Sunday, June 23, 2013

The best mom

I have the best mom (and dad, but this time mom gets the spotlight).  She is an amazing parent who taught, disciplines, empowered, and loved us intentionally, thoughtfully, and purposefully.  And as we grew up, she continued to teach us the reasoning for why she did what she did as a parent.  I wish that everyone were so lucky to have had parents like mine (ours, hey there Kathy and David!) 

The other night Rick and I had a long time friend (yep, it's been 10 years since I studied abroad and met this amazing lady) and her in law and her 4 kids (the in law's, not the friend's).  It was a fun night with a houseful of folks.  Four adults, Ruth (2), a 7 year old, an almost 2 year old, and twins.  (Plus the 4 dogs of course).  We had a good dinner and some fun play time.  The mom was easy going and adapted easily to being in our midst and receiving help from all the adults around.  In the morning, after breakfast, she laughingly mentioned that she thought it was funny (cute?) how I kept giving the kids options, that she just tells them what to do or what they get.  

I pulled out the old Sue Camphouse handbook and explained why I give so many options (that it helps empower the kids and teach decision making) and that I generally limit the options offering milk and water because those are acceptable choices in my book instead of coffee or say beer.  I structure the choices and even though they might not like the options, at least they have an option.  

The visiting mother explained that her mom told her not to give her kids options because it would only cause them to rebel later on.  My heart sank when I heard that.  I LOVE having options (probably because we had them as kids).  But even as an adult, I want options.  If I'm going away for just one night, I always pack an option on outfits simply because I like having a choice.  And that's something simple and straightforward. On things that are serious or more complex, I want even more options. I want to know that my desires matter, that my opinion counts.  And that's no less true for a child.  They may not have the same depth of comprehension, but they still want a choice.  

I tried to reexplain the value of giving her kids options and the fact that as the option-giver, she could set up whatever options were acceptable to her.  I'm not sure if she learned anything, but I hope so.  I hope she saw that even she has options and that she will better serve/raise her kids if they too have options.

All of that is to say, "Thank you Mom." I am grateful for the ways you raised us, and the ways you taught us the value of your parenting techniques.  If you struggle in your parenting or wish you had had a different example growing up, know that there are alternatives (choices!) out there. There are books, videos, resources, and amazing people who can help you to raise your little person(s) to be thoughtful and empowered adults.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

In one word

The other day I was talking with someone from the church and she was asking about someone else from the church, someone she doesn't know. She asked me to describe her in one word.  One word?!  I paused and thought.  I tried to think of words that might be appropriate, words that might suffice.  Well...?  I'm thinking.  One word?  Yeah.  I don't think I can do one word.  Why not?  I'm a preacher. I use words, it's my art.  I don't think I could describe anyone in one word.  

And the more I thought about it, I couldn't do it.  There was no one word that was sufficient for describing that woman, or anyone I could think of.  I couldn't describe myself in one word.  I'm afraid that if we can describe anyone in just one word that we don't actually know that person.  None of us is so flat in our personhood that one word is sufficient for telling any kind of real truth about us.  Even my two year old daughter has more life, more vibrancy, and more personality than could be contained in just one word.  She is funny.  She's sweet. She's smart. She's independent. She's adventurous. She's curious.  She's beautiful. She's precious. She's energetic.  She is all of those things and no one word is sufficient to capture her big personality, even though it's bound up in a little body.  

And yet, as impossible as this task is, we do it all the time with people we don't know. Or maybe people we do know well, but simply don't like.  We want to summarize them in one word to keep them bound by the hurt they've imposed or the injustice that is served.  

Think about it.  Who do you characterize with just one word?

The vagabond?
The drunk?  
The *****? 
The adulterer?
The liar? 
The slut? 
The prude?
The dictator?  
The slacker?
The crazy one? 
The whiner?

Who else? How have you narrowed your view and understanding of that person?  What parts of his/her character are you failing to see? Refusing to see?  

What would change in the dynamic of your relationship if you were willing to see the bigger picture?  

I know that my challenge often lies in needing to allow myself to feel greater compassion and spend more time with those that burden my heart.  Not that I never do this, just that when I'm tired or frustrated or weary, it's easier to turn a blind eye when it's that ____________ instead of the whole person.  

Struggling with this "one word" inquiry reminds me to look with eyes wide open.  It challenges me to see the whole person, not the summary of a person who can easily be dismissed or forgotten.