Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Eastern or Western?

If you've read this blog much at all, you've probably already figured I'm not a proponent of corporal punishment.

To be even more clear, I am a Christian who rejects the notion that our modern spanking methods were lifted directly from Scripture.

About 8 years ago, I was introduced to the concept of gentle parenting. Some great resources I found are Gentle Christian Mothers, Arms of Love Family Fellowship, Hermana Linda's Why Not Train A Child?, Dulce de leche, and Dare to Disciple.

One of my favorite resources (and not just because he's a male voice that other men in the ├╝ber-patriarchal environment of Fundamentalist Christianity wouldn't disregard on anatomy alone) is Samuel Martin's Bible Child. I am incredibly impressed with his scholarship and tremendously appreciate the work he has put into researching this topic in particular. Not only does he publish his findings on his blog, he also provides a free e-book to anyone willing to take an honest look at Biblical discipline.

In this recent post, Sam explores the prejudices we can have toward things that are unpretentious or rustic, often conflating simplistic with inferior. Also specific to my background, ideas originating in the East were viewed with suspicion, whereas theories with Western origins were often accepted without scrutiny. Eastern practices were "improved" by overlaying or combining them with Western variants.

One (relatively minor) example of this was one of my Christian school teachers discussing the Bible passage, "O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day." She described meditation as keeping something constantly in your mind, "not that Eastern idea of meditation where you sit cross-legged and say, 'Om.'"

Even then, my mind boggled. Wasn't the Bible written in the East? And wouldn't it stand to reason when David wrote of meditating, it would look like the Ancient Jewish practice of meditation rather than simply keeping something in mind?  (I'll grant that om is Hindi, and thus not likely something David or any other Bible patriarchs would've been familiar with!)

I've had to confront my ingrained prejudices and racism since I've begun honestly examining my beliefs. I've found there is much about the Bible that I was taught from a Western perspective that genuinely doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

It is always good to periodically re-evaluate our beliefs. Obviously, we learn as we grow and mature, so it makes sense that we come into deeper understanding of our values. We discard what we discover to be half-truths, and we explore our new grasp of wisdom.

We need not fear taking information from any source, so long as we carefully analyze it for Truth.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Irrelevant?

I know every stay at home parent can feel irrelevant when it comes to "the real world," whatever that means.

I was joking with my husband today that I needed to parody Relevant magazine and create an Irrelevant magazine for moms that contains random Tweet-like statements. Because I want to feel like I am relevant, even if it's with other people who share the same malaise I have.

I think part of my feelings result from a lot of life changes that piled up, one after the other. Some things I was in control of (getting married a dozen years ago), and some things, not so much (getting pregnant 3 months after the wedding and proceeding to have 5 kids in the next  10 years...yeah, I know what causes it).

I used to feel...useful, I guess. Like I made a difference in people's lives. Rewarded? Content? I can't seem to find the right words to describe it. Fulfilled, maybe.

And now, I feel like...a maid. A cook. A family therapist who has her own mental health issues but is so busy with clients she doesn't take time for herself and is about to go ape-sh*t crazy on the next person who slouches through the door & starts complaining about something as mundane as their partner not doing the dishes.

Um, that may have been too much.

My point is, I feel overwhelmed with the combined monotony of menial tasks and the repetition needed to teach little ones how to behave like humans. I'm sorely tempted to record myself saying things like, "Treat your siblings the way you want to be treated." "Use manners at the dinner table." "Don't hit the dog!" "Don't hit/bite/throw things at your brother/sister!" "GENTLE HANDS, already!" and play them on a loop all day. Heck, if I did that, the recording could do my parenting for me while I actually clean the house!

I long for connections with people. I want to help others, whether it be physical or emotional support. I crave the rapport of a give-and-take relationship where we all put something in and we al get something out.

I have training and experience and gifts and ideas...but I'm not in a position to use them outside the home right now. That probably contributes to my feeling irrelevant.

There are opportunities for me to use my gifts at church...sort of. I mean, sure, I could play piano or keyboard for services and sing solos or in a praise group...if I could afford to hire a babysitter to watch 5 kids during rehearsals & then bring them to church to maintain order while I'm doing music.

Or I could teach Children's Church...to a bunch of other little kids + my own when what I really need is adult interaction to help keep my brain from atrophy.

I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. I want (need) to do something involving interaction with others, something that feeds their souls and mine.

I need to take care of my children, rather than pushing them off on others for the purposes of my own gratification or self-aggrandizement.

So I go to church, feeling like I'm wasting everyone's time when I wrangle kids, pass crayons or toy cars, shush childish voices with volume settings of loud and louder, and basically distract others while I miss whatever message I was supposed to hear from God. (Random aside: If God is a still, small voice, how does the Almighty expect parents of little ones to ever hear whatever message is trying to come through? Why can't God just shout over their noise like everybody else does?)

The rest of the time, I stay home, trying to teach little people how to pick up after themselves (over and over and over and freaking over), how to have patience (because I have it in spades, y'all - my middle name is Job, can't ya tell?), how to treat others kindly (because I'm never unkind when I yell in frustration), how to balance self-care and servanthood (because I have it nailed...and I never, EVER act like a martyr when I'm folding mountains of laundry and whine that I don't get time to do fun, stimulating, adult stuff with real people instead of these tiny, people-like leeches who, despite their adorableness, somehow suck all my time and energy from me).

Really taking a look at all of this, though, I am relevant. I am extremely relevant to my kids as their mom and to their dad as his wife. Perhaps, then, the issue is not so much being irrelevant as is it my own issues with needing approval.

Let me tell you, there is no approval from a child when you are enforcing "you make a mess, you clean it up." There is no approval from a child when you grab her just before she runs into the road to get something shiny. And there is no approval from anyone, ever, when you make vegan split-pea soup for dinner because that was all you could make with what was left in the pantry and crisper.

But being relevant? Yeah, I got that.