Monthly Archives: May 2007
First off I have to say that I adored Lara’s post about making her children hold their questions for later.
The bits I loved best were the part, “It’s a well know fact that if you make a child think with their mouth closed then their head will explode and I wanted to see how long that would take.” And the part about the child thinking, “I might cease to exist if I don’t hear every detail of the next 24 hours of my life over and over and over again.”!!! (My kids.)
I made a pathetic attempt to read it to my parents when they came over Monday night, and somehow, despite my exhaustion-induced hysterics (yes, it is also funny on its own merits), they heard the humor and enjoyed it too.
What that started a train of thought (and conversation) about kids and the questions they ask.
I confessed to my mom that I didn’t like to shut off the kids’ questioning, even when it got inane, because I wanted them to feel valued, and that questions deserve an answer. (I also want them to do some critical thinking and listening. Any ideas?)
Mom acknowledged she felt the same way when we were growing up, but our questions could really irritate my dad and we (I vaguely remember this) eventually were told just to be quiet and quit asking.
I don’t begrudge them this. I know first-hand how annoying these questions can get.
I’ve found I get the most upset by questions when they seem like a stall tactic, and to prevent snapping at the question or the questioner (I told my mom), my new “mom-line” is, “Ask while you’re obeying.”
As in, you won’t get an answer anyway until you do as you’re told, and don’t wait until you’re ready to obey.
“I wish I’d thought of that,” she said.
That is such a cool thing to hear from your mom.
~ ~ ~
My other tack when we fall into endless questioning is to go all Socratic on them:
“Well, why do you think that is?”
Sometimes they just don’t want to think, and will say I don’t know, but there are times they’ll take a legitimate stab at the answer, and it’s usually delightful (sometimes inaccurate, but nearly always delightful).
I love watching (and listening) to my children think.
If they persist in the passive I don’t know, I interpret it as a request to be entertained or a test to see how much of their mother’s undivided attention they can secure.
So I act accordingly. Or, according to my mood at the time.
If I feel they’re trying to manipulate me (What an ugly word to apply to children! Got a better one?), I’ll do the brief, “Think about it for a while,” type of response.
If I feel in a mood to be entertaining, I’ll begin spouting obvious (to a toddler) misinformation to make them laugh.
If it’s a legitimate question, and from a conflict in personality or tiredness-cycles we’re not connecting at the moment, I say I’ve explained it the best I know how just now, and if she wants to ask me after nap (or after I’ve rested) maybe it would make more sense then.
So… this is how I try to be straightforward, and not begrudge them their questions. As I mentioned in my awareness post, yesterday, it’s important to me.
For more in-home ideas visit Rocks in my Dryer.
When I was in elementary school our church was growing, and we started construction of a larger building. Construction is terrific fodder for kids’ questions, but it seems many men (as most of the workers/volunteers were) have a limited capacity for questions.
I remember asking (or beginning to ask) something of a pair of men, when one asked me, “Amy, can you tell me why children ask so many questions?”
I was fully aware of how he was “playing” me for his friend (you probably have seen or have yourself played a child for the entertainment of another adult), but– here was my nature manifesting at that young age– I took the question literally and deliberated how to answer.
I was somehow aware that whatever I said, they would probably turn it back on me, and I knew I would feel horribly self-conscious the next question I asked, but finally answered anyway; and honestly, despite the flack I guessed I’d get.
“Some questions kids ask because they really want to know, and some they ask because they don’t want to think for themselves.”
I knew this was true because they were both true of me. And I was afraid that now they knew the two divisions of questions that they might assume anything I asked was the latter.
They might have chuckled, I don’t remember, and I felt gagged. I wanted desperately to know what they were doing, but I knew whatever I said next would be directly tied to what I just revealed.
Finally, unable to stay quiet, and thinking it a safe question, I asked, “Why are you cutting that pipe?” They were working in the foyer, in between where the men’s and women’s restrooms were going to be.
The same fellow looked at me and said, for his friend’s benefit, I could tell, “Because it’s too long.”
I was aware of being mocked. I was the occasion for a joke.
I felt the thing I’d said with absolute clarity and honesty was not valued, and my vulnerability was not protected.
How’s that for a crushing blow in childhood?
It doesn’t feel hurtful now, and honestly I don’t remember if it “hurt” then. I do remember feeling humiliated and running it off in the unfinished hallways upstairs.
In Jane Eyre, Bronte observes
Children can feel, but they cannot analyze their feelings; and if the analysis is partially effected in thought, they know not how to express the result of the process in words.
This is my experience. And if there is any lesson I may take away from the memory (or impart through it), it is the reality that children are much more aware than we frequently credit them.
I do not remember this often enough.
This is why I want to honor (acknowledge, and answer to some extent) the questions my children ask and try not to use children for a joke they’re not included in.
(My next post will be about avoiding the crazies while “allowing” children’s questions to have value.)
I’m just beginning to explore the website, but Smart Marriages has already given me a lot to think about.
I love the concept of specifically creating a project out of finding ways to strengthen marriages.
One idea that sounded both simple and effective was the celebration of anniversaries (to the same or greater extent as birthdays, for example) as one way to honor and promote marriage. Such a practical idea. And I’ve already got dozens of anniversaries in my PDA along with birthdays…
~ ~ ~
Here is a quote without a footnote, but very intriguing:
You need only do three things in this country to avoid poverty -
finish high school, marry before having a child, and marry after the age of 20. Only 8 percent of the families who do this are poor; 79 percent of those who fail to do this are poor.
William Galston, Clinton White House
At a family dinner last night there were fourteen children 8 and younger.
Twelve of them are 4 or younger, and six of those are under 19-months.
One of the dads works construction in the summer, which (if you don’t know) generally involves early mornings and long, physically-demanding hours.
He joined in a conversation his wife and three other moms were having about sleep-deprivation, chiming in with how tired he was with work and sometimes getting up with the kids, and how his wife got even less sleep than he.
“I don’t know how she does it,” he said, with the proper admiration in his voice. Nobody said anything. “I’m just exhausted,” he repeated.
Somehow we ladies all seemed to be waiting for his point. He looked around at us all and cringed theatrically.
Did you know good teas are very similar to good wines?
By this I mean they can be expensive (wouldn’t you know I’d start there), their flavor is influenced by the pH of the soil their plants grow in, different times of collection and aging affect the flavor, and the variations are nearly endless.
If you are someone who delights in the unique flavors of different wines, I’d encourage you to find a teacupping (I believe it’s called) in your area, to introduce your pallet to some fascinating flavors.
I have friend who recently began a small-business selling tea and bought a bit to support her.
I love it.
It occurred to me that the idea of drinking tea to lose weight (I’m not even going to go into this further) has a true element, if this evening’s experience holds true: it doesn’t need to be a chemical zap or a magic pill. It simply is, and the result is a decreased desire to eat.
While drinking my oolong, I noticed that the the warmth gave me a sense of being full, and the vague, almost sweet aftertaste of the oolong itself (I don’t put anything in my tea) left my palate satisfied.
Here is essentially nothing nutritious (in a sustaining sense), lulling my body into a place of contentment and satiety.
It made me think (wouldn’t you know…) about the Holy Spirit, and the idea of feeding on the Word.
Our gentle God does not (usually) alter the course of His created order, or make us change with a zap. He is gracious and patient with us, never changing. He simply is. And affects us by His nature.
There is no physiological reason to find filled-ness (or refreshing, or joy), in a book, but something in the way God created us provides just that.
Just now I am simply thankful for the warm parable in my cup: a bit of soggy-leaf juice, offering warmth, relaxation and satiety.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
For a week now, Jay has cleaned the living room and vacuumed it each night.
For a week now, I have daily taken some form of outdoor, active exercise; a walk (with my dog and 20-lb “pack”), or a 17-minute bike ride.
We both feel ready for some sort of prize. I guess this is where/why someone came up with that old saying:
Virtue is its own reward.
Yeah. I guess so…
Have you ever thought about the number of things we’re told we should be able to squeeze into each day because they only take 15-minutes.
- the amount of time added to meal-prep to make it from scratch (my unofficial average)
- the ab/butt/thigh destroyer (never done it, but a classic example)
- improve/expand your vocabulary (ditto)
- practice a musical instrument
- read the paper
- write a letter a day (to an old friend, to your representative, to the editor)
- memorize scripture
- read through your bible in a year
- journal before bed
- take a short walk
- train your dog
- paint with your children (paint your children?)
- Bathe the children
- Shower yourself
- clean the bathroom
- tête-à-tête with your spouse when you meet again in the evening
- Putting on make-up in the morning
- washing your face four different ways before bed
- washing the dishes after dinner
There’s about five-hours worth of stuff there and I’ve barely touched on the basics of house maintenance and meal prep.
It really does go back to doing what we want most to do.
I think our limitations are just one more way of God to remind us both of our finiteness and of our need to depend on Him: both for the wisdom of what to actually do, and for provision in the gaps of what we are not able to do.
I just wrote an e-mail to someone I haven’t spoken to in some time. My final paragraph seemed like a great life-summary for just now:
We’re still in our house we bought in 2002, our youngest just turned a year old, and we just acquired a dog.
Anybody who doesn’t know dogs and kids thinks I’m nuts (either about the three kids or the dog, depending which they’re partial to). Me, I just feel blessed. Tired, sometimes, and frequently distracted, yes, but definitely blessed in God’s provision for our family.
God seems to have molded into my character the ability to feel positive and thankful even when I’m too tired to entirely act that way.
He is a very gracious God. I’d rather have this (and know the energy to act will eventually return) than merely be a decent actress and have to constantly redirect my heart.
The phrase makes me think of a dependence so utter that it can not even understand its dependency or articulate its need.
This is not the “cute” dependency of a baby or toddler gazing adoringly into your face as you cuddle.
This is the exhausted, hungry, sunburned child who is such an inarticulate puddle of maxed-out emotion and discomfort that she can’t tell you which need is greatest and might even reject overtures of help as attacks on her (albeit insufficient) autonomy.
My poor Melody was this yesterday. Elisha cutting teeth was this most of the night. Natasha well past nap was this today, minus the hungry.
And cross Mother is definitely at that place of inarticulate dependence.
All I can pray is, “It’s a good thing your Spirit prays for me when I don’t have the words, because I’m ‘standing in the need of’ without even the understanding enough to think what it is I should ask for.”