Monday, November 18, 2013

More about Where's Momma?

It's a week later and I'm still thinking about kids and parenting.  That picture of the little boy hugging the Pope's legs and the Pope gently resting his hand on the child's head has stayed with me--it is beautiful.

Looking back, my post seems stern . . . I do love the tenderness it captures and I expect it to be among the 'pictures of the year' . . . but as the situation occurred, it awoke the 'parent' and the 'Child Development teacher' in me.  I want to expand the point I alluded to regarding parental authority--my 'serious thought' for today.

A child is seeing a new world.  He or she does not know how it works or what the dangers are, parents are there to provide the security while the child learns to operate within the existing reality. The greatest security a child can have is confidence in the parent's ability to navigate the turmoil of the 'big wild world'; the child's confidence rests in the parent's firm authority . . . they won't always like it, they will challenge it over and over, they will at times vehemently oppose it . . . but if that authority is fair, firm and not dependent upon their (the child's) reaction, it demonstrates to that child, "the person I rely upon is in control, they know what they are doing and I can count on that when I feel threatened."  Besides firmness, the other necessary element that allows the child to have faith in that authority and thus provide the security is, of course, love.  If the child feels the love--an unconditional love--the result will be respect.  Within the circle of: love + reasoned authority = respect + security, the child's free spirit blossoms.

That is my 'teacher' thought;  my 'parent' thought follows:


I was the central figure
       in my life as I lived it --

My hopes and dreams, fears and disappointments
       took center stage of all my concerns.

Family and friends, world events and God
       were the background against which my life played.

How--when the importance of figure was so central --
       could I imagine being satisfied as ground?

It didn't occur to me to consider
       God's willingness to be ground in our lives
       even when told of 'The Ground of Our Being';
                 How could I know?
                 How could I know?
       God showed me a pattern I couldn't see.

And life proceeded from my 'figure' position
       of yearning for inclusion
       and yearning for distinctiveness . . .
But yearning to become ground was not something I sought.

Then I became parent
       A tiny new being evolving to personhood,
       and I the ground to support the unfolding!
                 How could I know?
                 How could I know?

       How could I imagine being satisfied as ground
       Till I became ground for one more important than me?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Where's Momma?

     There was something in this past week's news that I found troubling . . . over and over we saw the clip of the little boy who walked up onto the stage while the Pope was making a formal address to a large audience.  The repeated rebroadcast by the networks said 'Oh, isn't this cute!'   Well true, it is a cute image for the cameras, but it raises questions for me:  Where was the mother or caregiver?  How did he get that far on his own?  Why was the child allowed to dictate that situation and no parent  intervene?  Where was adult judgement to draw the line between appropriate and inappropriate  behavior?  Yes, Jesus said, "let the little children come unto me"--and if the Pope were seated at an informal gathering and a child ran up and hugged him, that indeed would be heartwarming and a reflection of the Bible text . . . but in this case: a formal address to a large audience with microphones and TV cameras and this child roaming unrestrained was inappropriate and the parents are culpable.  Imagine every parent there with a child below the age of 6 allowing their 'little darling' to freely run onstage and do nothing to discourage him/her, the result would be total disruption of the proceedings.

     This incident provided a flashback to the idea that emerged somewhere about 40 years ago that suggested we let our children 'raise themselves', do nothing to control their 'free spirit'--just protect them from harm.  Perhaps in a small primitive village that would be OK, but it does not fit in a complex pluralistic society striving to gain a balance that maintains order yet allows for individual freedom.  We are not born knowing this, we learn how to be free without infringing on the freedom of others slowly.  It is the parental job to teach how that can work.  Behavior that may be appropriate in one situation is out-of-order in another.  Children don't know that, that is why parents are charged with governing them for some 18 or so years.  Animal young live under care only briefly because their lives are guided by instincts--human young require adult guidance for survival and they must gradually learn how to live in society and what it means to become 'civilized' (evidence of moral and intellectual advancement).  Unfortunately the popularity of that concept of unrestrained childhood is showing up in the erosion of respect and self-restraint that plagues our modern world.

    Yes, the image of a little kid hugging the Pope may be cute, but parents, please you need to teach your little ones behavior that is right for one situation may not be so for another--that's your job!