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Let’s Talk about “the rod” scriptures February 28, 2011

Filed under: Christianity,Family Life,Parenting — katieosborne @ 9:08 pm
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My cursor has hesitated over the publish button. My intention here is not to judge other parents’ choices or imply that my way is “the right way,” and I want to be sensitive to my friends who have made parenting decisions that are very different from mine. This topic is important to me. It’s something I spent time researching, thinking about and praying over while Jonas was still in the womb. A recent Bible study lesson on marriage and children in the book of Proverbs got me thinking about it again. Ben and I have a lot of Christian friends who choose to spank their children, and I know that we, by choosing not to spank, are in the minority. I am not out to tell anyone to parent differently. I think the one thing that convinces me to publish is a memory from a few years ago of a friend who, after taking her child to another room to spank him, returned and said, “I wish I didn’t have to spank.” I probably gave a weak smile, but I didn’t speak. I missed the opportunity at that time to open a dialogue about this idea that Christians are commanded by God to spank. So, I am writing this as encouragement for those who find themselves sighing, “I wish I didn’t have to….” You see, you don’t have to. If spanking doesn’t sit well with you, if you are concerned about the dynamic it is creating in your home, if it just doesn’t seem to be working well as a disciplinary tool, please consider my argument…..

This idea that God commands parents to spank their children hinges on four verses in Proverbs. That’s it. Four verses in all of scripture. Here they are:

 

Prov. 13:24 He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.

Prov. 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

Prov. 23:13,14 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. if you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

Prov. 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

 

At first glance, it seems to make sense that these verses refer to corporal punishment. Many of us have been taught that the rod is a physical instrument used for spanking. Spanking advocates often recommend a wooden spoon or switch of some sort. But is that what this rod truly is? Is that how God’s people would have understood these words at the time of their writing?

The word translated as rod is shebet.

 

Strong’s H7626

1) rod, staff, branch, offshoot, club, sceptre, tribe

a) rod, staff

b) shaft (of spear, dart)

c) club (of shepherd’s implement)

d) truncheon, sceptre (mark of authority)

e) clan, tribe

 

The object can be a large walking stick, like that which Moses carried (and that which was carried by the head of a family), a shepherd’s crook, or a king’s sceptre. In each of these cases, the Shebet is a symbol of authority. In the case of the shepherd, it additionally symbolizes guidance and protection, as the shepherd uses it to ward off predators and guide his sheep so they are not lost. Psalm 23 says “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” While the word does refer to a physical object, it is most often used figuratively throughout scripture. The Messiah is referred to as the Rod of Jesse. Jesus’ didn’t come to punish us. He didn’t come to strike us down, but to give us life. He extended undeserved grace to us – we who rebel and scorn and spit in his face – yet he did not condemn us, but extended love in gentleness and patience. His life was a ministry of teaching. Additionally, the word Shebet refers many times to God’s authority in a figurative manner, as in “Thy throne, Oh God, is forever and ever. The sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.” (Psalm 45:6), or “If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules….then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes.” (Psalm 89:30-32). In both cases, the rod is a picture of God’s authority and might.

Those who argue for a literal interpretation of these Proverbs, don’t truly interpret the verses literally themselves. If they did they’d be advocating hitting their child with a large, thick piece of wood that has the potential to cause a lot of damage. No loving parent would even entertain such a thought. Yet, that is what a literal reading calls for. So, if we’re not willing to employ the action the verses are truly advocating, is it okay to simply fudge the original meaning, change it just enough so it is no longer distasteful to us?

Doesn’t it make much more sense and pose less problems, to take these verses figuratively and view the rod as a symbol, just as it is throughout so much of the Old Testament? When considering this, let’s take into account the fact that the book of Proverbs contains a lot of imagery and poetic language. We don’t have an issue with determining whether we should read Proverbs 30:17 literally: The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures. God does not send birds of prey down to pluck out the eyes of insolent children. The original Hebrew of the four rod verses begs us to take the poetic language of the book into account.

So, what then, is this rod a symbol of? As I said above, it is a sign of authority. God has indeed invested us with authority over our children, and we have the responsibility to exercise that authority by “training them up in the way they should go.” (Proverbs 22:6).

Before moving on, it is essential to define the word discipline. Too often it is used as a synonym for punishment, but punishment is only one of many definitions. Our English word discipline comes from the Latin words discipulus, meaning pupil or disciple and the word discere, meaning to learn. We are to treat our children as disciples.

 

Discipline:

1. Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.

2. Controlled behavior resulting from disciplinary training; self-control.

3.

a. Control obtained by enforcing compliance or order.

b. A systematic method to obtain obedience: a military discipline.

c. A state of order based on submission to rules and authority: a teacher who demanded discipline in the classroom.

4. Punishment intended to correct or train.

5. A set of rules or methods, as those regulating the practice of a church or monastic order.

6. A branch of knowledge or teaching.

 

While discipline may include punishment of some sort, punishment is not inherent in the word, and the main focus is really on teaching. And isn’t that what the Bible clearly says is our duty? To teach our little ones? One of the most explicit instructions for parents is found in Deutoronomy 6 (and recorded more than once in almost identical words a few chapters later – must be important):

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise”. (Deut. 6:6,7).

This is what is written in the law about parental responsibility. We are to diligently teach our children God’s Word. If God intended spanking to be an important and beneficial aspect of parenting, would he not have clearly laid that out in the law? Instead, we have this beautiful, rather gentle picture of family life with communication at the center. We are to teach our children how to live godly lives by talking to them. Ever talking. Relationship. It is to be a constant, consistent process. It takes time, constant repetition. They will not mature overnight. Goodness, I look at my own life, and see my constant falling and failing. Me, an adult, who knows clearly what God expects of me and have had years to practice it. And yet I don’t find condemnation from him. It’s always grace. Undeserved grace. If we faithfully teach our children at every given opportunity, if this communication is a river that flows through our days together, they will learn. If we extend grace, instead of condemnation, they will trust and they will thrive.

Let’s look at the rod verses in a little more detail. It’s very difficult to separate ourselves from the cultural attitudes about these verses and to see them fresh. We’ve assumed without much question that we’re talking about spanking here, but, at least for me, when I get to the heart of what each interpretation really says, the oft assumed reading doesn’t make all that much sense unless we are intentionally looking through our punitive lens, the lens most of us were brought up with, the one that says children must be punished and hurt by their parents in order to learn, in order to embrace the LORD – this lens built on tradition and culture. It is something I am still shaking off, something I’m determined to shake off because I believe that the Bible teaches a better way.

Here’s my plain interpretation of each verse from both points of view. I tried hard to be unbiased about how I worded each side.

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.

* The parent who doesn’t spank, hates his children, but if he loves his kids, he will spank them diligently.

* The parent who doesn’t teach his children with authority, hates them, but if he loves his kids, he will teach them diligently.

Which of these makes more logical sense? Which is a greater act of love? Did we learn more about God’s truth from a spanking or from our parents teaching us of him, and modeling the Christian life? I have a couple vivid spanking memories, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you, in either case, what my offense was. All I remember was the fear and panic. My sensitive little soul was focused on my physical and emotional hurt, not on the sin that the spanking intended to correct. Sure, I learned from spanking. I learned to fake it. I learned to say and do what my parents wanted, so life would be pleasant and I would be praised as a “good girl,” not so I would be pleasing to God.

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

*Children act foolishly, but spanking them will lead them to maturity.

*Children act foolishly, but teaching them God’s Truth will lead them to maturity.

We are all born with a heart stamped with Adam’s sin. We cannot escape that inheritance. Christian parents will all agree that it is our job to bring our children to an understanding of the nature of their heart and the nature of God’s grace. Will simply spanking a child enlighten his heart? How will spanking drive off foolishness in a real, heart centered way? I know from my personal childhood experience that spanking can lead a child to put on a façade of goodness in order to please and in order to avoid pain. But, in my case, that had absolutely nothing to do with my heart. Spanking, or the threat of it, did not cause me to truly give my heart to God. Again, isn’t it the teaching – the laying out of God’s expectations for us, his great gift to us, our response of heartfelt thanksgiving to him – that will bring the child to repentance and to godly maturity? Romans 2:4 says that it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance. Kindness. Doesn’t that just make sense? So much more sense?

(I’m not suggesting that Christian parents who spank don’t teach their children, as well. I’m merely discussing what the verse itself says, and if we’re going to choose the first interpretation, it clearly states that spanking alone – not spanking and teaching – has the power to drive folly out).

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. if you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

* Do not withhold spanking from a child; if you hit him with a large, heavy implement, he will not die, if you practice corporal punishment, you will save his soul from hell.

* Do not withhold discipline (teaching, guiding, correcting) from a child; if you parent him with your God given authority, he will not die. If you teach and guide him, you will save his soul from hell.

If we analyze the first interpretation, we’ll see that it just isn’t true, and if it isn’t true, it isn’t biblical. If we are speaking of corporal punishment, this verse tells us that it is our job to spank out child with the rod (walking stick, shepherd’s crook, sceptre), and that if we do this he won’t die. If we are speaking of physical death, this is a lie, because a child certainly can die by being hit with such a tool. Tragically, there have been children who have died from their Christian parents carrying out the advice of “Christian parenting experts” with far less menacing instruments. If we are speaking of spiritual death, please tell me how this practice will rescue him from damnation. What is it about striking a child as payment for his sin that will save him? It’s impossible. It is Christ alone who saves. He paid for that sin; a child cannot atone for it himself through a spanking ritual. If instead we view this verse as an encouragement to parents to do what God commands us in Deuteronomy 6, it works. Faithfully teaching them the ways of the LORD leads them to his saving arms. Is this a rule without exception? No. I know that there are parents who raised their children in a godly home, and yet a child strayed and went to his deathbed without making his parents’ faith his own. But that is the exception to the rule. When we are dealing with Proverbs, I think it is important to take into account that as wisdom literature, this book functions primarily to give us instruction, that if followed should lead to a desired outcome. (My ESV study bible says “The word wisdom (HB. khokmah) can have the nuance of “skill,” particularly the skill of choosing the right course of action for the desired result. In the covenantal framework of Proverbs, it denotes skill in the art of godly living.”) I know many parents who have wayward adult children, but we are only seeing in the moment. We don’t know how God is working in those situations. We don’t see the end. So, while we ultimately don’t know with certainty in each case, we can have faith in this general rule that if we train our children up in the way they should go, when they are old, they will not depart from it. When they are old. It may take lots and lots of time.

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

*Spanking and correcting will make a child wise, but a child who doesn’t receive these things will bring shame.

*Teaching, guidance and correction will make a child wise, but a child who doesn’t receive these things will bring shame.

A literal reading of this verse poses the same problem as the one above because, though reproof is spoken of in addition to the rod, the instruction to parents is still lacking in completeness. But if we view the rod as discipline – as teaching, training, guiding, discipling – then the pair, the rod and reproof, fit so perfectly together. We teach them what their duty is, and when they fall, we correct them and give them tools to help them do better next time.

 

I believe that The Bible calls parents to raise their children with gentle authority. While one can argue for a literal interpretation of the rod verses, it is an inferior reading that lacks the fullness of what God clearly commanded his people in the Law and seems out of step with other, clearer, verses related to parenting. In an upcoming post, perhaps I’ll discuss some of these other verses.

As I sit here considering what I’ve written, I know how short I fall. I am not a perfect parent, sometimes I’m not even a good parent, but I love my children, and with God’s grace, I will persevere and reach for better things. I’ll continue to shed that pervasive punitive mindset and strive to teach, guide and correct my children with gentle authority and kindness.

We all have choices; this is mine. Ours. I have friends who are wonderful parents who choose to spank. It would be wrong for our home. The main point I want to make here is that spanking is not an issue touched on in The Bible, therefore parents need to discern for themselves what is best for their children and themselves. If they decide that spanking is a worthwhile form of discipline for them, it should be with the understanding that this is a personal choice influenced by culture,  not a command given by God.

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Gentle Reminders Of God’s Love and Faithfulness December 1, 2009

Filed under: Parenting — katieosborne @ 11:38 am
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I have long felt that my mission in life is to be a mother. I was never really interested in having a career; in college I followed my interests, but I never new what I wanted to do with that education. I felt destined to be a mother. That’s what my heart really longed for.

When Ben and I began the journey toward parenthood, it wasn’t easy. The first three pregnancies ended in miscarriage, and I wondered if I would ever have the opportunity to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth to our children. I felt a little desperate because that is what I felt God had given me a passion for. I vividly remember thinking that if I could just know what was ahead, if I could have a glimpse, I could feel better about our losses. If I knew I would have to endure ten miscarriages before having a healthy pregnancy, I felt I could face that pain, knowing it would end with a baby in my arms. But the uncertainty, the wondering if it was all in vain – that was hard. And I knew that God is good, and I knew there was a purpose to the pain. I  also knew that he put that passion inside of me. I did not believe that he would leave that unfulfilled, but I didn’t know how he would choose to fulfill it. What if this was not his plan for us? To be honest, I didn’t know if I could be okay with that.

God is so faithful and so generous. It was in those years that I really began to learn what it means to trust him and to wholeheartedly believe that his plan, his timing, is far superior to my own. He has blessed me so greatly. I am so undeserving, yet he takes pleasure in pouring out such beautiful gifts in my life. It is easy in hindsight to see God’s hand, and now I know that I really needed those times in order to understand more about his character and his love for me – for it to become personal. I have struggled all my life believing that God’s grace is for me, that he truly loves me, though I always believed it without question for others. Because of what I have seen him do thus far, I am confident in his trustworthiness and his working in my life and the life of my family. I don’t have to be anxious (though sometimes I am) because he is a good God who, for some inexplicable reason, loves me.

I have had a great reminder of these truths in recent months, as once again I have been filled with doubt over the direction of our family, and once again God, through our family trials and his guiding hand, has gently reminded me not to fear. The summer and fall were a bit rough for Jonas and therefore, for me. As Jonas turned three, we were met with some challenging behavior. I tried to take it in stride, remembering that we had recently moved and he had a new baby sister. Those are huge things for little kids. He needed to learn how to fit into the changes in our family, and I was sure that it was normal for him to act out his anxious feelings. His behavior was unacceptable, but at least it made sense in context. As time went on, I didn’t feel that anything we did made any improvement. I grew frustrated, discouraged, and sometimes angry. Conversations with my mom made me fearful, as she was very adamant that he was acting this way because of something we were not doing, and if I didn’t fix the behavior problems with a firmer (i.e. more punitive) hand, he would be completely out of control down the road.

As I was mothering a new baby and trying to work through this rough period with my toddler, I felt I was completely losing my focus. I started ignoring some of my parental instincts in hopes of getting my toddler “under control,” I was forgetting what I knew about child development and what I knew about my particular child, and, worst of all, I was trying to fix it myself. I felt like our home was turning into a battleground, and I felt bad about how I was dealing with the situation. My own resources were failing me. And I grew anxious. This thing that I so longed for, that I wanted more than anything – motherhood – I felt like I was failing. I felt I wasn’t cut out for it. I began worrying that I was going to ruin my children. What was God thinking giving me these precious kids?

I am often amazed at how slow to learn I am. It took me this long to truly, with every fiber of my being, get on my knees over my children. That desperate seeking, when all else fails. Why is it not the first place I go? I need these constant reminders to drive me there – these realizations that I can’t do this on my own – a denouncement of my independent streak. And without fail I am given the sweet reminder that he is in control and that he is faithful. I do not need to fear. I do not need to be anxious. He has proven himself to me over and over, and yet I am so slow to trust, so slow to go to him, so slow to believe that everything really will be okay. I try to do it on my own. I can’t.

In recent weeks, he has provided me with words of wisdom and encouragement from people in my life, he has rekindled my joy in my family, he has helped me to see things more clearly, and he has been working changes in both my and Jonas’ hearts. Things have been a lot more peaceful at our house lately, though I recognize that could all change tomorrow. We are certainly guaranteed a host of parenting challenges in the coming months and years. But what I know, and what I do not want to forget, is that God is for me and for my family, and he is faithful to his covenant people. He hears my prayers, my fears and uncertainties. He hears, and he lovingly responds. He loves my children far more than I ever could, and I believe that he is working in their hearts. I am merely his (very imperfect) instrument, and the fact that he has entrusted them to me, sinful and incompetent as I am, is humbling and proof to me of his great, great love and his awesome power.

All this is not to say that all of a sudden we have a perfectly angelic three year old. Of course not. But I feel like our family is right again, and I feel renewed in my work to mother my children. What a gift I feel God has given me these last few weeks. By calming the storm in our home, he has clearly shown me, he is in control, and I do not need to fear over my children. These little parenting trials seem so momentous and daunting when you are in the midst of them, and you can’t see what is ahead, and you want nothing more than for your child’s heart to be soft and open to God’s teachings. But just like before, I am learning that I can trust him in all things and that he is working even when we can’t see his hand in the moment. Little by little, I am learning to give up my control – so hard, despite the fact that it’s an illusion to begin with. The last half a year is a reminder to me that I should be praying earnestly over my children in all circumstances, not just when things are rough. It has been a purposeful time that has drawn me closer to him, which is the whole point of this life, anyway. No doubt there will be larger parenting trials in the future, but I’m thankful that he’s getting me there with baby steps.

 

Play (Or Perhaps More Aptly Titled ‘Time’) October 12, 2009

Filed under: Family Life,Parenting — katieosborne @ 11:05 am
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Jonas is now playing on his own…..FOR EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME.

He’s done a pretty good job of learning to play without me over the last year, but hasn’t really been able to sustain his own play for long periods of time until recently. All of a sudden in the last few weeks, he is lost in his own little world for an hour or more at a time. His imaginative abilities have taken off. Watching him has brought to mind Montessori’s belief that play is a child’s work. He is so earnest, almost studious sometimes, as he plays, oblivious to everything else.

He still asks me to play at times, and I make sure that I still do that daily, as I think it is good for me. I find it hard to play creatively with his cars and trains and animals. I guess most of us lose that ability for imaginative play somewhere along the road to adulthood. I have the hardest time just being in the moment with him when we play. My mind wanders to things I need to get done or projects I’m working on. So, I’m trying to do better. I’m trying to take a lesson from him. And I’m trying to make playing with him the most important thing at that moment.

I have to admit, it is nice to feel a little less needed. And it’s a little bit sad to feel less needed. I mean, it’s great; it’s good for both of us. It’s so nice not to hear the pleading for someone to play as I clean the kitchen or nurse Bridget. I don’t miss that! And now I can appreciate playing with him more than I did when it was a frequent request. 

I have found myself with so many mixed feelings as I journey through motherhood, and this is just one more instance. It gives me such pleasure to see them grow and excel, but I also recognize little milestones like this as one more subtle sign that all this early mothering will be done too soon. I feel the passing of time so quickly lately, and it almost frightens me because I take so much of what I have now for granted, and I don’t want to look back and say, “I missed too much in these precious years.” I know there is sweetness and hardship in each stage of life, and I do look forward to seeing what each of them become as they make their way through it. I certainly don’t want them to stay babies forever. I guess I just have a hard time letting go of things, even when I am appreciative of the change and aware that greater things are to come. I don’t think I’m even talking about play anymore.

This is probably just me getting too melancholy as I sense such a shift in the physical seasons. This started out as a little post about how well Jonas plays, and has become a small lament over the speed at which they’ll be grown and gone….despite the fact that the youngest doesn’t even sit yet, and we hope for more!

I just have a thing about time. I let too much of it slip through my fingers without savoring it, and then I wonder where it has gone. I’m always remarking to Ben, “do you realize that such and such a thing happened this long ago? It seems like such a short time ago. When that much time passes again, we’ll be forty.” He looks at me rather blankly when I say stuff like that.

As I sit typing this morning, I hear him climb out of bed, but instead of coming right down the stairs as he usually does, he has stopped to play with some farm animals and a tractor that were left in the loft last night. I wonder how long he’ll be up there.

 

More On Letting Go June 7, 2009

Filed under: Family Life,Parenting — katieosborne @ 7:08 pm
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As I was putting Jonas to bed last night, I realized, snuggling with him in the dark, that perhaps much of what I’m feeling is simply the loss of his own babyhood. Of course, he hasn’t been a baby for some time, but the addition of Bridget to our family makes it only too clear just what a big kid he is becoming. As his hand tiredly stroked my hair and felt my cheek, I was aware of how large it was and speculated, as I breathed in his slightly sweaty head, that there was probably dirt under his fingernails.- not like Bridget’s delicate little fingers that wrap sweetly around my index finger.

Of course I want him to grow and mature. And he is at such a fun age right now, constantly amazing me with everything he is learning and doing. I guess it’s just that it has all gone so fast. He’s not my baby anymore and someday he will be grown.

As I left him to slumber and crawled into my own bed with Bridget curled beside me, I couldn’t help but consider how familiar and yet how foreign this little girl is to me.There is a certain way in which a mother just feels she knows her child from the first moment, and yet I don’t yet know her with the same intimacy that I do that sweaty little boy I had just left. I know that child inside and out. As I lay listening to Bridget’s irregular breathing and watching her arms move in that newborn way, I marveled at how odd it is that she could seem so known to me while also seeming so strange. And I realized too, as I breathed deeply her newborn scent, that the time would come all too soon when she too would cease to be my baby.

 

Letting Go June 6, 2009

Filed under: Family Life,Parenting,Pregnancy and Childbirth — katieosborne @ 11:18 pm
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During my pregnancy, I acknowledged that the addition of a new baby would mean big changes for Jonas. I realized that there would be a period of adjustment where he was likely to act out a bit as he got used to our new normal, and I was ready for that. I was totally unprepared however, for how I would feel about the shift in our relationship that would occur.

Today, I was overcome by emotions over the loss of a special period in my relationship with Jonas. I had sensed it since Bridget’s birth, but it had not been put into words until now. Never again will it be just me and him. This little person with whom I’ve spent every day of the last three years will never again have my full attention. This boy has made my heart so full and taught me so much about myself and life. I feel like I never fully appreciated the special bond we’ve shared until I realized that it is altered forever. That bond is not severed, of course; it’s not damaged. I will still continue to love him more deeply each day, just as I had before Bridget’s birth. It’s just different now, and I am feeling that so acutely today, though I’m having trouble expressing it in words.

My feelings of loss are in no way a reflection of my feelings toward Bridget. I adore her, and I can’t imagine my life without her. It’s not that I feel that she has intruded on my relationship with Jonas. It’s just an inevitable stage in the growth of our family, I suppose.

My feelings of loss have nothing to do with fearing that Jonas is not receiving enough care and attention. Ben is still home for another week, and they’ve spent a lot of time palling around together, and I have tried to maintain some of our one on one routines, especially reading stories and cuddling before bedtime. While he has been acting out occasionally, overall he is doing really well with this major life change. I have no concerns over his relationship with Bridget. He’s been amazing with her. She receives countless Jonas kisses. He strokes her head and talks about what she’s doing. He always shows concern when she cries, and he’s eager to help at every diaper change. Perhaps, though, I do worry a bit about how he perceives our relationship now. Does he think I love him less? Does he worry that I won’t be there to love and take care of him like I did before? I find that I often don’t give him enough credit, and I hope that he does feel as secure now as he did two weeks ago.

There is certainly enough love in this house to go around, and I know that we will find our new way of being a family. I am so grateful for the way God has blessed us with these children, and I look forward to watching how we grow together. Though things will never be the same, they will be new and different in the best possible way. I know these two will fill my heart in an amazing way, in a way that surpasses the joy that I’ve already known. I know these things. Sometimes it’s just hard to let go.

 

Motrin Ad Attacks Babywearing November 18, 2008

Filed under: Parenting — katieosborne @ 9:16 pm
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Wow, Motrin. Can you get any more ignorant?

As a babywearer, I’m not going to go so far as to say I’m offended. That would be taking things a little too seriously. But, from my point of view, it sure seems like they are making fun of moms who choose to care for their babies this way, and the blatant falsehoods are rather irritating.

First of all, I do not babywear because it is trendy or fashionable. Heck, when I discovered it before Jonas was born, I had never even heard of this practice, but it immediately made sense to me. I chose to parent in this way because of the obvious benefits for both him and me.

Worn babies do cry less and it does promote bonding and attachment. It’s also been proven to be good for babies’ mental, emotional  and even physical development. It allows parents to get chores done while caring for their little one, and when out in public, it keeps baby safe and comfortable.

As for the supposed pain, I’ve never experienced it, and I can still carry a 28 lb. toddler on my back for two hour long hikes, and probably longer, without a hint of discomfort – or at least I could before all the early pregnancy ickiness. I’ve never tried a Snuggly or a Bjorn, but sure, if that is the only experience one has had, I can imagine that would cause neck, back and shoulder pain because the kid is hanging from your shoulders and the carrier provides the wearer with absolutely no back support. Slings, wraps and mei tais are designed in such a way that the baby is held to your body and his weight is well distributed across your shoulders, back and, in the case of a wrap or mei tai, your waist. I can honestly say, I have never had discomfort when wearing Jonas. Carrying him, on the other hand, is another story. That wears out my arms and back pretty quickly, and it did even when he was young. And those car seat buckets so many moms lug their baby around in? In my experience, that gives me back and shoulder pain!

Babywearing during Jonas’ high needs first year, didn’t make me crazy and didn’t make me want to cry as the ad says. It kept me sane. I’m really not sure who this ad was targeted for. Certainly not moms. If anything, they’ve probably just turned a whole lot of babywearing advocates off from their product.

 

Parenting: The Foundation July 13, 2008

Filed under: Parenting — katieosborne @ 5:51 pm
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I blogged a few weeks ago about parenting discussions with my mom and decided to do a series of posts regarding my parenting philosophy. So, here we go.

To begin, I believe that we are all fallen and sinful creatures who are redeemed only by the blood of Christ. Babies are no exception; they are born with the same sin nature as you and I. I think there is a distinction that needs to be made though between the sin nature and active sin. I do not believe that a young infant has the capacity to actively sin, though he is a sinner due to The Fall. A little one crying inconsolably is not sinning, he is communicating the only way he knows how. A young baby wiggling on the changing table is not sinning, he is just practicing skills needed in his physical development – he is designed with the need to move and practice his coordination. He does not realize that he might be making your job a little harder. Of course, there comes the time when that little one develops an understanding of right and wrong and you begin to see disobedience, and that’s a whole other ball game, and then you do have to shift gears and begin dealing with their sin. That is my very basic view on sin as it relates to babies.

A parent’s job in the early months of a child’s life is to meet his needs. Most basic, of course is his need for food, sleep, and a clean diaper. Equally important for his emotional and psychological development is his need for security. I believe security is best fostered by a strong attachment that is developed by parents meeting his needs quickly and consistently. When an infant cries, it is a signal to the parents that he needs something. I believe a cry always means something, even if he’s just been changed, nursed and is not tired. Perhaps he is lonely, not feeling well, frustrated or scared. I have found that in the early months, responding, even when I don’t understand what the problem is, is always the right thing to do.

A parent’s consistent response develops an infant’s trust. He knows when he cries he will be comforted, even if it’s two in the morning and he’s up for the third time that night. He doesn’t have to wonder apprehensively if his parents will come to him this time, and so he feels safe and learns to trust others. He is not confused by what he sees as arbitrary response to him. If an infant develops trust for his parents early on, as he gets older, he has reason to believe his mom and dad when they tell them something that is important. This of course does not mean children will be easy and angelic. Toddlerhood is all about learning boundaries and autonomy, so of course there are a lot of little battles of the will, but I have found thus far that Jonas believes me when I tell him something is important and, for the most part, follows my instruction in those cases.

For our family, the things that have helped foster Jonas’ attachment to us include immediate response to crying during infancy, cue feeding, co-sleeping and babywearing. Think about it. The world must be a pretty scary place for a newborn. They move from the warm safety of the womb where they are continually nurtured, to a bright, noisy place full of foreign experiences that must make them apprehensive and a little scared. Isn’t it only natural that they should seek protection and comfort in the arms of their caregiver?

I believe that young babies should be in their mother’s arms as much as possible, and I’ve found that the easiest way to do this is through babywearing. I think I will address this practice in a separate post, as there is much to say, but to be brief, I have found it to be an amazing way to comfort an infant and provide a secure, womb-like environment, while maintaining the ability to go about your day. I do not believe that an infant can be spoiled by being held too much, as our grandmothers’ generation is fond of warning us. It seems completely healthy to me that they should want to be close to their mother, and that the mother should take joy in the intimacy of holding her little ones, knowing that she has the capacity to provide such warmth and safety, while strengthening her relationship with her child.

Another aspect of parenting that I have found to be important for us is cue-feeding. I have always nursed Jonas when he has signaled a need, rather than waiting for a scheduled time as is suggested by some baby training books today. This may sound odd, but I have always seen a correlation between the purposes of nursing and sex. Both are designed to fulfill a basic biological function: giving nutrition and filling an empty belly, and procreating. God could have left it at that, but God delights in giving us far more than we need. Both acts also have the ability to provide comfort and foster intimacy. To say that comfort and intimacy are of less importance simply because one can survive without them, would be wrong, as those are the things that nurture and satisfy our spirits and develop deeper relationships. So, I never questioned Jonas’ desire to nurse. If it was sometimes an emotional, and not a physical need he was filling, I believe that is only healthy. Another reason I don’t think a schedule should be imposed is because I think it is presumptuous for a parent to think they know whether a baby is hungry better than the baby himself.  The thought that a baby shouldn’t be hungry yet because it “isn’t time,” just seems strange to me. As adults do we always get hungry at precisely the same time daily? Does our appetite never wax and wane? Add to that the fact that infants go through growth spurts at specific times in their development, and I just don’t think it’s the best idea to try to schedule their meals. It would be laughable to imagine our spouse regulating when we’re allowed to eat. And again, going back to the development of trust, an infant has no concept of time; he merely responds to the physical and emotional sensations within him. Responding consistently to a baby’s nursing cues is another way that we strengthen trust and relationship. I have also found that it makes me more confident in my ability to understand my child because I learn to look for more subtle clues than the crying that ensues once hunger has overtaken him, and I am just more sensitive to his needs in general.

Co-sleeping is another practice that has worked well for us. It is definitely a decision that needs the approval of all involved or it’s bound to cause problems. Some infants sleep better on their own and some with their parents. I think our approach when it comes to nighttime parenting will be rather child specific. It has worked well with Jonas. As a high needs baby with reflux and food sensitivities, I cannot imagine what the first year would have been like, had he not bee in our bed. The constant waking and frequent nursing was made a little easier by not having to trudge down the hall ten times a night. The fact that I could nurse him back to sleep while sleeping myself helped me grab a little more shuteye than I otherwise would have. And again, I believe it is a practice that provides the security and comfort that babies crave. Many parents place a sharp divide between daytime and nighttime parenting, believing that it is best for an infant to learn to be on his own and comfort himself at night. For me, I think that a child’s needs at night should be responded to, just as they are in the day. It’s not always convenient, but it’s consistent, and it’s just one more way that we’ve built a close bond with Jonas.

I think one of the biggest objections to this style of parenting hinges on the topic of independence. Parents fear that providing this much attention will create children who are needy, withdrawn and afraid of the world. I can only say that in our experience, and the experience of others I know who have done similarly, this has not proven to be the case. I’ll admit that there have been times when I have wondered if we are doing the best for Jonas, but I am always affirmed as we watch him grow and develop. Not that we have not made mistakes of course. Parenting is a huge and ongoing learning process. But I believe that the solid attachment formed between us, supplies the foundation Jonas needs to become a confident and independent child. In the last half year, he has grown tremendously in these areas. He didn’t used to want us out of his sight and would always stay close by. Now, he generally enjoys playing in the church nursery, knowing that we will come for him in a while. Once he warms up in social situations, he plays well and talks to others, knowing we are close by if he needs us. It’s been a joy to watch his relationship with his grandparents blossom this year. He loves them all, and he is as content with them as he is with us, knowing that he can trust them as caregivers, just as he does us. I do not believe that it is healthy to force independence in infants and young children. Rather, parents should be sensitive to the child and follow his lead. It is not attachment that promotes neediness and insecurity. Rather, it is needs going unmet in the formative years. Of course you occasionally hear such objections as “my thirteen year old niece still sleeps with her mom, and has no intention of leaving the bed.” I actually read this just last week as a comment to a piece on co-sleeping. This is an extreme example, and I would argue that there is something else going on in this family that makes the child reluctant to sleep on her own at this age. It sounds like she does not have a father living at home, in which case, her mother probably works full time. Perhaps this is her way of obtaining the time and closeness with her mother that she has not been able to receive due to these circumstances. Who knows, but I do believe that it is a manifestation of an insecurity of some sort, and it is the root and not the symptom (co-sleeping) that needs to be addressed first.

I don’t believe there is a one size fits all prescription for parenting. I don’t believe my way is the only right way. It just works for us. One of the reasons I am leery of books that promote a program for child-rearing, a to do list of sorts, is that children are all so different. What works for one family, or one child, may not work the same for another. To try to force a child into a mold based on the parents’ agenda, or the opinions of self proclaimed experts, is not necessarily healthy. I believe in developing a deep knowledge of a child’s strengths, weaknesses, needs and desires. Knowing your child so well gives you the ability to sensitively guide his development in a way that sets him on the path for success.