It's stretching. My heart feels often like it's being pulled. Honestly, my sanity is being pulled! And then there's the hurting... Hurting when another child says something mean to your child...or when an adult says something hurting to your child... or they are slighted or mistreated... or when one of your children says something about another that hurts. I think they all hurt horribly. And when our children get off track, we hurt.
So, what do you do with that hurt? I look to my friends. I ask questions like I did last Sunday of my friend Jenny. I asked if she had ever encountered what I was trying to tackle with my kiddos last Saturday. We talked and it helped. It gave me food for thought. I do this a lot. I talk to my friends who have children just a few steps ahead of mine or at the same place/age as mine. It helps give me perspective that I'm not alone, reminds me to hope, and helps me see outside of the moment.
I know that a lot of folks read books about parenting for encouragement and help. I have too. I haven't read one in a while, though, until recently. The book I picked up was Kathi Lipp's new book "i need some help here!" Yes, that really is the title. The subtitle is "HOPE for when your kids don't go according to plan".
Before reading this book, I hadn't heard of Kathi Lipp. I read online that she's written several books.
This one is about how to cope with the troubles that we may face as parents. There's no guarantee with parenting children. Older and wiser friends have told me this multiple times. There's no parenting approach that can guarantee our children will turn out a certain way and stay on a certain, particular path. But, neither can anyone guarantee that our children will fall into a particular hole.
A few years ago, a woman I know shared with me that her daughter was just like my oldest when she was her age. Now her daughter won't have anything to do with her and has walked away from the Lord. I can't remember what the woman said after that, but it felt like I'd been kicked in my stomach. That kick still lingers and I have to turn it over to the Lord when my mind wanders.
I began reading Ms. Lipp's books not knowing anything about it. I liked the first chapter, quite a lot, actually. The second chapter was very good as well. There was some very wise encouragement to Moms to be authentic with others, to find a few friends they can confide in and have discernment about what to say and when, and to remember that everything comes down to God (not us). But, then the book began to weigh on me. After reading a few more chapters, I realized that this is a book to keep on your shelf for when you need it. But, DON'T read it all the way through as I did. I'll get back to this opinion of mine in a minute... Ms. Lipp addresses topics like what to do when your child is troubled, sick, making poor choices, running from God, and a few others. I appreciated the stories and insights that other parents shared.
The tone of this book is very different from another book I read recently that I was concerned about. This author speaks from experience and shares both her pitfalls and successes. She speaks from the humility of knowing that no parent is perfect. The prayers and scriptures at the end of each chapter were encouraging and helpful, I think.
But...don't read this book front to back. Read the first three chapters and then skip to the chapter that applies to you. What I realized as I continued reading is that parenting started to seem rather hopeless. I couldn't find the sentence that said these things happen to everyone, but I remember one. I think it's important to be honest that parenting is tough and usually tougher than people think it will be, but it's not hopeless and we aren't helpless! Yes, my kids are only in elementary school, although my oldest embarks upon middle school next year. But, I look at my husband and me and I know that how our parents parented us affected us both for better and for worse. How our parents parented did matter. And if you read The Journey of A Strong Willed Child, you'll be encouraged with hope that how we parent matters.
I don't think the author of this book would say that how we parent doesn't matter or that we can't help our children gain strength of character and a strong work ethic. But, it's simply the nature of this book and reading all about the serious pitfalls kids can fall into.
So, instead, if you're in a pickle and feel at a loss, and you're looking for some encouragement, then this may be an encouraging book to you. I was talking with a friend yesterday and she shared how the parenting books they read when their oldest was a year old greatly harmed them. This is why I take reviewing books seriously and I consider how a book can impact. In this family's case, it was a specific book that advocated some parenting methods that I would liken to a wolf in sheep's clothing that had an impact on them.
One more catch.
I just figured out what I was looking for in this book and what I'd encourage any reader to keep in mind.
As parents, the Bible gives us a responsibility to love and teach our children. Proverbs 6:20-23 talks of how this teaching will guide, protect, and speak to them. This is Hope to me. Hope that I can help my children.
The approach of this book is a reactive one, rather than a proactive approach. It is comfort for hurting parents. It is reminders to pray and examples of how one can pray. It is comfort for parents to remind them they are not alone. Their are coping strategies that are included for the reader and child.
But, here's something to consider. How would God have us be towards others?
After the chapter on how your child is different, what about a chapter on who your child is. Exhortation on how you can encourage your child to understand who God made them to be and why they are valuable the way they are.
After the chapter on what to do when your child is overwhelmed, a chapter of suggestions or talking points of how to help your child grasp what the peace is that God gives--that only He gives.
After the chapter on what to do when your child is troubled, a chapter about how to help your child understand suffering--from a biblical perspective...how to help them cope with suffering.
After a chapter on when my child is left out, a chapter on helping your child learn how to be a friend and include others.
As parents, I think we assume that children learn how to be a friend and many of their social skills naturally. I have come to believe that yes, children do learn from each other, but that these skills are often more harmful than helpful to them. We are to teach our children the way of God (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). That includes talking to them about how to be a friend, how to love others (who aren't your friends and may be unkind to you), how to include others that they may or may not want to. We are all called to these things as the body of Christ and our children are called to these things as well. We both model (implicit) indirectly and teach (explilcit) our children directly about the matters of the heart and friendship.
I'll close with this...
I'll never forget when Autumn was 6 months old and I took her to a friend's egg hunt. One mom sat down with me and explained that sharing is one of the hardest things to teach children. I listened and pondered. Why is this? I came to conclude that it is because human beings are all selfish in nature and our culture values competition. What does this equal? Lots of "Me first"ers and "Mine"s. Sinners who think of themselves first. I have seen this in myself and repent to the Lord when I see it in my heart. But, I have to admit that my children struggle with this same thing. We're all human and though we've been saved, we are still sinners. This is why I think sharing is hard. We want what we want when we want it. Our children do too. Wouldn't it be better to teach them what the Lord wants for them? how he wants them to love others and think of them first? to teach them why they are valuable? I come back to the introduction of Walt Wangerin's book Little Lamb, who Loves Thee? and what he said about giving our children a solid foundation so that they will be able to weather the storms of suffering that they will face as they grow up and become adults.
Let's make our children sea worthy vessels that can go out into the world instead of forts that defend where they are and stay put.
This book, "i need some help here!" has some good food for thought. I just wouldn't read it all the way straight through if I had it to do over again. And I'd spend some time reflecting on the opposite of each chapter and how I can strengthen my skills to live a life glorifying to God and tackle the challenges they, like each one of us, face as we walk through this life.
I'm afraid this has been quite the book review of rabbit trails, but it has helped me process and remember what I am called to do with my children. Speaking of which, they are my priority and I need to go make sure that they know that ;)
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell books for review.