Sunday, July 25, 2010

Too long and thoughtful to be a Facebook status

Parenting just goes on getting harder and harder as your kids get older.

I have a theory about why there are so many hot-button, controversial issues about pregnancy, birth and babyhood, and so few (at least that I've come across in the Christian community) similarly divisive issues pertaining to middle-school children. It's because when we're parenting those younger children (and when we're pregnant and all that) things are so much easier to see in black and white. Once they turn eight/nine/ten, somewhere in there, it becomes so much more difficult to discern the Best Way.

I fall into this myself. Ask me about teaching my kids the meaning of "no". Ask me about getting them to sleep through the night, breastfeeding them, birthing them and proper nutrition and exercise during pregnancy-- I have ready answers and a system I firmly believe is the best for each one of those issues. (don't get me wrong, I'm not holding myself up as a paragon of perfect parenting-- I'm just saying I have strong opinions and methods I believe in pretty passionately.)

But now, now that Sofi is almosteight... well, things are different. I find it much easier to talk about why I believe in babywearing, than to explain to my sobbing almosteight-year-old why she is the "only girl my age" to not be allowed to pierce her ears. I find it sososo much simpler to teach a one-year-old not to touch the pretty glass thingy, than to teach my daughter to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even when it might get you in trouble, even when it makes you look bad. I have statistics and percentages and studies out the whazoo to convince you that natural childbirth is better for you and for your baby, but when my daughter asks me why Daddy and I won't let her wear a bikini, I just stand there and open and shut my mouth a few times like a stranded fish.

I'm a little at a loss as to why this is. It's not just that I feel less strongly about bikinis and ear piercing and telling the truth... it's just that those things are more long-term, big-picture result oriented. It's not that there's anything wrong, per se, with piercing one's ears. It's just that a part of us wants to keep that for later-- to wait, and grow up in stages, instead of all at once. It's not really about the earrings, they're just a symbol of something more important.

And the bikini, too. Another small part of a big issue. The M word. Modesty. And simply banning bikinis doesn't even begin to address the depth of Modesty as I want my daughter to express it, live it. It's just a very small part of it. It's not about covering certain parts of her body, it's about attitudes and habits.

Isn't it funny how easy it is to be adamant, unbending, vocal, passionate about the temporary, unimportant things, like whether my child sleeps through the night sooner than yours? And how hard it is to articulate and teach the really important things like Honesty, Modesty, Maturity?


Jill said...

Well I think you answered your own questions here. :) I don't think an abridged explanation of what you touched on here would be too far over an 8 year old's head. She might pleasantly surprise you with what she understands. Start with what you just said and go from there.

Jenny said...

I think it's easy to have hard and fast opinions about things we can "control" or at least have a chance at controlling. The older the kids get, the less "control" we have, and we know it! Rationalizing and explaining to a child gets harder as that child grows to seek answers that form into that "big picture" eventually. Use that Bible as much as possible! Modesty is relatively "easy" as it's Biblical...piercing ears, not so much, unless you go old Testament and that's a stretch;) But, then, you know all that! I'm not looking forward to it, but I know it's coming, probably not too far off. And Evie's a tough nut...

canningmama said...

OMG, it is so true. I have to agree with you 100%. It scares me to death and the time of having "small children" and not having to worry about those things are fast running out. It's definitely easier to say "don't run in the house because I said so" rather than saying "yes, I know the entire crowd of children are being loud and obnoxious, but you be the one to do right even if no one else is." "sigh" you want to know my mother's answer which she once again reminding my sister and I last night? don't have children. :) that's helpful now with my 4th well on its' way. well, you're about 6 months ahead of me with sofi, so let me know how you get through these issues and i'll use your methods with savannah. :)

2Shaye ♪♫ said...

I appreciate what Jenny said about feeling differently about what we can control and what we cannot. Suddenly we have to trust our children to have values rather than relying on what we think (or on manipulation).

Personally, I see very, very few "temporary, unimportant things" in our parenting decisions. My sleep, diapering/potty, discipline, babywearing, or birthing decisions are not made with a competition mindset even if I acknowledge developmental benefits. I'm more concerned with what values I'm relaying to my child in each of these decisions and how those messages will affect them (as well as our relationship) long term.

I always disliked it when my own parents didn't have a logical reason for setting a new rule or boundary (or just not sharing it). Rather than do something "just cuz," I much preferred honesty so that I could understand and learn. I think honesty allows a value connection that means something the next time a child is faced with that same situation (and a parent isn't around to force their will). From babyhood we've worked hard to discuss the "why's and how's" of everything under the sun. When our 6-year-old disagrees with our decision, we've invited her to dialogue with us and argue her opposing position so that she can practice using her own intellectual skills (based on values) in decision-making. She probably asks more questions than most children, but I'm grateful for that inquisitiveness because it means she's thinking and it makes me re-evaluate all the time. For example, why (in our country) do girls cover their breasts and boys don't? They're very good questions even if they eventually lead to subjects that are (*gulp*) sexual in nature. I believe we must be brave and honest even when it goes against our protective, Christian culture.

Denise said...

I like what Jill said about explaining it to Sofi... Even if you think it's over her head. I always appreciated feeling like my parents told me the REAL reason I couldn't do something, rather than telling me a reason that didn't seem very true. For example, I wasn't allowed to wear eyeliner until I was about 16. Why that and not mascara? Now, as a woman, I understand the more "adult" look eyeliner gives you, but then it just seemed random! And I never got a good reason. I think explaining to her about growing up in stages, well that's good.

Honestly, I am excited about being a mother to a girl, and fearful I'll mess up. So you're teaching ALL of us by example!!!