Tag Archives: children

Big Love From a Small Person

Look, I’ve been out of town much of the day on the highway shuttling Son of Blue to an out-of-state friend’s house, so I’m not sure if I’ll get around to making a substantial post on any pressing topics tonight or not.

But in the interest of being a proud papa and in giving you something to read, let me just say that of all the wonderful things I’ve experienced as Little Girl Blue has grown these past three years, the past week has brought one of the most beautiful.

She’s giving us hugs—big ones—and she’s planting real kisses on our cheeks and noses and necks along with those hugs. And it’s not just in response to us giving her affection but completely out of nowhere sometimes now.

She’s discovered sweetness and love and empathy for real. And it makes all the stressful things about raising a little child—all the tantrums and defiance and nonsensical decisions—just melt away.

I’m in some serious parental love right now, and I don’t care who knows it. Go ahead, revoke my “Manly Man” card.

The Hand That Flew

Well, I’m in a confessional mode this week; twice in two days. This time, though, my wife isn’t the person I’m feeling I might have let down. It’s my little girl.

I’m bigger on discipline (raising my voice, taking toys away, etc.) than is my wife, but I’ve never been keen on using physical force. I’ve never ruled it out (see Miz Pink’s post “Beat Down” because I agree with her 95% on that post) but I don’t like it, and there are other people in the blogosphere who have spoken eloquently on the pitfalls and uses of corporal punishment (Blackgirlinmaine recently in her Spare the Rod… post, a more light-hearted one at this blog, and a more academic take here.)

Last night, I smacked my little girl across the thigh. Didn’t leave a mark, but it still left her crying for a long while.

Now, I know that many readers will roll their eyes and say “Big frickin’ whoop!” You didn’t smack her multiple times, you didn’t hit her across the face, you didn’t use a hanger or something, so what are you whining about? And I know objectively that I didn’t do it out of anger so much as surprise, because my hand flew a split second after my little girl unexpectedly chomped down on my left nipple.

But the fact is, my hand flew.

And it didn’t need to.

I should be able to take the pain of a bite from a three-year-old. I should be able to control my hand. I don’t hit my wife. Never have, never will (unless she gets homicidally psycho on my ass, which is highly unlikely). I don’t get into fights now and I never have in the past.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not some hippie milquetoast here. Call my wife, daughter or son a certain epithet that rhymes with “chigger” and I’ll put your face into the pavement. Sexually assault my daughter, at any age, and there will be a body buried in the woods shortly thereafter. Try to attack me physically, and I will work on the assumption that you mean to kill me and respond with appropriate force. I have a very forgiving temperament and a very, very slow and long fuse. But push me too far and you could really regret it.

But what exactly did smacking my daughter accomplish that couldn’t have been accomplished just as well by yelling or throwing out one of her DVDs? What galls me is that my mom only had to spank me twice during my whole childhood. I don’t like the thought that my hand might fly faster than my reason or common sense can stop it.

I don’t fear that I’ll become an abusive parent; that would just be silly logic. That’s not the kind of person I am.

But I don’t like that a girl who doesn’t have a chance against me bit me, and probably had no clue how much that would hurt me, and I hit her. Doesn’t matter where and it doesn’t matter how minor the hit; I hit her and I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry, honeybunch, I really am. And I apologize to Mrs. Blue as well, even though she’s already long over it (and so is the little girl).

Now I just have to get around to forgiving myself.

Bonus Feature

I started work on the second chapter of my blog novel Cleansed by Fire, and I had only intended to get a start on it and then finish it by next week for my usual weekly posting, but I couldn’t stop writing, and now I have a finished part 6 already ready to post. In fact, I did post it, right before this post. I know the last installment was just a couple days ago, but I couldn’t help myself. So, if you’re following my first foray into novel-length fiction or would like to start, scroll down my main page or, if you came to this post directly from somewhere else, click here for part six of my novel.

Beat down by Miz Pink

My father is a law-and-order type. Literally. His job. Figuratively too. In other word, the home was ruled with an iron fist. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was abused. I didn’t get hit all the time for sport. My father didn’t get out his frustrations on me. But when I stepped outside the rules, even a little, you can best believe I got the beat down.

Sure, it was always the butt or the back of the thighs (Okay, except the one time I came home high and way after curfew….that got me a slap across the face. Calling my father a bitch once got me more of the same), but these weren’t light slaps and smacks. Objects were used. Sitting down afterward was a chore. Or walking right.

I’m not saying this to call my father out as some kind of demon. I love him. He could express love in his own odd way and in “normal” ways too sometimes. He was faithful to my mom. He provided. He made me laugh. He was and is my daddy. And I didn’t turn out messed up in the head. I know alot of folks want to make out like corporal punishment is always abuse and screws kids up but that wasn’t my experience. It was punishment. Harsh yes but not abuse.

REally though I think we need to be careful how and when we punish our kids. I think we need to go for something other than a spanking or telling the kid to go out and pick out his own switch. But among the Christian set, let’s be honest…more than a few will turn to a certain passage quicker than a flash if you call them on corporal punishment..the “old spare the rod” thing.

Proverbs chapter 2313 Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. 14 You shall strike him with the rod And rescue his soul from Hell. And then Proverbs 13:24 too..He who spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes.

Listen, mothers. Fathers. Steparents. Grandparents. Babysitters.

Heck, everyone. Listen up.

Those passages aren’t rooting you on to hit the little children or the big teenagers or any kids. Now I’m not telling you this out of some hippy dippy point of view. I’m not some granola crunching let my kid do whatever the hell they want anywhere anytime mom. I used spanking semi-regularly with my son. When he did something really serious. So, maybe a dozen spankings when he was a child. Total. Over maybe 4 or 5 years.  I had something called the pinch I used more often on his thigh to get his attention and prevent the need for something more serious.

With my daughter, I eased up a bit more. I tried to remember that too often her moods were the result of my moods. Her behavior was the result of watching my actions. I had to take some responsibility for when she didn’t “behave.” I also tried to find more creative ways to get her to do right and ways to punish her that were more fair and more appopriate. Doesn’t mean I didn’t spank her by the way. But I spanked her less than number-one son.

Now, I have a third child on the way. With this one, I hope to never raise my hand. But I also don’t rule it out.

The reason we are not supposed to “spare” the rod is because children need discipline. We have to bring them into line and teach them right because they live in a world of rules and because we want them to treat other people right. No matter what the hippiest-dippiest thinkers out there say (and I’ve read some of the more extreme non-punishment, never even use the word “no” kind of folks) kids don’t just naturally grow up and learn manners and good behavior and respect for rules. People just naturally want what they want and will take what they can and following the rules just isn’t fun. So parents must teach, and then correct gently if needed…and take things away if needed…and whup that ass if really needed.

The “rod” isn’t always a stick or even a hand and you aren’t really going to save a kid from going to hell just by beating them up alot. Shepherds used rods to get those sheep moving but I don’t think they were smacking the hell out of them. What good is a bunch of matted and bloody wool? Rods can be used to point the way, to gently nudge and to make a really loud noise to get someone’s attention. They dont always have to be for hitting.

In fact, that should be our last resort. You can be a good parent while using corporal punishment on a regular basis. But you can also slip into using it all the time and for petty offenses, and then you’re not such a good parent anymore in my book. You can also be a good parent by never using punishment if you get lucky with the personality of your child…or you can raise a snarky kid who does whatever he/she wants and talks back to adults, and then you’re a bad parent without ever having raised a hand.

Don’t spare the rod. But don’t swing it all the time. Do yourself and your kids a favor and learn moderation. Listen to them and talk to them more and hit them less. You’ll all be better for it. We all will.

(BTW, I really recommend people give some thought to the thoughts of Pam Leo and pick up a copy of her book Connection Parenting.)

Happy Mother’s Day

No deep messages this weekend about religious stuff or anything that’s pissing me off. So instead, after raining on the Duggars’ parade and their huge and still-growing family with my previous post, just a simple shout-out here to all the mothers who put themselves out there emotionally, spiritually and physically for their kids. Both my wife and I lost our mothers relatively young (in their 50s), and it’s been a big hole in our lives, particularly with a very young girl who will never know the joy of having grandmothers doting all over her.

I love my wife for being my partner, lover and friend—and for making me a father, but today, I want Mrs. Blue to know that I love her most right now for being a great mom to our girl and to our son. To any other women I know who are mothers, you all rock! Keep the love and keep the faith.

And to close today’s message, a few nice quotes about motherhood:

  • God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers. (A Jewish Proverb)
  • The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness. (Honore de Balzac)
  • To understand a mother’s love, bear your own children. (Chinese Proverb)
  • Mother is the name for God on the lips and in the hearts of little children. (William Makepeace Thackeray)
  • A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. (Washington Irving)
  • To nourish children and raise them against odds is any time, any place, more valuable than to fix bolts in cars or design nuclear weapons. (Marilyn French)
  • No matter how old a mother is, she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement. (Florida Scott-Maxwell)
  • A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. (Tenneva Jordan)
  • Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to “jump at de sun.” We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground. (Zora Neale Hurston)
  • By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class. (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)
  • Motherhood brings as much joy as ever, but it still brings boredom, exhaustion, and sorrow too. Nothing else ever will make you as happy or as sad, as proud or as tired, for nothing is quite as hard as helping a person develop his own individuality especially while you struggle to keep your own. (Marguerite Kelly and Elia Parsons)
  • Giving kids clothes and food is one of thing, but it’s much more important to teach them that other people besides themselves are important and that the best thing they can do with their lives is to use them in the service of other people (Dolores Huerta)
  • It is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding. (Erma Bombeck)
  • Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. (Meryl Streep)

Big love gone mad

Thanks to the magic of Netflix, my wife recently got hooked on the cable TV series “Big Love,” and I have to admit that it has been (thus far) a very entertaining show. But with the polygamy and large families and cultish compounds and all that in the show…and the recent news about that Texas LDS compound that got raided…the subject matter of Big Love seems a bit creepier now. And, add to that the Duggar family, whom I somehow have managed to miss in the media all this time, despite them having a reality TV show and making the news/talk circuit and the wife dutifully popping out a kid a year, with 17 out so far and number 18 on the way.

There’s not much more I can say that hasn’t already been said better by Chez at Deus Ex Malcontent in his post Family Units, along with many of the commenters on that thread who had some pithy, snarky and sometimes spot-on things to say about the Duggars. I chimed in myself, with what was probably among the least entertaining responses there. Check it out. Be amazed, be frightened…but hopefully you won’t be rooting for them. I try not to judge, but it seems to me the Duggars lost perspective somewhere along the line, much like a woman who has been trying to lose weight for so long and keep it off that she still thinks she’s fat when she’s a 90-pound walking skeleton. My fear is that when families like this are lifted up in the media and given so much positive attention at a time when our resources are being stretched to the limit globally, and all under the guise of living biblically…well, let’s just say we don’t need too many folks following in their footsteps. (For more on the “Quiverfull” teachings that the Duggars are following, as well as the crticisms of it, click here. I believe myself that children are a blessing, but I also believe that God dislikes excess, particularly when it flies in the face of good stewardship of the planet.)

I’m glad me and Mrs. Blue…and Miz Pink and her husband, Sir Pink…have a little more restraint. At least in actually producing babies. I’m all for going through the motions of making them while stopping the swimmers before they can enter the tunnel of love. And most couples, no matter how faithful to God, have some sense of perspective, instead of actively trying to have baby after baby just to prove something to God.

We married folks should be making love, but we should know when to stop making babies.

Kid-unfriendly by Miz Pink

So, I mentioned a couple posts back that I’d explain why I kinda left Deke in a lurch a couple weeks ago and didn’t have my “weekly” post in for once. Well, the hubby and I were kinda excited about something and had a lot of calls and stuff to make. And now that I’ve told everyone else (starting with my son and daughter, working through the core relatives, out to the relatives I only see every few years for reunions, and then to my friends and then co-workers and then, finally, the mail carrier), I can tell you: The hubby and I are preggers. Well, okay, only I’m pregnant but I’m dragging hubby into whole new territory with this third (and final! I mean it! I want one more and only one more! Please God no surprises when I hit 40 or 50!) child, so I figure he might as well be tied to me in this and get pregger status too.

So, what is different with this kid, why should you care, and what does it have to do with this post?

Well, I’m kinda concerned about what this is gonna mean for my churchgoing experience once the baby pops out. We flit between three or four different churches, with one in a pre-eminent position for us most of the time, and I think all of them are going to pose challenges for me with child #3.

Oh, sure, the folks will oooooh and aaaaah over the growing belly and all that. But this child isn’t going to be like the rest, and no church I go to…heck, no church I’ve ever been to, seems to be equipped to deal with the neo-hippy way I plan to do boy-or-girl three.

You see I’ve been workin’ hard to be a healthier person. A less polluting person. A better mommy. Etcetera etcetera. I didn’t feed kids #1 and #2 a ton of junk and I didn’t slap their behinds red very often or nothing like that. But I do recognize that kid #1 got the short end of the stick because I was young and foolish and didn’t have a great marriage going, and he got a lot more junk food than he should’ve. Kid #2 was born into a happier household and I had begun to discover the wonders of organic and (more important) locally grown food and such and I was a bit more mellow on discipline, although butt-whoopings did occur at times.

But this time, I want to raise my child in a way that makes me feel really good about my choices and that will (I hope) allow him or her (still don’t want to know gender. must resist temptation to have ultrasound tech or midwife tell me…) to grow up in a very positive way. Breastfeeding all the way until at least 1.5 years old, maybe 2 years old. Cloth diapers. Toys that are mostly natural products. Gentle discipline. No TV or videos (I hope) during year one and maybe not until he/she is two. Maybe that sounds hippy dippy to you, but it’s important to me.

But I’m not sure my main church or backup churches are going to be so down with me on this. Particularly the breastfeeding. Now, despite laws protecting the right of mothers to breastfeed in public and give their babies what God (and nature) intended them to consume, a lot people still get freaked out when a mother puts child to breast, no matter how discreetly she does it and even if no one ever sees that damn nipple. Now I’m not into to rubbing the breastfeeding into other people’s faces (get your dirty minds off that track right now) and I did a mix of breast and bottle with kid #2…but people shouldn’t get so bent about what is a very natural thing. Somewhere along the line, corporate America convinced us babies were supposed to drink formula, and that’s wrong and cheats the baby of a lot of stuff it needs to grow healthy. It’s also expensive and wasteful and environmentally unsound.

Nowhere do I expect to get a bigger cold shoulder with breastfeeding than at church. And I can tell you already what’s gonna happen at most of ’em. I’m gonna have to go into some little room or into the basement to do it, and I’ve gonna miss a lot of the service, and I’m gonna wonder why the hell I bothered to come to church at all. Because God forbid I be in the back of the church with a blanket over my kid’s head letting him/her get a nice healthy dose of God’s brand of baby food. Why men and women in this country cannot ever think of the breast as something non-sexual at times is beyond me.

And that got me to thinking about what the future will bring when it’s time to put my kid in the nursery…or if I even want kid #3 in the nursery. Are they going to really listen when I tell them my rules for how the baby/toddler needs to be fed? When they should come and get me out of sthe service? Whether they should let him/her cry for an extended period or not? I know that I’m going to tell them what they are supposed to do for my kid, and I know they mostly won’t care. And I know this because I dipped my toe into some neo-hippy stuff with kid #2 and got a lot of thinly veiled shock and passive-aggressive resistance any time my rules differed from what everyone was force-fed as the “only way” when they grew up. And I’ve seen a handful of other breastfeeding and alternative parenting mothers get the same stank eye treatment. And if a baby is in the sanctuary and starts to make any noises, boy, do some people give you looks for not having gagged junior before entering the church and for not being able to get out of the pew 2.5 seconds after noises begin.

And it’s sad because I’d like my “church family” to be supportive of my desire to raise a healthy and happy God-fearing kid in the way that (most) of my biological family is. Instead, I’m going to be pushed out of the camp like a menstruating woman in Old Testament times and left lonely at church for much of my child’s early development most likely. And that’s going to make me wonder how much my church folks love me, really.

(I wonder if I’ll look as good as Salma Hayek in that photo when I’m that big this time around? Nah, I’ll look better…and if I don’t, dear hubby better say I do anyway.)

Immaturity saves

missing.jpgThere are times when the old lingo gets in the way. I love the King James Version of the Bible, but the archaic language is sometimes a stumbling block. Which is why I have a study version of that Bible so that I can get a sense of what the true meaning and context is, and I also have more modern-language versions.

Because let’s say you read this in the KJV Bible:

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. (Gospel of Mark, chapter 10, verse 15)

You might stop there and say, whoa, Jesus is telling me if I haven’t already repented during childhood, it’s too late?

Granted, a more thorough reading of the Bible regarding salvation would show you that just isn’t true. Take, for example, the hundreds of people who came to Christ…and God…after Pentecost, when the apostles were just getting started with their post-crucifixion work.

A better translation of this passage is something like this:

Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.

And now we get to the point of it all. In terms of faith, we have to approach God as a small child approaches a parent. And that’s very appropriate, given that God is our Father. Think about how many times our parents told us, “You may not understand or like what I’m doing, but you’ll understand when you have children of your own.” Damn it if they weren’t right a lot of the time when they said that.

We may not always like God’s rules or understand why some of them exist, but it’s not our job to like them or to understand them. Sometimes it’s just our place to obey and to trust. God is not an abusive parent. The sufferings of the world are not inflicted on us by Him but as a result of the fact we screwed up the world and made it a troubled place, along with the fact that Satan often assails us with suffering to make us doubt and mistrust God.

God wants us to choose to love Him and he wants us to be the best people we can be. And sometimes, that means we have to admit that we are woefully immature compared to Him. We have to hold on to Him and trust that our best interests are at heart.

To do any less is to be unruly children. And often, we are, even the most well-meaning of us. Even there, though, it’s all good if we have Jesus…and even if we don’t. Because God still loves us unconditionally. He may be disappointed in us, and He cannot save us if we disown Him by rejecting Jesus, but He’s always waiting there for us to take care of us.

And we need some taking care of. You notice the mess we’ve left on this world? And you thought little Timmy’s finger painting job on the antique armoire was bad…