enables her to track the plunderer; and unless he has reached some place of safety before the infuriated animal overtakes him, his only safety is in dropping one of the cubs and continuing his flight; for the mother, attentive to its safety, carries it home to her den before she renews the pursuit.” (Cook‟s Voyages, iii.397).” (ibid. CBTEL)

Note: This passage is very instructive on a number of levels, but before we address these, I would like to say that the reason that this issue is important to us today, who wish to learn more about God, is that presently, more than at any other time, we can study God‟s creation in the most intimate of ways down almost even to the very fabric of the universe and life itself: the atomic level. The study of animals and their habits is the same thing. We have today the greatest of ease corroborating the facts herein referenced about bears (or any animal mentioned in Scripture) because we can find hours and hours of documentaries, case studies, stories, can go to zoos and ask question, etc,. about bears (or any other animal almost) to know their habits and whether or not these assertions about them are true.

There are a couple of points which this text raises in reference to the Scriptural teachings about bears and in this case mother bears in particular. Note the previous passage, where it mentions that the reason for the mother bears rage is that she “misses the object of her love and care…” and “Her scent enables her to track the plunderer; and unless he has reached some place of safety before the infuriated animal overtakes him, his only safety is in dropping one of the cubs and continuing his flight; for the mother, attentive to its safety, carries it home to her den before she renews the pursuit.”

These highlighted texts are facts of a long observation of the habits of bears going back into the earliest of times reaching even into the Biblical period. But isn‟t it interesting when we look at this animal and how even God compares Himself to a female bear robbed of her cubs, we see that this animal acts this way for one reason and one reason only: THE POWER AND THE PASSION OF MOTHERLY LOVE.

My cousin Holly commenting on this issue says it so eloquently as only a loving mother could: “I love the image of fierceness with which He [God] will defend us and the sweetness of His parenting style. Not a better model is there?

No human male (including myself here) can ever for a moment hope to understand, appreciate or experience this, but for a mother, it is instinct. I think that most mothers share this ferocious love and passionate care for their children.

Yet, what is even more interesting in getting back to our discussion at hand about Tiger Mothers and Bear Mothers, we start to see some differences. While the Time magazine article paints the Tiger Mother as aggressive (can we say violent?), angry, demanding, harsh, rude, and hostile to her children, I ask you and challenge any person to show me any evidence, written or visual, which shows Bear mothers as being anything other than the most sweet and tender, docile and protective, fun loving and patient, happy and long suffering, etc. with their cubs. Oh yes, Bear mothers are fierce, but that ferocity is rarely if ever directed to their cubs.

We all remember the television series‟ Gentle Ben and The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams (which was hugely popular when it came out). While these are indeed films and theatrical in nature, they show that bears are capable of exhibiting great love, especially to small children as was the case between Ben and Mark in the first mentioned series. Come on, Ben was real and while he was a trained bear, he was a bear nonetheless. Honestly, you never saw a more loving 800 pound bundle of sweetness.

In fact, most people in general love bears and rightly so because we are generally a caring oriented people and bears in fact exhibit some of the best characteristics of love and caring especially for their offspring.

But, you get on their wrong side, especially when it comes to their offspring. Look out! And rightly so! We can point again to the example of Ben. Many times in those episodes of Gentle Ben, Ben was portrayed as very protective of Mark and coming to his rescue over and over again. Then, in the end, you see Ben in Mark's mom's pantry eating them out of house and home with the most pleasant look on his face eating the honey or peanut butter.

So, now I would like to pose a question to all of us who are moms and dads. While almost all of us are ready to defend our “cubs” with our own lives should anyone or anything attempt to harm them, how many of us follow the bear in being the most sweet and tender, docile and protective, fun loving and patient, happy and long suffering? Is there a lesson here for all of us? Speaking as one very imperfect dad, I know I‟ll be firing up Youtube and looking for Gentle Ben episodes when ever I want to remind myself of what I need to be doing. Frankly, God knew what He was doing when He designed Ben. In fact, when we see Ben, we get a little glimpse of God Himself as my dear cousin Holly said: fiercely protective/100% sweetness.

There is another point about bears. If the bears used in Gentle Ben or Grizzly Adams are good examples, tame bears at least by nature seem to be very friendly animals. This certainly is how Ben and Mark were on camera in Gentle Ben. It really seems that bears can exhibit real qualities of friendship and I think there is some Bible teaching here if we are willing to see it.

Do we all remember that amazing section of Scripture in John‟s Gospel starting in chapter 13 going through to 17? Here Almighty God speaks to mankind through Jesus as a father. Remember what He said: “Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:8,9) (ESV)

So, in this section, we have Jesus speaking as a Heavenly “Father” to His children and by extension to all of His children through the secretarial agency of St. John. And what does he say?

“You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14)

He makes it even stronger saying: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)

Now, here is where we see a little glimpse of God Himself in the instinct or lifestyle of bears. Look at what Jesus also says in this same chapter of John 15:

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (15:13)

Here we have something defined by Jesus in a very specific way. He says very clearly that the highest expression of love possible is that one would lay down his life for his friends. When we also realize the Biblical teaching that God Himself is the very exponent of Love, we start to understand that a person or being who is ready to die for his friends is really operating in the realm of the Divine. It is not natural to be willing to die for another person.

Recall the earlier section of this paper where we were rehearsing eyewitness accounts of the reckless abandon that a mother bear exhibits for her cubs when threatened or somehow lost and not under her careful watch:

“When she returns to her den and misses the object of her love and care, she becomes almost frantic with rage. Disregarding every consideration of danger to herself, she attacks with great ferocity every animal that comes in her way, and in the bitterness of her heart will dare to attack even a band of armed men.”

I think that when we think about this, we need to understand that the reason Solomon and the other Biblical writers used the example specifically of the bear was to teach us some deep spiritual truth that they saw in action when they observed bears and their actions and perhaps it relates in some way to friendship.

So, God Himself, calls us friends and He sums up the reason for this discussion in John 15 about friendship. The reason that He related this information is;

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12) …
These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:17)

So we are commanded to love one another and to be friends.

Now, here we have God, our Father, telling us that He is our friend and He is telling us to love one another. So we are supposed to love everyone. Of course, when we look at the bear, especially the mother bear, she loves her bear cubs more than herself and anything else and I think there is an important teaching here. I think that we who are parents, the first and foremost people we are supposed to love and be friends with are our children!

Our children are not to be our servants, athletes, doctors, lawyers, scholars, performing artists, musicians or business people, No. They are to be the absolute objects of our love and affection and they are to first and fore mostly be our FRIENDS.

© Samuel Martin.  Used with permission.

 Guess what?  There is more!  I have only included the first part of the article, but it continues with more inspiring and thought-provoking words on friendship with our children, Tiger Mother Vs. Bear Mother, discipline and more.  If you would like to read the rest, please contact him at: 
and check out his books at

Biography of Samuel Martin
Samuel Martin was born in England and is the youngest child of Dr. Ernest L. and Helen R. Martin, who are both Americans. He lived in the UK for the first seven years of his life before moving to the USA with his family at age seven. He lived in the USA until 2001 when he married a native Israeli and relocated to live in Jerusalem. He and his wife, Sonia, have two daughters.
His experience with biblical scholarship began at an early age. His father, Dr. Ernest L. Martin (1932-2002), initiated a program in conjunction with Hebrew University and Prof. Benjamin Mazar, where over a five year period, some 450 college students came to work on an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem starting in 1969 (See Time Magazine, September 3, 1973, article ˝Digging for Credit.). Since that first trip, Samuel has visited Israel on 14 different occasions living more than five years of his life in the country. He has toured all areas of Israel as well as worked in several archaeological excavations.
Besides his experiences in his youth, he also worked on an excavation in northern. Israel under the supervision of Dr. Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University in Jerusalem and participated in a survey in the Judean Desert related to the Dead Sea Scrolls under the guidance of Dr. Robert Eisenman (CSU, Long Beach and author of "James, the brother of Jesus - Viking Penguin: 1997) and Dr. James D. Tabor (UNC, Charlotte and author of The Jesus Dynasty - Simon and Schuster: 2006).
His interests include social studies and the Bible, Hebrew studies and science as it relates to the Bible. He holds a B.A. degree with a special focus on Middle Eastern studies from Portland State University in Oregon. He was raised in an environment of high level Biblical scholarship. His father held a MA in Theology and a Ph.D. in Education and he is well known for his work concerning the Nativity of Jesus Christ (see Elwell, Dictionary of Evangelical Theology, article, Nativity of Jesus Christ or see plus many other books and publications on the Bible. This is Samuel Martin's first book.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Grace for Mami, Too

You know that place in sleep deprivation where you can feel yourself teetering on the cliff, with the sure knowledge that the tiniest push will send you crashing over the edge?  Of course you do--you are moms, right?  I was there last night.  I would go into all the events leading up to it, but I am too tired, and they aren't really important.

The baby was sobbing because she had been awakened too many times.  She is a total daddy's-girl during the day, but wouldn't settle at all to sleep, despite Carlos patiently walking.  The two year old was shrieking at the top of her lungs.  I was frustrated and near panic because she had been screaming for several minutes and I couldn't get her to tell me if she was hurting or what was wrong.

Outwardly, I remained calm, because I knew I would fall apart if I allowed the smallest crack.  Inwardly, I was shrieking along with the two year old, and crying out to God for help and grace.

Photo by JJ and Special K on Flickr
He used my children.  I felt hands start rubbing my back, going right to all the sore spots.  Healing and comfort poured through them.  A gentle voice began repeating, "Mami, I love you so, so much.  I am glad you are my mami.  I like you."  Encouragement and peace  reverberated through my soul.  For the next twenty minutes, my seven year old massaged my back and my five year old spoke sweet words to my heart.  They ministered God's grace to me in tangible ways that pulled me back from the precipice.  How did they know?  I didn't even ask for help, yet they gave me exactly what I needed.

I breathed, Elena passed gas audibly a few times and was fine (I am so glad it wasn't anything serious, but ouch--that can really be painful.  Might need to look into probiotics for her).  To further add a happy note into the nightmarish night, I clicked on my phone and saw that Sarah had added post 32 in The Restoration of All Things!  It was a really good one, and brought several smiles to my face.  We all got some much needed rest.

I know a lot of people talk about mommy-burnout and the constant giveathon of parenting.  Rarely do we hear stories of grace being lavished on us.  I am so grateful for the tenderness of my children.  I have always loved the expression, "Grace is for mamas, too."  I generally think of it as referring to God's forgiveness and the compassion of other parents.  Last night was a shower of extravagant grace from my children, and I am so grateful. I pray that the next time I am tempted to lose patience or to respond with anything other than kindness, that I will remember their example. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

10 Things I Wish the Mainstream Media Would Get Right About Parents Who Don't Vaccinate

Image credit stevendepolo on Flickr
If you are a parent who doesn't follow the recommended vaccine schedule, you have probably read the same articles I have (I don't mean the PubMed journals, which of course you have read.  I mean the ones in parenting magazines or newspapers).  You know the ones.  It is almost enough to make you suspect that they are all quoting from a really old article--circa 2004, perhaps?--because they all make these same 10 mistakes. 

1. Basic info/terminology. Virus vs bacteria. Antigen vs adjuvant.  Live virus.  When you talk about the pertussis virus or removing thimerosol from the MMR it is hard to take you seriously.

2. The autism angle.  Autism is a big concern for some parents.  I get that.  But contrary to popular opinion, it isn't the only or even primary concern of many parents.  Auto-immune issues in general, fetal tissue in vaccines and other things influence many of us as much or more than a fear of autism.

3. Herd immunity.  There is always the suggestion that non-vaxers are the ones who put others at risk by derailing herd immunity.  The truth is that herd immunity is largely a myth.  How many adults do you know that are fully up to date on all boosters?  Um, yeah.  Furthermore, not all diseases or vaccines are created equal (some are not even designed to prevent transmission, let alone the varying rates of efficacy) and while herd immunity might be plausible for a few, it isn't for most.   All the non-vaxers that I know are fully aware of this--one reason why we study MMWRs, and educate ourselves on the symptoms and treatment options for many VPDs.  We certainly don't rely on herd immunity in most cases. 

4. Remembering how bad the diseases are.  We are told with ineffable condescension that vaccines are a victim of their own success. If we could only remember a few decades ago...  Aside from the fact that hygiene, improved medical care, nutrition and other things are at least as responsible for declining rates of mortality, the perception has changed significantly. Nobody was scared I would die when I got chicken pox.  Even measles was not considered to be a big deal in most cases (and there is mounting evidence that we are trading a week of illness there for chronic allergies, asthma and other diseases).  Some diseases are very serious, but so are the vaccine reactions. 

5. Equality of diseases and vaccines.  All diseases and vaccines are not created equal.  My four month old is not at risk for Hep B or tetanus.  Pertussis scares me.  Mumps?  Not really.  The fact that my children are exclusively breastfed for a year, and continue to breastfeed after that affects my decision on Hib. I could go on and on.  The risks vary according to age, family history, geography and many other things.  Similarly, some vaccines are more reactive than others.  Some are very effective, others are not.

6. The obsession with thimerosol.   This still gets trotted out every time along with experts patiently explaining that thimerosol was removed from most vaccines years ago.  While it was more removed from some than others, thimerosol isn't the over-riding concern for most of us.  Aluminum, which is present in very dangerous amounts, concerns  me more.  There is a whole cocktail of nasty stuff in most vaccines (varies according to brand and type).

7.  Fear of antigen overload.  The same person talking about thimerosol sweetly pats us on the head as s/he explains that worries over too many vaccines at once are unfounded because the antigens are so weak. After all, we are exposed to far more bacteria or viruses at any given time than the ones injected in a vaccine.  Well, yeah. The problem is all the adjuvants.  The antigens are too weak to provoke an immune response on their own, so they are made into a threat with adjuvants like aluminum and other toxic substances.  Forget about the antigens.  Explain how levels that greatly exceed the FDA limits for toxic adjuvants aren't a problem.

8.  Environmental exposure.  You are exposed to these toxins in the environment, anyway.  Yes, we are, and while that isn't a good thing there, either, in most cases, our bodies' natural defense systems help excrete them.  Being injected into your muscle tissue bypasses a lot of that, and when you are talking about babies whose blood-brain barrier isn't developed, that is concerning.

9. Vaccine side effects are redness and soreness at the injection site and a fever.  In rare cases, anaphylaxis may result.  True. The implication is that fever isn't a big deal, and anaphylaxis is so rare that we shouldn't worry.  Fine. What about the other side effects?  Read the safety inserts, please.  There are many serious side effects, including respiratory illness, arthritis, paralysis, an assortment of auto-immune disorders, and more.

10.  Concerns about vaccines are based solely on the anecdotes of so and so who posted a story on  Most of us started questioning because of reactions we saw in our own children.  But we didn't stop there. We spend countless hours poring over medical journals, researching the diseases, ingredients, the immune system, etc., learning all we can.  Some are immunologists, neuroscientists and other medical professionals. We are educated and informed about vaccines.  Talk to us. And if you are going to write about us, learn a little more first.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Parenting Bookshelf--the Vaccine Books

When my daughter was first born, I was much more tractable and trusting of mainstream medical practices than I am now.  I didn't question too much.  My research was limited to the mainstream parenting magazines, and they all said that the worst thing that could happen from vaccination was fever, and perhaps temporary redness and soreness at the injection site.  The wackadoos who claimed otherwise were tin-foil-hat freaks who were relying on everyone else's herd immunity because of nonsensical fears that the thimerosol in the MMR would make their kids autistic.  (Note: the MMR has never contained thimerosol, but that is typical of the misinformation in these types of articles.)  In other words, pretty much the same thing they say now.

Our ped at that time delayed the Hep B vaccine until after 1 month, but otherwise she was fully vaccinated according to the CDC.  When our son was born, though, I felt really uneasy.  We waited until he was 2 months to do any vaccines, but then he got the full recommendations.  He also got a fever over 103, and cried for hours.  At his 4 month appointment, I told the ped, hoping that she would tell us not to go ahead.  She said that anything over 104 was her cut off.  Every instinct inside me shrieked against it, but like a good little girl I went ahead.  And I believe it is only the grace of God that I didn't lose my son.

This time was worse than the previous reaction, which is typical for vaccine reactions.  By the next day, his fever was 104, but what concerned me was his breathing.  He was pale, grunting with each breath and looked so worried.  I recognized the expression on his face from my worst asthma attacks.  He was concentrating so hard on breathing that he couldn't nurse or do anything else.  Carlos had our only car, and was in class with no cell-phone.  I called my parents and the ped, and prayed as hard as I ever have in my life.  By the time my parents arrived, his breathing was much better.  Within a couple of hours, his fever was gone.  Even so, his smile became lop-sided for months, and I always wondered if it was connected to the shots.  It was the last time any of our children were vaccinated.

I had needed a wake-up call, and I got one.  I began researching all the stuff I had put off before because it seemed so daunting.

I started talking to other moms who didn't vaccinate.  I hung out in forums, reading everything I could, and of course, I got some books.  The problem with books is that vaccines are an ever-moving target.  There are always new additions, and there have been some changes in the vaccines (although not as many as you might think).  Because of this, I will add a few links at the end.

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children's Vaccinations by Stephanie Cave, M.D.  This book is from 2001, and therefore dated.  It focuses a lot on thimerosol and autism.  I would still recommend it, though, for the excellent look at vaccines and autoimmune issues.  We have a significant family history of asthma, allergies and other things that made this section even more relevant for us.  It is still worth reading.

Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent's Guide by Aviva Jill Romm.  Also from 2001, and not by an M.D.  However, it is very well documented and researched.  It provides an overview of vaccine history and a wealth of other information, including natural treatments for the diseases and for the vaccines.  After reading it, I still wasn't exactly sure if the author was for or against vaccines.  I appreciated that kind of balance.

Just a Little Prick by Hilary Butler.  This one was a little more challenging to read.  For one thing, it is huge--496 pages.  And frankly the writing style has a lot of personal touches that can make you wish for a good editor to go in and streamline things a bit.  It isn't written by a medical professional, and it makes no pretense of being unbiased.  However, I consider it a must-read.  It is from 2006 and very thorough.  The footnotes alone are an incredibly valuable resource.  If you really want to access all the medical studies, peer-reviewed publications, history and more, if you are concerned about serotype replacement and the impact of nutrition, you can't afford not to read this.

Take Charge of Your Child's Health by George Wootan, M.D.  He is our doctor's brother, so that of course piqued my interest.  He devotes an entire chapter to vaccinations and includes an overview of the diseases and vaccines,and includes treatments and complications of both.  It is from 2000, though, and again, dated.  Slightly off topic, but I am so grateful for my Dr. Wootan's practice.  Instead of being hassled about not vaccinating our children, the nurses and Dr. have expressed their relief that we are educating ourselves.

How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor by Robert Mendelsohn, M.D.  Dr. Mendelsohn's credentials are extremely impressive.  This book is from 1984--an antique, almost, in terms of vaccines, but still worthy of reading.  It is also interesting to see how the perspective on childhood diseases has changed.  Just how deadly is chicken pox for an otherwise healthy child?

The Vaccine Book by Bob Sears, M.D.  This one is the most current (2008, with updates on the Ask Dr Sears site).  It is excellently done, very balanced and the section on aluminum is extremely important for everyone to read.  This is great for middle of the road parents who still believe in the need for vaccines, but are concerned about the huge increase in the number of vaccines and the one-size-fits-all approach of the CDC.

Now for the websites.  There are extremists on both ends of the vaccine debate.  There are hysterical zealots like Dr. Paul Offit whom I consider nothing better than a snake-oil salesman out to terrify parents into vaccinating so that he can make more money (he is a vaccine patent-holder who also works on the advisory board for the CDC.  Conflict of interest, anyone?)  There are also misinformed and naive parents who occasionally post on websites (although in my experience, the forum members are pretty good at policing themselves, and the better educated and informed posters will usually correct blatant misinformation, which is more than can be said of most pro-vaccine articles).  Anyway, you should definitely do your own info and verify any information that you read, regardless of whether it is for or against vaccines.  There are way too many to list, and the sites are constantly changing, but these are a couple of places to start:  Yeah, the CDC.  It is blatantly pro-vaccine (and employs people like Offit), but still offers a huge amount of information.  They were actually the ones to convince us to stop vaccinating! This one is one of my favorite sources.  Well-respected sources, but against vaccination.  They break down the diseases and vaccines individually.  Guggie Daly has been working on a lot of vaccine posts lately that are full of information and links to start you on your research.  This is a great starting point, and rather than retyping all the links, I'll just send you here.  You will find the vaccine safety inserts, info from the companies themselves and a ton of other resources. The vaccine forum for Gentle Christian Mothers.  Lots of stickies and links here, too!  MDC vaccine forum.  Tons of resources for those who want an alternative view of vaccines.

Unlike the CDC, I don't believe that one size fits all when it comes to vaccines.  All vaccines are not equal, some diseases are more dangerous and more prevalent than others, and each family has its own risk/benefit ratio to consider.  It is a big topic, and it can be overwhelming, I know.  But I firmly believe that we have the responsibility as parents to research and not go along with any choice blindly, but to know what the risks and benefits are for our individual children.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To Tell the Truth...

"The truth will set you free...but first, it will make you miserable." ~ Jamie Buckingham

I have always struggled with taking things literally.  I enjoy poetry, and appreciate symbolism, hyperbole, sarcasm, satire, etc.  But for some reason, in actual conversations, my brain wants to process everything as literal, even when I know it isn't.  I can't tell you the number of times someone has made a joke, and even as my brain was screaming at me, "Stop!  It was a joke!" out of my mouth pops a response taking it literally.  Awkward.

Also, I blurt.  I always have, and there no longer seems to be much hope that I will outgrow it.  There is some sort of weird wiring issue between my mouth and emotions, and if I feel anything strongly, I become about as articulate as a toddler.  Direct words just tumble out without any softening.

I also grew up in a home where truth was prized.  I cannot recall my parents ever lying to me, even one of the "little white lies."  They expected us to tell the truth, and they told us the truth.  It is one of the things that I am most grateful for, and has had a profound influence on me as a parent. I strive to be truthful with my own children, even when it is awkward or inconvenient.

A few days ago I read an article about all the harmless (?) lies that moms tell kids.  It was somewhat humorous, but as I read through it, I thought about it a little more seriously than I was probably meant to.  The lies were nearly all to avoid conflict.  I don't want to sound all Judgy MacJudgerson or anything, but it made me uncomfortable.  I wondered if the kids were just learning to be passive-aggressive, because that is how most of the examples came across to me.

I am not good at pretense.  Mind games in fiction are fun.  In real life, though, they give me a headache.  And, frequently, heartache.  To me, one of the greatest benefits of peaceful parenting is the authenticity.

It has forced me to be relentlessly honest with myself about what I want for my children, to examine my motives and confront some things like pride, selfishness and anger that I would much rather sweep under the rug.  

I don't get into mind games, worrying that my babies are trying to manipulate me into meeting their needs.  I can take my babies' cries at face value and not constantly second-guess my own instincts.

I have had to learn to be clearer in my communication, and to be direct about my needs.  Instead of giving my children vague directions like, "Be careful!", I now am more likely to say, "Walk slowly."

Also, contrary to popular myth, gentle parenting doesn't mean that you say things like, "Oh, sweetie, you don't want to hit your brother, do you?  Let's play nice now, okay?" in a sugary, sing-song voice.  My kids would probably ignore that--I certainly would.  I can use a firm, even stern voice and issue direct orders.  "Stop.  Hitting hurts," and follow through on it.

I am also honest about sadness, anger and frustration.  My kids can sense how I am feeling, anyway, and how can I teach them to handle those feelings themselves if they never see me model how?

Obviously, we need to take care with our words.  Yet, I have come to see that the barbed comments that poison and stay under our skin long after the initial sting are not really truth--they are twisted expressions of the speaker's hurts.  Truthful, authentic communication is not about blaming and lashing out at others.  It is expressing our needs and emotions.  If you haven't yet read Nonviolent Communication, check out a copy.  It is amazing how freeing it is to communicate honestly and accurately.

Sometimes, the truth does bring conflict that we would rather avoid to the surface.  It can be messy and unpleasant.  But I think it is even harder when try to cover things up.  Even if it makes us miserable for a short time, there is ultimately great freedom in being authentic with ourselves and our families.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Review: Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Smacking Controversy, Part I

Have you ever had to listen to false accusations against someone you deeply love?  It provokes many intense emotions, including anger, sadness and frustration.  Your stomach clenches.   It is almost impossible to keep your mouth shut, even when you know that speaking up won't change their mind and will end badly.   That is the way I feel when I hear people claim that God wants us to spank our children.

I imagine that many of my loved ones who believe that the Bible teaches us to spank feel similar emotions whenever I get on my soapbox.   They love their children deeply and have no desire to abuse them.  They have reverence for the Bible and a heart that longs to please God.  They love Him so much that they would even go as far as to spank their children if that is what it takes to be obedient to God.  Just as Abraham was willing to place Isaac on the altar and trust that somehow God would bring good out of it, even it it went against everything that he believed God was, they cling to the hope that their sacrifice will ultimately result in good for their children.

If I could, I would give every single one of them a copy of this book.

Let me begin with what this book is NOT:
It is not a book about the evils of spanking.  It doesn't focus in excruciating detail (or even at all) on all the possible ways that spanking could harm your children.

It isn't a book about persuading parents to do this or not do that.  It doesn't try to marshal a bunch of reasons to spank or not spank.

It isn't emotional.  It doesn't put you on a guilt trip

It isn't dismissive.  It doesn't tell you to disregard the Bible.

It isn't speculative.  It doesn't come up with convoluted interpretations to make a point.

It isn't argumentative.  It doesn't try to present a series of arguments of why you shouldn't spank your kids.

It isn't disrespectful to our Jewish brothers and sisters.  It doesn't try to make the Law into something evil or foolish.

It doesn't use cop-outs.  "Well, yes, the Bible teaches spanking, but it doesn't apply to us because... "

It doesn't need to.

What it IS:

It is incredibly thorough.  It systematically addresses every passage that in any way is used to promote spanking.

It is well-referenced.  The footnotes alone are worth the price of the book.

It is grounded in solid information, not some author's whim or personal interpretation.

It is deeply knowledgeable about Jewish thought and history.  It gives a plethora of references, quotes, and other material from Rabbis throughout history to present a consistent picture of Jewish interpretations of the Proverbs and other passages.

It is unquestionably scholarly, yet also pleasantly readable.  My eyes didn't glaze over, but I just felt as though I were reading an exceptionally well-written thesis.

It is obviously written by a man with the deepest reverence for God's Word, and the responsibility of handling it accurately.  This isn't the work of a secular author who is trying to twist religious arguments to back himself up.  It is the work of a brother in Christ who fully accepts the authority of Scripture.

Honestly, I can't imagine any serious student of the Bible reading this and still believing that spanking is Biblically endorsed.  I am considering and praying about what I should do at this point, because I am leaning towards buying several copies and offering them to anyone who genuinely believes that the Bible teaches spanking. 

Gentle discipline is one of my passions.  I've read every Christian source I can find on spanking, and have many excellent resources.  This one is easily one of the best.

Part II contains more specifics on the content, but in the meantime, please check out the author's site: and his blog,

Disclosure:  I received a gift copy from the author after mentioning that I wanted to read this book in a previous post.  No conditions were attached, and I did not make any promises, even to the extent of a review post.  Once I read the book, I was so honestly impressed that I wanted to share it.  I do not receive payment or compensation for sharing my opinions of any product.

January Top Ten

OK, I totally stole this from peaceful parenting, but in case you missed any of them here are the most-viewed posts for the month of January: 

1. What is it like to breastfeed an older child?  If you have only been around infants who nurse, you may wonder what it would be like to nurse a toddler or even a preschooler.  If there are any questions you have that weren't covered, add them in the comments.  :)

2.  Backtalk  I have always been a back-talker, and it seems that some of my children may have inherited this trait.  I understand the frustration, but I also have learned why backtalk is actually a good thing!

3.  A Good Old-fashioned Stoning  Despite the cultural teachings that have caused some to believe that the Bible promotes spanking, it doesn't, any more than it promotes stoning children.  The rituals that we have established for "correct" spanking really only serve to salve the parent's conscience.

4.  Weekend Romance  I am addicted to this story, to the point of compulsively checking for new posts each time my baby wakes to nurse in the middle of the night!  Sarah has been incredibly merciful, and is now up to post 29 on The Restoration of All Things. 

5.  Her body, her choice  I conquered the urge to control my daughter's clothing choices back when she was a toddler.  After all, in our society a three year old in mismatched clothes or a tutu or Spiderman costume isn't a big deal.  Hair brushing, though?  That could make me look neglectful.  Thanks to your wonderful suggestions, last night we were able to comb out all the tangles (and they were legion) without a single tear.  Today, I brushed her hair without a single protest.  :)  We will be forever grateful to you all!

6.  Our Toolbox  For those who wonder how on earth you can discipline your children if you don't punish. 

7.  Authority, Submission, Control and Discipline  As a follower of Christ, I believe that authority looks different from dominance.  My authority over my children is not about control, but about using my power and experience to equip them to fulfill their destiny.

8.  What My Children Taught Me  Like most moms I know, I have struggled with self-image.  My children are helping me to view myself through a more positive light, and I am thankful.  If you missed any of the other Carnival posts, they are all linked--be sure and check them out!

9.  My Personal Guidelines on Public Breastfeeding  How do you respond to moms who are nursing in public?  Smile.  If you want to offer an encouraging word, do.  That is it.

10.  Letter on Christians and Spanking  This is the letter we wrote to our pastor explaining why we believe that God has called us to parent gently, without spanking.

If, like us, you have been snowed in thanks to the Great Blizzard of 2011, stay warm and safe, and feel free to poke around any other old posts.  :)