Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Vanishing Parent

Have you seen these talking toys they have nowadays? They’re supposedly really educational and intriguing to a toddler, although to a beleaguered parent they’re also the cause of many a headache. They say ABCs and 123s, they sing songs (over and over and over again), and they say things like, “Let’s play again!” and “Woohooo!”

Okay, so maybe now it’s pretty clear how much I like these toys, but I want to talk about something more important than whether I enjoy them or not. I have a legitimate, non-annoyance-related complaint.

(Although it is true that the voice box in my son’s toy trucks “mysteriously” stopped working after two weeks, and the one for his obnoxious talking ball is “lost.”)

For his first birthday, my son was given a toy which, frankly, baffles me. It’s a talking book. It has a voice box attached, so there’s only room for two pages, and it has a sensor that lets it know when they open, so it can read them out loud. Then there’s a neat little button to push when you want the hyperactive lady in the box to tell you about the pictures. “There are three cows! Can you count to three? One, two, three! Good job!” Okay, so … do you see anything weird about this scenario?

Is it just me, or was this toy invented simply to erase the parent from the picture? 

And if you look at all my son’s other talking toys, the same concept applies, if not so obviously. The toy talks to the child so that he feels as if he’s being interacted with, so that he hears language in practice, so that he’s introduced to concepts like colors and counting. Which could be (and undoubtedly often is) completely harmless.

But here’s a scenario which freaks me out less: when my husband and I sit down with our son and a set of wooden blocks which have letters, numbers, words and pictures on them, and point to pictures and say things like, “Look at this blue fish.” My son loves the word “bish” and he could have learned it from a recording, but he didn’t. He learned it from humans.

I worry about this phenomenon, the vanishing parent. I believe it’s rampant in our culture. Most children spend most of their time away from their parents, at school, in daycare, playing sports. In Sunday School.

Now, I don’t have a problem with working parents or public school. A single mother fighting to pay the bills has no choice but to leave her children with a sitter so that she can feed them. Marriage doesn’t necessarily secure a family against that trouble, either, and I’m by no means a homeschool evangelist. But how many mothers who have the possibility wide open to them to stay home and invest in their children are taking advantage of it? I for one think of it as a monumental blessing.

Let’s turn to Sunday School, since that’s the one that freaks me out the most. Sunday School is great. It’s a great opportunity for kids to be around other kids their age, to learn about God, and to have a great time. Here’s my problem. Of the kids in an average Sunday School class, what percent do you think also learn about God from their parents?

Have you watched any sitcoms lately? (I hope not, but I won’t hold it against you.) There was a time when sitcoms featured children making mistakes and learning lessons, and a critical part of that lesson usually came from their parents’ wisdom. Remember Boy Meets World? Cory’s parents were amazing! Nowadays, sitcom parents are learning as many life lessons as their children. Oftentimes, they’re painted as bumbling morons who don’t know anything about the modern world.

Now, their kids, they know what’s up. They know what’s going on because they haven’t been “out of it” for so long. They know that premarital sex is the new norm, that everyone sneaks out of the house, that there isn’t a real truth or a standard to which they can fairly be held. Those rules their parents want enforced? They’re just the stubborn remnants of a dead belief system, irrelevant to the real world.

Our society doesn’t just undervalue parents. It devalues them. It seeks to take our children from us and make them its own.

Parents: Don’t let yourselves be erased. Fight for your children!

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Life in 3D


Back in the beginning of December, I posted about cutting out the Face. I thought I would give you a little update about the effect that’s had on my life. There have been downsides, and I’ll just get those out of the way now.

Suck Number One

For one thing, the argument that I always used in favor of Face – it’s how I keep in touch with long-distance friends – was valid, in its way. I’m cut off from people who perhaps live in another state, or who I just don’t cross paths with often. But I’ve reminded myself that, honestly, if we were that close, our friendship would have withstood the end of my Facebook. I mean, if we’re not willing to put forth the effort to send an email or make a phone call in order to stay in touch, nothing against these people, but we’re obviously not BFFs, right?

Suck Number Two

The second (and last) downside: people looking at me like I’m crazy. Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t everyone. Actually, a person’s response to learning I don’t have Facebook is typically one of three. Many people are quite pleased. “You mean, there are humans under the age of eighty who function without Facebook? There is hope for humanity!” A few people have a guard up about it, as in “Well, that’s great for you. I still think Facebook is great, though. So don’t you try to evangelize me.” A handful of times, though, people have basically treated me as though I’ve come down with some debilitating illness. “Wait. You deleted your Facebook? You mean, you had one, and you deleted it? But … why? Well, why does it matter if it sucks away your whole day? But I won’t be able to look at your pictures anymore! But how do you talk to people? But – but – but -” I’m just waiting for someone to ask if I don’t have Facebook because I belong to a cult.

Now that we’ve got the lame out of the way, though, here’s some awesome.

Awesome Number One

I usually check my email in the morning. Not the moment I crawl out of bed, but not long after. And it used to be that “checking my mail” meant looking in my email account (which was empty save for junk mail) and then checking Face. I’d reply to messages, get ‘caught up’ on my news feed, look at pictures, leave comments, read linked articles, etc. An hour later (and sometimes more) I’d resurface with sore eyes and notice the kitchen needing cleaned. Of course, by then, my son would need his diaper changed, and I’d have to go to the bathroom, and of course I’d need breakfast. And after all that work, I’d figure it’d be time to check my Facebook again.

And then, one day, I just deleted the darn thing. After I checked my email, some sort of muscle memory in my fingers twitched to go see the Face, and then I remembered I didn’t have it. For a couple of days, it was uncomfortable, like the feeling after switching to a new pair of glasses. Then came the pleasantly disorienting sensation of not being attached to my computer. Which leads into …

Awesome Number Two

This one’s simple. There are twenty-four whole hours, every single day. And I just won two of them back, to do whatever I want. I can piddle them away with a movie (which I do, from time to time) or I can pray, or I can read, or I can write, or I can take my kid to the park. Heck yes!

Awesome Number Three

So, when I deleted my account, I assumed I would just have to deal with losing my cyber friends. These were people I’d met in real life (that’s a rule of mine) but who I primarily keep in contact with on Facebook. I collected emails and phone numbers before the Big Deletion, just in case, but felt pretty sure I wouldn’t be using them.

And then my friend Erika and I started emailing each other. I don’t remember who started it, but we have emailed back and forth several times. Without the Face connection, I had assumed I would miss any updates on the upcoming birth of her son. I wouldn’t learn his name (which they kept under wraps until his birth) or see any pictures. This refers back to Suck Number One, losing touch. But instead, Erika kept me up to speed when little Jonah was born, and when he had some health problems, I prayed for him. (He’s home and healthy now, praise God!)

Those emails, though maybe small gestures in themselves, verified that Erika and I have a genuine friendship. We care enough about each other to take the time to send a personal, private message, rather than just shooting off a sentence or two because we thought about it because we were already on Face. Maybe that’s not huge, but it’s reassuring. And Facebook couldn’t have done it for me.

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Dust

has settled in our home,
chafing our touch
and cutting the light;

and though it’s as certain
as the laundry and the bills
and the alarm in the dark –
still I know;

our love is gold dust,
bursting against the gray
in towers of freckled light;

glittering ephemera, but
it settles;

leaving flakes
bedded down,
which shimmer,

when the light is right.

June 2011
I love you, Allen.

***

Post script. Honest to goodness, I posted this in January and the Valentine’s Day thing is just a coinkydink. :D

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A Prayer For My Son

Thank You, Father, for my son.

Thank You for entrusting Your cherished child to my care.
Thank You for his providential personhood,
his distinction from me.
Let me never consider him the work of my hands,
but only ever the child of Your choosing.

I have been foolish:
impatient, selfish, weak-minded,
considered my calling a low one,
deemed myself worth more than the life You bestow.
I repent; I crave Your forgiveness.
Teach me joy in service,
grace in discipline,
wisdom in teaching.

Pour Your word into me,
that it might overflow into him.
I yearn to model You,
to provide a mirror that my son cannot deny,
to open the door to You.

Woo his heart, my Father,
as you’ve wooed mine.
Raise up, in my son, a warrior.

This prayer is modeled (kinda sorta) on the prayers found in The Valley of Vision, which I mention (primarily) in order to have the context to say: Go get this book. It’ll be worth your time and money.

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