Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

The temperaments God gives us – my daughter and me August 22, 2011

Filed under: Books,For moms — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 1:29 am

When my husband and I did our pre-marriage counseling back in 1999 with our mentor couple – the pastor who married us and his wife – we took a personality test. The results indicated that we were polar opposites, which – with the blind naivete so typical of new love – I entirely disbelieved. We had so many striking similarities, after all. We were cut of the same cloth; soul mates! It didn’t take too long into our married life for me to realize that the test was right and I was wrong; my husband and I are night and day. Opposites did, in our case, attract — and they still do. I am an extrovert with a strategic thinker’s mind, and he is an introverted dreamer. Last year I was introduced to a book called The Temperament God Gave You, and when I read the two-page summary description of the melancholic, I about dropped the book. It was as if somehow had interviewed my husband comprehensively and written a thorough description of his personality and inclinations. The insights I found there were actually very helpful – to me and to him – and we found the book so useful we bought a copy for later reference.

Two weeks ago I was watching my nearly four-year old daughter and the “recital” for her ballet show (quotation marks not gratuitous). As this tutu-clad group of pre-ballet girls wandered vaguely but adorably around the room vaguely following the directions of Teacher Pam, my daughter stood shyly in the back with her hands in her mouth. It took her nearly ten minutes to begin participating in the group, though once she did involve herself she gave herself to it and enjoyed it. When I spoke with Teacher Pam afterwards, she said that she spent a lot of time watching for the first few classes and eventually, though coaxing, warmed up to the group and the activities. My friend, after a week of teaching my daughter’s vacation bible school class earlier in the summer, indicated the same thing: “She tends to hang back a bit and watch everything, taking it all in.” And yet, she was content, behaved appropriately, and had nothing but enthusiastic reports about both experiences (ballet and VBS).

My initial and knee-jerk response to watching the ballet event and talking to Teacher Pam was, I admit it, slight concern. Was she going to be a painfully shy or an overly cautious kid? Would she make friends in life? Would she do OK? It was a silly response, because  I know I have a perfectly lovely, relational, and even highly spirited child in this girl; she’s a fabulous and very competent kid. But suddenly I was faced with how different she is from me; our reactions to situations are completely opposite. And this feels a little unsettling to me, because I don’t totally know how to relate to or encourage her. I’m a get-in-there-and-tackle-things kind of girl who, even to this day, needs to work hard to quell my instincts to be overly talkative and directive. [And I still sometimes fail at this.] She, on the other hand, will sit quietly and watch everything for a long time before she feels comfortable entering the fray and fully participating. (more…)

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A front row seat on an unfolding life August 15, 2011

Filed under: For moms,Mothering role — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 4:31 am

The green and white checkered dress she wore with the little harness top as she wandered barefoot on the sidewalk was enough to melt my heart. We picked it up some place by way of hand-me-down; it’s no hand-sewn gem by any stretch. And yet that sweet fabric, against her strawberry blond hair with her chubby little biceps swinging free… it’s absurdly adorable. Sitting with her sister and rolling a ball back and forth across the cement, it created a snapshot in my brain that I hope will lodge there forever. In that instant I saw fully for who she is, the undeserved gift – beyond generous – that God gave us in her.

This week she turns two. Seven hundred some-odd days of waking up with this small person in our house, sharing our moments and days with her. Her playful smile and extroverted personality, her inquisitive spirit. Her humor and show-offy antics win the affection of strangers as much as family members. “What a happy child!’ everyone comments. And she is. She is a joy.

I was struck this week with the extravagance of the privilege we mothers hold in being able to know our young ones so well, have such an inside track on their development and emerging personality. I know the silence upstairs that likely means my toddler has gotten into trouble. I know the noise she makes when she needs the potty. I can interpret her cries – frustrated, hurt, angry, tired. One morning as I was translating a few new phrase of her particular “dialect” to her father – “No, she’s saying, ‘Watch this, Daddy!'” or “That means, ‘More milk please,'” – I was struck by the wonder it is to hold this role in the life of another human being. We are witnessing the unfolding of a one-of-a-kind human that God created with His own hands in His image. And no one else gets a front-row seat like this, at least not as close as ours. Nowhere near. It’s amazing.

That we get to witness this process, and not only witness the development of a person but help train and direct this soul – this baby becoming child becoming adolescent becoming adult – is remarkable. Why should God give us such a privilege? He need not have. But He does.

“From the fullness of His grace we have all received one gift after another.” (John 1:16) And this child, as each of my children, are truly such gifts.

Happy birthday, my sweet and beloved two-year old girl. No one loves you more than your daddy and I do, except the Father above who made you. To Him be all the thanks, and all the glory.

 

Embracing the scrappy life August 9, 2011

Filed under: For moms,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 4:35 am

There’s a word that comes to my mind probably daily when I survey life in our family at this stage: scrappy. We have snatches of calm, pleasant, smooth life – a half hour here, a few minutes there – but the vast majority of it displays scrappiness of one sort or another. The 4- and 6-year old get into fits of silliness that have them ignoring mom and them fighting with each other, ending in tears and correction. We don’t get home in time for the baby’s nap so she starts to melt down. The toddler has an potty accident or a tantrum or starts throwing food off her tray. Somebody won’t stop whining or interrupting or throwing a fit (or all of the above). The floor was immaculate 19 minutes ago but now the carpet almost can’t be found for the junk strewn all over it. If you have multiple young children yourself, you didn’t need to read through those examples because you could insert five of your own, probably just from today.

It’s just so scrappy – such a scrappy life at this stage. So often there’s nothing smooth-sailing, orderly, or Potty Barn Kids about it. The chaos can (and should) be well-managed and directed, and appropriate structure and correction can provide reprieve and areas of calm and regrouping. And don’t get me wrong, lots of fun can be have in the midst of the scrappiness, so long as the mom has made up her mind that she’s going to plow through it with enthusiasm, a sense of humor, and a thankful spirit. But scrappy it will remain, as long as the children are present, numerous, and young. And all of us are going to have “panic room” moments sometimes in the midst of it. (more…)

 

When practice doesn’t make perfect August 4, 2011

Filed under: Behaviors,Correction,Sibling interactions — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 3:36 am

I’m a big fan of the ‘do-over’ when it comes to parenting. By which I mean: my kid messed up, so I correct her as necessary, ask her to say she’s sorry for the wrong doing, and then have her do it over. Go back and walk through the scenario in the right way, as it would have been done had the sinful attitude or behavior been absent.

I’ve blogged before, especially in my post Practice makes perfect, about how several of the parenting authors I admire encourage this and clearly spell out the spiritual importance of doing this. In Don’t Make Me Count to Three, Ginger Plowman says:

“It’s important to rebuke our children when they do wrong, but it is equally important, if not more important, to walk them through what is right – to put off as well as to put on (referencing Eph 4:22 – 24)… First, work through what a biblical response would have been.  Second, have the child follow through with it…  When we correct our children for wrong behavior but fail to train them in righteous behavior, we will exasperate them because we are not providing them with a way of escape.  This sort of neglect will provoke them to anger…  Anytime you correct your child for wrong behavior, have him walk through the right behavior… Pull out what is in the heart of your child, work through how your child can replace what is wrong with what is right, and then have your child put what he has learned into practice.”

Fine. All review so far. Here’s the new part: I was recently startled to discover that I was completely overdoing this, especially when it came to sibling conflicts. Example: son takes away daughter’s toy, daughter cries, I correct the situation, ensure that son gives toy back and apologizes, and that daughter verbalizes forgiveness of the transgression and (if she was rude in turn, which often occurs) repents in kind. This type of thing might happen five times in a day; on a bad, bickery kind of day perhaps up to ten. (more…)