Wednesday, October 15, 2008

soft kids

Anyone up for a discussion? (Jenna, I can see you raising your hand right now!).

This morning in my Compassion Magazine I read a story about 13-year old Melaku who, at the age of 4, was given by his mother to a couple who both lost their legs from leprosy. Melaku's mother allowed Taye and Seged to adopt the boy because she knew they needed help for daily survival.

Melaku attends school with the help of Compassion and dreams of being a doctor. For now, he fetches firewood and water, cleans the one room hut, and cares for his disabled parents.

I was recently having an email conversation with Rachel about M's sleep issues...and discussing how, even though it's tough, I really don't know the meaning of the word.

I am spoiled, pampered, living in comfort.

I am soft.

I don't know what it's like to go hungry so my kid can eat...or to work in a rice field with my baby strapped on my back...or to walk a mile to the river with my laundry piled in a pack on my head....or deal with a sleepless child in a one room hut!

I am soft.

Which made me think about Matthew. He never has to sleep in blazing heat or frigid cold...his room temp is always "just right." Even when we get into a hot or cold car, the air or heat are immediately turned on. He never experiences hunger pains because he's fed before they occur. And he has variation in his meal plan. He never has to go for long without someone or something to play entertain him. He has a variety of toys to choose from. He has an abundance of clothes, and all are clean and in good-repair. His days are spent in play and fun.

I'm not necessarily saying this is bad. But is it completely good?

Of course as a mother I want to make sure he is comfortable, well-fed, clean and happy. These are blessings that I am sure any mama in any country would love to give her child. And I don't think we should feel guilty for living in a blessed country.

But what about beyond meeting our child's basic needs? How do we keep from raising soft children? How do we live in the comforts of America and yet instill strength, resilience, contentment, sacrifice, endurance and mental and physical toughness?

I sometimes wonder this...if M wanted to be a missionary in another country, would the lifestyle change be SO dramatic that it might cause him to turn back from his decision? Would the loss of the comforts that are so ingrained into our daily lives be such a shock that physical would take precedence over spiritual? Or what if he were called to defend our country in a war...guard our borders...protect the lives of others?

Would he be too soft to serve?

edited2add: better say up front that i don't lose sleep over this at night...just something i thought would be interesting to discuss!


Tish said...

BTW, i'd love to make a documentary about moms around the world....anybody want to travel with me?

dan and rachel said...

i'm in on the documentary! there's a fabulous book which covers postpartum traditions around the world. it's called "natural health after birth." it is outstanding!

Lisa said...

I think just the fact that you are asking these tough questions, soul searching and are acutely aware of our ( all of us!) many blessings, that you do not take a moment of it for granted and therefore M will not either. I have great faith that you will raise a strong- minded, compassionate, empathetic & resilient kiddo! Cuz, that's just the kind of Mom you are!
Lisa C.

P.S. Hey ladies, not sure about the time away from home for the documentary, but I will promote it and buy the first copy of it! :)

Jenna said...

Put me on the first plane to Africa! Wait. Are there beds there? A/C? What about know, REAL bathrooms? (I'm kidding!)

Yeah, I'm soft too. I'm sorry to say. It is truly our worst character trait as Americans, I think. I wish I had the answer to this. But, you know, the answer for me lies partially in the small things. I heard from a friend the other day that they pulled their child out of school because they had a "personality conflict" with the teacher and the administration was not responsive. I was just sad to hear that. I just think we can make our kids feel as if the world revolves around them and that there is nothing that matters more to us than their comfort and happiness- and we are REALLY good at this in America. I think our kids are much better served when we come along side of them to teach them how to look to God to help them and to solve problems on their own with God's help. It is HARD as a parent not to solve all our kids problems for them, but I try my hardest not to do it because I think it is best for them.

Also, anything we can do to teach our kids to "not look out for just their own interest, but also for the interest of others", and reward them for it, and let them seeing US do the same is HUGE. I try to teach this in relationship to my own to kids, to their interactions with other kids, and I pray it will carry over.

But, ultimately, I think praying is the best thing we can do. Pray that God will give us His heart for the world around us and the courage to engage with those who need help, and that He will capture our kids hearts in the same way- and protect their hearts (and ours) from the things of this world that compete for our love and devotion.

(How'd you know I love a good discussion?) :)

Mark, Rebecca and Sophia said...

Oh, I just love this topic. As you know, I share a similar heart, and think on topics such as these all the time.

I too think that we are soft, pampered and protected. As someone in the field of education, I frequently see parents trying to protect their child from ANY disappointment, any hurt and any feeling other than happy comfort. This concerns me. I think we are creating a generation of kids who have no experience with feeling disappointment...much less hunger, need or pain.

I truly want Sophia to know that she is not the center of all things. She is PART of our family, but not the center.

I love Jenna's thoughts on teaching her children consider "us" before "self". Praying specifically for our children's hearts to be humble, understanding and loving.

I want her to appreciate the simple blessings.

On the evening of Sophia's birthday, I had a feeling of deep guilt over all the gifts that were purchased for her. She is one, and plays with the same simple things most of the time. I think in our world, we have to be prayerfully strategic about the lessons that we teach our children and be careful about the lessons we are teaching them without even realizing it.

kari said...

i share in your thoughts... one thing that has really been on my mind lately is all the conveniences around me. i'm making more of an effort to eat what's in the fridge, rather than take-out or do my shopping once a week rather than daily trips. i know that the girls are watching and as i speak to them about the changes we're making, i'm praying that they too will realize all the blessings we have and that they are not to be taken for granted. justin and i have always tried to lead by example and sometimes that just means not talking too much about it. my prayer for my children is that they will learn to appreciate what they've been given- not just in material items, but, more importantly a family that loves and serves God together. the exciting thing to me is that, they are still so young and these conversations are easier to start now, rather than later.
great stuff to pray about.....

meredith said...

Good food for thought. Life does bring things we cannot keep our children comfortable in, but we sure would stop it all on a mother's heart!

Jenna said...

You know, part of what made me realize and think about all this more recently is the economy. I started thinking about what would happen if the United States slipped into a Depression- another Great Depression. What would that be like? Moms and dads right here in the United States saw their children starve and freeze to death during that time. Now, I'm not saying that would happen again, but what IF? What would be the first things to go? How would we start living in a "war time" mentality? What luxuries would SURELY be revealed for exactly what they are: a complete waste of time, money, and energy?

So, as I think about things in THAT light, I think maybe that starts to reveal to me the things that I need to be rethinking even now when things AREN'T dire. If those things are really so unnecessary, why are we repeatedly indulging in them?

But, you know, maybe I'm just thinking about all this because Scot told me that we're definitely headed into the Great Depression (or worse if a certain person who shall remain nameless becomes president) and we'll have to shoot squirrels off our front porch to feed our kids and burn all our books to stay warm! (Have I mentioned that he can be an alarmist?) :)

Tami said...

Your documentary sounds great...count me in!

John and I talk about this topic a lot! I too have to confess, I'm soft. I can only handle a couple days of camping (even where there is clean water, and facilities!), and I so long for my bed and clean towels!

John and I are CONTEMPLATING bringing the boys to China when it's time to go, partly due to this specific topic. The boys' world is so small, and comfortable (ours too relatively speaking). I want them to see what it's like in another country, and this would be a great opportunity if we can swing it financially.

I think there are age appropriate things you can do to foster awareness and empathy to other's situations and living conditions, starting with community service in one's own area. But being immersed into the daily life of another is the only way to truly understand.

We have family mission trips at our church that John and I hope to someday go on with the children, but for now, our focus and funds are on China.

Tish said...

good thoughts and insight. it's difficult to walk away from comforts that are so ingrained in our daily lives. especially when there is not the "need" to do so. but then you get a Compassion Magazine in the mail and you realize that, even if there isn't a need in YOUR live to do so, there is a need in the life of that you can help by thinking less about yourself.

we are fairly frugal....and yet for many americans there's always room to spend less on yourself and more on others.

Our family said...

I just love visiting your blog!


Andrea said...

Mary had to come over for her "Matthew" fix.
Where Have I been? great post and all of the comments are kickin'.
The doc. sounds great!
can you imagine all of us hoping off planes with movie cameras speaking in broken languages! LOL!

Fun Stuff.


Rebecca said...

Wow, how did I miss out on this great discussion??

So many have echoed the thoughts in my heart. Teaching our children a right worldview. Not sheltering them from disappointment or loss. Being frugal and not wasteful. Letting our kids see us, as examples, giving away more than we keep.

I'm reminded that God does bless us with material things. Living in a country of plenty is a gift from Him. It's our own sinful, selfish tendencies that turn those blessings into a curse.

None of us can see the future. We don't know if we're headed for another Great Depression. Maybe our kids will grow up with a lot less than we had growing up. Maybe they'll grow up to have more. I don't know if my kids will end up working in factories or be CEO's. Regardless... I want their hearts to be the same, no matter what their material circumstances. To see everything they own as a gift, to live simply, to give because it is more blessed.

Just some things to add (or echo). :)

Yvonne Crawford said...

Soft kids...oh I could go on and on about it. But probably in a different way than you are discussing this.

P.S. I've been sleeping on the floor for 2 weeks now - after the first 3 days of no bed, your body gets use to it.


Just Us said...

Great post. We talk about this all the time and how blessed we are to have a roof over our head, food to eat, clothes to keep us warm/dry, and the ability to take a shower every day. We hope to instill in our son the gift of life we all have and to have compassion in his heart and soul for those that are less fortunate. Thanks for this one!