Monthly Archives: April 2007
Last night we had dinner with some friends whose oldest daughter had just completed driver’s ed. It brought back memories of our own experiences in driver training and I thought of something I wrote a few years ago. Perhaps it will be an encouragement today to those moms who are finding themselves in the passenger seat and wondering how they got there!
After nearly 4 months of behind the wheel time, Ben got his driver’s license yesterday.
It has been our family policy since our first child drove…..we do not allow our children to have a license until they turn 18. Of course they have all complained and appealed and cajoled and bargained, but to no avail. Some people think this is cruel. We think it is wise. By the way, it is those same people who think we are cruel for not having our chidlren in public high school where they miss prom. I rest my case.
So since February, Ben has been driving everywhere with a responsible adult, and sometimes his mother, and a learning permit. We have been in and out and around Peoria too many times to mention, too many miles and gallons of gasoline to count, too many intersections to navigate.
He has done a great job and so yesterday morning I told him that when he was finished with his schoolwork, we had an errand to run. And I announced that we were getting the license because I knew it was time since I was no longer clutching the door handle when he turned from War Memorial Drive on to University Street.
Now I have someone to run to Wal-Mart for toilet paper and shampoo and milk when the needs arise. This makes me happy, as does the fact that we now drive the only car we have ever owned that has air bags. It also makes me happy that I believe in God’s sovereignty.
I took driver’s ed and behind the wheel when I was in high school. My instructor was Mr. Grebe, who was, at the time, about 108 years old. My driving partner was Bruce, who is now in prison. The driver’s ed car had an extra brake on the front passenger side and Mr. Grebe showed it to us and told us he didn’t want to have to use it.
One day while I was in the back seat and Bruce was driving, it seemed like we were moving awfully fast. I peered over the seat and saw that we were going 90. And Mr. Grebe had fallen asleep. I started coughing frantically so he would wake up, though I suddenly thought of that brake. Thankfully, he did wake up and said, “Bruce, I think you need to take it down a little.” He did not use the brake.
I didn’t think I would survive driver’s ed to have my own child behind the wheel but I did.
Copyright 2007. (originally written 2005.)
“Once you begin educating your children at home, sharing the closeness that inevitably comes by working together day in and day out for common goals, any and every personal issue you have stored in your “big red suitcase” will soon spill over into your life, right into the middle of your living room, and usually it will do so in unexpected ways.” Listen here for this week’s podcast entitled My Big Red Suitcase.
What could be more natural than gently caressing a newborn baby, tussling a toddler’s hair, or warmly hugging your husband? Research over the past 40 years has shown that human touch is absolutely essential for the healthy emotional and physical development of children and the day to day maintenance of adults. Studies have even shown that premature infants who receive consistent gentle touching will gain weight more quickly than those who are not touched because touch releases certain chemicals in the brain that regulate their development.
Did you know that our skin is the largest organ of the human body? On the average man, it covers nearly 20 square feet and weighs about 8 pounds. If you could examine a piece of skin the size of a quarter, you would find 3 feet of blood vessels, 50 nerve endings, over 3 millions cells, and roughly 300 sweat glands! Is it any wonder that human beings respond so quickly to physical touch?
There are other benefits to physical touch. Consistent physical contact has been proven to strengthen the immune system, lower stress and blood pressure, and increase creativity. Calmly holding a distraught child has also been shown to teach children to have self-control over their own bodies.
There is a huge difference between the amounts of physical touch among cultures around the world. One study involved observing pairs of people sitting in coffee shops in various cities. It found that in Puerto Rico, on average, people touched 180 times per hour, in France they touched 100 times an hour, in Florida, they touch twice in an hour, and in London they never touched! Isn’t this interesting?
Homeschooling moms have a distinct advantage over other teachers in that we have the freedom to express physical affection to our children all day long every single day! Other teachers have told me that they will desire to warmly express love to their children but are hesitant to do so for fear of being misunderstood in this crazy world of abusers. But as moms we are able to fill our child’s emotional tank with affection with wild abandon! We should never be concerned about doing this!
I do have a concern, however, about homeschooler-promoted parenting materials that encourage emotional distance between parents and their children. This philosophy came from Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychotherapy, who encouraged severity and sternness in the parent-child relationship. After decades of applying his theories to child raising, parents and child psychologists alike are realizing that the fruits of his views have created multi-generational problems. I am waiting for the day when some of the homeschooling gurus follow suit and toss out some of their sacrosanct views of raising children!
Allowing your children to come to you in the night, singing and cuddling a child to sleep rather than scheduling him and putting him alone in a bed in his own room, and swaddling him in a mommy pouch are all methods of physical touch that are so desperately needed for emotionally healthy children. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, closeness to mom is crucial for raising a healthy child. Physical touch is certainly part of that equation.
I wanted to add a couple others thoughts. Teenagers need physical touch from mom, too. Is there anything more disarming that a hulking 15 year old son who wraps his arms around mom and says “thanks for the clean laundry?” I think we need to remember that the teen years are times of turmoil for our children and letting them know that we still care for them by giving them physical touch reassures and comforts them.
Lastly, volumes have been written about the need for physical touch between a husband and a wife. While I feel that it is inappropriate to go into detail here about this subject, I will say this: if your husband’s primary love language is physical touch, you cannot underestimate the need for having a healthy sexual relationship with him.
Next time I will discuss how God touches our children.
“I was stuck and couldn’t go anywhere when a car full of high school boys who rode the school bus with me drove by, and then drove by again, and the third time they stopped and rolled down the windows and laughed, hysterically! I had to rip my pants so I could get down and run into the house. It was the curse of the Amazon Barbie.” Listen here for this week’s podcast entitled The Curse of the Amazon Barbie.
One bright fall day, my friend, Phyllis, and I traveled from our homes in Bad Tolz, West Germany to a nearby town that was known for its great shopping. Each of us had been saving money from our already-meager budgets so we could spend the day acting like tourists rather than the army wives that we were. Before we left, we exchanged all of our dollars into marks so we would not be tempted to overspend and off we went.
We wandered down the brick sidewalks and past a woman’s gift shop, when I saw the most beautiful silk scarf I had ever seen. The background of it was a grayish brown and sprinkled across, from corner to corner, were falling leaves in all the glorious colors of the season. I had never seen anything so wonderful, so luxurious, or so frivolous in my life. I was a blue jean baby. I dressed in anticipation of spit-up. I had nothing in a single closet or drawer that was suitable to be worn with that scarf. But I wanted it.
Phyllis and I continued shopping and every time I thought I might make a purchase, my thoughts drifted back to the store with the scarf so I had not a single package by lunch time when we sat down and relaxed in a charming guesthaus. Phyllis began opening her bags and showing me Christmas ornaments, nutcrackers that had been made in East Germany, and a variety of chocolates beautifully wrapped in foil. I had nothing to show for my morning’s shopping.
After lunch, we, again, went our separate ways and I thought I might have just one more peek at that lovely scarf before I decided how to spend my money. I hurried back to the shop where the scarf was still neatly arranged across an attractively dressed mannequin. I knew I had to have that scarf so I quickly paid every last mark in my purse. The clerk chatted to me in mostly German as she carefully wrapped my package, though I kept hearing some English phrases I understood, like “it is exquisite” and “what lovely taste you have, madam.”
When I met Phyllis at her car, her arms full and her feet, very sore from the weight of her packages, she took one look at me with my one, small bag and laughingly said, “You know, Karen, my great aunt used to have a phrase for this sort of purchase. She called it having a “hyacinth for the soul.”
I don’t recall that I ever wore that scarf very often. I once had a raincoat that it matched but I was afraid to get my treasured scarf wet so I only draped it around the coat before I wore it, and then I put it back in the drawer, where I saw it every time I opened my dresser. The scarf was eventually burned in a house fire and I was really sad when it was gone, but I was never sorry that I had owned it. It was a gift for me and I cherished it.
Sometimes I think about that scarf when my children share with me about some item they long to own. I see their eyes light up in the same way that I know mine did every time I looked at that scarf. Often their longings seem foolish to me, extravagant or just plain silly. I find myself wanting to suggest something practical, something “educational,” something that I think they should love rather than what they do love.
One of the 5 important love languages is the giving of gifts. Dr. Gary Chapman suggests that we need to give gifts often and especially at times when they are not expected. He also reminds us that they are never to be given in exchange for something else, that those kinds of “gifts” aren’t really gifts at all, but rather, payment for services given.
I think it is also important that a gift reflects some sort of sacrifice, either in terms of money, of the time it took to choose the gift, or the time spent in making the gift. One thing I like to do in women’s groups at Christmas time is to draw names for a gift exchange but include the stipulation that the gift be something that was made by one person for another person. Immediately, women begin complaining that they aren’t crafty or creative. Then I suggest things like family recipes copied and assembled in a notebook or favorite Bible verses with your own devotional thoughts attached. They catch on and once the gifts are exchanged, they begin to see that a gift made just for another person conveys love and care in ways that a dime store trinket can never do.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes a simple but profound statement about parenting when he says in Matthew 7:11: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” You see, Jesus is assuming that parents, even bad parents, give good gifts to their children! We give gifts, sacrificial, unexpected, delightful gifts to our children because it paints a picture for them of the precious gift of eternal life that God the Father gave to us through His son, Jesus!
Today, I would like to suggest that we each ponder the idea of giving gifts to our husbands and our children, a “hyacinth for their souls,” as an unexpected act of love for them. Perhaps we could start today!
Here is a universal truth…..the very moment that a woman gives birth to her first child, mother guilt comes upon her. One of my friends admitted to me that her mother guilt arrived even earlier. “I purchased my first home pregnancy kit, buying the middle priced one in the store,” she said. ”My mother guilt began in the car on the way home. Should I have purchased the more expensive one, since, it is probably more accurate and then I will really know if I am pregnant and can take better care of my baby? Or should I have purchased the cheaper one because we now have another mouth to feed and it would have been a more cost-effective purchase?” I laughed but deep inside I understood. As a mom, I have lived in guilt for 31 years, always measuring and remeasuring my actions and choices, desiring to best serve my family. Honestly, if I lived with unscrupulous people, I could be so easily manipulated!
Receiving acts of service from a husband or children ministers to moms in a very special way and for some of us it is the way we are most likely to feel loved by them. However, I think that, most often, moms are the ones on the giving end when it comes to acts of service. So much of the mom job description involves serving her family…..changing diapers, washing dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, shopping, cooking the meals, planning for and teaching the children, interacting with the music teacher or coach, and driving to who knows where to lessons, practices, games, church activities, and events. Many times, those actions are done out of a sense of duty and even from a deep inner feeling of guilt. And many times these jobs are given to mom though, in reality, they shouldn’t be assigned to her just because she is mom! But they get done by mom because, well, just because she is mom!
It doesn’t usually help, either, when we see someone’s list of what to do or how they do it. Not long ago I saw a blog that outlined one woman’s daily chores and showed pictures of the cute dresses and crisply ironed aprons she wore every day as she performed them. I was exhausted and discouraged before I got to lunch on her to-do chart! And then it occurred to me that I, too, have a list of daily chores that I do, out of service to my own family, and that I am no slacker just because my list is different than hers and because I typically wear jeans when I do them!
We also have to realize that sometimes our acts of service are not really acts of service at all! One of my friends tells the story of how, in her early years of marriage, she thought a gift of service for her husband would be to buy fruit when it was in season and can it for the winter months. She spent hours at a pick-it-yourself farm and toted home bushels of fresh peaches. She labored for days cleaning, slicing, processing and storing dozens of quarts of peaches only to discover what little value her husband placed on homemade canned peaches, even preferring the canned ones from Aldi! She told me that she learned that doing other things to help him, especially the household paperwork, meant more to him and was what demonstrated her service and love to him. You see, she learned that acts of service need to be those things that honestly and genuinely serve another person.
Children need to know that we are willing to serve them as well, beyond the acts that are part of the job description of “mom.” Occasionally doing their chores for them so they can go somewhere they would like to go expresses your love in an unexpected way. My husband’s act of service every day is to drive our sons on their paper route. But a special act of service for them is when he and I get up early on a Saturday morning and deliver the papers for them so they can sleep in!
Acts of service also involve keeping perspective and maintaining a joyous attitude. We can fold underwear until the cows come home, but if we do so with a grudging spirit, it isn’t an act of service or love to our families. I say this because in my home, the one chore I struggle with perpetually is laundry. It is never done and though I have tried any number of systems, because it is in the basement, it is often out of sight and therefore out of mind until I hear someone say “Hey, anyone know where there are any clean white socks?” It is often easy to feel resentful about washing someone else’s dirty socks. It is then that I try to remember that Jesus washed someone else’s dirty feet!
You see, it is in keeping in front of us the ultimate act of service of Jesus that we can really enjoy doing things for others, free from doing so out of a feeling of guilt or a sense of duty. I so love this passage from Philippians 2: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even the death on a cross!”
My prayer today is that as we walk with our families today, we will see them with fresh eyes to see how best we can serve them and in so doing serve Jesus.
Moms, dads, and children of all sizes filled the stands, the tension thicker than the humidity that hung over the field. It was the championship play-off game in my son’s little league game. It was also the last inning, the score was tied, and the bases were loaded….and my son, Sam, was at bat! I felt as though I was sitting for a Norman Rockwell painting, the excitement and anxiety of the moment being captured on canvas for posterity.
The pitcher wound up and threw the ball, straight across the plate. Sam swung and it was an obvious high fly over the back fence. The crowd went crazy and miniature men in striped suits raced toward the back field as, one by one, smiling boys ran the bases, cheering wildly.
And then I looked down to see the best thing a mom could see. As my son rounded 3rd base I saw my older son, Clayton, fly out of the bleachers, leaping up and down like a jack in the box, and hollering at the top of his lungs. Picking Sam up by the knees and tossing him over his shoulder, Clayton raced around the field, screaming, “that’s my brother, that’s my brother!” Sam’s grand slam had won the game but his older brother’s encouragement had won his heart!
To this day, they are best friends. Though they live 3000 miles apart, they talk on the phone nearly every day. Clayton’s cheers demonstrated love for Sam with positive words of affirmation, words of encouragement, the type of words we all need to hear to feel loved by others and over the years I have seen Sam express the same words to and about Clayton.
The word “encouragement” means “to instill courage” in another person, to give someone hope and to paint a vision of the positive. The opposite is to discourage or to place a person in a position of hopelessness. Some people have a difficult time expressing positive, affirmative words to others. We are usually best able to do so when we feel encouraged ourselves.
I have noticed that I am best able to encourage others when I have had a good night’s sleep, have eaten fruit instead of junk food, and have gotten some sort of exercise. When my mind is clear, I am able to choose my words more carefully and to remember that my primary motive ought to be one of encouragement. When I am tired or don’t feel well, I am more apt to say things that discourage, if not hurt, someone.
This is especially important in the day to day work of homeschooling. Rather than looking at a writing assignment and using the big red pen to circle the misspelled words or wrong verb tense, I can, in a gentle way, show my children what they need to correct and find something positive to say about their work, giving them hope rather than setting them up for hopelessness.
You see, it isn’t that I lower my standards or expectations; it is how I positively reinforce the good and set them up for future successes. I have also found that making requests rather than giving commands helps a child to respond properly. “Will, honey, could you please take the trash out to the curb since tomorrow is garbage day?” is much better than saying “Take out this trash or you will miss the garbage truck.” Following up with a “Thank you so much, sweetie, you are always such a great help to me while Dad is at work” is guaranteed to elicit a warm smile!
I don’t think we can ever underestimate the power of positive words of affirmation on others. In his book The Five Love Languages of Children, Dr. Gary Chapman tells the following story from Reader’s Digest about a remarkable junior high teacher: “One Friday afternoon she asked her students at St. Mary’s School in Morris, Minnesota, to list the names of all the other students in the class, leaving a space between names. Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down. At the end of the period she collected these sheets and over the weekend, she wrote the name of each student on a separate sheet and listed what everyone had said about that person. On Monday, she gave each student his or her list.
“As they began reading, they started whispering to each other, “I never knew that meant anything to anyone,” or, “I didn’t know others liked me so much.” The papers were never discussed in class, but the teacher knew the exercise was a success because it gave her students such a positive feeling about themselves.
“Several years later, one of those students, Mark Eklund, was killed in Vietnam. After his body was returned to Minnesota, most of his classmates, along with the teacher, attended the funeral. At the luncheon after the service, the father of the young man said to the teacher, “I want to show you something,” and he took a wallet out of his pocket. They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.” Opening the billfold, he removed two worn sheets of notebook paper which had been taped, folded, and refolded many times. It was the list of good things Mark’s classmates had written about him.
“Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother told the teacher. “As you can see, our son treasured it.” One by one, Mark’s classmates began to reveal that each of them still had their sheet and that they read it often.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 admonishes us to “therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Verse 14 goes on to say “we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” Let’s remember that instilling courage in our children through affirmative words is our mission as we minister to the precious children God has trusted to our care!