The Parent They Need

Being a new mom and a research junkie, Iíve found the internet to be a blessing and a curse in its abundance of parenting articles and advice – a blessing in being able to diagnose how high my sonís temperature should go before needing to take him into the doctor, but a curse in its multitude of advice about parenting styles . . . and of course, every article thinks that itís the highest authority in advice to be given.

Breast feed for one year? Two years? Till they crawl up your shirt and ask for lunch? Or formula-feed all the way?

Have a schedule for the day? A schedule created by the parents forcing the child to conform? Or a schedule created by the child forcing the parents to try to interpret each little whimper and moan?

Cloth diaper? Disposable diaper? No diaper? (I just read a story about non-diapering parents: they believed it was cruel to let their child ěmarinateî in their own excrement – tasty).

My father would say ěseparate the wheat from the chaff – take what works for you, and disregard the rest,î but my poor little brain feels like itís harvest season, and not all of the threshers are working quite right (theyíre a little sleep deprived). Every once in a while I come across an article that makes me stop and think, usually because it relates to the parenting world, but also the world beyond.

If you let them, your children will show you the parent they need.

Ah, those preconceived notions ń theyíll take you down the Wrong Road every time. When your eyes are clouded with all you wish, want and will something to be, you are bound to end up missing all the great information and truths offered to you along the way. – Rosemary Danielis

By interacting with my son, I begin to know him more fully and respond to his needs a little bit better; if I force him to accept my ideals and expectations, we both become rather crabby. When I was a toddler, I remembered having quiet mornings around my house – time to wake up, eat in my pajamas, watch the morning edition of Sesame Street: time to prepare adequately to engage the world. I didnít always leave the house – some days were spent wandering around in our pasture and playing hide & seek with my brother.

So when I first had my son, I tried to honor ěhisî needs by having quiet mornings. Except they werenít quiet: he was fussy – *really* fussy. Feeding, diapering, playing – nothing seemed to subside this constant whine. . . . until Iíd go to the store. As an infant, heíd finally be quiet [enter me singing the ěHallelujah Chorusî], taking in all of the scenery. Now, he flashes giant grins at all the people passing by, as well as flirting something awful with checkers. See, Iíve given birth to an extrovert, so my well-meaning intentions of slowly easing into the day mean nothing to him: he wants to go out and party! Once I started listening to his needs rather that projecting my own desires, our household was a much happier place.

I began to wonder if the church ever does this. Is the church being the church *it* desires to be, or the church that the broken and weary need? Does the church look for cues and spend time intentionally listening/studying/engaging, or does it keep focusing on its own needs?

I could spout off some broad general statements like ěpeople in need are those in poverty or homeless or in gangs or are addicts, so we should help them . . . somehow.î But I donít live in generalities: my community is full of specifics, individuals, people.

  • What cues is my church perhaps missing in our community?
  • Where are there people crying for help, guidance, support in my locality?
  • In what ways am I trying to minister that are simply a projection of my desires and ěpreconceived notionsî?
  • Have any of you had experiences of responding to the needs of specific individuals in your community?

I would answer, but thereís a Little Extrovert pulling on my jeans, probably as a means of requesting a trip to the library. So Iíll ponder for a while, asking the Lord to open my ears and eyes: what am I missing? What am I not hearing? Where should I be looking? And how can I bear your Light to those who ache for your wholeness?

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