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Love, not legalism

               Ah, this blog. I have enjoyed writing on it, both expressing my opinion and charting my journey to become a better version of myself. The way my brain works, I don’t really understand something until I write about it. The understanding increases when I read back what I write. Anyone else like that? It works on a lesser scale with talking; I think something, talk about it, and then listen to myself discuss it, and the light bulb clicks on. My husband (and nearly everyone else I know) just think I talk too much. So a lot of times I have quiet discussions in my head. I’ve been writing a lot of meaningful blog posts lately, but they’ve all been in my head. Sometimes the reason I don’t post is because I think my post is too short, or about something I assume is incredibly obvious to most people; sometimes, I just don’t get the time. I’m in my second week of home schooling the oldest two children in first grade. But today a thought popped into my head, and out of both guilt that I seldom post and hope that it may be encouraging, I am sharing before I make dinner and get distracted again.

               My oldest child has been called many things by well meaning parents. The term I hear most often is “strong-willed.” When I look at him I don’t see a problem to be fixed, nor even a challenge greater than the challenge of raising the other three. I see my beautiful, tiny baby boy—maybe just a bit bigger these days. I think he himself faces challenges the other children seem to glide through, but then he has his strengths, too. Anyway, today my eldest and I clashed again; there are a few behavioral traits I disapprove of, and lying is one of them. We had a talk. I feel weary of constantly correcting him but I know I can’t condone unacceptable behavior at some times and condemn it at other times. Still, it’s hard when you’re trying to raise a disciplined, well-guided child without resorting to legalistic tactics. And the more guiding a child needs, the harder it is to avoid becoming a legalistic robot, in my opinion. So this happened.

               We had our talk about being honest. I said smart things, earnest things, simple things. I wondered if any of it was getting in his mind. Then we finished up school and had free time for the afternoon. He made a craft. It was a card for me. It looked like this:

I luv yo mome :)

               He was sorry for everything, but I feel that he still doesn’t grasp the importance or necessity of telling the truth. He’s young. I expect that will take time. But the one thing he was keenly aware of was that he had disappointed me. So the point of the card was to let me know that he still loved me, even though he had done a bad thing. He proudly held it up, pointed to the words, and said, “Does this say—I think it says—I was trying to write—” and I looked at it closely, and said, “It says, ‘I love you, Mom!’” And he beamed. Yes! That was it. Did he spell words wrong? Of course. He’s only in first grade. So the thing I learned—From my experience, some parents are overreaching when it comes to their expectations for their kids. If the child spelled the word “mom” correctly in spelling class yesterday, why shouldn’t he be expected to spell it correctly from here on out? But that’s the entirely wrong approach. At that moment, what was happening was a parenting moment. A being-a-kid moment. A bonding, loving, emotional, healing moment where my small son was making peace with me. It would have been beyond inappropriate for me to correct his spelling at that moment!

               Reading this over I again come to the part where I’m thinking, “Should I even post this?” because my readers probably think that I’m messed up to be realizing, as part of my journey in progress, that legalism has no place in love. Really, it’s humbling that I should even have to realize something like this and not just already know it and be acting on it. Nevertheless, now that I’ve embarked on this search for truth, I find there are lessons to be learned almost every day, and this was the one I reviewed today.

               Thank you for reading the Well Bred Woman in Progress!

Teaching our children

               One of my young sons just brought me some tiny stuck-together Legos to unsnap.   As I helped him, it occurred to me that he had asked for me help instead of trying it himself because I am an adult and, in his mind, more capable than he.

               But then I remembered that even as a child I used to unsnap rows of thin, tightly connected Legos for my brothers.   I guess it’s something I’ve always been good at doing.   Since I was efficient at the task, they continued letting me do it, and I was glad to help.   After all, the way my brothers treated me growing up lead me to believe that my worth–my value–was intrinsically linked to how useful I was.   That is, I felt that what I could do for others was what endeared me to them and made me worthy of them.   This harmful notion hindered me when I began dating;   coming of age, I slowly began to recognize how harmful and objectifying this view is.   No person’s worth or value should be judged by their behavior.   In a world of economic significance–checks and balances and bottom lines–it often seems that one’s abilities, skills, and character become one’s currency for material measurement.   But the interpersonal relationships that ought to be crafted between us, specifically the sacred ties of families, marriages, and intimate relationships, ought not depend on the false notion that what one has to offer determines how much one is valued.   These days, I am happy to have finally begun rejecting this notion as I endeavor to teach my children that they are intrinsically valuable and worthy, no matter what they do.   Next to imparting the principles of my faith that I hope they will accept as their own, the single most important thing I wish to teach my children is that their worth is not dependent on their behavior nor on what they can do for me, their siblings, or society.

               What is the most important thing you want to teach, or feel you have taught, your children?

The supremacy of friendship

               Often women who are pursuing self-improvement in order to reach their life’s fullest potential have a list of ideal attributes they wish to strive for.   These could include goals such as:

Cooking organically from scratch
Mixing up homemade potions from fragrant herbs and sumptuous oils for anti-aging and beautifying effects
Having a beautiful, tastefully decorated home with elegant furnishings, lovely flowers, plants, garden, etc.
Forging a successful career doing a job she loves that adequately provides for her needs and makes a positive difference in the world
Possessing efficient home management skills;  a separate, perfectly kept guest suite;  and natural talent at hostessing dinners, parties, and other get-togethers
Being well read and literate, engaging in continual lifelong education, keeping her intellect stimulated
Being poised and smooth, with a ready answer in any situation, polished manners, and general confidence and ease in any situation
Becoming financially savvy with a clear plan for the future and wisely managing her resources
Keeping physically fit and active, with excellent health
Winning the affection of a valiant, strong man of excellent character and pursuing a stable relationship with him

               Many of these goals will be years in the realizing. And some may never fully be reached in one’s lifetime.   But if she achieves all these goals and has not experienced the love, sacrifice, and joy of true friendship, a woman will not feel complete.   Making and maintaining quality friendships based on mutual understanding and values is, perhaps, the simplest joy a woman can have.   And it is not exclusive to the wealthy, the aged, the mature, the scholarly, the physically fit, the uber-health conscious, the ageless beauty, or the famed entertainer.   Friendship can be had at any stage in life and can span years and the socio-economic scale.   It is most certainly the key to a delightful, enduring marriage.   Although she is in continual pursuit of her self-improvement and life goals, a well-bred woman in progress must not neglect the opportunity to form friendships in each stage of life, seeking a true friend as a treasure hunt, like finding the best wildflowers while walking in the meadow.   Even if one is not living in the neighborhood she intends to retire in, or if one knows for sure that life’s path will eventually lead her out of state or overseas to some new territory, she should savor each moment in the transitional stages of life and sweeten her day to day life with the effort and commitment to at least one quality friendship, or several. 🙂

               What are some challenges you face in making or maintaining friendships?   What is the best part of friendship?

Newborn mothering

               Oh, the joys of motherhood! To beget a child is to begin on the journey of a lifetime of love and sacrifice. Having birthed four children myself, this is one area in which I have definitely grown as a woman. Over the years I have acquired the following tips for newborn mothering, which I would share with any well-bred woman who has undertaken the blessed path of motherhood.

               Be prepared for postpartum mood swings and depression. This is caused by sudden changes in hormones and a woman cannot just decide to feel better or change her attitude. The careful and responsible woman will seek help when needed. Evening primrose oil and placenta encapsulation can help regulate hormones sooner than usual, although everything should eventually balance out on its own.

               Jaundice is a common occurrence in newborns, but did you know it can actually be aggravated by the vitamin K shot? The vitamin K shot may be unnecessary for infants who have not experienced any internal bleeding or who will not be circumcised before 8 days old, the age at which the body has naturally developed its own sufficient levels of this nutrient. Home treatment of mild jaundice includes placing baby in a sunny spot to nap and nursing frequently.

               The eye prophylaxis that is routinely administered to newborns is meant to prevent eye infections and potential blindness caused by two STDs that a mother may have. If one has no STDs, then the eye prophylaxis may be unnecessary.

               Resting in bed for the first two weeks after birth will speedily heal a woman’s body. She should line up household help and meals prior to the birth.

               If the mother nurses, she must learn how to latch the baby on properly. Empty at least one breast per feeding so that the baby receives both foremilk and hindmilk. There is no secret formula to increasing hindmilk; the baby’s consumption of it solely depends on how long he nurses per side.

               An easy care routine is as follows: wake baby, feed baby, keep baby up for a few minutes, then put him down for a nap. At night, put him down directly after feeding. Eventually the wake times will increase and the times between feedings will increase. This seems to facilitate the child’s eventual adopting of nighttime sleep, although that is a trick that only an individual mother can teach her individual child. Newborns can go up to four hours between feedings. Nursing every two hours can exhaust a mother and cause her to quit nursing sooner than she would have liked.

               Most people can figure out mothering without multitudes of parenting books. Having presuppositions about how things will go, mostly about milestones and averages (like when most babies begin sleeping through the night, how long or how often they nurse, etc.) inhibits the natural instincts a mother has for her own baby.

               Dealing with crying can be very difficult. However, crying is a newborn’s only way of communicating, and one can usually find ways to lessen it by giving baby what he wants or needs. Sometimes the crying ceases in a couple minutes, so wait a little, then see if any intervention is needed. Since a newborn likes to be held closely, wrapping gently in a blanket can also calm him.

               Pacifier use can comfort a newborn when he craves extra suckling between feedings. Generally, the pacifier should be taken away by the time baby is seven month old.

               Above all, enjoy this fleeting time and cuddle that baby! He or she will never be this small again.