“Do You Think He’s Seen Jesus Over There?”

The last seven years of raising another little girl has had its challenges and joys, emphasis on joys. Being the mother of a young child is always fascinating and rich with insights. There is a reason that Jesus said we must become like little children if we desire to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Their faith and trust, lack of cynicism and self-righteousness are what He was talking about.

There are many spiritual lessons to be found almost daily with a young child.  Some stick out in my mind. I remember a moment when Emily was four years old. On Christmas Eve we were talking about the Advent (coming) of our LORD in Bethlehem so long ago. I said to her, “Tonight is the night we remember Jesus coming to us.”

Her face lit up, eyes like two stars. She ran to the front  door and began jumping up and down and shouting.

“Jesus is coming here? When, Mama, when?” She thought He was coming to our door. Literally. In person. That night.

The joy and expectation on her face moved me deeply. The faith of a child, delighted she would meet  her Jesus. No doubt in her mind. Just faith and belief in the goodness of our Savior.

At age seven, she is on that borderline between knowing facts and still having the innocence of young childhood.  The line is frequently blurred. Last night I had an article up about Israel and there was a photo of the Prime Minister prominently displayed.

“Who is that?” she asked, walking up behind my chair.

“Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel,” I told her.

“Israel? Wow.” She thought about that for a moment. “Benjamin was one of the  names of Jacob’s sons. We learned that in school”

Another pause.

Then her eyes lit up. “Do you think that man has gotten to see Jesus over there?”

I reminded her that Jesus walked the earth 2,000 years ago.

Her face clouded. “No, Mr. Benjamin isn’t that old, I guess.”

Lots of laugh out loud moments with children, and also moments that cause tears to come to your eyes.

“Do you think he’s gotten to see Jesus over there?”

A wistful and hopeful question. Maybe he has seen my Jesus.

For now, we see Jesus by faith. Hebrews 11. Some day we will see him face to face. The hands that were scarred for us. The One who loved us so much He took our place and the penalty for sin.

What a day that will be, Emily., when you can run to the One you love, who saved you by His grace. That is the blessed hope that keeps us as Christians going in this dark world.  That is how we continue on when the rebellion and sin around us gets worse and worse.

There’ll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain,
No more parting over there;
And forever I will be,
With the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.
What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

emchristmas3

Stopping Abuse (From Kids) in the Home

A mother anonymously went public online seeking help regarding a rebellious daughter. She and her husband were heartbroken that the daughter they had lovingly raised had entered adolescence and had turned into a foul-mouthed, rebellious young adult. The girl rejected any requirements for change by her parents and had created a living hell in the home. The distraught mother sought advice from readers of the site about what to do to “improve her relationship” with the girl. Advice ranged from “Tell her her tattoos and body piercings look nice and don’t judge!” to “Don’t argue with her at all. Let her do what she wants, so she doesn’t see you as authoritarian.” One commenter said, “Rules create rebels.” That’s the thinking out there.

As a mother who has had five teens thus far (all of the five are adults now), my husband and I have certainly seen our fair share of what it is to parent adolescents and the challenges it presents. What I want to address in this post is not run of the mill boundary pushing, attempted (emphasis on attempted) disrespect or occasional disobedience to parents. There is hardly one of us in existence that has not tried this growing up.  What I’m talking about here are the extreme cases where a home is literally being destroyed by a young person who is at war with authority and is engaging in abusive conduct towards his or her parents.

When Tom and I were first married 21 years ago, friends of ours were going through this with a high school aged child. We would hear them describe what the daughter, raised in a Christian home with love, was doing (things like stealing from her own grandmother’s checking account, leaving school to have sex with her fast food manager, etc.), hear about the scenes she was creating in front of the other kids in the home, and we would wonder, how can they let this go on indefinitely? What is being accomplished here other than destroying the home for the other kids and destroying their own mental and physical health?

Getting back to the anonymous account from the devastated mother I referenced at the start of this post, she said her daughter was screaming at her husband and her, using the ugliest profanity, reserving the ugliest for her own mother, hurling f-bombs and then slamming the door (of the home they paid for), breaking things in her room, saying she hated them, and so forth and so on.

I will get to the point. Allowing any resident of your home, minor or otherwise, to behave in this fashion and keep residency, is to do the following: A) Send the message that abusive speech and behavior towards you is OK B) Train other children in the home that this is how conflict and disagreement is handled and how parents can be treated C) Demonstrate that your home can be turned into a war zone by anyone who so chooses D) Signal that you are not a full human being with boundaries that must be respected.

I have seen enough of the “unconditional love” of modern parenting, Christian or otherwise, to see that the current interpretation is a disaster. I believe in unconditional love, but not if it means that you and/or your spouse willingly serve as a doormat, punching bag, and a slum landlord who must accept anything and everything your tenant (that’s what an angry rebel becomes) dishes out. You also become an enabler of domestic abuse. Yes, abuse.

These young people are abusive. When this is a lifestyle pattern that harms others, it’s not “hormones”, “typical adolescent angst”, or anything else. It’s abuse. Nobody in my home will call me filthy names, accuse me with lies, and use profanity and anger in my presence. Nobody. My home, our home, is a haven from the rest of the world that has gone morally insane. This is our refuge of peace, and we will have peace. Tom and I are in complete agreement and always have been (spousal agreement on these things is crucial) about these issues. We did not allow any one of our kids to turn our home into a hell hole of rage and anger. When a child is at war with the parents, it’s time to seek alternative living arrangements for the rebel. There’s a time to work and pray with a child. There is also a time to acknowledge that their problems are doing gross harm to others.

Parents need to enter parenting having these thing straight in their minds. Our warped culture, as I pointed out earlier, thinks that having foul-mouthed, abusive teens who spit on the parents who have raised them, loved them and provided everything they have, is normal. It may be normal in America, but it should not be.

Some of the horrific headlines of parental abuse and even murder are an outgrowth of the kind of parenting we have today where parents try to be friends, shower kids with stuff instead of inculcating values, while kids morally rot in front of their eyes. Then these sociopaths and psychopaths turn on parents when they (in desperation) take technology away or make some 11th hour attempt to regain control they lost long ago.

There are some parents who have parented with love and discipline, however, and the spirit of the age takes hold in the heart of a child anyway. It is all the more devastating when you have invested your heart and soul into the life of a child only to see them wander away from truth and love. Having seen this as a parent, it can be devastating and inexplicable. That’s because we sometimes see parenting as a formula that, if adhered to, will provide certain results. That line of thinking, common among conservative Christians, is also incorrect. Sometimes kids reject what they are taught outright. They are not machines that you can program. Down the road, living in the rubble of their own bad decision making, sometimes they return to the light and to the truth.  I have seen this. Sadly, some do not. Those things are not in our hands. It’s our job to love and teach them what is right and true. What they do with that is firmly their own choice.

So what is in our hands? That is the point of the post. We must, emphasis on must, not allow any one child to destroy our homes with their sinful warfare. Love must be tough, and sometimes that means finding a residential option that removes a minor child from the home they so despise. It can be the only hope they have of seeing that their willful rebellion and abuse of others has long-term consequences. When you have a young adult living in your home who is showing complete and ongoing disrespect, the answer is obvious. Stop enabling it. Lay down the expectations of the rules of the home for young people early on, and let them know that they have one warning, after which, they will face the consequences.  Write it up as a contract so things are perfectly clear. Stick to it. Failure to do this will result in you making a mockery of your own boundaries, authority and your requirement of personal respect.

Tom and I have lived through these things through the years. When I see Christian parents in total dismay at young adult rebels wanting to sit around gaming or refusing to do the most basic chores, expecting to enjoy the fruit of their parents’ hard work while contributing nothing but mouthiness and disrespect, it’s evident where the problem lies. You get the respect you expect. It’s that simple.

I saw a teen comment on the same post online written by the dismayed mother. The teen wrote, “Parents treat us with disrespect and think we’ll respect them back.” This is the attitude I am talking about. It is the job of the parent so say, “You have clearly rejected us as parents and are most unhappy with the job we have done. We respect your right to hold an opinion. Now you can view us as landlords instead. All landlords have expectations and rules for tenants. Here are ours if you expect to stay in this home and also listed are the consequences if you decide to do things your way. Then be ready to calmly enforce it. Dispassionate, calm enforcement of the rules, and a refusal to be drawn into emotional screaming matches is essential. Letting them push your buttons puts them in control, not you.

Cause and effect. Teaching that to young people is critical. Teaching respect for others is crucial. Start early and reinforce boundaries, something that modern parents-as-friends fail to do, beginning in early childhood.

Parents are people, too. We sacrifice the best years of our lives when we have children, pouring our time, energy and resources into our kids, because we love them. Don’t send the fatal message that they can turn around and spit on you. That is the wrong message.

Addendum: To those who say this is not parenting with grace and forgiveness, understand this: Repentance is turning around. When a son or daughter is truly sorry for their behavior and treatment of parents, it will be evident by conduct, not just verbal promises. If you hastily restore fellowship with someone in your home who has been abusive as described above, you only destabilize your home and invite further chaos. We are called to forgive seventy times seven as Christians.  We are not called to lightly re-expose ourselves to health-threatening stress and abusive conduct from someone who may be manipulating to re-enter the home. This is true of any abuser, whoever they are. Forgiveness is not the same as renewed fellowship. That can only come where there is ample fruit of real heart change. Remember that.

Remember something else. When dealing with a full scale rebel who has turned your home into a war zone, be prepared for ignorant and hurtful judgements from others, some even within your own family or extended family. When you decide to be proactive and find an alternative living situation for the child/young adult, you will be accused of various and sundry parenting failures. “It must be something in their home. They are too (fill in the blank with accusation here.)” To parents already in pain, this can be doubly hurtful. I urge parents in this situation to refuse to discuss the situation with anyone placing themselves in a seat of judgment. Only you as parents know what has gone on and what drove you to an extreme decision. The response to such judges should be, “That is not your call to make. We are not interested in discussing it with you for privacy reasons. ” If they persist, cutting off contact with busybodies not showing respect for your own experience and decision making is the only wise course of action. Those who judge without the facts serve to further divide and injure you emotionally, something you don’t need at a time like this.

All the Precious Little Things

Thunder woke Emily and me up in the wee hours. Knowing how scared Emily gets of storms, I went in to lie by her for a little while. It was one of those sweet Mama and daughter times, when you remember how quickly time flies and how dear these passing moments are.  One of those times when you can just be in silence together and understand. I felt her small arm creep around me when there was another crash of thunder, and I remembered how very comforting it is to have someone you love nearby in a storm.

With Mother’s Day recently passed, I wanted to elaborate on a comment I made today on Facebook about mothers. There is a terrible assumption in Western culture that you must, necessarily, pass through a phase where you despise your mother as a teen daughter. If you don’t have screaming matches, constant battles and open warfare, you probably aren’t normal.

Our culture plays up generational differences in entertainment and advertising, repeating the lie that our mothers always have to embarrass us, always have to be viewed as stupid,  that mothers are the enemy of fun and coolness, and that teen girls must revolt against the oppression and over-protection. What a tragic and false line of thinking.

As a teenager, I remember being in a restroom with other girls in front of the mirror, applying their make-up and chatting. One of the girls called her mother a “bitch.” It stunned me, and the reason it stunned me was that I loved my mom. It wasn’t that there were never any misunderstandings. It wasn’t that I was some perfect daughter. (I regret not getting my head out of the clouds and helping her more with housework and things I could have done to lift her load. As a mother of grown children, I think of Mom’s labors and sacrifices more every day.)   But the thought of hating her as a teenager? Not within the realm of possibility. It made me sick hearing it.

I realize girls and moms can have opposite personalities, situations differ, and our culture has changed. But it is a moral sickness to assume that daughters have to hate their moms in the teen years to be normal.  Instilling respect, compassion, empathy in our daughters is something we have to work at. It will not come passively, because the culture disciples and indoctrinates in a very systematic way.

One way that I work to achieve empathy and compassion is to remind our youngest, the only one still at home, that I do need help. Children who are waited on and not asked to do their part within the home become the entitled brats we see who fail to launch. I want her to see people with lenses that show the burdens others carry in this life, and to adjust her own demands in light of those things.  That is a check to selfishness, and a call to usefulness and kindness. Our children need this desperately in our age of entitlement.

There are no guarantees that our children will not go through a stage of selfishness and dislike for mothers (or fathers.) But don’t assume it’is necessary, and working on a strong relationship of trust and love will help mitigate the toxic assumptions this world promotes.

As a P.S., one of my favorite memories is of my mom french braiding my long hair in high school. I never did manage to do it myself. She would get up early sometimes, even when tired, to do it for me.  Bless you, Mom, for all those precious, little things.  ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Eat It

lunchWhen I was in school, my mother packed my lunch each day. We didn’t have hot lunch but once a month, so all the kids brown bagged it. Some days, everything she sent was what I liked. Other days, not so much. But back then, with two recesses a day out in the fresh air and no snack like they have in many classes now mid-day, by the time lunch rolled around, I was starving. By 10:30 I was starving, for that matter! So whatever Mom sent, I ate it, like it or not.

Twice recently, I caught our six-year-old complaining about something she didn’t like to eat. “I only have ketchup on this,” she said the other night. “I don’t like mustard.”Too late, there was mustard already on the hamburger.

“Eat it anyway. Life doesn’t revolve around our likes and dislikes, ” I said.

She ate it and never said another word. When we were kids, it really was different.  Times were such that our delicate little tastes weren’t catered to. Mom put dinner on, and we ate it.  Less of things we didn’t like, second helpings of what we did like. She didn’t serve up individual meals because this one doesn’t care for that shape of pasta, or this one won’t eat that kind of vegetable.

Much has been written about entitled Millennials, the cry bullies in that generation who are turning campuses into hell with their endless demands for safe spaces, speech censorship, etc. Raising people like this starts early — by catering to a toddler who refuses to drink out of this cup or demands a certain cereal bowl or he won’t eat breakfast.  Go ahead, meet your child’s every demand, but you’re making a rod for your own back and the rest of society as well.

Yesterday, Emily complained mildly  that she had been hoping for this and not that for breakfast “Eat this, and thank God for it,” I said rather abruptly.   She did. Her wishes don’t rule our home, and she knows it. It’s not that her feelings don’t come into consideration – it’s that we have the final say as parents, and whining about what you didn’t get to eat is a terrible way to start out life. The headlines have ample evidence of how that turns out.

On a separate but related note, I read yesterday that the average American prom costs $1000 dollars per student,  with kids engaging in ever more exotic “promposals” to ask a girl out. Some of these “promposals” cost hundreds of dollars in themselves, and the more over the top, the more attention you get on Instagram.  The obscenity of this, in the face of the staggering costs of higher education (read debt) can’t be adequately expressed in writing. The schools enable all of this. No, they encourage it.

Rather than parents and schools proactively reversing the trend by dialing back the scale of the prom event and making it a fun time all can participate in, the entitled kids are driving the party bus, and it is completely out of control. Those girls who aren’t asked out, or who don’t have  money for limo rides, after parties, formal dresses, shoes, accessories and getting hair, nails and make-up done for the “red carpet??  Well, kids you’re out of luck. You have a big L for loser on your back. And we wonder why we have depression and suicide on the rise in schools? Nothing is as it should be, that’s why.

We can only commit to teaching our children better in our own homes.  We are not ultimately responsible for the choices our kids make as adults, but we are responsible to do our part to raise grounded, grateful and common sense people. Sometimes that means telling them, “Just eat it.”

He Came Running

Emmy took a tumble down the stairs yesterday. She was more scared than hurt. But she cried for a while.

“Why did you come running so fast, Daddy?” she asked.

“To see if you were hurt,” he answered.

At six, Emmy is getting big. But her dad picked her up from the bottom of the stairs, and she sat on his lap for a while.

She is blessed with this dad of hers. Many don’t have a dad to come running. Some dads don’t care, and the worst willingly inflict pain on their kids.

Watching Tom with the kids is a study in how much fathers can mean in the lives of their children.  Will is 19, but calls frequently to talk with his dad. I can hear them in conversation, laughing, talking about everything going on, big and small, sports, politics, music, plans. Will has many friends, but his best male friend is his dad. He doesn’t have to say it, I see it in how the two relate, especially since Will has reached young adulthood.

Dads don’t realize what a powerful thing it is to be there,  just taking a call or making a call. It’s only a conversation. Nothing much. But those times color the entire life of the child they take time for.   These fathers give a lifelong blessing to their kids. What a gift — to know they were wanted by their father. To know that whatever else happens in their lives, they had a dad who loved them.

That when they were hurt, he came running.

001

Two Little Girls

Our little girl and her baby niece. Only six years separate “Auntie Emmy” from our new granddaughter, Gianna Maria. But Emmy is enchanted with this tiny girl who entered our world two weeks ago. Our daughter is learning about nurturing and tenderness, two indispensable traits. Little Gianna is soaking it all in as she wakes up to the world.

EmmyGianna

Dr. Leonard Sax: Parents Are Doing it Wrong

Credit: Leonard Sax

Sick of of tender little snowflake young adults who can’t manage their hurt feelings? Tired of basement-dwelling, launch failure kids, hands full of technology, but without motivation to work and sacrifice for long term goals? Tired of disrespect for authority of all kinds today and the lawless vulgarians on college campuses? Fed up with teachers being targeted by parents when they try to discipline feral students in their classrooms?

In a new book,  The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt our Kids when We Treat them Like Grown-Ups  (Basic Books), Dr. Leonard Sax puts his finger on the beginnings of all of this, the collapse of parenting in this country. Loss of any parental hierarchy with children is producing adults who are increasingly unprepared to face real life.

As a parent of six children, 5 of which are adults with one caboose of 6 years, I agree with Dr. Sax one hundred percent. As a babysitter of 16 many years ago, I watched as a young child sat in his booster chair at the table and made a fool of his dad. He didn’t want juicy in that cup, no, or that cup, noooooo! It had to be that cup with the smiley face. As the dad began pouring, the child decided he’d made a wrong choice and began pounding the table in rage. Daddy, utterly clueless, found yet another cup, which the child of 4 then hurled on the floor, juice and all.

I vowed in that moment that this was  not going to be my parental approach. Treating a child like a peer, asking rather than informing young children, is to send up a white flag of surrender to their whims. Good luck parents. You will need it to survive the carnage to come.

Sax’s  book is a desperately needed antidote to the toxic, child-centered advice being ladled out to young parents in advice columns and books today. Thanks, Dr. Sax, for pointing out what should be obvious. With the death of common sense in this country, it’s a clarion call back to sanity. Read an article on the book here.

Afternoon Chat

CocoaWithEmEmily was chilly after school one afternoon.  We had come in from the bitter cold wind, and with a -25 degree windchill, it felt awfully good to get in to the warmth of the house.

I made cocoa with marshmallows and poured it into our china cups just for fun. Then my little daughter and I sat and talked.

Conversation with children will take you around the world and back. Emily is especially good at bringing up random topics that keep your mind swirling. Flying fish are on her mind lately. Why do they fly, where do they fly, why do some fish have wings and not others? Then it was on to sea horses and bits and pieces she learned about  them on a children’s science program. After that, the subject was her intention to invent a vending machine that would shoot out fruit and vegetables instead of things that were bad for you. She said she had drawn a plan for it and asked if I would like to see it when her cocoa was finished.

Then the subject turned to table manners when her attempt to cool the cocoa shot melting marshmallows onto the tablecloth. The negative social aspects of slurping hot beverages and soup was next on the conversational docket.

Listening to her, I thought again of how much information is exchanged in the most casual of circumstances at home with a parent. It’s not formal teaching, but children are learning anyway. By watching and listening and weighing and asking, they are being formed as people.

The times I value most with my children are the talks we have had in the van or in the kitchen or at the table. You learn a lot about who they are as people just by listening to them, and you have the chance to shape their values, hopefully in a good way,  by being engaged with them in the simple act of conversation.

The subject turned to books as we have bookshelves in the dining room, living room and her bedroom. She hauls them off the shelf frequently and asks me to tell her what each book is about. My old edition of Heidi interests her with the beautiful drawings of the goats and the Alps.  That leads to questions about where the Alps are on the globe. This is how children learn, and it’s fascinating to watch.

roseatespoonbillEmily’s other passion is birds.  She has learned a lot about them from a large book we were given about the birds of North America. There is a button you can push to hear the call of each bird. Her favorite is the Roseate Spoonbill because of its gorgeous pink color and big wings. The book is a real treasury.

Birds and flying fish and sea horses and vending machines and manners. Such is the mind of a child, soaking up knowledge like a sponge. Conversation, I believe, is the primary learning tool for children, and the beauty of it is that you not only can convey knowledge, you help build a relationship of trust and love in the process.

 

 

Daddy’s Girl

It’s not in the big events that the fabric of a child’s life is woven.

It’s the little things that make it—the bedtime stories, the little chats, the drawings admired by a caring parent, the silly inside jokes, the loving teasing, the moments together snatched in a busy day.

All of those threads combine to make the beautiful whole fabric of a happy childhood.

Em is reading so well now. Last night she read The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward to her daddy. Just a few minutes together, but minutes wrapped in love that she will always remember.

EmmyTom

Only a Dad

This photo of my son, Samuel, with our little grandson, Max, made me think of the old poem by Edgar Guest. This stanza in particular.

Only a dad with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame
To show how well he has played the game;
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come and to hear his voice.

SamMax