Sunday, April 26, 2009

Moms and Playtime

Being a mom is such a combination of adjectives! Fun, exhausting, fulfilling, frustrating, draining, enriching...if you're a mom, you know what I mean. But one thing is certain. It's a big responsibility that should never be taken lightly. You are the primary source of education for your child. They learn more than their ABC's, but how to see the world around them. You teach them how to laugh, how to feel empathy for others, how to show kindness, how to value hard work, how to appreciate good food, a healthy life-style, a happy loving family - or conversely, you can easily teach the opposite of all of these. They do come into this world with their own unique personality and set of talents, but it's you that shapes their character. Not so much with lessons and explanations, although those are very important, but mostly by example.

What's the best time to teach your little ones? Playtime! Playing blocks, dolls or super-heroes with them can actually help you understand their world the way they see it, and help shape that view to be a healthy, fear-free one. Here are some great play tips for 3-8 year-olds that can probably extend to older years as well with some modifications.

!. Let them choose what they want to play (soldiers, doctors, fairy princesses, ballerinas, garbage men...) and let them start with you fully engaged in play.

2. Don't laugh at them or make fun of the crazy imaginative scenarios they choose, e.g. They want you to be the super-mommy who has the power to destroy bad guys with the remote control, and then zap a chocolate cake into existence with the same weapon. Have fun with it, play along and act like you think their idea was great.

3. Start looking for clues about their fears and their frustrations as they play. You will be able to sense how badly they want to be a hero, if their imaginary villain makes them angry or if it's just plain fun to pretend they're winning a battle. For girls you'll be able to see if she wants to be a music star and be admired by everyone, or be a teacher and order her students (probably you and all her stuffed animals) around.

4. Gently guide playtime to help them deal with their imaginary "problems" in healthy, positive ways without completely taking over. Let them feel like they have a part in the decision on what direction playtime takes. A boy who is pretending to be a warrior may really need to feel like a hero. Don't worry that as he swings around his sword and wants to plunge it into the giant Barney toy, that he'll grow up to be a mass murderer! He needs to believe that he is strong and can handle any threat in his life. Make sure, however that he is not acting out frustration or anger, because that shows he has underlying issues of aggression that you will have to help him overcome. Let him win the battle, but then produce another scenario where he'll need to show compassion or kindness, and be a hero for doing that as well.

5. Enthusiastically praise your child for their imagined conquests and achievements. They must always be the smartest, strongest, most amazing children you ever knew in your whole life! But then help to balance the scales if you noticed some negative attitudes. The girl who is dying to be the next Hannah Montana may need some reassurance that she is beautiful for who she is and doesn't need to compete with a TV personality. Go overboard and show her that she is even better than that in your eyes.

Parents who understand the value of playtime, the insights they can gain into their child's mind, and the effectiveness of play as a time to teach and guide, can cut off harmful attitudes and insecurities at the root, long before they have a chance to grow. Your child will carry those wonderful memories of playtime with you for the rest of his or her life. Don't let these years pass you by without investing in good, fun play!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Little lambs in a hostile world

Sometimes Mark and I take a walk down to the playground nearby to kick around his soccer ball, and I wonder about the little children I see so often unsupervised. It's as if their parents just want them out of the house, and by the way they behave, you can tell that they don't get much attention inside the house either. But they're out there, an open target for anyone who would want to take advantage of these young lives, sad to say.

On the other hand, you can always tell who the children are that are well loved and cared for. They have their moms hovering around like helicopters, watching every move, shouting encouragement and praises when they reach the top of the slide, and warning them to remember to play nice with the others. They bring a pack of juice, and wet wipes for their hands, and an extra sweater, and keep a first aid kit in the car. They may look overprotective, but reality demands that if you want to be a good parent these days, you protect.

And then there were the little girls who were playing alone, one about 8 watching over her little sister of about 5. The other moms were asking each other who they belonged to, and ended up having to help the girls tie a shoe and reach the water fountain for a drink. Where was their mother, and why did she think it was safe to let them wander through the neighborhood alone? Doesn't she watch the evening news? We watched them walk off in the direction of what we hoped was their home, hand in hand, dirty and the smallest one crying because she had fallen and hurt herself. Two little defenseless lambs, so vulnerable.

The age for having children to help tend the farm and let them run wild through the fields when work is done, has long gone. The dangers for children generations ago lay mostly in diseases, hunger and the strain of hard labor. Today our children face the danger of people who would willingly commit violence against them. Thankfully there are still many good hearted and honest people who wouldn't dare hurt a child. But who are they and where are they, is not so easy to answer.

For those who want to have children, your job as their protector is a serious one. You are bringing them into a hostile world and if you are not prepared to fight for their safety, it would be better for you not to have them at all. For those of you who do have children, you have precious lives entrusted to you. Take good care that they make it through their childhood with their innocence intact.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Gift of Intuition

Women are different than men. (I figured that one out some time ago, even though there are still a few who argue that it's all just a difference in bodily functions.) Women have a tendency to be more emotional in their responses than men, and to make emotionally based decisions, which like it or not, gets us into a lot of trouble and helps to perpetuate the idea that we are untrustworthy and unstable. Men on the other hand can much more easily make cold calculating decisions than we do, and there's a downside to that as well because they can get into trouble for being insensitive and thoughtless. We each have our strengths, and though following emotions can wreak havoc, there is something very positive to be said about them, if used the way God intended.

Across centuries and cultures, it has always been women who were the ones who nurtured and raised families, who were at the heart of the home. It has been women who were primarily blessed with the challenge of being the interpreter of baby talk, understanding the cries in the middle of the night that meant either fear, hunger, pain or a poopy diaper. Women have had to be the negotiators of toddlers who can't understand why they have to share, but do understand a well offered bribe of cookies if they behave well. Women have had to read the worried looks on their teenage daughter's faces, harvest information from their son's silent stares, offer love and support to their stressed-out husbands without appearing to be preachy or insulting, and have just the right kind of meal on the table to warm the hearts of the grumpiest household. Women have had to fine-tune the art of soothing and easing and uplifting the emotions of their families from generation to generation, so that we all could get on with the daily battles of life.

Men often deal with the obvious tangible problems that arise, and only after years of marriage to a wise woman, learn to look deeper. Women, on the other hand, are more tuned-in to problems that are brewing under the surface: the sadness, the fears, the unspoken pain, and are gifted with the ability to bring healing before anyone even realizes that healing is needed. Call it intuition, or sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, the world would be a very bleak place without this gift that women have.

Next time you feel like criticizing women for being too emotional, thank the Lord above that He made us this way!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bozos and the Human Condition

I am on the brink of taking my washing machine repairman to court. I really don't want to have to do that, but if it's the only way to fix the damage he did to my property, then I'll do it. By the way if anyone needs repairs, DON'T use the Appliance Service Company run by Josh Cohen in Houston, Texas! They may fix your machines, but if they do anything wrong they'll squirm out of taking responsibility. I know, i've been trying to get them to keep their promise to fix their mess since January.

The problem isn't that they deny that they destroyed a patch of the concrete on my back porch, or that they are not polite to me over the phone and call me "Ma'am" and say their boss will get right back to me as soon as he's available. They've apologized, they've vowed that they have a good reputation for righting any wrongs they've done. They even sent the repairman Jason, back to look at what he'd done and promise to be back the next week to clean it up (it can't be cleaned, it has to be repaired). They're pleasant, courteous, and they lie through their teeth. Josh has only spoken to me once - though I've left literally dozens of messages for him over the last three months. Jason has never appeared to clean up the mess as he promised, breaking 3 different appointments that he had made. I've gone to the trouble of providing a very reasonable estimate from another company to fix the problem, and guess what? Just ten minutes ago I talked to one of the guys who answered the phone who told me, "Yeah, Josh is kinda busy right now, but he'll get right back to you as soon as possible." Translation-"Yeah, right lady, bug off, you ain't getting any money out of us!"

So now I'm in the uncomfortable place of having to file a legal complaint against these bozos and I don't like it one bit, but I like the bright six foot wide acid stain on my concrete even less. So unless the fear of God and hellfire and brimstone doesn't overtake Mr. Cohen to have a change of heart and pay me what is due (which I heartily pray for every day), I will have to see them in front of a judge in the county courthouse.

And now for the lesson of the day: We have all committed the sin of being a bozo - admit it, it's true. There have been too many times that we didn't want to own up to our mistakes, when we wouldn't make restoration for the harm we did to other people. If there was an easy way out of a problem, we'd take it, if we could just ignore it in the hopes that it would go away, we would. Human nature always wants a free ride, and when we can get it, we sigh in relief that we weren't caught. But when we are the ones who are harmed, we can be the most self righteous, condemning people on earth. I don't want to be either, because as much as I can't stand irresponsible people, I can neither stand people who look down their noses in superiority. So from one self-confessed (former) bozo to another: Josh Cohen, you're getting sued!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Who's the April Fool?

In my daily musings and observations, I run across a lot of conversations, bits of news and snatches of people's reactions - including my own, that show that we as a species are a ridiculous bunch of fools when it all comes down to it. It's not because we're not intelligent, it's not that we have no common sense, it's just that we so frequently go without using either.

Case in point: We live in this amazingly complex world where even the tiniest cell of a microscopic organism functions like a well organized kingdom, where the most common weed has a beauty of its own, and where new species are being discovered much to the surprise of scientists who thought they had it all figured out, and yet people still go around acting as if God is a crutch invented for weak people to lean on. Somehow it just so happens that the Earth spins on its axis at exactly the right distance from our sun with an atmosphere the perfect combination of oxygen, water and other elements to sustain life, and no other planet within millions of light-years away has been found that can do the same. Yeah, I guess they're right, no evidence to support the God theory...

And what about those of us who say we do believe in God? How about Mrs. C, a sweet church going lady who says she can't understand why God doesn't answer her prayers, had an opportunity to pull her small business way out of debt just recently. She prayed, we prayed, and God answered in the form of a client willing to invest with hard cash. But in the middle of the transaction, a glitch came up. A very annoying glitch, but one that could have been sorted out with a bit of determination and faith. But what did she do? She got angry with God and gave up, blaming Him the whole way. The investor flew back home on his private jet, leaving her just as much in debt as before.

The worst thing is that most people would look at this picture and blame God as well. Why couldn't He just make it go smoothly? Why did He let her down? Doesn't He care how much she needs this money? Our "common sense" when it comes to God can be so childish. Why don't we ask instead, "Why did she give up and not believe that God would make it go smoothly? Why did she let God and herself down? Doesn't she know how much God cares about her needs?" Sometimes the right questions and the right answers are right there, but we are just too foolish and self-centered to see them. The ones that see the miracles are the ones that get it, that fight for it, that don't let discouragement get in the way. Which is why so few people have ever seen a miracle, but then again, maybe miracles are just a crutch for weak people.