Posted by: minnow | December 10, 2008

What’s a Mother to Do?

What’s a Mother to Do?

When my children were toddlers I knew how to help them fight their battles. At one point we had four under the age of eight and home schooled. Our little hub was pretty much it. Like New York, if you could make it there you could make it anywhere. (Okay, maybe not but I couldn’t resist). A couple rules really helped out. One was: “if you can’t share you don’t get to play with it.” The other was: “When someone tells you they are sorry you need to tell them either: “I forgive you” or “You’re forgiven”. The option existed because we did not want to teach our children to say things they did not mean but they could always confirm that the other person was indeed forgiven by the One who can truly forgive us.

One time my oldest two were squabbling all morning and I had had enough. I separated them for the rest of the day. If one was in the kitchen the other couldn’t be. If one was outside the other had to stay in. The only exceptions were lunch, dinner, and bed and then they were to remain silent. They were miserable. After that one day I only needed to threaten to separate them again and they immediately got along.

Battles with the outside world seemed as easily solved, probably because our little Church community at the time consisted of like-minded mothers many of whom also home schooled. If the conflict could not be quickly resolved an offer to help me bake usually served as a distraction and the next invitation by their friends to play ball rendered the problem forgotten.

Today my children face bigger giants, more complicated problems, conflicts without chocolate chip cookie resolutions. They meet the real world with real world issues much earlier then I ever did. Classmates commit suicide. Friends’ parents are sent to Iraq. They carry groceries from the foodbank to a car serving as a family’s home. And they know, we are just one illness, one accident away from a similar fate.

My children are older then I was at their age. Yet, their hearts are broken and their minds are confused by the same relational problems most of us went through as teens and twenty-somethings (and some keep going through as thirty and forty-somethings). I can not kiss their owies and make them go away any more. My tool box of quick fixes is empty. Even my three year old is beginning to look at me funny when the band-aid promise does not make her scraped knee stop hurting.

So what’s a Mother to do when she can no longer protect her children? What recourse do I have when a careless friend or romantic interest wounds my grown child’s heart? I would like to give them a piece of my mind, punch somebody in the nose, tell these heartless snotty-nosed brats that they are really missing something by not valuing my children the way they deserve to be valued. I would like to take them over my knee. But that would be pretty impossible and look rather silly even if it were. Besides, such a response does not really solve my child’s problem anymore then violence and hate solve the world’s problems.

If retaliation, punishment, or rejection is my first response how can I blame anyone else for feeling the same way? The good news is, I do not have to give in to my initial reaction. When my ire is pricked I do not have to say or do the first thing that comes to my mind even if it is a “brilliant” retort. I have raised (am raising) my children to understand that they have choices. Even when they face cruelty in the form of hate, injustice, or prejudice they can choose differently. They can respond to any aspect of cruelty (ugliness) with an opposite spirit–tolerance for hate, compassion for prejudice, truth for injustice.

At a personal level these responses might be more difficult for us to make. We always seem to be better at looking outside ourselves then in the mirror. But, they are no less important. In the long run (which again is always harder to see) if we are able to take what hurts us and process the pain with the goal of learning, growing, and loving we will be the better for it. Our relationships will be more sincere. Our understanding of ourselves will be more balanced. And, our walk with God will be more intimate.

I believe this because my life has born witness to its truth. I can not at the moment back it up with a bunch of scripture. I can not produce a parade of expert witnesses. But I know in my heart of hearts that my God is a god of love that love, covers a multitude of sin and that I am covered.



  1. that was beautiful minnow. very clearly I have a lot of growth needed in this area. I get fired up when somebody even looks at Raymond wrong. if he’s waving at you or talking to you — you better wave/talk back and be smily about it 🙂

    The first time (this past summer) a little brat was being mean to him, it was the first time I really experienced anger & boiling blood for another person’s sake. I was rude right back to that little boy and used my size to intimidate him to back down from Raymond. I told him I was going to go get his mommy if he didn’t back out of the way — even in the moment I thought to myself – wow I am still a tattle tale & child at age 25. How embarassing of me — to act like a 3 year old right along with them. but I’m still in protection mode – I want to protect Raymond that people might not actually love on him and think he’s the best like me. this parenting stuff is so hard 🙂

    but I also know that there are some memories of my past where my mom stuck up for me — and they were some of the moments of my childhood when I felt loved & protected the most. so I’m torn. I get what you’re saying here totally — but a part of me, since this is the way I was raised – will want to teach Raymond to hit back. I know that this will open a can of worms – but I am still having issues with Jesus being a pacifist. I don’t totally agree with that completely. not how we think of pacifists. I am not a fan of Ghandi or his followers.

    anyway — whether we disagree or not — I definitely get what you’re saying here and empathize with these struggles. I’m just starting out on this journey, in more ways than one — but I know I have made a lot of mistakes parenting already. I have a long way to go.

    really thought this post was beautiful. u have a beautiful heart 🙂

  2. Hi Minnow–

    was looking through blogs today and read your post. i’ve struggled with this too, as a teacher. it’s hard to teach angry fourth graders that maybe there is a different way–a third way, the way of Jesus, when all they want to do is hit each other and say cruel things. i can’t protect them from each other, and i can’t say that i blame them when they stare at me with horror when i tell them that peace works. but i’m trying, and i have Jesus as an example–

    this is primarily in response to randi– i think Jesus was very much a non-violent ‘pacifist.’ if we have distorted ideas about what comes with that title, it is we who are mistaken. Jesus was not ‘passive’ and i think the root word similarities make pacifism a hard word to use. it implies passive resistance and it certainly is not. jesus used active peace instead of violence and that included healing his captor’s ear and decrying the use of the sword. it included dying on the cross. jesus didn’t do those things passively–they were active choices to love and do justice. telling us to turn the other cheek was neither passive nor violent–by refusing to retaliate and instead offering the other cheek, the responsibility for saying ‘no more’ falls on your enemy. in the jewish culture, turning the other cheek required a back handed slap–a complete denial of one’s humanity and a huge insult. it’s a way, then, to force them to choose violence again, or to withdraw…

    as for not being a fan of Gandhi, i’m confused. peaceful resistance towards an oppressor has done more in this world than violence ever could. the little girls and boys that i teach never grow up wanting to be General Schwarzkopf or admiring war-mongering dictators–they grow up wanting to be like Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr and Mother Teresa. they grow up desperately wanting to know who it was that had the audacity to stand before the tanks in Tiannamen Square. my students want to live in life-changing ways. they want to see the humanity and the image of God in each other. pacifists–active peace seekers daring to change the world, standing in front of one tank at a time, willing to lay down our lives at the hands of our oppressors–or, and i think this is crucial–our neighbor’s oppressor–that’s what we should be.

    just two cents on pacifism–i could write all day. minnow thanks for walking in this time that God has for you. important questions and thoughts you are looking at.

  3. Hey! 🙂 Just wanted to let you know I read reharris and I will definitely think and respond eventually. Thanks for including me in the conversation.

    I agree with what you’re saying as he was active. Every other philosophy/teachings people follow that claim to be pacifists were very much passive — a live and let live mentality. but Jesus wasn’t passive like that. Like you said, He wanted to actively involve Himself and the Truth into people’s lives.

    I guess I’m responding right now because these words are coming out haha. I was going to wait but I’ll try to figure out what I believe now….

    I do believe Jesus was the prince of peace….. but I don’t believe that meant earthly peace as we know it…. Peace on earth, good will toward men… to me wasn’t that men would all have peace toward each other…. but that the Savior had come for eternal peace between God & us. Throughout the new testament – it does talk of battles, war, and nation going against nation. I don’t think Jesus came to stop that. He was far above anything we can see. satan does rule this world and because of it – there will be evil. if christian men and women had not fought throughout our history – very few christians would be here if any and Jesus would have returned already.

    but I’m just a baby in all this – I don’t know. maybe there’s a big difference between individual vs. corporate pacificism/fighting??? I don’t know….

    on an individual level — does his teaching call us to turn the other cheek – yes I believe that. but we are commanded to hate evil…. and Jesus himself told us that He didn’t come to bring peace but a sword. Was He talking literal – no – He didn’t carry swords – well the Bible never says He did – maybe He did but I doubt it – but all his disciples did.

    ultimately – I think the context needs to be looked at in the whole context of the Bible and I’m not sold that if we are under attack – we are not to defend. again corporate vs. individual – I don’t know…..

    In ecclesiates & revelation it’s clear there will be fighting. a time for war, peace, time to tear down, time to build…. nation will rise against nation. and Jesus himself said the kingdom has been ‘forcefully’ advancing. Jesus wasn’t afraid to stand up to others. He wasn’t loving/peaceful to the pharisees. He was quite bold.

    It may all seem contradictory on the surface – but when looked at along with all other verses & scripture and in different situations – it’s just showing many forms of our God right? ultimately God is not only Jesus form — so maybe what I’m saying is God isn’t a pacifist. and ultimately I don’t think we can label Jesus as one way or the other either — not as we know pacifists. He’s really beyond my comprehension. I don’t think that He has many “rules” for us — I think ultimately – the goal is to follow God – and that comes in many different forms to many different people at many different times. Jesus was the perfect example of following God’s will for your life. and when He comes back to fight satan — I pray He won’t be passive and will kick His but like the Bible says He will.

    ultimately there will not be lasting peace on this earth until Jesus returned. Jesus & satan very much are at war.

  4. BUT honestly I just wanted to add…. I don’t ‘know’ either way. I’m just throwing some stuff out there. I don’t know what I believe 100% or even 75% in this area (many areas). I’m pretty new to all these opposing/different viewpoints.

    and as far as gandhi…. I never did answer that…. Honestly, I don’t know that much about him. I guess I just have issues with him – beause of my own personal experience with his followers making him an idol. Making him their leader – rather than Jesus and God alone being their leader & savior. and teaching on his teachings and nothign else in the Bible. I just stopped reading about him because I’m too young in my faith to listen to somebody preach the sermon on the mount but only the sermon on the mount and no other context from the Bible as a whole. I really stopped reading his teachings and even stories about him — and really try to read only from the Bible when looking for answers to explore God and Jesus and their teachings. though when I started reading blogs — that also was a way for me to explore and hear different sides/perspectives and then go back to the Bible to figure out what I believe.

    I have heard many of his quotes that I agree with — but I guess what I was saying – incorrect or not – was that *I* am just not a fan because of my own issues. many of his followers had been lead a stray. I am not even sure he believes Jesus was a real man. but I take the Bible literally. I really do believe Jesus came to this earth and was born of a virgin. and from what I know – Gandhi never taught anything about Jesus’ life or the reality of Him being God on earth — but just took the sermon on the mount – one of his teaching and tried to apply it to all situations/people with no other lessons/teachings/truth. from what was taught to me — he didn’t even believe that Jesus came for our salvation. He believed that salvation could be earned by works and that Jesus plan of redemption wasn’t for the whole world – but his followers only. and that there are “work arounds” for others. i believe he was such an extreme pacifist as we would define it – that he rejected all other verses from our Bible – old or new testament that were in any way violent.

    so does he have some ideas right in my mind? yes some. but will I try to read more about his teachings him. no. I am not a fan of him… so that was basically what I was saying in my first comment. that I wasn’t a fan and when he’s used as an example/standard….. I sort of cringe because to *me* he’s just not representative of somebody/thing I’d want to follow….

    thanks you all for listening !:) i really do apprecaite the converstaion and being able to ramble hehe

    anyway — please have mercy for my ignorance and my willingness to present what I think to be true though there’s some vulnerabilty here because I really don’t know…..

  5. Randi–I so get the defending my child even against little 3 year olds. My two oldest were only 18 months apart. The first was a mile a minute energy from the time he woke up to the time he fell a sleep on the way to bed. The second was so laid back and smiley and easy go lucky I often wondered how the two could have come from the same parents. Needless to say their personality differences sometimes caused conflict even though they were best buds most of the time. Both were my children. I watched other parents automatically defend their younger child against the older one and swore I would not make that mistake. (My observation allowed me to see the younger one creating the conflict that the older one often got blamed for). This experience helped me to see my children for who they really were–good and bad. It has also helped me to help them look honestly at their own behavior knowing that my love is not easily rebuffed and their Father’s love is unconditional. I’m saying all that only to say this: helping our children own their imperfections and face their mistakes is sometimes easier when we are refereeing between two of our own. But, while God has blessed me with some pretty amazing, talented, compassionate, fun…children to shepherd, I am becoming more and more aware that they are no more (or less but that’s not the hard part to see) important to Him then the starving children in Africa or the child sex-slaves in Asia or the neglected, abused, lonely, and lost children who may be my neighbors. As their shepherd my “job” is to help my children live in that tension–we are fearfully and wonderfully made, loved beyond our ability to duplicate but no more so then our enemies.
    Your comments have given me a lot to think about. I may need to write a Part 2 post.
    reharris–What a beautiful goal! “the little girls and boys that i teach never grow up wanting to be General Schwarzkopf or admiring war-mongering dictators–they grow up wanting to be like Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr and Mother Teresa. they grow up desperately wanting to know who it was that had the audacity to stand before the tanks in Tiannamen Square. my students want to live in life-changing ways. they want to see the humanity and the image of God in each other. pacifists–active peace seekers daring to change the world, standing in front of one tank at a time, willing to lay down our lives at the hands of our oppressors–or, and i think this is crucial–our neighbor’s oppressor–that’s what we should be.” The key is teaching them (ourselves) to begin with the relationships most at risk for causing conflict in their (our) own lives. I cannot hope to change the world through pacifist methodology if I cannot first change myself through self-control/discipline that produces forgiveness, mercy, and peace.
    Randi–I wrote this comment before I read your last comment. I do not know much about Gandhi myself. I think he understood some things better then I understand them and I can learn from that. I see no need to be a “fan” of any man (or woman) if inherent in the concept of being a fan is also being blind to the parts that might not line up with the truth.

  6. yeah about gandhi, I said I am pretty sure it’s my *own* issue with him because of past conversations. I understand that none of us are perfect but like many have bad tastes about different denominations — I just have a bad taste about him/his teachings – so because of my own sin, I sort of reject anything he says or stood for. It’s my own issue I know. I recognize he probably was a great leader & teacher to me…. but I just have issues…… I understand it’s my own deal and that my heart is just closed/hardened to him or his teachings.

    when you said, “The key is teaching them (ourselves) to begin with the relationships most at risk for causing conflict in their (our) own lives. I cannot hope to change the world through pacifist methodology if I cannot first change myself through self-control/discipline that produces forgiveness, mercy, and peace.”

    I loved that. change always happens from the inside out…. and from the bottom up. everybody tries to convince us of the opposite but it’s not true. The spirit always works from little seeds inside.. to transform out… and those little seeds in the bottom of society/people/groups up…. from individual levels up….. the world teaches opposite.


  7. I meant… I recognize he probably was a great leader & teacher to “many” not “me”

    sorry 🙂

  8. I think it is amazing. I mean WOW! It truly is a hard thing for us to stop thinking about how we could get back at someone but instead try to forgive and help them out. I have been realizing lately that pity parties are much easer than looking beyond yourself to the other person. That is what I think Jesus was and is all about (Forgiveness!). It really is a hard thing and I really have a lot of work to do.

  9. p.s. — minnow did you ever make your kids say they were sorry? i’m battling that right now as I type actually. wanted some thoughts. raymond is in time out for hitting. usually when i go in there he says, “sorry” — but he’s not this time and i don’t know what to do…..

  10. Best Guess–Randi–He thinks his hitting was justified and needs his feeling confirmed even if his choice of response was inappropriate. I did the same thing you did–time out to think about what happened and why. I know 3 year olds aren’t always as articulate but you can probably find out from what he is able to say what he was feeling–closed in on, frustrated, unheard, out of control. I think we are almost always able to regret our bad behavior if we are told a better way to deal with the emotion that fed the behavior. Didn’t they tell you–moms need to have masters in psychology–HA!

  11. Hi Randi–

    I totally understand where you are coming from and your heart on this. I’m no expert either! Thanks for being part of the conversation.

    I will say, I get what you mean about Gandhi. People idolize him and worship him as a god sometimes. ick. But I do admire what he wanted to do and how he chose to do that–but I know that he’s not a model for me, but a sort of encouragement that it’s possible to live your heart for peace… I just skimmed, but wanted to at least respond to that.

    Love it! Thanks.

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