Thursday, December 20, 2012

Close to home: Amy's "Quit blaming society" rant

            I hear people frequently blaming the cultural shift toward violence, narcissism, lawlessness and bullying on the lack of prayer in school.  As someone who grew up in a post-school prayer culture, I disagree.  I believe the shift began a generation or two beforehand, and the answer doesn’t lie in changing how the school operates. 

            It may shock a few people when I tell you that I, an out loud, in public, self-proclaimed Christian tell you that I don’t actually want a corporate-led school prayer in my kids’ school.  Why?  Because my children go to public school, and we would have to include the beliefs (or lack thereof) of all families in said prayer.  It would be watered down, meaningless and, I believe, would not please God any more than the pledge of allegiance.  Do I think schools need prayer?  YES!  Do I think teachers and students should pray both on and off campus?  YES!  But this does not begin at school, dear readers, I believe it begins at HOME—but more about that later …

            I believe there were many parents in the mid-twentieth century who were rather relieved to know that Sunday school teachers and public school teachers alike were teaching their children about God, because it got them “off the hook.”  Drop them off at Sunday school, endure an hour of church and put them in a good school district, and you’re covered, right?  Throw in a memorized prayer at mealtime and bedtime (no need to bother explaining what they mean) and you can spend much of your life uncluttered by God.  No answering tricky questions, no moral dilemmas, just do what you must to ensure that your sons don’t go to prison and your daughters don’t end up in a family way. 

            My mother didn’t grow up in a home like that.  Yes, they prayed in school, but her home life was different than many of her peers.  Her father, until his last year of life, rejected the idea of God entirely.  He didn’t darken the door of a church unless someone was getting married or buried, and didn’t so much as close his eyes during prayers before meals.  My Grandma, uncles and mother went to church without grandpa, and he didn’t care who knew it.  He didn’t mind everyone else in the house going, but he didn’t want to talk about it.  And yet, my mother and uncles are believers to this day. 

Why did that happen?  I believe it occurred because my grandmother didn’t expect anyone else to teach her family about God.  She read her Bible, not just in Church, but every day.  Her prayers were not limited to church and mealtimes, they were an integral part of her life.  Her faith was not a social obligation like the PTA or gardening club, it was part of her life.  This legacy would help my mother to raise her daughters in a post-church society.    

            Most of my life, I was raised in the most un-churched state in the nation, in a time when only a handful of kids went to church and schools didn’t mention the name of God, under threat of lawsuits.  I was taught evolution, that protection was important because “After all, you crazy kids are gonna do it anyway,” and that my self esteem was the most important aspect of my life.  That, however, is not what I believed then, nor is it what I believe now. 

            My parents, like their parents before them, lived out their faith as part of our daily life.  My mother didn’t shelter me from what the school taught me, she simply explained how we believed differently and why. (For example, I was taught that yes, I was unique, special and wonderful-- and so was EVERYONE ELSE, which is why treating them with love and respect was important to God, therefore, important to us.)  She prayed for me in the car when a test was coming or a bully was bothering me, and I could feel her prayers during the day.  I knew that I could pray anytime, anywhere, and I did.  My childhood and adult life were different from many of my peers, not because I went to a Christian school, or lived in some sort of time warp (as it was rumored in my high school, where my nickname was “Sister Mary Catherine").  My parents’ living out our faith in a way that was as natural as breathing, however, was responsible.

         It's not as easy as my parents made it look, for sure.  Sleeping in on some Sundays would be awesome.  My children ask questions at inconvenient times.  I have to tell my children why what I just did is not what we believe, and APOLOGIZE for being a bad example. *cringe*  I'll come out and say it, sometimes fulfilling my parental obligation to teach my children is a pain.  It would be easier if I let the school be responsible for more of my kids' outcome, but it's really not their job.  Just as it's my job to teach them manners, so they don't belch at their teachers while learning geometry, it's my job to raise moral, loving, interdependent children.  EEK!  Here's another reason why living out my faith is so important, on my own, I'm not so good at this. I need the prayer, Bible reading and faith-building as much as my children do-- maybe more.   
          My hope is that we stop blaming society for how our kids grow up.  If you look back to biblical history, ours is not the first to have to raise children counter to the culture in which we live.  If we want God back in other parts of our society, we need to start where all learning begins-- at home.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Notebook Paper Protective Covering (and other doomed ideas)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.

Isaiah 55:8

Cooler evenings are a wonderful break for we, the web-footed Washingtonians, who become grumpy and lethargic when our thermostats dare break past 85.  One particularly toasty day had caused a case of the uber-grumps.  As soon as the temperature on our front porch read lower than our family room, I grabbed a bowl and headed out to pick huckleberries.  My eldest son, Alan, soon followed, saying his brother wouldn't join him, because he was "working on something."  That "something" is in the photo you see above you-- well, that's one of them, anyway ...

Wyatt was rather toasty still, and couldn't find his shorts.  Rather than ask for help, he decided to walk outside in his little boxer-briefs and two pieces of paper, both of which read: "Too gross to see." 

He explained that he was too hot to wear pants, and didn't want us to get a ticket for "indecent exposure."  While I was fairly certain that our local sheriff's department would probably see my son as more of an adorable source of amusement than cause for a fine, I told him we should probably find another way to help him keep cool.  

"No, mommy," my son protested, I'm just fine like this!  As long as I don't move sideways and I always hold my signs, nobody will see that I'm wearing just my underwear.  I will stay cool and I won't be breaking any laws.  My plan will work!"       

I asked him how he could pick berries, play on the swing set or ride his scooter like that, and asked him if he was sure he didn't want me to help him think of another solution-- which lead to my little man dropping his signs, curling up into a ball on my porch and sobbing, "My plans just NEVER work!  My whole day will be TERRIBLE!"  

With that, my heart hurt for my defeated son-- not just because he was so upset, but because he felt unnecessarily hopeless.  I knew right where his shorts were in his drawer, and I would have been happy to help him.  Unfortunately, Wyatt's encounters two gigantic hurdles when dealing with situations like this: 1.) he has to look at the situation from an angle he did not previously calculate or expect, and 2.) he has to ask for help.  Those may seem like little speed bumps to you, but for someone on the autism spectrum, they are mountains.  

My first instinct was to scoop him up, bring him inside and put on his shorts for him.  That would be less drama for everyone, right?  Well, in the short term, yes.  However, these skills will not become less of a need in his life, nor will they become easier without practice.  I have to walk the tedious, repetitious and frequently frustrating road of gently coaching him, but not forcing him.  Empowering him, but not enabling him to sit back and expect that someone else will always do things for him, especially if he does not communicate the need for assistance.  It's exhausting.  It's relentless.  It's --exactly what God does with me.  

I cannot count the number of times I have conjured up what I had conceived to be the perfect plan for my life.  In my little human perception, I had thought everything through, and all I needed was for God to secure my little paper plans in place, and I'd be SET!  I hadn't bothered asking God for his opinion on the matter, since, after all, I had it all worked out!  "Just bring on the supernatural superglue, LORD, and I'm good to go!" 

When He says "no" to helping me bring a doomed plan into fruition, I seldom even consider that I'm being spared from something disastrous.  No, I generally sit on my bed, wondering when I will come up with the perfect plan, lamenting how hard my life will be, since I can't have what I THINK I want or need. 

Finding the right path in my life takes two difficult steps: 1.) I have to admit that I might not have the best plan, and I need God's help (Mmmmmm, who wants a slice of humble pie?)  and 2.) I have to be willing to look at a situation in a way that might not even make sense to me.  

Once Wyatt got calm enough to ask me for help, he was NOT impressed with the suggestion I gave him.  I told him I would show him where they were in his drawer.  "No, mama-- they're not there!  I know they're not, because I already looked!"  Because I know my son, I know that he doesn't always look past the first layer in any given area.  I knew the shorts were UNDER the pants he had deemed "too hot to wear."  It took a lot of coaching, patience I do not naturally possess and biting my lip (at times until it nearly bled) for a good thirty minutes before we got this kiddo in shorts.  As I began to feel a sense of great accomplishment and just a hint of pride, I remembered how many days, weeks, months and sometimes YEARS God patiently waits for me to come around to His perfect, wonderful and amazingly compassionate plan for me!  

I'm so thankful that He doesn't just leave me locked outside, holding my pathetic little paper signs, convinced I've got it all figured out.  I've said many times that there is no manual for raising a highly inflexible, hyper-focused, highly intelligent, yet lacking in reason child like Wyatt, forgetting that my Heavenly Father made both my children!  He is on call 24/7, waiting for me to simply ask Him for guidance and possibly embrace a new avenue!  I know I certainly didn't expect spiritual growth to come from my son tromping outside in His skivvies-- just more proof that His ways are NOT our ways! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

An iPad, Glow in the dark bubbles, and a trip to Bora-Bora

Those are just a few of the items on Wyatt's birthday list-- or rather, his animated powerpoint presentation.  He was rather offended that I wouldn't give him birthday spankings (some traditions are just unwise when you live with a highly literal autistic child!), but he reveled in his special day none the less.  Birthdays with Wyatt have always been like my boy himself-- a little off the beaten path, but a genuine celebration of life. 

Wyatt's first birthday had me panicking about something completely stupid-- my toddler was not toddling.  I remember trying to help him take steps while holding my hands-- he wasn't having any of it.  I had no idea at the time that my son was autistic, I just assumed that he needed a gentle nudge in the right direction.  By the time our guests were arriving, I let my agenda slide for the first time all day and admitted defeat.  "Oh well," I thought to myself, "I'll just let him play with paper and bows and smash cake all over his highchair.  I'm sure Einstein wasn't walking by his first birthday, either."

When I let go of my plans for the day, I enjoyed watching my son reveling in the crinkling paper (while ignoring his presents).  While the cake was mysterious at first, once he got going, he coated everything within his reach in frosting.  Because I let go of his lack of walking, I was able to enjoy my son.  

We've had our share of "unique" birthdays.  We had years when we had to whisper the birthday song (while facing the opposite direction), just so Wyatt wouldn't get overwhelmed and cry.  To help Wyatt tolerate people at his parties, we let him watch movies while we opened his presents. He had cake and Veggietales-- what was not to like?  Again, this is probably not in Martha Stewart's "how to entertain" manual, but Wyatt loved it.  

Now that he's a big eight-year-old, he enjoys the birthday song.  He still loves having control of the remote on his birthday, but he also loves being with us now.  Also, I wouldn't dare attempt to open his presents now-- he enjoys it far too much!  

That being said, we still keep things low-key.  Not too many friends, no pinatas (again, an ASD can of worms I do NOT wish to open) and Chuck E. Cheese is always warned to stay FAR AWAY from my mascot-loathing son.  And just when I think I've got this all figured out, Wyatt starts fretting over the weather forecast (even though his party will be INDOORS) or asks for a trip to Bora Bora for his birthday.  Perhaps the only thing I should expect on June first is the unexpected-- which, as I have learned first hand, can often be quite wonderful.  

As I stroked the sweat-dampened hair of my youngest son tonight, I thought about what a gift my son has been to ME for the past eight years.  Unexpected?  Always.  Frustrating?  Often.  Worth every minute of it? ALWAYS!!!  

My precious little boy, thank you for changing my life in ways I never knew I needed.  I can't give you Bora Bora, but I promise to continually fight for you, love you no mater what and bathe you in prayer as long as I have breath in my body.  Happy Birthday, Wyatt!  


About Me

I'm not your average housewife; but then, neither is any other housewife I've met! My life is a constant blur of kids, animals, hunting down and testing allergy-friendly recipes, shopping, LOTS of coffee, yarn crafting, nannying, singing and writing. I married my highschool sweetheart (the introvert who is a type-A, shy, organized, loves hunting, hiking and mountain climbing. He lives for pizza, burgers and cookies and doesn't like coffee). We are polar opposites, but Love, grace and a whole lotta Jesus can overcome anything! :) We have two boys who fill this house with lots of excitement, love, laughter and lunacy! Alan (9) is a happy-go-lucky, inventive, dramatic, eager-to-please kid who loves being dad's shadow and mom's shopping companion. He's the snuggliest kid I've ever met! Wyatt is extremely bright, inquisitive, entertaining and endearing. He lives for routine, Wii games, pixar films and writing stories. Alan is typically-developing, Wyatt has high-functioning autism. We live on an acre in the Pacific Northwest with our two aussies and 5 chickens. It's not the Waltons, but it works! :)