Yesterday my son went with his youth group to volunteer with Target:Dayton. They served a meal to the people who came in need of one. Some were homeless, others barely getting by. Timmy was in charge of the coffee.
As we drove home, after the bus dropped him back off at our local church, I asked him about his experience. These are the 3 simple things he shared with me and the profound lessons I learned from him:
1. Tim's quote: "Not everyone there "looked" homeless." Mom's lesson: Not everyone I meet today who could use my help or encouragement will "look" like they need it. That doesn't mean I should withhold it. Target:Dayton provides their services indiscriminately and lets each individual decide whether or not they need them and want to receive them. I should be so generous with my time, resources and attention.
2. Tim's quote: "I didn't know there were so many people in Dayton that were homeless. There were so many of them." Mom's lesson: The need in the world is greater than I realize or have ever actually seen with my own eyes. If I saw it all at once, it would likely overwhelm me and paralyze me. The need is great. I would be wise not to forget that.
3. Tim's quote: "There was a lady who worked there who came up to me and told me I was doing a good job." Mom's lesson: It helps to know when we are on the right track. Serving others isn't easy and when I see someone doing it well, I should tell them so. We all secretly wonder whether what we are doing is making a difference and whether we are "doing it right." Words of encouragement are precious gifts that keep the givers giving.
One bonus lesson I learned: The first time our children (or any one else for that matter) experience something, we need to pay attention to their reactions and descriptions. When we have "been there and done that," we forget the power of a first experience and the unique perspective that comes with it.
Today I read an article on CNN.com entitled, "To Spank or Not to Spank, Where Do You Draw the Line?" Talk about a controversial topic that will not go away! The article was written to draw attention to another CNN.com article summarizing a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics about the effects of physical punishment on mental health. Whenever and where ever this topic is brought up it sparks strong opinions and heated debate.
In the past, I have worked in social work settings, public schools, and for nonprofit agencies that work with young children. As such, I have been a mandated reporter of child abuse for many years out of my life. One social work program I worked for had a sign on the wall of their building that said, "You have entered a NO SPANKING zone." In many people's minds, spanking (of all manners) is equated with physical abuse of a child, and witnessing it would be a reason to call Child Protective Services. I remember once when my son was close to 3 years old and I took him to see our family practitioner for a rash that he had developed suddenly. He had never had a problem at the doctor's office before, and I had no reason to expect that he would COMPLETELY FREAK OUT on this particular visit... but he did. He didn't want anyone touching him, talking to him, or even looking at him. He went so far as to kick (hard) and scream. I was flabbergasted and distressed. I had NEVER seen him react this way and I was more than a little bit stunned by his uncharacteristic behavior. In the middle of my son's kicking and screaming fit, the doctor calmly said to me, "How do you discipline him at home?" "EXCUSE ME?!?" I said, over my son's shrieks. "When he misbehaves at home, what do you do?" the doctor persisted, calmly. Completely taken aback, I mumbled something about time outs, while inwardly, I was reminding myself that this doctor was a mandated reporter, and that I needed to be very careful about how I answered him. His next question floored me, "Do you ever use force to correct him?" he asked in an elevated voice to be heard over the wails. "I think we are done here," I said emphatically, "We are leaving!" and I picked my son up and took him outside. At this point I was shaking inwardly and outwardly. I was shocked at my son's behavior and more than a little concerned about him, and I was also shocked at the doctor's words. What was he implying?!?! I didn't want to strap my son into his car seat while he was still making such a fuss, so I stood outside the doctor's office talking calmly, but firmly, to him about both the doctor's office visit, AND his inappropriate behavior. As he was calming down, the nurse came out, apologizing and joined us to look at my son's rash (as he started screaming again), and she quickly gave me some basic medical advice and I thanked her and got the heck outta there. I got home from that visit and put my son down for a nap. I called my husband at work in hysterics and anger, and described to him the doctor's visit. He said he would handle it and we hung up the phone. Later that night, around 6pm, well after the doctor's office had closed, I got a phone call from our physician. He said that my husband had called him and then the doctor surprised me by profusely apologizing for the incident. He explained to me that in that moment, while my child was kicking and screaming, he felt that a good swift spanking would have worked wonders, and while he couldn't recommend as much, he was trying to subtly give me the option to be able to say, "Yes, I occasionally discipline him by spanking and if you'll just give us a moment alone, I think we can handle this and get on with this visit." What a miscommunication! I was convinced the doctor felt like I was probably physically abusive at home and that my son wouldn't be reacting that way if I didn't have a history of beating him. Meanwhile the doctor was thinking nothing of the sort, rather he felt that at my son's age and with the way he was behaving, a swift physical reprimand would be best.
Let's just clear the air:
As a child, I was spanked on more than one occasion, both by my parents and by a teacher at my public elementary school when I misbehaved. It wasn't the only method of correction I experienced, but it was one of them.
As a mother, I have spanked my son. it isn't the only method of correction I have used, but it is one of them.
There, the cat is out of the bag. You know my spanking history and my opinions about the topic - OR DO YOU? The word "spanking" means different things to different people. It conjures different images based on people's past experiences. Is spanking wrong? Well, what do you consider spanking? If you believe that flying off the handle and hitting a child in anger over their frustratingly bad behavior is spanking, then I will tell you that by your definition, spanking is abusive. That is NOT, however, how I define spanking, nor is it how I have ever treated my child. Spanking, in my vocabulary, is a swat (one or more) on the backside that a child knows is coming and knows why it is coming, followed by an embrace and sincere reassurance of love. It is not done in anger, and it is not done without careful control on the part of the parent. It is not done without first discussing the willful disobedience thoroughly with the child. Just like any other negative consequence for bad behavior, spanking is to be carefully thought out and used as a tool to correct and restore a child - not to shame or berate them or harm them in any way. If that is how you define spanking as well, then I will tell you that spanking is not abusive in the slightest.
The study published by the Journal of Pediatrics relates things like slapping, hitting, grabbing, pushing and shoving of a child (by a parent, as a form of discipline) to a 2-7% greater likelihood of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and personality disorders later in life. This description has nothing to do with spanking as I know it and define it.
Bottom line, the study had nothing to do with spanking as I know it and everything to do with out of control parenting. Parenting is hard work. No. Doubt. About. It. If the world is going to go the way of CNN, then I hope the Christian church does NOT. Let's focus on supporting parents and giving them tools to better shepherd their children's hearts, and stop throwing around poorly defined, controversial topics in an effort to garner a reaction.
Galatians 5:22-23 NIV "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things THERE IS NO LAW."
Happy Mother’s Day! Thank you for welcoming me into your family and into your heart when I became your daughter-in-law 14 years ago. I once read about the mother/daughter-in-law relationship that, “Over time, wise women will come to value and appreciate the role of each other in the life of the man they both love.” I hope we are on our way to that place. It hasn’t always been easy. I know that I am not always the easiest person to get to know. I can be quiet and withdrawn at times and withhold things that others might readily share. I already had a strong support system in my life when I met you and maybe I haven’t depended on you as much as other young women would have. I don’t know if up to this point we have had the kind of relationship that you hoped to have with a daughter-in-law or not. I do know that divorcing your son is not a desire or option in my life and never will be so, Lord-willing, we have many more years to figure all this out!
Thank you for raising your son, my husband. Thank you for your devotion to him over the years and your commitment to see him succeed and be happy. He is the love of my life. I am his wife, the one he has chosen to bring into this family, to spend the rest of our lives together. I know that our life will be a journey and that it hasn’t always been (and won’t always be) easy, but I want you to know how much I love your son and how “worth it” it is for me to work hard to make our relationship a blessing to each other and to those around us. You didn’t give up on him along the way, and I want you to know that I never will either. I will fulfill my vows and continue meaning everything I said to him on our wedding day, and then some.
Life in Christian ministry is exciting and challenging, rewarding and draining. I know that this may not be what you had in mind for him when you were raising him, but you have taken pride in his decision to follow after God and walk this path and that is a beautiful thing. It would give us no greater joy than to share more of this part of our lives with you, but we will never force that. If you ever want us (or me personally) to pray with you or for you, or have questions or thoughts about the Bible or Christian life that you want to share with us, please don’t hesitate. Why should we share this most deep and meaningful part of our lives with the world and not with our own family members?
Just in case I’ve never mentioned it, I want to say thanks for several ways that you have blessed me over the past 14 years:
1. You have made a point to get to know me. You read my blog and my Facebook status updates and you always respond to my emails and voice mails. You ask me questions and want to hear the answers. You have done a much better job of this with me than I have done with you. I have noticed. Thank you.
2. You are very generous. On Christmas at your house, I feel like the belle of the ball! Seriously spoiled. I don’t think you have ever visited our house that you haven’t called when you get close to town and ask if I need anything from the store. There are many examples I could give, but when you and Jim were some of the first to sign up to financially support us when we became missionaries, that spoke volumes. “Thank you” doesn’t say enough.
3. You do not harass me for my shortcomings or point them out unnecessarily. I am not the perfect daughter-in-law. No surprise there, I am sure. I forget birthdays and anniversaries. I sometimes hoard my family to myself and don’t share them with you as much as I could. I don’t always strike up the most exciting conversations. I know these things because I am self aware, but not because you point them out or make me feel guilty for them. Thank you for that.
4. You will drop everything to help us if we need you. I fondly remember the days we spent together taking care of Timmy and not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE foster children for a week while Jason was out of town!!! We were the dynamic duo! Just your presence there was what it took to make the week not just bearable but enjoyable. Sometimes I wonder if you wish I needed you more. I’m a pretty independent lady, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t treasure the knowledge that if/when I do need you, you would be there! Thank you.
5. You do not criticize the way I do things. I am not as good at keeping house as you are. My baseboards are often cruddy and window sills are frequently lined with dust. Yours aren’t. The bathrooms are rarely pristine and my kitchen cabinets are less than organized. Yours are. I do not always parent my son the way you would. I throw away things that you would keep. I misplace things or damage things that you have a system to keep track of and take care of. There are many things that I do differently than you would do, I am sure. I know this because I’ve gotten to know you and spent many hours in your home, but not because you make a big deal out of our differences. You don’t. Thank you for that.
I am publishing this letter to you on my blog rather than just printing it out and mailing it to you for two reasons: 1. To celebrate you publically, and 2. No one is perfect, but you have done a lot of things right in this whole mother/daughter-in-law relationship and I think other mothers-in-law would like to hear the things that have stood out to this daughter-in-law most over the past 14 years. There is no manual you get at your son’s wedding telling you how to go about loving his new wife well, so we have to help each other out along the way.
I love you and thought you should know (and so should the rest of the world). HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!
Today I saw one of those cute printables on Pinterest. You know the ones I'm talking about. This one had a list of 21 questions to ask your kiddos. I should have glanced at the questions before I started asking Tim, but I didn't. As I made my way down the list, I realized every question had to do with ME... what he thought of me, his perceptions of me, etc. Oh dear.
Well, it certainly could have gone worse. Some of his answers were actually very sweet and even encouraging. Others were a bit too accurate, if you get my drift. Here are the results:
1. What does your Mom say to you all the time? "Do your chore sheet!" (I'd like to think I say it a little nicer than that... perhaps not? hmmm.)
2. What makes your Mom happy? "Food." (I'm working on that one, maybe by this time next year he will say something like, "the stairmaster.")
3. What makes your Mom sad? "When I do bad things." (Awww, I guess it does make me sad, but I wish he would have said something like "people living in poverty" or "seeing people hurting" or something more big picture and less day-to-day. C'est la vie. I suppose I don't show him what saddens me much of the time... I'll have to ponder that one.)
4. What makes your Mom laugh? "Funny TV shows." (That's a gimme.)
5. What did your Mom like to do when she was a kid? "Ummm, cheerleading, I think?" (Did I ever!!! I also liked riding my bike around the block in our trailer park, pretending it was a horse... ahhh, the weird old days.)
6. How old is your Mom? "You are 37, right?" (Right.)
7. How tall is your Mom? "Five Foot Four." (Wrong.)
8. What is your Mom's favorite thing to do? "Hang out with people." (I like this one.)
9. What does your Mom do when you aren't around? "Go on a date with Dad." (Yup! I'd like to think that this answer means we are communicating volumes to our son about the joy of marriage and our commitment to each other... in actuality, who knows what he's thinking!)
10. If your Mom was famous, what would it be for? "I have no idea on this one." (Thanks for the vote of confidence, Son.) ;)
11. What is your Mom really good at? "Writing." (Awww. Thanks!)
12. What is your Mom NOT good at? "Jumping." (Okay, weird answer, but okay.)
13. What does your Mom do for work? "Nothing now." (Correct-a-mundo! Unless you count laundry, cooking, vacuuming, dishes... but what almost-11-year-old boy counts those things? The DNC Advisor didn't even think that those things were work for Ann Romney and she had FIVE sons!)
14. What is your Mom's favorite food? "Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory." (Krazy Kraig's Carrot Cake Cheesecake to be exact, and their Santa Fe Chicken Salad is equally divine... well, maybe not equally.)
15. What are you most proud of your Mom for? "That she is a good Mom." (I'm not makin this stuff up, folks! Can someone hand me a tissue?)
16. If your Mom was a cartoon character which one would she be? "Umm, that smart girl from Scooby Doo. Velma?" (Well, its no Wonder Woman, but it could have been worse, I do wear glasses.)
17. What do you do with your Mom? "We watch movies... eat... go places... I don't know!" (Hmmm, time to add a bit of variety to the routine, perhaps.)
18. How are you and your Mom the same? "We both have blonde hair." (True enough.)
19. How are you and your Mom different? "Um, I'm a boy and she's a girl." (Thank you, Captain Obvious! I thought about pressing him for a different answer on this one, but I suppose that gender is an important distinction.)
20. How do you know your Mom loves you? "You tell me so." (And I always will.)
21. Where is your Mom's favorite place to go? "France." "Tim, I've never been to France." "Oh. Then Disney World!" (Well, definitely in my top five anyway!)
Ask a kid in your life these questions and see what you find out! You never know unless you ask.
Now I think I will sit down and answer the same questions about my Mom and send my response to her in her Mother's Day card. :) I wonder how tall she is these days...
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!