Monday, October 08, 2007

A Better Babysitter

I will admit that since becoming pregnant with Elspeth, my "mothering standards" have lowered quite a bit. Before, I had ridiculous standards. I was so legalistic. And while it was powered by a form of pride, it wasn't like I thought I was the perfect parent; but it was that I thought I should be. I want so much to end up with well adjusted and mature children, children who are ready for life and who feel good about themselves. And I think almost all parents are motivated to that end. (But some just make poor decisions.) I was going to be the person who really invested, who did my research, who asked all the questions, who always picked the best choice. Well, that is just crazy isn't it? First of all, I didn't know what questions to ask. And anyway, that all depends on who you ask doesn't it? (And how many children does that person have? And do those children still nap?)

There are some issues like homeschooling or breastfeeding that people just never will agree on. I mean, yes, breastfeeding is best, but just how far do we go? I have known of people doing the tube with pumped milk down the daddy's finger to avoid using formula or bottles at all while Mommy is temporarily out of commission for whatever reason. I completely support and admire that, but it is probably really only realistic for the first born, and certainly not for all parents. At what point do we just say, there's a bunch of other kids that need me, I can only spend so much time on breastfeeding? I don't know, really. I nursed Elspeth every two hours for seven months. I think that was a little ridiculous considering I had two other children who needed me. I put everyone else's life on hold while I nursed. On the other hand, everyone else was older and could help themselves to a degree and she needed help with everything. (Plus, she was an absolute pill all night long if she did not get to nurse when she needed to during the day.) I also have a friend who had such a hard time maintaining her milk supply with her first that while she expecting the second she just went ahead and made the decision to not even try nursing when new baby came. I think that was a great choice. I think her entire family benefited from that- everyone was spared a huge amount of stress! So it depends on who you ask. If you look at person number one, she clearly thinks nursing is important enough to bend over backwards for. Look at person number two and she thinks it is relative to what else is going on. But if you actually asked both of them, they might agree 100%. They might both say that nursing is really important, but you can only go so far before you just thank the Good Lord there is a great and nutritious alternative available. And we'd probably all agree that that alternative sure beat the old one. Can you imagine hiring someone else to nurse you baby? I can't bear to think of the heartache.

And the homeschooling thing is much the same. There are some people who think homeschooling is a black and white issue. These people are wrong. They just are. Homeschooling is great. But it isn't the only way. Again, everyone won't always agree. Even the nursing thing would be much easier to get a unanimous consensus on. I don't know if you know people like this. I have to say, everyone I know who homeschools is wonderfully generous. I have had a lot of conversations about it because I was so disappointed that it went so badly for me. But Amabel loves school. She says often that she wishes school lasted longer. Just call her Hermione! She loves homework when she gets home and she reads two or three books every day. I don't want to keep her from something that gives her such a great love for learning! On the other hand, if I didn't have such a great school available to me, or if I wasn't blessed to have access to such great scholarships, homeschool might be something we would have to make work. Some people seem to think everyone should make it work. For others, it works best in every way. And for people like us, it does not work! But it's silly to take it beyond that, to make it a black and white issue, when all it is is what works best for your family.

Why are we so uncomfortable with that? Or I am. I am becoming more comfortable with it. But it is scarier to have to be wise. It is scarier to have to pray and evaluate and use discernment. It is scary if the Different Strokes theme song is right on the money, "what might be right for you may not be right for some." Is this because people associate this with relativity? It it because it smells like secular humanism and Christianity requires absolutes? That doesn't mean everything has to be absolute. But it is so much easier to make absolutes and plug your life into that formula. And man, I had a formula. I am never going to be precise. But I had a general idea about how all kinds of things, and one was TV. That's what this post started to be about. But I got sidetracked with thinking about my "rulesy-ness." I used to be really good at reading to the kids. We read all the time. We used to drive to Panera Bread at least once a week and read the Little House on the Prairie Books and eat muffins. I wish we still did something like that. I have gotten worse at sitting and reading, possibly because I was sitting so much to nurse that I couldn't wait to jump up and get back to work. Anyway, I went from having some bizarre idea like "no TV except a few days a week and only one movie length once a week at most" to TV a lot. I am not proud of that, even if I did get off my rule soapbox. And it has gotten better since school started back- we are watching less than we did during the summer. But I gotta say, TV is a good babysitter. It keeps people quiet when they have been chattering for quite some time. It keeps people busy when they are trying to be all in your business and you can't get anything done. And there's nothing wrong with that. Except that it was out of hand at our house.

Today we had a friend over to play. She got into the books and found one that had a CD with it. And I thought, "why don't I ever put the CDs in for these books?" So we spent a good amount of time going through books on CD while I was able to sweep and straighten. The kids loved it, and I was so glad I wasn't turning on the TV. The ones we have are Thomas the Train ones and John Lithgow ones. If I haven't said before, I love John Lithgow. He reminds me so much of one of my best friends from high school. Our favorite is Marsupial Sue Presents The Runaway Pancake. It is a variation of the classic Gingerbread Boy story. He reads the books himself on the CD and tells them with such animation. And they are such funny stories. I highly recommend them. We moved on after our books to some nursery rhymes. That did not go so well. We have a family member who frequents the bargain books section at Barnes and Noble. This bothers me as I do love books, but I love good quality books and most of the bargain books wouldn't be bargains if they were selling well at regular price. Some years back, this family member bought us what I can only assume was a "bargain" nursery rhymes CD with a nursery rhymes book to accompany it. There is no way this person could have known, but the voices on the CD are horrible. I wish there was a special reserved word that means horrible that is almost never used that I could use to describe this so that it would really emphasize how horrible they are. The man's voice is as cheesy as you can imagine. He sounds like he is pretending to laugh while he sings. (I saw a "Jesus movie" one time where Jesus was portrayed this way- terrible!) The woman is worse! She has the most nasal squawky voice and can't even carry a tune! I had forgotten how bad it was until we put it in today after we got through our books on CD. And after about four songs, which was very patient and generous of me I assure you, I told the children they needed to pick another CD and tossed that one into the trash. I don't regret it either. But can anyone else recommend a good, classic nursery rhymes CD? How about some other books with CDs? As babysitters go, I feel a lot better taking this route than turning on another Wiggles video.


lauren said...

well said abby. i think as first time moms, we have these unrealistic expectations for ourselves and then we expect everyone else to follow them also! the older my kids get, i realize that there are different parenting styles that still line up with God's truth. within my 4 person Bible study, 2 of us are sending our kids to Christian school, one is homeschooling, and one feels called to their public school that they live down the street from. it's such a blessing to learn from each other. it's helped me to be more sensitive to those around me, who have different education callings than we do.

i'm so glad you posted about the books! i'll have to look for the pancake one. we had the same song this summer--too much TV. i ordered a fisher price tape player off ebay a year ago for ellie to do the same and it's been great for her. but i'm finding that we can't find the newer books on cassette (i know, get with the right century Goesslings!). so i'm on a hunt for a kids cd player that liam can't destroy. are you just using your stereo and switching it for them? or do they have their own cd player?

btw-check ebay and ebay stores for books with cds. that's where i've been getting my cassettes from 1989. ;)

jennifer h said...

Good thoughtful post Abby.

RE: cds for kids--Our kids love books on tape or cd. We have always used the library as a resource for these, with the occasional purchase of really exceptional or favorite books. But the STL County libraries have lots of young children's books with the tape or cd to go along, as well as many more substantial older kids books that Amabel might be interested in.

Anonymous said...

Try finding the "Frog and Toad" stories tape/cd that is read by Arnold Lobel. My boys LOVE that one. They all have it memorized, of course.

Abby said...

thanks y'all! those are all such good ideas!

annie, it's really read by the author? that's really cool. we have a children's poetry book with CD that has a lot of the original authors reading. we haven't listened to it enough. maybe i'll get that one out tomorrow.

lauren, your group sounds like a real blessing. i would LOVE to be part of something like that.

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