So, for the past couple of weeks I’ve been in Mom mode. Am I not always? Well, yes and no. My days do pretty much consist of tending to Juliet, which is either a tragedy or triumph depending on her mood (except for Greek day–the day wherein I try to stuff a week’s worth of Greek homework and studying into a few hours before class while B takes over parenting duties. It’s the break that is not a break. I hate Greek day.) However, while my occupation is motherhood, I am by nature an investigator. I’m never really happy unless I have a problem to research or a question to answer, and of late that question has been, “How now shall I parent?” (I’m not sure why my questions are so heavily influenced by early modern English. They just are.)
I don’t know why this issue has captured my attention right now. Juliet is only 14 months old, and neither she nor I is ready for actual discipline to be instituted. Don’t get me wrong. Juju is super mischievous, but she treats it all like a game. If she knows I don’t want her touching the outlets, she’ll race to touch them, looking back at me and laughing the whole way. She just can’t conceive of anyone being truly upset with her, and there’s something terribly endearing about that. Maybe it’s a mistake, but I don’t want to break it just yet.
Nevertheless, I’d like to have some idea of what my parenting philosophy will be. You know, for the time when I will actually need a parenting philosophy. After doing some research, I’m amazed at the breadth of ideas there are when it comes to parenting styles and discipline. I’ve considered everything from the traditional “spare the rod” approach to people who actually do believe in sparing the rod. As in no discipline ever. I’m not really sure how I’d make that work, but I’ve loved reading all of the different points of view, and it’s gotten me thinking.
The way our culture normally approaches parenting is nearly opposite how we in the church try to convince people that God approaches us. Okay, that was mighty convoluted, but my kid is running a fever, and my worry is making me less than articulate. The point is that most of the churches I’ve been to go out of their way to heal what they see as damaged views of God (He’s a deity who is looking to punish, who keeps a tally of wrongs, who is always on the lookout to teach you a lesson, etc.) They seek to replace the Angry God imagery with the Loving Father motif. God cares for you, He forgives easily, He is rooting for you. The unconditional nature of God’s love is trumpeted and the judging, flaw-seeking aspects of Angry God are downplayed.
Why is the evangelical message so careful to highlight God’s love and mercy rather than Her justice and holiness? Churches (at least many of the ones I’ve attended) must have realized that there is something in human nature that recoils from seeing God as a heavenly disciplinarian. It just doesn’t sell or sit well. And yet, strong discipline seems to be the core theme of most parenting philosophies. I’m not sure why that disconnect exists, at least within the church. Why would we want to foster the qualities in ourselves that we are loathe to ascribe to our God?
Look, I’ve been a parent for only a little over a year. Answers, I have none. Yet, as someone who embraces a holistic vision of Christianity, I feel compelled to ask these questions. Discipline is important, but I’m not sure anymore if it’s the most important thing. The crunchy, un-school advocating, non-punishing parents whom I’d like to laugh off do have a bit of a point that beyond demanding good behavior from my daughter I need to model Christ-likeness to her. Living well, not just punishing effectively, needs to be my goal.
I’m not certain what this will look like as Juliet gets older. Will there be time-outs or just discussions? Will there be bedtimes or food restrictions? I honestly don’t know. I have time to figure all that out. What I have for now is a paradigm. When Juliet’s gone crazy (which is often, because she’s kind of nuts) and I don’t know what to do, I err on the side of love. Instead of yelling, I give her cuddles. When I’m tempted to ignore her tantrums…okay, I do ignore them for a little while, but then I give her a big hug. Am I doing it all wrong? Possibly. But B, who is sometimes wise, assures me that parents can get away with doing a lot of the wrong things as long as the love is there. My goodness, I hope he’s right. And when I see my sometimes, screamy, sometimes giggly, always adorable little girl cradling and kissing her own toys just like her Mama cuddles her, it makes me think that maybe he is.
For anyone who is yet completely derisive of my parenting skills, I’m there with you. But before you jump to judgment I’d like to submit a video in my defense. Juliet has learned a new trick. And while, yes, there is chance that she will crack her head open, I am also clearly preparing her for a lucrative and rewarding career in the circus. I’m a good mom.
Before you ask, I don’t know why Juju stuffs her toys in the car before standing on them, but she insists upon it most vehemently. I’m too frightened of her wrath to make it an issue 🙂