Parenting Styles: Part 2, Falling into a Path

In my previous post I discussed the different sources of parenting information I encountered. In this post I share with you how my own blend of theories developed and why that blend is important to me.

I grew in favor of the attachment-style parenting as I considered the psychological theories behind attachment-style and Babywise approaches. As I said, the former is based on attachment theory, a relatively newer theory in psychology (1960’s). The latter, I think, is based on behaviorist theory, which has been around for over 100 years. I believe the age of the theories is the source of variance in how established each parenting style is. My generation’s parents would not have been raised with attachment theory in mind because it was not yet defined (though it could easily have been intuitively drawn from). They did have Dr. Spock encouraging a move away from rigid timetables in parenting.

En medio stat viritus. Attachment style parenting recommendations are possible only with difficulty when children are born close together. Schedules and structure in the home are important. But behaviorism negates an emotional life for children, in stark contrast to the psycho-dynamic theory it competed with. Believing my baby crying is her way of expressing distress, I want to respond. I cannot always respond. But a child does not need me to respond every time, and each cry has it’s own shade or tone that tells me if I need to run across the house or if it can wait. I have children with different personalities. Parenting is an art and no theory can be applied evenly across children.

IMG_2172
This one had to be have constant human contact.
IMG_2166
So we recruited help. Grandma flew in early to Virgina to California to hold baby.

Some children train more easily than others. Some sleep more easily than others. But all children exist. We are so ideologically driven its difficult to discuss this with anyone unless they believe exactly as you do. I’m in favor of the theory that makes life easier. For me, that means co-sleeping, nursing on demand, moving kids to a crib as soon as possible because I want my bedroom back, and singing before bedtime. I will have my oldest check on my youngest by asking her to see if the baby is in danger. What attention I cannot give successive children is fulfilled in part by the attention they receive from their siblings who are close enough in age to have similar humor and interests.

IMG_4944
In contrast to my first, my third happily lived here as an infant.

This is how I came to support free range parenting. I believe its good for kids and natural. But as Michael Brendan Dougherty points out, this is not be as possible as I wish it could because of the slow demise of neighborhoods. We’ve chosen to live in a small town where people do look out for each other. We’re not likely to have CPS called on us if our children, three years from now walk to the park a block-and-a-half away. But we support the idea! We encourage the independence not because we believe independence should be added to Aristotle’s list of virtues, but because freedom from adults facilitates children’s play, imagination and problem solving skills. We want to be a secure base. My newly emerged toddler (13 months old) runs to sit on my lap, runs back to the other children, back and forth. I’m her secure base.

My personality will affect how I parent. My husband’s personality will affect how he parents. I will hover more because I am more anxious. He will hover less because he does not multi-task well. Our children will affect the style of our parenting. The child who won’t stop crying, despite soothing attempts, will cry longer. Just as I wrote before about not worrying about what Kate Middleton wears after childbirth, we don’t need to get hung up on what other parents’ do. I have a problem when parents put forth parenting philosophies without being able discuss them. It would be nice if we could discuss them theoretically, but since the development of one’s parenting theory is an “every man for himself” battle in this society, it feels like we’re up against enough to show we’re making the right decision.

In the end, I believe, if you lived a stable life, the children will probably turn out pretty well. If life for you or your children was unstable, something in that’s child rearing will need to compensate. The compensation could come in the form of the partner you choose to raise your children with, or the parenting practices you undertake. Aristotle said for he who is immersed in a habit of vice that he would like to overcome, he can throw himself in the opposite direction (the brazen man should try to be overly cautious). Since his habit is in one extreme, he will not become the opposite extreme even if he tries, he will land somewhere in the middle. I had, perhaps, too much independence as a child, so we started with attachment-style parenting. As my habits settle and I become more and more the mother I want to be and the best fit for my children, I find that medio where peace and virtue are found.

Parenting Styles: Part 1, Background and theories

What are your parenting beliefs? What are the parenting beliefs of your culture? In the United States, where a myriad of cultures have come and blended together, plus the intervention of “experts” and science in the first half of the twentieth century, plus the revolutionary culture of the 1960’s, and now the back to nature, going green culture of today, it is a time of great diversity of parenting beliefs and great struggle for one to determine for himself or herself how to parent.

My experience is full of those diversities. My father grew up in rural Washington across the street from a creek and nearby a logging camp, and “he survived.” My mother grew up in the Bay Area and worked in education. They met, married and bore two children, settling down on a 9-acre almond ranch ten minutes outside of town. We were primed to be “free-range kids.”

I’m very grateful I could experience this. We had rules, but did not have supervision. We did not need supervision as my sister and I were inclined to follow the rules. There was an orchard, kind and trustworthy neighbors and scary stories about any neighbors who might not be as kindly or trustworthy.

Since family time was lean, I did not think about what type of parent would I be should I become a parent (I actually did not plan on marrying or becoming a parent until I was 19). When I realized I was not going to become a nun, I met a handsome man and it was time to think about that other life.

And did he have ideas! My husband was a free range kid because he lived way out in the country on his grandparents’ property. The world was his. The wildlife preserve was his. He had a boys’ childhood, full of innocent, boyish rule breaking. Nothing too serious. Only a little gun powder. His young-adulthood-born love of the faith came and he developed strong desire to marry a modest woman who would stay at home, have a large family and pray a nightly rosary. He never expected to raise children in any way other than free range, and to be immensely present to this family.

I knew I wanted to stay home at least part time, I knew I wanted to work, I was not sure how my time would be shaped once I married him. I did not attend graduate school expecting to be a full-time, stay-at-home mother. Indeed, I am not, at this time, a full-time, stay-at-home mother. Believing in the teachings of the Church and the Theology of the Body, I saw in my womanhood an image of God (I’m not delusional, remember, every person is made in the image of God). As a woman able to bear and nurture children, I saw in this a reflection of how God bore, sacrificed his body, and continually gives himself to us. Keeping this in mind, it seemed right that we should pay attention to how the body works, believe that God made this with a rational mind and “trust the system.” Natural all the way.

With my education in psychology, attachment parenting made sense and many of my friends were intense advocates for attachment-style parenting. Attachment-style parenting, based on attachment theory, advocates certain parenting actions that are believed to facilitate a secure attachment between infant and parent. It views on-demand nursing and holding, not as detriments to development, but as ways to respond to a child’s expressed need (expressed through crying). The parent adapts their schedule and needs to their child. Emotional well-being and stability for the child.

"Lovey mobey-wrapper"
Mimicking baby-wearing, which I hate but do out of necessity.

In my early parenting days, this was contrasted with sleep training parenting styles, or Babywise style parenting, in which the parent sees beneficial the development and training of the infant in a feeding and sleep schedule. Seeing the irregularity of infancy, the order and structure of the schedule is meant to provide a reliable base that will help the child grow healthy. The child is trained to fit within the schedule and structure of the overall family. Independence is the goal.

Such is the information that came to me through growing up and early parenting. It takes time to develop one’s style and can be helpful to consider the sources. Perhaps we have a habit developed simply because we were raised with it ourselves. This is good information to know. Consider your own upbringing, philosophical and religious leanings. What do you believe about human nature and the nature of children and do those two natures differ? In my next article, I’ll share with you the development of my own style. I hope you’ll consider sharing yours in the comment box below.

To the mothers who never met their children

I did not plan on writing today. I posted two things about Mother’s Day yesterday and the day before. But I feel somewhat compelled to write.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to those mothers who never had a chance to meet their babies,

who never had a chance to see their babies,

who never had a chance to act in all those wonderful ways their hearts ached to act,

who, at too short a time, could never again hold their babies,

who, at too short a time, had to say bury to their babies.

You have lived out your vocation to its very depths.

Our Lady walked the road of discipleship, the way that follows Christ, the way to the Cross. And with pain and tears, she stood by the cross, waiting, wondering. How many times, how many threats on his life, times when they nearly threw him over a cliff, did she hold her breath and wonder, is this it? We don’t know how much she knew. Maybe she knew nothing of the path laid out for her. But she walked and stood and loved and gave.

I have three children…I have five children. I thought of my two children today, the two I never met. One of whom there is no evidence except a CD with sonogram images of an empty sac from the emergency room. For the other we have a grave. We will not know their sex until we are in Heaven. But we named them.

John Marie.

Paul Joseph.

They are my children. They are with God.

You may have children too, in Heaven, who, because of original sin, our broken world, the chaos and madness of death, you have never been able to meet. I pray for you.

I count my blessings that I should have three children alive. But I know, if my time comes again, I will wonder, is this it? Will I have to endure that loss again?

No spiritual consolation changes the devastation of a mother who could not love her child in all the countless ways God made mothers to love their children. The earthly sorrow cannot be comforted.

The gentleman who sell the carved wood statues from Bethlehem were at our parish recently. I told my husband of a statue that moved me very deeply. An angel held a child in it’s arms. I could barely speak the words: it looks like the angel is taking it to Heaven.

This morning, my husband gave me the statue. So I would like to share this with you.

 Angel with Infant carved in olive wood

God be with you on this Mother’s Day.

Lessons from Motherhood

Let go.

Don’t worry about the plan.

IMG_6552Reinforced the lesson to take it one day at a time.

What I want doesn’t matter, but my husband will work really hard to try to give it to me.

IMG_6045Cuddling is the most wonderful thing in the world.

They get better as they get older, but how squishy they are in the beginning is the absolutely best.

IMG_5809I will forever be grateful I could nurse them.

It’s true, the late nights, long nursing in the newborn stage turned out to become special memories.

My husband is the most incredible man in the world.

I’m weaker than I’ve ever been.

I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.

I don’t have control.

IMG_6227I have the ability to impact how these little people will one day understand God.

Vodka is good.

Everything feels better when they play together.

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About forgiveness

Let’s talk about forgiveness, what it is and what it isn’t.

The Confession, by Pietro Longhi, ca. 1750

 

The Commandment to Forgive

It is important to define our terms. “Forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Collasians 3:13). “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” Not only are we commanded to forgive others, but when we say the Lord’s Prayer we put a condition on ourselves, asking God to give us in the same way we forgive others. In this prayer we call ourselves to unconditional, 70×7 style forgiveness.

What forgiveness isn’t

According to the Enright Process Model of Psychological Forgiveness forgiveness is not

  • Forgetting what took place.
  • Condoning or excusing the offense.
  • Giving up on efforts to obtain legal justice
  • No longer feeling anger about what happened
  • Forgiveness does not require the wrongdoer to admit his or her offense, ask for forgiveness or be willing to change.

I refer to a psychological model because since Christ revealed himself, the Truth to us, we can look to good science for explanations that we can understand in our times. My field is not theology, though I know that explanations of forgiveness abound there, much more so than in the field of psychology. Yet I like that we can look at psychology and with its research, see a confirmation that forgiveness leads us to that which is good, that which will make us happy.

The Psychological Toll of Unforgiveness

This article by Real Simple sums up some of the research of the toll not forgiving takes on us:

Today scientists tend to agree that holding a serious grudge can cause stress, which has a toxic effect on your body. Unforgiveness—which researchers define as repeatedly thinking about an injustice you’ve suffered through a lens of vengeance, hostility, bitterness, resentment, anger, sadness, or all of the above—can raise your blood pressure and your risk of stroke and heart attack. It can impair the functioning of your immune system by disrupting the cytokines (protein molecules that carry messages between cells) that govern inflammation. And when people “have a lot of unforgiveness, they generate all kinds of stress hormones,” says Everett L. Worthington, a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, and the author and editor of a number of books on forgiveness science, including Handbook of Forgiveness ($120, amazon.com).

Of course this doesn’t even touch on the spiritual effects of holding on to resentment.

What Forgiveness is

We’ve the spiritual importance of forgiveness, defined what forgiveness is not, looked at the effects of not forgiving, then what is forgiveness? According to Enright, forgiveness is “choosing to let go of resentment or revenge when the wrongdoer’s actions deserve it, and instead, giving him or her gifts of mercy, generosity and love or beneficence even though the wrongdoer doesn’t deserve them. Other important considerations include:

  1. Someone has done something wrong to you and they deserve your anger.
  2. In this case love means, willing good for the other person/wanting good things for him or her.
  3. May be a long and difficult process.
    1. Depending on the seriousness of offense and length of time you have lived with the hurt caused.
    2. If we misunderstand what forgiveness is.

The Phases of Forgiveness

Everyone has experienced some injustice. Some among us have experienced such terrible injustices that it may take decades before experiencing a sense that they have forgiven and are able to let go of what has been done to them. Some will have psychological and spiritual wounds due to the injustice that will take years to uncover. If wronged as a child, although the child may seek to forgive, events will occur in life (coming to maturity, starting a family) that may open the wound fresh again, revealing ways the injustice has created lasting effects. Thus it may feel the process must start again. Although forgive begins with an act of the will, “I choose to forgive him” to think of myself as in a state of forgiving or not forgiving the wrongdoer does little to reveal the nuances of the process. Enright has identified four phases of forgiveness that give greater justice to this important and beautiful process.

In the first phase, The Uncovering Phase, I must “learn how the wrongdoing has compromised my life, confront and clarify the nature of the offense and uncover the consequences that have followed.”

In the second phase, The Decision Phase, I “gain an accurate understanding of the nature of forgiveness and makes a decision to commit to forgiving on the basis of this understanding.”

In the third phase, The Work Phase,I work to reframe how I view the wrongdoer, see his side of the story, so to speak. As a spiritual person, I may work to pray for this person and ask for guidance to see him as God sees him. These steps will, in time, change my feelings towards the wrong doer.

In the final phase, The Deepening Phase, I experience a decrease in negative feelings, am able to find meaning in the suffering I have experienced, identify some good that has come out of it and possibly use my experience to connect or help others. Here we see what Freud called “Sublimation.” I transcend the suffering and can do some good with it.

For more information

If any of this piqued your interest, please consider reading more on this topic. Along with the information above, Philip M. Sutton, Ph.D., provides reflection questions to help you move through the process of forgiveness, here.

Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign

Dove has a new video out called “Choose Beautiful.”

Girl at Mirror by Norman Rockwell

Although this video is already widely circulated as the other videos, it has not been without critcism. Awra Mahdawi, writing for The Guardian, highlights some of the common criticisms of Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign, begun in 2004. Common criticism includes the convenience of statistics in a study commissioned by Dove, in authenticity of the films, or distrust over a for-profit company claiming to want to help women.

Against Dove’s funding of the Study

All statistics cited in the media should be taken with a grain of salt. The reliability and validity of a study should be examined. A study may be  misrepresented, oversimplified, or presented with cause-and-effect relationship where only correlation exist. StrategyOne (an applied research firm based in New York) managed the international study commissioned by Dove, in collaboration with Dr. Nancy Etcoff of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University, with consultation of Dr.Susie Orbach of the London School of Economics. It is called The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report, and is available online.

External validity addresses how generalizable the study’s inferences are to the general population. Interviews were conducted of 3,200 women, aged 18 to 64, across ten countries: the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Italy, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina and Japan. At face value, the report is up front in their methodology, has a large sample of a diverse group. If one wanted to question the study itself, they would have to dig deeper rather than making a broad claim as Mahdawi does.

Against a for-profit company doing good

This leads us to the distrust of the campaign because it is run by a for-profit company. Critics accuse the company of simply trying to sell more products. Sendhil Mullainathan, writing for the New York Times, describes the choice of a person or company seeking greater personal or greater social returns in their profession. Various professions provide different ratios of these returns. Professions typically views as providing greater personal returns than social returns, may be used for greater social benefit. He references George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life who takes a professional typically used for personal gain (finance) and turning it to something that contributes to the greater good.

So it is not impossible that Dove might seek greater social returns in their work, even though they are a for-profit company. A company may seek to enhance their image by associating themselves with positive images: all-natural, child-friendly, eco-friendly, American-made. Dove goes beyond mere association, though it likely does help profits increase. The company is actively investing in these projects whose popularity speak to their social benefit

Against the self-esteem movement

There are other arguments like those put forward in The Guardian that feel-good pieces like the latest Dove video do not an empowered woman make. Mahdawi takes issue with the focus on perception. The question “what is beauty?” is a philosophical question that can be and should be discussed and debated. Dove believes the definition can be expanded to include more women, but women make a choice to apply or not to apply these powerful adjectives to themselves.

What is the power here of positive thinking? People often perceive women who are more confident, have better posture, speak more assertively, as more attractive. Feeling confident does make a woman more beautiful. Feeling confident can allow her to make choices or take opportunities she might not have otherwise taken. It feeds into optimism. All of these things are recipes for a good life. They are ingredients and not panaceas. As ingredients, they are an important contribution to the whole.

That is why the self-esteem movement in these Dove videos, seeking to awaken women’s senses to a habitual tendency to judge, to downplay, to disregard their own appearance, matters.

Are these videos real or staged?

Lastly we come to something I have considered after viewing Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches and its subsequent criticisms. Are the women, who appear to be reacting spontaneously, actresses? Each video would need to be addressed separately. But I wonder, would the message be less powerful if the films were constructed in such a way to represent the data in the global report? Does it really diminish the insight?

Whether staged or not, if they did not have insight they would not be passed around as they are. They would not go viral. Some women see these videos and think, “oh my, that is what I think of myself.” They are not for every woman. They will not speak to every woman’s needs. But for what they are, for who they are meant for, I think they are a valuable resource and tool for accepting ourselves just a little bit more.

 

Why I call myself a feminist

Recently I was asked if I have experienced backlash for calling myself a feminist. I haven’t experienced any great backlash but I have seen a few signs of it. Given my interest in clinical psychology, I tend to avoid verbal sparring with people with whom it will make no difference. It wasn’t always the case, and my friends know how to get a rise out of me, but truth be told, I haven’t discussed feminism with too many people.

So why am I a feminist and how do I define feminism?

My first foray into feminism began with a fabulous, radically liberal, shocking reading in a Catholic Studies class, “Woman and Man,” at the University of St. Thomas. I delighted in the discomfort of my male peers and sought to emulate my professors’ devil’s (radical feminist’s) advocate approach. While I could acknowledge the insanity of some of the ideas, I was not afraid of them, and understanding the others’ point of view became an important cause to me.

I took other classes that forced that perspective. There and since then, I learned about many types of feminism. Radical, liberal, new age, pro-life, so-called new feminists, John Paul II femininsts.

Why do Catholics need qualifiers to call themselves feminists? I believe this takes us back to Elizabeth Scalia’s point in Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life, particularly in Chapter 3: the Idol of the Idea. Catholic group-think (note: not Catholic teaching) is decidedly anti-liberal, anti-Democratic, anti-feminist. Why anti-feminist? Isn’t the Catholic church decidedly pro-woman? Absolutely. The Catholic Church was at the forefront of educating women, given women positions of power (hello Abbess!), defining a woman not by her status in relation to man (only marriage) but on her own terms (celibate, consecrated life). So why the hate?

Radical feminists are aggressively anti-man. Liberal feminists are aggressively anti-pregnancy (pro-contraception, pro-abortion). Liberal feminists are heavily involved in the political scene. Radical feminism has shaped our modern media which paints male protagonists as antagonists that are either buffoons or bigots, patriarchal, un-feeling jerks. A strong Catholic man who has rediscovered the value of his masculinity and vocation as a man, is naturally disturbed by the treatment of men in the media. A virtuous, just man (qualities that come with that whole good Catholic thing) is abhorred by the institutionalized abuse of woman made possible through wide-spread contraception (“okay men, you don’t have to live up to your responsibilities because it’s her fault she got pregnant, she was supposed to be on the pill”) and the injustice brought upon the most innocent of persons, the unborn child. But these ideas can morph into idols and when this happens, the feminist is the object, the sacrifice to be made to that strange god.

What other ideas spring up when the idea of “masculinity” has become a god? Perhaps that certain tasks or certain personality features belong properly to women or properly to men. If a person disagrees with that concept then he or she can be labeled and dismissed, or worse, insulted, persecuted. This is not evangelization. This is not charity. This is not even a right understanding of the human person.

Masculinity and femininity are a man’s and women’s way of being in the world, according to John Paul II. They are not traits. They are the person’s lived experienced, stamped with his or her perspective, deeply formed by this core component of who he or she is, his or her sex. A man or a woman may be ambitious, caring, aggressive, passionate, but it will look different based on what sex the person is. To simplify things, one might take an approach Prudence Allen defines as fractional complementarity which categorizes qualities as a man’s trait or a woman’s trait. In this view, neither are complete without the other. That hardly seems right as some people are called to virginity for the sake of the kingdom and it diminishes one’s personal value. Integral complementarity, in contrast, sees that our unique perspectives add and inform to the greater good.

The ideas that are central to feminism can float in many circles, if we aren’t afraid of the labels.

1. A woman should not be defined or understood by her relationship to a man. We are all defined by our relationship to God. Some feminists apply the central point to the relationship with God because God revealed himself as Father, but this is applying it in the wrong direction. We are defined by our relationship to God our Creator, not to any human being.

How this central point gets applied: women should not be objectified. Feminists are typically against violent pornography. Feminists are against human trafficking. I watched two documentaries in college: “Killing them Softly” about how women are objectified in advertising and “Dreamworlds 3” about how women are objectified in music videos. These programs are not intended to have a Christian message, but their message resonates with Christians because they value God’s creation, woman.

2. A woman should have equal access and rights. Liberal feminism takes this point and applies it to all groups, regardless of sex, while still identifying it as a feminist mission. This concept has evolved. Earlier it meant equal voting rights, equal pay. Now it is evolving in popular culture to include the concept that some women want to have children, having children looks different for men than women and women should not be penalized for that. Evolution continued: women should not be penalized for having and nursing children. Accommodations should be made. Evolution continued: men are also part of the having children equation and should be involved, allowing them time off from work to be good dads and bond with the babies.

I’m not naive, it has also evolved to equal access to marriage for LGBT persons. But that idea has moved beyond feminism because feminism, as an idea, rests on the question of woman.

Likewise, if people who label themselves as feminists puts a pro-abortion, pro-contraception message above the message of feminism, as in the recent headline stating Democrats blocked an anti-human trafficking bill because it did not include access to abortion, then this is not an issue of feminists making a god of their message, but of people passionate about a pro-abortion/pro-contraception stance, turning that idea into a idol to which other persons or issues should be sacrificed.

Let’s wake up. Quit labeling. The Catholic Church takes what is good and uses it to glorify God. Look at the Pantheon. Look at All Saint’s Day. She did it then. She can do it again.

The IPS Model

I thought this was important to share. This model comes out of the phenomenal graduate school I attended.

 

The Theological and Philosophical Premises concerning the Person in the IPS Model of Integration

THE IPS GROUP1 (TEXT DATE: AUGUST 15, 2014)

This text presents a Catholic-Christian view of the human person as a basis for the psychological sciences. Or more simply put, it is an overview of the main theological and philosophical premises featured in the Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS) Model of Integration, which proposes a view of the human person as informed by Christian faith and by reason. The text outlines and organizes the distinctive qualities of complex human nature and the dynamic human person. Its intention is to produce a richer and truer understanding of the person and thus promote more effective therapeutic interventions. An explication of the model, examples of theoretical and clinical applications of these premises, and a set of psychological premises are forthcoming.

Although this text provides theological and philosophical elements for a general model of the person, in actual practice, each human being remains unique. While interpersonal encounters disclose something significant about one’s personhood or identity, each person remains a mystery revealed fully only in the eyes of God. With this proviso, we have developed a synthetic, Christian definition of the person: The human person is an individual substance of a rational (intellectual), volitional (free), relational (interpersonal), embodied (including emotional), and unified (body-soul) nature; the person is called to flourishing, moral responsibility, and virtue through his or her state of life and life works and service; in an explicitly theological (Biblical and Magisterial) perspective, human persons are also created in the image of God and made by and for divine and human love, and, although suffering the effects of original and personal sin, are invited to divine redemption in Christ Jesus, sanctification through the Holy Spirit, and beatitude with God the Father.

1 The members of the IPS Group (Institute for the Psychological Sciences) having participated in this text include: Paul C. Vitz, Craig Steven Titus, William Nordling, Christian Brugger, Philip Scrofani, Michael Pakaluk, Gladys Sweeney, Margaret Laracy, Michael Donahue, Su Li Lee, Steven Hamel, Roman Lokhmotov, Mary Clare Smith, Holiday Rondeau.

Copyright © 2014 The Institute for the Psychological Sciences. Permission to reproduce and distribute is granted if the text is unaltered and authorship is duly noted.

When I was a child…

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”  I fell in love with Christ at the ripe old age of 13.  My personality was formed around devotion to God and his Church.  However, there are some childish habits I took on as a child that come back to me at times.

I looked for God in every sign, in every symbol.  Everything was a product of his will because as I mentioned in a previous post, I was spared suffering as a child.  So it was easy to see God’s hand in the goodness of my life.  Naturally this view came into trouble when suffering entered my life.

I wanted to see a cosmic connection with each moment of every day.  I wanted to read into every incident that God was active in my life.

So he was, only, not as I expected.

When I married nearly five years ago, we trusted in God in the same spirit of trust that I had always had with God.  What did we do?  We married, we left stable jobs and moved across country answering a call in my heart to attend graduate school at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences.  Did I earn my doctorate in clinical psychology and go on to become a professional in the field?  Hardly.  We did not find work.  We had a baby.  We were running out of money (money to live in Washington D.C.).  We discerned that I could not give the time needed to commit to continuing the program if I was to be the mother I needed to be to this little rascal.

We returned to our proper coast, still making ends meet.  I stayed at home, learned to manage the house in the spirit of  A Mother’s Rule of Life and found deep joy in having a dinner prepared for my husband when he returned home from work. Remembering the day I cried over an unattractive meatloaf, this state was the triumph of my vocation.  But we were running out of money again.

I returned to work and the joy and peace we experience during that time (albeit, not financial peace) disappeared.  We suffered, we struggled, we had to draw new lines in how we communicate and spend time with each other.  It was the ugliest time in our marriage.  Up nights with rascal #2 for an hour at a time, dragging in the afternoons because the second day of training I found out I was pregnant again, weeping because the stress of work and disappointment of losing the joy and not being the mother I desired to be.

So we’re back to trusting again.  That means we’re back to being poor.  I’ve gone down to part time in order for us to have harmony in our home and to provide for our children the things that matter most, stability, love, devotion.  So what happens now?

A job interview for my husband at his choice location.  An offer from my parents to provide a down payment on a home. And a home for sale in our ideal community, with a layout and lot that fits our lifestyle and desired lifestyle perfectly.  An offer offered the day we saw the house.  A dream of not living next door to pot-smoking neighbors. Why is it so tempting to think that God is lining up the stars for us now?

I try to keep those thoughts at bay.  I try to keep the excitement, the hope, the anticipation at bay.  Excitement works on me like anxiety.  I remind myself that we made an act of trust, we decided what mattered most was the inside of our home, not the inside or reliability of our bank account.  So if it works, wonderful, but if not, we already made this choice because now we know what matters most.

Is that what God was waiting for?  “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child…”

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We’ve been here before, only with fewer ideal possibilities.  So many times we thought, this is it, we’re going to have the life we’ve wanted.  But it didn’t work out.

Why do we try to predict the movements of the Holy Spirit?  “Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

So we’ll have to keep waiting.  “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”