Tuesday, 27 May 2014

What I should and shouldn't tell my husband

Yesterday my Mr. and I spent some amazing quality time talking deeply. I relished every second of it.

Today I thought about it some more - about the things I said to him. I shared my fears openly, things I have thought about, plans for the future and feelings of right now. I've had deep friendships before, but there has never been any other person I have felt able to be so completely open with, to lay everything bare in complete and utter trust.

[Aside: I don't refer to my husband as 'my best friend'. In my mind, that description falls so far short, it just doesn't come anywhere close to describing this relationship. A friend is something I share a bond with, I may love them, I may know them well; but my spouse and I are one in essence.]

I need to learn which layers
of the onion that is me
are helpful to share.
Anyway, after thinking about it today, I don't think everything I shared yesterday was a good idea to share with him. I'm still a novice at this marriage thing, so I have a lot to learn; and one thing I have yet to find good balance on is what I do and don't tell my husband.

He is, after all, only human - and no matter how open I am with him, he can't truly get into my mind to put in context what I'm saying. (oh for a Vulcan mind meld!) So when I told him, for example, that I didn't know what to do if I found our child's personality unloveable - that wasn't helpful. Yes, I've idly mused about it, but it's not a true worry for me. When I said it, however, I could see concern in his eyes and even as he tried to reassure me I knew I couldn't backpedal and take the words back, though I'd have liked to. He didn't need to hear this, it's not a true worry that occupies my mind, and now I fear I've planted a worry in him unnecessarily.

If I could have shown him my whole mind, with this particular thought in context, I would have done and he could have dismissed it for the fleeting, silly musing it was. But words skew things. Once I've articulated something it has been put out there and has become defined - even if before that, it was just a vague idea.

Johari Window
In short, I've got to remember that my Mr., though wonderful, is only human and the only person with whom I can truly share all the stuff is Jesus. That's because he has the context, as he knows my inmost thoughts (Ps. 139) - he knows what's big and what's small in my world and my words can't skew his perspective.

In the good old Johari window, God has the overall view, seeing things even I don't know. My Mr. knows what I tell him as well as lots of blind spots I'm sure to have, but he can't know what neither I nor others know, and there are parts of me in the 'hidden' frame that he doesn't need to know. And that is not about withholding part of who I am from him - as I say, all of me is his to know. It's only respecting that he is a fellow human being, with the same limitations as me, and the loving thing is to carefully weigh my words before dumping it all over him and leaving him with worries and burdens he needn't carry.

For myself, I need to cultivate the mental discipline to stay away from the unfruitful mental rabbit holes I can sometimes get stuck in (Mr. is great at not doing that!) but instead dwell much more on 'whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, excellent' (Phil. 4.8) in my own mind, and be a source of strength, joy and encouragement to my man.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Reminder: I'm not in charge of my life (phew!)

Been pondering some huge things lately. Like, who runs my life? And if it's not me, is that OK?

As a single person it's fairly easy to think it's me. Myself and I, we're good, we have plans. (and God laughs?); married, it gets a little more complicated because every decision affects us, not just me. Now, with a new person growing inside me, I'm definitely starting to lose the blinders and see that I'm not actually in charge of my life. And the relief is beautiful.

If I was in charge, I'd have to not only make the decisions but face the consequences as well. When I make most of my decisions, I have to do it without knowing 100% of all the facts and possible influencing factors... so a decision made to the best of my knowledge at the time may turn out to be horribly wrong.

Just little me again, looking puzzled.
Those are some lofty and nebulous ideas, so let's bring this home to make clear where I'm coming from with this...

I (emphatically) never wanted to have children. Then I met my Mr. and he wasn't put off by that! He was ambivalent about them; happy to have them if they came along, happy to live the rest of his life as a non-dad. I asked him once if he would feel as if he'd missed out on something if he found himself 70 years old and childless. He said no, not at all. This gave me enough peace of mind to marry the man - had he told me he wanted to start a family within the year, I'd have run a mile!

That said, however, I didn't marry Mr. with a firm intention to have no children. [I did know he'd been married before and there had been no kids; but, the reasons for that I didn't know. So there was a real possibility that we couldn't have any children, and we were both fine with that.] I went into this marriage trusting that God had designs for it, and if children were to be part of that, he would also provide everything we needed. So we never tried to avoid conception, and neither did we particularly try to conceive. We just got on with enjoying married life!

If I had tried to finally and firmly make up my mind, think everything through, and come to a decision as to whether or not I wanted children, I would have tied myself in knots and still not been certain by the time the menopause arrived. So, glad I'm not the one in charge of my life, I left it in God's capable hands.

And he orchestrated this beautifully! About a year after we met, we married; about a year after that, we are now expecting our first child. I couldn't have planned it better if I had tried.

I think our God has a very fine sense for irony.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Maybe love is all the point there is?

Following my rather rambling explorations last week I've had lots of time to reflect, think, and take in people's comments on Facebook. This issue of what's the ultimate point hasn't let me go. But I feel like I may have the beginnings of an answer. Or perhaps, all there is to the whole answer.

What if, at the end of the day, parenting is about love?

Roll your eyes all you want. Of course that's obvious. But it's deep, too - much deeper than trite greeting card wisdom and worn-out proverbial sayings.

As parents, we love because... love. Consider: perhaps to put a 'because' in there is blasphemy. We are to love.

'Becauses' reduce the love, because it becomes conditional. We don't love our children because they do well: they are not our projects to turn out well. Projects are worked on, not loved. We are to just love.

No conditions.

Perhaps this is why becoming a parent is such a spiritual experience for many. This is where we, sometimes suddenly, sometimes more gradually, experience the power of a love based on... love, and we begin to understand in our own small ways what God's love is like. We get a glimpse of God's very own heart, his very own emotions. Love based on... love himself.

I don't know why, and I can't put it into words yet, but I love this child I haven't even met yet.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The value of parenting

What's the value of parenting?

I have never valued childhood. I disliked being a child, being treated as a child, not being taken seriously. I couldn't wait to grow up. By age 12, I was my mother's best friend and confidante, I made my own decisions - among them, freeing our family from our father's presence by moving him out - and I thought independently. Ever since, I have viewed the years before 11 or so as wasted time. Time 'before I started really thinking'.

Little me.
I never had any patience for my sister's childishness. She was a child - she thought like one, acted like one, and fair enough, she's six years younger than me! I discounted her thoughts and opinions because she was 'just a kid'. She's the only child I had any dealings with, until very recently, and the way I dealt with her was pretty much to make her obey and keep her quiet.

It's not hard to guess where this disdain for childhood came from. As a child, I was powerless; adulthood meant independence and self-determination. I needed it as soon as possible!

Of course I know that God values children. 'Let the little ones come to Me'... but why? I ask, in all sincerity, what is the value of childhood? - Does it have any?

All creatures need time to grow up to maturity. I just never saw the value in the process, and perhaps I still fail to see it clearly. Children must gradually learn facts, social skills, behaviours until they reach adulthood. They are formed by their caregivers until they are mature enough to accept or reject that formation. And that is the rub of my issue.

If this is all that childhood is there for - what is the value of parenting? As a mother, do I expect to slave away for something between 14-18 years until that child is ready to make their own decisions, which may or may not have anything to do with what I tried to show and teach them? 

Personally I see my childhood as an isolated phase, it has no bearing on my life now. I tend to think that nothing my parents said or did formed me, except where I allow it to; my values, aims and views are completely different from theirs. Sure, what happened in my life as a child has shaped me, but none of that shaping is from their parenting efforts. My mother would have loved to see me embrace music and make a living from it, being independent from any man and touring the world. My father? I have no idea what he wanted for me. I don't think he did. But he certainly did nothing to make me value family and marriage.

The question I'm still wrestling with - the deep sense that has always meant I wasn't keen on motherhood - is this: why invest so much of myself, emotions, time, love, effort, into years of bringing up a child who may well end up keeping nothing of what I built into them?

Why should it be worth all that?