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Friday, February 09, 2007

Parental Guidance

I’ve been writing about discernment again, so I’m thinking a lot about how we know what God wants us to do. This always makes me more conscious of my own practice. I want to take time, listen inwardly, test what I’m hearing. I remember an older Quaker man who people said paused to discern before he did anything. Unfortunately this is hard to do when I’m faced with rapid fire choices from my preteen daughter: “Mom, can I have Heelies? I could use my own money.” “Mom, can I see Dreamgirls? All my friends have seen it and they say it’s only PG-13 because of one curse word.” “Mom, can we rent 13 Going on 30? Pleeeease!”

My daughter is 10 going on 13, and the “All my friends can” refrain is becoming more common. Instead of stopping and discerning the answer to each and every question, I generally just give a pat, “No,” or “We’ll see,” or “I’ll have to watch it first” response. This is partly a defensive stance against the onslaught of popular culture, though there is a little bit of the Quaker idea that you don’t act until you’re clear. Still, I feel I need to figure out some clear guideposts as we move into a new phase of parenting, one where I have less control over what my children are exposed to.

When I’m at my best, I avoid getting annoyed, though that was not the case this morning when Megan asked for $60 Heelies (again) while I was drying my hair at 5 to 8. But the other night we did reach a little clarity at the dinner table. After a few queries, we uncovered the root issue for Megan: she feels left out when all her friends are talking about things she’s shut out of. This gives me more compassion for her, but doesn’t necessarily tell me exactly where to draw the lines. I remember when Luke was in nursery school, his best friends were really into the Batman cartoons (the new more violent and scary ones, not the hokey old Adam West ones I grew up on). I didn’t want to let my three-year-old watch them but recognized his sadness at feeling left out. I decided to check one Batman tape out of the library, preview it, and select a part that would be suitable for him to watch. I felt like a great mother—until after Quaker meeting on Sunday when I found Luke had built a “Batmobile” out of the little chairs in the First Day School room and was teaching the glories of Batman to some kids who went to the Waldorf school, where they’re not supposed to watch any TV or videos.

My newest idea is to write queries (questions Quakers use to aid in discernment) to help me distill how God is guiding me to guide them. The first one that comes to mine is: What is my daughter’s greatest (or deepest?) need at this moment? If others have queries to share, they’d be most welcome.


Blogger anj said...

I often use that one in parenting, and I often use queries for my children too. I have them write me a paragraph on a query we/or I have come up with. I have find it useful to say "I need to think/sit with/pray about this, and I would appreciate it if you would too, and then we will get back together and talk." I don't always have that ready answer, and I am finding that is okay. In fact, I think it is good modeling for the young souls in my care.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Anj and Eileen -

I just love these ideas, and I hope I remember to draw on them when the kids in the worship group ask for things, or when my niece tries to pull one over on me!

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

12:24 PM  
Blogger Lone Star Ma said...

I really like the idea of coming up with queries at those moments.

Eileen, your blog won't load on my out-dated computer anymore so I am stealing a library moment to read it. Miss your insights1

3:39 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks all. Lone Star Ma, I'm sorry to hear about the technical difficulty. Is that something that happened to your computer, or is it because I switched to the new blogger program? If so, I'm sorry to hear about it.

12:26 PM  

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