Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Tag: parenting (page 2 of 6)

Choose Kind

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“If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary—the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.” ~R.J. Palacio Wonder

Laying in my bed discussing my son’s first day of school, I asked him who he was sitting by in class.

“Well, (name I can’t remember now) and this other (long pause) kid.”

“Why the long pause?” I asked.

“Well, she’s a girl, but she thinks she’s a boy. It’s weird.”

I probed him to tell me more.

“So, she dresses like a boy, and cuts her hair like a boy, but she’s a girl. When the teacher called the roster, she answered, but told everyone she wanted to be called by a different name…a boy’s name.”

Now this was certainly uncharted territory. Before me was an opportunity to teach an extremely important life lesson, but how would I convey it? I didn’t think I had the words.

“First of all, let’s not use the word ‘weird.’ Maybe unusual would be better.”

“Unusual might be nicer, but weird is more accurate,” he insisted. Sigh.

He proceeded to have lots of questions, all of which I felt inadequate to answer. I told him honestly when I didn’t know how to respond, and answered the ones I could.

I concluded with this: “Here is the bottom line. Sometimes boys feel inside like they are girls, and girls feel like they are boys. I don’t know why this happens, and there are a lot of theories. I know for you it’s super hard to understand. Think of how confusing that would be, to not feel quite right in your own skin. I know it’s unusual, but God created everyone special and we need to treat them like that.”

After I left his room, I decided to turn to Google to see if it had any suggestions. I typed, “How to talk to your child about transgender” into the search box. People, this is an important question in our day and age! The results were seriously lacking. The first result was an article by Focus on the Family that made my toes curl, suggesting I teach him about sin and how this girl needs saving. I just don’t think this is what my 10-year-old needs to hear. How about how this child needs loved???? Nothing else was remotely helpful.

Parents, we are living in a time that has never existed before in our country. A time where things that were previously unacceptable have become acceptable. Regardless of our personal feelings about these matters, the individuals that fall into these categories need to feel worthy and purposeful. It is a basic human need, and one that we should honor.

The theme for my son’s grade this year is from the book Wonder: Choose Kind. How appropriate, and what a critical life lesson. “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” – Dr Wayne W. Dyer included in Wonder. There are a lot of choices we can make, but kindness can rarely be the wrong one.

One of my friends posted this quote from the book Spirituality of Gratitude by Joshua Kang on Facebook this morning: “Likewise, we must see our brothers and sisters with respect in order to recognize God’s glory reflected on their faces. In The Weight of Glory, CS Lewis reminds us, “There are no ordinary people.” Imagine what we might miss out on when we simply mark someone off as weird.

I am anxious to see my son’s growth in this area of his life this school year. I’m grateful he has an opportunity to exercise this concept from the very first day. And most importantly, I hope this sweet student feels seen and worthy of others’ kindness this year.

Please, share any advice or thoughts you have. Parenting is so hard, especially when it comes to topics that are relatively new.

I also highly encourage you to read Wonder. It’s one of my all time favorites, and I would recommend reading it with your child (maybe 9 and up)  in order to discuss it together.

Blessings,

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Bad Theology and Forgiveness

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Exasperated, my son spewed at me, “Why can’t you just be like God?!”

Well, isn’t that a loaded question. Hmmm…would I want to be? In many ways yes, but I certainly wouldn’t care to hold the role of the ultimate judge and director of the universe.

This comment occurred in the middle of the process of me doling out a consequence for a small infraction. Deception had been involved, and luckily the perpetrator acknowledged his offense, which definitely eased his punishment. However, he was still offended that there had to be any kind of disciplinary action. My forgiveness was supposed to be enough since he recognized his offense and was sorry, according to him.

I gently tried to explain that while God always forgives our mistakes, we still have to suffer the consequences of our poor choices.

He insisted I never have to face any punishments for my actions. If only he knew!

I tried to point out the “F” I got on a paper when I cheated in 8th grade social studies in a moment of sheer desperation. (Those of you who know me may be shocked and appalled, but we all have our moments of weakness). He assured me that example didn’t count, because it was the teacher who punished me, and not God.

Clearly, I wasn’t making headway in this conversation, and clearly my son is going to be a lawyer when he grows up.

I love that my sweet boy sees God as the ultimate forgiver. But, what he was missing is that God is also the ultimate parent. He allows us to suffer consequences. He wouldn’t be a very good parent if he rescued us from every situation. I saw parents who did that for their children when I was a teacher and the results were not pretty, trust me!

Scripture tells us:

“And have you entirely forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, his children? He said, “My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined. If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all. Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:5-11
If you have children, and you’re like me, you don’t enjoy disciplining them. But we do so knowing that ultimately it will be for their own good.
I have been deeply troubled by the events surrounding the Duggar family lately (TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting show). I’ve read a lot of things that I feel are bad theology regarding this controversy. I feel this is one example where forgiveness becomes a tricky issue. My sense of justice collides with what I know about forgiving seventy times seven and not being judgmental.
God forgives. We should forgive one another, which is easier said than done for life-long victims of sexual abuse. But that does not mean consequences shouldn’t be suffered. And sometimes those consequences are long term, and sometimes they come back to haunt us, especially in the eyes of the public.
So, back to my son’s original comment. Why can’t I be like God? Because I’m human, life is messy, and it is my job to parent. Thank goodness I only have to figure out the punishments for those who live under my roof. And thank goodness there is a way for me to be forgiven, no matter what I do.
For a good article about forgiveness, I recommend this one by Brene Brown: Imperfect Parenting – Forgiveness.
What are your thoughts on the topic?
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When Life Is Unfair for Your Child

 

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Wow, is it hard to see your child hurt.

This past week was a celebration of Dr. Seuss at Austin’s school. Each day held a different activity with fun ways to dress up.

Thursday night all he talked about was the pancake breakfast they were going to have the next day with green eggs and ham. First thing Friday morning he bounded down the stairs eagerly sharing how delicious his teacher’s pancakes would be.

Fast forward 8 hours later. He runs into the office after school sobbing his little heart out. The teacher decided to not have the breakfast because the class had not behaved well enough to earn it. He felt devastated.

I often find myself stunned at my initial reactions. The mama bear in me came out. My Austin is a well behaved student, and I had a strong feeling he would have earned the breakfast left to his own devices. I dreamed up what I would say to his teacher, criticizing her for punishing the whole class when surely some of the kids had earned the special treat.

Then I took a step back. I’ve been in the teacher’s place before. I know sometimes you have to teach a hard lesson, and the innocent sometimes have to suffer (although I tried to avoid that as much as possible). My husband and I talked and agreed that this was an important lesson for Austin to learn. Sometimes we have to roll with the punches, even when they seem unfair. We will often be at the mercy of the poor decisions of those around us, for example his classmates that chose not to follow the rules.

Parents are quick to rush in and rescue their children these days. I job-shared with another teacher during my first teaching job. There was a particular student she had a hard time with, although I never did. She tried to punish him by keeping him in from recess and his parents came and purposefully picked him up during the lunch/recess hour so he wouldn’t have to serve his punishment. Talk about undermining authority! I knew that even if the punishment was undeserved, this kind of action could only set him up for failure in some way in the future.

We want to rescue our kids, but learning the lesson and experiencing the struggle can often be more valuable than comfort.

So, we reached a compromise. We don’t have a lot of control over what happens at school, but we do have control over what happens at home. Austin indeed needed a celebration. He works hard, obeys, and makes good choices.

Let me share with you some pictures from our Dr. Seuss celebration breakfast.

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We turned tears into smiles with just a little creativity. We read Green Eggs and Ham and The Sneetches. Joshua shared with us facts he had learned over the years studying Dr. Seuss in school. That boy’s mind is like a steel trap! Did you know Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham because someone bet him he couldn’t write a book using 50 unique words? It became his best-selling book ever, and the person who made the bet never paid up. Oh, and I learned the ham we served should have been green, too. Minor fail.

I hope Austin learned that we have to respect what happens at school, but we can still turn a bad day into something really great.

I love this quote by Gary Thomas in Sacred Parenting: “Our natural (but not necessarily holy) inclination to make life as easy as possible for our children, coupled with our focus on what we really want them to achieve, ultimately tells us parents what we value most about life. In what we stress with our children, we reveal the true passion of our own hearts.”

I listened to an interview recently with Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly and researcher on the concept of shame. She observed how not only parents of young adults at the COLLEGE level are coming to their kids’ defense, but she spoke with employers who have parents calling them because their child wasn’t hired for a job! Egads! Where does it end?

Do you struggle with protecting your kids too much? What would you have done in this situation?

I think the important thing to always keep in mind is what may be best for our child right now may not necessarily be in their best interest later as they grown into adults and try to function on their own. This parenting gig sure is a balancing act! Best wishes as you attempt to find your own balance.

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