Monday, September 28, 2009

Marriage Monday: Myth #5-If you find parenting difficult, you must not be following the right plan

Hey gang!

Time to start a new week and the last few days of September. By the end of this week, we will be into October. This month has just flown by, as has most of the year.

This week, we explore another myth from Leslie Leyland Fields book “Parenting Is Your Highest Calling” And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt. It’s time for myth #5, If you find parenting difficult, you must not be following the right plan.

The chapter begins with Leslie telling us about the night she realized that she was pregnant with her eldest child. Her husband, Duncan, escaped death in the sinking of the ship he was on that same night. It is interesting how we are always coming out of something when we find out a blessing in our lives.

Leslie then begins to go into all the questions that she had as a new parent and all the resources that she turned to in her quest to help her raise her children in the best way possible. I resembled that remark too as I prepared for my first born, my daughter Megan. If you knew me before Megan, you know how terrified I was of babies. Not terrified that they would hurt me, but that one wrong move by me might hurt them.

I’ll always remember the first child I held in front of my wife Mindy. It was July 2002 and the birth of Kaley, Mindy’s sister Jodie’s third daughter. Jodie asked me if it was the first baby I’d ever held. It wasn’t, but since it wasn’t mine, I was terribly nervous that I would break her. Nice way to make an impression on your future wife, accidently breaking your future niece. Kaley has turned out fine, a beautiful little seven year-old.

But a short two and a half years later, here I am taking child care classes holding this plastic baby like I was posing for the Heisman, you know, right hand out, left hand holding the baby like a pigskin. My wife laughed as I asked for a few extra touches with the plastic baby that night.

But on Opening Day of baseball season 2005, my daughter Megan was born. I will never forget that birth moment. Holding her with immense joy, not realizing that she was struggling to breathe and nurses carted her off and put her in a machine for the next 24 hours to help her shake off what was later perceived as receiving a little of the epidural drug. Privately, I thought it was my fault. I begged everyone I knew to pray for her, fearing that if something happened to this beautiful girl brought to me by God, that I would be damned forever for being stupid.

I will tell you that Megan is fine. She is four and in preschool. She has company now in her brother, James, and sister, Maggie. Those two had normal births and are mostly healthy children. My son suffers from night terrors. When I am asleep, I’m never sure whom the terror scares more, me or him. His curve is slightly behind the girls, but he is a happy, loving boy.

I’ve read several books, including Leslie’s to garner how to be a better dad. The funny thing is guys that most of the books are from a woman’s perspective. The books are dialed to better mothering and most don’t take into consideration that dad is the one at home, which is happening in many more families now than when I was a kid.

Leslie talks about many of the resources that she went through and then comes to talk about the source where you think all the answers should be, The Bible. She breaks down the verses that talk about the raising of children. I’ll list all of them at the back end of this discussion (minus putting in the first nine chapters of Proverbs, you can look at those in your Bible). Pretty much like Leslie, I was awestruck by the general concern of the raising of children, but God’s Word never gets exact on a lot of issues. This has given us the mountains of opinions by authors on the subject, but Leslie clears the mud as we continue.

She then goes on to go back to the story of Manoah and his wife from Chapter 2 (Myth 1, for those of you without the book) about the coming of Samson. When his wife came to him with the news of the coming child, I agree that I am sure he was thrilled. But Manoah shared my feeling of humility and fear. What I am supposed to do now? How do I not mess the boy up?

Manoah was smart. He went to his knees in Chapter 13 of Judges and pleaded, “O Lord, I beg you, let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.” Manoah understood the undertaking that raising a child would bring. Plus, this was to be a special child. A child that God was giving gifts to change the world with. All of us should feel this about our kids, even if an angel doesn’t come to tell us this, but that’s another personal rant of mine.

God was gracious and sent the angel back and Manoah asked him in verse 12, “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy’s life and work?” It’s a great question. Again, all of us as parents should think about this at one time or another before the child comes, maybe more than once. But just like us that never get a manual with our children, the angel never answered his question directly.

However, he did give a response. He repeated what he told Manoah’s wife. “Your wife must do all that I have told her. She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.”

Before Leslie gives a rebuttal to the response, she first tells us about how we attempt to fill in the blanks when God doesn’t answer when we want answers. She tells us that we are often given answers by the Biblical experts on parenting with a focus around a verse or two and then their opinions all around it. It’s like the rose in the middle and a bunch of garnish around it. It could be thorns or pretty little flowers, but in truth, we’re never quite sure which.

She then turns to Dr. Tim Kimmel’s quote from his book Why Christian Kids Rebel. I love this quote personally. Leslie reminds us before it that the Bible does not prescribe to a single model of child rearing.

“There is no set biblical way for children to behave or dress or talk or play. God has called us (parents) to create an environment for our children where they can get a clear sense of the love, forgiveness, and the grace of God. On top of that, He has given us the mandate to build qualities like respect, honor, decency, fairness, and modesty into the core of their character. God allows children a lot of latitude in how they love out their personality type within the boundaries of these wonderful values. God is too much into original thoughts and ideas to create some mold that produces the ‘perfect Christian kid’.”

Leslie titles the next section “Parenting is more about people than the process” and that is so true. She tells of the experience of potty training her kids and how all except one were able to do “1 & 2” the same way. Mine are very similar in that regard. The two girls seem to hate wetness and if they are even slightly wet, they cry about it. The boy, on the other hand, could lay in it a while and never mind it. That’s why he is harder to train. I hope no one reads that back to him at 21. But this is just one of many things that show that not every kid can be raised the same way.

The most important part of the chapter comes next as Leslie explains God’s real desire. He doesn’t want a brain dead group of non-thinkers like George Orwell’s 1984, but he wants our hearts. Leslie brings out the idea that the rules given by the angel to Manoah and his wife were not for Samson, but for them. The rules set up changed their lives. Manoah had to hunt differently and his wife’s diet of food definitely changed. God would help the child by bringing the parents into a deeper relationship with Him first. God could never have had Samson if the parents didn’t buy into His system.

Have you ever seen kids that totally reject the Christian message because they see their parents reject that same message by the way they carry their lives? It happens all the time. Usually what happens is that until these children that God wants see someone really living Jesus in front of them, they stay lost. Next week’s myth #6 will talk more about that issue.

Leslie then closes the chapter by telling us that we need to give up on the idea of one plan to raise children. This isn’t just because the plans aren’t 100% effective, but also because each child is different. She brings out a great scripture here. Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it.” This isn’t to train all children the same way. This is to make sure that the training is God’s instruction perfectly and individually made for each child to help them with their spiritual gifting.

One of Leslie’s closing thoughts that I’d like to share is this: “No other parent or writer, no matter how many books they sell, no matter how many children they have raised, can know our children as God does or as we do.” This doesn’t say that we should not take sound advice, but that you should take that advice and pray on it for use with your child. If you’ve ever been told by others and felt offended, remember that most are not trying to make you mad, just trying to give you help.

Again, next week, we will take on the 6th myth from the book, “You represent Jesus to your children.” I read this chapter already and I can tell you that some of what I’ll share next week will set you free if you feel guilty of not being able to do it all as a parent.

I love you guys!

PS-Now for the scripture that I promised you.

Gen 18:19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him."

Exo 12:26 And when your children ask you, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?'
Exo 12:27 then tell them, 'It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'" Then the people bowed down and worshiped.
Exo 13:8 On that day tell your son, 'I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.'
Exo 13:14 "In days to come, when your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' say to him, 'With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
Exo 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Deu 21:18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him,
Deu 21:19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.
Deu 21:20 They shall say to the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard."
Deu 21:21 Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

Pro 13:24 He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
Pro 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Pro 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
Pro 23:13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.
Pro 23:14 Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.
Pro 29:15 The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.
Pro 19:18 Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.

Psa 34:11 Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Psa 78:4 We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.
Psa 78:5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children,
Psa 78:6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.

Luk 18:16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Luk 18:17 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Mat 18:3 And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 18:4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 18:5 "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
Mat 18:6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Mat 10:37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;

Mar 3:35 Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

Eph 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Eph 6:2 "Honor your father and mother"—which is the first commandment with a promise—
Eph 6:3 "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."
Eph 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Tit 2:3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
Tit 2:4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children,

1 comment:

leslie leyland fields said...

Hey Frank and Friends,

This is Leslie checking in with you--to say thanks for doing such a great job distilling the chapter--and personalizing with your own experience. As I continue to raise my kids--the youngest are 6 and 8, I find these truths still true after the four kids before them: that each one truly is unique, and that God does give us wonderful and amazing freedom to parent our children with our own unique personalities. Consistency is needed and welcome, but Formulas not!