Resist the Pull of State-Run Childcare

Working for a corporate machine is not as important as raising our young children. Our life is short- our time of influence over our children is short, and those first five years when the most crucial development happens, are short. If we have the option – staying with our young children is most beneficial thing we can do for them. Turning them over to a sterile, ideological, government-run child care center should be the last resort. Yet, as this article shows this is increasingly being pushed as the “best option” for mothers and kids. It is not.

We do not need government to take control of child care. Many young mothers have to work to provide for their kids, mothers have had to work throughout human history. Mothers are often creative and resourceful and come up with great child care options with family members or friends or unique work situations which enable them to spend more time with their children.

Working mothers are capable of overcoming incredible obstacles and raising wonderful children; they care about their children as much as stay-at home moms. However mothers that have to leave their young children to work would most often tell you they would rather be home. We cannot let ideologically influenced policy makers convince us that it is beneficial to hand our children over to the unfeeling state. Young children and mothers both suffer when they are separated needlessly from each other.

Please read the linked excellent and profoundly important article by Kimberly Van Shaar Ells: The World Bank Wants You To Surrender Your Children To A Global Childcare Regime

“The U.N., the Biden administration, and the World Bank’s alignment with Marx and Engels should concern those who wonder whether these institutions are purposely trying to distance children from their parents. Engels described the end result of the “full and equitable participation of women” in the workforce in chillingly stark terms: “The first condition for the liberation of the wife is to bring the whole female sex back into public industry and … this in turn demands that the characteristic of the monogamous family as the economic unit of society be abolished.”

As this plan to commandeer the youngest among us in the name of economic security unfolds, I foresee a global avalanche against motherhood and the family coming. The U.S. administration, in cooperation with the World Bank and other partners, is planning to normalize, glamorize, and incentivize surrendering our youngest children to a global childcare regime while parents fade into the background as simply “stakeholders” in their children’s futures.

Prioritizing motherhood while one’s children are young is not a cop out. It is not refusing to contribute to the GDP. There is no GDP without capable humans to populate a capable workforce, and there are no capable humans without mothers. If we remove the work and the value and the influence of mothers, we cut off the branch all of humanity is sitting on.”

Teenagers: The Power of Like

A few days after Halloween, my eight-year-old daughter reminded me, “Mom, you promised we were gonna carve the pumpkin!”  Life had been busy and we had never gotten around to our annual tradition of pumpkin carving. She was obviously disappointed and since I promised, I knew I should make good on it. However, I had a pretty serious obstacle – I really didn’t want to carve a pumpkin. I found my solution in my 13-year-old son. I asked, “Hey, do you want to have some fun and earn some money by carving a pumpkin with your sister?” He was initially apprehensive but also eager for cash, so he agreed. He and his sister spent the next hour researching the best carving methods, planning the design, and creating their masterpiece. As I looked out my kitchen window, I saw them work together, laugh, and bond.  

I love having a teenager. He puts furniture together, takes out the trash, and will stay up and watch Psych with me. I get to talk to him about the books I am reading – from Dante’s Inferno to a history of the Comanches.   After years of my ramblings, we can have  great discussions. He loves telling me about the social dynamics in his middle school and the game plan for his upcoming basketball game. 

I hear the groans, “13? You haven’t seen anything yet lady!” I’m sure you’re right. The prevailing view of many parents with teenagers agrees with what Mark Twain once wrote: “When a boy turns 13, put him in a barrel and feed him through a knot hole. When he is 16, plug up the hole.” With this perspective in mind, I write this piece for myself more than anyone, I have five future 16-year-olds.

Many mothers seem to expect that our precious children will turn into horrid monsters once they hit puberty – an expectation that may be, in part, a self-fulfilling prophecy. I suppose there will be hardships ahead but I certainly don’t dread raising five teenagers, I am looking forward to it. (Daughters-in-law, now that I dread). If we have worked to develop a strong, charitable relationship with our children, if they respect us and we respect them, if we have open communication and areas of common interest then I believe our beloved son or daughter will still be there on the other side of 13.

The Need for Like

Recently I was chatting with a group of mothers. They began discussing how hard teenagers are and one said, “Of course, I love my teenagers, but usually I don’t like them.” The other women laughed in agreement. But to me, this attitude is a shame. To like someone means you want to be around them, you think they are impressive, you respect them. Teenagers generally know, despite conflict and demands, that they are loved by their parents. What they don’t know, in these years of self-doubt and chaos, is if anyone actually likes them. And if their own mother doesn’t like them, who ever could? These difficult years are made steadier if teenagers can rely on the like of their parents.

Mother Comforting Teen Daughter, Haddon Sundblom

Modern parents are often consumed by the desire to be liked by their children – but too often this emphasis backfires. The Dali Lama has said it is more important to love than to be loved. For parents, it is more important to like our teenagers than for our teenagers to like us.

“If your relationship with your child is governed by your own desire to be loved by him or her, the odds are good that you will not achieve even that objective.”

Leonard Sax

The likability of our teenagers is often born in early childhood. One of our primary jobs as parents is to socialize our children and teach them to express gratitude and exhibit self-control, making them likable. Dr. Jordan Peterson describes the importance of “liking your children” by developing them to be likable. (link here) Unfortunately, many of our efforts to make our children likable will be unpopular with them (as anyone teaching a child to share knows); therefore, fearing our child’s negative reaction, we may opt out of the difficult socialization. Hence, because of our focus on being loved by our children, we end up with a teenager that is more difficult to “like”.

Despite our best efforts there are also times when our personalities simply clash or we have a particularly stubborn child – and as mothers we can all feel times of frustration with a child. Nonetheless, we need to show our child that we like them so we can maintain a close and influential bond. If we have neglected our socialization duties, creating an unlikable child, that isn’t their fault – and if we have done all we can and we still don’t like them – we need to fake it till we make it. There is at least one positive quality we can latch on to and emphasize.

This quote by C.S. Lewis I believe applies to us mothers in our struggles to like a difficult teenager, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

When our child becomes a teenager and matures into an independent adult, if they are unsure that we like them, they will turn to their peers for support and encouragement – not us.

“When parents matter more than peers, they can teach right and wrong in a meaningful way. They can prioritize attachments within the family over attachments with same-age peers. They can foster better relationships between their child and other adults. They can help their child develop a more robust and more authentic sense of self, grounded not in how many “likes” a photo gets on Instagram or Facebook but in the child’s truest nature. They can educate desire, instilling a longing for higher and better things, in music, in the arts, and in one’s own character.” 

Leonard Sax, The Collapse of Parenting

This doesn’t mean that our teenagers will not push back, or that they will always “like us back”. The teenage years are a time of individuation and transition, but like a lighthouse on a stormy sea – if our light stays on despite the storm – they will return to us.

Considering the young age of my own children, I am aware of my own inexperience and ignorance. However, I do know several mothers who like their teenagers, and whose teenagers like them. One of my friends had a teenager who went through a very rebellious time and her poor self-confidence caused her to follow a rough crowd. She was often hostile with her siblings and sometimes her mother. My friend said she got through those years by staying firm on family rules and expectations but taking every opportunity she could to point out her daughter’s many positive qualities and speaking to her hopefully about her potential. She treated the conflicts for what they were, bumps on the long and glorious path ahead of her daughter. She ensured that their family time was not compromised by too much emphasis on “friends”. She picked her battles but kept her attitude towards her daughter positive. She told me it required a lot of prayer and patience and when she ran out of it, her husband took over. Seeing the close relationship she now has with her daughter, I cannot imagine that it was ever strained. It was a stage that she moved through quickly because there was a warm and safe lighthouse to return to.

In discussions with successful parents, and my own research on relationship-dynamics, I have compiled four strategies for showing our teenagers we “like” them.

How to Demonstrate our Like

First, we need to stop complaining about our teenagers. It’s shocking to see moms who trash their teenagers freely, and even in their presence! This tells them implicitly that they are not liked, not appreciated, and not respected. They will repay in kind.

“Children are like wet cement whatever falls on them makes an impression.”   

Haim Ginott, Child Psychologist

Secondly, we need to show our teenagers that we genuinely want to spend time with them. If we welcome them home enthusiastically after a long day of school, and if we answer their phone call, happy to hear from them, they will feel liked. If we are willing to bend our own rules and sacrifice our well-laid plans for them, they will feel valued. Occasionally we can stay up late talking to them about life, despite it being a school night. We can drop our list of to-dos and have them skip school and go out to lunch with us. Since we get such a short time with our precious children, the teenage years should be the reward for many years of hard labor. We can finally have an intellectually stimulating conversation! We can share clothes! We can get help setting up our new phone, navigating in the car, and deciphering slang. Our kids can start teaching us things. Their talents and passions can broaden our own horizons.

“Turn off the device and take your child for a walk through the woods or on a hike up a mountain. Go on a camping trip. Late at night, when it’s absolutely dark, take your child’s hand and ask her to look up at the stars. Talk with her about the vastness of space and the tininess of our planet in the universe. That’s reality. That’s perspective.”

Leonard Sax

Thirdly, we should be affectionate with our teenagers. If it feels awkward giving our teenage son a hug, we can rub his feet after basketball practice or pat him on the back, or tossel his hair. These small affectionate actions mean more than we realize.

“Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.”  

C.S. Lewis

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we show our children we like them by specifically telling them the things we like about them. If we have convinced ourselves that we don’t like our child, it may be hard to know where to start. Dr. Jordan Peterson explains a simple trick that helps us maintain a positive relationship with anyone, but applied to teenagers, it can change the unlikable dynamic of our relationships. If we see anything we like – point it out. Be specific. They will repeat it. Positive reinforcement is infinitely more powerful than negative reinforcement.

“Watch the people around you and whenever they do anything that you would like to see repeated on a regular basis, tell them exactly what they did in detail, be positive about it, and just indicate you noticed…As a transformation technique, Even in extraordinarily difficult relationships, there isn’t any technique I know that is more effective”

Dr. Jordan Peterson

With Dr. Peterson’s advice in mind, when my son finished the pumpkin carving, I told him how happy it made me to see his patience and consideration of his sister. “I saw how you let her take the lead on what design to pick. You were more patient than I would have been in teaching her how to cut it out. Thank you so much for doing that for me.”  He was proud of their pumpkin and I know he went away aware that his mother appreciated him. I hope that was reward enough because I forgot to pay him. 

I was a teenager myself, – I am sure I was not always easy to raise. I am not judging mothers who struggle with their teens. However – as with anything in life – if we focus on bumps in the road, we hate the trip. And if we label our teen as unlikable, they will meet our expectations. As we show our teenagers we like them, we will begin to. Within the safety of a deeply-rooted relationship of respect, conflicts need not alter the strength of our bond. If we like our teenagers, and show them that, these crucial final years with them can be joyous.

At the very least, that pumpkin taught me an important lesson – I now have a source of cheap labor if I want to avoid gingerbread houses and Easter eggs.


Ungrateful Creatures

“I am inclined to believe that the best definition of man (and woman) is – a creature who walks on two legs and is ungrateful.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes From the Underground

Dostoyevsky is referring to me. Young children see the wonder and beauty of the world. They marvel at an ant carrying a leaf, or the beautiful icicles forming on the gutters. They are often unable to translate their intrinsic gratitude into words of appreciation – that must be taught – but we are not born ungrateful but develop into ungrateful creatures. As we mature, we start to look at the ants and think about the cost of an exterminator or worry about those icicles falling in a child’s eye. Our increasing capacity for logic, anxiety, and doubt cause us to lose sight of our previous wonder and instead focus on our perceived lack.

Last week we had an ice storm. Dozens of tree branches snapped on our property. As the kids stood on the porch and marveled at the sound of cracking limbs, I imagined damaged fences and roofs. We were stuck indoors and the kids were rowdy and noisy. I found myself losing my temper quickly.

I texted a neighbor to see how they were doing and discovered that she, and most of my neighbors, didn’t have power. Some did not get power back for 3 days – well water pumps could not operate so they were without water or heat. I don’t know why we avoided these hardships, but I am grateful we did.

One of the realities of life is it is intrinsically unfair. We had power when many good people did not. Many people in the world live lives without electricity at all, or running water. And yet gratitude can be found in the most humble homes and is often missing in magnificent mansions.

Gratitude is what propels us forward in empathy and joy. As I learned that others near me were struggling, I became grateful for our warm home, for our showers, and functioning toilets. My mood improved and my kids noticed. I expressed our good-fortune to my children, explaining the difficulties others were facing. We offered to help those without power. 

In almost any situation, we can find a point of light – something we can dwell on despite hardship. As mothers with concerns and stressors, we have to be vigilant in seeking these points of light – in purposely seeking to be a “grateful creature”. Our joyful emphasis will propel us to purpose and happiness. It is a shame that it required the hardship of others for me to recognize my own blessing – how much better it would be if I could appreciate warmth without others feeling cold – but gratitude gained even in such circumstances is beneficial. It seems we ungrateful creatures rarely recognize our advantages without a knowledge of disadvantages.

“Until we realize that things might not be, we cannot realize that things are. Until we see the background of darkness, we cannot admire the light…It is one of the million wild jests of truth that we know nothing until we know nothing.”

G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

We must relearn to glory in light, to be grateful, in ice storms and calm weather. Gratitude not only shows our Creator that we recognize the light, it is a prerequisite for a happy life. As mothers, it is important that we help our children maintain their sense of wonder and joy in creation but also to train them to express that gratitude in words and actions. They will need the habit of gratitude as they face the hardships and unfairness of life. Going forward, I am going to try to become an exception to Dostoyevsky’s definition – and become a grateful woman.

River Crossing, Ernest Walbourn

Don’t Push

My Grandfather was a hardworking, honest man who raised ten children on a farm in Boise, Idaho. He often said something that stuck with my father, “I can be talked into about anything, but I don’t push worth a damn.”

This is the nature of a free man or woman. We have a will so that we can make moral choices. If that right is taken from us, we have good reason to dig in our heels.

The poet Samual Butler wrote,

He that complies against his Will,
Is of his own Opinion still;

If someone resorts to pushing, often it is because they don’t have an convincing argument. Dictators and governments throughout time have pushed and compelled their subjects. Sometimes out of “well-meaning” compassion, probably more often out of self-interest. But minds are rarely changed through pushing. Often anger and resentment simmers underneath from such interference of our God-given free-will.

As Dostoyevsky famously explained, “The whole work of man really seems to consist in nothing but proving to himself every minute that he is a man and not a piano key.”

We, as parents, need to minimize our pushing. Sometimes it may be necessary- across a busy street or into a car seat – but we should, at as young an age as possible, begin taking the time to “talk them into things”. In previous generations parents often expected obedience without question. Moderns parents seem to have given up on obedience altogether.

But what parents across time should desire is to raise children who are obedient to moral truth. We as parents set boundaries and rules and should expect obedience from children. Not “because we said so”, but because our rules and boundaries are reasonable (can be reasoned) and we are responsible for raising our children.

The truth is convincing to kids. If we explain our reasons for 8:30 bedtime they will probably still push back, but we won’t be a tyrant – a tyrant never gives his reasons. We must give the truth time to work in our children – it may take years for our more stubborn children to be talked into reason but we are placing a voice of conscience into their minds.

Often if we describe a difficult scenario to our kids and ask them what they would do, they can describe the moral path out. If they can’t, we can explain what they might do. The more we do this the better, they will have played out their responses in advance. When the time of moral choice comes, they have already worked out their choice.

If we find our relationship with a child strained, it may be that we are pushing too much and not convincing enough. This does not mean we let them do what they want, it means we give truth a chance. We speak with them honestly and openly about the reasons, the consequences, the long-term repressions of their choices. If kids understand the why, they are much more likely to make the right choice. Children are still humble and teachable. They are adaptable. However they, like we, will do all they can to resist being played like a piano key.

I slept, and dreamed that life was beauty

“I slept, and dreamed that life was beauty;
I woke, and found that life was duty.
Was thy dream then a shadowy lie?
Toil on, sad heart, courageously,
And thou shall find thy dream to be
A noonday light and truth to thee.”

Louisa May Alcott

A mother’s life is duty. Young mothers often awake to this truth in sorrow, especially with our modern need for affirmation and praise. But as we toil on, we settle into our life of duty, duty motivated by love. We let go of our naive expectations. We become grateful for the purpose and direction our duties provide. Duty transforms a selfish life into one of service. We will find our dream of beauty fulfilled as we labor in love.

Long Day, Pino Daeni

Beauty Piece by D.T. Sheffler

As mothers we need beauty. We need it to sustain us through difficult and duty-filled days. We need beauty to guide us toward the truth and goodness our children need for their growth and development. And yet, we live in a world full of ugliness and distraction. We live in a culture of excess – a different outfit for every occasion, pop music in every store and restaurant, and images flashing before our eyes on every screen. If we fill our short days with the mindless and superficial we become desensitized to beauty, and it becomes more difficult to discern and enjoy. I enjoyed this piece by D.T. Sheffler as he describes the necessity of strengthening our souls for beauty. In our culture of excess, noise, and self-adoration, I hope I can be a better example to my children of spurring the excess and more closely “guarding the gates of my inner castle”.

I often enjoy D.T. Sheffler’s insights and recommend following his blog.

The Light of men.

Friedrich Prölß, “In Gedanken”, 1894

By Guest Author Brittany M. White

[A perspective on creating boundaries.]

“I think,” she paused, “in the new year I’m going to create better boundaries.”

She was a high school student I was walking alongside in the church and the goal was nothing out of the ordinary for the self-care language our culture encourages. Honestly, had it not been for the years of late-night conversations and navigating a post-pandemic world, I would have smiled and requested it right then in prayer. But the atmosphere has changed a bit … and I knew her fears.

“Let’s say your dream boundaries are in place,” I began. “Describe to me what’s at the center. What are you creating limits around and protecting?” I asked.

She told me she wants to protect her heart and her time. She wants to control the things she can control. She doesn’t want to feel bad or spend energy in uncomfortable situations. She painted a perfect picture, like that of a tailored social media feed, where everything she interacts with brings her happiness, peace, and pleasure.

I told her a healthy heart, intentional time, peace, and joy are all things to want for her and they are good things to strive for and ask of the Lord. I then proposed she remove herself from the center and replace it with the Gospel and asked her how the message of Jesus would correspond with her boundaries.

“Oh,” she said.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:1-5

Centered Around Me

On the outside, my young friend had a good desire for health and protection, but on the inside, at its center, it was driven by fear of rejection, unbelief, and disappointment. When we place our fears at the center of our boundaries we are allowing what we think will help us to instead isolate and consume us. We fool ourselves into believing that being a functional member of society, and those we interact with, can be modified like our Instagram accounts. We are then let down by the reality that sin and the brokenness of the world can break into every boundary we create, driving us further into our fears. Rejection stirs unforgiveness and bitterness, unbelief cultivates distrust and skepticism, and disappointment fuels hopelessness.

“God just doesn’t throw a life preserver to a drowning person. He goes to the bottom of the sea, and pulls a corpse from the bottom of the sea, takes him up on the bank, breathes into him the breath of life and makes him alive.”

R.C. Sproul

Friend, Jesus was not born in that manager to coexist alongside what we believe should be the center of our boundaries. He’s not here to help out when He can or when we think we need Him. He came to be the center, the Light, the who, what, where, when, and why of all we say and do. The beginning and end, the cause and effect. He doesn’t want to just comfort us when we’re in pain. He wants to purpose our pain. He wants to give reason to everything we do in life. Everywhere we go, and the words we say, He wants His grace and truth to shine.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Centered Around Jesus

Whether it’s physical, emotional, mental, material, or time boundaries, the grace and the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can illuminate the center of who we are and transform us (mind, soul, strength) for His glory. We discover in knowing His Word, the very Word that became flesh, that He has always been the Gatekeeper to our hearts, the Messenger to a stranger, and the Medicine to a hurting family member or friend. By studying who He is, we learn who we are and can live according to His will. Submitting daily to His way, truth, and life helps us realize bit by bit that each revelation we find in ourselves pales in comparison to who God is and the power He has over our lives.

What would happen if instead of planting our identities and boundaries within our Myers Brigg, let’s say ENFP (me), we rested in YHWH (Yahweh) and His ‘personality’ (His character attributes)? What if we paused on scouring through the 5 Love Languages, and we took a step back and focused on loving God completely according to Mark 12:30-31? And for our motives? Let’s say we take this Enneagram 8 and make it an infinite ∞ motivation to love unconditionally. How different would my life be if I made choices to interact with others, truly knowing in my heart, that Jesus meets me where I’m at? That He calls me to deny myself and follow Him, has overcome the trouble of the world, and that accepting Him as my Savior gives me a sound mind to act and react, the power to move in His name, and the ability to love myself correctly and others compassionately? What do boundaries look like according to that knowledge?

Christ says “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Create boundaries. Know your standards, limitations, and need for the King of Kings. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and through faith and reason God gives us the conviction and discernment to keep Him first before putting ourselves or others at the beginning. In her book, The Envy of Eve, Melissa B. Kruger writes, “As we sacrifice our own lives to give to others, we should expect to feel worn out, tired, and spent. The call of the Gospel is not one of self-protection, but of self-denial.” Place the Gospel at the center and when making boundaries ask yourself if you’re allowing dualism to keep His hand from every part of your life (think life preserver in one area vs all-encompassing resurrection). Allow His perfect love to cast out fear. Operate under the full knowledge that we are children of God, redeemed in every way by His grace and truth, and the work relationships, the time in school, and the material and mental stresses will all be ushered into His presence, held and sanctified by the sovereign Light of men.

The Giving of Mothers

“In Giving, a man receives more than he gives; and the more is in proportion to the worth of the thing given.”

George MacDonald

Here MacDonald uses the general pronoun “man” for mankind. But women are specifically called to give, and we, and the world at large, receive through the giving.  In having a child we give that which is of much “worth”. Pregnancy is often difficult, birth painful, and rearing a child is all-consuming. We sacrifice our bodies, time, and comfort to bring new life into the world. 

Mary, the mother of Christ, was visited by an angel to inform her that she would be the mother of the Messiah. She was an unwed woman and knew the judgment she would receive from her community. Before her lay a difficult road, perhaps more difficult than she could imagine- suffering on the road to Bethlehem, a traumatic birth in a stable, fleeing to Egypt, and the eventual crucifixion of her beloved son. Yet when the angel appeared to young Mary he said,  “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”  To which is replied, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.”

Mary was not naive to the hardship she would face, but she was faithful. She trusted the words of the angel which told her she was “highly favored”. Later her cousin Elizabeth, who had Mary’s condition revealed to her through the Spirit, proclaimed to her: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

The word “favored” is used again by Elizabeth. It signifies honor. Mary, a woman of no worldly significance or power, had the honor of carrying, delivering, and raising the Savior of the world, as His mother.

We, women, are highly favored in our opportunity to become mothers. Having a child is an immense blessing of eternal significance. Being a Mother is much more than the physical hardships or sacrifices – it is the spiritual blessing of raising a beloved son or daughter of God. This bond between Mother and Child is eternal. Christ’s thoughts turned to his mother in the moments before his death, his final words instructed his apostles to care for her.

Oftentimes we may not be able to discern how our sacrifice will return to us, but we trust that it will. With the birth of our own son or daughter, we renew humanity. Each child we give the world brings renewed compassion, intellect, insight, revelation, will, and beauty to humanity. When I look upon any of my own precious children I see a gift of great worth, a worth that far exceeds my giving.

“Every child begins the world again.”

Henry David Thoreau
The Visitation of the Virgin to Saint Elizabeth, Unknown 1518

Easy to Please, Hard to Satisfy

Matthew 5:48 says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” 

This seemingly impossible ask is answered by the wise words of C.S. Lewis, “This Helper who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty. As a great Christian writer (George MacDonald) pointed out, every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in a grown-up son. In the same way, he said, “God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.”

If you ask your child how they feel when they do something good – read with their little sister, be kind to the new kid in class – they will respond that it makes them feel good. There is a reward in doing our Christian duty, God’s pleasure. Yet often as parents, we do not recognize the pleasure of our Heavenly Father when we do our duty, as we serve our family. 

Because of our own imperfect childhoods or doctrinal misperceptions, we often view God as either a judgemental tyrant or an endlessly accepting and affirming grandpa. He is neither. His perfect knowledge and love allow Him to rejoice in our smallest progress and inspire us to even greater things.

“I want God, not my idea of God.” C.S. Lewis

We should seek to understand for ourselves the nature of God, to recognize how he views our own feeble steps, for we are his children too. We mothers are often plagued with insecurity and guilt, but in our self-condemnation, we forget that Christ called us to be “as little children”. He knew that children err, they are ignorant and often impetuous – yet they are dependent and trusting of their parents. It is not imperfection God condemns, but pride. 

A friend of mine had four boys. She was frustrated that all four started walking at 9 months. I remember she even resorted to forcing them on their bum whenever they stood up. She just wanted a baby a little longer! Other times, as with my overly-contented babies, we are frustrated by our fat and jolly 14-month-old, content to stick with crawling. Is there something wrong with this kid? Why can’t he just walk?!  We use comparisons and milestones to measure success, but God uses no such metrics. We may walk early or late but His pleasure propels us forward toward His purpose. 

God is a rejoicing parent. Yes, He is displeased by open rebellion, but He does not condemn the unready walk us, spiritual toddlers. He wants our progress, He knows eternal joy is found in growth and perfection. Our knowledge of His true nature helps us to move forward and to grow more firm in our steps. 

As parents, we should seek to parent as our Eternal Father does and be parented by Him. We should show our pleasure at our children’s stumbling efforts – notice them, praise them. Our expressed pleasure will propel them forward to become more. We should also seek to feel the pleasure of God as we grow firm in the steady walk of one of his grown children. 

I suggest reading the following by C.S. Lewis as we seek to parent like, and recognize our loving Father.

Artwork: Edmund Adler 

When to get our child a phone…

I don’t typically like to give specific advice. I enjoy learning and writing about general philosophy – the kind of philosophy that can help us, with our unique personalities and perspectives, make wise practical decisions about our parenting. We mothers are the most practical of philosophers. However, this “Cyber Week” I thought some of you might appreciate a specific recommendation as we make our Christmas gift decisions.  Don’t worry – I am not “sponsored”. I just found something that has worked for us, and may for you as well.  

Modern philosophy seems to say “more is better” and that we should let our children guide us as their desires count as much as our own. This philosophy often determines how parents answer the question of how and when to introduce children to technology. Why not give your kids a phone? Why not trust them to figure it out? Better to learn young, right? Loneliness and depression are rising as technology use increases, it seems unreasonable to have a technology free-for-all.  Children don’t have the proper perspective, knowledge, or self-control to act as adults. (Adults themselves aren’t thriving with this technology). Technology is increasingly addictive and social media platforms are divisive and damaging to young minds.

An unlocked smartphone opens a world completely independent and most often contrary to the values and traditions of a loving home.  We have worked hard to teach our children – but the voices shouting through a smartphone are louder than ours. Children are not developmentally or morally ready to face this world.  We don’t throw our kids into a raging river to teach them to swim and we can don’t give our kids an unfiltered cell phone and expect them not to drown. 

We modern parents face a tremendously important decision, one of our most important decisions as a parent – should I get my child a smartphone?  The consequences of this decision are real and potentially life-altering for our child, and our relationship with him/her. Through research, observation, and prayer, my husband and I have made a plan for our own family.  It is important to develop a plan – a tradition – that we adhere to so that our children know that no amount of complaining or anger will change. Our traditions should not be based on the prevailing philosophy of the world or our neighbors, but on what is true, right, and beneficial for our family. 

While we know that phones are often damaging, we practical mothers know that existing phoneless in a phone-obsessed world can be a real disadvantage, even for middle schoolers. One opinion often expressed is that kids will be “weird” if they don’t have cell phones. To which I say, Good! – who wants to be normal in a destructive society?  We can teach our kids that social costs are often worth paying – pointing out that “being cool or accepted” is often a poor long-term metric for happiness. And yet, unfortunately, schools, sports, and church activities increasingly rely on using cell phones for communication. Therefore it can be a challenge for parents and kids not to be connected through phones.

With all these thoughts in mind, we developed our plan.  We wait until 8th grade to add personal technology to our children’s lives. They do not have any technology of “their own” until they are in 8th grade, at which point they will get a “dumb” phone. My son, almost 14, became our first child to get a phone – the tradition begins.

I am so grateful that now concerned parents have options. With all the data on the damage smartphones can do to kids, companies are popping up with “dumb” phone options. These phones vary but generally, they usually remove games, social media, and internet access, which seem to be the most destructive elements of smartphones. They give parents access to, and control over, what is on their children’s phones and when they are able to use them. I have written extensively on the “devouring mother” and advised against over-controlling parenting.  But limiting our child’s access to technology that is known to be destructive, body and soul, is not controlling –  it is parenting.  

I have yet to meet a parent who has given their preteen, or even teen, a smartphone and not regretted it in some way. I am happy to say that I do not regret giving my son his Pinwheel phone. He texts his friends uses Duolingo to learn Spanish, checks SportsYou to hear from his coaches, and occasionally pulls up Google Classroom at school. That’s about it. He has not become addicted at all and it is nice to be able to tell him I will be five minutes late or send him a text wishing him luck on a test. His phone does the things he actually needs – not all the things he may come to “want” if supplied. He is satisfied with his phone and has not expressed a wish to have “more”.  My tendency is to assume technology is bad for kids, but I  am now willing to admit that technology, at the right time and with limits, can be a great tool. 

At the moment there are Black Friday deals on Pinwheel and Gabb phones. There is also another option called Troomi but I don’t know much about it. 

For all you parents out there, good luck as you develop your family technology tradition!

Video comparing the 2 phones:

Jordan Peterson full interview on the rise in mental health and narcissism related to smartphone use