So many books, so little time. Why, then, am I reading the most forgettable of books? Because I am trying to escape laziness by being lazy. Say what?
I recently read two very different books. The second one is so forgettable (by a very successful modern author) that I won’t bore you with its title. The first book, however, sent me to Alibris.com to see what else I might find by the author. I started this book during Thanksgiving week, so it took a while to finish. But even as I was busy with other quite enthralling and enjoyable activities, I was thinking about the book, about the main character’s dilemma. I was, as I explained to my family, “intensely involved’ in this story.
Right. The name of the book: Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. This book enhanced my thinking, revved up my mental engines. Like another recently enjoyed excellent book, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, Lady Audley’s Secret satisfied my heart’s desire for new insights and revelations, as well as reacquaintance with deep and almost forgotten heart’s truths.
So, why again do I pick up twaddle and use up precious hours of my life reading it, and then forgetting it as soon as possible? It’s called “escape” and aptly so, but to where? I escaped to intriguing worlds with Mary Elizabeth Braddon and with Elizabeth Gaskell, but with the author who must not be named I escaped to . . . I don’t remember.
So many bad (inane, intelligence insulting, smut-filled) books. So many good books. I choose good.
Oh, and one more thing! Beware the “poignant” books. This usually means the author’s life stinks and he/she wants yours to, also, via reading this tripe. Try instead something whose very feel in your hands makes you say, “I wonder what’s in here.”
“What should I do with him today?” Hannah asked this morning, regarding her babysitting charge. “I’ll think on that,” I said, knowing Hannah was talking as much to herself as to me, and would as usual come up with something on her own.
Still, I pondered her question because I said I would, and then later called her. “I know what you can do. Google a recipe for finger paints, then let him do something like the horse Seth did with finger paints when he was about that age.”
“Oh, God,” Seth moaned in the background (he now thinks that marvelous painting is awful). “Thanks, Mom, that’s what I’ll do!” was Hannah’s more gratifying response.
It doesn’t matter what Seth thinks about that painting, or that he doesn’t understand why his dragon water color has a place of honor (more on that place later) or that Benjamin wishes heartily that I take down his crayon drawing of his battle horse, “Ready”, or that Hannah disagrees entirely with my assessment that her quilt horse pencil drawing is pure joy (I even have candles to match it). Rebekah’s most prized artwork (in my view) is her picture of me (I have a crown on my head and a hugely smiling, bright red mouth and am wearing a low-necked turquoise dress), and she’s the only child who never complains about it being on the wall for all the world to see.
Yes, there was plenty of art that never made the frame, never graced our walls, some of it long gone, others in folders stored away. And I do have artwork that was done by “professionals”. But none of it has ever elicited the interest, the smiles, even the joy brought by the works of my children. ‘Real” art has never made John say, as he did about Seth’s 4-year-old finger-painted horse, “Don’t ever take that down. It makes me smile every time I look at it.” Me, too. Even now.
Hannah, in entertaining her charge last week, sculpted a cat for me, as he created for his mom. Hannah wrapped her creation carefully in toilet paper, sat down beside me on the couch when she got home, and said, “I know you are the one person who will appreciate this.” She unwrapped the cat, and just as she knew I would be, I was delighted. The cat (not named yet, am waiting to get to know him/her) sits in a place of honor on my dresser.
As to Seth’s dragon painting’s place of honor, it sits in front of the TV, effectively hiding the hideous thing from view. TV can be the greatest enemy of creativity, of family life, of art appreciation.
In all our travels the kids have never been allowed to watch movies or play video games rather than enjoying the scenery (they can read if they like). Nature’s art speaks to our hearts whether we’re on the Oregon coast or at the highest spot we can climb to in Rocky Mountain National Park, or amid the Sugar Maples during Fall in the Ozarks, or on a desolate stretch of desert highway. Appreciation and understanding of God, that’s what art can give us. Real art. Art from the heart.
Exhortation of creativity is one of the hallmarks of good home education. Good home education produces children who are highly individual, and yet uniquely qualified to contribute to the greater good. Such as in creating artworks that are also mementos. Such as taking the time to ponder what will bring joy to the heart of a child when babysitting.
A little child will lead you. When Seth first tried to draw dragons, I bought a little book entitled, “How to Draw a Dragon” (or something like that). When Rebekah wasn’t all that keen on drawing, I bought books on how to draw horses (she was very keen on horses). Hannah’s interest in water colors was fueled by a local water color class. For Benjamin, I simply kept plenty of pencils, pens, and paper on hand, as his art was mostly props for his writing. If he was creating a battle scene, he would go outside, build a city, enact the battle with the wooden sword and shield John made one year for his birthday, come back inside and sketch out further details, and return to his writing (fantastic writing by the way). My small contribution was making a hauberk, helping John with the finishing touches on the shield, and saying, “Absolutely!!!” when John asked if I thought he should add a battle axe to the weaponry.
Home education, done in love’s rhythms and graces, can make learning an enchantment of color and light and joy. An art, in other words.
Wrong. Who, at eighteen, knows how to handle the adult world with skill and wisdom? What child, at eighteen, isn’t in as much need of prayer and guidance as ever?
Don’t be in a rush to push that child out of the nest. Make the nest more welcoming and comfortable than ever. Be sure your child knows, in spite of all the world’s voices, that you are perfectly fine with God’s timing, be it leaving at eighteen or twenty-eight.
Dr. James Dobson calls eighteen to twenty-eight the “critical decade” — that time of decisions and choices which shape the rest of life. I, for one, made some really dumb mistakes at eighteen years young, and could have used some uncompromising guidance, some Holy Spirit-inspired wisdom and timing. And the world I faced was much friendlier and less threatening and dark than what today’s kids face.
Shall we get off the world’s (and the Military’s) timetable, and have a little rhythm and grace? Our son, Benjamin, always knew he wanted to join the Army, but he waited a bit, leaving home at 19, and turning 20 before he was in Basic Training. During his final months at home he got in shape physically, and grew mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. There is a lot of maturing between eighteen and twenty, and we believe it’s made all the difference for him.
Be prepared to ignore other people’s nosy questions and opinions. My daughter Hannah (www.thewarmjournal.com) hasn’t yet decided where or when or if she’s going to college. The hardest part, she says, is ignoring the judgement and disapproval of other people. A good life lesson right there: Other people’s opinions don’t matter. What matters is what Hannah is seeking: God’s opinion. “Until I know where God wants me to go, I’m not going anywhere,” she says.
And then, amazingly, she wanted to know if I and her dad were OK with her “sticking around a little while.” Was she serious? “Your dad is fine if you never leave, but I think you should leave in the next decade or so,” I answered. She liked that answer.
A warm and cozy nest is the best kind to leave. We want our children to set out in God’s timing, all flags flying high. Eighteen or twenty-eight, or whenever they’re ready.
We can either properly launch our children, all systems go, into an outer space life adventure, or we can push them out of the nest prematurely, and watch in agony as they falter and crash, often with severely damaged wings.
Remember, it’s 18 years young, not 18 years old.
P.S. If you’re grieving because this has already happened to your child, turn up the prayer! God is the God of restoration. I have long claimed the scripture, Joel 2:25, and called on God to restore what the locust has eaten in the lives of my loved ones, and myself. Again and again, I have seen Him bring healing and restoration.
One of the many beauties of home education is that family comes first, naturally. The fruits of that, provided grace is in place, are unlimited, and this was brought home to me recently when I read an article about eliminating negative people (especially those who hinder living in faith and love) from our lives.
I respect the author of this article, and gave serious thought to her words. Was I not eliminating such people out of fear of conflict, or perhaps because I’m too nice? Were they truly a hindrance? There was no question that these people are difficult and tiring, but were they really a problem? A spiritual roadblock?
No. And here’s why: My family keeps me strong, on track. We pray with and for each other, and with and for others, every single day. When I am brought down by someone or something and make my fall evident with frustration and negativity, someone in my family will do as I’ve asked them to do: Don’t let me get away with it!
We learned from Pastor Keith Moore’s example to say, in response to negativity (anything contrary to scripture), “If you say so.”
Aaaargh! It makes us wanna box someone’s ears (I’ve been reading too much Georgette Heyer, if there’s any such thing as too much Georgette Heyer ). But, instead, we take deep breaths, roll our eyes, wrinkle our noses as though at a very unpleasant odor, and change our words.
Me: “I’m sick to death of his crap and I’m gonna give him a piece of my mind.”
Brat Child of Mine with Snarky Grin: “If you say so.”
Me: Really deep breath, mutterings, stomps, yeah-buts, etc. Another deep breath. “I am taking his nonsense as an unconscious cry for help, and I’m not giving him a piece of my mind because obviously I can’t spare it, and I’m going to stop and pray for him right now. Will you, dearest child, agree with me in prayer?”
I just strengthened myself, lightened the load of the child who has to listen to MY crap, and prayed myself right out of Satan’s way of thinking and doing, and changed things for the person I prayed for. Rather than a piece of my mind, he got a piece of God’s love. Amen!
For kinder, gentler parenting advice and admonitions, go directly to the end of this post and read about Sally Clarkson’s book, The Mission of Motherhood.
Counting to three. Counting to three loudly. Counting to three with threats (or rather, promises about to be broken). Is there anything sadder, sillier, more tiresome, or less effectual than a counting mommy? I think not.
I ask myself, “Why?” I ponder the questions, “Why can’t they see it doesn’t work?” and “Who is responsible for this parental drivel?”
Hell. Hell holds the reason, the source, the blindness, and the responsibility. Worst of all, the outcome is Hell–the Hell on earth of frustrated and angry parents living with bratty kids, and frustrated and angry kids living with witless parenting.
And books from Hell, written I surmise by: men, or women who have nannies, or perhaps women who have never had a child, and yet, unbelievably, think they have the tiniest clue what they’re talking about.
What are the clues for me, the reader, that such authors have no clue? A listing of some of the most glaring offenders begins with “The Fairness Doctrine,” reminding me that yes, there is something more tiresome than counting. It’s grown-ups (well, in age at least) whining, “It’s not fair,” and teaching their children that fairness is their birthright, that everything and everyone should bend over backward to make sure they get their “fair” share.
Perversely, Fairness advocates, having taught their children greed, and disrespect, will insist they share and even give away favorite treasures to the neighbor’s even greedier get, or a whiny sibling. The child with the strongest will and weakest mother will win (and lose) in such encounters.
Fairness Doctrine devotees are also often proponents of “reasoning” with their little geniuses, and vehemently opposed to spanking. I can hear it now, echoed by more than one lily-livered mommy, “Spanking is violence,” she says with pious horror and superiority. “We don’t hit,” she adds in that valley girl affectation which makes real women squirm. And yet, these children are often violent–screaming at and hitting their parents and siblings, without the slightest beginnings of the self-discipline necessary for life. I submit to you where there is no natural order (that would be parents, rather than children, in charge) the most tyrannical and least qualified will rule. Yes, there are households where two-year-olds reign. Could anything be more ridiculous?
Yes. We progress! There is yet a further level of ridiculousness in today’s anti-logic parenting mantras. They don’t spank, but they whine, wheedle, gripe, groan, endlessly and mindlessly repeat themselves, raise their voices, scream, and even cry. “You made Mommy cry,” she blubbers. PA-THET-IC! Very probably she isn’t smart enough to spank. Indeed, if she thinks spanking is violence, if that is what it is when she does it, perhaps she’s at least right in this one thing–she should not spank.
“Boys will be boys,” she smirks. And criminals will be criminals, Mommy Idiotica. Anything, it seems, is preferable to training your son that the world wasn’t expressly created for his amusement and debasement.
“Safety first!” she mimes to justify keeping her listless, pasty-faced children indoors just because it’s nippy outside, as though it is actually good parenting (or even doable) to protect kids from any and all possibility of physical harm, even as she parks them in front of the TV at every opportunity, paying little or no attention to the mind-numbing and soul-bending messages bombarding their malleable psyches.
“Oh, kids are tough,” she explains as though she actually believes this lie, and also believes she possesses the wisdom of the ages. Kids are humans, and therefore complex and beautifully fragile and sensitive beings, affected for good or bad by every single moment of their lives, and even more so, by every thought, word and deed of their parents.
These are a few of my (non) favorite things, and I have the credentials to talk about them–I have successfully raised world-changing (as opposed to weak, whiny, selfish, indecisive, crowd-following, world-destroying) children, and I have loved (almost) every minute of it.
P.S. Villages are nice addendums, perhaps, but they cannot make up for ignorant, lazy, and irresponsible parenting. Effective parenting is very hard work, so just accept that and get on with it. Prepare yourself for the long, long, long haul of teaching, re-teaching, training, praying, searching, paying attention, reading that same book over and over and over, praying, reading the Words of Jesus, and did I mention praying? You don’t get overs on this, so live in the now–you have NOTHING more important to do than getting to know your child’s heart. Know that this parent/child training is ongoing and rigorous, and will stretch and grow you like nothing else on earth. Know also that the rewards are beyond compare and comprehension. They are, as my daughter Hannah used to finish each night as we said her prayers, “peace and love and joy!”
P.P.S. Should I write a book, entitled perhaps, “No One Loves a Brat, Be She Mother or Child”??? Speaking of books, the very best book on parenting I’ve ever read was by a woman raising world-changing children: Sally Clarkson, bringer of great light via her masterpiece, The Mission of Motherhood.
Whether or not you homeschool, your children are watching and learning your attitude about homemaking. If you’re like most moms, things get a bit messy at times, especially in our minds! We need a bit of decluttering, a little refurbishing, direction, and refreshment. I give you the beyond-anything book, Home Comforts.
Home Comforts, by Cheryl Mendelson, is one of my two favorite books on making home a haven (the other is Alexandra Stoddard’s Creating a Beautiful Home). Cheryl (she is a friend even though we’ve never met) has done her homework. A former attorney, she’s very diligent and disciplined, and has the intelligence required to make a good job of homemaking.
As this book is over 800 pages long, and covers anything and everything you can think of, I can’t begin to do it justice here. But as an example here’s a quote from the chapter on home cooking: “Good meals at home satisfy emotional hunger as real as hunger in the belly, and nothing else does so in the same way.”
Cheryl goes on to discuss how and why not to use cookbooks–I am vindicated! I believe a recipe is only someone else’s creation, certainly nothing written in stone. Of course, if Julia Child wrote it I will pay attention. But someone telling me to make pumpkin cake without salt, or that you don’t need all those walnuts in your oatmeal raisin cookies? I don’t think so.
As usual, I am loving the sound of my own horn tooting, and it’s time to get back to the marvelous book at hand. Home Comforts covers anything and everything you might ever want to know about homemaking. You will be sorry when you’ve turned the last page, and if you’re like me, determined to read it again.
And to share it with others, especially family.
Do you want to excel at the high and highly rewarding calling of homemaking? This book, so aptly named, will inspire and gladden your heart, and perhaps best of all, it will convince you that what you do at home truly matters.