Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Addition, division, subtraction and multiplica...

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Even though the school year is winding down, my son has been working hard to keep his grades up with more than a little prodding from mom.

The seventh grade has been rough scholastically, presenting challenge after challenge to the way he wants to do his schoolwork and the way he needs to do it. The one subject he seems to keep on struggling with is Algebra, and, the issue seems less about his inability to do the work and more about the way he does it.

In other words, he keeps on insisting that he can do it the way he wants to do it, not the way he needs to. This centers around his insistence that he doesn’t need to write out all the steps when he’s working out an Algebraic problem. And, sometimes he’ll even insist that he doesn’t need to write out the equation. Then when he solves the problem the way he wants to, he’s shocked when he gets a problem wrong. What shocks me is that he actually gets a fair amount of the problems correct.

The challenge for me this year is to try and help him change the way he thinks about Algebra, along with any of the other subjects where he has an insistent mindset about how they should be done.

My mom, who has a lot of wisdom, has always said if you think you’re going to tell a child something once, twice or even half a dozen times and they’re going to get it, you’re deluding yourself. If you want them to learn something you have to keep on repeating yourself, saying the same thing over and over again until it sinks in, which may take years. So, you might as well not get too upset about it, just do it.

I’ve had a lot of instances to think about that wisdom this year as I keep on telling my son, ‘You have to write out the equation. Then you have to write every step of the equation, because if you do something wrong then you have a better chance of figuring out where you went wrong than if you just try to do the problem in your head, get it wrong and have no point of reference to fix it from.’

When he actually does this it’s amazing how efficiently he gets through the problems. His answers are correct and relatively painless in the making, but, up until that point it is a challenge both for him and me. And, until he gets to the point where he does it all the time, he can’t really move on to higher math.

Seeing him and his resistance to changing his mind, how he does things, and my trying to get him to see another way, made me think about how often we do this with God.

How many times does it just seem like we’re waiting for something to happen? Waiting for God to do something when in reality He has been – and is – doing something. He’s been working on our resistant minds, conforming our ways and thoughts to His. Then, when we have finally learned what we need to learn, and our minds have been changed to look more like His,  He can take us into that direction that He’s been training us for along.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2

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The other day I wanted to ask my almost 12-year old son a question.

Instead of just doing the thing that the experts tell you that you should do, which would be to try to find him and look at him full in the face in order to communicate with him more effectively, I did what most parents do. I yelled my question from where I was in the office to wherever he was in the house thinking he would hear me.

“Here I am,” yelled my son from the other room after I’d called him for the umpteenth millionth time. In exasperation after there was no response to my question, I needed to know if he was even within earshot. I needed to know if he was there. So, I said, very loudly mind you, “Where are you?”

Now I don’t want to give you the wrong idea that we live in a large house where it is easy to not hear someone. No, my son and I live in a two bedroom, two bath home that is very small. In fact, I often refer to it affectionately as my little shoebox. So, the fact that I had to find out where he was in it was somewhat comical considering I usually know where my cat is at all times.

But my son, he’s a different story altogether. He’s always moving around, seemingly never in the same place for more than a second or two. In my mind, he never seems close by at all, but whenever he yells back “Here I am”(this little scenario happens more frequently than I would like to admit) inevitably he is much closer than I ever expect. Usually just around the corner.

Isn’t this usually how it feels with God? He always seems like He’s moving around, and fast too, like we just can’t get a grip on where He is only to find that He’s been right in the mix, next to us the whole time saying “Here I Am”.

“Therefore My people will know My name; therefore they will know on that day that I am He who says: Here I am.”     Isaiah 52:6

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Aging is a funny old thing as my grandmother used to say. And really, it is. What’s even stranger is seeing people you love age.

During the summer holidays my parents usually come out for my son’s birthday and stay for an open-ended visit. This could mean four weeks to three months. The length of their visit depends on what’s going on in all of our lives and how long we can live in my little shoebox together.

Because I only see them once or twice a year, the changes that they are going through as they age are very noticable. They don’t creep up on me like they would if I saw them often, instead they hit me over the head like a 2×4.

The funny thing about parents and a child’s memory of them – at least my memory of  them – is that they sit in the photo frame of my mind at their very best stage of life.

My mom has always been a fun-loving, laughing woman who didn’t let you get away with much. Yet, at times gave my brother and I a really long rope. My memories of her swirl around a small blond woman with laughing grey/green eyes who twinkled when she talked and could get up to mischief in a second.

My dad was a sterner figure who always reminded me of someone who would have done well in the Victorian era. He could do anything and my memories of him are chock full of him fixing and making pretty much everything and anything from the car, to the yard – pouring cement ( with my Mom laughing next to him as they worked the cement mixer together) to putting in the yard. He could do just about anything.

Now they are a little older, they aren’t pouring cement or getting up to so much mischief. They are changing just like I am. Sometimes these changes are difficult to see, while other are a joy.

Just the other morning I saw something that I don’t remember seeing before, my mom sitting quietly, her large print Bible open in front of her as she read God’s Word. She does this everyday now. I remember that she did Bible studies when I was young, but I don’t recall seeing her read His Word everyday, not like she does now.

This could be my own faulty memory starting to fitz out with age, or it could be a very concrete reminder that no matter what our age or circumstance, God is always with us. We just need to take the time to remember He’s there.

“I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray.”

Isaiah 46:4a

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Legacy building. Whether we like to admit it or not, we all like to think we’re leaving a little bit of ourselves behind, so when we’re gone we won’t truly be forgotten.

In the western world and culture, the legacy we often think of leaving behind is one of success which translates into wealth handed down to the next generation. Any of us who are parents would probably agree that we would like to hand down something to our children, some form of wealth to remember us by and to make their lives a little bit easier.

We strive to be successful, getting good educations so we can make good money, so we can buy houses and cars and more stuff. And, at the end of the day we often leave our children with the daunting job of plowing through our stuff with most of it ending up at the local thrift store so someone else can buy it and add to their pile of stuff.

But, is a legacy of stuff what we really want to leave with our children?

Just the other day I was talking with a friend of mine, we were discussing how a wonderful teacher at our children’s school was going to be moving out of the area and wouldn’t be back at the school in the coming year.

Now, I only know this teacher in a very cursory way, she didn’t teach my son, but she has always impressed me with her God centered attitude and her calm and gentle spirit. That being said, I never really thought much more about her than that.

That was until the conversation with my friend took a turn and we began talking about how important it is for our children to remember that they are God’s children and to act accordingly. It as then that my friend said something that caught my ear.

A few years ago at a Mother’s Day chapel at my son’s school a young man gave a talk about his mother and what she said to him whenever he left the house.

“Remember whose child you are,” she would say which I’m sure was sometimes followed by a roll of his eyes, or maybe just an indulgent smile that hid a ‘yeah, right mom’. But, despite the typical teenager or young adult reactions, what his mother said to him stuck, it was so powerful that as an adult he chose to talk about it to a group of school children.

And it was so powerful, it was something I never forgot too. I say the very same thing to my own son when he leaves the house to go to a friend’s house or his father’s for the weekend. Turns out my friend remembered it as well and says it to her own children.

What I didn’t know until my friend told me, was the speaker’s mother was the same teacher who is leaving the school. The one I don’t know very well, but whose influence has changed the way I relate to my own son.

Sometimes God uses us to build a legacy when we don’t even know we’re doing it. In the little things that convey who He is and what He is about that have very little to do with the legacy of success and wealth this world tells us is so important.

Sometimes in following Him, He folds us into the common place and uses the very things that seem mundane and inconsequential to build His legacy, which is the most important work we could ever be a part of.

“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”

1 Corinthians 1:28 (The Message)

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Have you ever thought about how others perceive you? Not how you would have them perceive you, but how they actually do, which are typically two very different things.

The other day, my son and I were driving to yet another important something or other that we had to do, when I happened to look up at the sky where a blanket of clouds lay on the sky. We live in rural California, so the sky is very large. It’s not quite big sky country, but, it’s pretty close. The clouds can be spectacular here, taking on grays and blacks intertwined with silver in the winter, and absorbing magenta and blue interlaced with white in the summer. They truly are amazing.

I commented to my son how amazing the clouds were that day, and, he immediately responded, “You remind me of a cloud.”

A cloud?

The last thing I would have thought about myself is that I would remind someone of a cloud. I consider myself pretty down to earth and pragmatic, so being compared to a cloud, especially by my son, who presumably knows me pretty well, was a surprise.

I asked him why. His answer? He had no idea, he just repeated that I reminded him of a cloud.

I sat quietly for a little while after that, driving along, looking at the clouds and thinking about his perception of me. Then I began to think about how I perceive others, and how they perceive themselves. I realized no matter what we think none of us really have a great grip on how we truly are, or what we were created to be.

It’s only when we start to get close to the One who created us, that we get a glimmer not only of the peace and contentment that He offers, but also the reality of who we are.

A cloud? I think I like it.

“You have searched me and You know me,”
Psalm 139:1

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It’s amazing what slips your mind when you’re super busy. It’s like whatever is typical, or usual, just falls out of your head because your mind is just too full.

Yesterday when I picked my son up from school, I asked him all the usual questions. How as your day? What did you learn? Who did you hang out with? Not play with at recess, mind you, now that he’s in the 6th grade he’s a little too old for that, but ‘hang out with’. Then I went one step further and asked him how he liked his lunch.

‘I didn’t have a lunch,’ was his reply.

Didn’t have lunch? Now, one of the reasons I asked him about his lunch was that I had bought something to give him for lunch that he really likes, a treat for him since he’s been working hard and doing pretty well at navigating the crocodile ridden waters of the 6th grade.

Before I had a chance to comment, he told me his friends had given him a couple pieces of Lunchables ham, a slice of cheese and a few swigs of water so that he didn’t starve.

‘I didn’t give you a lunch?’ I asked him.

‘No,’ he said.

‘Didn’t I tell you to get your lunch out of the fridge?’


I sat for a moment absorbing this information that officially classified me as a horrible mother, before I proceeded to tell him that I had gotten a special lunch together for him. But, I must have forgotten to tell him about it, and in the rush of the morning we both ran out of the house without thinking about it.

‘Didn’t I just feed you yesterday?’ I asked attempting to make him smile. He gave me a half hearted smile back, which assured me that even though it worked out okay, he still thought I was totally lame.

I felt totally lame. I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten to feed my child. It’s not like I have half a dozen running around and somehow one ended up behind the door and was forgotten. I only have one to keep track of, so it shouldn’t be very difficult for me to remember that his lunch was in a different spot than usual and remind him to go and get it.

Now, I could make all the excuses in the world. I was really busy trying to get ready to go -I was; I had a lot on my mind trying to get things together for a luncheon that day – I did; or my brain was just way too full of all the things I needed to write in the next 48 hours – it was. But, none of those things make a hill of beans when your in the 6th grade sitting at the lunch table with your friends and your mother’s forgotten to give you your lunch.

Of course, we never really pay to much attention to all those other times that we were fed on a pretty regular basis.

My son, who is very quick, always thinking in six different directions at once, decided to capitalize on my lameness by asking for Burger King since he was so hungry. Of course, to try to avoid the cost of therapy for him later in life I said yes.

Later, as I sat thinking about taking care of my son, I started to think about how we have a God who takes care of us. We just trust that he will give us what we need just at the right time, which is pretty much how He operates, and he never, ever forgets to give us our lunch.

“These all look to You to give them their food at the proper time.  When You give it to them, they gather it up; when You open Your hand, they  are satisfied with good things.”
Psalm 104:27-28

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My son is reaching that age. The age of barbarism. If you’ve ever had children, you either know what I’m talking about, or will.

It’s that age. You know the one, where they know more than you and let you know about it. When they reach this age, if you had somehow held onto the illusion that you could tame them or make them civilized, that illusion is quickly torn to pieces and your only response is ‘this is surely not MY CHILD.”

My son, who is my greatest blessing, is also the source of my greatest frustration. I long ago gave up on the illusion of taming him. The final straw in the tamablity quotient came as a result of the loudest and greatest burp I ever heard that somehow made itself out of his mouth. Then when I commented on it, he just said “what?”

Barbarian was my only thought.

Since then, I have been able to cultivate at least some semblance of civil behavior in him, but I have no idea what he does when I’m not around. I’m not entirely convinced that he will ever be tame, and, I’m not sure if I really want him to be. Life would be a little boring if we were ever truly domesticated.

But, isn’t that what we try to do with God? We try to domesticate Him, make Him tame, so we can live in quiet civility. We don’t want Him to draw attention to Himself or us, and, we certainly don’t want Him to upset our little applecart.

Of course, that’s what He does because He is God. He can’t help it.

In our delusional state, we have it all wrong, we don’t tame Him. He tames us. In fact, He is wholly untamable, and in trying to tame Him we show how woefully ignorant we are of who He truly is.

It’s like when Mr. Tumnus comments to Lucy about the nature of Aslan in the great C.S. Lewis classic, “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.”

‘It’s not like he’s a tame lion,’ he tells her at the end of the movie based on the book.

It’s not like He’s a tame God. A God who willingly gives up His own life for the guilty person so they have a chance to live, is not tame in any way, shape or form. He could do just about anything, and does.

“Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.

Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice?”

Romans 11:33 – 36 (The Message)

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