Tag Archives: parenting

Respect is the core of love.

photo 3

A friend dropped by to pick up something bought from our yard sale, so I asked how a difficult situation in their life was panning out.  Tears were close, their struggle undeniable and the betrayal real.  “I don’t want to lose the relationship though,” they whispered. “I know they love me.”

“But respect is the core of love!” I replied.

The truth stopped us both and our eyes widened.  It was one of those utterly brilliant comments you make that clearly didn’t come from you because you’d never thought of it before.  A gift from God for us both.

Respect.  A consideration of the other for their own sake, and not in relation to who they are for us.

God gave us free will because He loves us.  That is the ultimate sign of respect, isn’t it?  The truest love relationship of them all, and He gives us free will.  He does not dictate our choices nor prevent us from making mistakes.  He provides us with guidance when sought, sure.  But He respects our person by letting us make those choices ourselves.  No matter the depth of grief it may incur for Him.

He respects His creation.  That is where all the joy is for Him.  He created us in love so as to be able to lavish love upon us. And to surround us with His love through Creation and one another.

All loving relationship is rooted in respect.  Otherwise it is not love, it is simply self-interest.  Dallas Willard used to say, “True love is to will the good of another.”

I think about respect with regard to marriage.  You are made one in the covenant, but you remain two persons also.  In Godly order, the husband (understood to be seeking the Lord himself) is the head, the wife (equal but second in line) is a co-partner in everything.  An equal voice. And there to be listened to, to be respected for her own needs and opinions and desires.  Just for herself.  As she too respects the needs, opinions and desires of her spouse.

The Covenant of marriage works as God intends when it is rooted in a mutual respect.  Man needs a helpmate (God love him) and Woman needs a companion to cover her while she covers the kids (God love her).

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I think about respect with regard to my children.  I am in awe of God’s creation in my kids.  From the moment they were born, I have recognized that – while “mine” – they do not belong to me.  God made them, He created their inmost being and He has purposed them and gifted them for their own blessing and their own intended contribution to the world.

My sister and brother-in-law gave me a beautiful framed copy of this quote by Kahlil Gibran.  It hangs beside my bed:

‘Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters
of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you
Yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love, but not your thoughts
For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,
for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow
which you cannot visit even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward
nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children – as living arrows –
are sent forth.’

Parenting is all about respect.  Not just them respecting you, but you respecting them as the people they were created to be.  Quite apart from you.  Different.  Their own creation.  Their own purposes.  Their own path.  Their own discovery.  My role is to guide them in a Godly way of living, but not to direct them in my perception of their Godly path in life.  That is theirs to discover, mine to support.

So all one’s true love for one’s children must be rooted in respect.

And I think about respect with regard to family and friendship.  If I say I love someone, am I willing their best for their own sake? Am I willing to offer advice only when asked? Do I continue to love them through terrible mistakes without judgment and “told you so”?
Do I respect them as another person in their own right (not as they relate to me), with all the same choices, realities and frailties I myself have?

My parents have modeled true love to me through my whole life.  They have supported and encouraged me in my choices.  As a child they guided me, and as an adult they have given sage advice when asked. They have comforted me through “mistakes”, and have stuck by me in commitments I have made that have proved difficult.

Perhaps the greatest sacrifice my parents have made with regard to my life, is to bless – entirely without self-reference – my understanding of God’s calling to me to live in America.  Thousands and thousands of miles from “home.”  I came to graduate school in ’92 and I never left.

I know they grieve this distance intensely, as do I and their grandchildren.  But they have continued to bless me and support me and cheer me on for my own sake.  To their own cost.  No matter what. True love.

So I catch myself now in relationship.  If I love someone, then the proof of my respect must shine out of my every interaction with them.  And I can jolly well deal with my own stuff later.

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And so these three remain:
Faith in the other’s freedom to choose their own path,
Hope for the other’s best for their own sake,
and Love whose core is found in my respect for their person-hood.

But the greatest of these is love.

Kids on skateboards

jsg/nov 14

How to keep your head (when all around you are losing theirs and blaming it on you).

Clean House

Or, to put it a tad less poetically, a short list of Don’ts and Do’s for handling the first years of motherhood:

DON’TS

1. DON’T assume everyone’s doing life/marriage/kids better than you.  Absolutely untrue!  Think about your own life behind closed doors, then think how cute you look if you ever make it to Starbucks?  Well, everyone else is faking it too.

2. DON’T accept every piece of advice you’re given – even when it comes from a sensible source.  They’re your children, it’s your house and your marriage.  If the advice fits, terrific!  Let the rest quietly drift on by.  If motherhood teaches you nothing else, it does teach you that the entire world has an opinion about how you should raise your baby and handle your marriage.

3. DON’T buy into the cultural schtick about parenthood and babydom.  Remember we’re talking about a TRILLION DOLLAR industry here.  Their job is to make you think you need everything, and they’re fantastic at it.  As a wise counselor said when I was about to give birth to my firstborn, “Remember they used to put babies in the bottom drawer.  What a baby really needs?  You and a blanket.”

4. DON’T forget who you are.  Just read an excellent article about maternal identity theft in the Huffington Post.  If you feel like you’re drowning in diapers, keep a visual clue nearby to remind you of who you also are (not once were).  I decided to hang my Yale Graduate Degree above the washing machine. Obvious choice.

DO’S

1. DO keep perspective.  Of course it doesn’t seem like it now, but babyhood is a finite season.  The days are long but the years are short.  I look back now (my kids are 11 and 9) and all I can remember is how unbelievably cute they were.

2. DO see God in the everyday.  Breathe Him in.  Those years when you were single and enjoyed two hour quiet times?  HAHAHAHA. No. Forget it.  Time with God comes closest when you are grateful.

3. DO add grace liberally and daily.  Both to yourself and others.  If you can’t extend grace to yourself, how’s everyone else going to fare?

4. DO keep community.  Even when you don’t feel you can, get out and meet with other moms.  Who cares if you showered?  It takes a village and in these years the women in that village will be the ones who save your life and maintain your sanity.  Which leads me to…

5. DO keep a sense of humor. This is breathtakingly crucial.  It’s your friends who will enable you to see a ridiculously stretching moment as a hilarious one.  We take ourselves far too seriously when left alone.

6. DO keep the Sabbath.  There is a Sabbath rest for the people of God, so grab it! Enjoy your kids!  Eat whatever can be found!  Look above the dirt!  Wear what you like!  Do nothing! In the words of the song that rings through every household, “Let it GOOOOOO.” (And, let’s be honest, everyone does enjoy us so much more when we do?)

7. And, finally, DO give your husband/partner a break.  They can’t handle the changes in you and their lifestyle?  Send them out for a drink with a mate and let them moan there.  Remember, who is the baby anyway?

Follow all these and Kipling would be proud of you.  And what’s more?

You’ll be a Mum, my chum.

jsg/oct 14

Moral Grammar.

Homeschool

I homeschool.  To be honest, sometimes it’s Heaven, and sometimes it’s Hell.  It depends on the day, the hour, the subject, the amount of sleep and the hormone level (mother’s or daughter’s).

In many ways, homeschooling is fantastic.  You create your own schedule, you pick curriculum to match your children’s disposition, and you can spontaneously go to an exhibition/the beach/a museum/anywhere you like at the drop of a hat.

In spite of all these pluses, the first feeling that assaults you (does it ever leave?) when you start homeschooling is that you are going to fail your children horribly.  That your weaknesses (science) will become their weaknesses, that their interests will not be yours and you’ll be unable to teach, and that everyone else who is homeschooling/sending their children to school must surely be miles ahead of you by now.

Some of this is true.  However, much of it is masochistic fantasy that scurries around your brain in the early hours while you condemn yourself for screaming and stress about what you didn’t do/get done/explain/fulfil yesterday and “how on earth are you going to catch up now??”

On days of superchallenge, you need to remind yourself why you chose to homeschool in the first place.  A phrase I find comfort in is that homeschool is ‘Schooling for Heaven not for Harvard.’  Not that I don’t want my children to go to college – my daughter is determined to go to Oxford like her grandparents – but that what matters to me most is what kind of people they grow up to be.

Will they take care of others?  Will they use all the advantages they have had to contribute meaningfully to the world?  Will they love their neighbor?  Will they love themselves? Will they share what they have with those who have less?  Will they remain strong in their relationship with Christ?  Will they continue to seek God’s best and maximize their talents?  Will they live with passion, integrity and grace?

Last week I got a glimpse into how this is all going.  An acid test if you like.  I took the children with me to meet with my lawyer.  I am in the midst of a battle with a well-known insurance giant over a car wreck I was involved in back in 2012.  They are offering me a settlement based on the false testimony of two witnesses.  I could take the money and let the case rest, or I could fight.

I told my lawyer I would have to think about it. As soon as we got into the car, Sarah Jane grilled me as to how the meeting had gone.  I processed it all with her out loud and ended with, “The thing is, I just don’t think I’m going to be able to live with myself if I agree to it.”

Quick as a flash, Sarah Jane turned in her seat and looked me fiercely in the eye.  She said, “Well I don’t think you could either, Mom!  You cannot accept a LIE!

And right then, despite all the challenges of learning English grammar, the meticulousness of math, practicing cursive and remembering history, I recognized that my sweet daughter’s moral grammar is – already – just about perfect.

jsg/sept14