Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The shepherding is too short

When my husband and I decided that we were going to try and have children, what we really had decided to do was to try and have babies, not children, and certainly not adolescent children. My role as a mother up until now has mainly consisted of things like baby swings and lullabies, Noggin (because "it's preschool on TV"...right?), and cute Bible stories about Noah and his animals and a lot of rain. Simple nurturing, the natural kind of mothering that one can expect to do when they decide to have children. And though it of course wasn't always simple, we have thus far been wrapped up in the kind of parenting that has seemed relatively black and white.

Well things are starting to get a little grey around here. My firstborn is approaching 8, going on 18, and she is determined to get there at a brisk pace...a pace that often leaves me winded. I am starting to get questions that I do not want to give the answers to. My husband up until now has loved to throw out a "who wants to plan a trip to Disney World?!?!?" when we would get hit with a question that was dabbling in an area we felt the girls were not ready to discuss. The distraction has amazingly enough always worked, and he and I would giggle at the mac truck that we had so ingeniously stepped out of the way of. Well guess who is not all that interested in planning a trip to Disney World anymore. And so now I find myself in the middle of the road, staring down the headlights of a mac truck...or more specifically, the dark brown eyes of my eldest daughter.

She is asking hard questions. She has been taught all about heaven and the wonders of it all, but now she wants to know all about what happens to people that choose to not believe in Jesus. She wants to know answers to questions that make me uncomfortable in my own skin, while discussing with my daughter. She wants to know about things like divorce, and children whose parents die, and how some mothers have babies when they are not married. Real life questions. Legitimate questions, but nonetheless, questions that I wasn't thinking about when I decided to have babies. But as it turns out, these little people we birth are indeed just that...little people. They have their own personalities and ideas, and as they grow older, I am seeing my role as their mother from a different perspective. These children of mine, really are not mine to cling to, but rather His that He has called me to shepherd for a time. And oh how short that time is.

Who else out there is answering hard questions? I would love to hear from you. And to those of you out there that are still using Disney World as a distraction, enjoy it while it lasts my friend, because you have a mac truck headed your way sooner than you think.

Amy

20 comments:

The Starr Family said...

How true the words ring... and perhaps it is in my mind, but it seems our little people are asking these questions earlier. Just so much to be exposed to at such a young age, no matter how strong the bubble. As the mother of a 3yr. old and soon to be 5 yr. old... I realize the strength of the questions will only grow. RAPIDLY. Thanks for the heads up :)

Sheri said...

I'm pretty straight forward with the hard questions. I've found if I'm not they pick up on it and worry that I am hiding something.

Jemsmom said...

I have already started to tear up at this post as I am struggling with Jemma being almost 5, starting preschool every day (why do they need a four year old EVERY day?!?), and just the general growing up. I am really struggling...

We have dealt with some hard questions especially about death since she was almost three. My mother passed away 13 years ago and I have pictures of her out. Jemma started asking about who she was and I found myself in path of questions that I didn't want to be dishonest, but had such a hard time talking about to a three year old. Because of all that, she became quite fascinated with death. It was natural (so sayeth the pediatrician) but I hated for her to know so much and think so much about it.

Since my SIL now dates a divorced man with a child, we have had to explain being "unmarried" and how some parents don't stay married. Ugggghhhhh... I just pray every day (multiple times a day!) that I am a good shepherd and do the right things.

Amy said...

Ha! It gets worse. Just wait until they are waaaaay ahead of you with processing the world around them at an age that makes your toes curl under. Their individuality, as amazing as it is, is literally chiseled from the touch stone of your own heart. It is incredible to watch, agony to feel the pulling away into their own personal choices and views, and bewildering to keep up with those mac truck eyes that are relentless in their quest for truth. You're an amazing mom - x

Traci said...

Kids are just growing up too fast. I don't have any kids so no advice. I can't believe Disney doesn't excite her anymore though. I'm 37 & THRILLED when my hubby says lets plan a trip to Disney!!! I'm sure whatever you tell her will be the right thing. I'm a new reader & love your blog.

Vanessa said...

Oh I so relate to this right now! My 7 year old has been asking some very tough questions about Heaven and Hell and life in general. And many of them, I don't have an answer to! Sometimes we have to remind him that there are things that God wants us to know and there are things that He wants to remain a Mystery so that we can rely on Him and trust Him in His wisdom. Hard stuff! But, more than anything, my son's questions are an opportunity for me to re-examine my own heart and be sure that I believe as I say I do and that I am a living example to my kiddos every day of faithfulness to my Father!
Parenting is NOT for the faint of Heart that is for sure!
Vanessa
http://southerninmyheart.blogspot.com

Karen said...

As a mom of two grown children, girl 28, and boy 26, the advise I can offer is be honest and give them as much as you think they'll understand. I agree with Sheri, if you try to hide something they will pick up on it. The more honest you are now, the more they will come back to you when they are older for good advise. I am divorced and was left with the responsibility of talking to both children. And today, both come back to me for advise. Don't always take it, but the lines of communication are open and I feel blessed to have that.

I also agree that you will have to talk about stuff a lot earlier than you think you will. I had a niece that started her period at 8 1/2. My sister and I had to scramble because we knew it would be a topic of conversation when the 3 girls got together. We had hoped to wait a little longer.

Just my thoughts. You will do a fine job!

Lauren said...

My oldest daughter will also be 8...and WoW is she growing up! My 4 year old asks more difficult questions, but I try to give a simple answer. Simple seems to satisfy her. ...And Disney World? We went last year (1st trip...amazing) and plan to go next year...We don't tell the children until they actually see it. No complaints once we are there! :) I love your "detour" Disney question though!

Jill said...

It's become so apparent to me recently that we are indeed only shepherds of our little ones. They belong to God...we just feed them, clothe them and answer all the tough questions and/or divert their attention. Hee-hee! Being parents can be so hard. Especially when they're not babies anymore and they have minds of their own.

Janine said...

I am also right there with you! My eldest is 9 and my "baby" is about to turn 6. Both are little girls who I simply cannot believe have grown up so quickly. I too find myself talking to God a whole lot more these days - asking Him for the wisdom to answer their questions in a way that they will understand. Wow - parenting is not for the faint hearted! I was so encouraged to read your post this evening. So great to relate to other parents going through the same things. I love how God gives us support from all angles. Praying that you hear His whispers clearly as you parent your precious ones with Him.

Sharmila said...

Amy, I absolutely love how you describe the parenting role here as Shepherding.

this part is so beautiful and I will treasure it, even as I am not yet there in that place. ;)

**These children of mine, really are not mine to cling to, but rather His that He has called me to shepherd for a time.

What a soul-beautifying world this is when we recognize how it is without control, but rather giving w/ gentle guidance and generous love! All the best with the questions, you sound like a very intuitive, and wise parent to me ;)

xx
Sharmila

LuLu said...

I'm facing a whole lot of mac trucks now that my children left their small catholic school for public schools... it's open up a whole new area for me to have to explain, and i realized I can't shield them forever, so i better start explaining when they ask me direct questions. Parenting is soooooo hard, i don't think we are ever ready for them to get bigger... it just gets more complicated,
xo,
LuLu

JeanaB said...

I think I decided early on NOT to handle the tough topics the same way my parents handled them with me...which was the No Information approach. I remember being overwhelmed with "not knowing" and always afraid that what I didn't know must be very,very bad. I realize that some people wait until their kids ask questions. I no longer do that. If I know one of the boys is facing something different or new, I raise the subject. (Sometimes they are thinking about an issue, but are afraid or uncomfortable with what they think the answer might be.) This became my new policy when I was expecting our 3rd son. As my stomach grew and their brother's arrival drew closer and closer, off the cuff, I asked the older 2 how they thought their baby brother was going to "get out." Immediately #2 got nervous and said he thought the doctor was going to cut him out of my tummy. #1 got huge tears in his eyes and said he thought the doctor was going to cut my head off, reach down my throat and pull him out. (?) Immediately, we sat down, and I explained how God made a mommy's body extra special and how it could do amazing things when a baby needs to be born. In simple terms they could understand I told them the basics and how the entire event was almost magical (and it is). They were so relieved! Oddly enough, I've approached every "body changing" conversation with the same concept of how God made our bodies with some amazing features. Now, for the conversations about an afterlife, I tell them what I believe and quickly admit that there's a lot that I don't know, that I'm always open to new perspectives, and that I can't prove anything...it's just what I believe. And I remind them that I'll always discuss anything they want to talk about, but eventually, since it's an individual walk, they'll have to decide what they believe. Honesty is the best policy, and saying "wow that's a great question...I don't know that anyone has an answer to that" is completely acceptable. Good luck with all of your conversations. The fact that you are acutely aware of the progress your daughter is making in become more mature (whether you like it or not :-)) is a sign of a very good parent.
Jeana

lauren said...

i cannot for the life of me remember how i got to your blog, but i'm so glad i did! i so enjoy reading about your home projects and your family life. i, too, have felt the gravity of this shepherding as the oldest of my 3 girls began first grade this year at a public school. long story, but we moved from the only home she really remembered to a new city in another state. she has been such a champ through it all, but it has been hard on my heart to see her have to be the new kid and deal with all that it entails. it has caused me to continually fall on my knees and beg the Lord to be her friend, her strength, her everything b/c i can't physically navigate these waters for her every day. i realize this is the beginning of the more difficult part of the journey of parenting. the great thing is that it is literally causing me to fall on my knees daily seeking Him and the wisdom and guidance only He can provide on this path. it is encouraging to know other mommas are out there struggling through the same things and depending on Jesus :)
Lauren

Richella said...

Oh, yeah, the questions get hard. And harder. But it's all good.

I have found it good to answer questions simply rather than to assume that they're asking more than they're asking. They can always ask follow-up questions, and they can keep asking as many questions as they like, but sometimes a little information goes a long way. Sometimes all they want is the assurance that they're free to ask you anything.

One thing I certainly advise, and that's admitting when you don't know something. Sometimes the fact that even an adult doesn't know the answer is enough; sometimes they'll want to learn more, and they'll appreciate you for helping them find the answer.

God bless you as you shepherd your beautiful little lambs!

this blessed nest said...

hi!!!!!!

wow what a post to come over & read my first time here. oh dear, i know i will be in your shoes soon enough. good luck with all your answers so hard when they are still so tender & inbetween "knowing" stages.

thank you for such a sweet comment regarding my craft/blog room. that was a fun party to link up too. plus it is such a fun room.

i am dying to scroll through your blog to see some projects in your home. it looks awesome from the outside.

HAPPY SEPTEMBER!
kellie

New Every Morning said...

Oh yeah baby. I am right there with you. With 11 and 9 year old girls we are deep in the trenches. I cringe (inwardly) when the questions come, but I am reminded of what a gift it is to be the one to answer questions, guard their innocence, and mold their world view. Sometimes when the tricky questions come I am tempted to feign a fainting spell, but I figure I'd have to "wake up" eventually. :)

Between You and Me said...

Our oldest is 10....and he literally thinks he is a man.

He's asked some hard questions just this week.

real life questions.

He's not distracted by Disney World either...and we live 25 minutes from there. :)


We lean on the side of being totally honest with him without giving more information that his little 10 year old mind can handle.


I've been married for 14 years and have three kids and my parents have YET to have "THE TALK" with me. :)

So, we're definitely doing it a little different than our parents did...they chose not to talk at all...

we're trying our best to have an open door policy with them..

good post!

Jo said...

Parenting {the right way} is so difficult. There were many, many times my son was unhappy with how I handled certain situations. He shared that I was being unfair and too strict. Now that he is in college, he is seeing first hand why I made those choices and has actually thanked me for caring about him and loving him enough to say no and provide boundaries. Outside influences have amazing strength. I often felt like I was running into a brick wall. During Nicholas' middle school years I hand God's personal number, once he hit high school I had His number on speed dial and my finger was constantly hovering above the button ;) You have to believe in yourself and not live in the moment but rather look down the road to where you want your child to arrive.

As a teacher, I would suggest you answer any and all questions as honestly and thoroughly as possible given the child’s age. If a child doesn't receive what they feel is a satisfactory answer at home, they ask their friends at school or listen in on a conversation that often provides them with incorrect information. I've shared many a lunch hour talking to a child who is visibly upset over something they heard or calling a parent to explain what has transpired.

What their voices aren’t saying, their body language is screaming. Get ready, you're in for wildest ride of your life ;)

Hope you enjoyed my novel of advice ~ sorry :)
Jo

The Spann Fam said...

we are right there with ya. our girl is 9, very smart, mature and responsible. but she is also still a little girl, and we'd like to keep it that way for a little while longer. as a 4th grader, she is learning about hard things, like 9/11 (she sobbed in social studies yesterday... she's just like me - emotional and empathetic). we stress honesty and modesty, what it means to be a good friend, why we as parents say "no" to the things we say "no" to.
my husband is a football coach, and as we sat at his game last night, i watched little girls the same age as my claire, in mini skirts and strapless tops, wearing make up and texting on their iphones... and almost cried. it made my heart ache.
my 7 year old boy, on the other hand, says the other day, "you better not ever get divorced". my sister is a single mom, my brother was separated for a time and both my husband and i come from broken (no - shattered) homes. marraige is HARD. but we have committed that we will not give up, or give in. so we can promise him that we will NEVER EVER split up. we make very few promises to our kids, but that is one of them.

i'm just kind of ranting and raving (i'm feeling pretty emo today, being 9/11 and feeling a little angry that it's still affecting my family today as my bil is deployed) so i apologize and do not mean to offend, as i well know that often situations are beyond our control, and things we never intended to happen, well... happen.

just to say, that life is hard. parenting the right way is very, very hard. i may be getting more sleep these days, but the conversations are tougher, and the rewards of a relationship with my kids is even sweeter. thank you for giving me a place to think...

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