Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Revisiting the Daycare Issue

Last week there was a story in my hometown paper about a local daycare worker who assaulted a 2 year old boy. Apparently, this girl was dealing with a slightly troublesome child and felt the need to respond in an aggressive manner. When I viewed the story online, it came with an attached video, the raw footage catching the daycare worker in the act. It's so annoying to me that we are questioned time and again why we don't want to put our children in daycare when things like this happen. And lets not even try to say that this stuff doesn't happen in every daycare and it was an isolated incident in the grand scheme of daycare life. Yeah, this one might be the only one caught on tape so far but I know for a fact that it does happen more often than not. I've SEEN it happen with my own eyes and I, too, have been in that position- a young daycare worker trying to handle a troublesome child.

I passed this story around in an email with the link to the article and video. One of my friends who happens to work at a daycare challenged my comment about this being "yet another reason why our kids will never be in daycare." As I thought about the issue and what I really meant by saying that, I tried to articulate to her my motives for such a comment. To me, it isn't just about the fact that some daycare worker behaved improperly toward a child that was not hers. There are several underlying issues which move to the heart of one of the main reasons why we don't put our kids in daycare. Speaking from my experience working in a daycare when I was about 20 years old with many other even younger workers, for the most part the workers don't seem to have much invested in their job or the children. A paycheck is their motivator. Most aren't really trained to handle children in general, let alone "troublesome" children.

I remember on several occasions when I was the one being physically assaulted by one or more of the children in the classroom I helped in. One time, we had to evacuate all of the children from the room because one of our... lets say more spirited children was going crazy, throwing large objects, hurting other kids, etc. And it was just me and this girl 2 years younger than me, trying to figure out what to do. We weren't trained to deal with that sort of thing.

And I remember the reasons why I quit working there. Aside from the fact that the daycare was run by a totally inept person, there were several things that just didn't sit well with me. I remember coming in at 3 o'clock and waiting for my kids to get there. I helped out mostly in the school-age room so we got them when school let out. They were supposed to get snack but there were no snack foods left in the kitchen. Someone had forgotten to order more. A lot of the time, we were short-staffed or the place took on more kids than were allowed and the ratio of teacher to students was imbalanced which is illegal. Not to mention the fact that most of the time, the kids who liked to constantly be out of control were hardly ever dealt with in a manner that made things better.

The deciding factor for me was an incident that happened between me and one of the kids. In the later part of the evening when all but a few of the kids had been picked up, I was trying to get the room back in order and the kids were supposed to be helping. One girl refused to do what she was asked and was even being mean to the other kids and doing things to keep them from doing what they were asked to do. She started yelling at me and I sat down next to her and tried to calmly tell her to stop what she was doing. She was being disrespectful and not listening to me and started tearing up paper and drawing all over things. When she wouldn't give me her attention, I touched her arm to stop her from continuing to tear up the paper and she jerked it away from me. Then she started crying and telling me I jerked her arm. When her mom came, she told her I jerked her arm even though it was she that jerked her own arm and things went downhill from there. I was suspended from work until they could investigate further and at that point, I just put my two-week's in. It wasn't worth it.

I can say without a doubt that I was not cut out for a job at a daycare center at that point in my life. And even at this point, even though I have 3 children of my own and a lot more experience, I don't think I would be able to handle it. I think it takes a certain kind of person to adequately handle someone else's children day in and day out as they go through all of the things a child goes through as they grow up.. The emotions, the stress, the home and school life, all of that are factors in how a child behaves on a daily basis. Parents are naturally given the foundation to learn how to love their children and deal with them through that love. It's hard enough to change and grow as a parent in order to not fail our children when it comes to caring for them properly through their naturally unpredictable behavior, moods and emotions. I just don't think that most teenagers or young adults working in a daycare, especially if they don't have children of their own, are capable of practicing the same type of behavior needed to take on the unpredictability of children that are not theirs.

And this is one of my biggest reasons my children will never be in a daycare. I just think about how hard it is for me, even though I have the strength of my love for my children behind me, to be the kind of person that can go through each day with them and care for them the way they deserve to be cared for, helping them work through their emotions, giving them the support and guidance they need. If I were here all day with children who weren't mine and even if I liked them and children in general but all that was keeping me here was a paycheck, I just don't think I could do it. There's something to be said for the way God set up the bonds between parents and their children and not even a daycare worker, and especially not a 20 year old making $7.50 an hour, can even come close to emulating that bond. The news story about that daycare worker assaulting a young boy just strengthens that thought and our decision even more.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Faith Pants

I don't know if this is normal for everyone but I go through periods of time when I'm really happy, things are fine at home, I feel like I'm sailing down the path God wants me to be on....and then just as easily I find myself in a period of insecurity, emotional chaos, filled with doubt and worry and fear, wondering if maybe I got lost somewhere on this crazy path that all of the sudden seems foreign and scary. The up and down of my journey seems as frequent as the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide. I have reoccurring dream that I'm falling. I don't dream it very often but when I do dream it, it's always the same dream. I seem to be flying and then all of the sudden I'm falling. I have no idea if this dream connects to my spiritual journey or not. But I tend to believe that perhaps in some strange way, it does. I fear a lot about falling with out anything to catch me when it comes to my life as a whole. But I don't understand it, not directly. Sometimes I have so much faith that God will bring me to where I need to be if I'm not already there at any one moment in my life and other times I am feeling like there's no one directing my flight and no one to catch me when I land, all as I fly through life by the seat of my pants.

The past few days have been a little rough for me and I seemed to have lost faith a little. Most of it lies where my husband is concerned, my worry for him and his own issues, how it affects our family and my inability to grasp how to deal with it all. I pray for him every day and most of the time, I know that in His own beautiful time, God will answer these prayers but sometimes, I am doubtful and then my worry begins. What if things don't ever change? What if where we are right now is where we're always going to be?

Another reason for my faithlessness is my own scrutinizing of my abilities, which I write about often so won't detail much further here. I am just continuing the struggle I face practically every day and some days, I know I allow it to overrun my confidence and blind me in my battle to keep my faith where my motherhood is concerned. Yet another reason for my seeming lack of faith is just a general persistence in my mind that there's something bigger I need to be doing, something I'm missing, a request God has made that I just can't seem to hear (or perhaps I am suffering a case of selective hearing, not sure which).

In analyzing what I perceive to be the path of my faith in God as it has presented itself lately, I have really seen the unsteady nature of it. When things are pretty decent around here and we have a little bit of extra money and we're not dealing with extended family drama and the kids are being good and our relationship seems to be close, my faith in God is like putting on my favorite pair of blue jeans. It eases its way into our life like those comfy jeans smoothing themselves along my legs. Thanking God for the good times and trusting that things will continue to be OK, taking comfort in the familiarity of that faith is just like relying on the worn seams of my pants to strongly hold together as they have so many times in the past....

But then there are the times when things aren't exactly great. We're struggling to meet due dates for bills, we have family members nagging us, the kids have been crazy, my husband and I have been arguing... Those times. And it's not the first thing I think to do to grab a hold of my faith and fly with it like I do when things are good. While I may come around to doing that at some point, I often forget to do that first which is what bothers me. Instead my first thought is often "why are you letting this happen, God?" I know I need to rely on Him through good times and through bad ones, trusting in Him and having faith that no matter what is going on, He's always going to carry us through.

I think about an idea that hadn't really occurred to me before. My favorite pair of blue jeans are like a symbol for my faith. Let me explain. I realized that I rely on them even through the "bad times" like when I have gained a few pounds or whatever.. I ease myself into them and have faith that regardless of the few extra pounds of weight, they will stretch a little to accommodate and still remain strong at the seams. If I can put such faith in some stupid pants, why not in my God?

So where does that leave me in my thoughts? I've come to the conclusion that I just need to work on this. I need to pray more and strengthen my faith in God through all aspects of my life. I need to remember to continue to thank Him through the good times but I also need to accept the bad ones. And regardless of what's going on, if I'm going to be flying through life by the seat of my pants, it might as well be my faith pants.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Being a Green Mother

Recently, I've been reflecting more than usual on a subject that I often have a very hard time dealing with. *Children.* It is the essence of my life, being a mommy, and yet I feel greatly troubled over it time and again. As each year passes, it seems that I am either pregnant or nursing and have long ago lost the notion that I will ever have my body back to being just mine. There have been posts where I've written about the wonderful aspects of being a mommy and then some where I have written about the horrifying idea of more children, as I feel I can barely take care of the ones I have. But there are also people that tell me I'm doing a wonderful job. And my mom telling me I am the "earth mother." And others telling me my kids are annoying and crazy. And I also hear a lot that more would be a burden I probably really don't want. Inwardly, I am always feeling a great stirring of the winds as I contemplate what it really means personally for me to be a mother and secretly worry where exactly these winds will take me.

One of my favorite novels, Being a Green Mother by Piers Anthony, ends with the main character, Orb taking the roll as Mother Nature. I love this novel not because it's written well (because it's not and actually has way too much sexual innuendo in it) but because it is a good Fantasy Fiction story, complete with dryads, gypsies, dragons and the like. I don't usually indulge in this type of read nor do I believe in any of the creatures or magical ideas written about but I am a sucker for imaginative stories and this one especially was a favorite from long ago. Anyway, this time around reading it, I picked up on a lot of feelings the main character has that I didn't really ever think about while reading before. She gave birth to a daughter and gave her up which was a very hard thing for her to do. For me, that hit close to home as I once pondered giving my oldest daughter up for adoption. As Orb goes through her life, she is constantly met with obstacles she must overcome which often involve taking care of everyone else above herself. By the end of the novel, she is presented with the opportunity- and eventually decides to take- the role as the "Green Mother" or Mother Nature.

As I read the novel this time, I realized that there was a lot Orb had to learn and a lot she had to change about herself to become the person she needed to be for the job as Mother Nature. Even when she took on the role she immediately made a mistake because of her own personal flaws and in order to continue her role properly, she had to learn from that mistake and suffer the consequences for it which involved a sacrifice she never thought she'd make. I thought hard about this as I was reading and applied it to my own life, what being a mother should be for me and how much I allow to change me and make me better in my role. I also thought about my own sacrifices, and consequences for actions I take because I am imperfect. A big part of my thought process steers me toward studying my emotional stability, my coping abilities and the daily battle with myself over small unimportant things like remembering what I missed out on to become a mother, etc. It leads me to berate myself for a lot, pat myself on the back for some and fall to my knees in prayer for strength to continue on at all.

I think about the one thing that really has me worried and contemplative a lot concerning children. *More.* In the book, Mother Nature was not only in charge of the elements but also what happened to everything in nature, most importantly the people. In a way, she was connected to every single person somehow within her being and had to take care of them all. But Orb was not perfect and was not made so even upon assuming her role as Mother Nature. She needed to realize that she would have to change and grow and allow every aspect of her role to be fulfilled. For me, the idea of more is kind of a scary black funnel cloud at this point in my life and is frequently a topic of discussion between myself and my siblings and mom as well as the subject of some of my posts, past and (inevitably) future.

It is easy for me to relate to Orb even if she is fictional because of the truth to the nature of her character. She is an imperfect being chosen for an immensely important role and must allow room for the growth it will prompt. She is forced to exceed any expectations she had ever put on her life to become, in essence, a mother. However, I am led even further in my quest, coming to thoughts about God, something real and- depending on how I try- tangible in so many ways. God is the Father of all the billions of people on the earth, in real life. He is in charge of every single one of His children. I know I must at least try to mirror His role as best as I can with the abilities I have.

"More" for me up to this point has been pretty terrifying. I look at the job I don't feel I do very well and think about stirring yet one more innocent being into the mix. I analyze my reactions to my children when they are misbehaving or just being annoying. I think about how hard it is to be a parent in general. Is it possible for me to do all I need to do in order to be the type of mother who not only meets but exceeds what I have ever expected of myself? This would include changing in so many ways and allowing God to direct my path. More importantly, can I do this for not one, two or three children but four or even more?

I have come to the answer to this question at last, which I think was always in my heart and just had to be "prayed out" a little more so I could recognize it. The answer is yes, I have to.

In order to be a mother in the most complete way, I really feel like I have to be open to every aspect of my role. Some of these aspects include dealing with the people who tell me I shouldn't or can't, perhaps even using the opportunity as a testament to God's love and presence in my life. Then there is the aspect of dealing with my children when they are not behaving which does not mean yelling and screaming but calmly disciplining them the way God might...sort of in a what would Jesus do mentality. Also included is calming my husband's anxieties over the idea of more mouths to feed with the grace and wisdom the Proverbial wife might. And most importantly, it is accepting that God will entrust to me as many children as He wishes, receiving His priceless treasures for the gifts they are for as long as I can call them mine. Basically, it is allowing the vastness of my role to carry me wherever Mother Nature's winds might blow.