Making a Convivial Home: The Need

posted in: attitudinal | 6

Whether it be Chinese-Are-Superior Mothers or French-Are-Superior Mothers, these foreign parenting-commentators point out that American mothers are afraid to be in charge, and that’s why they raise hellions. That is a particular side of the ditch, but it is not my temptation. My husband and I are both rather authoritarian parents, and happy and comfortable being so. My mom was a “mean mom,” not afraid to make unpopular decisions or enforce them. She told me (and I needed to be told), “I am the mom; I am in charge. When you are the mom, then you will be in charge.” And now here I am.

So I don’t play Legos or build with blocks on the floor with my kids, and I don’t feel guilty about it. That’s what I gave them siblings for, after all. I don’t run around at the parks with them. I let them loose and sit and read or chat with a friend. When it is play-time, it is free-play. They must learn to be self-directed and independent rather than requiring entertainment or direction or organization. I do wipe noses, arbitrate squabbles (sometimes), retrieve stuck toys (well, sometimes), and of course change diapers. I guess I’m just not so much a “spend quality time alongside each child” mom. We are always around each other and the quality time happens in unexpected places amidst the quantity time. We all just do life, and we do it together.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

But the reality is that that those potential quality moments are easily ignored. I’m here all the time, after all, so isn’t it then too much to interrupt my own plans and projects and thoughts if I get a chance of them? I have lived all my life alongside small children, and I am quite accomplished at ignoring them and feeling too often like they are nuisances who really should just leave me alone already.

Because of my own temptations and weaknesses, I need to focus not on my authority, but on my children’s individuality, personality, humanity. I need to find ways to build in pauses and conversations, taking the time to see and hear each one of my children. They are not little extensions of myself. They are each their own persons, each needing to be known and loved in their own right, individually.

I spent about a year mentally arguing and fighting with myself over the strategies I am only beginning to implement. I finally caved, knowing they were the right things for us to do, whether or not I wanted to. Giving up your own rights and expectations is, after all, the beginning and the end of love. And it is loving my children that I need to do more and do better.

 

6 Responses

  1. Willa
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    Even though my parenting style may be a little less authoritarian than yours, I still need the reminder that just spending hours of the day with the kids doesn’t add up to quality time. It takes hours plus attentiveness — as you say, not necessarily getting down on the floor playing cars, but being somewhat conscious of the inner life and developing personality of the child.

    Your new blog URL wasn’t working with my feed for some reason, but I finally figured out I could subscribe by email. I am really enjoying your new look and all the projects in the works!

    • Mystie Winckler
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      I’ve heard from a couple people that when I moved to Simply Convivial, the feeds didn’t work. I use Google Reader and the feed is fine, so I’m not sure what’s up with that.

      If anyone else is having that difficulty, I would try just deleting the one that’s not working and trying again. The easiest way would be to click the rss button on my sidebar, and then it should give you different reader options and you can pick the one you use.

  2. Fittsy
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    In so many ways, you and I are cut from the same cloth, and here again, I read and nod, thinking, this is so true of me and my children. But here’s the thing, I can’t figure out how to get all the things done that I need to do, because, as you’ve said, keeping house, cooking dinner and keeping the laundry going [and schooling, if you’re doing that at home] are actually important. And in the midst of doing them all, I don’t have a lot of time to figure out and spend the quality time that I think really should be given to my children. Maybe the key is, as you said, to build in pauses for conversations, acknowledging who they are as people

    I do hope you will expand your thoughts here. I would love to hear some of the practical ways you’ve made this work.

    And thanks, as always, for acknowledging ways that you are growing, as a Mother and child of God!

    • Mystie Winckler
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      I should have made it more clear! This is a series. Practical ideas are coming. :)

  3. Pilgrim
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    Conviction! This series is hitting right where I am at right now. How do you focus on relationship in the midst of real life? In a culture that focuses on achievement and “getting things done” I am trying desperately to figure out how to teach myself and my kids how to stop and spend time with the person in front of you right now. I was reading Wendell Berry talking about how our culture teaches us to focus on the future instead of today. I fall into that trap and am trying to figure out how to live just today. It does require laying down a lot. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts about this topic.

    • Mystie Winckler
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      I am very future-oriented and a big-picture type, so the dailiness stuff is difficult for me, too!

      …hence the focus: this is the area I need to work on, not the area where I have the answers.