Archive for May, 2009

Going Green

Carla: Yep, you’re in the right place. Caryn got all worked up (so what else is new) about the widgets (or lack thereof) on our previous theme, so we switched things up yet again to this lovely green goodness.

I don’t really know what widgets do, so it’s really for the best that Caryn has become our new IT person.

Daniel Hauser and the Limits of Private Parenting

Carla: Here in God’s Country, the story of Daniel Hauser has been leading the news for several weeks. If you have the misfortune of living somewhere other than Minnesota, you might still recognize that name as that of the 13-year-old boy with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer that doctor’s say is 90 percent treatable with chemo and radiation treatments. Daniel and his mother have refused this treatment for what she is calling religious reasons. You can read more about the case, well, everywhere.

This sad story points to a deeper question, one that I think resonates with what we’re about here at the Mommy Revolution. To me, the case of Daniel Hauser begs the question of just how private parenting ought to be.

Caryn and I have talked a lot about how we want every mom to feel the freedom to parent in a way that makes sense to her, to be the kind of mom God made her to be rather than forcing herself to fit into some prescribed mold of motherhood. But the Hauser case represents what happens when we assume that freedom means no one gets to have any input into our lives.

I know that for you, Caryn, this story pushes your libertarian buttons and gets you nervous about government interference in family life. But to me, this is a case of child abuse and someone needs to step in. Daniel Hauser has a tumor in his chest that will suffocate him in a matter of weeks. His mother is willing to take a chance that her son will die a horrific death. I don’t think that’s a choice she gets to make, especially when her husband, her friends, even the guru of the type of natural healing she follows, are begging her to reconsider her decision.

(Side note: To me, it’s one thing for a family to decide that they want to forgo treatment for a child when they have tried and tried and it isn’t working, when the chances of recovery are almost non-existent, when the pain and suffering of the treatment will be far worse than the death that is imminent. There is a time to let go. But this boy is not in that place.)

I am a big believer in community, in the power of relationships to sustain us and heal us and help us be the people we were created to be. And I believe that community is essential to a healthy family life and a healthy personal life–the responses our posts on friendship speak to the deep need we have to feel connected. And yet when it comes to parenting, the cultural assumption is that it is an individual pursuit, that we can and should close the circle and do it alone.

I had a friend ask me once if I believed in that “whole ‘It takes a village’ crap.” Well, yeah! While I believe we have some say in who is in our village, I don’t think we get to pick and choose how we access that village. When the village speaks in a loud, unified voice, we need to listen. We might disagree, we might still choose to go another way, but we have to listen to those we trust and be willing to change our course. If I am doing something that all of my friends believe is harmful to my children, I pray they will tell me. And I pray I will hear them and have the strength to make a change.

Because raising children is not something we do for ourselves. We raise children to be part of the world, to be active, involved participants in the lives of other people. Daniel Hauser doesn’t belong to his mother. He belongs to a family, to a community, to God.

Caryn: So you have to end with the belonging to God, stuff… You are right, though, on many points here. I do believe that since God gave us our children we have the duty to protect them and nourish them and provide for them and love them and “heal” them where possible.

And I agree that this mom’s choice is nuts—and wrong. Totally. She is making the wrong choice. And will potentially allow her child to die a horrific death.

I’m actually okay with the state stepping in to protect this child. I guess I started getting nervous when they started talking about removing Daniel from his home. This is especially wrong if—as you say—the dad if pro-treatment. No sense taking a child away from his family (even if they are a bit off) during this horrible time.

That’s the line that starts worrying me about government intrustion because honestly, where will it end? Couldn’t someone argue that I’m molesting my 2-year-old because I still nurse him (like the weird psuedo-hippie mama I am)? I mean, what if I can’t wean him until his three (will you all PLEASE pray for him that this boy stops!!!)?

And I do worry about the rights of those who choose alternative meds—which is weird because I’m very PRO Western medicine. I get my kids flu shots. But I feel uneasy, say, about that HPV vaccine. What if refuse to do it—and my daughter contracts HPV at 15 and develops cervical cancer at 16? Will she be taken from me? Was that abuse?

I realize I may be going too far down the “slippery slope” thing here, but I get worried. Because sometimes the village is all wrong and only one person is right. Villages like Noahville and Ninevah come to mind.

I don’t know. I feel all wishy washy about this. But something just feels wrong.

Carla: The slippery slope is always a danger, in everything. But I’m not sure it’s helpful to limit or permit something because of what it might lead to. To me, we always run into problems when we try to put blanket policies or ideology around unique circumstances. That’s why law books are enormous and always changing–the law isn’t a blanket declaration that stands firm in all times and all places and in all circumstances. There are exceptions, nuances, situational adjustments.

And yes, the village can be wrong, but in general, group think tends to lead to better decisions–read this for more on that–than individual decision-making. Your nursing example is a good one. You made that decision based on what works for you, but you’ve also read about extended nursing, asked other moms about it, weighed the pros and cons. In other words, you’ve used the village to help you with your decision–not just to keep nursing but to nurse in the first place. Even if you were simply basing your decision on your own intuition, you’d be doing so because the village affirmed the rightness of you doing so.

Okay, this has turned into a philosophical discussion. So what do you think friends? What are the limits of private parenting? When do we step into each other’s lives? When do we dig in and push back at the village?

Update from Carla: I talked about this post on my friend Doug Pagitt’s radio show this morning. You can watch/listen here.

Update #2: This just in–Daniel will begin chemo.

Livin’ La Vida…Amiga

Caryn: So a couple nights ago I did one of my favorite late-night things—running to the grocery store for a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. Lame, I realize, on the “favorite thing” scale, but since becoming a mom, this tiny escape totally recharges me and I love it. Mostly because I get to be in a store alone and because I think music is best heard loud, at night while alone in a car. Something I first realized at 16—like 10 minutes after getting my license.

But anyway, on the way back from my little outing, I had Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” cranked—and I mean cranked! Windows down, me singing, me dancing, me smiling….

Carla, you know why this song makes me smile. Not only is it one of the darned happiest, poppiest, shakiest songs ever, and not only did I have a married-woman crush on this gay man, but it brings back memories of one of my favorite times of life: the years spent editing magazines and laughing with you (I’m talking to Carla, here) and Lori and Dana and Cheryl and Ron and Mickey and a zillion more great people.

Specifically, the Ricky Martin memory is not of shaking it in those hallways (though it wouldn’t have been beyond us) but of the “Little Ricky” (a xeroxed paper cutout of the man) perched on my office bookshelf. Something that made me laugh then (and now) but also something that in a weird way symbolized these office friendships for me.

Alrighty. Here’s the point of this: What struck me about my happiness upon hearing this song was that the last time I heard it randomly—probably a couple years ago—I felt really SAD. I was in this weird, dark, lonely mommy place where I missed everything about my “old” life so much and felt like I none of the same great connections or friendships in my “new” life.

I wasn’t—as we say in Christian-ese—living in community.

And it sucked—not having regular people to laugh with, gripe with, connect with, be myself with. It was a really hard time of life. So hard, I couldn’t listen to a song that brought back what were once happy memories.

All this to say, it feels so good to be back. To have found and remade connections. To be able to smile at my old life because the new one is smile-worthy now too.

I totally thank God fro this. He heard my “I need friends” lonely prayers and answered them in big, crazy God ways: through Facebook, through new flesh-and-blood friends, and through the Mommy Revolution, baby! I no longer feel like a fish out of water—but realize I’m swimming among some awesome other fish.

Carla: Little Ricky makes me laugh out loud! Those were such golden days–a bunch of girls and a couple of willing-to-put-up-with-a-bunch-of-girls guys.

What’s ironic is that, for me, those were also intensely lonely years. I remember feeling like I had no connections with people, even people I truly loved and enjoyed–that would be Caryn, Kim, Lori, Marci, etc. Now I know that I was at the beginning of a journey that would take me through some incredibly difficult seasons of figuring out who I am and–as dumb as it sounds–finding myself.

But at the time, of course, I didn’t know that. I was still trying so hard to be perfect, to make sure everyone liked me. I had no idea who I was so I had no idea how to connect with anyone. You (Caryn) and I have talked about this, how sad it is that the friendship we had could have been even deeper if we had just known how to let down our guard and be ourselves.

But like you, I am in such a better place now. It took all kinds prayer and work and struggle and pain and therapy to get to this place, but it was so worth it. I finally have the kinds of friendships I always prayed for–the ones where we are honest and vulnerable and no one pretends to be anything other than who she is. It is seriously so much more life-giving than trying to act like we have our crap together. We might never fully revolutionize motherhood, but I think that the women who are gathering here–and hopefully in Minneapolis in October!–are finding that they aren’t the only ones to feel lonely or disconnected, that they aren’t the only ones who struggle to develop meaningful friendships, and that there are women out there who will value them for who they are, failures and uncertainties and flaws included.

Caryn: Speaking of old and new friends–and Carla mentioned “October”: We’re totally hoping you can join me and Carla in a couple of cool events we’ve got coming up: 1. a FREE webinar (details to be announced soon) and 2. a Mommy Revolution Mom Hall Meeting (and probably food and drinkie thing) at the Christianty21 Conference in Mpls, MN, in October. How cool would it be to see each other for reals?

Mother’s Day, Part 2

Carla & Caryn: Along with our rant about Mother’s Day and the church, we do sincerely wish all of you a lovely Mother’s Day. For those of you celebrating for the first time, may you relish your new title and the joy that comes with it. For those of you who have a restaurant brunch to look forward to, may the roast beef be hot, the cheesy hashbrowns cheesy, and the pie covered with real whipped cream. For those of you who want nothing more than the day off, may the checkout lines be short, may your favorite chair at the coffee shop be free, and may you find something super cute to wear on Monday.

And for those of you for whom Mother’s Day is painful–for whatever reason–may you be filled with God’s peace and comfort and the knowledge that your sisters at the Revolution are thinking of you with much love.

One more thing: a friend just linked to this beautiful post from Vinita Hampton Wright.

Mother’s Day Sermons….Ugh.

Caryn: After church this past Sunday, “Pastor Gregg” (which is his actual name, but I thought for some reason it would be funny to make it seem sketchy) asked me if I had any wisdom to impart as he prepared his Mother’s Day sermon for this coming Sunday. The text apparently is Genesis 29ish where Jacob marries Leah and Rachel (we’re working through a series on this crazy family. Seriously, it’s been a blessing because these OT guys make me feel so much better about my own fam!). But because of this text he was understandably feeling a tad unsure of how this could tie into Mother’s Day in any sort of nice fashion.

So I did my quick little Mother’s Day thing about how the truth is that most of us just actually want the day OFF, a day AWAY from the children and husbands we love so so much. How the perfect Mother’s Day really requires no mothering. Then I went into my little joke about how I think we really could use another wife in my house. “A good one, though, this time,” I said for the millionth time in my life because I don’t think “Pastor Gregg” had heard my spiel (he’s new). “One who can clean the house and watch the kids.”

He didn’t think it was quiet as funny as I do, I don’t think, but he didn’t look at me like I was TOO insane, which was good.

So anyway, all this to say I totally blanked in any wisdom I could impart on this topic, so I said I’d get back to him. This is my getting back to him.

Here’s what I really think about Mother’s Day at church. I like when we hand out those yummy free-trade chocolate bars at the end of the service to ALL women (but I will be okay if we had to ixnay those due to budget concerns!). I love that my pastors always mention the women who long to be mothers but have not yet had that dream fulfilled (the Leah and Rachel thing works well for this!). But I always get worried that a Mother’s Day sermon will feel forced, or worse, “light.”

I mean, I just got a catalog from a local Christian book store, featuring all sorts of crap for Mother’s Day. Tea cups. Stupid plaques. Gift books. (Of course, I’m bitter because MY book wasn’t featured, but this bitter bias doesn’t mean it’s not true). Essentially a bunch of Jesus junk that no mom actually needs. Nothing to encourage moms to go deep into their gifts, to focus on their Maker to see how we’re made and who they’re made to be. Nothing to challenge them in to live out faith in daring, dangerous ways. Nothing to get to know God better. Nothing deep, powerful, impactful, moving, meaningful, eternal….

Now. If you like this sort of stuff, great. Fine. Good. But I’m so tired of Mother’s Day being light and fluffy. I think moms should be celebrated—but not coddled. Mother’s Day just perpetuates the lowering-the-standard thing that happens to women when they become moms. Like having children should zap out every other meaningful, challenging thing (including getting deep with God, if we’re honest) in our lives.

Back to my advice to “Pastor Gregg.” Say Happy Mother’s Day. And then preach the sermon that God spilled into your heart and head. Don’t make it about Mother’s Day. Where the Holy Spirit guides you is where it needs to go and what mothers and fathers and non-moms and non-dads and kids and old people and singles and gay people and whoever else is sitting in that building needs to hear.

But Carla, you’re the one-time-seminarian (she claims she simply didn’t finish so she could study MacDonald in Scotland, but I smell a story. A scandalous getting-kicked-out-of-Fuller-Sem bit….). You might even be preaching! What do you think?

Carla: Okay, first, let’s give “Pastor Gregg” kudos for asking an actual mom for her thoughts on his Mother’s Day sermon. While I’m sure it’s mostly because you are the resident expert on all things maternal at your church and he’s probably afraid of ticking you off–and I can’t say I blame him what with you and your persnickity-ness–it still speaks well of him that he doesn’t see himself as the sole arbiter of truth and wisdom.

Moving on. I am totally with you on this. Yes, mothers should be honored and I am all about getting a little special lovin’ from the fam one day a year. And like you, all I really want is the day off. What I don’t need or want or believe ought to happen is for Mother’s Day to be a church event.

When we went to an episcopal church, there was no acknowledgment of Mother’s Day at all. It’s not a church holiday so typically it doesn’t get a mention in high liturgical churches.

At our current church, we note that it’s happening–we note lots of other stuff too, like the May Day parade last Sunday, recent marriages or babies or retirements, and particularly nice weather. We hand out flowers to all the women–young and old, mothers and non-mothers. There is a verbal acknowledgment that Mother’s Day is not easy for a lot of people for various reasons–they want to be mothers and aren’t, they are the mothers of children who have died, they have difficult relationships with their own mothers, their mothers have died, and on and on. So we honor what is good about motherhood, name what is difficult about motherhood, and then move on.

But so much of the Mother’s Day hoopla undermines motherhood in a weird way. It suggests that every mom is the same, that we have universal tastes and needs and that all we need is a good brunch once a year to make us happy. They all work together to create this dreamy, perfect view of motherhood, something that is rarely dreamy or perfect. The same thing happens with Father’s Day, I know, but they can have their own revolution. So if you don’t fit in to the ideal model of motherhood, all the lovely books and teacups and sermons end up being a reminder of how not like “all the other moms” you really are. I would rather see motherhood celebrated as the complex, mysterious, unique-to-everyone experience that it is. It is too incredible to be codified or sentimentalized. It is too profound to fit on a card or a plaque. It’s a relationship, not a Hallmark moment.

So I hope “Pastor Gregg” skips that sermon and lets the Holy Spirit speak to him about what his community needs to hear about Jacob and Leah and Rachel. The moms–and old people and kids and singles and gay people–will thank him.

Caryn: Mostly the gay people, I think. But, total kudos to “Pastor Gregg” for asking. He’s a great guy. Married to a great woman too (though I’m a touch jealous of her still because she spent part of this past week at a monastery forming her spirit…). I’m sure “Pastor Gregg””ll be thrilled about the way I’ve repaid his thoughfulness.

So what about you Revolutionary Mommies? How do your church’s “handle” the big MD?

Seriously?

Carla: Geez Caryn. Talk about a buzz kill. What happened there? 3 comments? 3? I mean, I didn’t think your post was bad per se, but 3?

Well I’ll just have to see if I can salvage something here. Thankfully, one of my FB friends is currently at a Christian conference of some sort and posted a picture that has my dander up. It’s a sign announcing a seminar called, “How to Awaken Spiritual Parenting in Today’s Families.” If you’ve been hanging around this blog long enough, you can probably guess why I’m irked by this. If you are just joining us, here’s a short explanation:

The title of this seminar implies that “today’s parents” are asleep, or at least not overly involved in/interested in/capable of “spiritual parenting.” Really? Really? Which parents are those? It’s none of the women and men here, I can tell you that. Because the parents who comment here are pretty awake, pretty involved, pretty capable. In fact, I’d be willing to guess that most of us are so sick of hearing about how not awake and not spiritual we are as parents that we’d like to run our little selves down to wherever this conference is and have a word with the presenters.

Now I have no idea what this seminar is about. For all I know it was wonderful and insightful and all things helpful. But that title is just the kind of thing that the Revolution is bent on overthrowing. The seminar was aimed at church leaders–children’s pastors, senior pastors, etc. And to me, that almost makes it worse than if it had been aimed at parents. Because the last thing we need is more sermons on how we don’t take parenting seriously enough or how we are missing the mark when it comes to passing our faith on to our children. The last thing we need is more messages about how what we’ve been doing is insufficient.

More and more, I find seminars–and books and conferences and magazine articles–like these are aimed at straw parents. They hit at a perception of a problem that I don’t think really exists. It makes good sales copy to say things like “How to Awaken Spiritual Parenting.” It creates a sense of crisis, urgency, and fear. And that sells.

But are there really so many sleeping parents out there that there needs to be a seminar about them? Aren’t most of the families sitting in churches each week there because they are truly trying their best? Adding more guilt and fear about the ways they are failing isn’t the way to “awaken” them. It’s a way to add more pressure and more expectations to their lives. Support, encouragement, affirmation, ideas, HOPE–that’s what parents need.

Caryn: Enough about the 3 comments. I guess no one likes to hear about a happy mom (I know I never do!). Glad you chose this topic to awaken our spiritual readers.

Seriously, though,  I’m still trying to figure out what “spiritual parenting” even means. Sounds like something God does—not us. I’m a fan of human parenting myself.

That said, you’re probably right in guessing that they’re talking about those lazy parents who aren’t “being intentional” about passing the faith on to their kids, hence all the back-talking, all the hell that’s breaking out in the schools, and all the Democrats who keep getting elected.

What always makes me nervous about stuff like this is that I’m guessing that I’d be one of the parents they look at as asleep. I mean, my kids have been baptized (which may or may not be seen as a good thing), go to church, Sunday school, Christian school, extra-church-ricular activities, and every election season at least one of them is out canvassing the neighborhood with my husband spreading Republican cheer. So you’d think we’d be good!

But, alas, I’m terrible about doing family devotions (read: we never do them). Are you ready for this? Half the time I don’t even THINK of praying with my kids when I put him to bed. I was going to say that at least we always say grace before dinner, but you know what? We just had pizza and we totally didn’t pray.

Oh, boy.

But as you said: this doesn’t mean I’m not awake spiritually with my kids. And it doesn’t mean I need guilt about it. Or even more structure for that matter.

We talk about God a lot. Just not formulaically. I think my kids are going to learn to follow Jesus and love him like mad not because we did X,Y, and Z every day or because I came up with really fun, crazy-campy activities to demonstrate a Bible verse (not knocking this if it works for your family!).

They’re going to want Jesus as a part of their lives because of what they’ve seen him do in mine. So I talk about that. I let my kids see what a mess I am, and talk about how God has shown up in unexpected ways. I let them that it’s by his grace alone that I am able to make it through a day in the house with them without knocking heads into walls (I don’t really let them know this part….).

I want them to see me grapple and question and wonder and be amazed at what it is to believe in Jesus. Because frankly, I don’t want them just to be passed the faith, I want them to believe it on their own, to embrace it, to own it, to die for it, really.

So now I’m about to go down a road about how much crazy I am about  Jesus (Carla, remember when I was NOT like this? What happened to me?!?!?), which I’ll spare you all right now. (But seriously, how great is he?)

So yeah. Some of the most awake Christian parents I know are not the ones in seminars and in classes, but the ones in the trenches. Down and dirty with their Jesus.

Carla: So now the comment count is up to 5, but one of them is from me, so we’re at 4. Granted, they are 4 really great comments, but still.