Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

In search of the gentle mom September 19, 2011

Filed under: For moms,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 7:25 pm

Last month, a friend and I communicated about her tendencies toward being a pushover and my tendencies toward being, how did she put it?, “overly confident.” Indeed, I have a fairly strong personality, I can be pretty intense, and yes, I can come across as overly confident. In an email I wrote her, I said: “I come by a domineering spirit honestly – all my family members are prone to it in one way or another – and find that gentleness is the fruit of the Spirit I tend to most lack and need to pray for God to grow in me.”

And that’s the truth. I wish I were a more naturally gentle person. And I wish I were more gentle with my children in my mothering. Don’t get me wrong, I have my gentle moments, and there are lovely quiet, warming moments that my kids and I do share. Moments in which I am (as dictionary.com states) “kindly, amiable, not severe or rough.” They just aren’t as plentiful as I’d like, not by any stretch.

Two verses jump to mind when it comes to gentleness: (more…)

 

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…)

 

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…)

 

A mom after God’s own heart: proactive nurture July 2, 2011

Filed under: Authority & obedience,Behaviors,Books,For moms,Mothering role — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 10:04 pm

Lately one word, in the realm of the home life, has been kicking around in my brain, and it’s this word: “nurture.” According to Dictionary.com it means “to feed and protect; to support and encourage.” A definition of nurturing is “fondly tender.” Nurture, in a sense, is the positive and proactive component in parenting in which we intentionally show love and kindheartedness to our kids.

And I’ve had this realization: I don’t do it enough. I nurture my children on the fly – a goodnight kiss here, a quick after-nap hug for a crank, a fleeting expression of enthusiasm over the latest drawing. A passing slice of tenderness when circumstances demand. Usually, though, I’m too engaged in either 1) trying to diligently run my household, or 2) trying to consistently monitor and train/correct my children in what they’re doing to be proactive in nurture.

It called to mind this passage Elizabeth Kroeger writes in Raising Godly Tomatoes(more…)

 

Changing family dynamics: from overwhelmees to overwhelmers June 14, 2011

Filed under: Behaviors,For moms — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 3:43 am

When my husband and I moved to southern California from the northeast three years ago, we had a 2 1/2 year old and a 10-month old. We were also fortunate enough to have two good-friend couples, fellow New Englanders whom we’d known for almost a decade, living within an hour of the house we rent here; our three families meet up for part of a weekend every couple months. They’ve become like family — all the more since our actual families are 3,000 miles away.

There were three kids among the three families when we moved in 2008, two being ours. Today – three years later – we corporately have eight, going on nine children, all under 6. And let’s just say that the dynamics of our gatherings have changed. It used to be simple enough to put our kids to bed and enjoy a good meal that featured in-depth, adults-only conversation while we lingered over a bottle of wine. But those days are behind us.

I was reflecting on this last weekend as we ate a delicious meal at a perfectly set table… next to two kids’ tables and amidst continual interruptions by one kid or another every 60 to 90 seconds. Conversations were engaging… and absurdly fragmented. It’s a different season.

The couple in whose home we were dining have two girls, ages 23 months and 2 months. These cherubs were enthusiastic about the descent of six children on their home, and the toddler shared her toys with grace… but they were a little overwhelmed. Who wouldn’t be? And our crew of four kids were doing, in all fairness, the brunt of the overwhelming. Our two-year old hostess is accustomed to a fairly quiet, contained household and a high level of order; my children are certainly not. And while my husband and I work hard to keep our kids’ level of scrappiness as low as possible – down to a dull roar at best – there’s no escaping the fact that some scrappiness does in fact exist among our brood. With four kids under 6, some level of chaos is inescapable. (more…)

 

Taking note of God’s work in our kids March 9, 2011

Filed under: For moms,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 5:30 am

Last Friday night, while putting something away, I knocked a wood-framed mirror off a shelf onto my closed laptop, cracking the screen. My husband had to work all day Saturday and woke me at 6:30, as he was dressing to leave, to tell me our dog had had diarrhea all over the living room. I’d had the carpets professionally cleaned, in a fit of nesting, three weeks prior (for the first time ever). Around 8 AM I discovered that my $300 Mac service plan wouldn’t cover the broken screen. At 9 AM when the kids and I arrived at Radio Shack to buy a hard drive for data back-up before before sending my Mac in for repair, we found a huge hole through the front window – it had been robbed at 4 AM that morning – and thus the store was closed for inventory. Seemed like our bad luck was catching.

Ordinary American annoyances these, irritations that we who have sufficient wealth and privilege are bound to encounter– “hardships” much of the rest of the world would do anything to call their own. I kept this in mind through the dad-less hours of carpet-cleaning and calls with computer vendors. Even still, it was a taxing day, and my temper with the kids was definitely short by the time witching hour rolled around. I explained to them that mommy was having a hard day and apologized for my impatience.

“Mom, I’m making you a card,” my 5-year-old informed me a short while later, as I began dinner preparations.

He presented it to me a few minutes later – a picture of me on the beach under a blue sky and yellow-ball sun, accompanied by these words: “Dear Mom, U R dooing hard work. Ceep gong. Good gob. I love U.”

The highlight of my day, to be certain; possibly of my week. Not just the sentiment but that he’d undertaken to pen such an unsolicited note of encouragement. The first sentence is a reference to one of the first Bible verses we learned together: “Hard work always pays off, but talking about it gets nothing done.” (Prov 14:23; paraphrase mine).

There’s no doubt some developmental milestone that the experts cite about the development of empathy and compassion that emerges around my son’s age. That doesn’t interest me especially; what did interest me – what touched me profoundly, in fact – was the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in my son. My five-year old took it upon himself to build me up. He displayed – in that small, card-making act – selflessness, encouragement, and Christlike love.

It was nothing earth-shattering, of course, and I’m far from the first mom who’s received a sweet note of encouragement from her young child. Heck, some moms probably get them routinely. We must stop, though, and take note of such moments. Beyond showing gratitude to our thoughtful child, we must thank God that he hears our prayers for our kids.  That He is in the business of shaping our child’s heart toward godliness as we pray for this, and as we train our children. It is so easy, amidst the daily grind of life and training and correction, to miss this in our children – or to quickly forget it.

Thank you, oh God, for the evidence of your work in the heart of my child – of all my children. Give me keen eyes to see the ways you’re moving in them, and to adequately demonstrate my excitement about it. Help me communicate to them that my joy in their godliness, in their demonstration of any of the fruits of the spirit, is only a pale shadow of your joy whenever we give the Holy Spirit reign within us. Shape our children’s hearts ever more into Christlikeness as they grow, even as You are likewise shaping our own hearts as we parent them.