Thursday, November 24, 2011

An hour and 40 minutes away

In just a couple of hours, I will be heading home.  Not the home I have made with my husband and children, but the original home with my parents and siblings.  It is a home of lakes and land, ducks and bright stars at night.  I was blessed with an almost idyllic childhood, and I don't take that for granted at all.  Most of my childhood friends no longer have that 'place' to return to, but I am so glad that I do.

I stumbled upon this song and video (Childhood Summer, by Sara Groves) this morning, and it just seems to capture the mood today.  It seemed like a good one to share, especially for anyone who may not have that place to return to.
I hope everyone has a survivable Thanksgiving.  I heading over the river and through the woods, to go sit by the lake and watch a sunset.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Psalm 69:29

I've come across a lot of people the last few days that are just beaten down--sick, sad, broke, discouraged--you name it.  I listen or type out encouragement, but even as I do this, it seems so inadequate.

Sometimes, platitudes just don't cut it.

Sometimes, the best thing is to just be quiet and listen.  And pray.  And care.

Really care.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Living With Four Y Chromosomes

Boys are different.  Growing up with brothers and being friends with a lot of girls who had brothers, I kind of had a jump start into this different world and reality of what it means to be a boy.  Boys are loud and tough.  They love to wrestle.  Good hygiene is optional.  Cleanliness in general is relative.  They will turn anything into weapons, and follow the beat of an entirely different drummer than girls do. 

And this is a good thing.  A very good thing, as a matter of fact.

I love being the mom to boys.  I can still remember the moment I realized that life in our home would always be different and that I was in the minority.  It wasn’t when we say the ultrasound for boy #1 that it hit, or even when he was born.  It was about a year later and I was sitting on the floor folding clean clothes.  Before he came along, there had been only three piles—one for me, one for my husband, and one for the towels.  Now, there were four piles, and the new one looked very much like my husband’s pile, just with smaller dimensions.  Over the years, we’ve added two more boy piles, and the dream of ever having all of the clothes washed at one time has become just that – a dream.

Like a lot of parents, I have read a lot of books and articles over the years about boys.  I have listed to radio broadcasts from Focus on the Family and Family Life Today.  And, of course, there has been the on the job training.  I have used and stored away some good information.  There have been books that I have skimmed over, and some that I have kept for future reference.  So, when I got the opportunity to review the book Raising Real Men, by Hal and Melanie Young, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The subtitle was Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys (good subtitle--and philosophy).  I figured there would be some good information, but didn’t know how much would be recycled from other sources.

I began reading it a couple of months ago, and was immediately struck by how different this book is.  It is part informational, part guidebook, and part resource materials.  But, it goes beyond that.  Covering topics such as discipline, games and warfare, the Youngs address these areas in extremely practical and boy specific ways (and yes, boy specific ways do matter).  Here are just a few of the hundreds of nuggets of wisdom that stood out for me:

"Without question, we have an absolute responsibility to give our children physical protection; they are dependent on our care to provide their food, clothing, and shelter, and to shield them from those who would exploit or abuse them in some way.

That protection shouldn't become the unmanning of our sons, though.  Boys need to have the freedom to take reasonable risks.  You don't let them play in traffic, but you shouldn't cringe in horror as they climb the jungle gym.  If they grow up fearful of risk, they are missing an important part of being a man.  A carefully considered risk, prayerfully undertaken, is not recklessness."  (page 51)

On Racing to Win:

"Mothers are made to nurture.  They want everyone to be happy.  They want everyone to win.  They try to rewrite the rules of our board games so no one loses, and delight to find toys that feature "cooperative play." It extends into the schoolroom, too:  the idea of cooperative learning where students work together in groups and everyone shares the same work and same grade was definitely invented by women.

Boys just don't think that way.  They love to try their strength, whether physical, intellectual, or emotional, against others.  They want to see where they stack up.  They love to compete; they love to win, and sometimes they would rather lose than not try.  Maybe some boys seem to avoid competitions, but they probably just haven't had a chance to compete on their strengths.  It's deep seated in the male psyche."  (pages 101-102)

On Love and War (and by extension, sex):

This is plainly an area where parents aren't talking with one another.  Mothers we've met, particularly homeschooling mothers, seem to be in denial about their children's sexuality.  It's as if the kids never quite leave the baby stage -- you know, when you dress the little girls in pink and the little boys in blue because, frankly, they still look identical any place but the bath tub.  Moms worry that talking to their children about sex will destroy their innocence and expose them to a Pandora's box of temptations.

Fathers know better, if they're honest about it.  They know that temptation is an ongoing battle for nearly every man, and it starts much earlier than most women realize.  Boys don't need exposure to anything to find sexual temptation; all the pleasure points are easily accessible, and they discover that fact before they can talk about it.  Parents will correct outward behavior that might be embarrassing ("Get you finger out of your nose! Keep your hands out of your pants!") but without some broader principle of why and how to avoid that temptation, curiosity will hatch into fascination and progress to real problems later on.  Peeking at risque magazines when they're ten years old is way down the road from the starting point."  (Page 199)

Good, good stuff.  If good information was already out there, they didn't reinvent the wheel.  Useful ideas were included and referenced on almost every page.  Topics included chores, stewardship, money, weapons and respecting women, among many others.  I can not recommend this book enough.  If it seems like you have all of the boy raising info that you need, you don’t.  You really should consider checking this book out as well.  I have learned so many new strategies and ways of looking at situations, and I have always considered myself well read on the subject.  I think that is why it has taken me so long to read the entire book.  It isn’t the ‘read and digest in one setting’ kind of book.  I’ve had to ponder it and apply it on a regular basis.  As I read Raising Real Men, I was reminded of the importance of what it is that I am called to do.

I am raising leaders.  Maybe not of ‘big’ things like companies or governments (but maybe I am), but they will most definitely be leaders of their families.  The question is—will they be strong, confident leaders, or weak-kneed, hen pecked leaders?  While I am not the final determiner in that outcome, I do have a very important role in their preparation.  And this book certainly helps provide a battle plan for me.  This one is definitely a keeper. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Momma's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Marry Vampires...

Well, this is the night--the one girls of all ages have been waiting on for quite a while.  The 4th installment of the Twilight movie series opens at midnight tonight, and my little class of girls that met yesterday were talking about it.  Facebook posts and statuses are all abuzz with it.  More and more commercials are being shown promoting it.  It will no doubt be a big money maker and potential change agent.  And this concerns me.

I went to see the first Twilight movie when it was released a few years ago because so many of the girls in my 3rd grade class had mentioned that they were going to see it and that they had read the book.  I saw it, and wasn't very impressed with it.  The movie was kind of boring and the main girl seemed in need of some major anti-depressants.  You see, she had just moved in with her father in the rainiest, cloudiest city in the continental US.  This was very important to the story, since this setting was necessary for the family of vampires that lived there.  She and one of the vampires were immediately attracted to each other (well, he really wanted to suck her blood out and had to stay away from her so he wouldn't attack her), and thus began this strange relationship.  Added to this was an old friendship with a Native American boy that turns out to be a werewolf in book/movie 2.

I wasn't pulled into the whole Twilight phenomenon based on that movie.  I left the theater wondering about the pull it seemed to be having on the girls I knew, so I did what any good seeker of knowledge would do--I checked out Wikipedia.  There I got the scoop of what the series was about, and figured I knew enough to be able to have a decent conversation about it with my girls should the need ever arise.

Then, the next year, I was given free tickets to the midnight showing of the second installment of the movie.  Those type of events are always interesting from a sociological standpoint, so I went.  It was one of the most interesting things I had seen in a long time.  The theater was packed, way before midnight, but not by young girls.  It was mainly women like me--middle-aged with children of various ages.  However, there was one big difference.  These ladies were taking this thing very seriously.  There were Team Edward (the vampire) and Team Jacob (the werewolf) shout-outs and T-shirts, and the excitement about this series could be felt in the air.  I watched another slightly less mediocre movie, and decided there must be something I was missing, because the movies surely couldn't be responsible for that level of devotion.

So, I checked those books out from the library, and did a little reading.  And of course, like most movies that are made from books, the books were better.  I could see the appeal to women.  But, reading as a mom and a teacher of girls, I began to become very concerned.  Here's why.  Bella (the main character) becomes obsessed with Edward.  Literally.  To the point that she does very dangerous and foolish things when they break up and Edward leaves town.  She even considers suicide if she can't be with him.  He attempts suicide in a (vampire) way when he thinks Bella has died and he doesn't want to continue to exist if she isn't alive.  She lies to her parents.  She is attracted to both Edward and Jacob at various times.  She is very physically aggressive with Edward (more so in the books than in the movies), and thinks his ideas about sex (no sex unless they are married) are very outdated and frustrating.  He can't help it--he was changed into a vampire in the early 1900s, after all, when such ideas were the norm.  My girls have mentioned several times how romantic it is that Edwards sneaks into Bella's room every night to watch her sleep.  Romantic--no.  Creepy and stalkery--definitely.

Which brings me to tonight's midnight opening of part one of the final installment.  (Yes, they learned how to milk that cash cow from Harry Potter).  Bella and Edward finally get married.  Yes, they have waited until now to have sex--no thanks to Bella.  And they definitely have sex, in a strange, violent, vampire-y way.  Since this was a relatively small part of the book, I am guessing that this part was embellished a lot for the movie.  And this concerns me.  It is one thing for grown women to choose to see this.  I think it is quite another for younger girls to see this without it having been filtered/monitored/viewed first by their parents.  All early indications are that the honeymoon scenes will be pretty graphic, even for a PG-13 movie.  If my Facebook news feed is any indication, lots of my now 6th grade girls will be there tonight, or definitely by tomorrow afternoon at least, with their mother's full permission and approval.

The battle lines have been drawn.  My girls are definitely Team Edward.  Or Team Jacob.  But they have chosen sides and their hearts are engaged.  The bottom line is that they love the love story, and many (of my girls at least) are craving love and acceptance and romance, and are looking for it anywhere they can get it, even in a movie.  I just hope they don't come away from this particular movie with more confusion about true love and romance, or a convoluted sense of what it means to be a girl/woman/wife/mother.  I hope they have parents that are willing to have the tough conversations and not romanticize this fictional series themselves.  It has the potential to be a great means of starting a dialogue about boundaries and feelings and obsession.  It is even OK to just say no to this particular movie at this particular time.  It may not be the most popular decision some mommas have ever made, but it could possibly be one of the most important ones.

Am I being overly dramatic or overprotective?  Possibly.  But I do know this -- there is definitely a battle going on out there, and it is more that just between Edward and Jacob.