Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places


Bringing up Christian

Still Relevant memos to self

While going through my computer folders, I found my notes from when I gave a short devotion at a mother’s group meeting at Audrey’s home in Singapore. Had a flick-through and true enough, all of what I had pondered over then is still relevant today.

1. Growing Dependent Kids

I had mentioned before how Tony and I are big on Arddun gaining independence early. It’s in the small things, like minimising the spoon-feeding, getting her to self-settle instead of rocking her to sleep, teaching her to put away her toys and to clean up her messes, instilling in her the focus and contentment required to play independently… The only thing we haven’t been as successful in the Get Independent Quick parenting scheme  is potty training. But still, there is that inner dialogue hurrying me along, ever conscious not to molly-coddle, not to breed bad habits…

Except I think I might have lost sight of the ultimate goal. Because the ultimate goal isn’t about giving a child life competencies and a sense of her place and role in her environment, although those are great things to strive for. The ultimate goal isn’t about enabling my child to stand on her two feet and know her own mind.

The ultimate goal is to move my child from dependence on mummy and daddy to dependence on God.

I didn’t get to say this at the actual sharing because there were eleventeen babies making friends with one another at the time (and eleventeen equally loving mothers trying to keep them out of trouble), but I had read a blog post that week written by a mother who wanted her newly school-attending daughter to gain more confidence by remembering that God was there with her at school. And that just shifted the paradigm for me. I will not always be there for Arddun. As she gets older, there are going to be play dates, and classes (we think dance classes at the rate she’s going), and school, and sports, and a whole other world that is going to be mostly hers. I will always be there for her emotionally and the rest of it, of course. But I won’t be by her desk at school when the soi disant school queen bee comes around, or leaning against the bleachers when she is tempted to cheat at softball. (Because of course, we’re hoping she’s going to do softball. And when I say we, I mean Tony.)

In all those cases, her best bet is a keen sense of right and wrong that comes from understanding who God is and why He loves her.

REALLY helps if she learns all that through example, of course. So I’d best buck up.

2. Be present

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

Be still and know that I am God. Psalms 46:10

Be ever hearing, but never understanding. Be ever seeing, but never perceiving. (Isaiah 6:10 Hebrew; Septuagint ‘You will be ever hearing, but never understanding; / you will be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ / This people’s heart has become calloused; / they hardly hear with their ears, / and they have closed their eyes)

Be here. Be present. Wherever you are, be there. ― Willie Nelson

How many of these scenarios are familiar to you?

iPads or iPhones at the dinner table.

A young man sitting in the reserved seat on the MRT, engrossed in his Candy Crush while a mother with a young child stands beside him.

A mother on the phone with the Australian Customs Department worrying about boxes, while her child waits to cuddle her and wave good-bye. (That was me, the day before I shared that devotion.)

It is so easy to get busy over the details. To multi-task. To jam as many things in the day as humanly possible. Sometimes it’s because we have to. But many times, it’s because we want to. We want to please God, we want to help His people. We want to fulfil our potential, and we want to maximise the talents God has given us.

But sometimes, in the doing, we sacrifice the best version of ourselves. Quantity is very often NOT the substitute for quality. I get very exasperated when I see how many small things I can accomplish at one go, while my husband seems only capable of doing one thing at a time. But if I were to analyse the attention span I’ve paid each task, I realise that it is often divided, and can be at the expense of someone else. Usually, Arddun and Tony.

The art of being present is the art of shutting out distractions, and having the discipline not to let anything else enter in. The art of being present is in the decision that THIS is what is MOST important to the moment. Encouraging my child as she shows me how well she sorts shapes. Listening – REALLY listening – to my husband when he tells me about his day. Talking to Arddun about disappointing behaviour. Rehearsing how to behave when she opens birthday gifts at her party. Undivided attention shows my daughter — and my husband —more love and gives them more satisfaction than any toy or present I could possibly give them. And yet it is hard not to jump up and answer a message when it beeps, or run off and put a load of washing on before I forget.

But it is crucial. And it is respectful of others.

I am still learning, so please pray for me.

3. Love covers over a multitude of sins

Keep your love for one another at full strength, because love covers a multitude of sins. ~I Peter 4:8

I find it so easy to forgive Arddun and yet so difficult at times to do the same for Tony. And I can sometimes feel myself spiralling downward into a very corrosive blame game that makes me out to be this huge martyr and my husband, a rather obtuse and unthinking duh-duh. Which is complete nonsense, because he’s one of the most switched-on people I know.

But yes. Sometimes, as fathers and husbands, they drive us mad. Things that come so naturally to us – like figuring out how to stack the Tupperware in your cupboard logically or opening a fancy packet of tissues using the perforation marks and not brute force – seem to completely thwart our husbands. Many times, it seems they do it because they don’t respect us enough or care to understand.

And maybe some of our assumptions are spot on. And some of it comes from sleep deprivation and being TOO fussy and particular. Sometimes, the battles we pick don’t need to be battles, but we choose to pick them because they’re more tangible than the other worries and concerns we have with our spouses.

Yet the verse is pretty clear about the effort required on our parts. Keep your love for one another at full strength. If it’s depleted, fill it up. If I’m running on empty, if I’m doing my mothering and wife-ing out of resentment, I’ve personally been remiss. If I am unable to forgive and forget – yes, FORGET – then I am unable to let the “multitude of sins” go because I have not loved perfectly. I have not agape-d my husband.

Like I said, I have yet to fully understand this and see it live in my life. But I can only work towards the prize.

Sharing a short devo at Audrey's house

The importance of being earnest

Now that I have a baby, I’m in a desperate hurry to grow up.

There’s something downright scary about having a blank canvas of a human being living with you. Because nothing quite points out the colour palette of my values like having Arddun watch me and sponge up. It’s almost hypocritical how I expect Tony to take me as I am, warts and all, and yet how determined I am to scrub up and present my most godly self to my offspring, in the hopes that some halo shiny will rub off.

Why is that?

Within the first six months of Arddun’s life, many in my mother’s group had arranged for their bubs to be christened. And the natural question of Arddun’s own christening arose, of course. And rightly or wrongly, my standard answer had been that Tony and I believe in letting Arddun make that decision about baptism herself.

On the surface, it sounds like we’re bringing Arddun up in a religiously-neutral environment so she can decide for herself if God (or gods) exist or not. And yet if she is to pay witness to our everyday lives, it is my deepest desire that she understands what being a (hugely flawed but tremendously forgiven) Christian is. See, this has been my struggle – and my latest epiphany: there is no way any parent can bring up a religious blank canvas. No way.

Because if our actions match our beliefs, then all children grow up either taught that there is God or there isn’t. I think it would be very difficult to be deeply devoted to God, yet teach my child that He may or may not exist. And likewise, that it’d be very difficult to teach my child who God is, yet live day to day like I don’t believe in Him.

Bizarrely, I had spent quite a bit of time BC mulling over Fictitious Kid’s religious education. I’m a second-generation Christian, which means I’d attended Sunday school and worship since I was 2 weeks old, came forward to be baptised when I was 12, and only missed 2 Sunday services before I came to Australia and its daylight savings and ruthless winter influenza. And I had spent five dark years resenting the fact that I could not be sure I owned my own faith. I wondered if I’d been brainwashed, if my worldview had long been coloured by the tinted glasses superglued to my face since birth. I searched for years while vacantly going through the motions of worship, and felt a traitor both ways – either to my family and my God for doubting, or to myself for not knowing how to get to “neutral ground” so I could start to “find REAL truth” unfettered by expectation and upbringing.

It’s a natural course that nth-generation Christians take. It’s part of growing up and taking responsibility for our own values and beliefs. And it took me a long time to get comfortable again. In my younger days, in those days of searching, I had determined to try something different with Fictitious Kid. In desperately unhappy moments, I had wondered if I’d ever been a Christian had I grown up in a freethinking household. And I had wondered if I could bring up Fictitious Kid in a religiously-neutral household, where he/she would be taught all world beliefs (including Atheism) and left truly to decide for him or herself.

But now I’m not sure I could, or that I’d even want to.

Because at the very least, Christianity provides practical guidelines, a value system, and answers the ultimate question of “Why”. And I owe it to Arddun to give her those certainties, at least. And maybe she’ll become a Christian, and maybe she won’t. I have to believe that a heart that truly seeks truth will find it eventually, and so perhaps my job is to soften her heart enough so that it yearns for the journey. Her salvation is not in my hands, but I’ve decided I love her enough to give her the best that I believe in.

I only hope that I have the courage to love her for her choices – and in spite of her choices. And that she knows, just like I know about my own mother, that I’m doing the whole God-upbringing thing for her in spite of my flaws, and because of my deepest love.

Arddun's first bible class
Arddun’s first bible class: 11 March 2012

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