A Conversation with Emmy

“I have a little shadow…” begins a well-known children’s poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. Mothers of young children will very much get this post.

Emmy is my shadow, day and night. Without siblings to talk with during the school day, outside of preschool friends twice a week, I am the only conversational option. If you’ve never been shadowed by a preschooler you have missed quite a conversational experience. It goes something like this…

I’m trying to dash off a work email, and Emily at my elbow solemnly presents me with two plastic tea cups, taped together, one upside down on top of the other.

“What is it?” I ask.

“It’s a Wi-Fly.” (She makes it sound like Wi-Fi.)

“What is a Wi-Fly?” I ask.

“It is a satellite that circles the earth. There’s a mouse inside.” mouse

“Really?”

“Yes, his name is Sophie. Do you like that name?” she asks, suddenly doubtful if Sophie is the right name for a male mouse.

“Well, Sophie is a girl’s name.”

“What do mice eat?” she asks with that startling change of direction at which preschoolers excel.

“It depends if they are indoor or outdoor mice,” I say, trying to remember the diet of mice. Nuts? No, that’s squirrels. I start typing gibberish on my email and give up.

“Emmy, I am a little busy right now, let’s talk in a few minutes, OK?”

“Watcha busy about?” (That’s the way she always phrases it.)

“Emailing someone.”

“Please send my photos to my email then,” she says in a very grown-up voice.

“Emmy, you don’t have an email, and what photos?”

She picks up several snapshots off my desk. “Here they are.”

I take them from her, and she sits on the floor next to me. As I attempt to finish the business email, she begins making various bird sounds, trilling and chirping and clucking and cooing. Great for concentration.

“Mama, I’d like a really big fish tank for my birthday. I could put it by my bed maybe? I could keep baby dolphins and whales in there.”

“That’s not going to work, Em. Fish tanks are a lot of work, and I have no idea where baby dolphins and whales can be bought. I imagine they’re pretty expensive.”

“What do dolphins eat?”

“Uh, plankton?”

“What is plankton?”

“Small creatures in the sea,” I hazard.

“Like chickens?”

“No, definitely not like chickens.” I’m picturing a chicken of the sea with a life-jacket on, flailing away.

And so it goes, from the time her feet hit the floor until her (early) bedtime, a constant flow of questions and ideas, some of which are downright astonishing. This phase of childhood is fun, but it is frankly, exhausting.

She informed me this morning that she is running a drive-through pet store. I sat out on the deck in the sun today, and she ended up selling me a rabbit, a mouse, a large dog and a Panda out the window of her playhouse. If you’re in the market for an exotic pet, I hear Emmy’s got some Llamas on sale cheap this week! Stop by before they’re all gone.

Response to a Feminist Author

There’s yet another book out for women with the provocative title, Why Have Kids: The Truth About Parenting and Happiness. The feminist author’s title pretty much says it all. I quote from the Daily Mail article yesterday:

In an interview with UK newspaper The Times, Valenti says woman are bombarded with so much conflicting advice about child-rearing, much of which involves kids being the ‘centre of your universe,’ that the result is a state of near constant anxiety. (This is) the understandable outcome of expecting smart, driven women to find satisfaction in spit-up,’ she says.

It gets worse.

Co-founder of the Feminising.com blog, she also lists the on-paper drain kids place on their parents’ lives, including the long-term economic cost of having children and the inevitable effect a baby has on even happy marriages.

And then this:

Valenti says that she loves her daughter, Layla, very much but adds ‘I don’t see raising her as my life’s mission. I don’t believe that it should involve some kind of suffering or self-sacrifice.’

It’s difficult to know where to begin addressing this viewpoint. I don’t disagree for a moment that parenting, the way the secular world sees it, is problematic. Many mothers are motivated by the culture’s values and half kill themselves in giving their child everything that kids are supposed to get now, whether it’s umpteen extracurricular activities, the latest technology, the best clothes, etc. In addition, mothers are supposed to be successful in outside careers, keep a beautiful home, and on top of that, look “hot” at whatever age they are. No exceptions allowed. It’s a recipe for insanity. I agree.

But the real problem here is not devotion to your children! The problem is not the little ones! The problem in this scenario is the worldview of the mothers. Feminism is a joke. If the feminist philosophy was about liberation and freedom, how do you explain millions of  mothers who chronically feel trapped and that they are failing everyone because they are trying to have it all? The answer to the problem is not embracing selfishness and refusing to sacrifice for your children. The answer lies in giving some things up, because those children are most important to you. But authors like Jessica Valenti don’t believe they should be. In her view, children are the problem.

I have been a mother for 25 years. I am 46, and have learned some things along the way—a few insights I have gleaned. The most important lesson is this: You find yourself as a mother by losing yourself. This creed will elicit gasps of horror from authors like the one above, but it is the truth.

Years ago, my son Samuel had a terrible time with out-of-control asthma. He was a highly allergic baby who tested as sensitive to nearly everything in the environment, which meant that when he had a cold, it immediately triggered asthma, because his bronchial tubes were already inflamed from other allergies.

In the first 5 years of his life, he was hospitalized over 30 times, once in the ICU. Every cold, not some, every cold, meant he ended up in the hospital. We watched the seasons change at Children’s Hospital on 7th floor back then. We knew all the nurses. We’d spend hours in the ER, and then they would admit him eventually anyway.

I used to wonder why this endless cycle had befallen my son, and frankly, me. Watching Sam scream through endless IV’s on a papoose board, endure countless pricks for blood tests, and go through endless breathing treatments, knowing full well we’d be back at the hospital in another month with the next cold, was extremely hard on both of us. I was 21 when Sam was first admitted at 6 months old. I slept at the hospital holding him on my chest many, many times.

But in those years I learned an important truth.  I knew, even at that young age, that there was no more important job than what I was doing. I knew I was Sammy’s entire world of security and comfort. I would not and could not have been anywhere else but there. The world went roaring by on the roads outside the hospital, but we were locked in with each other in a little hospital room. Nothing else mattered to me but Sammy’s well-being and happiness.  In the haze of exhaustion and worry of those years, I found out who I really was: Mother. Nurturer. Comforter. Weaver of the fabric of lives.

When my children stand at my grave, I will have done my job if they know, without a doubt, that they were deeply, wholly loved. That however imperfect I was, that I did not hold back to save myself. That I gave all I could. That I spent the love I had lavishly on them.

There are no guarantees that our children will be grateful for our sacrifices, take full advantage of the opportunities we give them or “turn out right.” But as a Christian mother,  I have an ally in the fight. I have the help of a mighty God who hears my prayers and who may use my  humble mother efforts years down the road in the souls and lives of my children.

The meaning in life is found in pouring out our lives on behalf of others, just like our Savior did. We won’t gain applause from the world with its tragically warped value system, but we will have had a life well spent in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. And our children someday will bless our memory.

Her children rise up and bless her.  ~ Proverbs 31:28

 

 

Women for Sale – Cheap

Explaining modesty, as the report says, as being ‘no longer a virtue in contemporary society’ the annual Romance Report by publisher Harlequin showed a clear focus on technology’s involvement in romance today in both the survey’s themed questions and results. From the article, New Study Reveals Increasing Number of Women ‘Sexting’

What`s love got to do, got to do with it
What`s love but a sweet old fashioned notion
What`s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken…

~Tina Turner, pop song from the 80′s

The continuing collapse of Western culture is nowhere more evident than in the shambolic state of women today. There is a UK newspaper that reports continually on the new breed of female teacher/predators who target young boys for sexual thrills, leaving damaged and ruined lives in their wake. There are so many stories like this that it feels surreal to scan headlines anymore. It’s like a tidal wave of debauchery has swept over our country, with women at the leading edge.

Women are now, according to a new study, sending naked photos of themselves, over their cell phones at a startling rate. We’re not talking about 15-year-olds here, we’re talking about grown women. (Perhaps that’s where the teen girls got the idea?) Whether you are 60 or 6, the mantra of the New Millennium Woman is “work it, baby!”

As a member of Generation X, I stare around in bewilderment sometimes. The Baby Boomer females were the women who were declaring their total liberation from male “oppression”, getting abortions when they conceived children in their newly liberated state, burning their female undergarments and claiming the ultimate triumph of women over men. They were women, they said, and everyone was supposed to hear them roar.They were no longer just going to be toys for boys, no more staying at home to rear children, it was all going to be a new world with she-warriors über alles.

I once babysit for a very strange household of liberal academics. There were 3 adults in the house, and only later did my innocent teen mind slowly realize that the dynamics were not normal, to put it kindly. One night I was browsing the bookshelves of the house for reading material when I pulled out a black  book of feminist poetry.

“Eve stands for evil,
God stands for good,
So much for male, patriarchal authority…”

The poetry went downhill from there. The hippies I was babysitting for were the archetypal feminists, shunning make-up, with long stringy hair, the radical UK magazine Prime Rib on the burlap covered coffee table. There wouldn’t have been any sexting in that household.

My generation of females seemed to have lost that feminist vision somewhere in the 80′s. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was on the radio, pink hair and florescent gel wrist bands were in. Madonna showed up on the scene, and flaunted sexuality became the norm in teen music and film. The Prime Rib crowd seemed a long ways away.

Fast forward to today’s young girls who are sending naked photos of themselves in middle school, while their 40 and 50-something mothers are getting injected with toxins and having surgery to maintain their “hot” looks, Their mothers have, after all, their own provocative photos to send to their latest “boyfriends.”

The term “cougar” was coined to describe older women going after young men in movies. The idea has now been applied at a very local level like the Christian school rocked by the pervert female charged with sex abuse of her young male student. Cougars. Real progress, women.

It isn’t hard to diagnose the problem. Erase God and His laws from the homes of America, deny His image stamped on humanity, take His gift of sexuality and tear it away from the marriage covenant, descend to the level of beasts of the field in living by your glands, and you will achieve the smoking ruins around us.

I don’t care if I offend any feminist reading this post. What has happened to womanhood is a tragedy and an outrage. I admire men and the masculine traits that set them apart. But I love being female, because I believe that we bring something unique and equally special to the world. By nature, God made us more nurturing, more gentle, and those emotions females are often criticized for are what make the world a habitable place. We have the “feel” of a situation that men often lack. That’s because God gave that intuitive gift to women. The world would be a bleak, utilitarian place without it.

The protective instincts, the tenderness and love of a woman is something that make a home what God intended. Whether or not you have children or a husband, a woman brings beauty and love and care to others that men simply cannot duplicate. Because they are men.

To see a nation of girls and grown women turn themselves into sleazy p-rno pin-ups, aborting the children of their wombs for convenience, surgically altering their bodies to suit some fake celebrity ideal, spending hours texting and tweeting sexy pics and behaving like empty-headed bimbos is sickening. It’s a perversion of God’s design, and our society is paying an enormous and unaffordable price for it–because our daughters are watching and emulating what we do. And one glance at the headlines will show how well they are doing with this brave new world.

Girls are led to believe being loved, the word so cheaply thrown around by teens today, is provoking a lustful response in males. They are being lied to by every aspect of our culture, and often in their own homes by parents who fail to truly love each other. Girls are used up and discarded like trash, many arriving at Tina Turner’s jaded conclusion by the time they are in high school. (“What’s love got to do with it?) Being a sexual provocateur is considered arriving at your female destiny, and God help the girl who isn’t considered “hot” enough to be “loved.”

I tremble to be raising daughters in this climate. We mothers and also fathers need to do whatever we can to protect our girls from the mindset of the age. One of the best ways to do that is to model for our children true love in our marriages that allows us to find the full and healthy expression of our gender according to God’s perfect plan.

I intend to write more on this in the near future.

Toddlers, Tiaras and Terrible Mothers

I don’t mind at all if this post gets me labeled judgmental. Some things are worth earning a label, and when I read the latest this morning at a news site about the TV show, Toddlers and Tiaras, frankly, it made me sick. Reportedly, the mothers of these little girls are spiking bottles of juice with high amounts of caffeine to up their small daughters’ energy prior to these pageants.

That “beauty” pageants exist for tiny girls is in itself a commentary on the values in this country. That a “reality” TV show can be made out of the exploitation of these little children and not be shut down by child welfare authorities beggars belief.

One mother boasted recently that she regularly bleaches her little daughter’s teeth to make sure she is pageant ready at all times. The TV show frequently shows the slobby looking mothers calling out to their toddlers to “work it” up on stage in front of adults who will judge their sexy gyrations and score them. The tarty costumes these little girls wear is enough to make the angels weep.

It’s all a form of child p-rn. (I hyphenate the word because I don’t want filters to deny access to this post.) The Toddlers and Tiaras program must be pedophile heaven. The ghost of the raped and murdered Jon-Benet Ramsey hovers over these debauched pageants where little girls are sexed up for the viewing pleasure of adults.

Innocence and childhood is a very brief time in a girl’s life. It can be stolen so easily and so quickly. Our cultural Sodom in America takes this innocence ever earlier. As the mother of daughters, it enrages and terrifies me when I see the monstrous assault on all that is precious and good in girlhood. Toddlers and Tiaras is the crystallization of all that is wrong morally in our culture.

As a mother, my job is to love and protect my daughter by giving her what is good and wholesome and raising her to resist and abhor what is wrong and twisted. I am supposed to keep her away from filthy people who would use her for their own foul entertainment and pleasure. Mothers who participate in the pimping out of their daughters for fame and fortune are child abusers, simply put.

The entire culture is one of sexual abuse of our daughters. I stood at the checkout last week and witnessed the headline, “50 S-x Moves” on the cover of one of the rags for sale. My daughter will know how to read likely by age 5. What kind of people in a culture tolerate this rampant disregard for innocence? What keeps grown men, fathers, from marching en masse to the managers who run these stores and demanding that this kind of filth be removed from the eyesight of their children? (Believe me, I’ve tried enough times.)

What kind of Christian pastors have made peace with this culture of filth and stand in their pulpits in their lavish vestments, simpering out their latest devotionalette to their congregations while little girls are treated like meat?  Do you have anything to say, pastors? Anything at all about the source of all of this evil?  Their emasculated, impotent “gospel” is worthless. As Christ put it, the salt of our society has become worthless, fit for the dunghill. We’re certainly living in one.

Little girls drugged up with caffeine to have the maximum ability to titillate their adult audiences for a sleazy TV show. That’s our “reality” in America. We should be trembling.

*NOTE: I saw this article today on the petition to require Cosmo be put in a wrapper due to content. Apparently there are a lot of others who are fed up. If they must sell it, wrap it up in paper like p-rn used to be when you had to take the drive of shame out to the ugly store on the highway to buy such  magazines. Here’s the link to the page if you’re interested in signing.

The Family that Eats Together…

The picture at left hangs on our kitchen wall. It is an inexpensive print we found at a discount store, but it’s a cheery country scene, and I like it. It provides things to talk about with Emmy, and when she gets older, I’ll make up stories about the little characters therein.

While we’ve made our share of mistakes as parents over the years, one thing I think we’ve done right can be summed up in two words: family dinner.

Several studies have revealed the importance of this simple family ritual in the lives of young people. I read about one study in 2005 and more recently, one released this summer that underscored how important family meals are, not only for the physical heath of young people, but emotional health as well.

For some families, work schedules don’t always make this possible every night. But it is worth it when you can. It is a rare evening when we don’t all sit down, even if it’s just fish sticks and tater tots on the table. It isn’t the food involved as much as it is the conversation, the emotional connection and the sharing of our lives for that window of time. (Although good food certainly helps.)

Family meals are also a training ground for good manners (we’re still working on that one with a certain teenager.) No, don’t make a boarding house reach for the ketchup, no, don’t talk with your mouth full, use your napkin, etc. Dinner time together is the primary place to teach gratefulness for our daily bread. Emmy is learning her first prayers. She folds her hands and says, “Thank you, God for EVERYTHING. Amen.” The older children learned this prayer:

The eyes of all look to You, 0 Lord, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these Your gifts which we receive from Your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen

Best of all is the conversation. William has a challenging physics class this year, and he filled up the conversation last night holding forth on some physics concepts that went right over my head, something about why rocket engines work in a vacuum, and something to do with “point of reference.” I didn’t catch it all in between helping Emily with her pasta, but it was very interesting and went down well with our chicken parmesan and garlic bread.

Some of the biggest laughs have taken place at the table. Some of it, admittedly, has gone overboard. I’ll never forget one memorable dinner when all five children were arrayed around the table. One of the toddlers took a sudden, violent dislike to the bean and ham soup, some chaos ensued, and good-natured Tom had to restore order amid lots of humor. The scene was hardly out of Miss Manners, but a rollicking good time was had by all. I hope my children remember some of these times, I sure will!

More than anything, family meals are about nurture and relationships. Even if it’s only a frozen pizza (I’m letting all my culinary shortcomings be known here, sigh) the familiar faces around the table, together again after a day, either a good one or a bad one, are a great comfort in this ever changing world. Here’s a recipe everyone should have. You can serve this one up anytime at a family meal!

A pound of patience, you must find
Mixed well with loving words, so kind
Drop in 2 pounds of helpful deeds
And thoughts of other people’s needs.

A pack of smiles, to make the crust,
Then stir and bake it well you must.
And now, I ask that you may try,
The recipe of Sunshine Pie.

~Unknown

God bless my little kitchen
I love its every nook
And bless me as I do my work
Wash pots and pans and cook.
And may the meals that I prepare
Be seasoned from above
With Thy great blessing and Thy grace
But most of all Thy love.
As we partake our earthly food
The table before us spread
We’ll not forget to thank Thee, Lord
Who gives us daily bread.
So bless my little kitchen, Lord
And those who enter in
May they find naught but joy and peace
And happiness therein.

Raising Girls in the Midst of Cultural Collapse

d955.jpg (2)For obvious reasons, I have been thinking a lot about raising little girls these days. I am very much concerned about how to protect young girls from the spirit of the age that exalts the flesh, carnality and sensuality at every turn. I am not just concerned about protecting from the dangers of our culture, but also in the development of a heart and mind that loves the Lord Jesus and desires to seek after godliness in all things. This is not just about external adherence to specific standards in dress and conduct. It must go much deeper than that, right to the issues of the heart that motivate a girl. That, of course, cannot come from parents. It must be a work of the Holy Spirit. 

But parents are powerful influencers of children. What is wisdom today in the area of raising young girls? I have written before on this subject, but believe these issues are terribly important. I have watched other Christian families raise some wonderful daughters, and I very much would like to make wise decisions in the areas that matter the most. Here are a few random thoughts I have on the subject. They are not very organized, but I would love to hear from other mothers (or fathers) of daughters on this. What do you think, based on your experience, are the most important areas parents can influence a daughter to love the Lord and live in godliness? Pardon the somewhat scattered nature of my thoughts here, as I am really just brainstorming on the subject based on my experience and also my beliefs on the matter.

1. Fathers are a huge part of the equation in raising daughters. I never had enough of my Dad because he was involved in broadcast ministry and was gone a large portion of my girlhood. That’s not a criticism, it’s just an observation. His absence left a hole in my life and created a need for male affirmation that affected me deeply as I grew older. I can’t say enough for the power of a father in a girl’s life. I remember once I was on a flight from Cleveland with Dad next to me. I was 16 and looking at a fashion magazine with ads for make-up products. Dad leaned over and told me that my skin was every bit as nice as the model in the photo. I was stunned and pleased more than he will ever know. I had a very low image of myself and his off-hand comment was savored for a long time. That’s why I still remember his comment to this day. Having a father who speaks encouragement not just in areas of physical attraction but in areas of character, most importantly, seems to be a real antidote to girls listening to the culture when it comes to their worth.

2. Mothers are absolutely crucial in setting an example for girls. I have always adored my mother. Mom can’t possibly know how much she meant/means to me. More than anything, Mom is a person who will roll up her sleeves and help others, often to her own cost. All three of her children can’t honor her enough for example of selflessness and love. Mom’s influence is seen in my life every time I am with my own children. While our personalities are very different, what is not different is our love for our families. Mom also showed me that life as a woman was not about fashion and image, but about serving the Lord and using our hands to do useful things. 

3. Girls are not being taught to be useful today. Even Christian girls get lost in the peer jungle of social media, pop culture and boy/girl drama. The world sets the standards and evangelical kids follow them to their own detriment. Hapless parents enroll their children in high schools which often serve as little more than a training ground for worldiness. It is a rare girl who can withstand the seduction of peer influence and not be swept away by it. Few girls today know much about homemaking at all. How many high school girls are prepared to competently help a mother in a situation like mine (bed rest) where meals are needed, basic cleaning needs to be done, shopping and so forth? As for care of babies and little ones, young girls rarely have that chance due to our smaller families today. Babysitting can go a long ways in this area, but hands on care of little ones day in and day out is a rarity in families.

4. Girls appreciate things more when they have less. I admittedly went overboard when our older daughter Mary arrived in our family. After having all boys, I overindulged at times with things like pretty dresses and shoes and so forth. While an objective observer may not have thought so, compared to my childhood, she was blessed indeed at  a young age. I don’t think these things mean as much when they come easily. I had two memorable dolls in my girlhood. Not ten, two. One doll took me up to age 8, the other was my pride and joy until I outgrew dolls altogether. Mom sewed clothes for the dolls, I didn’t get ready made ones from the toy department. Today girls get too much stuff, and I don’t think it is helpful to their characters. 

5. Related to the doll comment, most girls by age 8 are now considered what the advertisers now call “tweens.” This means they are aspiring teenagers. This is a sickening trend that destroys innocence in young girls and thrusts them into a place of early sexual awareness. A simple check of the clothing department for young girls in this age range will demonstrate how innocent girlhood has been replaced with the hard-bitten sexual awareness of our age. Disney has seen to it that little girls as young as three and four are being dragged to “tween” rock star concerts where they’re taught to writhe around sensually to the latest hit number. It’s a desecration of girlhood and a tragedy. 

6. Finding service opportunities for daughters is important in their development. A girl who is never taught how to help and serve others is a sad thing to observe. The youth culture says it’s all about you. The Scriptures tell us that it’s all about others. By requiring girls to help and serve, whether at church, in a nursing home ministry, in a grandparent’s home and so forth is not placing a burden on a girl, it’s giving her an opportunity to develop compassion and a heart for others. Empathy and a view to ease the loads of others is a hallmark of a maturing mindset in a young woman. I want our new daughter to learn to help from an early age. I have seen that little ones of a very young age can help. Mary used to fold laundry for me when she was 4. She got the biggest charge out of folding towels and washcloths for me with her little hands. She liked doing that more than playing. Seizing these moments to teach the joys of doing a job well around the home is important. I told her that every time we fold a pair of socks or something from the family’s laundry, we can think about how much we love that person. Girls need to connect the mundane work of the home with an act of love. I have a tape of Mary when she was about 6 or 7, talking about what she liked to do most. “Mama lets me iron pillow cases,” she said. That’s the kind of mindset I think we ought to strive for. 

How old-fashioned, how primitive, sneer the feminists. Sorry, women. You can burn your bras and run around the business world while outsourcing your motherhood, but true joy is found in serving others, beginning with our own families. Those are the values that make for happy homes, busy and useful girls, and the development of young women whose eyes are on the Lord and not on their bodies. 

I’m interested in your thoughts, mothers, fathers. What do you think is important in raising girls to a God-honoring womanhood? What can we do as mothers to set an example? I know I have left many things out today. I am sitting in my recliner and reflecting on all of this. I pray the Lord will help me do what I can with my girls. Ultimately, heart issues can only be addressed by the girl herself with the Lord’s help. But as parents, we want to make sure we are doing all we can to show Christ in our lives to our young girls with unconditional love and service to our families.