Posted in Communication, Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, Home, Love, Marriage & Family

Surviving the Pandemic – 12 Good Things That Have Happened

condo

Good things that have happened because of the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown:

  1. I’ve slowed down to think. I feel like I have more room to think. It’s like the bookends of my life have moved out. They were pressing in on me. I have more space now. I can take my time, and it’s alright. I’ve been forced off the high speed treadmill of my life. I’ve opted out of the rat race–the crazy habit of busy, busy, busy. The “busy” was in my head. My brain has found a lower gear, now, and I like it.  More “frames” have been added to the movie of my life, stretching out the scenes. It’s not flash/flash to the next scene.
  2. I’ve arranged my house the way I like it. Each room and the balcony give me joy.
  3. With my husband being home, he has learned what it is I do as a writer. He has seen my rhythm and grown to appreciate it. It took awhile for me to ignore him and go about my business. But we settled into a groove of sorts.
  4. I’ve reassessed my role with my grandchildren. I’m taking a more long-term approach and planning games and activities that will not only entertain but prepare them for the future once we can be together again. I’m also realizing that there are stories of my past I need to share with them. Most importantly, they will learn by watching how I interact with them and others and how I live my life.
  5. My husband has learned it is possible to “plan” a once a week grocery shopping trip instead of just hopping over to the grocery store when we need something multiple times a week.
  6. I’ve learned to “tame” my compulsion to go out and I now have a greater appreciation for the activities I am able to do outside the home.
  7. We cut out eating cakes and cookies and ice cream, for the most part, and are consuming healthier food on a daily basis.
  8. We prioritize going for daily walks, even if they are short.
  9. I understand my husband better as a result of being together, working on projects and talking. For example, when I was videotaping his children’s music videos I only suggested improvements when it was absolutely necessary. Otherwise I would suppress his artist instinct.
  10. My husband calls his parents more frequently now and they appreciate it. Previously if we called more than once a week they would be surprised and think there was an emergency.
  11. The biggest conflict we’ve had as a couple has been around watching and listening to news and commentary, and talking about reports. My husband has a much lower tolerance level and over the weeks I’ve learned to adjust. Sometimes I watch when he is not around, or even suggest he go for a walk while I watch. I’ve reduced the amount of conversation time around certain subjects. Our children, like me, want to talk, so we’ve had to modify our conversations around their dad.
  12. I’ve consciously tried to add humor to our days and this has made life more fun.
Posted in Children's Music YouTube, Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, Food, Food Security, Home, Marriage & Family, Music, sustainability

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 7 at Home

tsawassen Mills
Tsawwassen Mills May 3, 2020

Went to Tsawwassen Mills for our weekly social distancing walk yesterday. I realize now what I am subconsciously doing. I’m conditioning myself for the new normal. My brain feels like it is spinning, sometimes, like it lacks traction, when I try to imagine what we will be walking into in the next months, maybe years.

I read an interesting speculative article in the National Post. “We’ll have to reinvent ourselves,” futurist Nicola Danayov says.

Regarding the measures to control the virus, Danayov says, “when you’re selling survival you can justify anything.” He adds that the public will have to weigh in on these measures with “debate and discussion and a vote.” We will need to give careful thought to the best way to move forward, calculating the risks. As I mentioned in a previous article, I pray that we will come up with new, creative solutions.

One solution I saw this morning, in an article, was body temperature scanning at a liquor store. The concern, of course, is around privacy and the storing of information. Maybe the risk is minimal if there no identifying information attached, like when your speed limit is read back to you from a road sign. I don’t know anything about this technology, but it sounds like a possibility. You can go to Science World and have your body temperature scanned without submitting any information about yourself. Maybe it’s like that.

Looking ahead I picture there will be a lot of mask wearing. Airlines already require passengers to wear masks during flights. We will continue to physical distance. Sanitization and hand washing will continue. Full face shields might be required at public events.

We will need wise leaders to guide us into the future. People who are actually thinking things through to their logical conclusions. We’ve all seen knee jerk reactions that have not proved to be helpful.

Apart from keeping the food supply chain going, and people keeping their homes and having a means of providing for themselves and their dependents, my concern is that we not be trapped by fear. That is why I am traipsing about a little now. We went out twice this week.

I see meet-ups in parking lots, distancing by six feet. I see families doing “virtual hugs” with grandchildren after a social distancing walk in a park. Face-time and Zoom are great but we need to figure out how we can move forward in closer proximity with one another, with some degree of physical connection. I read that handshakes may be a thing of the past. Let’s find a way not to allow that to happen.

I’ve thought a lot about “essential services.” Never have lowly tasks been so highly valued. I think there is a lesson in this for all of us.

What is truly essential, I ask myself? Some businesses will collapse under the strain of protective restrictions and this has made me ask the question, “What is essential?” What could we reduce or even live without?

In my youth we were not wealthy. Most of the time our family lived very frugally. One advantage we had was that we lived on a farm and were pretty self-sufficient in terms of fruit, vegetables and meat. We bought our milk from a neighboring dairy farm. We still purchased staples at the grocery store.

I think of the list of non-essentials we did not spend money on back then because we could not afford them. A lot of businesses would close today if people lived as we did back then.

I spent a number of years in the Philippines and was impressed by how well people could do with so little. I was touched by their sense of gratitude and joy, too. My parents grew up in poverty. My mother told me that her family was able to write a letter once a month when they tore the page off the calendar and wrote on the back of it. Often when I see junk mail in my mailbox I think about the fact that not once did we receive a flyer of advertising in the Philippines. The average citizen could not afford a newspaper.

What would our society look like without non-essentials? Jesus admonished us to be content with “food and clothing.” That’s really paring it down to essentials. Analysts are saying that we will be spending less on non-essentials in coming months and maybe for years. What will that look like? Can stores reopen and stay open with the restrictions imposed on them? Will there be customers? How many people will hesitate to go out? Will their spending habits change?

As I said previously, in one of my updates, I am troubled when I look at high rises. I wasn’t sure why, but I am beginning to get some clarity. They are the exterior symbol of prosperity, of modernization. But when we really think about it, they are a visual of how people are treated like a commodity. They say, all you need is a box to live in, a space from which you can go to make money and then go to all the places where you will spend your money. You are needed to keep the economy going and the more of you we have in a small space, the more money will be spent.

The economy is reeling. But suddenly the economy is taking second place to life itself.

Where I lived in the Philippines life centered around harvest, not the economy. Essentially life centered around procuring food. A good harvest provided food and a little money for essentials. If you had a job or a business, your aim was to make enough to buy food. Unlike Canada, the focus was not on bringing in as many immigrants as possible to boost the economy.

I read today that the coronavirus will affect enrollment of foreign students in Canada. Why is this a concern? Because International students contribute C$21 billion annually to the nation’s economy, according to government data.” International students “are crucial to Canada’s higher educational institutions as they pay higher fees. They make up more than a fifth of the post-secondary student body and bring in close to C$6 billion ($4.3 billion) in tuition annually, according to a Royal Bank of Canada report.” (see article)

It is essential to train students in Canada so that they can then stay and work here, which means we are draining the best resources out of developing countries. Of course, the U.S. has done the same to Canada, head-hunting our most skilled. I read recently that Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) send home money equivalent to one tenth of the Philippine GDP. I have witnessed mothers separated from their children for years on end. One mother’s young son died while she was working as a nanny in Canada.

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These are thoughts that run through my mind as I ponder our future and the future of the whole world.

Tomorrow we will create another Music With Mr. Sheldon episode for the children. My husband is doing a few domestic things these days. Here is the kombucha he bottled this week.

kombuchaMy mom is somewhat improved after her I.V. so this is good news. My sister’s cancer surgery is scheduled for Thursday. She will not be allowed any visitors during one week of hospitalization. As difficult as I find it not to be able to fly out and be with her at this time, it must be even more challenging for her family. She has been isolating from them for three weeks now.

While some send cheers, thoughts, sighs and best wishes, my deepest comfort arises out of the knowledge that my concerns are brought before the throne of God in prayer. The same God who pays such intricate attention to every detail of creation will care for me and those I love.

On a final note, I know families are struggling relationally while being isolated in close quarters. There are ways we can approach these challenges that can actually draw us closer together if we have a long term vision for our relationships. Show a little faith in each other. Speak words of support. Your kids and your spouse are trying. Give love room to grow.

Posted in feminism, Home, Leadership, Love, Marriage & Family, women

What Women Want

Forget what feminists have told you. The male role is to protect and provide.

I have studied the subject of the relationship between men and women for decades. I started out as the independent, self-sufficient feminist. I rebelled against what I saw as a dominant patriarchy.

Over the years, I gradually moved away from my rebellious stance to one of greater understanding. I got married. I became a mother. But I never relinquished my distinctness and my sense of self. I never allowed my “self” to be wrapped up in my husband’s identity. I did not allow him to overshadow my being. I’ve remained my own person because I firmly believe that this is the kind of woman a man will respect and cherish.

In my early twenties I began to see a void in my life. By then I had lived in many places and held many jobs. But I was lonely. I wanted to share my life with someone. Like any woman, I wanted to be loved by a man but I didn’t know if I would ever find “the right person” so I waited. I could have waited forever. A pastor changed my take on finding a marriage partner when he told a group of college-aged adults that in selecting a partner, we would need to look among the people we knew. I determined that I needed to expand my circle. I also looked at all the men I knew and asked myself who would be a most likely candidate for marriage. I realized that my prince would not come riding out to me on a white horse.

A certain man had pursued me for some time, but when I was ready to commit I discovered he had found someone else. That ship had sailed. I saw another possibility, someone I met as I travelled. We had a long distance relationship. For some reason communication ceased. I’ve sometimes wondered if I should have followed up with more intent. But that too ended.

Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice has three different models for marriage. There is the marriage of lust or passion. There is the marriage of convenience. And finally there is the marriage of mutual compatibility and deep love. Of course the latter is what we all want.

As a practical being, I considered the possibility that I might never encounter the deepest kind of love. I would probably need to make some compromises if I wanted to marry. I decided how far I could compromise. This was a big step for me. Looking back, I see that it shifted me out of fantasy and into reality.

From my mother I learned that her life took a similar turn at one point. She experienced deep love in a relationship that ended. She took stock and then looked into her future. She chose a man who she thought would be a kind and reliable person. It sounds a little boring, I know, but given a chance, love does indeed grow, whereas fiery passion wanes. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be sexual attraction but it is not the dominant factor when thinking long term.

I did not marry a man in order to have someone to provide for me. For years I had provided for myself and this was a way of life. When I eventually got married it seemed like an unbelievable luxury to have someone else to help me out financially. I continued to contribute, because I needed to use my strengths. But once children came along, I immediately saw that I would either delegate their care to others or raise them myself. I realized that, more than anything, I wanted to watch our children grow and to be a part of their education. I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to miss this. This decision came with some adjustments, one being that we needed to adapt our lifestyle to having one income and looking at what I was able to bring in as a bonus. 

Suddenly my goals had changed. Along with my decision to devote myself to nurturing our children I accepted the responsibility of taking the primary role in caring for our home. It only made sense since I was spending more time in the home.

The biblical term “help-mate” has been badly maligned and rejected but it is really a very appropriate description of the relationship between two people who are committed to each other for life. We help one another. We work toward a common goal. We try to keep the love flames burning and we mutually seek and long for peace and a sense of security in our home.

Men are admonished in the Bible to provide for their families. It is their assumed role. Historically they were hunters while women remained at camp and cared for children. This was not social conditioning. This was a biological survival tactic.

We all have an obligation to contribute, whether we are male or female. However, we contribute in different ways. Often these are gender specific. The vast gender experiment we have seen in developed countries, in the last century, is not working out and it never will. The reason is that gender roles are hard-wired in the general populace. They are not the result of social conditioning. From early times man has been the bigger, stronger one, the greater risk-taker, the protecter and provider, while the woman has been the one to give birth and nurture children. Either is capable of assuming many of the responsibilities carried out by the other. At the risk of bursting someone’s bubble, I assert that men are actually better at some things than women. However, even if it were possible to equip a man with a womb–perish the thought–that would not change his instinct to protect a woman and to provide for his family. The unique roles of men and women are dictated by our innate survival instinct.

The Bible refers to man as the “head” of the house. I’ve wondered if this was a social construct of that era in time. Perhaps it was. Perhaps someone decided this is how a marriage relationship worked best. I think it is a short-cut. I’ve resisted this teaching, naturally, being an independent-minded woman. I’ve carefully examined various interpretations of scripture by theologians. I simply don’t like the idea of hierarchy and I don’t believe it to be the ultimate sort of relationship between a man and a woman. On top of that, I believe my view is biblically supported. Jesus sometimes elaborated on Old Testament laws and Jewish traditions. On one occasion he said that God did not condone divorce, but it was allowed due to the hardness of people’s hearts. My personal take is that “submission” became a dictate for the same reason. Men and women did not know how to navigate a complex relationship, so the solution was to simplify it. In another passage we read that men and women are to submit to one another, and I believe this is actually the ideal.

I understand the “complimentarian” explanation of this reference and have done considerable research into this view. To me it still smacks of hierarchy and I find myself resisting it. I am not a naturally submissive woman and I believe in the importance of authenticity. I cannot do something on the outside that disagrees with my insides.

I have fought hard for equal rights. One thing I have learned, in the process, is that the evidence is clear–men and women are not equally equipped for every role. We are designed differently and uniquely, which means we work better together if we take this into consideration. Men, for one, are much less intuitive, generally speaking, when it comes to the needs of children and infants. And biologically, men are not designed as well for nurture, since they cannot breast-feed an infant. No amount of outcry from feminists will alter this.

Men are instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. A lot of Christian women have given up their “rights” and “submitted” after being convinced that a man has the greater obligation, literally to give up his life for her. I don’t buy this. Even if a man is willing to give up his life for me, in a Christ-like fashion, I still feel like this is a manipulative trade-off. I apologize in advance if down the road I am convinced otherwise, but right now I am not there and part of me doubts that I ever will be. As recently as this past year I heard a very gentle-voiced man explaining the need for women to be submissive in a marriage. I admit I didn’t like it. I didn’t agree or approve. Please don’t manipulate women. We are equal in value to men, and our role is of equal value. We are to lay down our lives, just as well as men, so the application goes both ways.

I have a habit of supplementing my biblical understanding with common sense and biological references. I think this is only reasonable. When we look at nature, for instance, we don’t commonly see a female being submissive to a male, or a male dominating over a female. Humans are much more complex than animals, but this is a starting place to begin to understand our relationship with the opposite sex. Male and female are equally important contributors and we contribute in different ways.

I appreciate that my husband places a very high value on the administrative duties in the home. In fact, early on I decided that we needed some parameters. We were arguing over petty things concerning the home and I decided that he needed to stay out of my domain, mostly, when it came to deciding things about the home. I was better equipped at comprehending what was needed. In this area we did not have equal negotiating power. I had fifty-one percent of the shares. However, when it came to finances, I allowed him to have fifty-one percent. It was not because I was required to do so, but because I saw he was a good financial manager and we needed a way to break a gridlock. Of course I challenged him. This was expected.

We have done a lot of negotiation in our marriage. Sometimes I yield. But I do not submit because I am required to submit, due to some ordinance. I submit because it is important for one of us to submit in order to move forward. And I fully expect him to be able to do the same.

It may seem strange in these times, when we have primarily fallen for feminist dogma, to believe that, generally speaking, the best model for marriage is to consider the man as the one primarily responsible for providing. There are, of course, exceptions. The man can delegate this responsibility to the woman if she is agreeable to this. In some marriages this works out well. What is critical is that each maintains a sense of dignity in their role.

As I said earlier, I am grateful that my husband places a very high value on the care and planning that goes into making a home. So many skills of the home have been farmed out—think of daycares, decorators, cleaners, gardeners, seamstresses, bakers, cooks, cake decorators, teachers, personal assistants, family counselors and caregivers, etc. For one woman to take on all of these roles is phenomenal. If we are blessed with a partner, then we don’t have to do it alone. We can share this responsibility. If we are honest, we need a “helper.” This is why it is so important to learn to negotiate and be agreeable in a committed relationship.

If the man is willing to provide, I find that I am more than willing to oversee the home. When I go out to work I need to delegate the jobs at home to others, whom I in turn pay to do the things I would otherwise do. It is a trade off. Some women would rather do work outside the home and have others care for their families. I get that. Women vary in their level of nurturing skill. But I maintain that there is nothing as rewarding as influencing a person’s life from birth to adulthood.

I highly esteem my husband for carrying out the role of provider but that still does not mean I lower myself and think I have to submit to him. I collaborate with him. Yes, sometimes I yield my body to him, because I want to delight him. I cannot be thinking only about myself in this area or any other area. But I yield only as far as I am comfortable with doing so. I am not property. I am a queen in my home. I rule alongside my king.

There is another illustration in the Bible comparing a marriage to Christ and his church, with the church being the submissive bride. I think we do a disservice to the church and to Christ by taking this view of unquestioning obedience. Christ expects us to wrestle with concepts we don’t understand until we can grasp them and embrace them and make them our own. He doesn’t expect us to sacrifice our God-given intellect. He doesn’t expect us to ignore our hesitation. He expects us to inquire and to wrestle, not with a sense of distrust, but with a sense that he truly wants to reveal his ultimate best to us.

Some can meekly accept and yield, genuinely from the heart. Perhaps they have the insight at the beginning that takes others years to learn. But it’s also OK to take our perceived “truths” and subject them to the refining fire. If they are true and real, they will survive. In fact, they will come out shining and strong.

What women want is to be loved, and that is what men want too. We want to be considered as equals, to be valued and heard. We also want to be good help-mates. We want to work as a team.

Posted in anxiety, COVID-19, De-stressing, faith, Health, Home, Marriage & Family, mental health

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 3 at Home

stevestonI feel like there is little to write about my personal isolation this week. Life continues much the same, with few changes. Perhaps that is the story.

We hear more bad news south of the Canadian border. Our eastern provinces aren’t doing so well. This week we were able to apply for financial assistance from the government and the process went quite smoothly.

What has been on my mind is how Sweden will do in comparison to the rest of the world, since they have decided to embrace the “herd immunity” approach and not put severe restrictions in place. We will wait and see. It might turn out to be a costly experiment.

I’ve been researching various mask designs. It appears we may soon be required to wear masks for going out or grocery shopping.

This week I ventured out to Walmart. It was a dismal experience. I wanted to replenish our SoftSoap but there was none in stock. I went with a bodywash instead. Liquid soaps were limited to one per customer so I bought a large bottle. The toilet paper we usually buy at Walmart was out of stock as well. So were the bagged oranges I was looking for. We walked out with the bodywash, two cans of cranberry sauce and a gallon of milk.

We cooked a turkey dinner for the two of us yesterday and dropped off a bag of “turkey dinner” for one of our kids and his wife. They came outside and picked it up at the car. When we got home we video-chatted with them while we ate our “Easter Dinner.” Our other kids live across the border. The grandkids are getting bored. I feel for their parents who need to look after them 24/7 without options for distractions outside the home. No organized sports, music lessons, playdates, going to the park, shopping, or even playing with kids in the neighborhood.

My mother has gone for repeated tests in the past weeks. There is always a concern when this happens. I can’t fly to visit her, or my sister who had a cancer diagnosis this week. She is anticipating emergency surgery.

My husband talks frequently with his parents on the phone and they are doing well and adjusting to being restricted to their suites in their seniors’ home. His father made a trip to emergency several times regarding his heart just before the lockdown. Thankfully he hasn’t needed to go again. Their biggest concern right now is both needing a haircut.

My husband and I video-taped another episode of Music with Mr. Sheldon. One school that remains open plans to use the video.

We are going for regular walks and enjoying cherry blossoms and spring flowers in bloom. We were scheduled to go to Victoria for a Chess Tournament this weekend but it was cancelled. Ferries are reduced to essential travel and the hotel we were booked to stay at is closed.

I’m trying to imagine how things will begin to open up again and predict when this might happen. In the meantime I try not to worry about things over which I have no control.

Posted in Abuse, addictions, anxiety, domestic violence, Love, Marriage & Family, Self Regulation, women

Reducing the Likeliness of Domestic Violence

horse ridersAs a person with training in counseling, I am writing this for adults in a relationship that tends towards abuse. Tensions rise to a point where there is a real threat of violence.

First I want to explain that violence is not just hitting. It is also shoving and restraining and blocking. Here I will deal with preventing escalation to physical violence. I acknowledge that emotional abuse is occurring in these situations as well. Below are starting points for resolving conflict that escalates. This is by no means a complete anti-dote, but it could provide some help in certain areas.

  1. Triggers. We all have triggers. These are the areas where we are sensitive. We can get angry when someone triggers us. Knowing someone’s triggers can help us to avoid going there. Triggers are areas that need work. However, the work takes a lot of time and effort, usually under the guidance of a counselor. In the short therm, certain confrontations can be avoided if we think ahead about not triggering someone in their sensitive areas.
  2. Bait. If your partner baits you, this is a pathological relationship. This is not normal. This personality actually wants an opportunity to act hostile and feels the need to be abusive. This is a relationship you have to plan to leave. You are dealing with a dangerous person so you will need to plan your exit carefully.
  3. Impatience. A lot of flare-ups can be traced to impatience. Someone reaches the end of their fuse. The answer is to get a longer fuse. The person with the short fuse needs to see this is their problem. Practicing patience can make a big difference. Learn to give the other person more time, more space, more understanding.
  4. Inappropriate Entitlement. We are entitled to respect. But this is not a one-way street. Both are equally entitled. Neither has the right to be demanding.
  5. Competition. A little bit of competition can be healthy. It becomes unhealthy when one person cannot tolerate losing, or being seen as less competent.
  6. Put-downs, insults. Look beneath this kind of behavior. It is a form of non-physical violence that attacks another’s person. Why are you putting the other person down? In some cases this is a bad habit that needs to be broken. It may be how someone was raised, and they don’t know better. They might not even know how their words are effecting the other person. Deflecting by saying you were joking when you hurt someone is a further form of aggression. Ask each other, how much truth is there behind these words? Does the person intend to be cutting? Also examine whether this is in fact a reaction to words or behavior that hurt them earlier? It is not easy to stop any form of aggressive or inappropriate behavior. It requires a person to humbly admit they have a problem and then commit to changing.
  7. Blame. The blame game is never a winning game. Figure out what is the problem, not who is the problem. Focus on solving one problem at a time. Address other issues at a later date.

What are some positive preventative actions to take?

  1. Be kind. Think of considerate things to do for the other person. Do them out of the goodness of your heart, without expecting anything in return.
  2. Give a compliment. People who abuse others tend to have a distorted view of themselves which is often the consequence of how they were treated by others, especially as children. They have developed various forms of coping with feelings of unworthiness. Show you value the person. Compliment good qualities. Start with, I liked how you. I like that you….When you did that it made me happy. People are starved for words of affirmation.
  3. Listen. Listen well. Let the other person finish. Let them express their complete thoughts. Then respond with, Thank you for sharing that. Or, I’m glad you told me how that impacted you.
  4. Empathize. Say things like, That must have been difficult for you to do/witness/go through. Or, I’m sorry that happened to you.

This is only a beginning. Your relationship is at a low point and will take a lot of work to rebuild. It may also be a situation you need to leave, for your own safety.

Understanding how vulnerable your partner may feel, can help you to be supportive. Just because a person is tough on the outside does not mean they feel that way on the inside. If a person is pathological, meaning they do not experience normal feelings of empathy for others and actually gravitate towards violence to get them high then you need to get out of that relationship. However, a lot of progress can be made when two people are willing to work at their relationship by being more open, communicating what you both want in your relationship, and showing you are for the other person.

It must be understood, and expressed to your partner, that violence will not be tolerated. In other words, “I love you and want to be with you, but if you continue to behave in this way, then I will have to leave you.” If you need to say this, then you also mean to follow through.

One last thing, which is by no means the least of problems, is the influence of mind-altering substances like alcohol. Alcohol tends to bring out the worst. If this exacerbates the problem in your relationship you can say, “You lose control of yourself and become a different person when you drink. When you drink to excess, you make me afraid.” In a normal relationship one partner will not want to cause the other person to be afraid and will in fact be willing to take steps to move the relationship in a positive direction.

Harmful behavior must not be allowed to continue. However, moving towards a more consistently loving and caring relationship will require commitment and hard work. It may be well worth it if there is an underlying desire to be together. Your future years together can be better than your past.

Posted in Coronavirus, faith, Food, Food Security, Home, Marriage & Family, Self Regulation

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 1 at Home

As I watched Survivor yesterday, I thought to myself that this show is not a good example of how to survive a crisis. Everyone is out for themselves. And they lie to each other, to win! In real life we need to work together, helping each other, and trusting one another.

I’m not in survivor mode, exactly, but the hoarding reminds me of the show. Remember, if one person has all the sani-wipes, then we are not protected as well as if everyone has wipes and soap and alcohol.

At our house we are trying to stay healthy emotionally, physically, financially, relationally and spiritually.

I’m going to make this fairly brief and write about what we are doing in each of these areas.

  • Emotionally

It’s extremely important to take care of how we are feeling. Each of the other areas impacts our emotions, and is affected by how we feel.

The main emotion to keep under control is fear. As I’ve said before, fear only serves you well if it moves you in a good direction. So, for me the answer is to do things that are helpful, going forward. Focus on the positive things I can do.

I journal, plan meals, and watch uplifting YouTube videos. I stay informed of current events but limit the time I read/listen to the news. I play occasional games on my own or with my husband when I need to “isolate” my mind. I keep in touch by messaging family and friends.

  • Physically

We go for a daily walk. I use a few light weights and elastic bands to exercise. We’ve taken extended walks up and down a hill to get our heart-rates up. I need to do more, but this is a start.

We have a regular bed-time, around 10:30 p.m. I still find myself awakening frequently at 4:00 a.m. Sometimes I can fall asleep again after a couple of hours.

The big change is cooking for two people during the day. My husband has difficulty keeping his weight down so he has been on a low-carb diet for a long time. We are both making some adjustments.

It seems to work best to have two full meals a day. We supplement with snacks in between if we are hungry, such as a slice of cheese and an apple, or a taquito (heated), or frozen fruit with yogurt.

I’ve pulled out old recipes like meatloaf, beet borscht, butternut squash soup, chicken fajitas, and sweet and sour pork, this past week. I’ve also started baking bread again, because this is more cost-effective than buying. I add all kinds of healthy ingredients.

We are spending a lot more time in the kitchen. Breakfast is generally eggs, in some form. Eggs are a staple of the low carb, or Keto diet, and fairly easy on the budget, so this works out well. We cook one other significant meal, mid or late afternoon.

I’ve started to look at mealtimes as the central, highlight of our day. We are deeply grateful for a good, healthy meal. This is our new form of recreation and pleasure. Since my husband is home, he helps me out in the kitchen.

  • Financially

We are spending less. This is a positive things we are doing. It means our money will stretch further.

A month ago I wrote down all of our fixed expenses, things that don’t change every year or month, like housing costs, car/travel expenses, utilities (electric, phone, wifi), payments and subscriptions. The only subscription we still have is for Amazon Prime.

Other than these, our necessities are food, toiletries, cleansers and prescription medication. This week we spent $140 on food and toiletries. I am budgeting $600 a month for this “variable” area of our finances. Generally, other expenses can wait.

My husband is experimenting with a few online possibilities and I am helping him. There is nothing income-generating at this time but perhaps something will work out in the future.

In Canada the poverty line is $24,000. The government will help people in our situation with $2000 a month for four months, or the equivalent of a poverty level income. I think this is extremely generous. It is an effort to keep small businesses from closing permanently and jobs from disappearing when this is over.

  • Relationally and Spiritually

I am doing what I can to keep the home pleasant. Just being aware of the importance of this makes a difference.

Like others, we are unable to see our children and grandchildren, so we are keeping in touch via phone and video chats. My husband is a music teacher. You can take a look at what we have been up to here. In the past I have wished for a larger home (see photo of grandkids) but today I am very happy to live with less.

Our parents live in another province and have health issues. We do hope that they will not end up in the hospital at this time. We have great compassion for those who have a variety of health, family, and financial challenges at this time.

I try to see good in each day. I pray for the people serving on the front lines, and those with the responsibility to make decisions that affect others. I pray for our food supply chain, as I am realizing the importance of the very basic things in life, such as food.

I know there are still challenges ahead, but I trust that God will help us through this.

Posted in Home, Love, Marriage & Family

What Almost Destroyed My Marriage

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Our marriage was dangling at the edge of a precipice. My husband was oblivious to the danger we were in. I am married to a difficult man who has a lot of very good traits, but also some bad ones. We have struggled more than I think is necessary in a marriage.

After decades together I decided I couldn’t allow him to continue certain ways he has of interacting with me. For many years I thought we just had the normal spats every couple who can’t agree on everything will have from time to time. And for some time I thought I was the primary problem. I wanted too much. I wasn’t content enough. I saw problems when I should be looking at the positive things about our marriage, like my husband was doing.

My husband would say things like, “That’s a stupid idea.” Pretty soon I was hearing in my head that the person that came up with the idea was stupid. He also had a tendency to raise his voice, for emphasis.

I tried to be a more agreeable wife. One day I confronted him and told him I wasn’t stupid. He said he had never said I was stupid. But I didn’t stop there. I went on to give concrete examples of areas of our lives where I had made impressive and intelligent decisions affecting our family. Our relationship began to change a little for the better.

My husband has a quality I call resistance. Very quickly, without thinking, he will say no to an idea I have. Sometimes he can support his decision with a good argument, but sometimes my desire or request is entirely valid. On one occasion I wanted to make a quick trip to Seattle to see our son about a week before his marriage. My husband said, no, in no uncertain terms. I am not in the habit of always obeying his wishes, so I hurried to the car and drove away. He began to fear the worst as he tried to reach me by phone.

That incident helped him to learn to be a little more open to what I want and need, but as time went by it became clear to me that I needed more from him. After some thirty years I needed a greater demonstration of his confidence in me. I had shed my insecurities about my person. I no longer thought I was unreasonable, asking too much. I thought I was very reasonable and I expected him to see this. As I looked over the situation I saw a level of carelessness on his part. He thought he could respond to me with indifference or resistance, at will, with no consideration to how I was being impacted. I saw that his lack of control, his sense of entitlement to say whatever came to his mind first, was a bad habit. And he had no idea how much damage it was doing to our relationship.

I confronted him. I told him how damaging it was when he thought he could do what essentially amounted to bullying. He was bullied a lot as a child and had developed some defense mechanisms. In some ways I represented the enemy to him. I was a threat because I wanted something he couldn’t give me or didn’t think I should have. I was going to upset his neat little world. Most of the time we got along well and had a congenial relationship. But it was those occasional instances that were the weak links that threatened to undo our marriage. I had to make him see this. I wanted to preserve our marriage. In these conversations with him I began by telling him how important it was to me to preserve our marriage. I was the threat that was going to break it apart, in his mind. I think he felt this way from the beginning. Maybe even before we were married. This is a dangerous way to be in a marriage.

When my sister and her husband separated I noticed my husband become more attentive to me and more considerate. He became more open and I began to talk to him about what I believed were changeable traits. It is not fair to ask someone to change what they cannot change. Insensitivity and harshness are things that can and should be unlearned. In other words, we have to leave behind our childish behaviors.

There is a tendency in relationships for one person to flip the fault to the other, or to bring other instances of fault into the conversation. I learned early to lay some ground rules. When one person brought up an issue, it was that person’s view that had to be presented completely. The other had to listen. Nothing could be added until the person felt heard and understood. If this is not done, then there will never be the opportunity to get to the bottom of a single issue. The listener, or the defendant, cannot mount an offense or a defense until all is said. Then it is their turn. But even then, the one who brought up the issue, the complainant, has the floor. This is how we have got to the bottom of difficult issues.

My husband may not agree with my taste, my preferences, or my desires. But if he starts to question my judgment, then we have a problem. It’s not that my judgment will always be perfect. But if he is in the habit of thinking he has to protect me from making mistakes then we have a serious power imbalance in our marriage. Or if he thinks his preferences ought always to be the ones to win out, that is a problem.

We were at a very delicate place. I am a reasonable person and sometimes I am too agreeable. I give in to keep the peace. My husband and I are two very different people, perhaps too different. However, I think we are about the same in intelligence. I’m not sure he has always thought so, but I think he would say so at this point in our marriage and that is why we are still together. He was very impressed when I completed my BA ten years ago, with highest honors. It’s unfortunate that I had to prove myself to him. I wish he would have thought highly of me from the beginning because his doubt of me has worn me down.

I’ve been clear and I believe I have been heard. My husband agrees that the weak links really do matter. We cannot gloss over these. He has made some important changes. I think we are out of danger.

Posted in Children, Disciplining Children, Home, Love, Marriage & Family, parenting

Can “Time-Out” and Other Disciplines Be Bad for Your Child?

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Some time ago I wanted to know what the research said about the effect of spanking on children. Naturally, I did a Google search, and discovered that there were literally dozens of articles that all said the same thing. When we read the same thing over and over, we tend to think it is true. We are inclined to go with the “consensus.”

The wording of the articles I read was so similar, that they aroused my suspicion. It looked to me like all these writers were drawing from the same source. That would be alright, as long as it was the actual research. But what if one writer misinterpreted the research, or conveniently omitted important relevant information, and everybody copied this person as an authority on the subject?

It turned out that was exactly what happened. After a long search I finally tracked down material from the original research and found that it read nothing like the popular articles posted on virtually every parenting site.

There may be a “consensus” or agreement from many sources about some form of parenting, but we need to apply our own understanding and observations and determine if what we read is really helpful.

If you have a parenting style that is working well for you and your child, then read no further. But if you’ve ever wondered about the effectiveness of two popular discipline techniques–“time-out” and withholding privileges–then hear me out.

“Go to your room.” We’ve probably all heard it and maybe we’ve said it. What is the purpose of this order? Think about it. I suggest it is multiple. 1) It indicates to the child that there has been an ‘incident’ or some misbehavior. 2) It separates the child from the setting where the incident occurred, and maybe from others involved. 3) It gives the child a “cooling off” period. 4) It gives the child a quiet space for reflection. 5) It offers a parent the same–time to cool off and time to reflect on what happened and to decide if there will be further consequences.

There is an age where this is appropriate. We wouldn’t tell a toddler to go to their room, for instance. They wouldn’t understand, and the separation anxiety would not be healthy for them.

“Time-out” says to the child, “You are being punished because you did something bad.” You may ask, what is wrong with that?

There is a slight difference between being sentenced to “time-out” and being told to “go to your room.” The difference I observe is that “time-out” can be used as a threat, whereas sending a child to their room is what happens immediately after an incident.

I managed without using “time-out” in my parenting and here is the reason why I resisted it. Ask yourself, what is a child doing when they are in “time-out”? They are thinking. You don’t want them to think too long without your guidance and comfort. I think “time-out” can be helpful if done the right way.

When a child has misbehaved it is particularly important for them to know what their parent is thinking and what the next step will be. This is a need they have, like the need for food.

If you send a child to their room it means something happened. The thing that happened has to be addressed. “You and your brother were fighting. Now I want you to apologize and then (fill in the blank, e.g. read quietly in your room) for the next half hour.”

After an incident there needs to be a brief discussion about the impact of the child’s actions or words, as well as talk about future prevention. This can happen at the beginning or after the cooling down period.

Make these uncomfortable conversations relatively short. I once overheard a father “lecture” his son in public for half an hour. I saw the compliance on the child’s face and felt there was no need for this kind of extreme parental intervention. I admit I became afraid for the father/son relationship. Cover all the necessary ground, but don’t go on and on. Kids get it.

“Time-out” is the removal of a privilege–the privilege of being able to roam freely and interact with others. It is “confinement.” The sooner you can get your child out of confinement, the better. For a young child of four, giving them five or six minutes alone is plenty of time before the parent comes and talks to them and then allows them to go and play. For an older child, half an hour is a reasonable time to be required to stay in their room. After the first few minutes it is good for the parent to return to the room and make contact. You don’t want your child to see this as rejection or alienation. It is simply a time to change course and momentum. You may look into the room and say something like, “You can read in your room for half an hour.”

I don’t think it is a good plan to send a child to their room without any input about how to use their time. Say, “You can play quietly for awhile in your room.” This will connect your child to you, and the child will find comfort in knowing you know what they are doing. To an older child you may say, “I want you to work on your homework for at least an hour.” This has now gone beyond discipline to a productive use of the next hour. If they come out and get a drink of water, that is allowed but they are expected to return to their room for the duration of the time. Don’t shout at them and tell them to go back. Watch them. If they dawdle, then remind them in an even tone by saying, “An hour isn’t up yet.”

Once again, ‘room time’ is to be a quiet, reflective time. I discourage music, movies or video games. The brain is to calm down and have limited stimulation. It needs to “work” in a constructive way by coming up with play, reading, doing homework or some other calming activity. In this way “time-out” can be a positive experience. You want your child to emerge from their room a happier person.

“Time-out” is the removal of a privilege. There are other privileges that parents tend to remove and I want to touch on taking away video games or electronics. Many times I’ve heard parents tell me they have removed a privilege for “two weeks” or longer, even for very young children who don’t have a sense of the length of this time period. When I see this, one question that pops into my mind is, what happens if there is another incident two days into the two weeks?

Not only is there the problem of what to do if another incident occurs, but there is also the problem of the child being left without an activity. If the activity is not a good thing for them, then by all means cut it out, but not as a discipline.

In my opinion, two days/two nights or three days/three nights without electronics is plenty of time as a discipline before the privilege is restored. This is a time span even a younger child can perceive, when you talk in terms of “two sleeps.” It also means there is more frequent optimism about having the privilege restored.

Children start out wanting to believe that their parents are being fair. But if they perceive that a punishment is extreme, they start to lose hope. Sometimes they even become more angry. You don’t want your child to lose hope. They need to see that the punishment is reasonable.

I come from the old school where spanking was also part of discipline. Yes, it was abused by some, but three swats on the bottom–after a clear understanding was reached about the error of a child’s way–was sometimes the best “attitude adjuster.” Spanking should only ever be done for misbehavior and defiance about which a child has been warned, and then, after other methods have proved ineffective. Some children never need this degree of correction. The research shows, however, that corporal punishment when infrequently administered, without excess, is actually beneficial to a child’s development.

Discipline is for the purpose of correction. If the outcome is not positive, the problem is very likely not your child. It could be that correction needs to be applied differently. Correction is meant to have a good outcome for you child. Watch for this with any form of discipline you use.

-Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Posted in Abuse, Church, Communication, faith, LGBT, Love, Marriage & Family

My Thoughts on Letter from Farris to Harris

This letter was published on July 27, 2019, open to the public, on Michael Farris’ Facebook page. See my comments below.

Josh,

My first memory of you was in Olympia, Washington standing in my driveway as a grinning kid when you were about nine years old. I saw you many times as your dad and I spoke at many conferences over the years.

How can I forget that meeting in the lobby of a hotel in Rochester, New York when you told me you had signed a book deal for “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”? I told you it was a bad title and wouldn’t sell. Of course, it outsold everything I have ever written by a wide margin.

The last time I saw you was at your dear mother’s funeral. (I can’t recall if you were at your brothers’ graduation from Patrick Henry College.)

We knew each other very well for many years. And I loved you like a younger brother. And still do.

It is established here that their friendship goes back a long way. It was a caring relationship. The writer is older. This makes what follows altogether more painful.

I don’t think I can reach you in private and what you have said and done is very public, so I am reaching out to you in this way.

First mistake. If you can’t reach someone privately, then don’t do it publicly. You think this is compassion or brotherly love? It is not.

You have walked away from your marriage. That’s not right. You have walked away from your faith in Christ. That’s even worse.

The writer fails to ask the most important question, “What happened?” I’ve made this mistake and I’ve regretted my insensitivity.

This says nothing about Jesus and a great deal about you.

That is a loaded accusation if I ever heard one.

Jesus told us there would be false prophets and teachers among us. Your story doesn’t invalidate Christ’s message because He predicted that people would do exactly what you have done. I just didn’t expect it would ever be you.

Now the writer is calling his friend a false prophet and expressing surprise and shock. Harris has made some adjustments in his thinking and he’s probably not through making adjustments. Yes, there is also pain and disappointment in the statement, “I just didn’t expect it would ever be you.” The writer had high expectations. But maybe this was part of the problem to begin with. Lofty ideals that were a bit unrealistic.

I do commend you for the intellectual integrity for recognizing that your secondary views (embracing the LGBT agenda, etc.) are utterly inconsistent with Christianity—as is your view that it is ok to walk away from your marriage for the reasons you have stated. Both of these proved that you had renounced Christianity before you said so publicly.

A lot of people are really struggling with how to respond to the LGBT lifestyle. We cannot condemn them for not wanting to condemn others or finding the biblical view difficult to embrace. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree on points. I think this writer felt compelled to carry out a mandate of correction.

As to Harris walking away from his marriage. That is one of the most painful and conflicting experiences a person will ever go through. Again, ask the question, “What happened?” This is much more helpful.

My heart aches for you in so many ways. It seems that you thought that Christianity was a series of formulas. Formulas for marriage. Formulas for systematic theology. Fear of choosing the wrong formula. Fear of failing to live up to your formula.

Of course his heart aches. But I think Harris will feel shattered when he reads this because someone he deeply trusted is not willing to sit with him and listen to his thought process and feelings.

So, if Harris really did think Christianity was a system of formulas, (maybe the writer knows something) then it may indeed be a very good thing that he is de-constructing his “formula” and trying to find out what it is he actually believes. People need space and time to do this. We as Christians can offer this to them and say, “Take your time. Seek God. He will show you.”

If his was a fear-based “faith” maybe by making some changes he can go deeper and find the true basis of faith, that goes beyond fear.

Having said that, it is not wrong to fear God, or to fear doing wrong. But there is so much more context we have to include. It sounds to me like the writer may be living according to formulas and fears. The two men did come from similar backgrounds.

You know that I believe in the general approach to courtship that made you famous and pretty rich. You included the story of my oldest daughter and her husband in your second book.

I still believe that purity of mind and body before marriage is the right ideal. But it is not a formula for a happy marriage. It is simply a guiding principle that has to be applied with wisdom, grace, and often forgiveness.

Here is a kernel of truth, but a truth-speaker may not be what Harris is in need of during his time of crisis, and I observe this as a crisis when his former close friend cannot reach him to speak to him in private. I think the writer is genuinely trying to be helpful and as Christians this is where we fail so often, and then we end up being offended, when it was our approach that caused the offense.

I would never reach this conclusion about you on my own but what you have said yourself can be fairly summarized as this: you thought your faith and your marriage were based on formulas. They never went deeper than that.

Jesus says about people like you that in the last judgment, He will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

You know that this means you never actually knew Him.

As immersed as you were in Christian culture and a career as a pastor, you never actually knew Jesus.

It gives me only heart ache to say these things to you. And Jesus will take no pleasure in pronouncing those words in judgment of you or anyone.

Ouch! Even if Harris said that, to repeat it in this way is just not kind. And what follows is not really our place to say. God is the one who judges our hearts. Of course, this is a conclusion I have come to after many years and making many errors. For someone trained in theology, the Calvinist view is that if you are once a Christian you cannot fall away, so the writer explains to himself that Harris “never actually knew Him.” I don’t believe this is true. It is also not consistent with what he wrote earlier. The writer clearly thought Harris was a Christian at one time. Now he calls him a false prophet, but says his message is still valid. Lots of contradictions here.

Quite simply, Harris is re-thinking his faith. He might throw it away. I don’t think he has done that yet. From what I have observed he is seeking for a more comprehensive truth. This is a scary place to be. But he can come forth as gold, after he is tried. This is the hope we need to hold out for someone we love as a “brother.”

You haven’t walked away from a relationship with Jesus. You have walked away from the culture you were raised in.

So, as I said, another contradiction. But this may be the only message the writer actually needed to communicate. Harris has walked away from a culture.

Jesus still loves you at this moment. And so do I and countless others. And I will love you no matter what in the days ahead. But my love is tinged in deep sadness.

Josh, you and your story are not the measure of the validity of Christianity.

Jesus is real. He doesn’t want you to return to your prior formulas. He wants you to come to Him for the first time and learn to love.

I can hear the heartfelt love in this letter, but the sad thing is that it will not be perceived as loving, at least I don’t think so. So I hurt for both parties. And I see that I have done what the writer has done, provided a critique. Finding the balance between correction and simple compassion is tricky. But I think none of the above was news to Harris and most of it didn’t bear repeating and was actually offensive because it showed a lack of understanding and a lack of support. It was motivated by fear, fear of Harris falling away and maybe fear of him taking others with him. Our God is bigger. He can handle the questions and struggles we have. Maybe it will lead to error at times. Maybe it will lead to greater understanding of truth. Let’s look at the whole person, all Harris has strived to do. That person is still there, wanting what is best. I believe this. And I believe God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Let’s come alongside the seekers. It’s not about our disappointment. It’s about offering hope.

I am praying for you, Josh.

With love and sorrow.

Mike Farris

Posted in Children, Communication, Home, Marriage & Family, parenting

What I Would Change if I Could Parent My Children Again

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Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash

If I had the chance to go back and parent my children again, what I would change?

When thinking about what I would change, I have to look at my values. What is most important to me? What was most important to me when I was raising my children? What mattered most and why was that so important? Was I true to what was important to me? And were my methods effective?

We tend to follow the model set by our own parents. It is all we know, as children, but later we begin to examine other models. We watch other families, we read books, listen to podcasts or sermons, watch videos, and attend parenting seminars. Some of the input I gleaned from these sources was very helpful to me.

Here are the things that I wanted and were important to me as a parent.

  1. I wanted my children to like me.
  2. I wanted my children to respect me.
  3. I wanted my children to be happy.
  4. I wanted other children and adults to like my children.
  5. I wanted my children to like and respect other children and adults.
  6. I wanted my children to be healthy and safe from harm and injury.
  7. I wanted to train my children in such a way that they would have a successful future as adults.
  8. I wanted to train my children in such a way that we would have a good relationship as adults.
  9. I wanted to pass on my values to my children.

I look back, now, and ask myself if I accomplished my objectives. How well did I do? Were the methods I chose the best ones I could have used? Could I have done some things differently and possibly had a better outcome?

With any responsibility there is daily opportunity for success and failure. Each day requires an evaluation of what went right and what went wrong and from these evaluations we can determine how to make more suitable choices and how to carry out a more effective plan the next day or the next week. As someone has said, the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. For a different outcome, there must be a new input. A change—large or small—is necessary.

Wanting my children to like me and respect me

The first and most important thing I realized in parenting was that who I was would determine how I would act, as a mother, and whether my children would like me and respect me. They were watching me. They would see my flaws. They would benefit from my strengths.

I saw that these little people needed me to be a strong and wise and consistent person in their lives. If I was this kind of person then they would feel confident in my leadership. They would like me, and they would respect me.

Parenting is about leadership. We show our children a pattern of behavior that we want them to follow. We care for them. We plan activities. We play with them. All this time we are teaching them how to respond to life. From our approach to life they determine how to engage with life and even whether life itself is worth living. They pick up our hope for the future, and, conversely, our hopelessness.

Wanting my children to be happy

There are discussions going on these days about whether or not it is a wise thing to pursue happiness. I wanted happiness for my children. I don’ t think it was a bad thing to want for them. I wanted each day to be happy. I made a point of being cheerful in the morning when I awoke them. I tried to maintain my cheerfulness and optimism throughout the day. Bedtime needed to be a happy time as I put them to rest with sweet thoughts and feelings. The reason I did this was because I heard from someone that as adults our happy childhood memories will sustain us through the difficult times. We had regular “happy family times” that we looked forward to when we would do fun things as a family, such as play a game or have popcorn with a movie in the living room. We took pleasure in simple, ordinary things like a good meal or snack, or a family walk in the neighborhood, or camping, or gardening in our small backyard. I tried to model enthusiasm and instill wonder and curiosity–traits that contribute to happiness.

Wanting my children to respect others and have others like them

I wanted others to like our children, so I treated other adults with respect and spoke respectfully about them. I especially treated their father with respect and required that they did the same, even in times when I disagreed with him.

We were delighted to host other families and have them over for meals. This was a highlight for me and for our children. My culinary skills were put to the test and honed. Our children saw this. They shared my pleasure. Children are encouraged by the risks we take and the competence we show. It gives them confidence that they can do the same, and confident, adventurous children are more likable.

Wanting my children to have a successful future

I knew that work would always be an important part of our children’s lives. If they could hold a job and be good employees that would greatly impact their success as adults. So I started giving them small responsibilities early and I modeled a positive attitude towards work. They might do the dishes grudgingly some days, but it was required. They might not clean up their rooms as regularly as I wished, but I modeled tidiness in the home. They learned personal discipline through weekly chores like cleaning bathrooms. When we were offered the job of vacuuming the hallways in our small apartment building, we realized that our sons were old enough to do this and we gave them the job, along with the income. They saved the money to buy bikes and had their first sense of the power of work to give them what they wanted. This was a lesson in responsibility. They each held part time jobs while they were still in school. Work would not always be fun, but it was an unavoidable fact and a means to an important end, that end being to put food on the table and pay the bills. Growing up, my parents required that I give 90% of my income to them. We did not expect this of our sons because we wanted them to learn to be responsible with their money and see that they could accomplish their goals. We did, however, incorporate a very realistic aspect into their financial responsibility training. Once they had full time jobs they contributed to the expenses of the family by paying a minimal amount in rent which essentially covered their food costs.

We encouraged our children to explore music and art and technology, anything that might round out their skills and better equip them as adults.

WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY

So, what would I change in how I raised my family, if I could do it again? I think my values are still very much the same, but I know I would pay attention to a few areas where I could have done better.

I would reach out more

If I had it to do over again, I would still focus on a happy childhood. But I would reach out more to others and teach my children to observe needs and meet them. I was so focused on meeting their needs that I did not teach this very well.

In a small family of two children my sons missed out on the opportunity of caring for infants and small children under my supervision. I was the eldest of seven siblings and gained a lot of experience as a result. I did not see that my sons were not benefiting from the same experience.

I also did not teach them the value of visiting and looking after the elderly or the infirm because I was so caught up with my job and volunteer responsibilities.

I would speak more openly about suffering and injustice and our response

Although it is important to have a happy home, I would be more realistic with my children and talk more openly about the pain and suffering and evil in the world, at an appropriate age. I would share coping skills with them, and possible ways of thinking about and responding to what happens in the world.

I would include warnings about abusive behavior and train them in assertiveness

In teaching our children about respect for others, I would also include warnings about when blind respect can go wrong. I would be more open, once again, at an appropriate age, about signs of abuse. I would teach them about discernment and what emotional abuse looks and feels like. I would teach them how to say no and set boundaries.

I would be involved in talking about sex

I left the sex talks to my husband and I would be involved in this important area if I had it to do over again. A wife and mother has much to contribute and I missed my chance.

I would emphasize the importance of good communication skills

All of our lives we are going to be communicating with people and our success will depend to a great degree on our relational skills. We must model good communication skills to our children and I fell short in this area. Our sons turned out to be fairly good communicators, however, I notice areas where they could have benefited from skills such as negotiation and conflict resolution. Later in life I took helpful training in these areas. I wish this training would have been available to me much earlier because then my family might have enjoyed the long term benefits.

Those are a few of the things I would change. There is little point in living with remorse, as a parent. I know I did the best I knew to do at the time and I was aware that I wouldn’t be a perfect parent. None of us are. But we can still learn, even later in life, and become more effective in our various leadership roles. Maybe others can even learn from the areas where we failed. I’m hopeful that in some way what I have gleaned will be helpful to others. I have a undying admiration for those who take on the life-long responsibility of parenting.