Saturday, April 28, 2012

...And Hence the Name

Any parent of more than 2 children these days knows the drill. There you are in line at the checkout in Aldi, Kroger's, Lowe's, what-have-you, just minding your own business and trying to flip over the trashy magazines before your little ones see them. Your baby is chewing on the rail of the shopping cart, your 3-yr-old, who is sitting in the middle of the cart surrounded by 7 gallons of milk, is eating all the grapes and throwing Mac n Cheese boxes over the side. Your older kids are milling around, staring in glazed-eyed fascination at the forbidden exotic candy, and trying to be "helpful" by loading everything onto the conveyor belt in a huge, precarious tower. You hear a gasp from behind you....and you know what's coming next. "Are they all YOURS?" asks the lady. "Yes," you sweetly reply, "they're great helpers." (That's on a good day. On a bad day, you might mutter, "So they tell me!" or "I think so. But not THAT ONE.") Then comes Phase II of the exchange: "You know what causes that, don't you?"

Over the years, we've developed many comebacks, as I'm sure you have too. Most of them I never speak aloud. Oh, they're snappy, and pithy and zingy, all right, and it makes me feel good to come up with them as I drive home in the van, fuming. Things like:
-"Yes, and we LIKE IT!"
-"No, what??? Oh my gosh, do you know?? can you tell me, PLEEEEEEASE???"
-(confused look) "We *thought* we had it figured out....but if that were the case, we'd have thousands of kids!"

But those are the things we think and do not say. I usually try to keep in mind what the undercurrents are in this situation. Does the person seem to be genuinely interested, or snarky? If it's an older lady or gentleman, I find their general attitude to be wistful or reminiscent, and their next words are something like, "We only had 2, we wanted to have more, but..." or "I was one of 8, myself!" I don't want to pull a defensive attitude against these sweet souls.

Now, there are others, whose tone and timbre indicate that their inquiry is not so benevolent. Such as the lady (probably in her mid-40s) in line at the library who tsked, made other grunts of disapproval, and muttered sotto voce, "You better stop having so many kids." Believe me, I started to unsheath my mama bear claws.  But do I really want to get into a philosophical debate with complete strangers, in front of my kids, in a time-sensitive environment? Will that really be conducive to changing anyone's mind?

 So I smiled at her and wished her a good day on the way out. It should not be my goal here to score debate points or put other people down.  I just looked at the joyful, energetic faces of my kids, and the bitter, dour expression on the woman's face, and knew that mine was the better portion.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Redeeming the Time

Note: This post is from waaaay back in 2004, as I am deleting another old short-lived blog of mine and consolidating some of the contents. Most of the old posts are going straight into the digital trashcan, but this one I thought warranted keeping. Ha....this was back when I had two kids! (So, I ruefully reflect, it should be three times as true for me now!)

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. -Ephesians 5:15-16

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. -Colossians 4:5

"How on earth are you filling the time without TV??" asked a friend, incredulously. It's true, my husband and I made the decision to forgo TV for the month of August. No more flipping through the stations just to see what's on. No more giving in to my toddler's demands of "Blue's Clues, Mommy, Blue's Clues!" Enough with the same old Friends or Seinfeld rerun we've seen 8 times already.

But my friend's question seemed to highlight the issue for me so clearly. Why do humans have this constant need to "fill time?" What is wrong with just allowing an hour - or even a day- to just unfold? And if we are acceeding to this need to "fill it," then what are we filling it with? If the answer is TV, then we are filling the time with refuse. Offal! Dung! Think about it: insipid sitcoms, most of which are just one long sex joke. Police dramas, in which bloody homicides are brought right into our living rooms. You would not allow these people into your home, but every night you spend hour after hour with them. Even shows, ostensibly designed to be good for children, portray parents alternately as buffoons or as over-strict martinets. Rebellious children are rewarded with adventures, romance, and the self-satisfying position of having been proved right.

Now, I enjoy good religious or cultural programs and truly worthwhile children's shows as much as the next Mom. But even when the content is positive, I see the slack-jawed, glassy-eyed expression on my toddler's face as he is glued to the screen, oblivious to whatever else is going on around him. The last time his grandmother came to visit from over 400 miles away, she arrived in the middle of "The Wiggles." He didn't even look up as she entered the room and greeted him. That is not how I want my sons to be raised.

I want them to value people over things, real relationships over mere entertainment. I want them to be able to be equally comfortable reading in the silence of the midafternoon and yelling and roughhousing in the backyard. And I don't want to just "fill" my own time with meaningless drivel on the screen. I want to be reading Scripture, and really taking its lessons to heart. I want to be thinking of and working on ways to make my marriage and family stronger. I want to learn to sew, learn Greek, write a book, evangelize my dad, bake a pie, build a sandbox. It's amazing how much more time I have for all those pursuits when the remote controls have been hidden away.

I don't want to merely "fill the time;" I want to redeem it. I want to make the most of the time that God has given us here on earth. This is our training ground for heaven. This is our mission field. I hope and pray that someday I'll be in heaven. The only question is how many souls I'll take with me when I go (although not in a fiery car-wreck kind of way!). Who will God have allowed me to touch and how will God use me as His instrument to help bring people to him? I don't have all these answers. But I know it's a lot easier to listen for them with the idiot box turned off.

OK, Third Time's the Charm...

*sigh* Alright, let's do this thing for real. Y'all can laugh and guffaw at me for daring to try and re-start my blog while dealing with 6 small boys and a seventh baby on the way. But let's give it a shot. Every time I read "Parenting...illustrated with crappy pictures!" I think, "DANG! That same thing happens to me all. the. time.! Why have I never thought to write about it??" So, here is the new blog, to the delight (or possible horror) of my Facebook friends everywhere.