Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It Doesn't Last Forever

This could apply to so many things with regard to children, but what I'm thinking of right now is the short period of time that an infant fits sleeping curled up between your belly button and the top of your chest. Never has that been more real to me than last year . . . the year my oldest baby grew up and not only moved away but moved away and overseas! And though I held him a lot, I would go back and do it more if I could. 

For nine months a baby is curled up in a crazy ball inside his mother's womb (well I guess part of the time he's small enough that he does not have to be curled up, but you get what I mean). When he enters this world he still needs to be close to his mother's (or father's) heartbeat. Can you imagine the comfort that is taken away when those sounds and feelings are just suddenly gone? I know that an infant is too young and the brain is not developed enough to identify the loss of what had been normal, but the brain is developed enough for him to sense comfort and security when he hears and feels what was normal.  But it's also a great thing for the parent in terms of bonding with the baby.  You CANNOT overbond!

I had two babies who struggled with sleep (James and David) and two who did not (Jason and Sarah). It was nice to be able to put Jason and Sarah down for bed and know they were going to fall asleep and that they were not going to be as demanding as the others. But nice and convenient is not what parenting is about. God NEVER promised that. He said there would be pain in childbirth (Genesis 3:16), and certainly as moms we all know the truth in that, but I don't think the pain and discomfort ends there. In fact that might be some of the easiest pain many parents feel. Yes, it hurts but the hurt generally ends and the body heals, but the emotional pain we feel throughout our children's lives is often not as short-lived. Your children will be hurt by others which will cause you pain. They will say things to hurt you. You will be saddened at times by their actions. The pain in childbirth is only the beginning.  No one is guaranteed an easy life, but I can tell you, if that's what you're seeking, DON'T have children.

But in the trials (and in the everyday life), there is great joy, as the Bible says in James 1. Don't miss those moments . . . the moments filled with joy . . . the moments you can cherish forever . . . the moments that create or enhance the relationship you have with your children. Hold your baby on your chest. Let him fall asleep there and stay asleep there (if you want). Don't feel an ounce of guilt rocking him to sleep or when he's older laying beside him in bed until he falls asleep . . . or letting him stay up past bedtime for that talk that might not happen any other time. These moments will be gone in the blink of an eye. By eight or nine months they don't fit in that space on your chest and/or they are too wiggly and it's not comfortable. By the 2nd or 3rd grade, if you have not seized those moments, your child is probably going to prefer to stay up with their friends than with you.  For people with young babies who are sleep deprived, I know it seems like you will never sleep again, but rest assured you will, and you will even miss the days when your children wanted to climb in bed with you.

Monday, April 14, 2014


I was at dinner with a sweet friend a couple weeks ago.  She does not have any children yet, and she was talking about her friends who do and the struggle that exists between them.  It took me back to the days when James was a baby and the things I learned about people and parenting, and it made me sad.  It is amazing what causes division among Believers, and parenting is one of them.  And I find it so interesting that it causes the most division among parents of young children who do not even know if their techniques are going to work or not.

When I was a new mom, there was a popular parenting program in churches.  Many of you who might be reading this will know what I'm referring to, and in all honesty, I don't have any problem mentioning it, but for the time being I think I will refrain because I don't want start with a fight.  But I will say that I did not follow it, and I have no regrets.  I was a young mom . . . not a teen, but young and I was finishing college.  I had a baby with a cleft lip who was going to require surgery, and basically I was not a crowd follower, and though I was sometimes sad that I did not fit in with almost all the other moms my age, I did not care enough to try to follow the crowd and use the popular parenting technique.  I didn't have time to read "the books" when James was a baby.  I was reading school books and studying for tests and spending the rest of my time in doctor's offices.  James struggled with feeding because of his cleft, so doctor's orders were to feed him when he was hungry, and I followed those orders.  There was no going on a tight feeding schedule for him until he was about 5 months, and at that point, it was too late.  I suppose people did not look down on me like they may have others . . . or maybe it was just that I did not care, but I remember a situation that made me realize how incredibly ridiculous this issue of parenting was among my peers.

There was another mom who had a baby sometime near the time that James was born.  She was trying to follow this tight feeding schedule, but I guess it just wasn't working.  One day I was at a function, and her baby was crying.  She disappeared and later I found her in another room.  She appeared to be anxious.  I remember walking into the room and realizing she had been secretly nursing her baby.  She admitted to me that she was not following the routine, but she did not want to have to get into it with the other ladies, so she was pretending that she was.  It broke my heart.  I remember thinking, "Why is this stupid schedule so important?"  I remember people saying things like, "This is the godly way to raise your children."  "If you follow these instructions, your children will not have behavioral problems."  And other nonsensical things.  I remember Brent and I discussing this "godly" way of raising children and trying to make some sense out of it.  I could not recall anywhere in the Bible that it gave specific instructions on day to day parenting with regard to feeding schedules and discipline techniques (other than the argument that God is a God of order, which I do believe, but I don't necessarily think that translates into feeding schedules.  If it does, I don't think it should change when we get older, so I think everyone who makes their babies be on a rigid schedule should be on one themselves).  I didn't remember anywhere in the Bible that it said children should sleep through the night by the time they were a certain age, or that they should not be allowed to fall asleep after eating but should have tummy time instead.  All I could see of this parenting practice was division, sneakiness, people feeling unable to be authentic and to talk through their struggles.  I also thought it was quite naive that people thought these parenting practices were going to create children without behavior problems.  Last I checked we all have sin nature, not to mention maturity issues.  A child would not be a child if there were not behavior problems.

The theme I kept hearing was how this parenting practice was going to make parenting easier for the parents.  No one actually used those words, but the supposed outcomes of using this type of parenting was definitely about making things easy for parents.  I want to note that later (when Jason was born and life was less stressful), I read a couple of the books (infants and toddlers I believe) and to me this was the message of the books.  There are some good ideas in the books, but as with everything else, there are things to take hold of and run with, and there are things to throw out and run away from.  The book was written by a human being . . . an imperfect human being.  What I saw was that people were taking this book and following it like it was the Bible . . . but I'm not sure they were actually looking at the book in relation to Scripture.

I am sad to hear that almost 20 years later this parenting practice is still causing division, hurting friendships, making people feel like they need to be something different than what they really are in terms of their parenting.  As I talked to my friend, who as I mentioned does not have children yet, I was broken-hearted to hear her already wondering how this was going to impact her when she does have children and how it is impacting a friend of hers who is not following this practice.  I don't know if any of you will read this blog, but I plan to write some of the things I'm so glad I did with my children . . . and some of the things I wish I did differently.  I've also been looking at Scripture in terms of parenting.  I think this will be an interesting study and opportunity for me to put some of my thoughts in writing.