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What We’re Reading with Our Girls

As we were traveling to see family, Sam and I were listening to a NPR interview with the author of Lab Girl. She was talking about the difficulty she has had as a woman in a male-dominated profession.
Tom Ashbrook asked if she would thought that she would ever be able to operate in her profession, after the many discoveries and awards she has been given, without gender being an issue. She laughed and laughed again and then responded, “No, I think gender politics will always be an issue.”

And I wondered about our girls. How are we going to raise girls who are resilient and independent? How are we going to teach our girls that they can pursue and succeed in any profession and field they feel passionate about?

My teacher instincts tell me that introducing them to books that question and challenge gender stereotypes is really important. Here are some of the ones we are reading and we read and read with our girls:

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Stephanie’s Ponytail is a brilliant book that shows how having your own style despite what other people think about you is empowering and often leads to people following you. It also cautions about the power you have when you are a leader and have people who are looking up to you. Powerful message for independence and responsibility.

 

 

Paper Bag Princess falls into the category of fractured fairy tale because while it has the elements of a fairy tale, it changes the roles. The princess is the one who rescues the prince in this story and she does it without batting an eye. The questions and conclusions that have come from our reading this book are certainly worth rereading at every opportunity!

 

MH just got this book and she loves it. It is chock full of nonfiction stories of powerful women who were successful. It also included instructions for knot-tying, camping, and other outdoor activities that some would say were for boys. The content area reading strategies she is developing is an added bonus!

 

The story of a girl who doesn’t judge a giant for just being a giant and who travels to giant country and defeats the giants eating other children? Yes, this is one of our favorites for sure!

 

This one. Matilda harnesses her powers to help those who have been oppressed by an evil headmistresses while also defying and overcoming her family of origin. Wow, just wow. I need this one as much as my girls!

 

The hardest aspect of parenting is that you don’t know how your kids will turn out. You can’t be certain that what you hope you are teaching them settles down into their hearts and souls and becomes a very part of who they are, but we can try. We can read them stories with strong female characters who challenge powerful people and beings. We can reread these stories telling them that their style, who they are, is unique and special. We can talk after these stories about how we can use our power and leadership to do good and to be kind to others.

And we can hope that in reading and talking, we too learn these lessons.

Sometimes You Forget…

Sometimes you forget that what you’ve experienced and been through is not what everyone else has experienced and been through. Sometimes you forget that sharing your story and experiences might be exactly what someone else needs in that moment. Sometimes you forget that you can offer hope and understanding by just sharing who you are.

I hold a Master’s in Literacy, something I forget about in my day to day being because teaching isn’t my profession. I also hold a Master’s in Divinity, something that is more in the forefront of my mind as I prepare to preach and worship with the amazing community of faith, New Hope Baptist Fellowship.

Sam also has teaching experience and theological education and as we journey together as parents, we are trying very intentionally in what we do and say to raise and foster kids who are compassionate, aware of the needs that surround them, and who understand that they each have something they can offer no matter how old they are to offer love and hope.

One way we do this is by what we read to them and in front of them. Here’s what we’ve been reading lately and why we chose it:

I love this book a teaching friend gave us when Ben was born because it teaches kids that even when you have always seen yourself to be a certain way, there is always a chance that you will encounter someone who will change and transform you.

 

Peter Reynolds is brilliant in how he addressed the magical, mystical element of creation for young readers. This one in particular shows that even when the people around you try to discourage you, you shouldn’t give up what you love to do. Also, being the voice of encouragement to someone can change their whole perspective.

 

Not only does Mo Williems write the Elephant and Piggie series incorporating the 100 site words for first graders, he also hits the nail on the head in topics. This is one of our favorites for teaching that waiting and patience often allow us to experience something miraculous.

 

 

We love this one for the way it plays with rhyme and meter, but also for how it reminds us that there is always need surrounding us. When we barrel over other people, they won’t be quite as willing to help us when we need help.

 

Looking for specific age suggestions for your own children or grandchildren? I’m happy to help! I love talking about children’s literature and the powerful impact it can play in teaching our children.

A Week Ago Part 2

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A week ago, Sam called to tell me that he had been in a wreck, which lead to a series of events that took over our week including doctor’s visits, insurance calls, and rental car arrangements. It wasn’t how we were expecting to spend our week and there were many times last week that I asked, “why did this happen to us?”

And then I on Wednesday when I picked Ben up, I got his first ever school craft. A simple reminder of the season of Thanksgiving that we are approaching. I looked at that footprint and remembered in the hospital the first attempt to take his footprints were too bloody to take home because of the glucose tests they had to do by sticking his heels and I remembered the week Ben was born and how I was left speechless by the miraculous power of life and birth and breath in Ben.

And a week ago I was reminded again of the beauty of life and breath as Sam walked away from the car wreck. I breathed deeply as I held this simple picture because even though our lives were overtaken and redirected last week, we were still together as family.

This is not an easy time to be a parent, to be a minister, or to be a family. It is hard work to redirect our thoughts to being thankful and grateful. It is is hard work to try to engage in the important work of trying to speak love into the divisive rhetoric we hear, read, and often repeat. It is hard work to stop and reflect and imagine what we could become together if we are thankful instead of ungrateful, selfless rather than selfish, and understanding rather than defensive. But this, this is the hard work we are called to do as partners, parents, and ministers.

And for a community of people who are working towards these same goals, I am thankful.

Making Grits and Celebrating Eucharist

This Sunday was the first Sunday since January that I haven’t preached or been a part of a morning worship service. I wasn’t preaching because I was in Asheville celebrating an almost 6-year old’s birthday and trying to wrestle an almost 7-month-old through a dance recital.

Before the dance recital, we gathered at the girls’ mom and stepdad’s house and decided to make brunch. I thought about how strange it was to not be preparing to preach as I wandered around an unknown grocery store trying to find some last minute ingredients. I wondered how about the people of New Hope who I’ve been journeying with for the last 10 weeks were doing. I wondered how the people at Emmanuel were doing as they gathered to worship in wake of the loss of one of our members. I wondered about my friends and colleagues in ministry and when the last time they had taken a Sunday off was.

And when we got back from the grocery store, I lost myself standing by a stove in the sacred art of making grits and pulling popping bacon from hot grease when it was just a little past brown on the edges. And I thought, this is a holy calling. And I wondered if the last supper that we have turned into a symbol of solemnity was actually friends who believed that the world could be different who were sharing bread and wine just as we were sharing grits, bacon, and coffee.

It’s Scary as Hell to Be a Parent

Ben and Mama

I did it again.

I went to his room and peaked over the crib railing to make sure he was breathing. He’s been sleeping on his side since he was a day old, but still it scares me to death, especially when he covers his face with both hands, just like he did in all of his ultrasound pictures. I know there are apps and video monitors designed and sold to parents to quell our worries and concerns, but I still have to go and check. I have to see his belly moving up and down with my own eyes or hear his soft snore with my own ears.

It’s scary as hell to be a parent.

Because when you’re not worried about whether he or she is breathing while sleeping, you’re worried about whether he or she is getting enough food or gaining enough weight. And then when he or she stops sleeping and wakes up more during the night you worry about why he or she isn’t sleeping. Is it teething or sickness or a growth spurt?  And then you go to the doctor and they tell you what percentage he or she is in height and weight and head size, giving you three more things to be worried about not to mention the list of developmental goals you are supposed to be monitoring and assessing and encouraging. And then you see other kids around his or her age and wonder if your kid is doing the things those kids are doing. And if your kid is doing something different than the other kids, you wonder if that is something to be concerned about or not.

It’s scary as hell to be a parent.

Because you’re responsible for this mini human and his or her well being. You are responsible for helping him or her grow and learn. And when he or she gets to the point that he or she can do things independently like walk and eat and go to the potty, then you have to start teaching him or her what it means to live in community: to share and do unto others as you would have them do unto you and respect caregivers who give their time and energy and love and support.

It’s scary as hell to be a parent.

Because then you have to walk with him or her when he or she encounters the brokenness that exists in the world. You are the ones who tell him or her when someone they love is sick. You are the ones that have to tell him or her that our bodies don’t last forever and that sometimes the people or pets we love die because people and pets aren’t designed to live forever. And then you have to wonder how to explain the divine to these mini humans whose minds and bodies are really still mostly concentrated and attuned to learning how to be human. And you have to decide whether you are going to tell them what to believe or what we believe or encourage them to believe what they believe even if it’s different than what you want them to believe.

It’s scary as hell to be a parent.

Because you see the worst and the best in your children and you pray desperately that the worst won’t win as often as it wins within you, but that the best parts of you and the best parts of your partner might somehow miraculously be the only parts that this mini human receives. You encourage the good and address the bad trying every parenting method that you’ve read about, sometimes all within one day. And you hope and pray that you are doing something right.

It’s scary as hell to be a parent.

Because then you end up preaching a sermon from John’s gospel and read before a community of faith, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” And you realize that even though it’s scary as hell to be a parent, you are the parcel of peace presented to these mini humans because of the Holy Spirit is dwelling or staying within you. And you remember that even thought it’s scary, you don’t want to teach your children fear, but peace and wholeness in a world of brokenness.

And so you whisper, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you,” as you say goodbye and send your girls back to their mom’s and as you go to peak over the side of the crib railing just one more time to make sure he’s breathing.

I Was Taught to Be Afraid

I was taught to be afraid –

of dying before I knew that I knew that I knew I was saved,

 

of missing opportunities to lead others to Christ,

of not being an example to all the nonbelievers,

of living outside of God’s perfect will,

of being myself.

 

I was taught to be afraid –

of walking in parking lots by myself at night,

of boys with bad intentions,

of talking to strangers,

of the homeless, the helpless, the desperate,

of people different than me.

 

I will teach my children –

awareness to see the needs surrounding them,

compassion for all people,

hope to share with the hopeless and the desperate,

love to heal the broken and those in pain,

confidence in their strength and their instincts,

 

I will not teach fear.

Teacher Parents

IN recent years, we’ve been treated to reams of op-ed articles about how we need better teachers in our public schools and, if only the teachers’ unions would go away, our kids would score like Singapore’s on the big international tests. There’s no question that a great teacher can make a huge difference in a student’s achievement, and we need to recruit, train and reward more such teachers. But here’s what some new studies are also showing: We need better parents. Parents more focused on their children’s education can also make a huge difference in a student’s achievement.

Friedman is opening a can of worms here. He is tapping into the teacher/parent finger blame game that has been circling schools. As a first year teacher, I fell into this trap of blaming parents.

I was wrong.

Most parents that I’ve encountered, especially in high poverty situations, want to help their children succeed but don’t know how. When I put my finger-pointing hands in my lap and opened my ears, I realized that I could offer some strategies that we could work together to provide continuity.

As teachers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming parents, especially when many of us are dedicating so much of our time and personal energy to the teaching profession. Michael Smith in a reflective post, says:

Except for the fact I always wonder if I’m spending too much time helping raise other people’s kids and not enough time on my own.

Contrary to popular belief, teachers and administrators aren’t super humans that are able to solve all the world’s problems. We are dedicating our lives to our students, but we are also parents too.