Monday, 29 November 2010


Forgive my old lady-esque blog, but I cannot let this by without comment. I may well come across as old fashioned as the' tights, court shoe and winter coat bedecked lady' who sits on the deckchairs at the beach in summertime, but I cannot help but interject at this point in the year.


The clue is in the title. Yet it is so often missed. Oooh yes, we all love to listen to children singing carols (even if there is always one at the front picking their nose) but is that all we are going to do to acknowledge the truth. It is staring us in the face, and yet we conveniently ignore it by filling our need with other things. The latest gadgets, the presents for the kids, the turkey, the decorations, Father Christmas.

There is a reason for Christmas. I can hear you shouting at the screen now, and readying yourself to flick onto another window or turn me off altogether. Feel free, because what you are about to read might make you feel a little uncomfortable and if its comfort you want, turn away now.

Every year, we sing these words (from Hark the Herald Angels sing)

"Light and life to all he brings
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild, he lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth."

There was, and still is, purpose to Christmas. Jesus was born, yes as a baby in a manger (although not as cute and clean as the cardmakers would have us believe), yes from the virgin Mary, yes the shepherds and wise men came to see him, but primarily he was born to die. He was a man on a mission. He was born to die so that we don't have to. He was born so that God, his Father in heaven, could painfully abandon him to suffering and death. He was born to take our punishment for our sin (ours means mine and yours, I'm not pretending not to have any!)by dying and then by beating death and rising again. Christmas has as much purpose as Easter. Christmas is about new life - yours and mine.

So, next time we're thinking about how to fit all our family into our house, or worrying about how much money will be on the credit card bill in January, just remember what it's all about. It is more important that we meet God, than whether we buy the 'right' toy for our child. It is more important to consider carefully the questions Christmas throws up for us, than whether our Christmas decorations are more garish than next door's. Don't look away, the truth is right there in front of you.

I warned you, it's not comfortable around here.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Round One

"I got there first."
"No, I did."
"I want to sit there."
"Well, I'm sitting there."
"Well you are a pooface then." (thump, spit)
"Well you are a bumhead." (kick, slap)
"Idiot fool" (harder thump)

Sound familiar? I hope it does and that I am not the only one who has children who fight over one tiny spot on the sofa when there are at least 5 other seating options in the room. Why do they do this? I know, I know, sibling rivalry is a normal and apparently acceptable part of family life. I just do not understand why it has to be. We have no favourites, there is no competition for who is the 'best', yet they still all compete for everything.

I'm sure it is not just boys who do this, I am sure (please, someone reassure me..)that girls also compete. But I do wonder if the testosterone in boys creates more of a need to win, even if it is just winning the right to hold the power wielding remote control. In an attempt to produce a more loving, caring atmosphere, I explained to my boys that the Bible teaches the last will be first and the first will be last. It backfired. They now fight and compete to be last.

Have mothers throughout all generations had fighting siblings or is it a relatively modern creation? Have mothers in history also despaired over the children ever being able to be in the same room together without the next war erupting? I remember some viscious fights with my sister (sorry Trude, but I'm sure you must have started it....) and yet now we are good friends, so I am filled with hope that one day my boys will be friends and brothers who look out for each other and stand shoulder to shoulder with each other.

Friday, 19 November 2010


Just when you think you are safe, that old enemy called Pride creeps up on again to stick his leg out in front of you and trip you up. Smack! You fall with a crash landing and realise what has happened, while Pride sniggers to himself and skitters away back into the shadows.

We all know that old proverb (Proverbs 16 v 18) "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before stumbling" but how many of us are aware of when it actually happens?

I have been thinking recently about whether it is acceptable to be 'proud' of our children, or whether this will also cause us to trip up again. It is only natural that we celebrate our children's achievements with them, and encourage them along the way. It is fitting that we feel pleased for them when they pass a test at school, learn to tie their shoelaces or behave in a caring way for someone. Sometimes though, this can be taken too far and I have heard many parents (probably myself included) boasting about their child's capabilities or exceptional development. Did their child really potty train themselves at 6 months?! Is their daughter really taking her GCSE's at 7 years old?! We are left wondering....

Why do we do this boasting? Is it, in fact, that we are proud of our own parenting skills rather than our children? Or do we want to make ourselves look like perfect parents? And where does the 'trip' come?

My 'trip' is almost certainly in my children's behaviour. Their disobedience ("I'm not ever going to do what you say ever again"), disrespect ("Yes Mum, pooface, bumhead.") and perpetual fighting with one another, whilst wrong, serves as my constant humility-developer. One moment Max is praying beautiful prayers and making up his own angelic songs about God's love, the next he is kicking Jonah under the table. Toby can go to the men's prayer breakfast and pray for a whole hour with all the men, and then come home and cause havoc by fighting and arguing with his brothers. Jonah can share so kindly with other children at a toddler group and then, when asked to put on his coat, stick his tongue out at me and run in the opposite direction.

Of course, they are just children and we would expect them to still need to learn and grow in their obedience and the way they relate to one another. We would also expect them to have moments of goodness when they make the right choices. Is it wrong to be 'proud' of them in those moments? I don't think so. What is wrong is when we might think they are better than everyone else's children. They soon prove us differently when their behaviour changes and we curl into a embarrassed ball as they roll around the floor kicking and screaming as though the world is at an end.

What do we do with Pride, then? Be ready. Be aware. Be waiting for him. He is waiting to trip us up. He is sneaking around in the background, biding his time until he can pounce on us again. When we feel that inner glow about our children, let's make sure it is not going to come crashing down around us. Let's be diligent in encouraging our children, but realistic in making sure that our own shortcomings of pride don't cause us to have a tumble.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Breaking My Webs.

Having analysed the 'tweenage phenomenon' that has made it's surprise visit to our family recently, I have been pondering on the next 'letting go' phase of Toby's life.

All parenthood, from birth until leaving home, is 'letting go'. We cuddle our babies, until eventually they have to sleep on their own. We war through the 'terrible twos', sometimes not realising this is all part of the child's development into independence. We send our tiny little uniformed 5 year old to school, to spend the day with people we have never even met. We teach them to dress themselves, to put on their own shoes, to cross roads safely, to ride bikes, to fall in love (with someone that is not me?!) and eventually to drive (although this will be the job of my ever patient husband).

My current 'letting go' is on so many different levels with each son. Jonah is learning to put on his shoes and coat, and he goes off to playgroup to learn how to be confident without me there. Max is learning to cross roads and to organise himself without my hovering over him constantly (this is more of a challenge). Toby is 'playing out' with his friends. We do not always know where he is or what he is doing. He is safe within the strict boundaries we have given him, but he has to make decisions for himself and hopefully lean on the values and foundations that have been put into his life so far. What needs to be remembered throughout it all is that whilst I may let go of them, they need to be pointed towards their God who will not. I do not expect them to manage 'life' on their own. I do not expect them to be truly independent. We need to teach them to lean on God, who will not leave them. Our job as parents is not to simply relinquish responsibility and leave them hanging, it is to attach them to the strong rope who is their Father in Heaven. When this happens, whilst it will probably be painful, I hope that I will also find immense satisfaction, having completed by primary responsibility as a Mother.

I love this poem, by Evangeline Paterson, about the mixed up feelings of being a Mother:

A Wish for my Children

On this doorstep I stand,
year after year,
to watch you going

and think: May you not
skin you knees. May you
not catch your fingers
in car doors. May
your hearts not break.

May tide and weather
wait for your coming

and may you grow strong
to break
all webs of my weaving.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Tweenage Phenomenon

Unbeknown to me, two Americanisms have quietly crept into my title today. The first being the word 'phenomenon'. Is it just me, or does everyone else have to say it with an American accent too?

The second is far more complex in nature. The mystery of the 'tweenager'. Having never been a tweenager (they did not exist when I was younger, we were just normal children), it has arrived in our household as a surprising puzzle for us to figure out. ("Figure" also has to be said with an American accent, as in "Action Figyurs".) The tweenager is apparently aged between 9 and 12 and is not a child (the jury is still out on that one) and not a teenager (definitely not). As far as I can tell, the idea is an American one, born out of over-sentimental films such as High School Musical which encourage children to grow up sooner than they need and small girls to wear make up and raunchy clothing. (Can you feel another blog coming on?!)

Nevertheless, we suddenly have a 9 year old boy who slams doors, plays loud music (if JLS can be included within the remit of 'music'), envelops the house in clouds of Lynx and wants every gadget under the sun. He wants more freedom, he wants to go bed later and he expects us to follow his wishes. Like a toddler, he is learning how to be independent from us and pushing the boundaries constantly.

It may come as a surprise to you, but I have never been a 9 year old boy. I do not know how they think and view the world. Somehow we have to navigate Toby through this time of growth (for that is what it is) and still maintain our authority. He is not a teenager, but he would like to be. He is not old enough to do, say and watch the things that teenagers do, say and watch. However, he is also not a small child anymore and we need to treat him differently to the way we treat Max aged 6 and Jonah aged 3. We have to give him a measure of independence whilst making sure that he is within our realms of safety. Is it a fragile line to tread.

The other strange occurence that has accompanied this 'tweenagedom' is that Max and Jonah join in with this shift in the family. At 3 years old, Jonah prefers CBBC's Sarah Jane Adventures (Toby would NEVER have been allowed to watch that at 3, or even 6!) to anything that is on Cbeebies and sings the JLS songs word perfectly.

Perhaps after having 9 years of tweenage boys, they will not be such a mystery to us. We might even be able to put aside the cheesy High School Musical American images and actually enjoy these years!