Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

The death of a child December 30, 2009

Filed under: Books,Culture,For moms — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 10:51 pm

A friend of mine lost her 7-month old son last weekend; he simply didn’t wake up.  That morning she lived every mother’s worst nightmare. How can one respond to such overwhelming loss? There are no words. All week I’ve been haunted by the tragedy, imagining the grief facing my dear friend and her family across the country.

Why God gives as family the precious gift of a beloved baby, only to take him back infancy , is a mystery that I’ll never understand this side of eternity.  About the death of a child- a sweet, innocent young one full of the promise of an unlived life – one can only cry out, “Why, God, why?” It is beyond comprehension. 

Paul’s admonition to the contrary, I live by sight far more than by faith; a death like this rocks my faith. And surely my faith would be all the more rocked if my own family were living through the tragedy.  I pondered this in the fall when I read Stepping Heavenward (1869), whose author Elizabeth Prentiss lost two young children in the space of three months. Prentiss writes with the wisdom and authority of one who was walked through this particular “valley of the shadow of death” and has found her Savior good and faithful even there.  About her sick baby, the book’s protagonist Katie says: “If He should take her away I should still rejoice that this life was mingled with ours, and has influenced them… I have given this precious little one away to her Savior and to mine; living or dying, she is His.” (more…)


Grown-up interactions, nomenclature, and respect December 28, 2009

Filed under: Behaviors,Books,Communication and speech,Culture — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 11:09 pm

One topic that didn’t make my last post on manners is interactions between kids and adults. This issue is, to society’s detriment, seldom discussed among parents or in parenting books… so I was pleasantly surprised, when my book club recently read Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World, to find author Jill Rigby bold enough to address the issue. “Don’t allow your children to call adults by their first names,” she writes. “You need to establish the boundary between the adult and the child.”

There are two separate but related parenting issues here.  One: considering child-adult interactions and training kids toward established goals for interacting with grown-ups (beyond kids’ inner circle of grandma, uncles, etc).  Two: figuring out nomenclature.  How do you want your kids to address adults?  The options are basically: a) first names; b) Mr and Mrs First Name, c) Mr and Mrs Last Name, or d) none of the above.  Option d, “none of the above,”  happens with some frequency as one real life recent example illustrates.  A fellow parent attendee at a four-year-old birthday was thanking the host with his daughter. “Say thank you to Cody’s mom,” he told her.  The child duly thanked her – but didn’t add her name.  How could she?  Saying, “Thank you, Cody’s mom” wouldn’t have worked.  This dad had, on the first issue, evidently not considered how he wanted his child to interact with adults and, on the second issue, landed on option d – no names for grown-ups.  (more…)


Raising Miss (& Master) Manners December 27, 2009

Filed under: Behaviors,Communication and speech,Training — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 5:33 am

It’s remarkable how frequently a mother need remind her little ones to rephrase statements and questions, if said mother is committed to only responding to her children when they speak politely.  In a typical day, phrases such as these emerge from my mouth dozens of times:

  • How do you ask nicely?
  • Please choose a different voice.
  • Is there a different way you could say that?
  • You mean, “Yes please Mom”?
  • Please try that again in a polite way.
  • What do you say? 
  • If you need help, then say: “Mom, could you please help me?”

There are moments (by dinner time, for example, after the 17th instance) when I wonder if there’s a better way…  and when I grow weary and irked by the amount of reminding that my children require to speak courteously.  It can seem a useless enterprise.  Then there are the moments when I catch myself on the verge of prompting my husband to rephrase something to communicate more pleasantly (and I know I am short with him every bit as much as he with me)… Causing me to step back and remember what a work in progress we all truly are.  Our (speaking) children are 2 and 4 years old, and when I look at the big picture I can see that both have absorbed a great deal of the courtesy training we provide.  The two-year old, when she recently began experimenting with tantrums, would start them by saying “No thank you, Mommy” when resisting my instruction – surely the politest way to be defied by one’s child that I can think of! (more…)


Of Christmas, distance, and longing December 25, 2009

Filed under: For moms,Holidays,Mary — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 11:58 pm

I ran three miles this afternoon, a yuletide jog in 70 degree weather. I thanked God as I ran since a recent back injury prevented me from running for months.  Still, I wished I were back in the northeast where today it’s ten degrees and snowy. We live in a good place in the southwest; it’s just not our place. We’re “winter wonderland” folks, my husband and me, born and raised in New England and gone for only 18 months now. At our Christmas lunch, surrounded by our kids, and pleased with how our festivities went down this morning with our preschoolers – my husband still looked at me and said: “It would be nice to be with family. It would be nice to be in the northeast.”

I knew how he felt; I felt just the same.  There’s something about Christmas that calls out for family and togetherness. One wants to be among kin: those who are well- and long-known. Anyone who’s spent Christmas far from home knows the fish-out-of-water mindset we felt today. My parents lived overseas for ten years early in their marriage; we spent seven of my first ten Christmases far from grandparents and aunts and cousins. It didn’t bother me; I didn’t know any different. But I bet there were Christmases when my parents felt as I do today. Removed. Foreign.

The reality, though, is that Christmas in its true sense is all about distance and alienation. Think of Mary, far from her Nazareth home, probably longing for her mom or sister as the labor pains set in.  Awash in Bethlehem’s unrecognized faces and removed from the comfort of the familiar.  And embarking, no less, on a woman’s most unfamiliar event: birthing her first child. (more…)


The “friendly beasts” and Jesus’ birth December 23, 2009

Filed under: For moms,Holidays,Mary — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 11:58 pm

Groping around in the recesses of my memory while pondering kid-friendly advent stuff a few weeks back, I remembered a less-popular Christmas carol called “The Friendly Beasts.”  Anyone know it?  Think “Old MacDonald’s Farm,” spruced up a bit in tune, and set in the classic nativity scene.  Nothing could be more perfect for a four- and two-year old at Christmas time… especially when combined with YouTube and visuals.  We all love it (which we ‘d be happy to demonstrate by singing all six verses).

As I sat with my tots on the couch and watched – repeatedly – the animals approach the barn to bring Jesus their gifts of hay, wool, songs, etc, I  considered anew the whole baby-Jesus-born-in-the-stable scenario.  Isn’t it funny that God chose to send his Son into a setting that is comprehensible and endearing to a two-year old?  Basic, rudimentary animals that toddlers delight to identify, and whose sounds they love to mimic.  Identifying barn animals and making their sounds happens pretty early, developmentally speaking – way before colors, for example, at least if my two-year old is an indicator.  So the appeal to barnyard animals is certainly childish in the true sense, and yet it’s also transcendent.  Jesus’ birthplace was humble, yes, but it was also universal in that it was so eminently accessible to the human imaginationHow interesting that Jesus not only tells us that we need to “become like little children” to enter his Kingdom — but demonstrates it so powerfully from his first minute on earth by entering a setting that would be the perfect destination for a preschool field trip.  (more…)


Advent and Christmas links December 20, 2009

Filed under: Holidays — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 11:58 pm

Thought I’d make myself a cheat sheet of  this season’s ideas and resources I’ve liked best to reference next year when advent rolls around.  Couldn’t think of a better place to put it than here…

3 Simple Practices for a Peaceful Advent (A Holy Experience)

Christmas Books to Add to Your Collection (Preschoolers and Peace)

Advent Mornings and The Music of my Christmas (A Path Made Straight)

Advent Calendar at Teaching MOM 

The Jesse Tree: a Family-Oriented Way to Focus on the True Meaning of Christmas (Simple Mom)

An Advent Primer and More Advent Ideas (The Apple Cider Mill)

Other advent and Christmas links to add?  I’d be glad to grow to this list, so feel free to leave a comment.


Training vs. over-training: some thoughts December 19, 2009

Filed under: Authority & obedience,Books,Correction,Household,Parenting,Training — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 4:29 am

In my last post I discussed the possibility of over-focus on child-training to the point of excess and negativity.  I quoted H. Clay Trumbull’s description of parents “who seem to suppose that their chief work in the training of a child is to be incessantly commanding and prohibiting; telling the child to do this or do that, and to do this, that, or the other. But this nagging a child is not training a child; on the contrary it is destructive of all training.”

No one wants to become an in-home dictator, nor to exasperate their child (as the Bible forbids) through excessive focus on parental authority or obedience.  The question then becomes: what’s the line between training and exasperating?  If we do want to maintain high expectations for behavior and be consistent in addressing misbehavior, then how do we moms do this well without overkill?  In short: how do we determine the right amount of emphasis on training, and ensure that our homes don’t become households of nit-picking?

After reflection, here are my top-of-mind thoughts: (more…)