Monday, June 22, 2009

On Parenting

Oddly enough, I've had parenting on my mind for the last little while. It really started a few weeks ago when a friend asked Niels and I if it was hard for us to get on the same page regarding our parenting style. It really hasn't been. We've been very fortunate in our marriage, I think, in that we are so like-minded. Really, there's only one issue that we have different views on, and that won't come up for another 15 years or so. I think we have some time to work that one out!

As fearful as I had been about parenting with a head injury, it's been very gratifying and encouraging to be complimented on our parenting style and unity by our doctor and others. I wish I had more energy for Daniel, and I'm sure I'll rue that more once Daniel becomes mobile, but I know he is loved as much as a little guy can be. I don't know that we'll have another child, so even when I'm exhausted or battling an epic headache, I treasure every moment I have with our precious son.

Yesterday's sermon at church was very inspiring for Niels and I. The topic was parenting and it got us talking more about our goals for raising Daniel. Here are some of our thoughts...

Parenting Theme Verse:
And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ--I Corinthians 11:1 (New Living Version)

1. Authenticity
There's an old song by Philips, Craig and Dean called, "Lord, I Want to be Just Like You." The line that challenges us as parents is, "Lord, I want to be just like you, 'cause he wants to be just like me." For better or worse, Daniel is going to learn how to live his life by watching how we live ours. Already, we are becoming more aware of how the things we say or do or watch might affect or influence Daniel. And even more he can really respond or interact with us, he hears us pray together, with him and for him. We want him to see our faith as he learns about our faith.

2. Experiences
I was reading an article in Real Simple magazine a few days ago, and our pastor said the exact same thing: buy experiences, not things. I was struck by the phrase when I first read it, because it sums up our financial priorities pretty well. As Niels and I talk about our budget, we focus on these things: giving, living, saving, going. Giving to our church and supporting missionaries around the world. Living expenses that keep us housed and clothed and healthy. Saving for retirement, major expenses, and even Daniel's education. And then going. Travel is a big portion of our budget because we want Daniel to know his family and the world. When the closest relatives are over 1,000 miles away, it takes a budget priority to make that happen. The sermon yesterday made me think about this some more. Specifically, how can we provide more "local" experiences for Daniel. I tend to gravite to extremes: hermit or world traveler. I venture out more when Niels is home, but, especially as Daniel gets older, I want us to ask each month, "Who can we serve this month?" Daniel can help me make cookies or dinner for a new mom, or make a card for family and friends. When he's older, we'd like to take him on a mission trip, whether serving Canton or somewhere a little further away. We want him to see himself as a world citizen, which means there is a world to serve.

3. Generosity
This kind of goes along with our idea of experience. My stepdad, John, taught me about saving when I was in high school. After I got my first job, he helped me open a savings account. Each time I got paid, I put 50% in savings, and could use the rest on whatever I wanted. We opened a savings account for Daniel when he was a month old. Until he's old enough to understand money, we put any monetary gift he receives into the savings account. When he's a older--before he's earning his own money--we will teach him to give 10% away, spend 10%, and save 80%. Give 10% to the church, or to buy a gift for a friend, or to help someone in need. Spent 10% on something fun for himself. And save 80% because we are providing most of his needs. When he starts his job, we'll teach him to give 10%, save 50% and spend 40%. Niels and I both paid for our own educations (and wedding), so we expect Daniel to cover a good portion of his, as well.

One way we hope to teach generosity is through our giving. In addition to supporting missionaries, we also sponsor a child, Yuliana, through Compassion. Yuliana lives in Indonesia and was born on our anniversary). When Daniel is old enough to understand, we'll have him pick out a child born on his birthday. He can get a child the same age as him and we think it will be a good way of instilling gratitude for what he has been given.

Another tradition we want to start with him is to have him pick out a gift for someone else at Christmas time. One of the churches I used to attend would collect the gender, age and interests of different children in need around the community. One year a bought a gift for a 8-year-old boy who was a Packer fan. I think it's World Vision that sends out a catalog around Christmastime, and you can buy a family a goat or a chicken or something else that will drastically change a family's economic outlook. We think it's important that Daniel learns that December is not about getting gifts (for his birthday and Christmas), as much as it is about giving generously out of gratitude. Of course, I hope we will think generously all year, asking ourselves as a family, "Who can we help this month?"

4. Prayer
Prayer is already part of our daily routine with Daniel. At night, we sing a song we made up for him, a Dutch lullaby, a blessing my Gramma made up and say a prayer. We speak for Daniel and thank God for everything from his paci to clean diapers. During the day, when he fusses, I pray with him. Most recently our prayers have revolved around sleep and digestive issues. We want to model for him that he can talk to God about anything and everything, and it's okay to ask for help. We have a little picture book that we are filling with pictures of friends and family and we will use that to help him learn to pray for others.

5. Partner
Since Niels and I both spent most of our singles lives far from family, we recognize the need for a "family of friends" to partner with us as we go through life. When we named Daniel, we chose two men that we respect and hope will be role models to him as he grows up. Some friends of ours did a little ceremony when their son turned 10 that I think we would like to follow. For their son's birthday, they invited adults they respected and had a celebration of their child's entry into adolescence. Each guest wrote a little something for the boy to encourage him on the passage. I don't know if we'll do this at 10 or 13, but we love the idea of inviting others to partner with us to teaching our son what it means to be a man. Our pastor gave a similar example of a celebration when adult men each spoke to the boy on topics: life, career, women, family, finances, etc. Another idea would be a guys-only camping trip with Niels and some of his friends where Daniel can be around godly men who can model good living to him.

As I'm typing this, Daniel is deep asleep, recovering from his six-month shots. He's such a sweet boy and we are so blessed to have him. With all the challenges of the miscarriages and difficult pregnancy and delivery, we cherish him so much. I'm so happy I am able to stay home with him. Even when the days seem long, it's easy to remember that this season is just a blip of his life and I don't want to take any of it for granted.

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