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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Violence-Free Parenting: (NOT an oxymoron III) Emotions are Human and so are Hormones

“We hate children.” ~ My pastor as we were talking about the comments people were making on Facebook about punishment (not discipline)

“STOP Crying!”

“I’m going to give you something to cry about!”

My older son came in from school one day very angry and slamming doors. I was in the kitchen and heard the huffing and puffing and the slamming and rushed in to the living room. “What is WRONG with you!???” I demanded. “You better STOP slamming my doors, boy!” He looked me in my face and through his clenched teeth with a ferocity he said, “Mama, teenagers have bad days, too!” I softened my face and put my arms to my side. He was heaving. I didn’t really know what was going on and I had charged him without any concern for him, but for the door and for my own peace of mind. “You’re right son. You’re right.” We stood there and I waited for my words to soak in. He started sobbing. I reached for him and he came to me and let me hold him. He wasn’t ready to tell me what had happened. But he was ready to let me comfort him. When he calmed down, I said: “You’re right. We all have bad days. I”m sorry you’re having one. If you want to talk about it, let me know. But you can’t slam doors.” With that he went to his room with his own emotions, free to share them or not.

We reminded ourselves and our children that it’s okay to have emotions. We have tear ducts for a reason. We get disappointed, frustrated, angry. None of these emotions is sin. They are human. And my husband and I had to remember that preteens and teens have the added rush of hormones coursing through their young bodies, with changes rapidly happening that they neither understand nor could control. Add a menopausal woman to that mix and the interactions could be volatile. Unless. Unless we allow each other to be human. Unless we are kind and tenderhearted toward one another. Unless we refuse to keep a record of wrongs.

But expecting our children to “grin and bear it” when privileges are withdrawn, restrictions are imposed, or when we refuse a request is not fair. As adults, we don’t expect ourselves not to feel disappointment, grief, sadness, or anger. We learn to govern our emotions, not deny them.

This particular son had emotional outbursts often before this moment, or as he came to say, “anger issues.” I taught him a proverb (Proverbs 16:32) when he was very young. That text reads,” One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.” I told him that if he learned to manage his emotions it would make him a mighty man. It became our touchstone when he was out of control. And he disciplined himself with it even now. But my discipline that day was to re-train myself as to how to react to human BEING. He needed to emote. He didn’t need to slam the door. But if I had focused only on that door, I would have unnecessarily provoked more frustration and anger. Instead I nurtured him and made space for him to bring his full self into that room. I admonished him not to destroy anything in the process (thus the “don’t slam doors”). Both were warranted.

We were NOT perfect parents. We prayed often and repented as much. We didn’t get it right all the time. But I had a delightful conversation with my now 32-year-old son about parenting: mine, his dad’s, his… And the fact that we managed to live into our commitment to violence-free parenting. He said the whippings he can count on ONE hand (without using all the fingers) he absolutely deserved. I argued that he did not; that we could have found other ways for consequences to be in play. But to hear him talk about discipline (not punishment) and the fact that he NEVER (his word) felt we were being punitive in any correction he received blessed me beyond measure.

We were committed to treating our children with respect and dignity. After reading all the horrific comments on Facebook and twitter advocating for brutal and violent parenting euphemized as “spanking,” I had to reflect on key moments rearing my children. I’ll keep posting about it until I’m done. I will post some Epic Fails as well. But I start here. Because I can’t believe how cruel we are to our own children–in the name of love.

I Pray for you: the BEST way I love you

Ruth Forman: “I Wear Prayers Like Shoes…”

I post these words, ever so often, on my Facebook page:  “I love you. I REALLY do love you. VERY MUCH. And I take you with me into my prayer place to offer you before the God of grace and love. It is the BEST way I love you. I hope you receive it as the gift it is–from my great big heart. Love is my calling card, and I pray to breathe.”

Ruth Forman speaks of prayer as shoes that steady her for the day’s journey. For me, it is my very breath, the cloak of life that sustains me. Prayer is not a cop-out, an easy fix. It is an act of love so I may garner my strength and resolve to act. I wrote the poem below 10 years ago:

When I Don’t Know What to Do, I Pray for You

When I don’t know what to do, I pray for you,
A voice ascending to a distant and present throne,
The sound of a crone professing faith in you
And the divine impress imprinted on your soul

You cry into the hollow of my hands,
Confess your night terrors
And the times your mother caressed your manhood
Like a woman in need

You tell me how confusing it all was
And that the first time, you sneaked into the liquor
Searching for the elixir that would guarantee
You would forget—
You never did

And, though you loved her madly,
You could never look upon her breasts and be comforted
The way only a mother’s bosom can comfort a son
You explain to me the sacred math of reason,
How you went for seasons after women 20 years your age,
How you found yourself wanting a mother,
And yielded to this Oedipal urge that drove you
All the while you abandoned her—your own Jocasta
Who troubled you with her demons

You cry into the hollow of my hands,
Lean a heavy burden on my shoulders,
Sigh your curses into my hair
When I don’t know what to say, I hold you
Gently against my body and pray for you,
A silent petition for the healing
Of that first and fractured bond
Between a mother and her son

You tell me how confusing it all was
And how you found a toke and dipped it
In formaldehyde and stroked yourself
To sleep, crying softly and whimpering “Mama”—
How she tried to take it back the second
That she touched you, begged you
To forgive her, told you she was sorry—and drunk

You shrunk from her pleading
And told her to go to hell
Your words break and swell
In telling me as you cry your pain
Into the hollow of my hands
And I pray for you and hold you
To keep you from drowning
In your own confusion

When I don’t know what to do, I pray for you,
A voice ascending
A silent petition
A holy struggle
To deliver you from the fires
That scorch you still

(c) Valerie Bridgeman [Davis],
2002, 18 September

Embodied Love

I grew up in the dichotomous religious world of “flesh vs. spirit,” the lamentable heritage of Pauline duality. I know–a mouth-full to say that New Testament texts beyond the gospels and Acts are full of the “fight” between the body us and the “real us” (meaning spirit us).  I don’t know when I started resisting this theological assertion. I always experienced the world so fully with my body as a child–climbing trees, hugging, my Gran Gran “scratching my head,” running. I knew LOVE only and because I loved my flesh that weeps that feels that sings that dances. Long before I knew what to call this split, I knew that it was wrong–especially in a religion that claimed Jesus came as divinity in the flesh–to condemn the body. Plus, there was nothing quite so holy as the wind on my face as I rode on the back of the motorcycle with my friends Darlene or Terry, holding tight and becoming connected to the wind and the warm body I held. Holy. Love. All the way. In this place, as Baby Suggs Holy preaches, we ARE flesh. And that’s a GOOD thing.