Sunday, September 5, 2010

MY KIDS AND ME - Chapter 6

Did you know I’m using you? You’re my “practice audience,” since I decided to put this book on my blog before actually turning it into a physical book you can touch. Thank you.

Since we have this special relationship, I’ll let you in on a secret: I believe this chapter about Hedges should have gone before Chapter 4, “Blending Routine and Schedule With Extras.” But when it appears in book form, it will be in that order, hopefully.

It’s been a long, long time since my children were little, and times have changed since then. I remember walking into the bedroom of my daughter, Ruthie the day after the birth of her first baby, and gasping at the sight of little Steven lying on his back. I calmly asked her if he shouldn’t perhaps be on his tummy. She also calmly walked across the room and brought me a book entitled, “Why You Should Never Place a Baby on His Tummy.” Wow!

When my babies were little, disposable diapers and Wet Wipes were exclusively for travel and nurseries. Those are common necessities for my grandbabies.

I know there are a lot of things my children do differently in the raising of my grandchildren, and I would never attempt to challenge them, even though their father was a pediatrician. But I stand strong on my convictions concerning hedges.

A hedge is a shrub of sorts. It’s a living plant that keeps in the good, and keeps out the bad. I know that’s oversimplifying, but basically that’s what it is.

But what do hedges have to do with my kids and me? Because that’s the way I survived motherhood.

I am a firm believer in confinement. Confinement is control, and control is order, and order is safety, and safety is security. Hedges are about security. What is it the Bible says about “a child left to himself?” A child left to himself is a child without hedges. A child left to himself is a child out of control. If you live in a home where a child is out of control, there is no order. Where there is no order, there is danger. And danger robs a child of security. Hence poor grades, rebellious teenagers, and drug addicts.

I often have people ask me, “How did you manage eight children when they were growing up, especially the little one?” And I reply, “Playpens, highchairs, car seats, seat belts (even before they were the law), walkers and strollers.”

I remember a missionary lady walking into our little travel trailer one day. Tommy was about a year old, and was playing in his crib. “Your baby will never develop normally if you don’t let him crawl on the floor.”

She had two children about ten and twelve years old, so I really considered her to have much more wisdom than I did. But after observing her uncontrollable son at the dinner table that night, I figured I’d just stick to my confining methods of raising my son.

There is a tendency to feel sorry for a baby who spends most of his waking hours confined to a crib or a playpen. And I believe each mother should let her instincts guide her in many areas of childrearing. But at least from my own experience, when my children ran around all day, pulling out drawers, climbing onto the table, and turning over lamps, just so I could say I didn’t cruelly confine him, “Mama wasn’t happy. And when Mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.”

When your children are small, you are his hedge maker. You set the boundaries, the limits and the borders. The more physical the hedge, the clearer the limits. I’ve heard of mothers who purposefully put expensive candy dishes…with candy in them…down on a coffee table, and spend half a day spanking little hands. Baby spends the other half crying. I don’t judge you if that’s your method of training. That’s up to you and God.

But wouldn’t it be a lot simpler to put the candy dish out of reach or out of sight? Why complicate your already challenging job? I wonder if a mother like that actually looks forward to each day. I’m sure her child doesn’t.

Should motherhood indeed be a life of battles? I don’t think so. Make it easy on yourself and on your child by making visible hedges. Once the hedges are in place, then the disciplining comes into play when he steps across them. Once a baby is in his crib for naptime, or bedtime, he definitely should not be allowed to convince his mother by crying to take him out.

There are different kinds of hedges you should build around your children, regardless of your philosophy of childrearing. You don’t put your baby to sleep on the front porch the night you bring him home from the hospital. You don’t put him in a tub of water, and take him out when he’s soaked clean. Your arms are the first hedge your baby knows after his birth. Just as your womb was his hedge before birth, so your arms protect him, and provide warmth and security. We’ve all read of abandoned babies left on doorsteps of hospitals, and how that precious little one responds to the arms of a nurse, and the warmth of her body. The first hedge your baby needs is

1. Your love.

Have you ever had company, or gone out to dinner with friends, only to have your little one outdo herself by misbehaving? It is very, very possible that she is vying for your attention. I just had dinner with my daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Jason, and we were discussing how hard it must be to be a working mom with little ones. Whether these children are left with a grandmother, or a “professional” nursemaid, there surely must be a gap in their hedge of security. A child needs the attention of her mother, that no one else can provide, no matter how much that grandmother loves her, or how professional the nursemaid. The second hedge you provide for your child is

2. Your attention.

There is another hedge that is perhaps the hardest to construct, because it requires quite a bit of disciplining your own life. You should live by schedule and routine. That is almost an obsolete concept, I know, in our “do as you please, when you please, with whomever you please” world. There are no hedges around our own lives, and so we find it difficult to put them around our children’s. In a home where self discipline is not practiced by mothers, the children never know what to expect. They don’t know what time dinner will be ready, or if there will even be dinner. They sleep late on weekends, because there is no schedule for weekends.

When our children were growing up, the sky could have fallen in, (and it almost did the day our quiet little mountain village town was attacked by an Indian uprising), but we had three sit-down-around-the-table meals a day. We had family Scripture reading, memorization, songs, and prayer every single morning. Our children knew what the sound of my whistle from the kitchen door meant three times a day, and especially in the mornings. Routinely, they would wash their hands, get their Bibles and come to the table. That was as natural as breathing. Our children were secure in that little routine. Routine and schedule build character. Like it or not, they did it, or they didn’t eat. To my knowledge, not one of my eight children dislikes the Word of God. They love it. They grew up on it. It’s part of who they are, and the times they have disobeyed the Lord, His Word drew them back to Him. While you’re building hedges, please include

3. Schedules and Routines.

I hope that you would never endeavor to raise a child without the help of the Lord. I enjoyed the blessing of having a wonderful, supportive husband, who was a model father. There were times when I don’t believe I could have survived without his guidance and wisdom. I feel compassion toward women who are compelled to bring up their children without the help of a husband.

But there were dark days and nights when only the Lord could bring me through certain times involved in the rearing of our children. I could never have survived, not even with my husband by my side, had the Lord not strengthened me, and comforted me. There were times when it was impossible for their father to be with them, to protect them from danger, in making adult decisions. It was during those times that the sustaining power of prayer was all we could provide to hedge them about. There is no other hedge as valuable as that of

4. Your prayers.

I pray for each one of my children, their spouses, their children, their material needs as well as their physical ones every morning of my life, no matter where I am, or what kind of schedule my day holds. I pray for their particular problems and needs that I am aware of. I pray for their finances, and the unique challenges of their ministries, and ask the Lord to help them to work in harmony with their co-laborers. I pray for their different relationships, and their children’s education. I pray for those who may be traveling, and a special prayer for my girls who are expecting babies.

At night before I go to bed, since it is early morning in Ukraine, I pray my morning prayer for David and Jolene and their three little ones.

After praying for them, I pray for the ones who live on my continent, for the Lord to bless each one of them with a sweet and peaceful night of rest. I call all of my 29 grandchildren by name, praying that the babies would all sleep through the night so that the parents could get a good night’s rest. I pray for those who experience sleepwalking and nightmares (please don’t bother quoting me the Scriptures that prove they’re not right with the Lord.) Then I commit them to the Lord’s care, asking Him to build a hedge of protection around their houses, and that He would help them to wake up early, refreshed and encouraged about the challenge of a new day.

About 2:00 in the afternoon, I pray my nightly prayer for David and Jolene.

“Is that all you do…pray for your children?”

Yep, that pretty well sums up the story of my motherhood.

And I don’t hesitate to say, that if you want to be a good mother, that will be the story of yours.

I didn’t really enjoy writing this chapter, because it goes against my principle of never writing a book on child rearing. It’s too preachy. But at the risk of sounding authoritative, I believe there is a mother out there who believes the same way I do, but because all her friends who are young mothers “un” hedge their children to run about as they wish, you shy away from hedges. You wish with all your heart you didn’t have to go behind that baby, spanking him all day, just so you can prove your training abilities. Well, latch on to this chapter the next time you feel lonely. The stronger the hedge, the easier your job.