Worshipping God in the Real World – Dodging Forks and Other Parenting Highlights by Penny Carothers

Today’s post in the series Worshipping God in the Real World is contributed by Penny Carothers.  Penny is the Social Justice Editor for the Burnside Writers Collective.  In between washing diapers and trying to make her kids laugh she is working on a book chronicling her mother’s descent into mental illness, some of which you can find on her blog.  You can also find her on twitter, and in the kitchen, on a quest to bake the perfect cake.  This post first appeared on her blog Hearing Voices under the title Dodging Forks and other Parenting Highlights

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“I’m not going to be your friend any more!”

My daughter, four, is rolling away from me, her platinum hair a tangled veil as she kicks her legs to fend off the pants I am trying to pull up her squirming legs.

“I know you’re upset that you can’t play with your Legos anymore, but it’s time to go to lunch.”  I say, hovering over her, using my superior size to push her legs into one pantleg.

She kicks harder.  Her jaw is set, her eyes hooded and dark.  “No!” she yells.

I sit back and take a breath.  I hate forcing her to do what I want.  Then I remember my old stand-by: when you want compliance, use humor.  I take her blush-pink pants and position the waistband around my head, like a hat.

“Oh, good,” I say, letting out my breath, as if in relief.  “Because I really like my new hat.”  I cup my chin and turn my head from side to side, showing it off.  “Don’t you like my new pink hat?”

Her expression shifts almost instantly.

“No!” she yells, but this time she is giggling.  She scrambles up on all fours and comes at me, grabbing for the legs that dangle on either side of my ears.  “That’s not your hat.  Those are my pants!”

While she clutches her pants to her chest I go for her socks.  “But what about my new mittens?  Don’t you like them?  Don’t they match my outfit perfectly?”  I too, am giggling now.

All of the energy Quinn was using just moments ago to defy my plans has been redirected to her smile and her laugh and her new task: putting on her clothes as fast as she can before I can steal them away.  I watched, amazed, as she dresses herself.  Moments later, she stands up, ready to go, a shy smile on her face.

* * *

Perhaps it’s heretical to say that I think I know how God feels sometimes, but that’s what parenting has done for me.  Like God, I could use my greater strength to force compliance, but I (hope I) never will.  Like God, I see my children’s world from above and that change has shifted my perspective dramatically.  As a child, I loved my parents because they loved me.  As a parent, I love my children simply because they exist.

And my children take advantage of this, of course.  They do maddening things.  They throw forks at me when all I’m trying to do is get them to eat the food that’s good for them.  They spit on the floor when I tell them they’ve had enough TV for the day.  (At least she’s not spitting at me, I tell myself.)  By the end of the day this kind of behavior wears me down, makes me wonder if I’m doing a good job raising these little beasts.  (Does God ever feel this way? I wonder.)  But deep down I know that my parenting skills have little to do with my daughter’s outbursts.  Her reactions to my limit-setting are developmentally appropriate.  The fact that she rebels means she is growing and developing a healthy sense of self.

It stuck me one day that perhaps God sees my tantrums in just this way.

I didn’t ask to be born!  This planet sucks.  What a terrible idea!  I yell at God, when I am overcome by the state of suffering in my world, and in the world in general.  Later, when the emotions have subsided, I am disappointed by my lack of trust.  When will you stop being so bratty? I ask myself.  What are you, a teenager?

Then I look into my daughter’s scowling face as I tell her it’s time to stop painting and wash up for dinner, and I have a blaze of insight.  Well, actually… maybe I am a teenager – a spiritual teenager.  When it comes to the maturity of my faith, maybe my reactions to life are developmentally appropriate.  I have a lot of growing up to do, and besides, God doesn’t expect me to take everything in stride if for no other reason than I don’t have His perspective.  Perhaps, perhaps, He even enjoys my spunk.  After all, He loves me, unconditionally, simply because I exist.  And He knows that no matter how much I protest, getting dressed and facing the day is something I need to learn how to do.  I bet, if given the chance, He’d even stick a pair of pants on His head teach me how.

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Worshipping in the Real World – Parenting with Soul by Sally Collings

Parenting with Soul

Today’s post in the series Worshipping God in the Real World comes from Sally Collings.  Sally is the author of Parenting with Soul (from HarperCollins, available in Amazon’s Kindle store print edition currently available in Australia only), Sophie′s Journey, Positive and The World According to Kids. She lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, two daughters and one goldfish. Even as mother to two young children, she still manages to grab the odd nanosecond of serenity.

Sally Collings

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I reckon mothers of newborn babies should be recruited as spies. Interrogation techniques involving sleep deprivation would be useless on us. ‘You want me to stay awake for 48 hours straight? That’s too easy – do you want me to change diapers and clean up vomit too?’

I’m a bit of a morning person. In my early twenties I worked the breakfast show on a community radio station, so I would be up in the dark, catching the train with the early shift workers. I used to love seeing the first glow of light blush the sky, being out in the world with the privileged few while the rest of the world slept on, unconscious. The world out there was so still and full of promise.

Years later, I sat with my first child in the first few months of her life. Awake through the night again, but not by choice. Not even remotely. It’s all very well staying up to see the dawn when you know you can sleep in the next day. It’s another to be forcibly woken night after night after night …

Babies display all the characteristics of jet lag. Night or day, it makes no difference to them. They can be living in Boston but operate on Madrid time, they may be in Johannesburg but their watches are set to LA’s time zone. It’s one of the first great lessons a newborn must absorb: daytime wake, night-time sleep. Given that they won’t learn to tell the time for another seven years or so, no wonder it’s all a mystery to them.

In those first years of being a parent, waking up and getting out of bed becomes one of yours spiritual practices. Think of monasteries and nunneries where the bells ring in the darkest hour before dawn, and the faithful must rise and go to devotions. That’s you.

In those night hours, everything is still – and the sound of a baby crying can seem loud beyond imagining or tolerance. Yet when your baby settles to feed or is bundled up in their cot, there is no time or place that is more silent. There is just the two of you. Nothing else is.

It soon becomes second nature to roll out from under the covers when your baby squeaks. Some nights it is harder than others: your baby’s cries become part of a dream that goes on, or you feel that your limbs are lined with lead and it is purely impossible to rise up.

My two girls are six and almost eight now and we are reclaiming the night. Eight hours sleep is mine again more often than not. Perversely, though, sometimes I look back with a tiny bit of longing at those soft, still, aching nights, sitting with a baby feeding, alone together in absolute intimacy.

When you’re awake at three in the morning, look on the bright side – here’s some silence and solitude come your way. Your days are full, so this is a gift. Feel fellowship in the fact that there are so many parents right now doing what you are doing. You might want to say a prayer for them; here’s one that works for me.

Dear God,

Please bless all mums and dads who are awake with their children right now. Bring serenity to breastfeeding mothers and healing wisdom to parents with sick children. For parents who are sleepless, tense and anxious, I pray that you will bring them solace in the night hours.