Monthly Archives: January 2011

Parenting – Overprotecting

“Aren’t you overprotecting your children when you do that?” 

As a Christian making the parenting choices that I do, I get asked this question all of the time.

As a homeschool parent, I get asked this question all of the time.

To me, that question is fundamentally flawed.  Of course I’m overprotecting them!  I would never think of underprotecting them in a time when there is an increasingly dark adult world coming closer and closer to which they have unprecedented access.  They have the opportunity to interact with a world that, in previous generations, wouldn’t even be dreamed of.  Violence in video games.  Graphic lyrics in songs.  Sex in most movies/TV shows.   All kinds of mischief, sin, and evil on the internet.  Even in “children’s” literature, there are dark spiritual themes, adult topics being discussed, or strong language used. 

Children’s minds cannot comprehend the adult information being presented by a more mainstream audience.  At the same time, the multi-generational families and the neighborhoods that were involved in childraising have diminished.  There is less support to help raise a child in a more complicated world. 

On top of that, I believe that our culture underprotects children in the name of getting them ready for adulthood.   I wonder if the way I define the word “prepared” and the way others define the word is different.  Prepared, to me, means having had plenty of time to be a child, plenty of time to develop maturity and plenty of time to develop a strong vocabulary.  After those three are accomplished, then there is ample time to introduce them to more of the harsher realities of life, to the adult themes of life, and to the spiritual topics that are so casually portrayed in media and books.

The other day, my older son handed me a Boy Scout magazine that had a comic strip in it.  There was a picture of an angel announcing a message to someone.  My son was laughing, showed me the picture, and told me that the angel looked just like Voldemort in the Harry Potter series.  (Probably not what the magazine was going for in their attempt at an angel). 

Contrary to what some people would expect, we as a family have read all of the Harry Potter books and watched all of the videos.  In fact, in the days from the time that a new HP movie is announced until the day it is released, we are all giddy and are planning where and when we’ll see the movie.

However, if you had asked me 5/6 years ago, I would’ve said that, while I had read the books and enjoyed them, my kids hadn’t been allowed to read them yet – even though all of their peers in public school had.   From what I had read, I knew they would love them; however, I also knew that there was a lot of content in them that they didn’t have the maturity, nor the vocabulary, to openly discuss with me.  My husband and I decided that there were some specifics that we had to see in our kids before they were allowed to be exposed to something that we felt might be dangerous if exposed to too early.   When we saw those things develop in them, we read the books together and talked about what we were reading.

We do have a few set rules in our house in this regards.  They don’t attend or host sleepovers.  The TV shows/movies that they’re allowed to watch is still monitored.  Their video games are purchased with us, and the time they spend playing is monitored.  In an era where watching TV has all but displaced reading as a leisure activity, we limit their TV time and strongly encourage reading.

I am in no way wanting to forever shield my kids from the harsh realities of the world – I just want them to be exposed to those kinds of things when their maturity level is such that they can discuss them intelligently and have a context in which to place them.   In fact, because I have 3 teenagers and one that is 12, we have been in the stage of releasing and having frank discussions for quite a while – and the way I see it, we can do so with confidence because we spent the work protecting until they were ready.

 

So yes, Miss Checkout Lady in the supermarket, Mr. Neighbor down the street, and Mrs. Concerned Parent at our kids’ activity, I believe in overprotecting a child until they are ready to experience life with maturity, a strong vocabulary, and cognitive abilities to have a frank discussion about each experience.

2 Comments

Filed under Family and faith, Parenting

Serene Saturdays #3

Just like everyone in the northeast, my week could be summarized by the word “snow”.  It was as if someone in the sky popped a giant snow-filled balloon and the heavens exploded with snow.  It shut this snow-prepared area completely down.  We are still having to negotiate with our neighbors across the street, who have no driveway or garage, to please not park in the street directly across from our driveway, or we are stuck.  So much snow around our drive that there is nothing else to do but go straight back.

 

And once again, if I was attempting to summarize this week, I could throw in the word “birthday”.  Our youngest turned 12, and she planned and devised her own glow-in-the-dark birthday party.  We are still cleaning up the house.  I decided the best way to clean up was to wait until it got dark again, and then turn off all of the lights.  The mess would simply glow.  There is glow-in-the-dark paint on just about every surface imaginable.  One of the sweet girls was painting a balloon quite thoroughly when it exploded all over her, her clothes, her hair, the chair she was on, the kitchen floor, the school room floor, the bookshelves, etc. 

 

This week, I am thankful for:

Beautiful little girls that grow into lovely young ladies.

Strong boys in my family that have a willingness to serve/shovel.

Girls’ gleeful screams echoing through the house.

Big brothers who lovingly decorate.

Celebrations.

3 Comments

Filed under Weekends

Parenting – Celebrating

“Can I set my alarm for midnight?”

“Um….can you tell me why?”

“Because that is when I’ll be sure that daddy is asleep, and then I can get up and decorate the house for his birthday.”

The conversation plays out as many other conversations like this have played out in our home.  In the end, the child does not set the alarm, but does get to take a chunk of school time to complete the decorating process.

It doesn’t take much for us to celebrate around here.  Birthdays.  Someone returning home from a trip.  A sibling realizing that they were scoring a test wrong and in reality got a much better score.  The beginning of football season.  Being accepted into a summer dance program.  The first episode of Survivor.  Having conquered the much-dreaded SAT test.  (Not getting the scores, but simply having taken the test).  The SuperBowl. The arrival of a house guest.  Being accepted into college.   Mother’s/Father’s Day, and many, many other holidays. 

Big or small, the reasons for celebrating are endless.  In the beginning, it was my husband and I that championed the causes.  Now, more times than not, I find myself giving the controls of the celebration planning and execution over to my highly-capable children.  One is brilliant with decorations.  Another is brilliant at crafting posters that are equally beautiful and loving.  But whatever form the party takes, it is an expression of love, cheerleading, and belief in each other.

I would be completely off base if I communicated that we do things perfectly.  If you stepped foot in my home unannounced, I would be humiliated by the spats and arguments you would hear coming from my children’s mouths.  In the day to day, they are as equally hurtful as they are encouraging.  However, let them catch wind of a chance to champion one of their own, recognize that someone needs encouragement, or that a great blessing has come to one of us, you can guarantee that there will be some sort of celebration.

I love it.  I love having to stop by Target one more time to buy more streamers, balloons, special paper for posters, etc.  I love that, when push comes to shove, we enjoy celebrating each other.  It gives me hope for all of those times that all I see in front of me is the apparent distance between the kids.  And it gives me hope that, as my children begin their journey towards independence and college, that they will still feel at home in the place where they will be celebrated.

Today is the day my youngest was born.  She is an endearing blend of gentleness, leadership, compassion, and strength.  We will be celebrating her 12th all day today – as it should be!  Happy Birthday, Kitten!

Leave a comment

Filed under Family and faith, Parenting

Praying Incessantly

The public schools having a snow day doesn’t really have an effect on a homeschooling family.  At least, that is what you would typically think.

On the contrary, it has a HUGE impact on the homeschool day.  The announcement sends waves of expectation, excitement, energy, and ultimately, dissatisfaction through the walls of our untraditional schoolhouse.  The dissatisfaction comes when they realize that they don’t qualify for a snow day.

There are no slick roads to contend with.  There is no extreme temperature to take into consideration.  There are no buses to factor in.  There is simply a warm, cozy house, a teacher who was able to make it to work easily, and students that didn’t have to factor in a commute.

How that translates is frustration, no attention span, and lots of negotiating over subjects.   “Why do we have to do school today?”  “How many subjects are we going to do?”  “Surely we’re not going to do a full day?”  “Can I go sledding with my friends?  They just called!”  “How long are we going to go?”  “I finished a chapter.  Can I stop now?  Please?  Please?”

The requests and questions press on me, actually causing a visual of arrows flying towards me.  As I feel my temperature rise, only equal to the volume of my speech, I am reminded that I don’t have what it takes to parent these kids.  My patience isn’t enough.  My judgement isn’t enough.  My creativity isn’t enough.

And I pray.

“I always feel it well just to put a few words of prayer between everything I do.”  Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon, the British Baptist preacher from the 1800s known as the “Prince of Preachers” who left a legacy of sermons, as well as a legacy of lives transformed, could very rarely be found on his knees – not what you’d expect from a man of God.  And that isn’t because he didn’t pray, but rather, that he prayed incessantly.

I am working on finding a rhythm, based on complete submission,  to prayer in my life.  Breathing a word of rescue, a recognition of need, a verbal representation of hands thrown in the air, can be effective and relational as a continual supplement to time set aside and dedicated conversation with God.

“Father, these are your kids, and I am your daughter.  Would you help us all work together in love, as a family?  Give me patience to handle their present emotions, and give me wisdom to balance play and studies.  Thank you for always, always being there for me.”

Perspective is changed and new life is breathed into my reserves.   Circumstances don’t change, but internally, I am changed.

3 Comments

Filed under Education at Home, Family and faith

Romance – Part 1

It was a very, very difficult year.  We had spent the year quite directionless with few successes, I had felt isolated from my husband because we both were so depleted that we had nothing to give each other, we had no friends that were peers, and felt hopeless as we watched ourselves fall into a hole financially.  I was being beat down by a neighborhood in which I saw no beauty, that was constantly barraging me with noise, and one in which, while people were pressing in on me, I felt quite alone.

At the end of this dark year, and facing another one that had the potential to play out just like the last one, my husband and I got away for a friend’s wedding.  We made it a long weekend with no kids, and while there, I had a chunk of time to devote to putting words to what I was feeling.  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate another year doing the same things that we had done the previous one. 

For those of you who have seen the movie Beauty and the Beast, you might remember the scene in which we learn why Beast has to get Belle to fall in love with him.  There is a rose under a domed glass case that is slowly losing its petals.  It doesn’t look in good shape – the last few remaining petals are drooping and sagging, and we hold our breath as one more petal drops.  If he doesn’t get Belle to genuinely love him by the time the last petal drops, he won’t be able to break the magical spell, and he’ll forever be a beast.  You can sense from his extreme protection of the domed case that the situation is desperate, as if Beast’s life itself is dying with the rose. 

That was me.  I knew that at that moment, my insides were the rose and that my sanity, peace, joy, and ability to cope were slowly dying.  I know that this sounds a little over-dramatic, but that scene was the picture that most accurately described where I was at that time.  I had become focused on one primary goal:  keep the rose alive.  I felt that if I didn’t protect my emotional health, no one else would.  I needed to stay functional for my family.

I spent our long drive home talking with my husband about these feelings.  I had a glimmer of hope in an idea that I felt that God had given me, but I needed my husband to be on board with me.

I am not a romantic.  I’d much rather be served with the practical (filling my car up with gas, helping cook a meal, emptying out the trash) than to be showered with lovely words, flowers, love notes, chocolates, etc.  However, my husband is a lovely, thoughtful romantic.  I’d spent the early years of our marriage silencing that side of him – not intentionally, but effectively.

So I approached him on that ride home with the idea of declaring this coming year the Year of Romance.  I told him that I desperately needed all that he had to give me, and that I was open to all of the ways that he was gifted with to love on me and our family.  And I told him that I wanted him to begin the journey of trusting me enough to open up that romantic part of him once more. 

It is with this background that I begin a short series on romance.  Through this dark period, I learned some key principals about how to ignite warmth and fellowship even when going through difficulties.   (In no way am I declaring that I have wrapped up all of the answers in this field – I can just report what worked for me.)   This idea of romance first involved my relationship with God, secondly my relationship with my husband, and a close third, my relationship with my kids.  I hope that you stick with me long enough to hear the happy ending of the story!

Leave a comment

Filed under Family and faith, General thoughts

Parenting Philosophy – Knowing

In a previous post, I discussed the role of obedience in parenting.  One of the elements that goes hand in hand with obedience is intentionally getting to know your kids.  Obviously, I mean a much deeper knowing than just the basics of who they are.  What I’m talking about is the depth of your child’s heart, the motivations, the giftings, the learning styles, the love languages, etc., that are the core of who that child is. 

For some people, this is an intuitive process.  For me, however, it was an intentional process of studying how each child played, interacted, learned, loved and communicated.  I even had notepads out at one point, taking notes on their behavior.  I learned that my elder son loved to set up his wooden trains in elaborate patterns, but then lost interest when it came to playing with the trains on the track.  While my younger son picked up on that process and played for hours on the tracks that his sibling had arranged.  I watched my older daughter play very well with friends, but then need quiet alone time to recharge.  While my younger daughter got jazzed up from interaction with friends, reveling in the ability that she had to lead every moment of play together.  Each of these observations (plus many, many more) gave me puzzle pieces of who they were.

One of the reasons that I feel it is important to intricately know your kids is so that you can fan the flames of the gifts that are within them.  My personal goal is to know Jesus intimately, to know myself and the giftings that I’ve been given, and to love what He loves, stewarding well those gifts in me to help and love others.  That is ultimately what I want for my children, too.  What I want for my children is that they know God personally and intimately, that they know themselves really well, and that they are passionate for others, their decisions being driven by their love to use the gifts within them to serve and care for others.  They can only accomplish this goal if they know their gifts well.

Obviously, it isn’t my place to reveal every gift that my child has, nor is it my job alone to fan the flames of giftings within them.  I completely trust my children and their future to God’s extremely capable hands, and I recognize that He loves them more and knows them better than I ever could.  However, I do believe that I can be a tool used to His purposes if I take the time to know well each child.

During the early years of my parenting, a book I used as a resource in the pursuit of knowing my kids was “Different Children, Different Needs”, by Charles F. Boyd.  It has within it the way to discover your child’s personality style, how to discover your parental personality style, and ways in which those personalities interact.  It has phrases that each personality style loves to hear, and strategies of how to draw out the positives of each style.  It was invaluable to me during those years, and I hope it is to you, too.

1 Comment

Filed under Family and faith, Parenting

The Novel Idea of Writing

For my birthday this last year, I asked for and received a Nook, which is the ebook reader from Barnes and Noble.  I love it!  I carry it with me everywhere, and always have a handful of book choices in front of me. 

Even before the days of my Nook, I always carried a book with me.  There is little else as torturous as finding yourself with time on your hands and no book in them.  And don’t even get me started on laboring over which books to take with me on a trip of any length.   

However, now that I have my Nook, I can choose from dozens of titles stored on the Nook that were either free from Barnes and Noble or that I purchased.   Plus, I can purchase from my home the books that I want to read, as opposed to driving to a bookstore to buy them.  It is all a streamlined, efficient process.

The funny thing about this journey into the electronic book world is the resistance I’ve had from my oldest.  When it comes to electronics, she is fairly tech savvy.  But in her heart, she reverts back to the simpleness of yesteryear.  She collects record albums and actually listens to them on her record player, is burning with longing for a typewriter, has an antique camera, and is drawn to everything antique:  staplers, jewelery, books, etc.   The part of her that reaches back in time and longs for things to stay as they are just grates with the technology of tomorrow.  Her greatest fear with the Nook/Kindle world is the potential it has to put the printed word out of print.

I read an article on Yahoo on the first day of this year that was listing the things that a newborn, born on Jan. 1, 2011, would not know in his lifetime.  There were things like movie rental stores, watches, paper maps, wired phones, long distance, film cameras, dial up internet, encyclopedias, handwritten letters, etc.  One of the things on the list was books/magazines/newspapers.   

I simply can’t imagine that the printed words of our world will be relegated to the world of electronics.  There is something amazing about stepping into a Barnes and Noble (my favorite chain bookstore) and breathing in the possibilities, as well as the aroma. 

There is also the process of writing that comes in stark conflict with the blogging generation.  In writing a novel, there is a long process of writing, rewriting, editing, and writing once again – let alone the time that the publishing process takes.  Whereas, a blog is written, barely edited, and published within seconds. 

In changing the mode in which books are read, are we changing the way in which writing is accomplished?  Will there continue to be the great writers of old?  Would a Jane Austin, Steinbeck, Twain, Dickens be able to make it today?  In the future, will there still be the leisure to writing?  Will the audience, trained to receive personal, unedited, raw thoughts of a myriad of people, be patient enough to wait for the refined, researched, and well-honed craft of a creative master working on his art?

   

I think I have a novel in me.  I am committed to exploring that journey to see what that may look like.  However, I am also faced with the reality that by the time I get around to getting anything written – let alone published – there might not be an audience.  At least I know my daughter will be there to read it, in paper, in her leisure, listening to her record albums on her record player…

3 Comments

Filed under General thoughts