Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Sermon on the Mount for Parents: Salt and Light

Matthew 5-7 has always been one of my favorite Bible passages, and it really contains the core of my parenting philosophy: treating others as we would like to be treated.  The Beatitudes are a treasure trove of incredible parenting advice for me, but I'd like to make my way through the rest of chapter 5 and the following chapters, because there is so much richness in how we relate to our family members here.

Salt and Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:13-14 ESV

We are the salt in our family.  Salt is known for a couple of things: it gives flavor and preserves food.  Our attitude flavors our home.  My kidlets are Betazoids when it comes to picking up on my emotions, and if things start to spiral, I am never successful at helping them get back on track until I have dealt with my own attitude first.  
Salt Crystals
Image credit: Dawn Endico on Flickr

Are we allowing the things that should be nurturing our family to spoil?  This can apply to so many things, but my first thought was, "Let your speech always be full of grace, seasoned with salt."  Our words can bring life giving flavor or rottenness and decay.  And it isn't always the words themselves, but the flavor that surrounds them.  Sometimes my words are fine, but the expression on my face and my tone of voice are poison, and it spoils any good that my words might have given.

Lights allow others to see where they are going.  The Proverbs verses that have been twisted to seem as if they promote spanking can mean the presence of the parents being like a sun that beats down on their children, providing light and warmth and a constant presence.  

Another thing that comes to mind when talking about night lights and children is helping them not to be afraid.  I don't ever want my children to be scared of me, or to feel as though they have to hide.  "Hiding my light" could also mean deliberately taking away the things that help them to feel safe and secure, not giving them the direction that they need or denying them my presence and comfort.  

Ironically, so many Christian authors want parents to hide their light from their children.  They want kids to be afraid to come to their parents, whether it is tinies crying alone at night or older kids who make mistakes and know that there will be "consequences".  That is not the way of Jesus, the light of the world, who promised never to leave us or forsake us, the one whose kindness leads us to repentance.  
an Orthodox book cover
Image credit: Violette79 on Flickr

I am sure that there are many things that Jesus meant when He called us to be salt and light to our children, but they have an important attribute in common: they make life more pleasant, delicious, and nurturing, by their presence.  They protect us.  I want my kidlets to want me to be around, to feel happy and secure because I am in their lives.  I want to be salt and light, and glorify our Father in heaven.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review: Starlight Teething Giraffes

My daughter has a new friend:  Chompy, her super-cute, organic teething giraffe from Starbright Baby.    Starbright giraffes are the creation of my lovely friend, Suzi.  Her daughter had received one as a gift, but her three year old niece also wanted one.  Suzi decided to make her own, and her friends were so excited that they shared with their friends, who loved them and told theirfriends.

 I know, I know, amber teething necklaces are pretty and all that, and I am pretty sure that ours helped and all, but there were still some days when my little one was biting everything she could cram into her mouth.  These giraffes are made with a pre-washed, 100% cotton cover (available in organic cotton) that has just enough texture to soothe irritated gums.  The fill is hypoallergenic.  No worries about BPA or other issues with plastic teethers!

Besides being insanely cute, these things are tough!  My little princess demands a pretty high level of durability from her toys (which often get involved in tug-of-war challenges with a sibling) and I was initally concerned that the stitching might come loose or that the fabric would rip.  It still looks brand new (it has gotten a bit grubby, but we wiped it down and it cleaned up well.  They are machine washable, although they might get a bit bent out of shape.)

My little one is no longer teething, but she loved to carry Chompy around and snuggle him.  She is approaching 2.5 and the meltdowns are gaining momentum.  Her giraffe is the perfect calm-me-down tool for a tantrum: it is comforting, soft (both for cuddling and in case it gets thrown :shifty), she can even bite it to release frustration.

We have several friends with little ones, and these make such perfect gifts!  Here are some reasons to get one of these adorable giraffes:  they are awesome, my kidlets loved them (my four year old was seen snuggling with it several times, too!  And chomping it once), they are safe, multi-purpose (lovey, teether, a tool for calming down during tantrums) you are supporting a WAHM, they are gender neutral, and made by a gentle mother.  :happy sigh  Can it get any better than all that?

Yes, as a matter of fact it can!  She is offering a 20% discount code to all of you with the code: DLC20.  Whoohoo!  Check out her shop and don't forget to like her Facebook page so that you can see any new designs.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Spirit-Led Parenting: Finding the Freedom to Enjoy Co-Sleeping

In April of this year, a long hoped-for dream came to fruition: my dear friend and co-author Laura and I published Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year . In it, we encourage parents to lay aside the advice of the experts and call upon God for direction in parenting through infancy. We are vising the blogs of friends to discuss chapters of the book, and we are so thankful to Dulce for sharing her space with us today!

It seems silly to me now, almost eight years later, that I would feel like there was a parenting choice that I was so uncomfortable discussing that I resorted to lying about it. But it's true! That's the extent to which I felt I had to cover and hide the fact that we were *gasp* co-sleeping with our oldest daughter when she was a new baby.

The books I had read prior to her birth cemented the idea in my mind that there was no way a baby should be sharing sleep in the same bed as Mom and Dad. Some of the objections were practical ones dealing with safety and long-term sleep problems, while other objections were spiritual, grounded in the idea that a baby had no place in the sacred "marriage bed."

It was these messages about the wrongness of co-sleeping that played over and over in my head every night as our sweet new baby lay sleeping between us. I was so conflicted about it myself - there was no way I could talk to any of my friends or family members about it. I already knew the idea would be condemned and we would be compelled to change what we were doing.

But I didn't want to change.

As Laura and I began the process of writing Spirit-Led Parenting, we heard from so many other parents who founds themselves facing the same conundrum - they loved co-sleeping with their babies but felt like they had to keep the whole matter secret. In the book, we explore some very valid reasons why one or both parents might be opposed to the practice of co-sleeping (and how to navigate a compromise if that is the case). But what we found most interesting was that across the board, the main reason couples felt they couldn't share the truth about their co-sleeping practice with others is because of the strongly-held belief that co-sleeping is bad for marriage.

One source for this concern for what sharing sleep means for marriage is a misapplication of Hebrews 13:4 which speaks to the idea of keeping the marriage bed pure. Most readers of Scripture can look at that verse and understand that the writer is speaking to the purity of marriage in its entirety - not just the mattress where a husband and wife lay down to sleep.

But beyond that, there are often questions about how a couple can maintain a healthy sex life when co-sleeping is involved. Many couples with more than one child (or more than two or four or even more!) who practice co-sleep find this objection to be entertaining! If nothing else, co-sleeping allows and encourages couples to find a way to think outside the bed when it comes to enjoying time spent alone together.

We go to great lengths to emphasize that co-sleeping is not a requirement or a must-do for parenting that is spirit-led. On the contrary, we hope that parents can be empowered to feel free to practice it in the short-lived season of life with a baby, and to have the freedom to know they aren't doing anything wrong. Because:
Those sweet sleep gowns and footed pajamas are all too quickly tucked away in memory boxes as time grows our little ones into Big Kids who are so fiercely independent. Someday there will be curfews and slumber parties and all-night study sessions and eventually these babies will be teenagers who have to make space in their busy schedules for us. These nights filled with squirms, grunts, and sighs are just a whisper in the lifelong conversation that is parenting. If it's possible, if it's safe, and if it's desirable, this is a precious time to make space for the warm little bodies and sweet little sleepy sounds of the ones born from the unity cultivated in our marriage beds. -- Spirit-Led Parenting, p. 187
We would love to hear your story! Is co-sleeping a taboo topic or openly accepted in your circle of friends? How is it viewed in your faith community?

Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year is the first release from authors Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer. Megan writes about faith, family and natural living at SortaCrunchy and lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and two daughters. Laura blogs her reflections on the real and ridiculous things of life at In The Backyard, and makes her home in Indiana with her husband, daughter, and son.

Megan has been an amazing role model for me in so many ways.  I feel so incredibly honored to have her post here, and to be able to collaborate with her over at A Deeper Family.  This post brought back so many memories of when my eldest was a newborn, and my anxiety over doing things "the right way" and the nervousness I felt at the disapproval of our pediatrician (of course, this was the same guy who gave us a copy of To Train Up a Child with his recommendation, whereupon we found a new doc.  Our current doctor thinks it is wonderful that our babies sleep with us!).  In our case, it was actually my husband who suggested bed sharing.  Ariana had outgrown her pack and play and I mentioned putting her in her own room, even though my heart really wasn't in it.  He looked at me in shock and horror and asked, "Do you see how tiny she is?  How could we have her be all alone?  Just bring her in bed with us."  We now have four children (obviously, a family bed hasn't hurt our marriage!) and even when toddlers starfish or it seems like a bizarre dance some nights as we move around getting comfortable, there is something incredibly precious and secure about having all the people that I love most in the world with me while I sleep.

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