Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Because I'm the Grown Up, That's Why!

Today has been full of whining.  Me, not so much the kids.  Some days it sucks to be the grown up.  I'd much rather indulge in selfishness.  But what is discipline, really?  It isn't punishment.  Discipline in an adult should look like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, humility and grace.  What is the point of trying to discipline our children (NOT punish them--I am talking about helping them grow as disciples of Christ) if we haven't learned to discipline ourselves yet?  That isn't exactly a rhetorical question, because for me, at least, it is an ongoing process that I have not yet fully achieved.  My answer is that there has to be grace for all of us, and reliance on the Holy Spirit to help us.  And while being a grown up isn't always beautiful, growth truly is a beautiful thing.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pierced and Proud--My Little Girl Got Earrings

Of all of our parenting choices that have been outside the mainstream, the one that has actually gotten the most comments was our refusal to pierce our daughters' ears when they were born.  This shocked some dear little abuelitas (not our kids' abuelitas, though) to their core.  (Of course, neither did we shave their heads when they were infants so that their hair would grow in thicker, either.  :shrug).  For us, this was easy compared to so many decisions that we researched and weighed--as new parents, the last thing we wanted was to deal with an unnecessary wound on a tiny baby!  Even more importantly, they weren't our bodies to modify.

One of our greatest responsibilities as parents is to teach our children that their bodies belong to them.  No one else is allowed to do things to their bodies without permission.  Sure, there may be medical emergencies that override that, but seriously, getting ear jewelry isn't one.  We do all that we can to keep our children safe, but we know that there are predators out there.  Children who are confident in telling others, even adults in positions of authority, not to touch their bodies are less likely to become prey, and more likely to tell us if it should happen.  And as they grow older, sometimes the lines get a little blurry.  We live in a rape culture where it is assumed that guys are supposed to pressure girls, and girls will eventually give in.  I want their body boundaries to be such a part of them that they will never feel uncertain of their right to control what happens to their bodies.

Since my ears are pierced (and I am very thankful that my parents also bucked tradition and let me choose for myself), my kidlets have watched me wear different earrings and asked questions about it.  We talked about different options, including waiting to get her ears pierced as a celebration of menarche, but this summer my nine year old decided that she wanted to go ahead.  She kept asking how much it would hurt (she is very sensitive to needles), and was clearly nervous.  However, she was also adamant that she wanted to do it.  I was honest that it would hurt some, but also that if this was what she wanted that I believed she was strong enough to go through it whenever she decided she was ready.

Mine were done with a gun at the mall, but after researching I decided to use a professional piercer for my kids.  There are many reasons, but think of the difference between a hole from a hole punch versus the ragged edges from pushing a sharp pencil through a piece of paper and how that could effect healing, for starters.  I asked for recommendations, and my midwife shared the place where her daughters got their ears pierce, and several other friends recommended the same place.

Like any professional tattoo/piercing parlor, the decor was geared more for adults (my kidlets were simultaneously fascinated and horrified by the Native American sculptures of warriors who had been pierced through the chest and were hanging from a tether).  We didn't look closely at the tattoo designs or magazines.  (Also, like most other piercing places I have researched, they only pierce lobes on children, and we were required to bring her birth certificate and photo ID).

The guy who was going to pierce her came out.  He was probably 6'4 and around 260 lbs.  His head was shaved and covered in ink, and the rest of him that was visible was likewise covered with piercings, gauges and tats (he awed my kids by passing a pencil easily through the gauge in his septum).  He was also the nicest and most professional guy we could have asked for.

He spoke directly to her and then to me, describing exactly what would be done, how and why.  He asked her questions to make sure that she understood and that this was what she wanted, answered honestly when she asked if it would hurt, and did everything possible to help her feel relaxed and comfortable.

The only awkward moment came as a result of her little sister having a meltdown shortly after we went back.  In hindsight, it was totally a mommy fail to bring her--I knew she was exhausted and not feeling great, but my eldest didn't want to wait and the little sis thought she would be able to behave well.  She started fussing loudly and then tried to hit me when I picked her up.  Our piercer said that when he was a boy he would have been spanked hard for that.  My eldest looked at him with such compassion and said, "That is horrible!  No one should ever hurt you like that!"  He responded that it taught him a lesson.  She shook her head sadly and told him that if anyone ever spanked her that she would have just decided in her heart that she didn't want to do what they said and would have fought them in every way she could.  She said it was so much better when parents could actually help their kids instead of scaring them.  I am sure that the behavior of the little one provoked doubts about the effectiveness of gentle discipline, but he was also very impressed with the our eldest, and was very polite in responding to her.  :)

He had her count with him as he pierced the first ear, and the needle was through and out before she could even blink.  He asked if she needed a moment before doing the other ear.  She said yes with perfect calm, took a deep breath and smiled and told him to go ahead.  He did the other just as easily, and she beamed at her reflection.  "It didn't even hurt hardly at all!"

She has been so pleased with her new pierced ears, and has taken excellent care of them without hardly any reminder from me (another bonus of letting them choose when they are older!).  More than just being happy with the way they look, she is so proud of herself for her bravery and her growing maturity.  I look at her eyes sparkling even more than the earrings, and am so pleased that we let her make the choice for herself. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Missing Sunday Dinner

Sunday dinner

There are so many important conversations going on right now about including others at the table.  My family in Christ is challenging the pharisaical, dismissive attitudes toward women, the poor, our LGBT brothers and sisters, and all who are denigrated and ignored.  The Church talks a lot about loving children, and shows it with prizes and programs and playgrounds. The thing is, I see the harsh attitude toward children that labels them as selfish, lazy manipulative sinners, and I have to cry out.  We are missing Sunday dinner with our church family because the food at the kids' table makes my family sick.

The post is over at A Deeper Family

Image Credit: Keoki Seu on Flickr

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Trying Church...Again

Disclaimer:  this is going to be one of those long, messy, rambly, processing-out-loud, blahgy posts.

I went to church again today.  Growing up, one mild area of friction between my parents was about how many times a week we should participate in a church service.  My dad was content with a Sunday morning service, and my mom wanted Sunday morning, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights, and possibly a prayer meeting in there somewhere.  I sided firmly with my dad. 

I also suffered the burnout that comes from many years of being part of a tiny church where your parents are pastors.  Every Sunday meant work, not rest.  Cleaning the church, preparing communion, teaching Sunday school, helping in the worship service, interpreting, working in the nursery--there were always several jobs that needed to be done, and even those that I started out feeling excited about eventually became a chore.  As an extreme introvert, the idea of making small talk after the service and greeting everyone was excruciating.  I eventually reached the point that unless God writes something in burning letters on a wall, I will NOT volunteer or accept any special responsibility for many years.

Before our children were born, we seemed to have found the perfect fit for us in a church.  I loved the worship time, loved the pastor and his family and always came away from the services refreshed and looking for God in a new way.  Then.  Then we had kids and God changed some things in me.  Then the pastor preached on spanking and how if we love God and our children, then we will hit them.  And I couldn't let that go, and my husband and I wrote a letter, which eventually resulted in this blog.  At first, I just figured we could agree to disagree, but the convictions in my heart about how we treat the smallest of these grew until I couldn't sit under a pastor who preaches that we have to spank any longer.

When you have four very young children and are committed not to leaving them to cry in church with people that you probably don't know well enough to let them babysit outside of church, going seems like an exercise in futility.  I spent most of my time walking the kidlets in the halls or hanging out in a nursery with germy toys and crying little ones.  I never came away feeling spiritually fed, that is for sure. 

So we just stopped going.

Every now and then we would try different ones, but they all preached about spanking on the very day we decided to visit, which is almost funny--really, it seemed like a bizarre coincidence, but it saved us time.  After the last fiasco, I couldn't even work up the desire to try anymore. 

It felt so awkward answering questions about where we go to church.  I felt like our kids were missing out on something important, and I missed it for myself.  Although, when we visited any church, I was always tense, waiting for the ick to start.  I also found my emotions going haywire with all kinds of little things, and it was generally exhausting and stressful.

But this morning, I worked up the courage to try again.  After reading the encouraging statement from the United Methodist Church regarding corporal punishment, I decided to go there.  Their only service is at 9:00 AM, which is a little earlier than I am used to, but my nine year old and I managed to go, and my husband graciously took over the younger ones so that I could enjoy the service in peace.

The congregation was really friendly.  I liked it that there was a pretty wide variety of dress--from casual pants and T shirts to fancy dresses and heels.  It felt like people dressed for themselves and not everyone else.  I did NOT like it that there was not a variety of ethnicity.  There were over 100 people present, and I saw one man who appeared as though he might be Hispanic or Native American and one boy who was African American.  Once during the sermon, the pastor referenced race in order to pointedly identify a criminal as African American, although that was completely irrelevant to the story.  (Every time I am seriously tempted to include profanity in a post, it is about a church, but seriously, for the pastor to do that detracted from any positive in his message.  And probably explains the lack of diversity more than it doesn't.)

The music, well, bless their hearts.  Probably the least said about that the better.  They did sing "Jesus Loves Me" for one of the hymns, including a second verse that I don't remember hearing before.  The message was better than some I have heard where the pastor clearly wasn't prepared and just got up and rambled for awhile and then relied on the worship team to pull him out of it whenever he got stuck, but it didn't make me think or feel anything (other than to critique that one aforementioned reference), and he read it in a droning rocking horse rhythm that rose and fell regardless of the content, which made it hard not to tune out.

On the plus side, I LOVED the responsive readings, the creed and prayers, and the communion service.   Also, there was a feeling of family and affection among all the members there--I got the strong impression that these people do life together, not just church.  When we arrived, they had boxes of children's activity kits stacked to hand out to any families with kidlets, and there was a constant whispering and wriggling from all the children present.  Not in a distracting way, but just in a normal, real-life way.  My nine year old loved the children's church and has asked a dozen times to go back.  That is a first, and is very important to me.

I don't particularly want to go back, although I might for my daughter.  I just hate that the idea of meeting with my brothers and sisters in Christ comes with such a deep heaviness and feeling of discouragement.

Where, oh where, is my group of people who love Jesus and actually want to treat all people the way they would like to be treated?