So frequently, I have this problem. 1. I am not American. 2. I am not from a Southern Baptist-type tradition. 3. I come from a liberal background. 4. I grew up in a city, not a small town. 5. My parents are highly educated and brought a very "intelligentsia" take onto things like parenting. It makes it really hard for me to identify with the approach of so many books, often with anything to do with gender, certainly to do wit politics and most especially to do with parenting. I don't know anyone who spanks and I know very few people who were spanked as kids. Our parents may not have been hard core granola crunchers but there are certain things that would just not have happened in our homes and beating children was one of them. Mrs. Ehman seriously almost lost me at the beginning of the chapter when she said that she felt somehow inadequate with her spirited child when the children of those around her were so well-behaved. Parents started offering advice like "not letting the child run the family," (the attachment mommy in me started to really squirm at that point) and then, when she said that she was shocked at "friends" who she discovered would hit their children with some kind of cane, I seriously almost left the book. Not only would I be shocked but I would be calling Children's Aid. How anyone could call themselves a Christian and beat a child just leaves me cold. I hesitate to read Christian parenting books because I am always so afraid that scripture will be so horribly twisted to justify acts of violence against helpless children (thank you so much, Dr. Sears, for proving to me that I can be a compassionate parent and a Christian and to Tim Kimmel for the beautiful "Grace-based Parenting")
I am glad that I did persevere because as I read on, I did find some things here that were definitely for me. Yes, I do worry constantly about what other people are thinking. You would think that after 40 years on this planet, I would have learned that everyone has an opinion and that I will never be right with everyone and that I should just follow what I know to be right. Sadly, I have this annoying little battle going on in me all the time - one side gives me this very, very strong sense of what is right and I can't compromise on that and the other is telling me that I should be making everyone happy. In terms of parenting, so many of my least fine moments come as a result of the conflict between these voices. There are days when I think that poor Pk must be losing her mind trying to read me as I try to be the understanding, grace filled mama and yet I rail on about the state of her room or whether she handed in her library book at school or whether she listened well enough at piano. Seriously, I loved Mrs. Ehman's lists of questions to ask ourselves when we find ourselves engaged in one of those situations or struggles with our children. How important is this, really? Is this worth the toll on my relationship with my child? What message am I really giving my child about what matters? Obviously, there are times that there is no wiggle room, when we are talking about issues that go to our basic values as a family, like treating others with respect, generosity, compassion. On the other hand, though, do I really need to fight about how she is going to wear her hair, whether the shirt she is determined to wear matches the rest of her outfit or whether someone might think I wasn't being responsible enough in packing "the right' kind of lunch?
Another insight that has come to me thanks to my pondering this chapter is that for me, so much of my micromanaging and need for control has to do with time. This isn't surprising that I have identified slowing down as being one of my biggest goals for this year. Be Still is the phrase I am trying to dwell on and see how I can incorporate into my living of my daily life. So much of the time when I have conflict with my kids, it's because either I have over-committed and am rushing to get through everything ( an ongoing struggle of mine) or that I am trying to prove that I can manage it all and that I'm up to it (which also probably goes back to some guilty about working full-time and parenting). I don't have any answers on this but it certainly will make me more aware that I need to be asking myself why I am feeling like something is so important.