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Curious About Curiosity

This post is part of my 10-minute Tuesday collection. Today is Wednesday, I know, I know, but yesterday got away from me. So today’s prompt is the word “curiosity.” Written in 10 minutes, no big edits, just free flow writing. Here we go.

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Besides killing the cat, what else does curiosity do?

As a journalist for many years, I was expected to be curious about people. I was going to be writing their stories, after all. I found in that job that I wasn’t a very curious person. I like people, and I liked listening to their stories, but I wasn’t very good at asking questions.

Kids are instinctively curious. Spend some time around a 3-year-old, and you will figure that out pretty quickly. Why? Why do I have to go to bed? Why does the dog drink his water that way? Why does the cat lick herself? Why do I have to eat my peas?

And then it gets harder. Why do I have to learn algebra? I’m never going to need it in real life! haha I’ve heard that plenty of times.

Answering our kids questions to the best of our ability will help ensure that they maintain that curiosity throughout their lives. If they are shut down, they will stop asking questions. Can it get tiring? You bet. But a gentle answer about maybe how that question can be answered another time might help.

I’m a big tech fan. I love using my computer and my smart phone, my iPad and my Apple Watch. But I’m only slightly curious as to how they work, whereas I have a son who will take things apart to figure out how they work. I have another son who read copious amounts about nature and animals, and he is our go-to person when we have a question about a species or geography or things like that. I also have a daughter who is attuned to people and likes to know what makes them tick.

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Curiosity leads to creativity, it seems to me. Curious people say, “If we could put these things together in a certain way, I wonder what would happen.” Creating new recipes, or works of art, or works of literature, all these have an element of curiosity in them. I was recently part of a conversation about writing fiction, and one of the principles the authors agreed upon was that being a people watcher was important to building good characters in your writing. Being curious about what they’re like and what their stories are will help you create a believable world.

I have an 11-month-old grandson who is not yet talking, but we’re gearing up for the “why” stage. I hope that I am able to have all the patience I need to feed his curious nature so that his creativity can grow strong.

Oh, and the second part of that old saying I started with? Curiosity killed the cat? But satisfaction brought it back!

 

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Parenting By Osmosis

This post is part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. Today the prompt is “osmosis.” Let’s see what I can do with that.

IMG_0191My 11-month-old grandson is getting about by himself these days, so we’re having to be more vigilant in the hours that we take care of him. One of the things he loves to do is check on our parakeets in their cage. And by “checking” I mean banging repeatedly on the side and squealing when they move about.

I know that loud noises like that are not good for the birds, so I am constantly having to tell him to be gentle. But I know that just saying “gentle” isn’t going to get the point across since he doesn’t know what the word means. So I take his hand and put it softly on the side of the cage while saying, “Gentle, Zayne, you need to be gentle with the birdies.”

As soon as I remove my hand, bang! bang! bang! He’s at it again. So I need to move him from near the cage to some other activity.

LLIW+lRCRBSRCaKubl4MWQThe same goes with the cats. One of his favorite things to do is put his head down on their soft fur and stick his thumb in his mouth, using them as living pillows. Again, we say, “be gentle, Zayne,” but we also know that the cats have the ability to run away if they’re not happy with how they’re being treated.

I know, though, that I can’t just sit on the couch and tell Zayne to be gentle. He’s not going to get the idea simply through osmosis. His learning is going to have to be hands on training. So I sit with him and guide him, knowing that at just 11 months old, he’s not going to completely grasp the concepts I’m trying to teach him. It will take time.

But we can go through a lot of parenting that way. If we say it often enough, our kids will just get it. Somehow, their brains will be able to assimilate the information simply by hearing it over and over.

“Improve your attitude!”

What’s an attitude?

“You need to show more respect!”

What’s respect?

“Be more careful!”

What’s being careful?

I asked my 19-year-old the other day when we were playing with Zayne if he remembered everything he didn’t know when he was Zayne’s age. Obviously, the question was not serious, and his answer of, “Um, I don’t think that’s how it works,” acknowledged that, but the point remains. Unless we are training our children, they’re not just going to suddenly understand what we mean.

We see that every day with Zayne, and we need to understand that others in our world—and we ourselves—don’t simply learn by osmosis, but by hands-on, down-on-the-floor with them training.

After all, haven’t we always heard that actions speak louder than words?

 

Toddling Along

Today’s 10-Minute Tuesday post is on the prompt “Toddler”

xy+NaiZ5SBibbrRWXUJb0gToddlers have a bad reputation. They’re said to wear out their mothers, challenge anyone in their way, and be impossibly hard to keep up with. They’re just learning to explore their world, so they wreck havoc wherever they go.

I have an 8-month-old grandson who has just started pulling up on everything and is beginning to cruise from furniture piece to person’s leg to couch, figuring out where it is he can go next. And, maybe it’s because I’m Nana now, but I think it’s the best thing ever.

Babies need to explore their world. It’s what has to happen in order for them to figure things out. They need to face challenges, they need to overcome those challenges on their own, and they need to test their boundaries.

325xpAUERdKaBNwe257SpABecause I have my grandson 5 afternoons/evenings/nights a week, I get to help him navigate some of those challenges and learn to respect the boundaries. My 16-year-old daughter, who helps a lot with him, is fond of chanting “Choking hazard! Choking hazard!” if there is the slightest small thing that might end up in his mouth.

We are all aware of the dangers.

Before he even became mobile, we hauled the pool fence out of the attic, just in case someone should forget to latch a door and he would make his way to the pool deck. Having barriers and boundaries in place is wise, but cushioning his every tumble would just set him up to expect to never encounter a difficulty.

I keep him from pulling the cats’ tails while teaching him how to treat them nicely.

I keep a fence up around the pool, but take him swimming to allow him the joy of the water on a hot day.

I move games with small pieces while allowing him to touch and taste and explore those things that he does not yet know how to open.

IMG_0142Freedom within guidelines. This will help him grow and learn and develop in a safe environment without making him fearful that there’s danger around every corner.

God gives us guidelines as well, not to keep us from having fun, but to keep us safe while growing and learning and developing.

If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed (John 8:36), but do not use your freedom as an excuse to sin (Romans 6:15).

When I put up the pool fence for my grandson, it wasn’t so that I could say to him, “Ha! See that refreshing water? Looks fun, doesn’t it? Well, sorry! You can’t go in it!” No, that would be very mean of me. I put it up to keep him safe. He is a baby. He doesn’t know how to swim. If he were to wander into that water, he would drown. And that would be a tragedy for us all.

In the same way, God’s guidelines are not to keep us from having fun, but to actually give us a chance at abundant life.

We, like toddlers, want to move and explore and learn new things. It’s a joy to watch. But when we get close to those things that could hurt us, God is there to move us away. It’s the loving thing to do.

GZ9wojPiR+uwCUeIxWm7CAWe diligently watch Zayne whenever he is with us, because at this point, though he is not yet a toddler, he is crawling around as quickly as he can, seeing what there is to see and what he can explore (read “get into”) next.

I will never stop watching him, because I love him to the moon and back and want him to be safe while still desiring that he experience as much of his little world as he can.

The Evil Step-Mother Myth

IMG_0528In Disney’s lovely live-action remake of “Cinderella,” (reviewed here) viewers aren’t disappointed in the evilness of the stepmother and stepsisters. We expect villainy, and we receive it when Ella’s beloved father passes away and she is left in the care of a woman who has taken her disappointment and channeled it into hatred for a girl who only longed to call her “Mother.”

In this particular rendition, Ella is much more compassionate than the Cinderella figuresstepmother of the past. Though she is mistreated, she still acts kindly. She truly cannot understand why she would be so hated by this woman and asks questions to try to figure that out.

In real life, the evil stepmother, like the sharp-tongued mother-in-law, rarely exists. Most step-parents simply want to build relationships with the kids of their new partner and, though I have no statistics to back this up, I would surmise that a majority are successful.

Ella and stepmomI speak of that with which I have no personal experience. But I would guess that how a child responds to a parent’s new love would depend on the circumstances. Are they very young and lost a parent to death? Are they from a fractured home where one parent plays them against the other?

Are they teenagers in great need of the love and support of a missing parent? Have they been involved in the dating process of their father or mother?

So much depends on age and circumstance, that I don’t think there is any way to say that something works but something else doesn’t. I have a sweet friend who married an older man who was already a grandfather. She became not only an instant stepmom, but an instant grandmother as well. Her husband’s children and grands love her.

I have another friend, the one who suggested this topic in fact, who is about to embark Anastasia-and-Drisella-cinderella-2015-38263792-960-790on step-parenting a pre-teen girl. I can guarantee there will be challenges there, because there are challenges with parenting a pre-teen girl when you’re their biological parent.

Love covers a multitude of sins. Communication, unity between parents, and lots and lots of love covered in lots and lots of prayer will help any step-parent do the best that they can do.

Does it guarantee success? Well, since children have free will just like adults do, no. But you can be confident that if you walk with Jesus through the journey, your relationship with Him will bring greatly needed peace.

 

images from: imdb; youtube.com; usatoday; picture lights

A Grand Adventure or My Grandson?

horses by oceanThere will be no vacation for us this year. No foreign excursion. No Alaskan cruise. No bungalow on the beach. No mountain cabin by a crystalline lake.

Not that those things were very affordable in the past, but this year is different.

This year, David and I have committed to keeping our almost 6-month-old grandson for my son and his girlfriend when they are at work.kSlUPi%vRdWg+mZXzteP6Q

When we first learned of our grandbaby’s existence almost a year ago, the assumption was that they wouldn’t be able to keep him because they were very young, unmarried and would not be able to pull if off financially. They had thought it through, talked about it, and decided that adoption was the way to go.

And that’s what they told us when they finally got up the nerve to tell us about the baby.

But no, grace dove in and we were under it’s unrelenting power. If they wanted to keep this baby boy, we would do everything we could to help them, short of paying their bills. We would provide childcare—Nana Daycare we call it—and call upon our vast network IMG_9540 2of friends to help provide the necessities for setting up a home with a baby.

So this year we will take no vacation, but we will rest in knowing that God’s grace gave us this sweet gift instead.

You are the trip I did not take,

You are the pearls I could not buy

You are my blue Italian lake

You are my piece of foreign sky.

Anne Campbell

 

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. Join the fun!

 

Restore the Fathers

Jesus with childrenFather’s Day is just around the corner. How very appropriate and heartbreaking that the immigrant crisis—children being torn from the very breasts of their mothers—now center stage in our country should be garnering so much notice at this time.

My grandfather was an immigrant. Granted, his parents went through the arduous process of coming legally, but had they not been able to do that, if they had been fleeing a dangerous situation and needed refuge, I can’t even imagine what would have happened had my grandfather been taken away from them.

We lost our younger son at Sea World one time. It was only for a few minutes, but the terror that was in my heart during those few minutes has never been forgotten. Had anything happened to him, I would have been devastated. So to know that hundreds, no, thousands of parents are experiencing their children being taken away from them by authorities in a country they thought would be their refuge is completely unimaginable.

The law of the land, they say. It’s biblical to obey the governing authorities, they say.

How they can look themselves in the mirror or even sleep at night is beyond me.

Families belong together. There is no excuse. Maybe the parents have broken the law, but IMG_0654there are better ways to handle the situation. I’m not a fan of illegal immigration, but I am a fan of people. You can’t treat them like animals. They are not cattle or sheep to be separated for slaughter.

It’s Father’s Day on Sunday. While you’re celebrating your own father, or being a father, or fathers that you know, take time to pray for those fathers who have had their children forcibly removed from their care by the governing authority, that they would be restored to their children.

And weep for them, as I’m sure Jesus is doing even now.

“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” — Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 19:14)

This post is a part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link up. Come join in the fun!

 

image from vvsventujuparapija.lt

First Ask Why: A Book Review

Parenting books are plentiful, it’s true, and trying to fit your family into the mold of what others have done is impossible. So it’s refreshing to read a parenting book that gives you the freedom to be your own family while still suggesting principles that will help point your children to Jesus.

First Ask Why coverIn this her first book, Shelly Wildman encourages parents to engage in intentional discipleship, positioning your kids to follow Jesus as they grow in independence. By asking why we do the things we do, we’re taking a closer look at our efforts as a family.

The message that spoke the most to me was near the end. In a chapter titled “Strengthening our Ties,” Shelly confronts something that families these days don’t want to hear: We’re too busy.  She says, “Driven by today’s American culture, parents often believe that if their kids don’t play sports or aren’t involved in some other activity outside the home, then their lives won’t be successful. But that argument plays on parents’ fears and emotions. We can’t fear being a little countercultural when it comes to protecting time together as a family, because that time together makes us stronger.”

I confess to feeling that fear. College applications and having a resumé filled with accomplishments drive us to over scheduling our families so that we teeter on the very brink of burnout and exhaustion. What are our kids learning from this?

That performance matters. That who they are will forever be tied to the things that they do.

My 9th grade daughter is concerned by the fact that she doesn’t have any activities to add to her resumé. She’s in virtual school (meaning she does all her classes remotely on a computer), so obviously extra curricular activities are not as easy to engage in.

But more important to me than the status of her resumé is the status of her heart. Have we made an intentional effort over the 15 years of her life to point her to Jesus?

Prayer, service, cross-cultural experiences, family memories. All of these and more are areas in which Wildman encourages parents to disciple their kids. When asked what makes her book different from other parenting books, Wildman answers:

“So many parenting books are ‘how-to’ books. They seem to say, ‘Just follow these 10 steps first ask why memeand here’s what you’ll get in the end.’ But I don’t believe we can parent by formula. I think we have to look at our unique family and ask why.

“Why are we doing what we’re doing as a family?

“Why are we emphasizing these spiritual values? And are there others we should consider?

“Why are we even here as a family? What’s our purpose for being put together in this unique combination of individuals?

“Asking why gets to the heart of the matter; it exposes our motivations and desires for our family. Asking why leads to intentionality. And asking why helps give our children a sense of purpose as we lead them.”

First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship is available now for preorder on Amazon, CBD.com and Barnes and Noble.

Web_Shelly-2Shelly Wildman is a former writing instructor and author of the forthcoming book First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship (Kregel). Shelly holds degrees from Wheaton College (BA) and University of Illinois at Chicago (MA), but her most important life’s work has been raising her three adult daughters. She and her husband, Brian, have been married for 32 years and live in Wheaton, IL. Shelly speaks to women’s groups in the Chicago area and spends much of her free time mentoring young women. When she has time, she loves to cook, read, and travel.