Balance of Power

Discipline. Love. Respect. Boundaries. Flexibility. Discipline. Relationship. Authority. Attachment.   There are so many different words to describe the way we relate to our children.

I feel strongly that it is important for E. to grow up understanding how to relate to other people in appropriate ways.  For that to happen, she needs to know now that I am the parent and she is the child.  This first experience with authority will shape the way she reacts when she is in school, the work force, friendships…it will color the way she views the world.  Experiencing consistent, loving and reasonable authority early on could give her some tools to form healthy relationships for her whole life.  The way we think and feel about God is also informed by the way our parents relate to us.  The way I was parented led me to think of God as patient, loving and gentle.  Not because my parents said that God was those things (they probably did at some point but I don’t remember that), but because in those formative years they modeled those traits for me.  If there is a God who created me, he is in some sense a Father and it made sense to me that he would be like my dad who was so kind or my mom who was so thoughtful.   I want that for my children.

We have been adjusting to a new level of communicativeness with E.  It is especially hard for J. who was on ‘Daddy duty’  most of the weekend while I finished up a painting project (okay, I primed the upstairs trim almost 2 years ago and finally decided to put the color on).

When someone is a baby, they need everything done for them.  They also don’t argue so much about being put somewhere else.  As that person gets more and more aware, however, they start to have opinions about things.  It has become our pattern to tell her what needs to happen and then ask her if she wants to do it, or if we should do it for her.  This is working well for shoes, getting into the carseat, going inside, etc. etc.  Hmm….correction…was working.

E. seems to have hit a new cognitive stage.  She is pushing back in ways that she never has before.  It is easiest to just start with the ultimatum.  “Are you going to put your shoes on, or am I going to do it?” “Can you hold my hand to cross the street, or should I carry you?”  But that leaves very little room for exploration,or for internal moral motivation.   I want her to be able to arrive at the right decision because she knows it is the right thing, not just because “Mommy said so.”  Some things are more innate than others.  I don’t have to tell her to eat lunch.  She gets hungry, so she eats.  But some things do require some intentionality to set up and eventually become second nature.  Without even thinking about it, when we go to cross a street her little hand reaches out for mine and she holds on tight. “I be safe!”

The tension that we sometimes deal with right now is between when to give her space to explore her world and when to put our foot down.  It’s true that we should not have to tell her 16 times to please come back to the back yard because we are not able to watch her in the front at a given moment.  Maybe instead we could abandon our back-yard project for 2 minutes to smell the lavender, or maybe not.  We have to make each decision in the moment and we do it imperfectly.  I think in the end it comes down to being as flexible as possible, and not giving a direct order unless we are prepared to insist that it be followed.

A Food Quandary

Right now I am trying to figure out what I think about factory farming as it relates to my own and my family’s eating.

I have a problem with eating pigs that didn’t get to have tails. Or chickens that were never allowed to spread their wings. Or cows that ate, um, other cows (yuck!). I have not bought food with any of these things in quite some time and I have come to a point where I have a hard time eating said food in restaurants or at friends’ houses.

But I have another conflicting problem…people are very, very important to me and I don’t want to make it hard for people to relate to me. If I sit down at someone’s table and they put pepperoni pizza in front of me, what do I do? Is it more important to share in the meal and so advance our relationship by being ‘a part of’, or is it more important to stick to my value of eating in a thoughtful way?

People I really love don’t share my value regarding ethical treatment of animals. Is it important to share a meal with them, thereby affirming our friendship? Yes. Is it important to me to be able to eat food that I can identify all (or at least most) of the ingredients of and that was produced in a way that isn’t wasteful or cruel? Yes.

It is difficult to sort out what to do in this instance, but I often come up against the problem of how to think about it when my own actions don’t match up to what other people are used to. It’s not that I expect everyone else to conform to my way of doing things…most people are not going to use cloth diapers, make their own toothpaste, or grind their own flour. I’m fine with that. But when people hear that I do these things, sometimes they take it as a silent rebuke or they assume that I am out to spread the gospel of baking soda as a cleaning agent. Paul told the Romans that they should always be ready to give an answer about themselves to anyone who asked. I guess I’ll start there.