Children Are an Inconvenience

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Let’s just get right to the point of this post. Exactly as the title states, children are an inconvenience. They just are. It’s a fact. However, this is the reality of parenting. I’m pretty sure it is impossible to be a parent and not be inconvenienced.

This week I read an article that prompted these thought entitled “They’re Single. They’re Straight. They’re Friends. And They’re Having a Baby.” An increasing number of individuals are choosing to raise children with a non-romantic partner for a host of reasons. In fact, there are now sites that can match you with someone, much like a dating site. Here is another reality: 35% of children now live in single parent homes. In 1968 that figure was 15%. As of the last few years, marriage is on the decline for the first time in history. 61% of people between 18 and 34 do not have a spouse or partner. Marriage is becoming more and more unappealing. Now, certainly marriage isn’t for everyone, nor should it be. I know two women who have chosen to foster/adopt as single women and I have mad respect for them.  But I find these trends a bit worrisome due to the reasons behind why some people are making these choices.

One comment stuck out to me amidst the host of reasons some people are choosing this lifestyle. One woman by the name of Lauren Brim, who is raising her 4-year-old with a platonic male friend admits “she was inspired, in part, by a recently divorced friend who appeared to be having more fun than most of her married friends: ‘For half the week, it would be kids world, with homework and dance parties in the living room, and then the other half would be R-rated movies and whiskey at the bar.'” This comment doesn’t sit well with me. At all. My question is, what might that friend be missing out on with her children that 50% of the time she doesn’t have them? I have friends who have had to share their children with ex-spouses only a fraction of the time and have felt agony on missing out on holidays and other special moments. They might be unencumbered for the time their children are away and free to do adult things, but that doesn’t make their life a party.

I will admit I have complained and moaned at times about the inconveniences my boys have presented at times. I didn’t think my youngest would ever sleep through the night, and I remember being so tired. There are moments I now gripe about the 6 times I have to drive back and forth across town in a day to pick up one or the other of them from activities. No doubt, I do not relish going up to the high school at 3:00 in the morning to pick my son up from his show choir competitions. The older they get, the more expensive they get. But guess what? When I brought them into this world, that’s what I signed up for.

Maybe, just maybe, if you don’t want these inconveniences 24/7, then you just don’t need to consider being a parent. This reminds me of a sign I saw at a local hardware store awhile back. It said, “Now hiring. Must want to work.” What a sad state of affairs that the additional comment was necessary.

There is an anonymous quote that says, “If it was going to be easy to raise kids, it never would have started with something called labor.” My friend, Rachel Gerber, wrote in her book Ordinary Miracles, “Living in this state of expectation– a posture in which we anticipate encountering ordinary miracles throughout each day– takes work. It takes effort to remember. It is just so easy to forget the sacred mundane through which we walk every day.” As a person of faith, I see parenting as holy work. It is a job which often feels completely beyond my capabilities. It is hard, trying and exhausting at times, but there is no way I would trade what I have and miss out on a single moment of their existence if I don’t have to.

My children are beautifully inconvenient, and they are worth every moment that my life is complicated in order to experience a taste of unconditional love. There is such joy to be had in raising tiny humans to be amazing adults, if only we will take the time to look for it. I’ll find other ways to watch R-rated movies and drink whiskey, thank you (just kidding).

 

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

 

Women out of the Box

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This week some male Christian leaders demeaned and demoralized a female Christian leader with their words on a public platform. I don’t care to go into specifics. The thoughts came out of a theological difference, but theology aside, the comments were unkind and lacked gentleness and grace.

The whole scenario got me thinking about women in general. The reality is we live in a society where a portion of it believes women should maintain the traditional role as homemaker having responsibility for the cooking, cleaning, children, and as far as anything religious goes, they should just shut up and leave that to the men. Another part of society doesn’t see distinct roles at all, so much so that there are now more than 50 gender options to choose from when identifying yourself on Facebook. This makes for an incredibly broad spectrum!

Growing up, I remember having fleeting moments of feeling like I didn’t fit the mold. I didn’t like playing with baby dolls or playing house. Going to a slumber party to do hair and makeup wasn’t appealing. I loved math (except for geometry) and technology, which tended to be more male dominated subjects. I didn’t at all picture myself as a grown-up married with children, didn’t dream of my perfect wedding day…ironic, since I’m a stay-at-home mom and loving it 100% . As I grew up, I became more comfortable in my own skin and I have embraced who God created me to be with all my strengths and imperfections.

I think many of us fall for lies about what a “real woman” should be. We’re inundated with stereotypes and sometimes even shamed for ambition of certain kinds. A male wants to be CEO and he is cheered on, a woman has the same desire and some say she is simply power hungry. A male leader is seen as strong, a female leader is seen as bossy.

To the depth of my core, I believe every single human is uniquely created. We are valuable whatever job we choose to have or not have. The woman at home, the woman working as a waitress, the woman in her business suit, and the woman with the judge’s robe all have special roles. Married or single, young or old, each person plays an important part in life.

Currently, I am helping some ladies at our local historical museum create content for a display on women’s suffrage. Did you know that 2020 will mark the 100th year for women to have the right to vote? In the overall existence of this planet, 100 years is just a blip. It is a small timeframe in which women have been “granted” an official voice.

I will never forget my high school English teacher who kept me after class to tell me I had a voice and I needed to use it. She told me not to cower or give in to the louder voices around me. I’m pretty sure she quite possibly changed the trajectory of my life that day for the better.

This past year, it became clear that one of the Christian leaders I had looked to in order to shape my own leadership skills had abused his power and preyed upon different women. Sadly, he was one of the greatest champions for women using their gifts in non-traditional ways within the church. It has left me feeling rather empty and disillusioned.

A couple of concluding thoughts. If you are a male leader of some kind reading this, then I would encourage you to lead with integrity, humility, and work to empower the women around you. If you are a woman, embrace whatever gifts you have been given. Don’t let someone stuff you into a box of what you “should” be doing or not doing.

“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” 1 Peter 3:8

“Safety” Through a Child’s Eyes

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Today I stared in the face of one of the many things 9/11 cost us as a nation. Who could fathom all of the long-term ramifications of that fateful day?

Seventeen years have passed, but when I think of September 11, 2001 vivid pictures come to mind. And not just pictures, but deep rooted feelings, including that soul clutching feeling of fear that crept over me that day.

My students wanted to talk about 9/11 today. I hadn’t planned to do so. Personally, I don’t like reliving it. I gave in to their pleas. We watched a brief video and talked for awhile. As soon as I got in front of the class to listen to their questions and comments I started to cry. I have no strong personal connections to anyone lost on that day, yet remembering still tears me apart.

As I looked at the faces of my sweet eleven students who have been untouched by a tragedy of this magnitude, I felt immensely sad for them because I realized something I had not thought of even though I have a child of my own the exact same age. These children born after 9/11 and in the wake of so many school shootings have never known a complete sense of carefree living. They have grown up with locked school doors, lockdown drills, sign out sheets, metal detectors and bag searches, and the constant reminder of “this is for your safety.”

As I reflected with them on my own childhood, the stark contrast became ever more evident. “When I was a kid, we just walked into Disney World. We didn’t have to be searched,” I told them.

“No way!!!” one of the girls exclaimed with wide eyes.

And that was the moment a shift occurred in me. I began to see the world through the eyes of the children. You see, as adults we lock the doors to help keep the kids safe and feel safe. But guess what? In doing so, we make some of them feel the opposite because they look at it from a different perspective. To them, it isn’t that they are safe inside but that there are possible scary things outside. Suddenly, the increase in childhood anxiety we have seen over the last several years makes more sense to me.

“I don’t ever feel completely safe,” one of my kiddos said.

And now I cry more tears.

I know not all of our children feel this way, but those that are more sensitive do. And that’s disheartening.

Today I experienced the importance of talking about these issues with our young ones. They need to be reminded that adults are doing their best to protect them. They need to feel the love of the big people around them and know that while not all of the world is safe, there are indeed safe people around. As Mr. Rogers so aptly said in his lesson to children in the wake of 9/11: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” We need to let our kids express their feelings, acknowledge them, and remind them that there will always be people to help them in a crisis.

There are moments over the last few weeks that it has been particularly wonderful to teach in a Christian environment. Today was certainly one of them. We took time to pray for the families of those who lost loved ones many years ago and to give thanks for the helpers that exist and for the hope that we have. By the end of the prayer I wasn’t the only one who had shed some tears in my room.