Tag Archives: parenting

Kids on Drugs….I Mean, Screens

Photo Credit: Flickr

I have a confession to make.

There’s a precious little girl in my life who calls me “Ga” (because she can’t yet say “Gram”). Not even 20 months old, she has learned well how to use her tiny index finger to point for us to take her wherever in the house or yard she wants to go. She demonstrates her mastery of body parts by pointing that finger to her eye, nose, mouth, etc. when we call out the word. Just recently, she holds up that singular wee finger when identifying the number “win”.

My heart melts.

Unfortunately, I am a culprit contributing to the delinquency of a minor…no, no. Not that…but I have contributed to her developing that index finger further in playing with my smart phone. She knows how to scroll through pictures and she knows how to tap the “play” icon to start up videos.

Is that so horrible? What’s the harm?

[Here’s the disclaimer. There is no judgment here whatsoever for the sleep-deprived moms out there who hand their preschooler their smart phone or tablet while nursing or dressing the baby…or trying to get dinner prepared…or (fill in the blank). I remember the years of small ones myself, so many years ago. In fact, the TV as babysitter was my go-to device to get stuff done or maintain my own supposed sanity. Not just for the little ones but for myself, just to watch something for my own relaxation. Of course, they were watching with me…so I had to consider the possible impact of that then, as I’m writing about screens now.]Photo Credit: Pexels

My confession comes from a place of discovery. The problem is not that this toddler likes looking at pictures of her family on my phone. That has to be a morally neutral (even positive) thing. Also not a problem is her fondness for her Uncle Nae’s music videos. She has her favorites and daily asks to see those (Dayman and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas)…among others…several others.

The problem is when she doesn’t get her way. When Mommy intervenes or when Gram comes to her senses about the amount of screen time she’s facilitating. Then this funny, sweet, curious little girl flings her head back, attempts a body-slam, and emits a piercing angry cry against those who would keep her from her screen(s).

Morally neutral or even positive goes out the window at that point. Given her reaction, when does something soothing and enriching like family photos and videos cross a line…out there in a few kiddie years…to a screen or internet addiction?

I don’t think I’m over-reaching here. There is balance absolutely, but if we don’t even consider the risk, we won’t take steps to keep screen use healthy for our children/grandchildren. I’m dealing with this in my own head right now…and in my habits.

Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

But it’s even worse than we think.

We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex. – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

I was reminded of when our boys were middle schoolers. A friend of theirs came over to spend the night. They played video games for hours. When we finally told the boys to take a break, the friend actually became more and more anxious, even to the point of not being able to get his breath. We had to take him home.

Now all toddlers are not going to end up heroin…I mean, tech junkies. Again, there is a balance in how we determine what’s a healthy use of electronic devices and where limits need to be set.

It’s just something to think about. My confession here relates to the personal struggle I have with internet dependence. I was a late adopter of smart phones (my first being in 2013). At the time, my job was a communications strategist for a new work team. Managing a blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, and other office communications kept me online most of the time. Online and distracted by it. Still a struggle for me to have balance in this area.

I don’t want to have that sort of influence on this darling granddaughter, our tinier grandson, or others who will come after.

Before smartphones and Wi-Fi, I was a people-watcher and a people-engager. I read books more. Had people over all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong…those things still happen…but screens are a huge distraction for me. I would love to be one of the nurturers for our grandchildren of a different sort of life… Screen time is going to happen every day, sure…but not to the point where they don’t prefer talking face-to-face with people nor be a part of great adventures or discover the world (in real life).Photo Credit: Flickr

How are you handling your own electronic version of life? Please share in the Comments section. You will find helpful links below – articles and books. All the articles are practical and empowering. [I have not yet read the books; they are recommended by the authors of some of the articles below.]

As for our little one’s love of her uncle’s videos? She will still be watching them, just not over and over and over. Fortunately she can also enjoy the music (without benefit of the screens) because we are Patreon patrons of her uncle with his MP3s as perks). Those music files were a great help recently to this tiny girl enduring a long roadtrip. Listening to her favorites, she finally fell asleep.

Peace.

5 Friday Faves – Skyrim Guitar Cover, Workplace Wisdom, Repair Cafes, Belonging, and Movie Previews

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Just jumping in today with my favorite finds of the week:

1) Skyrim Guitar CoverNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted a new arrangement on Youtube this week – Skyrim – Dragonborn Main Theme. You video gamers probably know this song.  I’ve no experience with this personally, but this song seems to generate sweet emotions for gaming folks. This young man amazes me with his skills, yes, but especially his heart. It comes out in his music. On another note: He has over 1 million views of his Harry Potter medley on the Facebook group Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Exciting.blog-nathan-mills-guitar-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

2) Workplace Wisdom – Finally…on millennials. I know, I know…there is so much written and spoken about millennials. I usually just pass over it…but Simon Sinek’s observations on millennials in the workplace are fascinating and telling. I appreciated that what he sees applies to both millennials and the rest of us. blog-simon-sinek-leadership-and-millennials-why-millennials-matterPhoto Credit: Why Millennials Matter

It is wisdom. Sinek came on my radar this week through a talk he did on IQ with Tom BIlyeu. In his talk, he focused on four components that millennials bring with them into the workplace that affect their professional maturing. These are 1) parenting, 2) technology, 3) impatience, and 4) environment. His take on “failed parenting strategies” may apply to some cultures, but many parents of millennials saw early on the fallacy of communicating how “special” our children are…no matter what they bring to the table. Sinek does communicate a victim mentality here and that’s the weakest of his 4 components. The other three were applicable to the workplace, in general, and to millennials, in particular.

Technology can be a crutch and squelch our creativity more than fuel it. Technology has a negative impact on the depth and breadth of our relationships…we have to pay attention to this. Impatience – for purpose, impact, advancement – is a big issue in the workplace. We need colleagues willing to hang in there through the doldrums. Environment at work is changing at a rapid pace…as much as it appears, on the surface, that it is bending toward the millennial, what is needed is a workplace where millennials can actually grow their skillsets. Sinek speaks to this.

4 Damaging Mentalities Millennials Must Break – Jeremy Chandler (a millennial)

3) Repair Cafes – Wouldn’t you love to have a place within an easy drive where you could take your aging laptop, or blinking lamp, or burned out leafblower for a repair? Is it possible to ever reasonably repair instead of replace? There is a phenomenon around the world where this is happening…not just in rural “third world” settings but in cities. Repair cafes are on the rise. If you want to find one, or start one, go here. This isn’t just about being frugal; this is a craft – this learning how to repair your own broken stuff with the help of a skilled professional – someone’s mom or dad who has learned how to fix things. The closest repair café to us is in Charlottesville, Virginia – do you have one near you?blog-repair-cafe-nytimesPhoto Credit: New York Times

4) Belonging Scott Sauls‘s book Befriend: Create Belonging in in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear is next on my reading list. Belonging is a core need for all of us, and Sauls takes the reader deeply into the realm of true friendship and solid relationships. Whether between peers, family members, colleagues, or even strangers at first encounter. I long to get past superficial and to know and be genuinely known by at least a few people. My desire is to be open to the possibilities of befriending and being “friended” with true authenticity. This book seems a good place to reboot.blog-befriend-scott-sauls-amazon

Photo Credit: Amazon

I discovered this book from a tweet about Matt Smethurst’s article 20 Quotes from Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship. I ordered the book based on those 20 quotes. Here are three:

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.” (75–76)

“This is what you call reversing the flow of the umbilical cord: parents demanding that their children function as their source of life; their emotional nourishment; their identity; their Jesus. This always ends in sorrow and alienation and loss. Just as in marriage, we must not place a burden on our children to provide for us the things that only God can supply.” (87–88)

“The best way to measure your desire to serve is to look at how you respond when someone treats you like a servant.” (98)

5) Movie Previews – Call them teasers and then trailers. Whenever we go to the theater, we have to be in place with a family-sized popcorn before the previews start. That is just how it is. I love these glimpses into coming feature films. Two I’ve seen recently follow: On the darker side – Jackie. On the lighter side – Table 19 . Whether I ever see these movies in the theater, watching the trailers was satisfying and wholly entertaining!

blog-friday-faves-table-19-cdn-colliderPhoto Credit: Collider – Table 19

Have a safe and peaceful weekend. Tacky Lights Tour is on our schedule…let the festivities begin.

Also:

Life On My Knees – Chocolate Raspberry Cream Pie – Angela

blog-aletheia-praise-band-nathan-angelas-blogPhoto Credit: Chocolate Raspberry Cream Pie

YouTube Video – Big Crosby & David Bowie – “The Little Drummer Boy” (Peace On Earth)

Macy’s Christmas Adv 2016 Video – #OldFriends – [Sorry about the Poo-pourri ad at the beginning of the video.]

 

Saturday Short – Parenting and Growing Up on TV

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I missed the bus once because, as a first-grader, I got completely immersed in a TV show. It wasn’t pretty. Both my parents worked, and my younger brothers were already squared away at a sitter’s house. Freewheeling it, a mostly responsible 6 y/o, I spent the day alone because of the power of screens in my life from an early age.

[Sidebar: No shaming of parents follows. You have a hard and important job…especially those who are the primary caregivers, Mom’s usually.]

Spring forward a few decades to my own raising children. I still loved TV. It was then and is now an entertaining diversion from the day’s work, providing a break from thinking, studying, decision-making.

However, my own filter for “not appropriate for children” in terms of content and how much was not very reliable. Finally, one day when our oldest child was maybe 18 months old, my husband made the unpopular decision of recommending we cancel our cable subscription. He came in, when I was taking a break, and watching something (detective show or romantic comedy, can’t remember), and our little one was watching right along with me.

Sigh…I was really o.k. with the intervention.

[Be kind in your judgment of my husband. I could have appealed that decision, but it was the right one, for us at the time. Truly I wanted our children to be able to engage in conversation with adults, and to have varied interests and skills, and to serve others. When my go-to down-time diversion was TV, it was easy for me to disengage from other more substantive uses of our time.]

Josh Squires, pastoral counselor and father of 5, posted a blog today on binge watching and on-demand entertainment. I’d love to hear what his wife says as well, but the piece is fair, reasoned, and compassionate. He talks about what affects our decisions for our children’s screentime – content, time, and (heart) attachment. For you caregivers (Mom’s), there are still times to just curl up with the kids and watch something on TV…or to let them relax with a favorite film while you get something done. Totally.Blog - Screen Time - desiring GodPhoto Credit: Desiring God

I’d rather you read his words than my own, so I’ll close with this. Being a grandmother now, I’m sure there will be opportunities for me to babysit, and already I can see using some sort of screen time as a good diversion when the littles are older… However, having said that, I hope their parents will be able to trust me to model drawing them into thoughtful service of others, talent- and skill-building, and the practice of conversation. That’s my hope for myself for sure.

These days my best naps are when the TV is glowing in the background. Still could miss a bus today…

Parenting in the Age of Binge-Watching – Josh Squires – Desiring God

Monday Morning Moment – Screentime – Give It a Rest – DebMillsWriter

5 Friday Faves – FOMO, Parenthood in 120 Seconds, a Summer at Oxford University, Saving Mr. Banks, and Favorite Guitar Videos

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Good Friday morning! Hope this week has been kind to you. The world continues to open itself to us to learn and grow and, hopefully, choose wisely. Here are five of my favorite finds from this week:

1) FOMO – So this is a new term for me. I heard, just this past weekend, a young friend lament about being plagued by “FOMO” – this “fear of missing out”. It apparently is exacerbated by all the social media which tantalizes us about friends getting together and going to all sorts of exotic places. C. S. Lewis, in his essay, The Inner Ring, actually exposes the danger of FOMO. BLog - FOMO - Fear of Missing Out - the silver penPhoto Credit: The Silver Pen

Wanting to be “in”  or “included” is morally neutral, in itself. It is in the choices we make and the compromises we make within those choices that become dangerous for us.  In Thoughts on C. S. Lewis, he is quoted, “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.”  If we stop being so frantic about fitting in or giving into to our particular FOMO, then we will find ourselves in a natural community – fitted for us.

John Ortberg writes about FOMO in his book All the Places to Go…How Will You Know?  He raises the issue that God himself may have instilled in us this idea of wanting what we might be missing – but finally finding it in Him. Even Satan’s temptation of Eve was FOMO-oriented (Genesis 3:4-6) in that maybe she could be like God (if she ate the forbidden fruit). Ortberg observes: “The real, deep reason that FOMO exists is that we were made for more and we are missing out.  Only the “more” isn’t more money or more success or more impressive experiences I can write about on Facebook.  My hunger for more turns out to be insatiable if I try to satisfy it by wanting more for me”. God can satisfy, in Himself, the FOMO we may be experiencing.

Lewis on Disordered Desire to Enter the Inner Ring – Art Lindsley – The Gospel Coalition

2) Parenthood In 120 SecondsBuzzfeed India has published this funny and true video. Produced by Sumedh Natu and Umang Athwani, this 2-minute film is such a delight – so “been there, don’t that”. Loved it. Watch it here.Blog - Parenthood - cupofjoPhoto Credit: Cup of Jo

3) A Summer at Oxford University Beth Wayland, a counselor and writer friend of mine, had the great fortune to spend part of her summer at Oxford University. I’m sure she will write about it on her return to the US, but she gave us bits of her journey through her Facebook account. As part of her experience, she walked around in the steps of C. S. Lewis – his office, his favorite pub, the libraries, dining halls, grounds of Oxford.

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One special reminder was of C. S. Lewis’ dedication of his book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He dedicated it to his god-daughter, Lucy Barfield, with these words:

My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be,

your affectionate Godfather,

C. S. Lewis.

This, to me, is Oxford University. Thanks, Beth. Thank you, Dr. Lewis.

4) Saving Mr. Banks  – I just saw this 2013 Disney film about the complicated making of the 1964 film Mary Poppins . Walt Disney would try for over 20 years to win the rights to the book Mary Poppins. Author P. L. Travers finally agreed but with strong stipulations. Saving Mr. Banks is based on this true story but with embellishments. I loved this film. There were so many takeaways about collaboration, the influence of fathers, the mind of creatives, perspective, and forgiveness (Brian Dodd writes more about these here). Definitely worth seeing if you haven’t.  Blog - Saving Mr. BanksPhoto Credit: Disney Dose

5) Favorite Guitar Videos – by My Favorite Guitarist – Finally, Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar has posted his latest YouTube video: Skyrim: Ancient Stones – Beyond The Guitar.

The arrangement is lovely and the cinematography, directed by Ian Edwards and Danny Caporaletti, is beautiful. Here it is:

Nathan also posted a vlog on Stop Waiting For Things To Be Perfect. It’s instructive not just for guitarists but for any of us who struggle with holding back, not wanting to proceed unless we get (fill in the blank) just right. Watch to the end for a peek at the humorous side of this guitarist. You can also interact with Nathan via his live streams on krueTV.

That’s it for this week. What are some of your favorite finds of the week? Please let us know in the Comments below. Have a safe, restful weekend.

5 Friday Faves – Phone Calls, Egyptians, Parenting, Contemporary Christian Music, and David B. Hart on Politics

Blog - Friday FavesHappy Friday! I woke up this morning to the sound of a summer thunderstorm – a real downpour. Now it’s done and hopefully won’t have discouraged the neighbors I’ll be walking with in just a bit. Hope this finds you off to a peaceful and gratifying end to your work week, or just the beginning of another adventure of the day. My 5 Friday Faves coming at you:

1) Phone Calls – In this season of texting as primary communication, I love a phone call. Even though I start with a text as well most of the time, not wanting to disturb the recipient…still a phone call is so direct and satisfying. I’m not the communicator that I once was. My friends and family, who are callers, are very merciful and their calls mean the world. So grateful to you who call. With our kids, they know if I don’t hear back from a series of texts, I will call. It is incentive of a sort to answer those texts. My preference is to hear their voices and to see their faces (Facetime is the best feature of the iPhone). For you who dread phone calls, consider that some of us really love receiving them. Just consider…Blog - Friday Faves - Phone calls

2) Egyptians – We’ve had great neighbors through the years, and especially in our current neighborhood. In our years of living outside of the US, in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, we have known the best of the best of those cultures. Just yesterday, I ran into an Egyptian student I’ve come to know here because she works in a favorite store. Her welcome is always so warm and gracious, asking about my surgery (remembering that?!). So today, I want to give a shout-out to our Egyptian friends. Known for their hospitality and humor, Egyptians remind me of those most beloved in my life from the South. When we lived in Cairo, our Egyptian friends went out of their way to make us feel welcome in their lives. So generous, and funny, and unpretentious. Dave and I talk about going back some day to live there again. It is probably not going to happen, but it makes me smile just to think of it. So here’s to the people of Egypt – “Om el Donia” – “Mother of the World”.036_36 (2)Blog - Sherine, Debbie, HebaBlog - Egyptians - Debbie & FonFon (2)Blog - Egyptians - Dina and Debbie - June 2016

3) Parenting – Matt Diaz is a former professional baseball player and currently a sports commentator. He is also a dad and coaches TBall (tiny baseball players). He wrote a great blog on parenting little guys and how our parenting changes as our kids get older. Speaking with humility from his own parenting and being parented, he spotlighted two issues worth examining.

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“We are pushing our young kids too hard.  We are expecting adult like performance from them.  We are frustrating them by asking them to handle things they were not designed to handle.
We are coddling our young adults too much.  Society is accepting way too much childlike behavior from them.  We are allowing them to behave in a manner that they were never designed to behave.”
I loved his illustration of how eagles feather their nests to protect the eggs and tiny eaglets and then remove the feathers to make the nest uncomfortable for the fledgling flyer.

4) Music Critics (Critique)
– Contemporary Christian music is genre that has been inspirational and comforting to me over my adult life. It has come a long, long way from the early years of odd, repeated lines and rounds of songs of the 60’s and 70’s. Still, with some glorious exceptions, the Christian music today is still not like the hymns of yesterday. There is contemporary worship music and Christian pop – very different from each other. In researching for my Worship Wednesday blog, I came across the Faithful Stewardship Blog.

The writer identifies himself as Jorge, from my home state of Georgia. He further describes himself as writing for the sake of his wife and children. On Tuesdays, he posts his critiques of contemporary Christmas music. He pulls from Top 20 lists of this genre and gives approval/disapproval ratings for songs based on how they line up with Scriptural truth. I don’t think he means any ill will at all in his disapprovals; he is focusing on Biblical truth in the lyrics of these songs. Some of my favorites are on his disapproving list, but many are also on his approval list, including For King & Country’s Shoulders.

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Photo Credit: Twitter

I was surprised at some of his takes on songs but actually couldn’t disagree with his analysis.

An article along the same lines is T. David Gordon’s The Imminent Decline of Contemporary Worship Music: Eight Reasons. Blog - Friday Faves - Contemporary Worship Music - secondnaturejournalPhoto Credit: Second Nature Journal

He writes about how the church is embracing contemporary worship music to the exclusion of traditional hymns. His eight reasons that he sees this as a temporary situation are provocative and thought-provoking. This is not just a treatise on preferences. Gordon weighs in heavily on the grandeur of the lyrics and hymn tunes of worship music that has stood the test of time. He is not sure at all that much of what we cherish today will stand that same test. Some will, I believe, but how could we ever let go of such great hymns as Henry Francis Lyte’s Abide With Me, written in 1847? Or Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress Is Our God written in 1529? Powerful.

Postscript: Whether all the songs I love in both Christian worship and Christian pop endure for centuries, it matters that they bring joy today. So, just wanted to throw that in, on the tails of this good read.

5) David B. Hart on Politics – a young Eastern Orthodox friend of mine posted a quote from Hart on his Facebook page recently. Hart is also Eastern Orthodox, and a philosopher, writer, theologian, cultural commentator. He is new to me and much too deep for me to understand on some points. His take on American politics in this election year is worth noting. So eloquent. I love when people use words like this…with such clarity, transparency, and skill. Granted (for those who will disagree with his take on this subject) it is just his opinion…but well-spoken.Blog - Friday faves - David Bentley Hart on PoliticsPhoto Credit: Patheos

“Our choices are excruciatingly circumscribed, since the whole process is dominated by two large and self-interested political conglomerates that are far better at gaining power than at exercising it wisely…Yes, I know: there are good and sincere souls who run for office, and some occasionally get in, and a few of those are then able to accomplish something with the position they assume, and some of those even remain faithful to the convictions that got them there. But, lest we forget, those are also the politicians who often create the greatest mischief…If one were to devise a political system from scratch, knowing something of history and a great deal about human nature, the sort of person that one would chiefly want, if possible, to exclude from power would be the sort of person who most desires it, and who is most willing to make a great effort to acquire it. 

Yet our system obliges us to elevate to office precisely those persons who have the ego-besotted effrontery to ask us to do so; it is rather like being compelled to cede the steering wheel to the drunkard in the back seat loudly proclaiming that he knows how to get us there in half the time. More to the point, since our perpetual electoral cycle is now largely a matter of product recognition, advertising, and marketing strategies, we must be content often to vote for persons willing to lie to us with some regularity or, if not that, at least to speak to us evasively and insincerely. In a better, purer world—the world that cannot be—ambition would be an absolute disqualification for political authority.”David B. Hart, First Things

That’s it for me, this week. Hope you have a lovely weekend ahead – longer than usual with our Independence Day celebration on Monday. Please share any of your week’s favorites in Comments below. Thanks for reading my meanderings.

Open Letter to Our Young Adult Sons and to Their Moms

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When we were first becoming serious, my husband Dave answered his aunt’s question about a girlfriend and that’s how his mom found out we were dating. He would have told her, but she didn’t ask…not because she wasn’t interested…but maybe because that is the pattern we develop as moms of adult sons…

This past weekend I had the great joy of being with a large gathering of extended family. My place in that gathering was the aunt who has lived far away all their lives (at least, the young adults, for sure). I am only in town a few days, and maybe, we get one visit. It’s Q & A with Aunt Debbie – catching up, fairly non-threatening (I’m hoping), and it’s only for a few minutes with each one…so minimal and limited discomfort.

As I checked in with each of these young adult nephews, their moms were in the background in conversations of their own. When the question I asked (usually related to work/future) drew a response of new information to their moms, a maternal radar flipped on, and in the middle of their own conversations, these precious moms zeroed in on their sons. “What? When did you decide that?” When this happened with more than one nephew, it led to a sort of fascinating “aha!” moment – “No, it’s not just your mom who does that. All us moms do that sort of thing. We are just interested in our sons’ lives.”

Days later, this dance between moms and our adult sons has stayed on my mind. I’m still figuring out the steps myself, but thanks to other moms wiser and more experienced, I have grown in this area. So…if I had your sweet face in front of me right now, cherished sons and devoted moms, this is what I would say to you:

Young men…you are a marvel. Especially to your moms.* We believe we know you better than you know yourself. Forgive us for that… it comes from loving you across every day of your life…including the days you weren’t even easy to like. The closeness we have felt to you over the years isn’t an easy thing to let go. Somehow we missed the cues as you grew up that you were actually learning what we taught you – to manage your life, to make strong relationships, to become independent, to go after your dreams. We spoke into those things as you grew…and now you’re grown. Forgive us when we nudge our way into your life…we don’t really want to control as much as we want to be a part. You’re doing fine…and even when you’re not, we know from our own experience, that helping you too much isn’t helping. You know that yourself, in your heart. It may be why you hold us at arm’s length…when we press in.

Just be gentle with us…your moms. We don’t really mean to be intrusive. We’re just trying to figure out the balance ourselves. What’s too much? What’s not enough? It keeps us up at night sometimes. Can you believe that? Yes…you probably can. Anyway, we will try not to ask so many questions, and we’ll try not to give unasked advice…but you know we’re going to fail at that. So call occasionally before we have to hunt you down… Be your familiar self at home with us sometimes (we miss that old normal). Share your successes with us, so our hopes can crowd out our fears. Your mama loves you…she just misses you sometimes…even if you’re still living at home. This next stage of your life…this newly grown-up stage is both exhilarating and strange for her…She will figure out her place in it…as you give her grace to do so. Stepping on toes is part of the learning, so thanks for your gentleness and your strong arm of support.Blog - Mothers & Adult Sons - goodnewsnetworkPhoto Credit: Good News Network

Moms of adult sons…I’m one of you. Doesn’t it feel like it’s always our fault…about something or other? Well, for a few minutes, let’s leave off blaming…ourselves, our sons, or anyone else in the equation. Right now, I wish we were having coffee around the same table and talking together about what we’ve discovered of this new life – this new relationship between our grown-up sons and us.Blog - Mothers and Adult Sons - sagaPhoto Credit: Saga

Here’s what I’m learning and what has been helpful counsel from others:

  • Give space and keep space. I don’t understand it, but it does seem like our sons need a bit of breathing room. There is so much change in their own lives, they need to process it themselves. If they choose not to do that with us, we must give them the space to do it with someone else (best friend, Dad, girlfriend/wife). Don’t pull away when that happens (which might be our temptation). Keep space in our lives for these sons of ours. Whether through a card, a text/quick phone call, an occasional invitation for dinner. If you’re like me, you long for those regular family dinners like we see on the TV show Blue Bloods…but a quick burger out can also be a joyful experience…if we let it be.Blog - Mothers of Adult Sons - huffingtonpost - BLue BloodsPhoto Credit: Huffington Post
  • Helping and enabling may look similar but are not. I will be brief here because there is tons online about this. Related to our adult sons, we can help them (as they can, us) without it being a toxic or enabling situation. Do we treat our sons more like neighbors and friends or more like those little boys they once were? We have to examine our own hearts on this one. When it comes to our adult sons, do we love them in ways that free them to love others? Do we invest in them such that they actually are able to get farther down the road in life or the investment tightens their dependence on us? Puzzle this out as I do the same.
  • Communicate in our adult sons’ heart language. This came as a shock to me as our sons grew up, because I thought we communicated fairly well through the years. Unfortunately, I discovered that while they were in our home, it was Mom who too often set the tone and topic of our conversations. Now I am learning (still a beginner here) to follow our sons’ leads on conversations… I may still choose a topic but I don’t push it to its limit with them, as once was the case. Hopefully, this makes sense, and hopefully they have seen me grow in this area. How about you, Moms? Would love to hear (in comments) what your experience is in this language/conversation arena.
  • Keep our sense of humor. As these sons of ours are growing up, we are growing older. They are not us…their choices and life aspirations may surprise us, but they are still works in progress. Our lives are, as well. We have not arrived. When our values or decisions clash, moms tend to either get mad or hurt…neither bode well in our relationships with our sons. We must learn how to take our emotions by the neck and wrestle them to the floor… proactively. Some song lyrics come to mind as I think about this – also these lyrics reflect the advice received from wise moms in my life. “Get over it“, “Let it go“, and tell yourself, “I will survive” and “Tell your heart to beat again.” [Sidebar: I don’t even like the song “Let It Go” from the Disney film Frozen, but it’s advice that I’ve frequently received from mom friends].

So…that’s all I have today. Anything you’re willing to add to the conversation? It’s still somewhat of a forest for me…picking my way through…with you.

And, you sons of ours-  we love you. Not as well, maybe, as we had hoped…but if we all keep at it, we may find even our relationships will get sweeter as life goes on. I’m hoping, anyway. Believing.

Blog - Mothers and Adult Sons - quotesgramPhoto Credit: Quotesgram

*This open letter may only speak to some, so if this is not helpful or doesn’t address your situation, I don’t mean to offend or presume. Parenting and being parented can be immensely satisfying and, at the same time, greatly complicated. If I can encourage, that is my goal…having the answers has to come from someone wiser than me.

YouTube Video – I Will Survive – scene from the film The Replacements

Parenting Adult Children by Todd Carey

When Helping Hurts – Are You an Enabling Parent? by Allison Bottke

When Is It OK to Be a Helicopter Parent? by Susan Krauss Whitbourne

Relationships Between Mothers and Adult Sons by Susan Adcox

The 6 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Your Adult Child by Linda Bernstein

Blog - Mother's Day - Love You ForeverPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

5 Friday Faves – Winter in the Middle East, Culture, Parenting, Community, and Top Blogs

Blog - Friday FavesWow! What a week! This is a rare experience for me to be glad it’s Friday. I usually love all the days and want them to slow down…this was a week that’s good to be done. How was your week?

My 5 favorites finds include one less favorite, more “I don’t want to forget” – that being #1:

1) Winter in Middle East – Our news cycle and attention spans are so short that we might forget refugee camps…especially in winter. I am so thankful for agencies (like Baptist Global Response) that don’t forget it. Far from it, they are there, feeling the cold these refugees feel and stretching resources to cover these without homes that keep out the winter. Let’s not forget…and extend help as well.Blog - Winter in the Middle east - ibtimesPhoto Credit: International Business NewsBlog - Winter in the Middle East - thetakeawayPhoto Credit: thetakeaway.orgBlog - Winter in the Middle east - old man - the national aePhoto Credit: The National

2) Culture – Trevin Wax writes this week about cultural commentary. As we both live in a changing culture and examine our place within that culture, we adjust. Not our beliefs, necessarily, or our viewpoints, but maybe how we voice them. Trevin does a great job in expounding on how we look at culture – not as “good” or “bad” or “safe” or “unsafe” – but as understanding and discerning co-inhabitants of that culture. Something called “cultural literacy”.

word with dice on white background - culture

Photo Credit: The Gospel Coalition

“From Francis Schaeffer in the 1960’s, to C. S. Lewis in the 1940’s, to G. K. Chesterton in the 1920’s, we stand in a long line of people who have identified the narratives on display in cultural artifacts of their day, and then spoke to those longings by putting them in light of the gospel. John Stott called this “double listening” – listening to God’s Word and to the people in God’s world, so that we can be effective witnesses to the kingdom.” – Trevin Wax

3) Parenting – Parenting books and blogs abound to influence our journey through our children’s growing-up. One of my favorite books on parenting came out after our kids were already grown but I love it and still recommend it: Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Teenagers Grow Up Before They Grow Old by Joseph & Claudia Worrell Allen. Cathy Gulli’s article on parenting was a fascinating discovery for me this week. She writes on The Collapse of Parenting – Why It’s Time for Parents to Grow Up. Her take on current trends in parenting focuses less on empowering the child and more on the parent actually being the guide, mentor, and nurturing authority. I didn’t agree with everything, but it was refreshing to read. [It actually went viral with over a million reads so far.] The image below is NOT from her article but it came to mind because of her article.Blog - Age-appropriate tasks for childrenPhoto Credit: Flanders Family

4) Community – I’ve written about community many times, but this was one of those weeks where the value of community came to bear in a hard place. It’s hard to imagine those who lead more solitary lives – without church, family, or work community – especially when a life-altering crisis occurs. Luke writes about the early church so beautifully in his Acts of the Apostles. Those early believers endured great persecution with joy because of God-infused community. What’s your experience of community these days? Showing up for work, attending church, social media brushes with family don’t get us to community. It’s a dig deep, being there, full embrace of those in your circle with a door wide open to others just on the outside, looking in. So thankful this week for community.Blog - Community - It Is Well - Beth Taylor FacebookPhoto Credit: Beth Taylor

5) Top Blogs – There are all sorts of lists on the blogosphere these days about most read/visited blogs of last year. This list by Leslie Leyland Fields is my favorite find of this sort this week.  What a life this woman leads in the coastal fishing communities of Alaska! Blog - Friday faves - Leslie Leyland FieldsWhat lists do you recommend? Help us find them, via the comments below.

Bonus: Sweet Dance Performance by the Revere Dance Studio – Lovely Girls on Their Feet and in Their Wheelchairs

5 Friday Faves – a Country Store, Mixing Thanksgiving and Christmas, an Argument for Trouble, Teaching Empathy in the Classroom, Teaching our Children to be Entrepreneurial

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! Posting from Atlanta, visiting Dad and family.

1) A Country Store – In an era of “buying local”, it’s easy to forgive a huge franchise when it feels like a country store. Cracker Barrel is like coming home. It’s my dad’s favorite restaurant (breakfast all day, and a huge menu full of “home-cooked” favorites). Walking into Cracker Barrel, you enter the country store section ahead of the restaurant. It is a retail paradise, especially if you’re from the South. Or maybe for everyone. It was lovely  seeing it recently through the eyes of a Moroccan-Scottish friend visiting. So much fun, this place, whether you buy anything or not!

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2) Mixing Thanksgiving and Christmas – Beautiful Fall leaves and pumpkins are still with us in Virginia, although the season is waning. Even with our American Thanksgiving still days away, Christmas is also upon us – with decorations, music, and the wooing to the stores for gift-buying. I don’t mind the mix at all. There’s enough to delight in both holidays.

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3) An Argument for Trouble – Mark Modesti’s Argument for Trouble – YouTube video (TED Institute) – take the time to watch. Even the Bible tells us we will always have trouble, so wisdom is to learn how to thrive in it…and make it work for us and others.

4) Teaching Empathy in the Classroom – Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell’s article on Empathy in Action: How Teachers Prepare Future Citizens. I love when educators are committed to working with parents in helping our children to grow into responsible, thoughtful adults. Growing up happens all too quickly – redeem the time.

5) Teaching Our Children to Be Entrepreneural – Charmian Solter’s 8 Entrepreneurial Skills You Should Teach Your Kids (in an info graphic). Like 4), these are things we might as parents want to consider to help our children face the future that awaits them.

That’s the quick and short of my favorite finds this week – what are yours? Would love to hear about them. Enjoy your weekend!

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Parenting – the Way We Did It and the Way the French Do It – Bringing Up Bébé

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Years before marriage and parenting, I had a life-altering experience of children that stayed with me all this time. A college friend, Marc, invited me out with his brother’s family. We went out to dinner at a nice (i.e. adult) restaurant. Since the children were small – preschool and elementary-aged – I wasn’t at all sure how the evening would go. They were captivating. Not because it was all about them. On the contrary. They enjoyed the conversation around the table as much as I did. Their ability to engage with the adults, to ask questions and listen, to offer their own amusing stories to the mix of talk was well beyond what I thought possible at their age. They gave me hope.

Parenting did not come naturally to me. I had a wonderful mom. There was no one like her. She had to work as we grew up and then had to take care of all that home management stuff on the weekends. With what time she had left, she mothered us very well. I just never knew how she did it. It was a complete mystery to me.

Our children came (2 biologically and our last by way of adoption) during the strong restart of home schooling in the US (late 80s and early 90s). With home schooling came a much more interventional parenting style. We were enthralled with the idea of keeping our children home with us to do and learn about life together. Through all their schooling years, with many of them living overseas, there were only a few when we actually home schooled, but I loved it…loved that time of discovery, and wonder, and endured the occasional exasperation at our struggle to master one subject or another.

Our parenting during those early years had a home schooling imprint on it. We even followed the 21 Rules of This House originated by a leading home school parent Gregg Harris.

The 21 Rules Of This House
by Gregg Harris

1. We obey God.
2. We love, honor and pray for one another.
3. We tell the truth.
4. We consider one another’s interests ahead of our own.
5. We speak quietly and respectfully with one another.
6. We do not hurt one another with unkind words or deeds.
7. When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.
8. When someone is sorry, we forgive him.
9. When someone is sad, we comfort him.
10. When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.
11. When we have something nice to share, we share it.
12. When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.
13. We take good care of everything that God has given us.
14. We do not create unnecessary work for others.
15. When we open something, we close it.
16. When we take something out, we put it away.
17. When we turn something on, we turn it off.
18. When we make a mess, we clean it up.
19. When we do not know what to do, we ask.
20. When we go out, we act just as if we were in this house.
21. When we disobey or forget any of the 21 Rules of This House, we accept the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

This set of rules helped me parent. One thing I really appreciated was that the rules were not just for the children but for all our family. No double-standard. These rules didn’t mean we were defined by “Do’s & Don’t’s”. They just helped me not to be all over the place. I also had great parenting mentors and practical, loving friends (see Balcony People) who encouraged me through the challenges of growing up kids. I didn’t need help with the joys.

Blog - ParentingBlog - Parenting in EgyptMy friend, Marc, & our first-born.     Our three at play in Cairo, Egypt.

Our kids and their mom and dad grew up together. We learned how to parent with them, and they learned how to grow into each age.Blog - Parenting 2

 As the saying goes, they grew too fast. As much as I love them as adults, I miss those years together more than I can say.Blog - Parenting 3

Now our first-born daughter has her own first-born. She isn’t using The 21 Rules of This House although she values its impact on her own life. She has been reading Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé – a book on French parenting by an American who spent her new parent years in Paris. Her book chronicles those years as she observed French families, babies and parents. Her experience of these children reflected mine long ago with Marc’s nieces and nephews.

Through the years and in our travels, we’ve experienced different cultures of parenting, and what I’ve read in Bringing Up Bébé is definitely counsel to be considered. The author and mom ends her humorous story with 100 Keys to French Parenting. My favorite 15 are below:

15 of the 100 Keys to French Parenting

#10 – Give Your Baby a House Tour – orient your newborn to where they will call home.

#11 – Observe Your Baby – Get to really know your baby. Watch her.

#12 – Tell Your Baby the Truth – Help him know that he can always believe what you tell him. It builds trust and confidence even in wee ones.

#20 – Do “The Pause” – The French don’t let their newborns “cry it out”, but they do pause before rescuing baby from nighttime crying. The goal is to help the baby learn how to settle back down herself.

#32 – Everyone Eats the Same Thing – There is no such thing as “kid” foods on the every-day French table. They learn to eat and appreciate “adult” food.

#35 – You Choose the Foods, She Chooses the Quantities – No food battles. Children take a bite of what is put on the plate. They don’t have to finish it.

#41 – Dinner Shouldn’t Involve Hand-to-Hand Combat – When they’re done, they’re done. Release them from the table when they’re finished eating.

#46 – Teach the Four magic Words – Please. Thank You. Hello. Goodbye. – Learning from an early age to be courteous and empathetic to others.

#50 – Back Off at the Playground – Children are given freedom to play without adults hovering. Safety assured, but exploration encouraged.

#53 – Give Kids Lots of Chances to Practice Waiting – Teaching delayed gratification.

#60 – View Coping with Frustration as a Crucial Life Skill

#63 – Give Kids Meaningful Chores – This folds right into the teaching of my favorite book on adolescence (Escaping The Endless Adolescence).

#89 – Make Evenings Adult Time – As parents carve out time for their own relationships, they teach children to value the importance as well.

#91 – Say “No” with Conviction – When parents say “No”, they need to mean it.

#92 – Say “Yes” as Often as You Can – Saving the “No’s” for when they matter most.

I would love to hear about your parenting years with your kiddos. What helped you? Anything you would do differently? Would love to dialogue on this topic…just for fun. We as parents should lavish grace on each other; parenting is a big job…

And then they were grown…

Blog - Parenting 4

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting (now with Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting)

Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing Up Bébé

Home Schooling Goes Mainstream

Bringing Up Bebe? No Thanks. I’d Rather Raise a Billionaire

Uncommon Courtesy – Blog – Recommended Reading

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t

Blog - Father's Day - Calvin & HobbsPhoto Credit: Calvin & Hobbs from the blog of Kenneth Reeds

“As to my children, you are now to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father who will never fail you.”Jonathan Edwards, his last words to his children, as he lay dying

Fathering, like mothering, is not an easy job. So much dying to self. So much responsibility. What a delight for us when the men in our lives take fathering on their shoulders as they might a sleeping child. Surrendering themselves to the serving of those younger than them. I thank God for men who humble themselves in prayer for their children and who go to work every day to support their families. Working, studying, and life-long learning passed on to their children and others.

These dads are too-often taken for granted in the shadow of fathering that falls short. The absent, neglectful and downright abusive fathers cut wounds so deep that decent fathers are sometimes judged by the same measure. We watch for “the sins of the fathers to be revisited on their children” (Numbers 14:18).

Today, let’s reflect on the good fathers. Those who were present at our births, or those who came later in life to us, or those who father us out of their own great hearts. Imperfect, sure. All of us are. Yet, there are those men who go many more than second miles for us, and we are grateful.Blog - Father DaveThis dad who took his family to Cairo, Egypt. Our children have had such rich lives as they saw their dad work and relate way out of his comfort zone. What great memories and relationships we have because of his willingness to take us on such a journey.2009 May Trip to Scotland 169Blog - No Life Wasted 10 2006 -- Aug -- Dave, Nathan, Daniel in Vienna

 “My father was a farmer upon the Carrick border, O,
And carefully he bred me in decency and order, O;
He bade me act a manly part, though I had ne’er a farthing, O;
For without an honest manly heart, no man was worth regarding, O.”
– Robert Burns, ‘My Father Was a Farmer: A Ballad’*

Blog - Dad, or Papa, and Debbie - Father's DayMy Dad. Not my biological father (who I talk about here) but the only dad I’ve ever known. So thankful for him…and his love…and joy in life (even in this season of Alzheimer’s).

“Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. When the rooms were warm, he’d call, and slowly I would rise and dress, fearing the chronic angers of that house, Speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well. What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?” – Robert Hayden, ‘Those Winter Sundays’*
BLog - Father's Day - PopPop JohnMy sweet dad- and mom-in-love. What an amazing thing to enjoy the love of people who didn’t have to love me, just because their son did. I thank God for this dad and this mom who opened their hearts to receive a daughter, as if I was born to them.
Nathan, Bekkah, Rachel & Sam JamesThose fathers who treat us as sons and daughters – gracious, generous, affirming, empowering. Fathers (and mothers, these Godly wives) whose faces reflect the face of God to us.
Grateful for these fathers…and others like them. Young and old. Fathers who give us a glimpse of the Father of all creation, who loves us…and sees us…and waits for us…and knows us by name.**
Hoping you have fathers to reflect on joyfully today…if not so much, hoping you can take joy and comfort in the Father who loves you perfectly. 
Blog - Father's Day - B. C. comic
Photo Credit: B. C. Comics
2009 May Trip to Scotland 339