Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rotten Fruit

Image by astrogator on Flickr
I am a follower of Christ.  He taught us over and over that we need to judge things by their fruit.  I want to ask you, not for me, but for yourself: what fruit did spanking produce in your life as a child?  What fruit is it producing now if you spank your children?  I know, I know, we were all spanked and turned out fine.  Most spankers I know are loving people who want to do the right thing.  Most people that I know who were spanked as kids grew up into great people, too.  But I am asking about specifics, not generalities.  What were the direct results of spanking?

Think back to the times you were spanked.  What do you remember?  Are you able to remember specifics, or do you blank out on parts of it?  Interestingly, most people that I talk to have a hard time remembering details.  They only remember pieces.  Some remember all the events leading up to a spanking, but their memories stop there.  Others remember the spankings themselves, but not what they did to get spanked in the first place.  Aside from the fact that memory issues are often associated with trauma, if you don't remember why you got the spanking in the first place, how did it really help?

If you do remember, how did it motivate you, really?  I know that the idea is that you will be afraid to do whatever misdeed again.  Did it work?  Or did you repeat the same action again at some point?  Did you just resolve not to get caught the next time?  Or did you ever decide that doing what you wanted was worth the price of the spanking?   If it worked, were there any other strategies that would have worked, also?

Did it make you angry?  Did you wish you had the power to get revenge?  Did you ever feel that you were being hit unjustly and feel resentment over that?

Did it fill you with shame?  And if so, was the shame associated with your actions, or with yourself as a person?  Did the shame go away after the spanking, or did it remain and deepen?  As an adult, do you still struggle with self-acceptance, perfectionism, and shame issues?

Did it make you more honest, or did it make you feel a need to be deceptive?  Did you ever find yourself pretending that everything was OK, gulping back tears and trying to act in a way that would satisfy your parents, even if it wasn't authentic?


If you spank your children, what is the fruit of that in you?

Do you feel angry?  I know, all the books say we shouldn't spank in anger, but they also say not to wait too long before spanking.  Do you feel frustrated or at peace?  Do you ever resent your child for "making you" spank him?

Do you ever feel shame about the frequency, method, or severity of the spankings?  Do you ever feel a need to hide or be less than fully honest about your spankings?

When you prepare to spank your child, are you motivated by pride?  Either anger at perceived lack of respect, or fear at what others will think of you and your parenting skills?

Does spanking produce kindness in you? Gentleness? Patience? Self-control? Goodness? Trustworthiness?

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."  ~ Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

 "But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely." ~ The Message  

I have many, many resources that I will be happy to share if you are seeking to look deeper at what the Bible teaches us about discipline.  I will post some of them in the comments soon.  But for now, consider the fruit of the Spirit, and the fruit of spanking.  Is spanking resulting in rotten fruit?

This post was written for National Spank Out Day.  I will be updating later today with more links and resources from other participants, but here are some that are participating.  If you would like to be included, please leave a comment with your link. :)

National Spank Out Day

Permission to Live--Journey of a Young Mom

Bicultural Mom--Why I Hate Spanking

TouchstoneZ--Spank Out Day

I Am Totally *That* Mom--Spank Out Day

Littlemama Midwife--Marriage, Parenting and Grace

Imperfect Happiness--The Great Spank Out Day

HybridRastaMama--Spanking: Why Alternatives are Needed

Kelly Hogaboom--Non-Punitive Parenting: A Starting Primer

Becoming Crunchy--In Honor of Spank Out Day USA

Friday, April 29, 2011

My Personal Toolbox, Part II

Image credit: boeke on Flickr
I have found that gentle discipline is not just about the tools that I have for my children, but also what I am doing to build myself.  Some days I think that it takes me a lot longer to learn than it does my children, but the cool thing is looking back to a year ago, or two years and realizing how less often I feel the urge to hit or yell or shame, and how much more peace there is inside of me.  I know that I have a long way to go, but progress is always exciting and encouraging.  :)  Part I was posted recently, and these were all originally written as a guest post for Authentic Parenting.

Eliminate useless tools.  
Don't mentally save them for a last resort.  I used to justify yelling or shaming my kids since I wasn't actually calling them names or saying terrible words. I tried not to do it often, but it was still in my toolbox for "really big things".  One day, I saw my daughter's eyes and really looked.  Despite my internal justification, she saw it exactly for what it really was, and it hurt her.  Toss out even the possibility of hitting your children. 

Find appropriate ways to express your big feelings. 
Write. Paint. Dance.  Exercise.  (OK, I threw exercise in because I've heard good things about it and it seemed to fit.  Have I personally tried it?  No way!  I've got four kids and a paycheck job--do you honestly think I have energy or motivation to work out???   Just pass me some chocolate, please).

Use your words. 
Well, depends on which ones.  Finding words that are accurate and powerful enough to convey your feelings takes thought and practice and perhaps creativity, particularly if your children are going to be imitating you ;). Nonviolent Communication is a great resource.  Another way to use your words is to talk to another adult who can listen and encourage you.  Particularly if you didn't have a healthy model of parenting as a child, this can be a great way to learn what healthy relationships look like and how to help them grow. 

Expand your toolbox.  
If you have the tools you need to discipline your children, you are less likely to find yourself pushed to the edge.  Some of my favorites are here, and I love this post and the comments, too.  This is another place where your support circle can help you to see things from a fresh perspective and find something that will work for all of you.

Look at the big picture.  
Image credit jkfid on Flickr
Remind yourself of your long-term goals, both for yourself and your kids.  Look back at your own growth as a parent.  Like a child's growth, it may not be obvious from a single day to another, but look back a few months and you might be happily surprised at how much you have grown.  Also, like a toddler, sometimes we regress a bit in times of stress.  Be patient and repeat what you want to do and how you want to parent over and over to yourself.  These are skills that take practice.  If you screw up, apologize, forgive yourself and try again.

Pray.  Meditate.  
Image: AlicePopcorn on Flickr
My greatest help in becoming the parent I want to be is drawn from my love for Jesus Christ.  Whatever your beliefs or non-beliefs, taking a moment to stop and breathe in love and peace can calm us down and inspire us to treat our children as we would want to be treated.  It is hard to give what is not inside us, and developing peace in our hearts is crucial to sharing it with our family.

It's all in your head.  
Your perception often is reality.  If you focus on the "shoulds"--my baby should be sleeping through the night, I should be getting more time by myself, etc., you can miss the gifts in the present.  If you start looking at night nursing or other things as a special time, you can often transform them and find that they no longer cause you as much stress.  I know, this only works up to a point, but it is astounding how much our attitude affects things.  Once I stopped looking at the clock in the middle of the night and calculating how much time I had left to sleep and instead focused on the scent of my baby's head, the soft sound of his breathing and the blissful stillness (probably the quietest time in that 24 hours) I felt so much more refreshed.

The hormones help.  Each time your baby suckles, oxytocin and other powerful hormones are released that help you to feel loving and peaceful.  

When I was preparing for the birth of our third child, I learned to recognize when I was tensing up and to deliberately relax.  Sure, it was helpful during birth, but I've found it even more useful a couple of years *after* the birth!  Become aware of your body and stress levels and teach yourself to let go of that tension.  

Follow a script.  
Create and memorize a short list of steps to handle your triggers that you can follow in the moment.  For me it goes like this: STOP.  DEEP BREATH.  Let go of any unhelpful thoughts. How can I help this situation *right now*? Later on, I can assess what I can do to prevent things in the future, but if I try to focus on what will make it better in this moment, it throws out punitive, angry responses and gets me thinking about positive strategies to solve the problem and maintain/restore connection.  Then practice, practice, practice!  It takes awhile for it to become automatic.  The results are worth it, though.

Find little ways every day to fill their love cups.  Shower them with love, especially on the days when you don't feel as if either of you deserve it.  Learn what makes your child feel loved--it might be different from you.  If you are upset, use that as a signal to pour out love on your child.  The Five Love Languages of Children has a lot of great ideas to help them feel cherished.
I think that most of us come into parenting with a need for some restoration and repair.  There is no better time than now to strengthen and rebuild our lives so that we can parent our children the way we were designed to, and walk in peace and joy.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Natural Parenting Blog Party--Why Creating Community Matters to Me

The Peaceful Housewife

Welcome to all my friends, old and new who have visited through the Natural Parenting Blog Party.  I am so very, very grateful that you are part of my parenting community!

I live in the buckle of the Bible belt, and around here, most people believe that the Bible tells them to use their belts on their children.  Babywise and CIO are a given, and even a pediatrician gives out free copies of To Train Up a Child.  It is one thing to stand up for what you believe in and follow your own conscience, but when you are the only one you know, it can feel like you are drowning.  Just how important is creating a community of parents?  I think it is incredibly important.  We are designed to have relationships and to be part of a community.  For many parents who find themselves on a path similar to mine, that becomes increasingly difficult. 

If I limited my friendships to parents who agree with me on everything, I would have very, very few friends.  I would also miss out on a lot of opportunities to grow and learn.  I have deeply loved and respected family, friends and blog readers who disagree with me on most of my parenting choices.  They believe that spanking is necessary, that letting their children cry it out results in better sleep for everyone, that vaccinations are lifesavers, that babies don't need to be held so much, that hospital births are the safest choice and that while breastfeeding is fine for the first few months or so, if they can talk then they are too old.  They are not all extremists, of course--they may not follow all of those, and they may follow them to different degrees.  I think that Granny2five is the only one who ever dares to leave comments ;) and even hers are very mild.  But I appreciate the reminders to weigh my choices, to pray and seek God and to look at all sides of an issue.

All of that said, I also find that I need to limit some of my interactions with people whose standards are very different from mine.  If I witness a spanking or vicious shaming, I feel the same sick feeling inside as if I had witnessed an adult hitting a disabled person.  It tears me up emotionally for a long time.  My daughter responds the same way, and will cry about it later in the night.  For our emotional well-being, I would not spend time with people who practice that in front of us if I can avoid it.   Even hearing a group of moms laughing about letting their infants cry and scream or spanking their kids (and I am horrified by how common it is to joke about this in church nurseries) evokes the same stomach-clenching, teary-eyed feelings. 

I realize that to someone who is accustomed to it, it isn't a big deal, and that I probably seem overly dramatic.  Once a care-giver threatened Ariana and Joel with a spanking.  To my mom, it wasn't a serious issue since it was "only" a threat.  However, my sister was able to remind her that for children who have never been threatened with hitting, it was very different.  If an angry adult threatened to hit you and seemed prepared to do so, you would probably be upset and scared.  If this adult was much, much larger than you and knew that they could get away with it, imagine how much more intense your fear would be.  Or imagine how you would feel watching an adult caregiver hit an elderly person with Alzheimer's because they weren't following instructions.  I feel that same horror, outrage and grief at the idea of hitting a child, whose cognitive and physical abilities may make them just as vulnerable.  It is only when we have desensitized ourselves that the idea of hitting someone smaller and at a different mental level from us is not disturbing. 

Much more insidious is the subtle adversarial mindset that comes with punitive parenting.  Labeling, shaming, perceiving all of the child's actions through a negative lens.  I hear it all the time, and I have noticed that it is contagious.  I have found that even reading through Dobson or Ezzo materials starts to influence my thinking and perception of my children.  I become less patient, more suspicious and less peaceful inside.

Another reason that I need to be intentional about my community is, quite simply, that I don't have all the answers.  I need help, advice, wisdom, sympathy and encouragement from other moms who have been there.  However, it is hard to be open about my struggles with moms who don't understand the reasons behind my choices.  I don't feel as if I have the right to complain about lack of sleep, discouragement with breastfeeding, frustration with my child's behavior or similar things when I have no intention of accepting any of their solutions of CIO, weaning or punishment.

I *need* to spend time with other peaceful parents.  When I do, I come away refreshed, full of love, peace and compassion towards my family.  I feel energized instead of drained.  A community of like-minded parents isn't just a nice thing to have.  It is a necessity.  But it doesn't seem to happen easily for some of us.  It must be created intentionally.  I am already planning a post on how we can create that community, but for now, I just want to thank you for being a part of mine.  You are loved and appreciated.  <3

Natural Parenting Blog Party--Meeting Littlemama Midwife

"The same goes for female elders too. They are to be suitably holy as is fitting for their appointment, not slanderers, not enslaved by wine, teachers who provide instruction in what is right. Then they can
bring the new women to their senses to love their husbands, to love their children, to be clear headed, holy, the mistress of the house, supportive of their own husbands, so that the Word of God won’t be blasphemed."  Titus 2:3-5 The Source

I still remember the sense of amazement and awe.  I chattered about it non-stop to my husband on the way home.  "You won't believe this!  I met a mom at church who doesn't babywise!"  I'm not sure if my dearly beloved quite grasped how earth-shaking this was.  I had never met a mom in real life who didn't schedule feedings, spank or make her babies cry it out, and it was revolutionary to me.

I have been a social misfit, um, independent thinker for as long as I can remember.  Most of my life I didn't quite fit with the majority of my peers.  I didn't talk like them, dress like them or think like them, whether I wanted to or not.  Yet I shared with them the heart desire for being accepted and understood.  And always, God has brought special, amazing friends into my life.

But the loneliness hit hard when I became a parent and rejected mainstream practices like spanking, cry-it-out, and so on.  I didn't know of anyone who believed like I did.  Thankfully, I had some MMMs--Message board Mama Mentors--who patiently shared with me, encouraged me and answered my myriad questions.  However, as dear as these ladies were to my heart, most of them were agnostics, atheists, or pagan.  I hadn't yet joined GCM, and although we shared many beliefs, not being able to share my heart for God with them made me a little lonely.  Even worse were the occasional doubts that would flicker through my mind.  Was I somehow missing God?  If every believer I knew was convinced that God wanted them to hit their babies and refuse to comfort them, was I somehow mistaken in believing that He was calling me to treat mine with compassion?

I believe that God understands more than we could imagine what it is to be misunderstood and to not fit in with those around us.  The deep desire for fellowship, intimacy and relationship is something that He placed within us.  And I believe that He meets those needs, both through His Spirit and through the people He brings into our lives.

That Sunday morning in the Nursing Moms room where I met Littlemama Midwife was a turning point for me.  I didn't want her to feel like she was going through some kind of inquisition, but with every guarded question (", is there a particular approach you use regarding discipline?) I felt more and more relief.  Finally, someone who was passionate about Jesus and about parenting the way I felt He was leading me to parent!

I needed a mentor, and Littlemama Midwife is an amazing teacher.  She taught me to babywear and made me a wrap.  She answered all my questions on vaccinations and encouraged and helped me as we navigated our way through the overwhelming amount of info after ds' reaction.  She didn't think I was weird for tandem nursing.  She was never shocked by preschoolers who still wanted leche.  She had several years of homeschooling experience and was always happy to answer questions on curriculum.

She understood the disappointment and sadness I felt when our pastor encouraged spanking, and prayed with us and encouraged us to write our letter.  On days when I secretly feared that all the spankers were right about my kids turning into brats if I didn't spank, I could look at her four beautifully behaved kids and see the future I was hoping for.

However, there was one area where I was sure we diverged.  I totally respected her beliefs regarding birth.  I was just sure that they didn't apply to me.  I'll take that epidural as soon as contractions are fifteen minutes apart, thankyouverymuch.  I'm only dilated to a three, you say?  Oh, well, bring on the pit...  I was pathetically uninformed, and it is only through amazing mercy that my births were not C-sections.  

But as soon as I became pregnant with our third child, I felt that the Holy Spirit was telling me not to have an epidural this time around.  I tried to ignore it.  I really, really did.  I couldn't, though.  The voice inside me kept growing more insistent.  Dh, bless him, thought I was nuts.  He didn't want to see me in pain and he was afraid that I would not be able to take it and then have to deal with the emotional fallout of changing my mind.  Littlemama was my one voice of encouragement, telling me that I could do it.  She shared resources, information, books, red raspberry leaf tea and hugs.

She came over early in my labor, and tenderly supported me through the whole thing.  I can't even imagine how tired her arms must have been after applying pressure, helping me find comfortable positions and constantly being exactly what I needed.  When we got to the hospital and one of the worst of the Planet of the Apes sequels was on, she understood my loathing and helped me laugh.

When my water broke and the OB turned white as a sheet and began yelling at me to push, she saw that I was tuning out and spoke quietly right into my ear what I needed to do.  The cord was prolapsed.  Thankfully, she was out in just a few pushes.  If I had had pitocin, if I had had an epidural and been unable to push like I needed to...I wouldn't have the little warrior princess I have now.

Heather, dd and me just a couple of days after the birth.

When I became pregnant again, she understood my desire for a homebirth.  When I thought that there was no way we could afford a homebirth, she was incredibly generous.  Once again she supported me all through labor, and when my 9lb 6oz sweetling whose hand was tucked up next to her ginormous cheeks finally popped out, she was able to catch her.

My internet friends are amazing and real.  But having someone who is there with us in the daily walk-it-out of parenting is something we all desperately need.  Since meeting Littlemama, God has brought some more awesome moms into my life--GentleMomof4, my SIL, my dear friend Becki and others, (soon to include the Peaceful Housewife!).

I think God has a tender spot for moms who need encouragement, love, support and guidance.  Although Littlemama is not older than I, she has fulfilled the role of the Titus 2 lady in my life in many ways, and I am so very, very grateful.  If you are needing a real-life friend, keep praying and looking.  I hope that you can find a sister of the heart like I did.  :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Personal Toolbox

Image credit: boeke on Flickr
The Natural Parenting Blog Party is still going strong!  I have met some amazing blogs through this, and I still need to catch up on the newest entries.  On my journey to as a natural parent, I am learning the incredible importance of filling my toolbox, not only with tools for peacefully parenting my children, but also for helping to repair things in myself.  This was originally written as a guest post for Authentic Parenting.  :)  I will be sharing the other tools here, or you can head over to Authentic Parenting and read them there.

One might think that having more than a decade of experience as children ourselves should make us experts at raising our own kids.  We know how they think, how they respond, and what works or doesn't and why.   At least in theory.   In many cases, it creates some strong ideals.  How many of us remember vowing, "When *I* have kids, I'll...".  Yet there is often a gap between our ideal and our reality.  In our idealized world, we are patient, we don't yell, we are confident and truly enjoy our precious and amazing children.  Then we get trampled by real-life days when we are grouchy, exhausted, and all we want is a few moments of uninterrupted *anything*, a chance to use the bathroom alone, and clothing that doesn't have unidentified sticky substances smeared on it or smell like sour milk.  Days where despite our conscience, we feel like screaming or hitting or ignoring or shaming.  

There are several things that can help us as we strive to grow into the parents we desire to be. In fact, many of the same tools you use to gently guide your children into becoming the people they are meant to be work for you, as well.

Nourish yourself.  

Image: Chin Yan Keat on Picasa
We all know that hungry, tired kidlets are prone to meltdowns.  So are hungry, tired parents.  Try to get plenty of protein, especially if you are pregnant and/or breastfeeding. Stay hydrated!  As for sleep, I tend to snort rather unbecomingly when I read advice to sleep when your baby sleeps.  Sure, that is nice if your baby actually sleeps in stretches long enough for you to fall asleep, too, and if your house is quiet and peaceful, etc.  I have four kidlets at home, and I shudder to think what would happen if I tried that, even for the incredibly brief segments in which my baby sleeps.  However, cosleeping at night has been a lifesaver for me.  My children's night-time needs are met and honored and my need for sleep is met.   

Limit negative influences.  
I am surrounded by people close to me who disagree with many of our choices, such as homebirth, child-led weaning, non-punitive discipline, etc.  I know that despite the intensive amount of research I've done and the strong convictions I have, raised eyebrows and disapproving comments from the Babywising moms in the church nursery can leave me subconsciously second-guessing myself or my children.  The pediatrician who questioned why my three year old was still breastfeeding left me shaking, even though I know all the recommendations and stats.  Intellectually, I throw out the garbage. But on some emotional level, I internalize it. I find myself slipping into an adversarial mindset and resenting childish behavior that didn't bother me before.  I need to limit some of my exposure to those who would influence me in a negative way.  Which leads me to...

Create a support community. 
Especially if your choices are going to be met with resistance by people around you.  I've learned to seek out loving and gentle mamas who shower me with grace and acceptance and encourage me to extend that same mercy and peace toward my children.  If you don't know people who support your beliefs in real life, find message boards, blogs and other sources. They can encourage you, brainstorm solutions, and listen when you need an ear.  

We spend a significant amount of time studying for our careers.  Being a parent is far more important than anything I will accomplish in my job--shouldn't I at least show the same diligence?  Some believe that it should be instinctual.  I agree that most of it is.  But sometimes our instincts get clouded by our upbringing or culture.  There are many books available by authors with wisdom and experience. If what you read goes against your own heart, then toss it out.  One of the most helpful things in my parenting journey has been studying child development.  It can save your sanity when you realize that your child is not deliberately trying to push your buttons, and that what they are doing is completely normal for their age.  Naomi Aldort's Raising our Children, Raising Ourselves, Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting, Pam Leo's Connection Parenting, Crystal Lutton's Biblical Parenting, Lawrence Cohen's Playful Parenting and Margot Sunderlund's The Science of Parenting have all been valuable resources to me. 

Don't act on your old recordings.  
Most of us have grown up with a litany of mental recordings that pop into our heads any time our children do something we think they shouldn't.  Often the are the same shaming words that we heard as children.  I can't believe you did that!  How stupid/dumb!  Why on earth would you do that?  You always/never...   If we let those thoughts pass through our mind without acting on them (because it is almost impossible to eliminate a mental recording that has been active for years) then we can dismiss them and replace them with Truth.  Let the thought play out, then replace it with a new, true thought.  Operate with the mindset that your children are doing the best they can in any given situation.  They aren't your adversaries.  You are on the same team. Beware the Defiance Boogeyman or the Myth of the Manipulative Monster Baby that presumes a negative motive on the part of your child.  Your children love you and any misbehavior is just a misguided attempt to get their needs met the best the can.

Shame off you
Just as they are with your child, your anger and frustration are expressions of unmet needs.  *Shaming yourself because you get upset won't make those needs go away.*  Guilt is only useful in the sense that, like the pain of touching a hot stove, it alerts us to a problem.  Rather than berating yourself because you feel like hitting your child, stop.  Examine where those feelings are coming from, especially when they are out of proportion to what is actually going on.  A friend used to feel enraged when her daughter created a mess or spilled something.  Upon reflection, she recalled how angry her own mother would become and how harshly she was scolded as a little girl for similar incidents.  As she dealt with her own feelings she was able to view her daughter's accidents from a much more reasonable place.  If there are ongoing needs that aren't being met for you, work on a plan to get what you need.  Ask for help!  Apologize when you fall short of your ideals, and accept the same grace and forgiveness that you show your children.

There are no perfect parents, of course.  Yet there is a lot we can do to acquire the skills we need to be the parents we want to be for our children, to eliminate deliberately hurtful actions, and to nourish and strengthen our bond.  I love Pam Leo's thought, "Let's raise children who won't have to recover from their childhood!"

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I hear it all the time. "I'm a parent, not a friend."  It is understood in our culture that these are somehow mutually exclusive.  If you know my stance on consistency, the united front, backtalk and other parenting myths, it probably won't shock you that I disagree with this, too.

What are the qualities of friendship?  That we love at all times.  That we know what is going on in each others life and work to maintain closeness of relationship.  That we sharpen each other and encourage each other to grow.  That we like each other and have fun together.  For the life of me, I can't see how any of those conflict with a parent-child relationship.  

Now, I get that we need appropriate boundaries.  The parent should never burden the child by oversharing or depending on the child to fulfill emotional needs that are meant to be fulfilled by God or other people.  The parent should never fear honest disagreement or healthy limits, even if it results in big emotions from the child.  The parent has responsibilities for the safety and health of the child, and in helping the child to grow in character and wisdom. 

But you know what?  That is true of healthy friendships, too.  In a healthy friendship, I would still be sensitive to my friend's feelings and capacities.  Some topics might be off-limits.  Healthy boundaries would still be maintained.  I would speak up honestly and not pretend in order to avoid conflict.  I would do what I could to help my friends be safe and healthy and help them to grow.  I know that my friends have certainly helped me to grow and have taught me so very much.  I can see how parenting adds responsibilities beyond those of friendship, but not conflicting ones.

I think that our culture has romanticized "the lonely commander".  We have this mental view of the noble general remaining aloof from all the soldiers under his command in order to appear invulnerable and worthy of unquestioning obedience at all times.  Since the context of the "parent-not-a-friend" comments is almost always in reference to coercion and following the parent's commands, I believe this image plays into it.  The gallant leader sacrifices a relationship in order to preserve the mystique and rank of command.

We aren't an army, though.  We are a family.  My goal is not to have a bunch of little soldiers who jump when I say so.  My goal is to have children who fulfill God's destiny for their lives, who know the height and depth and breadth of the love of Christ Jesus, who walk in freedom and grace, who are mentally alert and unafraid of asking tough questions.  In Jesus' Kingdom, being in authority also means serving those under us, and I believe it means being a friend, too.  Our family relationships don't follow the world's form of hierarchy.

As they grow into adults, our relationship will become even more friendship-based.  I am grateful for the foundation of trust and openness that we have now, and hope to build on it so that when the teen years hit, I won't be floundering in a place without the capability of coercion and without the closeness for guidance.

So I am trying to nurture my friendship with these precious little people who are also my children.  I listen.  We spend time together.  We talk about nothing a lot.  We laugh together over things that other people might not consider funny.  I try to show the same respect for them that I would for an adult friend, and take their feelings and thoughts just as seriously. 

And the truth is, I like my kids.  They are some of the funniest, most creative, thoughtful, interesting and lovingest people I know.  I am proud to be their mom and their friend.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Parties and Presence

Family gets your best, or no one gets the rest.
~ Crystal Lutton

Two of my greatest weaknesses are housekeeping and social activities.  Since I believe that God is loving and good, I try to consider my husband's love of parties as an opportunity for growth rather than evidence of a sense of humor far more diabolical than divine.  However, regardless of how organized I try to be, having four little ones means that last-minute party prep is inevitable.  Sure, I'll mop the floor that morning--doesn't mean that I won't have to do it again 30 minutes before the party.

One of our traditions is that every semester, Carlos invites his students over for food and a movie at our house.  Between allergies that have knocked me out this week, my own classes, situations with friends and family, homeschooling and caring for my kidlets and other stuff, I was more behind than usual, and was running at full speed yesterday.  I shamelessly turned on both TVs hoping to occupy the little ones while I cleaned, but my two and a half year old refused to take the bait.

She showed remarkable ingenuity and persistence in pestering her older siblings, though.  She did everything in her considerable power to irritate them.  The fourth or fifth time that my son called for me to come get her I winced inside.  On the one hand, I had been working with him to call me rather than retaliating.  He was doing exactly what he was supposed to do when she wouldn't honor his boundaries.  On the other hand, being interrupted in a task drives me absolutely batty.  Could I just consider it natural consequences if he loses his cool and strikes back?, I wondered. With a sigh, I went to move a wriggling, screaming toddler.  Perhaps we all needed a break...

Recognizing that the more time we spent out of the house would mean less time for the kidlets to undo any cleaning we had already done, I made plans to meet Carlos for lunch.  I buckled the baby into her seat and turned around to pick up Elena.  She was grinning.  And smeared with mud.  No, actually, it was make up, just several shades darker than what I wear.  So was the carpet.  I don't have any idea where she got the stuff, but it would appear that an entire bottle of liquid makeup in a very dark shade was smeared over the carpet that Carlos had spent two hours shampooing the night before.  And did I mention that it was a waterproof makeup?

That was just yogurt, not makeup.  :)

A couple of years ago, I would have lost it.  I am getting better.  I did wail NOoooooooooooo! at the top of my lungs when I first saw it, but then I took several deep breaths (I was not hyperventilating.  Not really.).  I gently took her into the garage and told her to get in her seat while I grabbed the carpet cleaner and got ready to clean up the mess.  I also posted on Facebook, receiving some wonderfully calming, perspective-giving advice and empathy from my amazing friends.

25 minutes later, most of the make up was gone or at least faded.  I buckled Elena in her seat, thanked the older kids for playing with the baby and keeping her happy, and took off, letting Carlos know we were going to be late.  As I stopped before pulling out onto the main road, I looked back in the rear view mirror to make sure that Elena hadn't tried to pull her chest clip down.  To my horror, she tumbled halfway down.  Her seat straps were fine, but she had apparently unbuckled the belt so that her seat was loose while I was cleaning up the mess.  I am a stickler for carseat safety, and check regularly that their seats are secure.  I had just been in a hurry...what if...? Shudders.

My mom always ends every conversation with, "I love you.  Bye."  I asked her about it once when I was little, and she said that even though she wasn't really afraid that we would die while we were gone, just in case, she always wanted our last words to each other to have been, "I love you."  I picked up the habit, and while I don't look at it from a morbid fear or anything, I know that there are no guarantees.  Right now our dearest friends with a daughter a few days younger than Elena are scheduling her open heart surgery.  We believe she will be fine, but it has reminded me that this life is fleeting and every moment matters.

When we finally made it to meet Carlos after making sure her seat was securely installed, she insisted on sitting on my lap the whole time.  Afterward, we picked up some last minute items from the store (um, yeah, I hadn't even started cooking yet...).  I won't describe in detail the various mishaps that occurred between then and the party, the most spectacular of which involved Elena grabbing a 2 liter of pop and running with it, which then caused it to explode all over the floor.  At one point, a repairman was waiting for me to write a check while both little ones were in full meltdown mode and begging for leche (he used every cliche in the book, from "Are they all yours?" to "Boy, your sure have your hands full, don't you?".  Bless his heart.  To be fair, they probably seemed like more than four at the moment.).

I am just really slow on the uptake sometimes.  My little middle child has been a bit lost for quite sometime.  Ariana and Joel have an amazing relationship.  They are so close to each other that it is easy for them to exclude their little sister.  She tries so very hard to keep up with everything that they do, and yet it still isn't always enough.  Her baby sister is a baby, and so she often has to wait while I take care of the tiny one.  Looking back, it is clear how desperate for attention and belonging she has been. 

I turned down the stove, picked her up and snuggled with her.  She nursed, all the while patting my arm in relief.  We watched her favorite Yo Gabba Gabba episode about babies, and I sang her special little baby song to her.  We spent the next hour reconnecting.  Yeah, for a few seconds my mind screamed that I didn't have time for that, that I needed to be preparing for the party.  But one thing I learned from GCM is that family gets our best.  If we can't minister there when it counts, the rest doesn't matter too much.  She needed my presence right then, not after the party.

Carlos took the babies out for an hour once he got home, and the older kidlets and I did a whirlwind of cooking and cleaning.  I didn't get to dust and there were a couple of clutter spots.  On the plus side, however, the chili was the best yet (toasting ancho chiles adds incredible depth of flavor in a short time).  The party was a success, judging by the comments, laughter and amount of food consumed by the 40 college kids (who didn't seem to judge my housekeeping skills at all).   Parties are great.  So are the other activities and obligations we have as parents.  But none of them trumps being present with our loved ones.  The little moments do matter.  They add up to a lifetime of memories.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Post that Started my Blog

I have reposted this a few times already, but for all my new friends from the blog party and elsewhere, I decided to share it again.  A few years ago, I was in church with Littlemama Midwife when our pastor made some remarks condoning spanking.  In our neck of the woods, it would be more remarkable if that *didn't* happen, but it still left our hearts burdened.  Usually, I am the one who gets all riled up about something, and then dh talks me down, so I mentioned it to Carlos after the service, thinking he would tell me to just let it go— but he felt the same way I did.  So we prayed and wrote a letter together.  I shared it on a couple of message boards to get some feedback, and several posters asked permission to share it, as well.  Eventually, I realized that this topic was one I couldn't let go of — I feel compelled to share it with all of my brothers and sisters in Christ who are spanking their children because they believe that God requires it.  Our views have grown and changed in some ways since this letter was written (and I have made a couple of minor edits, but not many), but this is the letter that started it all.  :)

Dear Pastor,

We are so grateful for all of the ways that you have helped us to connect in a closer way with God. This of course has had a profound influence on our parenting. Yet, in light of a recent sermon, we would like to present to you an alternative Christian view on disciplining children. Christians, of course, are probably the strongest proponents of spanking in the US. It is, so they say, their God given right---it's what the Bible teaches. That is exactly the point of contention and what we hope to humbly disprove. 

Let's take the Old Testament. Some (our more literal-interpreting brothers) would say that it covers a period of about 4000-10,000 years; others (our more moderate and liberal brothers), anywhere between 10,000 to millions and millions of years. Irrespective of which view you hold, it has to be astounding that there is not one example of spanking in the whole Old Testament. This is especially impressive when you consider the large percentage of OT books which are more narrative than didactic. We might also add that there is no example of spanking in the New Testament, even though the time period is significantly shorter (around 100 years) and the majority of the books are didactic and not narrative. Now certainly there are some didactic passages in both Testaments that can be construed as being pro-spanking, however, they can be interpreted in a different light with sound exegesis.

Strange, isn’t it, for a teaching that is so adamantly held by so many believers that it is not illustrated once in either Testament? But, even if no narrative biblical passage illustrates spanking, if it is plainly and consistently taught in didactic passages, then we must accept it as God ordained. In the Old Testament the only passages that can be construed as being pro-spanking are found in only one book: Proverbs. A good hermeneutical principal is to not build doctrine on poetic passages. The wisdom books are full of symbolism and hyperbole and are often a stumbling block to the more literal interpreting readers. The “rod” in these Proverbs passages that so many see as a license to spank is symbolic. This Hebrew word is often translated as shepherd’s “staff/rod” or king’s “scepter”. So, if we were to be more literal, a closer translation would be bat and not twig! But that is not the author’s intent. This “rod” is a symbol of authority and guidance, like a shepherd guiding his sheep or a king governing his people. This is why the Psalmist could joyfully exclaim: “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). We do not wish to pass over this lightly, because these verses are the foundation of the Christian pro-spanking argument. However, to avoid repetition, we ask that you read the following links, and for a detailed analysis of these passages.

It is somewhat puzzling that the people who insist that spanking is Old Testament mandated claim the passages from a poetic book, yet dismiss clear instructions from a didactic passage in the Torah to stone rebellious children (Deut. 21:18-21). Why the inconsistency? You claim that one passage is obviously morally wrong. We submit that both are morally wrong, especially in light of the culmination of God’s progressive revelation---Jesus Christ, who taught us, among other things, that unless we “become like little children” we can never enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 18:3. See also Mt. 19:14). Implication: children are more in tune with God than adults. Which raises the question: should the unrighteous be punishing the righteous?

While the Old Testament is of great value, we recognize that no longer being under the Law changes how we apply some of the OT Scriptures to our daily lives. So even if spanking is Old Testament taught that doesn’t mean it is New Testament endorsed. Throughout the New Testament the one passage used to support spanking is Hebrews 12:4-6. Going back to the original language there, however, also changes the meaning to the importance of discipline and authority in shaping a child, not physical punishment. God certainly disciplines us but He doesn’t physically hit us when he does. Read the text. Proper exegesis shows that the pro-spanking people simply choose to read into this passage the very point they need to prove.

So, if there are no passages in either Testament that truly encourage spanking, then we must evaluate discipline according to other principles that the Bible teaches clearly. Jesus teaches us that we have two goals: to love God with all that we are, and to treat others the way we would like to be treated. Nowhere does He imply that His words do not apply to how we treat children. In fact, His interactions with children showed a special effort to value them and their feelings. He also tells us that whatever we do to the least of these we are doing to Him. Can you honestly say that you would want someone to hit you? I can't. I can say truthfully that I would want loving correction and instruction if I were doing something wrong, but being hit/spanked/popped/smacked would not be a part of it.

Jesus’ example was that the one in authority had an even greater responsibility to act in love than the one under authority. We are to demonstrate the Fruit of the Spirit. Yet how is hitting a child compatible with the peace, patience, kindness and gentleness in which we are called to walk? The Bible is very specific about how we should deal with sin in others: We are taught that in correcting those who disobey to do so gently (Gal. 6:1). Parents are specifically cautioned to not cause their children to lose heart (Eph. 6:4). Having the people you love most in the world deliberately hurt you is pretty disheartening, regardless of any lofty motives they may claim.

The Bible is clear that parents have a responsibility to discipline their children. But discipline and spanking are not the same thing. Discipline is about making disciples, or teaching. It is difficult for children to focus on a life-lesson, though, if they are distracted by the anger, hurt, fear, humiliation and resentment that result from being hit. As career teachers, our professional education classes and our years of experience with students of many ages have convinced us that the research is correct in showing that people learn more effectively through positive reinforcement than from punishment (negative reinforcement). You have seen this in the family of Kevan and Heather ********, whose children are delightful to be around. They do not spank, but instead practice gentle discipline. 

Another important point is that most of us are able to learn best from example--that is why Paul wrote to be imitators of him as beloved children. Kids are expert mimics. Too many children in our nation are learning that the way to respond to an offense is to hurt the offender. “Turning the other cheek” is not supposed to mean baring a child’s bottom. We recognize that in other relationships of authority (employer/employee, police officer/civilian, pastor/church member, husband/wife) that physical punishment is inappropriate, even when correction is needed. Children are even more vulnerable—surely we can find better ways to correct them, as well.

When Christians teach spanking, the majority has several cute euphemisms to describe it and a list of guidelines as to how, when, and with what. There is absolutely no Biblical basis for any of them—they are essentially cultural. Whether you call it spanking, popping, smacking or hitting, they all mean to strike a child in order to produce pain and fear. Why do we feel the need to create so many guidelines: spank only on the bottom or legs, only X number of times, only with your hand/a switch/a paddle/PVC pipe (Michael and Debi Pearl, some of the most popular writers on spanking in Christian circles, advocate plastic plumbing pipe, and we were given a copy of their book by a pediatrician!). Is spanking on the bottom any better than the Waorani practice of slapping their children in the face with stinging nettles? Why, if neither results in permanent injury? If God didn’t impose a limit on the number of times we strike a child, who is to say that 9 times is worse than 2? While not spanking in anger is at least more likely to avoid a total loss of control and avert serious physical injury, watching the person you love and trust more than any other calmly and deliberately choose to hurt you is a chilling experience. 

I would submit that the reason behind the euphemisms and rules that Christians create is that our conscience is condemning us. We are aware on some level that hurting those who are smaller and weaker goes against the nature of Christ, and feel a need to justify and minimize what we are actually doing.

Another issue with spanking is that as the child grows, the spankings must get harder and longer in order to produce the same level of pain and fear. When do they eventually start to cross the line into abuse? Of course, most parents stop spanking once the child begins to approach them in size and maturity. We agree that then it is more appropriate to use the Biblical admonition, “Come now, let us reason together…”. If the child is old enough to reason, spanking is unnecessary. If the child is too young to reason, then the child is too young to effectively understand what the parents are trying to teach, and the spanking is both cruel and pointless.

The false dichotomy that always pops up is that if parents don’t spank, they are not disciplining their children. That suggests that parents are relying on spanking as their main or only form of discipline. Permissive, lazy parenting is neglect. The responsibility given to parents is a great, even fearsome one. By choosing not to spank, we have gained deeper insight into our children’s hearts. It has challenged us to deal with anger and pride, and earnestly seek God’s wisdom, patience and love. Proactive parenting is more “work” than spanking, but already the rewards have been great. 

There are so many alternative ways to discipline that result in harmony and renewed connection between the parent and child. Teaching a child to do right is much more effective than executing judgment for doing wrong. When we as parents obey our directive to treat others as we want to be treated, it causes us to get behind the eyes of the child and deal with the root of the problem rather than just suppressing an outward behavior. It is amazing to see a cycle of irritability and frustration break when the parent chooses to discipline by restoring relationship. Many parents assume a time-out is the default choice if parents don’t spank. However, often what children need is more time WITH the parents to reconnect, reassure and restore. Without turning an already lengthy letter into a book, if you are interested in other approaches, we would be happy to explain how we handle specific situations or direct you to sources that we have found beneficial.

The plan behind redemption is clear: God wants to reconnect with us. All of the history of the Law shows that merely punishing sin doesn't change the heart. What changes the hearts of our children is relationship. Obedience grows out of love and trust rather than a self-centered desire to avoid punishment. If children obey simply out of fear of being spanked, their motivation isn’t righteous, but only self-centered.

As a child of God, my choice for obedience isn't based on a fear of punishment. It isn't a get-out-of-hell-free card for me. It is because I love Him and have learned to trust Him. My children are learning to obey for the same reasons. If my children do wrong and repent, for me to go ahead and hit them seems very inconsistent with the way that God has forgiven my mistakes. I have a responsibility to show the same grace toward my kids that I have received. It is God's kindness that leads us to repentance, not His wrath. 

We have chosen to look at this from a Christian perspective, but we find it interesting that the research is overwhelmingly against spanking. The American Academy of Pediatrics, like many other professional organizations involving children and health, has issued a statement against corporal punishment on the grounds that it is not nearly as effective as positive reinforcement and that it can be harmful physically and emotionally. In fact, there are some indications that spanking is associated with increased delinquent and antisocial behavior, increased risk of child abuse and spousal abuse, increased risk of child and adult aggression, decreased child mental health and decreased adult mental health. Consider this in the light of Jesus’ warning against causing little ones to stumble.

Sometimes it is difficult to discern what the Bible teaches on specific issues. You have often used the illustration of God playing hide and seek in order to encourage us to dig deeper and seek Him with all of our hearts. On the topic of spanking, He has given us glimpses of His heart–the parable of the unmerciful servant (Mt. 18:21-35), I John 4, James 2:13. None of these suggest ignoring or excusing sin, but they all teach us to be humble and loving as we show others, regardless of their age, a better way.

In closing, we chose to write this to you because of our respect for you. We know that you are someone who has the courage to look beyond the easy, superficial answers and the integrity to hold convictions that may not be popular. Believe us, in Christian circles not spanking is tantamount to heresy, but it is a very worthy cause. We humbly suggest that spanking is just another religiously transmitted disease. We love you and your family and are grateful that God has placed us under your spiritual leadership. May God bless you and your family.
Carlos and Dulce

***This is some of the backstory on our gentle discipline journey***

When we first got married, I thought that in order to be a Christian parent you had to spank. I mean, wasn't that what all the Proverbs verses taught? And if the options are an out-of-control brat who terrorizes everyone, or spanking a child, then a loving parent would have to make the choice to spank, right?

Carlos disagreed, and told me that he would never spank our kids. After our first child was born, there was so much harmony between us that suddenly the idea of hitting her was as incomprehensible as the idea of hitting myself. But what about the Bible? Turns out that those verses are not instruction to hit your kids, anymore than we would seriously suggest that suicide is preferable to portion control (Prov. 23:2). Please look up the posts on, and  to see the original words of the verses!

Once we started the journey into gentle discipline, I originally thought that a non-violent system of rewards and punishments would be the way to go. But the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I felt with that. Reading Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn crystallized a lot of things for me. Connection Parenting by Pam Leo gave me practical tools.

Our kids have never been punished, but they are deeply sensitive to the needs and feelings or others, remarkably so for their ages. I overhear them talking daily about whether or not to do different things. They don't say, "We shouldn't do that because we will be spanked or go to time-out." They say, "We shouldn't do that because it could hurt someone's feelings." They really are making choices out of a tender heart for others rather than what they can get away with.

Our home is a place for loving touches. I never want my daughters to think that it is OK for the people who love you to hit you. I never want my son to think that it is OK to hit people as long as you love them.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Natural Parenting Blog Party, continued: What's a Party Without Cake?

The Peaceful Housewife

I am having so, so much fun participating in the blog party hosted by Jenny, the Peaceful Housewife.  I have been able to meet some amazing new bloggers and learn more about some of my favorites.  But now, I am going to brag just a little:  I get to meet up with the Peaceful Housewife, Littlemama Midwife and Gentle Mom in Training for a real party next week!  I am so excited!  And I am bringing cake.  :)

If you read our answers to Jenny's questions, one thing stands out that we all have in common:  a love for chocolate.  I love cake, too.  It relaxes me to fix cakes.  Eating them isn't bad, either.  Last summer, I started fixing what I think of as Amaya's birthday cake.  It is a chocolate layer cake with cheesecake and cherries between the layers.  I had planned to work on it during early labor so that when she was born, we could all share a celebratory cake.  It didn't quite turn out that way, but I still associate it with her, which is funny now since she cannot tolerate chocolate.   Pobrecita.  She will grow out of that, I hope.

I've mentioned all the other food allergies we have dealt with before.  This cake is egg-free, dairy-free if you use frosting instead of cheesecake, and wonder of wonders, actually works gluten-free, too!  The GF part still amazes me, because nearly every recipe I found was either EF *or* GF, but not both.  This was my go-to cake for the kidlets when they were small, although it is delicious with regular flour, too.

Amaya's Birthday Cake

3 C flour (regular or GF.  When we were GF, I just used a mixture of 2 1/4 C white rice flour with 3/4 tapioca flour)
2 C sugar
1/2 C cocoa powder (really chocolatey, but that is always good)
1 C mini chocolate chips (DF)
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 tsp vinager
2 C cold coffee
2/3 C minus 2 tsps of canola oil
Cheesecake filling (if you are in a hurry and don't mind a little junk food, you can use 1 1/2 tubs of premade cheesecake filling.  Otherwise, mix cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar). Fresh cherries and berries or 1 jar of cherry preserves for topping.
If you are going dairy free, forget the cheesecake filling and instead mix 1/2 C cocoa with 2 lbs powdered sugar, a good splash of vanilla and 1/4 C of shortening.  Add a little coffee if it is too thick.

Preheat oven to 350*, and grease and sugar 2 8" round cake pans.  Mix dry ingredients, including chocolate chips, then add wet ingredients.  Mix and pour evenly into pans.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Cool.  Once the cake is cool, cut carefully into layers.  Place bottom layer on your serving platter and spread it with frosting or cheesecake filling.  If you are using fresh fruit, add some between the layers.  If you are using preserves, only put them on the top layer or it will cause them to slide apart.  Add another layer of cake and another layer of filling or frosting, and repeat.  For the top layer, either cover it in frosting or cheesecake filling and fresh fruit, or warm a jar of cherry preserves, stir well and pour over the top of the cake.  Any extra can be drizzled over individual slices of cake.  (Somehow, I always make the top of the frosting look messy, so I like this method a lot.)

I wish you could enjoy it with us, but I am sure that we will all eat a slice in your honor.  :)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Natural Parenting Blog Party

The Peaceful Housewife

¡Hola y bienvenidos!  I am so excited to team up with some of my favorite bloggers ever for the Natural Parenting Blog Party.  If this is your first time to visit, hello and welcome!  I am so happy to have you stop by.  And if you are already a friend, hugs for coming back!

Jenny has thoughtfully given us some starters to introduce ourselves.  Here goes:

1.How many children do you have, and how old are they?  I have four kidlets, Ariana (7), Joel (5), Elena (2) and Amaya (9 months).

2.Do you have a partner, or are you a single parent?  I have been married to my amado, Carlos, for almost 12 years.  :)

3.What are your “hot button” parenting issues?  Gentle discipline and breastfeeding are biggies for me.  I have a really hard time keeping my mouth shut when people claim that the Bible teaches that we must spank our children.

4.Have you made any parenting choices that you didn’t think you would make before you were a parent, i.e. cloth diapering a child when you had previously thought it was disgusting?  Ooooh boy, yes!  Pretty much every thing.  I mention some in this post.  That was from a couple years ago, and I am still enjoying the cookies on the dark side.  ;)

5.Is there one book or person in particular that’s heavily influenced your parenting choices?  Just one???  I have way too many to mention.  As a follower of Jesus, the Bible is a huge influence.  To Train Up a Child was a significant influence in a very ironic way, as it is what started me on the journey into gentle discipline.

6.If you had to describe each of your children using only one word, what word would you use?
                 Ariana ~ Healer
                 Joel ~ Believer
                 Elena ~ Warrior
                 Amaya ~ Contentment

7.Is there one parenting decision that you regret more than others and wish you could change?  I regret vaccinating Ariana according to the schedule.  It may not have had any negative effects at all, but I wonder if it played into her food allergies, etc.  In a broader answer, I wish that I had learned and chosen early on never to shame my kids. 

8.Is there an area of your parenting you wish you were better at?  I still struggle with shaming sometimes, although I can look back and see improvement, which is encouraging.  I also get frustrated some times with triage care--feeling like I so often have to focus on whoever needs me most at a given moment.  Finally, I am not very good at playing.  I do well at setting up opportunities for them to play, but it is really difficult for me to enter into it fully--I am more likely to watch. 

9.Now for the fun questions – is there one particular food or type of food that you could eat every day?  Chocolate, of course (except for recently--see below).  Mexican food (real Mexican food).  I never get tired of either.

10.Vanilla ice cream or chocolate?  Both.  Although I am avoiding chocolate since my youngest reacts really badly.  But when she weans or outgrows the allergies, definitely both.

11.What’s your guilty pleasure?  Gallons of decaf iced coffee (the decaf cancels out the gallons.  Or something.), a good book, and a long soak with lavender bath oil.

12.If you could be part of any television show, which show would it be?  I would love to be a guest judge on Top Chef or Iron Chef America.  Food and fun, what could be better?

I am looking forward to getting to know you, too.  Feel free to leave comments or poke around the blog.  Blessings!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Discipline of Stillness

Image credit Jim Nix / Nomadic Productions on Flickr
"Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah." ~ Psalm 4:4 NASB

The other night, my seven year old told me it was hard to fall asleep.  "My mind just keeps going and going."  Yep, I know the feeling.  I also look at her incessant tapping, bouncing or mouth noises and recognize my own constant finger movements.  We just seem to be wired to move and do and think and multi-task and...

I believe that one of the blessings of motherhood is stillness.  Not just theirs, although with four little ones I certainly welcome those rare and fleeting moments, too.  But ours, as well.  It sounds ridiculous, but it is absurdly difficult for me to take advantage of the quiet moments and be still myself.  I check out mentally and start thinking of all the things that need to get done.  I feel compelled to do something.  But what if I am just supposed to be?

Breastfeeding provides lots of opportunities to sit down with my baby that I would be tempted to bypass otherwise.  Even then, though, I tend to be talking with the older kids, surfing on my phone, watching TV or otherwise mentally disengaging from what I am actually doing.  I suspect that that is one of the reasons that I have been blessed with four little ones who wake the second I put them down.  Less temptation leave them in order to clean or cook or whatever, and more opportunities to meditate, to pray, to be aware.

I am convinced that there is something very valuable to be found if we engage in the discipline of stillness.  I haven't found it all yet, but I am getting closer.  I am playing on my phone less, and breathing in the scent of my baby's hair more.  I am trying to say less in my mind and listen more.  And it is very, very hard.  I am not even sure of exactly what I am listening for, but I know it is important.  Perhaps what I hear isn't even the point--just the stillness, the listening, and the awareness.

I don't want to wish away a single second of the time God has given me with my family, trying to hurry my children into the next stage of independence.  I want to enjoy this moment.  Wherever I am, I want to be all there.  To not have my mind going someplace else, but to be fully present.  To stop moving and for just that moment, be still. 

"Wherever you go, be all there.  Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God." ~ Jim Elliot

Image credit Windsors Child on Flickr

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sons of Adam, Daughters of Eve

Image credit: airpark on Flickr
"You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve, and that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth." ~ Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis

 When our first daughter was born, one of the earliest pieces of advice I got was regarding her sinful nature.  I was cautioned that she would try to cry and manipulate me, and that she would want to nurse more often than she should.  Um, really?  Why would she try to nurse too much?  So that she could get a tummy ache?  Oooooookay.  (And may I just say that many of the religious people I have met who think that babies are gluttonous sure seem to have a double standard when it comes to adult eating?) She would cry from an evil desire to have her mami hold her?  Because surely comforting "the smallest of these" is bad, right?  It didn't make a whole lot of sense to me that a child who didn't even understand object permanence was lying awake plotting malicious, sophisticated headgames.

But many Christians believe that.  Tedd Tripp advocates spanking an eight-month old for squirming during a diaper change.  Dobson, Ezzo and the rest of the punitive Christian authors give similar examples, although the exact age may vary.  They all believe that our children have a sinful nature that is expressed in any behavior that is not convenient for the parent, and that this sin must be dealt with by punishment from the parents, usually corporal punishment.

Why the obsession with sin and punishment?  The Bible also teaches that we are made in the image of God.  It teaches that we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Why is their teaching so out of balance?

Even more, why do they teach that parents must focus on ferreting out sin and punishing it, whether it is a child's nature or not?  Isn't the Holy Spirit the one who convicts us of sin?  And isn't the only way to be forgiven through Jesus?  Why do they teach that parents must convict and that spanking takes away sin?

I think that they are choking on gnats and swallowing camels.  Their eyes are intently scrutinizing babies for splinters without noticing their own planks.

There is currently an investigation into a church funded and supported by Christian author Lori Wick where the pastor advocates hitting babies as young as six weeks with wooden dowels 18 inches long and more than half an inch thick.  Despite bruises and welts left on the infants, he believes it was necessary to counter their sinful natures, which were expressing themselves through such heinous acts as fussing in the middle of a church service.

We want to think that those are fringe extremists.  Perhaps so, but there sure are a lot of them out there.  And the pro-spanking teachers never seem to consider that maybe, just maybe, instead of encouraging the parents to spank longer and harder, that they should have the parents deal with anger and self-control.  Glue sticks and plumbing line are replacing belts and paddles because they don't leave marks on the outside.  (Which seems to indicate a desire for deception by the spankers.)  However, just like tenderizing meat breaks down the muscle and tissue, so do those little "rods", eventually resulting in kidney failure.  But the abusers deem it necessary to save their souls from Hell.

Leaving aside the matters of common sense, human decency and child development, which don't seem to figure into the teachings much anyway, why would they suppose that constant suspicion is a good foundation for a parent-child relationship?  Would that benefit any other relationship?  Do you constantly look out for examples of a sinful nature in your spouse? Is his failure to put away his socks an example of the evil in his heart?  Or could there possibly be reasons that don't precisely fall into the category of sin behind it?  Most of those authors would justify behavior in an adult male that they would not forgive in a child.  Why can't they extend any grace to a tiny infant?

When Jesus talked about children, He didn't focus on sinful natures and warn parents to be on guard for any demonstration of rebellion.  Instead, He told the adults that they needed to become like children.  Yet so many who take His name violently insist that babies become like adults without ever giving them time to grow into that. 

I don't believe that immaturity is sin.  I don't believe that crying, or being awake during the night, or wiggling during a diaper change is evil.  In fact, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Jesus had colic as a baby!  I think it is absurd to say that those things are sinful.  I will go even further and say that if a child is not capable of understanding or has not developmentally reached the point of impulse control to truly make a choice about a behavior, it cannot be considered a moral issue.

What about older children who can consciously make good or bad choices?  Then I believe that the whole sinful nature thing can be seen.  However, I still don't think it matters in terms of punishment.   Punishment does not change a sinful heart.  Only Jesus does.  My job is still to teach, to enforce healthy boundaries, to help them make amends, and to show love and grace.  It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict us of sin.  I can help model and teach repentance, but ultimately that is between them and God.

I can't help but remember that Satan is the Accuser.  If I were to fix my mind on detecting sin in my children I would be sliding into dangerous territory.

What if, instead of focusing on judging and punishing what we deem to be sin in our children (and might be misjudging completely--after all, who knows the heart of another?), we worked at "restoring one another gently"?  Yes, we are sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.  We are also sons and daughters of God.  Which should we consider more important?