Monday, September 14, 2015

And, Because Life Doesn't Fit Into "Either"

Every Monday for the next several weeks, I'll be featuring selections from my new book, One Slender Thread. If you're interested in reading more, you can purchase the book on Amazon today! Today's selection is from one of my favorite chapters on parenting, And.

"Maybe you love your kids a little too much!” she said over her shoulder as she left our house that day. She waved a sweet goodbye, this dear friend who had no kids of her own and, so, I concluded, had no idea what she was talking about. She spoke in jest, as comments like these often are, just sort of throwing her two cents out into the wind. But no sooner had her casual comment found its way into the air, then did it find its way right into the back of my head, crashing, bruising, leaving me dizzy. 

The target was my affection and perceived over-protection of my little ones - in other words, my heart. I was able to shake the accusation off in the moment, but soon learned that her words had stuck, had lodged into my parenting file and kept pricking at my conscience. 

If you’re a parent and have ever had a non-parent comment on how well you are doing, you know it can be crazy-making. It doesn't seem to matter the context or the tone, if the speaker was compassionate or on crack. It's about your parenting, how well you are caring for your most prized possessions, so it keeps on pricking and poking and annoying you until you find a way to lay it to rest. Or am I the only crazy one?

Driving to the grocery store later that same day, I was somewhat successfully listening to a radio show on NPR. Of all things, the guest speaker, Jennifer Senior, was a researcher and author of the book, All Joy, No Fun. The book focuses on the effects that children have on their parents.

I tuned in just as Senior started describing shifts in parenting behaviors and styles over the past few decades and how dramatically we have switched to a very child-focused orientation. She referenced protestors in the 1920’s and 30’s fighting to end child labor in America and how their battle cry was, effectively, “Children are delicate, precious; they’re our most prized possessions.” This was in stark contrast to previous worldviews, which often saw children only as assets insofar as they could contribute economically to the household. Children were once considered personal property, not prized possessions. But this all changed early last century.  

There were all sorts of studies being referenced and historical facts being cited as to how this switch has not been all positive. Research about parenting becoming a world that revolves around children, children being overindulged and under-prepared for real world problems, and so on. It was hard to piece all the comments together between the constant, “Hey, Mama’s,” coming from my backseat passengers and the fact that I was driving on half-plowed snowy roads. I heard just enough, though, for my parenting red flag to shoot up in alarm. 

The pricking and the poking of that earlier, "Maybe you love them too much" comment now increased with a fury. I thought, "Oh no! She is talking to me. This is about as close as it comes to God parting the clouds and speaking these days. Maybe it’s true; maybe I'm ruining them. Maybe I do love them too much!” 

With a little less toddler taunting being thrown at me from behind and a couple hours to sit with my thoughts, I came back with a much more balanced revelation: I was only sort of screwing my kids up. I saw myself rallying to be their biggest fan and best friend, raising Happiness as the highest goal. I saw my dreams of self-confident, self-aware kids being built on more quality time with me. I saw all the "mama dates" and cuddles and kisses and endless playtime, and wondered if it was a bit misdirected.


For the rest of this story, and more more, purchase One Slender Thread today!

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