18 Reasons Why My Parenting Won’t Impress You

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1. My child does not sleep for more than four hours straight. Or maybe he does? I don’t know. I am not counting.

2. I am not stressed out by #1.

3. I will not ask you (or any “baby sleep experts”) to help me “train” my child to know that his needs are not important to me after 7:30 pm or during scheduled nap times.

4. My child sleeps in my bed with myself and my husband.

5. My husband and I love #4.

6. My child nurses when he falls asleep, when he wakes up, when he gets hurt/scared/frustrated, and any other time he expresses that he needs to.

7. I will allow my child to nurse until he decides that he no longer needs to.

8. I prioritize my child’s need to nurse anytime, anywhere over your desire to live in denial that breasts were designed to feed babies and young children.

9. I am much more concerned with allowing my child to freely explore his child-safe surroundings than I am teaching him the meaning of the word “no.”

10. I will not teach my child to blindly obey you, simply because you are an adult. Pharaoh, Lot’s Wife, and Jezebel were adults too.

11. I will never flick, slap, hit, or otherwise inflict physical pain purposefully on my child.

12. I will teach my child that flicking, slapping, hitting, or otherwise inflicting physical pain on those who are smaller, weaker is not Christ-like in any and every circumstance.

13. My child is not a “good baby.” He sometimes cries when I leave him and always seeks immediate contact with me when I return. I am very thankful about this “inconvenient” reality. It is indicative of a secure attachment, whereas a “good baby” can be indicative of an insecure attachment.

14. I incorporate research into my parenting choices, as well as the Word. You might find this wrong, but please keep in mind that I do not judge your incorporation of science into your medical choices.

15. I will teach my child that his penis is a wonderful gift from God. I will not shame him for touching a part of himself that society wants him to consider “dirty.”

16. I will never send my child away from me – to a corner, to his room – when he has made a wrong choice.

17. I extend grace to my child when he has made a wrong choice just like the Lord extends grace to me.

18. I do not miss your approval of me enough to change #1-17.

My Heart Hurts

Dear Little One I Never Met,

It is hard to talk about you. A lump wells up in my throat and my eyes swell with hot tears. I was so excited to learn that you were growing in my tummy. I loved you the moment I saw those two pink lines, and I was so excited to meet you. The day that your heart stopped beating is forever etched in my memory – the crisp Minnesota air, the excitement of Christmas, the sheer despair.

Some people think that because you never breathed air I should not grieve the loss of knowing you. They say you were just a glob of tissue, that I could have other babies. I was numb then, but now I can speak up. Your were just as much as any of us were at that point in our lives. And knowing you were a tiny human created by God, knit together in His glorious image, I was right to want you intensely, to grieve my loss of knowing you intensely.

I miss you everyday darling. We will know each other someday. 

Love,
Momma

*In memorial of all the children that left this earth and their families before taking their first breath of oxygen or shortly thereafter.

Not a “Good Baby”

Dear Evan,

On your birthday Daddy and I took you to the pumpkin patch just down the road from where we live. You had so much fun toddling around and stooping down periodically to touch (and taste!) any gourd or pumpkin that struck your fancy.

Examining a pumpkin with Da-da!

Examining a pumpkin with Da-da!

Although we were the only people there at the time, I am confident that your demeanor and actions that morning would surely have earned you the “good baby” label in the minds of strangers. You were quiet, you never cried, and you only fussed for the few seconds it took me to get to you when you struggled to get up after a fall.

What a precious boy you are.

What a precious boy you are.

After the pumpkin patch we went to a nearby store to run a few errands. You started the trip out in the shopping cart. Within minutes you were pointing towards the items on the shelves, then bouncing and grunting, your way of telling us you want something.

Unfortunately, you were pointing at a row of spray paints. Lifting you out of the cart, I brought you close and said, “I know you want to check out those paints. They are not safe for you. Let’s look over here instead.”

Among the many things I have learned this past year, one is that you are very persistent. So when I redirected you to something safe to play with, it did not come as a surprise that you rapidly flung yourself backwards in my arms, reached towards the paints, and screamed. That “good baby” label you might have had going on prior to this episode? GONE.

Now your Momma certainly is not a mind reader, but she herself is a recovered parent judger. It is very hard to admit this to you, but I know the parent-judger thought-process all too well. It goes something like this: “That mother needs to get her child under control! Is she going to demand obedience? Is she going to step up and discipline him/her?”

As we stood in the middle of that aisle, you flailing and crying at this point and me rallying all of my strength to keep you from falling out of my arms, I could feel several parent-judgers staring at us (this was later confirmed by your Daddy). In this moment I had a choice to make: I could save face, so to speak, or I could respond to you with grace in a manner that placed your best interests before my selfish pride. I could conform to the ways of the world by flicking, hitting, shaming, or isolating you, or I could seek to honor Christ.

By grace, I chose grace. And then through the lens of grace I was able to see that you were not giving me a hard time (cognitively you are not yet capable of that), but rather that you were having a hard time. The parent-judgers disappeared from my consciousness as I hugged you and whispered softly into your ear, “I hear you, and I know this is really hard. You want to play with the spray paints so badly. They are not safe. Momma wishes they were safe for you.”

Some believe that parenting with grace is parenting permissively, and that it is a failure to discipline. Permissive, according to Webster, means: a) granting or tending to grant permission, b) deficient in firmness or control. And discipline, according to Webster, means: a) punishment, b) training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. 

I think everyone would agree that your momma did not grant you permission to play with the spray paints. I suppose some would think that I was not firm enough or in control enough. I will step out on a limb here and conjecture that those same people probably believe that children are somehow more sinful than adults. God is very clear on this, however.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

And stepping out on another limb, I must say that firmness and control are not synonymous with punishment. As you will find, our culture works hard to instill this fallacy in us, but it is still just that, a fallacy. And speaking of culture, even Webster himself is not free from its grasp. 🙂 Culture, after all, is where word meanings are derived.

And now for discipline… This one is intricate and deserving of a post in and of itself (coming soon!). I will be brief here. Those who believe that your momma failed to discipline you (and Christian parents are undoubtedly called to discipline their children) are deriving their understanding of the word “discipline” from the broader culture (unbeknownst to themselves) and from several “Parenting Passages” (most are in Proverbs) that do not accurately portray the meaning of related words contained in the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.

Therefore, although the English dictionary does include punishment in the definition of discipline, this rendering of the word is not Biblically rooted. It is purely cultural. The dictionary does not claim to be anything but cultural. And your momma would be very wrong to turn to it, and subsequently the culture, to somehow determine God’s will for parenting.

Translational concerns aside for the time being (I am planning an in-depth series on the misconceptions of the “Parenting Passages”), I want you to know that your momma is striving to the best of her broken human ability to treat you as Christ treats her – with patient, gentle, wholly undeserved grace.

1 John 2:6 Whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.

When I sin, He does not bend me over His knee, pull down my pants, and hit me on the buttocks. No, not at all. In spite of my sin – my kicking and screaming – and what the Pharisees say, He draws me near, speaks to me gently, and waits patiently.

Mark 2:16-17 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

“Why does she hug that sinful baby boy?” the parent-judgers ask amongst themselves. Because that is precisely what Christ would do.

Love you dearly,

Momma

Joy, Tears, and Change

Dear Evan,

One year ago today you and I saw each other for the very first time. To say the feeling was exhilarating would be an understatement. You were breathtaking – your ample red hair, your knowing eyes, the firm grip of your tiny fingers. I could talk for hours about that crisp October night in Minneapolis – how I labored in the shower and in the tub, how I munched on pretzels right up until you were born, how your dad unceasingly supported me through it all.

Before you were born, I anticipated that an intervention-free childbirth, God willing, would be a hugely transformative experience for me – that it would bring me to rely on the Lord in ways I never had before. But God is so much bigger than our human minds can ever comprehend. And His plans are so much better! As we lie here together a year later, your soft sleep-breaths rhythmically warming my arm, I can now see that He used not just your birth story, but your entire first year of life to transform your Momma’s heart and ready her for His purposes.

There is so much to say about our first year together – our breastfeeding struggles, your need to nurse hourly, my deep vein thrombosis, your preference to be snuggled rather than left alone in a crib, the weeks of shots in my stomach, Daddy letting you sleep on his shoulder anytime you need to, your first belly laugh at just 10 weeks old, my pelvic separation, your intense dislike of unnatural things (pacifiers, carseats, strollers), me being physically unable to walk from room to room, your sweet, sweet smiles, my foray into PPD, your precocious social nature, Daddy’s new job, your adoration of kitties, packing up and moving five states away, sharing sleep as a family, your love of hummus (and all food actually!), living with Grandma G.G., the way you light up when Daddy comes home, finally moving into our new place, the way you say “brrmmm” when you see, play with, or read about anything with wheels, finding a new church family, your hugs. Oh your hugs!

Certainly the past year has been a journey filled with joy, tears, and change. Certainly it has been one of the best journeys of my life. Certainly it has been incredibly transformative.

As many who are close to me (and several who have chosen to distance themselves from me) can attest, during your infancy I began to feel called to speak both publicly and intimately about the ways in which many practices within mainstream parenting are not God’s will for babies and children. Immersing myself in prayer, in the Word, and in community with other Christians, I was given a burden for the youngest among us. I can still remember when I posted for the very first time on Facebook. It was about circumcision. I knew people would snicker. I knew people would feel I was judging them personally. I knew I would lose friends. I still hit “Post.” God had called me, and who was I to ignore His call?

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Just like that first post, your birthday is bittersweet for your Momma. While I praise The Lord for you, for our beautiful journey thus far, for convicting my heart, for equipping me, a simple woman, for His purposes, I must reckon with the reality that you will soon enough begin to sense that the culture into which you were born believes that babies and children are somehow less than. This will stand in direct opposition to what you are learning about Jesus. May God grant your Daddy and I wisdom and strength as we strive to answer your eventual questions about why children are ignored, hit, shamed, and bullied by those on Earth that love them the most.

Love on your birthday and always,

Momma

*This letter was started yesterday, on your actual birthday. It just took Momma awhile to finish it up. 🙂

Independence Is A Fallacy

Another oldie for the archives.

Dear Evan,

Today is Independence Day. 237 years ago the country you were born into asserted it’s independence from another country.

Today, with all 23 pounds of you sleeping peacefully in my arms, my back aching and my mouth watering for a drink, I find myself pondering this thing we adults call Independence. I wish I could tell you that the place into which you were born treasures connectedness and values community. But the truth, my son, is that Independence is but one of the many idols that reign here in America. And just like any idol, it is oh so tempting.

For 25 years before you came into my life, Satan whispered into your momma’s ears, “Be independent. Dependency is weakness. Make your own rules. Stop for no one. BE YOUR OWN GOD.” I wish I could tell you I wasn’t enticed. But I was. I fell head over heals for His lies. Seriously. And I lost sight of the truth. Only God can possess independence. We humans are entirely dependent on Him for EVERYTHING.

And when God brought you into my life 8 months ago, a tiny being fully dependent on your earthly parents for your every human need, He began a work in my heart. For many parents the dependency of babies is terrifying as it stands in direct opposition to the glories that Satan ascribes to Independence. But thanks be to God, for He is working during your infancy to destroy that idol in my heart along with all its empty promises.

A time Satan failed to tempt us to leave you alone to cry yourself to sleep.

How else could I resist the advice from family, friends, and “professionals” to enroll you in Independence Boot Camp? “He needs to cry alone at night to learn to self-soothe,” “You’re coddling him by holding him all the time,” and “Don’t let him use you as a pacifier!” God is sustaining my heart and reminding me of what’s true. And the truth is that God makes no mistakes. He designed your cry to communicate your needs to me, not to be muffled by a closed door. He designed my arms to hold you, not to be constantly replaced by strollers and jumperoos. He designed my breasts to nourish AND comfort you, not to be withheld because your needs conflict with my love of sleep or personal space. And He designed both you and me to be entirely dependent on Him! I would be so wrong to shove you towards the grips of Independence. Satan will tempt you with that soon enough. Instead I pray that God will use me to show you that dependence on another is not only good, but ultimately necessary. May you one day place your full dependence on Christ.

Love,
Momma

*Originally written July 4, 2013

I Let Him Cry It Out

I can still hear him – the sobbing, the sputtering, the gasping for breath. It was his bedtime. And I needed a break. And she told me to do it. Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes passed. Still sobbing, still sputtering, still gasping.

Angry thoughts paced through my mind: “She told me he would stop within ten minutes,” “He is trying to manipulate me,” “Why won’t he just sleep!,” “I need me-time!” And then it occured to me that maybe he had a need that I was willing to meet. “Maybe he dropped his pacifier!”

Slamming my book shut, I rose from the couch and climbed the stairs. Opening the door, I found him exactly as I had left him – clinging to the rail of the crib, pacifier dangling in hand. Almost exactly. Now, however, his face was mottled crimson, his cheeks glistened with tears, his upper lip was covered in snot, and his little body trembled.

I so badly wish I could say that I was moved by seeing the raw reality of his desperate attempts to reach out to me in the only way his 11-month-old self knew how. That I had compassion for him.        But I wasn’t.       I didn’t.

Turning from him, I walked out, shutting the door behind me.

When his mom returned that night she asked nervously, “Did he give you too much trouble at bedtime?” It was late, and I was prideful. “Oh no. Not at all!” I answered. At the time, I suppose my thought process went something like this: Why burden her with the gory details of my misery. MY misery! But in looking back, had I been honest with myself, I would have recognized that I was too arrogant to admit to either of us that I felt affronted by a baby. A baby.

Textbooks in hand, I walked out to my car. I was so relieved to be heading home. Needing to vent, I dialed my mom.

“Mom, that little baby was so clingy. Yes, it was hard hearing him cry, but babies need to know that their crying does not get a reaction out of us. They need to know who is in charge. How else will they learn to be independent? My babies will learn to be independent.”

I really said that. And I believed it.

No matter the weight of my regret, I cannot go back in time and answer his pleas for company, for comfort, for help. All I can do is cling to God’s forgiveness, to His grace.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Destined To Be Needy

Something from this past summer for the archives.

Dear Evan,
The past two nights you and I have awoken every 1-2 hours on average and sometimes as often as every 45 minutes.
These are the kind of nights that our “me first” culture uses as ammunition to tempt your momma to leave you in a crib down the hall to scream and cry alone. Supposedly this trauma will teach you to “self-soothe,” to be independent, and to be less needy. But my son I have prayed for so much more for you. So much more.
Because the truth is that mankind can never “self soothe” and be independent. Instead, we are utterly and irreparably needy. So I pray every day that God will instill in you, even when you are a grown man and your sweet baby rolls have melted away, a heart that can only be soothed by Him, rather than one that is clouded in a false sense of personal wherewithal.
Broken and mired in sin, all of us are destined to be needy. All of us. So be it 7 months, 7 years, or 7 decades, I will come to you, day or night, in the sincere hope that you will not learn to fear your human neediness. And in these times I will hold you close, dry your tears, and speak softly to you about the One whose arms are safer and whose words are wiser. Together we will run to Him.
Love,

Momma

*Originally written June 9, 2013