Sunday, March 16, 2008

Another long post......sorry!

I have a lot on my heart tonight and feel like writing. And I haven't posted in a bit.
Today was the first time Hannah has ever spent an entire afternoon with someone other than family. I realize how strange that sounds and I will explain that in a bit.

Since Hannah's birthday is coming up, Rebecca asked me if she could take Hannah for the afternoon, go out for lunch, do some shopping and then probably hang out at her house until church this evening. Needless to say, Hannah was very excited and had a great time. She went out to Boston Pizza with Rebecca, Thomas, Amanda and Tonya and got to eat her favorite pepperoni pizza. They then surprised her with a little piece of cake and had the servers sing Happy Birthday to her (which apparently embarrassed her!).

Next she went to Winners where Rebecca picked out a few dresses for her to try on, telling her she could choose the one she liked. Rebecca told me she was leaning toward a bright pink dress, and everyone else encouraged her to pick another one. However, she was to have the final choice and she ended up eventually picking the one everyone else liked best. Then they went to Old Navy where Rebecca again bought her a shirt to go with the dress (or should I say jumper). They ended up at Rebecca (and Holley's) house doing hair and gabbing until church.

By 5:30 I was very excited to get to church to see my girl and hear about her afternoon. We ended up pulling up just behind Rebecca and Hannah, who gets out of the car, I thought to give me a hug. I was wrong. She came tentatively to me to bring her bag of stuff to put in the van and then asked if she could sit with Rebecca in church. What? Where was my little girl that was supposed to miss me?

She looked absolutely adorable. And not so little anymore. She was wearing her beautiful new outfit and had her hair done just perfect.

Dave informed me tonight after church that I mentioned at least three times to him how adorable Hannah looked and that "she sure is growing up". That about sums up the emotion I was feeling then and am still feeling.

She did eventually come to sit with us during church because she missed us. She yapped our ears off tonight telling us about her day, then phoned and told grandma all about her day. Just before bed she told me that she was sure glad she was sleeping at home.

It's at times like this that I am completely content.

Now, to explain my statement about Hannah not being away for an afternoon prior to today, except with family.

First, I consider myself blessed to have a lot of family living in the same city. Because of this, any time my kids spend away from me for various reasons has been with grandma, aunts or cousins because there has been no need to ask anyone else. She has a very close relationship with my mom and my two sisters in particular, and it would be no big deal at all for her to spend all day away from me if she was with them.

Secondly, no one except Rebecca has ever asked to take Hannah for an afternoon, and there has only been one other time Rebecca asked to take Hannah (approximately a year ago), at which time I said no. This is what I want to explain.

I felt tonight at church that several people looked at me rather strangely when they heard that Hannah had never been away from me all afternoon with non-family! After all, this is not typical for an almost six-year-old girl! Probably these same people would also gasp to hear that except the one night I was in hospital after having Seth and Hannah stayed at grandma's house that they have never slept overnight anywhere, even grandma's without me! I have not been in the habit of taking off to Tahiti for two weeks and leaving my kids behind. Strange, one might think. Not to me.

I will confess that the way I parent is really not anything like I expected to be. Before becoming a mom, like most people, I was the expert and was quite sure I knew how I was going to do things. My original ideas have changed probably about 80 percent, and that is not an exaggeration.

At my first homeschool conference three years ago, I was very strongly influenced by a wonderful family that taught very strong principles on "keeping your children's heart" from a Biblical perspective. I bought their books and have read them more than once.

At my second homeschool conference, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, psychologist, spoke on the same principle but from a clinical perspective. He talked about being "connected" to our children and that connection, in his opinion, is the single most important factor in teaching your child . This is the main reason why public schools have such a difficult task; teachers in this day and age have a very tough time connecting with the student because of class size, the potential problems of getting too close to a child when it could be misconstrued, etc., to name a couple of reasons. He also said some things that I will never forget and herein are the reasons I have changed my views so much.

Parents started losing their way in the mid 1900's when society began its shift from being adult-centered to child-centered. And this is ruining our children. Parents have lost their initial parenting instinct. Because society now is largely child-centered (if you don't believe me, think about how much POWER a child has today compared to the distant past) the connection of parents/children/family are being severed. He talked about how very, very difficult it is for a child to maintain a connection with parents when he is being influenced by his PEERS. A child will disconnect with his parents rather than embracing both UNLESS the connection comes as a direct result of the parent. For example, let's say two moms are close friends and they get together often. Their children start playing together and become friends as a result. They are not forced to choose between the two because the one was the direct result of the other and therefore the connection to mom is maintained. However, when a child spends too much time away from his parents with other children his own age that are not part of his parental circle, then he eventually will have to make a choice who to be connected most to. And unfortunately, peers USUALLY win.

Now, this is just common sense to me. This is exactly what happened to me in school. Peer pressure is the most common problem of all. Why? Because the parent and the peer are diametrically opposed in the child's mind. They come from opposite sides, instead of the same circle. Too much emphasis today is placed on children playing with children. Teens spending time with teens (and getting into way worse trouble because of it). Oops, I stepped into a minefield there.

When asked how much time children should spend with children, Mr. Neufeld said, "I don't know, two hours a week?" with some sarcasm, although he was serious in his reply. Huh? But how will Johnny not be a social retard? Because Johnny is learning how to interact with people, and people include all ages, not just their own age.
At this year's homeschool conference, Dr. Jay Wilde, a science professor from Indiana, told a story that I will never forget. He said his dad was an administrator in one of the prisons in Indiana and it was his job to question new inmates. For over 20 years he asked the same question to every new inmate that entered into that prison: "What is one thing you wish was different about your childhood?" And over 50 percent of the inmates answered, "I wish my parents would have kept a closer watch on who I hung around with."

What does this have to do with my kids not spending much time away from me? Just this. If I am going to let my children be away from me, it is going to be with: 1) family, which is in my circle of connection and not diametrically opposed; or 2) with a trusted adult who will not influence them in a peer-like fashion, which is what happened today with Rebecca. The previous time Rebecca asked me would have been with other kids as well, which was the primary reason I said no. I am not against my children playing with other kids, but I will limit it if I am not around or again if it is not a direct result of a friendship of mine. I do believe, idealistically of course, that the best hope for my kids as teenagers (besides prayer) is limiting and/or closely watching their peer influence, and this can only be done by a true heart-connection being maintained. I know my kids aren't there yet, that's why I said idealistically. I also know that I am very likely alone in my views, even among our churches. After all, I am NOT thrilled with youth groups. In my opinion they only promote the worst things that youth face, like silly, stupid talk about the opposite sex (being one of the most common). I believe we parents normalize this behaviour way too much because after all, this is normal youth behaviour and everyone is doing it. I don't think it has to be normal at all. I was once a youth in church, I know whereof I speak.

The youth functions need to be church-oriented more than social-oriented. There are plenty of occasions youth can and should have fun (I do believe it having fun, believe it or not), but it doesn't always have to be with other youth, a.k.a. PEERS, where they will get into the most trouble.

I'll get off the soapbox now.

Like I've said, I have a lot on my heart. I don't know if I was able to express this adequately. I do know that I do firmly believe these principles. And I can't do any of this without God's help.



Mrs. Wizzle said...

Whew! That IS a long post! This realization that they are growing up is going to hit off and on throughout their lives! Sometimes it will be an attitude or something they say or how they look. I remember one time we took a picture of Marcus and after it was developed I looked at it and realized that I was losing my little boy, he was a young man all of a sudden! It was and is bittersweet because we DO want them to develop into adults,becoming independent, hoping they retain all of our teachings, yet still we want to hold on to the innocence and sweetness of babyhood, boyhood, girlhood etc. Enjoy the now, don't worry about the future too much. Teach them the best you can. Parenting is the kind of job that when you feel like maybe you are finally getting the hang of it you are out of a job. Poof! They are all grown up and being independent and having their own children. Scary stuff that you only have one chance at it for each kid. Have fun!

Darla said...

Mrs. Wizzle: Worrying about the future, unfortunately, is very much my nature. I wish it wasn't, believe me. I think because I'm at a stage where all the kids that I "mentored" - if I can use that term - are teenagers/young adults, and mine are still so young, I find myself much more serious. Not that these kids are bad - they are great, great kids, and most of them have "made it" so far. But because I have seem some of the pitfalls - as an outsider - before I even had kids, I really find myself wondering if some of these can be avoided with my own.

Maybe some of them can't. I guess time will tell.

Thanks again for commenting. I really appreciate it.

Tonya said...

Darla, stick to your guns. I don't know if you are right or wrong. (it will be few years before I have kids so I can compare then and ask you for advice if it is working out well hehe) What I do know is that my parents chose to raise us in a way that family, friends and sometimes even the church strongly opposed. We are not perfect and it is by the grace of God that you can look at many we grew up with or have similar ages and there is no question that my parents made the right choice even though it was a lonely struggle for them at times.

I did tell my Mom today that I was impressed by Hannah's behavior yesterday. You have helped her to develop personal discpline already. She was telling me that she eats the crust 1st so I asked her why and learned that it is the part she does not like so she does it 1st!

All I know about parenting from my short stint as a roommate/parent is to Pray, Pray, Pray and God will help you to have the right response, behavior, action at the right time :-)

Darla said...

Tonya: I had no idea you knew I started a blog (and now I'm really nervous about what I wrote!). Seriously, I really am grateful for your encouragement because truly I feel like I'll be swimming against the current. You described it right as being a "lonely battle".

Thanks for your nice comments about Hannah's behaviour. Obviously it's nice to know that some diligence has paid off.

Rachel said...

hmm..echoes my own heart..the last part. I think you know that..hah hah..
Help me convince the rest of the world....

Darla said...

Rach, I don't know if the rest of the "world" will ever be convinced, but I do know that it shouldn't feel so hard to carry through a genuine convinction, either (if done with the right spirit). Maybe it won't be. We'll see.