Friday, 22 March 2013

Weekend Reading

You're Gonna Miss This @ The Organic Sister
You’re gonna miss this
And I know how trite that sounds
When it's not my kid
kicking and screaming on the floor

But please
Please listen to me
Cuz you’re gonna miss this

Amy's Letter @ A Deeper Story
Here are our questions. We’d like to know if you’re going to use us. Will our church be your opportunity to right all the Church’s wrongs, the ones you’ve been jotting down over your vast ten years of experience? (Sorry, I’m one of the ornery ones) Is our church going to be your opportunity to finally enact that one flaming vision you’ve been hell-bent on since seminary, that one strategic model that will finally get this Church-thing straight? Or might we hope that our church could be a place where you settle in with us and love alongside us and cry with us and curse against the darkness with us and remind us how much God’s crazy about us?

In other words, the question we want to know is very simple: “Do you actually intend to be our pastor?”

I’m trying to be as straight as I know: will you love us? And will you teach us to love one another? Will you remind us that we are to live well, not produce well? Are you willing to fail before you cave to the pressure to succeed? Will you give us God — and all the mystery and wonder, will you preach with a twinkle in your eye?

Public Shaming is a Better Example of "If it feels good - do it" than Teen Pregnancy @ Brené Brown
Last week New York City unveiled its public education campaign targeting teenage pregnancy. Taking a page from the Georgia obesity campaign and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the campaign features pictures of tear-stained toddlers admonishing their teen mothers for ruining their lives.

The ads are painful, and in a moment of sheer frustration and anger, I thought about ditching this article and just sending both Reeves and Mayor Bloomberg pictures of tear-stained pregnant teenagers staring out and declaring: “Please don’t attack my self-worth. I’m already struggling and desperate for love and belonging.”

Here’s the rub:

Shame diminishes our capacity for empathy.

Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.

The New Pope, Luther, and Our Need to Take Aim at Ourselves @ Echoes and Stars
The reason I was ill at ease about evangelicals making light of the papal process and then using Luther to defend it was this. Luther was taking aim at his own tradition. Not the tradition of his neighbor alone. Luther was not trying to start a new religion or denomination or sect. He was trying to reform the church already there. Luther was Roman Catholic, if you will. Not Lutheran.

Here is what I think, you wanna be like Luther? Set your aim on all the silliness with evangelicalism. The legalism. The celebrity. The concerts disguised as worship. The worship disguised as concerts. The marketing ad nauseum. The legalism. The calls for radical living from pastors with iPads and iPhones who live in the suburbs with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. Set your aim on the cover-up of sexual abuse. The legalism. Set your aim on a theology that questions everything and stands for nothing. The pastor as CEO. The pastor as rock star. The legalism.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Yes means yes...and everything else means no.

With the verdict announced on the Steubenville Ohio gang-rape case, there has been renewed outrage at the way this case was handled from the beginning.

The 16-year-old rape survivor's own community is divided, with some citizens vocally defending the rapists and making light of the rape report. That would be outrageous enough on its own, but many of the media reports have been following in those citizen's footsteps.

Much has been said about how the verdict has destroyed the lives of these two young men, with the rape portrayed more as a bad career move than a heinous crime. Excuses have been made for the rapists and the atrocity of their actions has been minimized. The survivor has received threats, and the media is quick to stress that she was drunk and at an all-night party. Many of the comments on social media are far more blatant in their victim-blaming.

The Mays' apologies show an equal lack of understanding and remorse. Trent Mays apologized for taking and sending the pictures which led to his arrest and conviction (but not for the rape itself), while his father apologized to "Ma’lik’s family, the community, the school, everybody else" for putting them through this. The other offender, Ma'lik Richmond, did apologize directly to the girl and her family.

People talk about a "rape culture" because too often, the blame is placed on the victim - after all, "boys will be boys" and "teenagers will be teenagers". Women are asked why they were wearing those clothes, in that location, drinking that beverage, leading him on. Offenders are excused on the grounds of being drunk, being young, getting carried away, and besides, it wasn't really violent. Women are told to get over it, move on, let it go. (Don't you know what it will do to his life if you pursue this?) Men are told they are slaves to their desires. Rapists hide behind churches, militaries, and arcane laws. Women are told to prevent their own rapes.

And these two young men? They seemed to truly believe that because what they were doing wasn't "violent", it wasn't rape. This is where the idea that "no means no" fails. Instead, it's time we started to stress that "yes means yes," and everything else means no.

Is the person unconscious? That means no.
Is the person too drunk to form a coherent sentence? That means no.
Is the person hesitant? That's a no.
Is the person reluctant? That's a no.
Is the person uncertain? That's a no.

And the person's reputation? That's irrelevant.
What the person is wearing? Irrelevant.
What the person had been drinking? Irrelevant.
Had they been flirting with you? Irrelevant.
Did you buy them dinner? Irrelevant.
Did they leave a party with you? Irrelevant.
Did they come back to your place? Irrelevant.

Yes means yes. Everything else means no.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Weekend Reading

Debunking the myth of consistency @ Steady Mom
Being consistent means being there. It means responding when you need to respond, in the way you need to respond. It means taking the time to figure that out, to address each child as an individual. It means treating our children the way we hope they will one day treat us. It means acknowledging that we can't solve our kids like mathematical equations, we must relate to them from the heart.

Roman Catholicism – An Appreciation @ Internet Monk
The fact is, there is much that I like about Roman Catholicism. The better I get to know it, the more I find to like.

I admire a tradition that sees the culture of the church in history as confident and defining on its own, without having to resort to endless envies and imitations of pop culture in order to feel relevant.

Who's really surprised that 7-year-olds are putting themselves on diets? @ xoJane
The real question is when did the realization strike that being bigger and rounder was something I should remedy? Because at 4 I did not see my different shape as a negative thing, just an interesting difference. I suspect the change happened, curiously enough, sometime around my seventh year, as that is the period in which I first remember becoming aware that my body was a thing I hypothetically could - and therefore should - change.

By 15, I was still keeping a diary. And I was still talking about my weight. In an entry that also mentions the “diet pizza” I had for lunch (I believe this was the Jenny Craig era of my ill-spent adolescence) I wrote, “I wish I had a boyfriend. I wish I was thin. I wish I had a 4.0 average. I wish I wasn’t wishing for so much. I’m pretty happy as I am.”

I couldn’t have articulated it then, but this was the cognitive dissonance that informed so much of my relationship with my body, well into adulthood, and the same is probably true for many of you reading this as well. My happiness was not the goal. My happiness had pretty much nothing to do with it.

The message that I had successfully digested and internalized, along with so many of my dieting and weight-obsessed peers, was that I MUST care, even if I didn’t care. I had a role to play, a very particular socialized feminine role, and it demanded certain things of my self-image. I MUST worry about my weight, and learn to hate my body, and eat diet pizza seemingly made from cardboard and plastic, even if I feel mostly okay with myself in spite of everything.

Church Culture: Out of Sight, Out of Mind @ Jezamama
Instead of partnering and coming alongside parents, [churches] try to lead the charge. We check our kids like coats to a children’s attendant and then proceed to our own adult thing. We have learned to worship God separately: adults in the grownup spaces and the children in their spaces (which is often “out of sight, out of mind”). We bring home the brown paper bags filled with their work, craft or lessons – and it ends up in the trash.

Until a church culture makes the least among us a priority, seen as a blessing, instead of a distraction to be tolerated; families as a whole nourished and trained; the youngest among us considered first in the making of our budgets and planning of our spaces instead of afterthoughts in our vision...we are going to miss it. We are going to miss this amazing opportunity we have to love many young ones and their future children in the name of JESUS.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

What Attachment Parenting is Not

Today in our Attachment Parenting Series, we will be discussing four of the most prevalent misconceptions of Attachment Parenting. If you have written a post on Attachment Parenting misconceptions, please do share it with us in the comments below!


Many objections to Attachment Parenting come from one of four common misunderstandings of the philosophy. Before exploring each of these misconceptions, we will begin with a brief review of what Attachment Parenting is.

At its core, Attachment Parenting (AP) is the promotion of a responsive, relationship-based approach to raising children. It encourages the parent to respond sensitively to their child's needs, seeking ways to build and strengthen a mutually-trusting parent/child relationship. The specifics and application of AP principles will vary according to the unique needs of the individual family.

With that basic understanding in mind, we will move on to what Attachment Parenting is not.

Attachment Parenting is not permissive parenting

Permissive parenting is characterized by low behavioural expectations coupled with a failure to follow through with enforcing healthy boundaries for the child. This lack of healthy boundaries is most commonly due to an unwillingness or perceived inability to deal with the child's feelings and their negative expressions of those feelings. However, children thrive best within a framework of healthy boundaries. Without these limits, the child will act out in search of them, seeking their safety and predictability.

Another form of permissive parenting disguises itself as punitive parenting. Rather than calmly and consistently enforcing age-appropriate boundaries, this style of permissive parent allows the child to repeatedly overstep boundaries until the parent explodes with frustration and overreacts, coming down strong to get the child's behaviour back in line. This inconsistency is confusing for the child.

Attachment Parenting, conversely, seeks to gently and consistently enforce developmentally-appropriate expectations for the child. While the primary focus of AP is a strong parent/child bond, this bond is not achieved through indulgence or a lack of healthy boundaries and expectations. AP decries punitive methods of discipline, embracing instead a form of positive discipline that relies on teaching and problem solving rather than punishing. It does not, however, reject discipline altogether.

Likewise, AP does not seek to prevent the child from ever feeling strong negative emotions or from expressing those emotions. It does, however, provide the child with both a nurturing response to those feelings along with the tools required to cope with and express those feelings in a healthy and socially acceptable manner.

Attachment Parenting is not helicopter parenting

Also known as "smothering" or "overparenting", helicopter parenting demonstrates an unwillingness or inability to step back and allow the child to develop independence and self-reliance and, along with that, to experience challenges and failure. Although the motivation of helicopter parenting is often love, concern, and good intentions, it typically arises from a place of fear within the parent.

Attachment Parenting, conversely, affirms healthy, age-appropriate independence. It is precisely the trust and security of the strong parent/child relationship that provides the child with the confidence to grow into an emotionally healthy individual. Early attachment fosters healthy independence.

Because AP develops a strong cue/response cycle from infancy, parents are deeply attuned to their child, including the child's strengths and weaknesses. With that knowledge, the parent can encourage the former and work to build the latter. The child, meanwhile, has been assured since birth that his needs and requests will be appropriately responded to, thereby giving him the security and confidence he needs to explore the world in an increasingly greater depth and breadth. By providing the child with a safe home base from which they can explore the world, AP is more compatible with a (common-sense, child-appropriate) free-range style of parenting than it is with helicopter parenting.

Attachment Parenting is not child-centered

Child-centered parenting is a combination of permissive and helicopter parenting. As with permissive parenting, the child's desires are catered to in order to prevent any negative feelings or expressions of those feelings. As with helicopter parenting, the child is routinely rescued from all potential challenges, failures, or consequences. The child is the center and focus of the home.

Child-centered parenting can be a common downfall for the AP parent who, having acknowledged that a baby's needs and wants are very much the same thing and being accustomed to meeting their baby's needs in a sensitive and responsive manner, carries the same attitude over into the toddler and older years. Even though the child's wants and needs are no longer one and the same, the parent continues to act as though they are.

Attachment Parenting, however, is not child-centered, but rather family-centered. AP affirms the child as worthy of respect as a person in their own right, but likewise the parents' needs are acknowledged and respected as well. The parent is neither martyr nor tyrant in this scenario. A family-centered approach develops in the child an awareness of the needs of others, as well as respect for others' property and boundaries. AP also affirms a functioning support network of family and friends, with children benefiting from developing healthy relationships with other individuals of all ages.

One of the primary principles of AP is balance, without which the practice is unsustainable. This balance should be present with the child (attentiveness without indulgence), with the partner (meeting the needs of the relationship without neglecting the needs of the child), and within the parent (meeting the needs of the individual). Failing to validate and meet, as far as possible, the needs of all members of the family will quickly lead to resentment, exhaustion, and burnout.

Attachment Parenting is not (necessarily) Natural Parenting

Natural Parenting (NP) is a philosophy which seeks a natural and holistic approach to health, diet, education, ecological footprint, and general lifestyle as it relates to family life. Most definitions of NP also include AP, while other definitions focus solely on the health and ecological aspects with no effect on the parent's level of responsiveness or attachment to the child. In such cases when NP is defined as including AP, the values of AP would line up with NP, but not all aspects of NP would be related to AP. In that sense, NP would be a wider umbrella definition, with AP falling under it.

Although the two philosophies often overlap, the core focuses and goals of NP and AP are different. NP may promote breastfeeding, for example, because it is the biologically normative way of feeding an infant and has the lowest ecological impact. AP, on the other hand, would encourage breastfeeding as one of many tools that strengthen the mother/child bond and develop the healthy cue/response cycle that leads to greater communication and connection between the pair.

Despite this overlap, NP is not a requirement of AP. While NP may encourage a parent to use cloth diapers for ecological, financial, and health reasons, AP would have nothing to say on the topic, as the type of diaper used on a child has no bearing on the attachment relationship. Likewise with other such NP-related topics as organic food, natural materials, vaccinations, and philosophy of healthcare.

While there is value in NP ideologies, the distinction remains important for those parents who may be drawn to AP, but eschew it instead because they have no desire to live what is colloquially referred to as a "crunchy" lifestyle. Such parents should be assured that it is entirely possible to embrace an AP philosophy without also taking on a natural/"crunchy" way of living.


The heart of AP is rooted in a strong parent/child relationship. From the mutual trust and respect that arise from this relationship, the parent comes along side the child to teach and guide them to maturity. AP encourages both parental guidance on the one hand and child-appropriate freedom on the other.

There are parents who affirm an AP method of child-rearing and yet also parent in a permissive, smothering, or child-centered manner. However, AP itself affirms none of these practices. Permissive parenting lacks the enforcement of age-appropriate boundaries, smothering lacks the natural development of healthy independence, and child-centered parenting neglects to balance the needs of others with the needs of the child.

AP is incompatible with the above parenting practices. It is, not, however, incompatible with Natural Parenting. The misconception arises when AP is mistakenly understood to require a natural lifestyle. While most natural parents embrace AP, and many attachment parents embrace NP, neither one requires nor depends on the other. It is entirely possible to parent in an AP manner without embracing the "crunchy" NP lifestyle as well.

Recommended Reading:

The Attachment Parenting Book by William and Martha Sears
Where's My Center?: A closer look at child-centered parenting and the continuum concept by Scott Noelle

Friday, 8 March 2013

One down, three to go

The husband has flown halfway across the country and I'm sitting here with my laptop in this silent house.

I tell people he's away, add a little grimace - just me and all these kids - and I mean it but I also don't. I secretly love having the house to myself for these few days. My introverted self relishes the post-bedtime quiet, the freedom, the do-as-I-please wide-open possibilities. Just for a few days, mind you - by Sunday I'll be glad to have him back - but in the meantime, these evenings are all mine, baby.

What's more, you would think that having a second perfectly capable adult around the house would decrease my workload, and yet, unexpectedly, the housework feels lighter. There aren't any fancy meals happening around here when he's away. I had the most gloriously delicious egg and cheese sandwich for dinner last night, and it was made all the better by the complete lack of post-dinner cleanup. No scrubbing rice out of pots or sauce out of baking pans, no dishpan hands, no spaghetti stuck to the floor. Just toss the plates in the dishwasher, rinse and dry the cast iron pan, and boom. Done.

And the laundry! That endless mountain of laundry, basket full to the brim only minutes after I finish the last load - except right now. Who knew one person could add so much laundry?

Then there's my no-nonsense bedtime routine, because I adore my kids but by the time bedtime rolls around I'm about thisclose to completely losing my calm. That wonderful man of mine, he's taken over the whole bedtime thing while I hang out with the (not-so-)wee babe, but oh my does he drag it out some nights.

Me? I'm all about getting down to business. Clean. Snack. Toilet. Pajamas. Teeth. Into bed. Then it's fifteen minutes of our bedtime read-aloud (currently The Lord of the Rings, which means that Frodo and company get approximately five feet further along whatever path they are presently on during those fifteen minutes, because oh my goodness Tolkien, get to the point already). Then the lights are out and we murmur prayers into the darkness before little brother falls asleep. Big brother still loves those bedtime chats as the younger one breathes deeply beside him, and that about saps the last of my energy for the day. Lovely times, yes, but you better believe I'm gritting my teeth through some of them, just waiting for that moment of exhale as I slip out of the room at last.

But then my own bedtime rolls around...and passes. Midnight, 1:00, 2:00, I really should get to bed. But it's so quiet and there's no one else to suggest it, so I just keep sitting here. At last I slip under the covers but I've spent all evening thinking and there's no one here to interrupt those thoughts, no one to stop their continuous flow and so they go on (and on and on) as 3:00 comes and goes.

Less work during the day. Less sleep at night. There's the trade-off.

Only three more sleepless nights to go.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Weekend Reading

What Dressing Up Like a Rock Star Taught Me About Shame and Grace @ UnTangled
“You do look ridiculous, Kelly. And you are beautiful and beloved.”

The voice of Grace wasn’t challenging the story I had been told by my shame. It was reminding me of the rest of the story.

This is how the voice of grace works. Its brilliance eclipses the genius of our shame-whispers. It doesn’t try to disprove the voice of shame. It doesn’t do a “Yeah, but.” It does a “Yes, and.” It disrupts all the internal debates, undermines all the second-guessing, and avoids all the interior conflict. It just says, “Yes, that may be true, but this is definitively true.”

It’s the brilliant, counter-intuitive, scandalous voice of Grace, whispering its truth at the edges of your being:

“No matter what, you are beautiful and beloved.”

How My Kids Didn’t Ruin Mass @ Carrots for Michaelmas
It’s the moments when I think my kids are the ultimate distraction that my parish family shows me that they are gifts of God’s grace. When the baby is fussy and the toddler is grumpy and loud and I think that surely the homily is going to be a desperate plea for our family to high tail it out of the church so everyone else can enjoy Mass in peace, the priest says, “Look around you. Look at all the babies and children in Mass today. As I’ve been hearing the sounds of infants and children this morning, it reminds me of the amazing gift of new life. What a blessing. I am so glad they are all here.” Gift? Blessing? My kids could have passed themselves off as small dragons this morning, and you heard their whispers and shrieks as echoes of God’s grace?

Working Out "Quiet Time" @ Growing an Olive Tree
So often I wish I could sit and soak up scripture all day long, but the needs of living in this present age persist. My Mary heart has to turn to necessary Martha work.

I can't sit and read the bible all day, or lay on my face bathing in the Spirit under the fragrant sound of worship music like I could when I was single, or married without a child. Even the discipline of getting up and starting my day in with bible reading has become more of a memory than a reality as little hands paw all over me the minute the sun rises, "Can we get up, Ima? The sun's up now. I want cereal and cow's milk."

When Right Now is Just Right @ Redemption's Beauty
Two questions to define someone, three if you answer married. What kind of work do you do? Are you married? What does your spouse do for employment? That’s it.

There isn’t a steeple overhead and we’re not sitting on pews but I’m seeing a picture of His church. A gathering of His beloved: the broken, the discarded, and the destitute in need of a Savior. I don’t have a pulpit but I want to get up and tell them that they aren’t defined by a number, a job description, an illness, an injury or a marital status.

And neither are you. Like Esther, you are more, so much more.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Beautifully ordinary

Baby girl was sick this week, skin hot with fever as she lay in my arms.

It hurts a mother's heart to see her baby that way. My usually cheerful baby was a burning snotty drooling mess who wanted only to be held, always held, and there was little other comfort I could give her so I did. For two days I held her, carried her, laid with her, listened to her breathe, watching and waiting for that fever to break. During the day she was in my arms. At night she slept on my chest. There were stretches of inconsolable crying (hers) and far too little sleep (mine). It felt like those early weeks again - they seem so long ago now - when the rest of the world faded away for a while. Just us, skin to warm skin.

It was a unexpected rest for us, waiting for her to feel better. The boys were quieter. We stayed in, drew pictures, read so very many good books. I made meals but most other things were left quietly aside as I sat in my Christmas-present-to-myself chair, rocking my fever-warmed baby as she dozed on and off. I rocked and prayed, rocked and prayed, arms full and little else I could do. It was good to rest, in a way.

Sometimes I feel that way about nursing my little ones. Too often we give birth and then feel the pressure, whether internal or external, to get back on our feet - dishes, laundry, everything else - without giving our bodies the rest they need. But no one else in this house can breastfeed my baby. That's all me, love. She cries and I sit, put my feet up, graze her forehead with my kisses as she suckles. Rest. She demands it of me and I can only comply.

And yet still there are moments when I balk at the task. My body wants to curl in on itself, be alone and untouched for some small span of time that somehow never feels quite long enough, and then I feel ashamed. I should be grateful. I am grateful. So much so that some days bring tears to my eyes just watching them - just watching them! - because how could I have all of this, all of them? But there it is: some days I just don't want to be touched.

So it was during day three, fever faded but her desire to be held not diminished in the least. Just sleep! Just go to sleep! Let me put you down! And there again, that same shame at my selfishness in the face of her need. They are refining fire, the three of them, revealing and then burning away the impurities within me. I only wish it wasn't such a very (life)long process.

I stepped back, accepted what was, and we rested for another day.

She slowly regained her cheerful disposition along with her energy. I used the last of mine to wash blankets, bedding, and pillows, and then it was my turn to recover, slipping in naps when I could and keeping meals simple. Funny how only a small handful of days can stretch so long, but at last things feel ordinary around here again. The boys run and the baby squirms and then we contract, exhale, quiet, before expanding again, in and out, in and out, our little daily rhythms.

Ordinary feels so very beautifully good today.