Beautiful Bits of Wisdom

There are times when I hear something and my brain just clicks. Just the right phrasing makes so much sense. It fits perfectly into what I know about the world. And it helps me to think about a problem in a way that encourages me to do things better, to be a better person.
Here are some of the best bits of advice I’ve heard, read, or developed myself:

Your children are not yours. They belong to God.
It is really easy to be nice to other children. You’re around them for a bit, you nod very solemnly when they speak to you and follow it up with a bit of nonsense. But my own children. Ay ay ay! All day everyday it’s a constant grating on my nerves.
I heard someone say this once, in a very different context. I think they were talking about how we should bring our children up to know God. True. But this advice has also really helped me to keep up a third party like attitude towards my children. 1- because they’re not mine I HAVE to be nicer to them just like I do with my neighbor’s children and 2- because they’re not mine I’m kind of off the hook. I mean, not completely obviously. But ultimately their lives aren’t up to me, they’re up to my children and they’re up to God. It gives me a little breathing room that things don’t always need to be perfect and sometimes I can just roll my eyes and say “they’re all yours God.”

Focus on when your children are grown. Not just out-of-the-house grown. Imagine your life when you’re a grandparent.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the worrying parent stress. There are so so SO many pressures on parents to do everything and be everything for our children. And if they don’t “turn out” we’re on the line for it. But what does it even mean “turn out alright?” When people talk about when they’re children are grown they usually mean out of the house. But an 18 year old is not grown. Even a college graduate is not grown. Both of those ages come with their own worries and people rarely “have it together” by those ages. I think what we should focus on is not what your child is like the first third of their life but the other two thirds. What will they be like when they’re married and have their own children? What will they be like when you’re old and in a nursing home? Because when you begin to focus on the long term, the really long term, a lot of those old worries like getting into a good college or whether they’re responsible with their money seem so silly. Of course you want them to be happy, and things like having money and a good job are important, but when my children are grown…really grown…the only thing I really see being important are close relationships with our family. It really helps to give me focus on what’s important. Learning subtraction well? Not so much. Being kind to our siblings? Absolutely.

Children often do not have as self absorbed or manipulative thoughts as we attribute to them.
In Surprised by Joy C.S. Lewis constantly reflects on how his father always assumed that he was a selfish and self-centered little boy, which Lewis never felt like his way. I can definitely recall feeling the same way when I was little. Most of the time when the books get knocked off the shelf for the tenth time it wasn’t vindictive, it was just honest forgetfulness. Even those times when you tell your child “no” and so they pick up a toy and throw it, it’s not “im angry and want to hurt you for making me angry” as much as “im angry and don’t know what to do about it so maybe ill throw this.” I remember being little and constantly being asked “why in the world did you do that?!” and never having the slightest idea. If a child’s actions seems incredibly incomprehensible to you, don’t place your ideas about adult behavior on a child. Because chances are they are just as boggled by their actions as you are.

The Amish Tour Bus
There was a tour bus that went through amish country. An amish man got on the bus to answer some questions. One of the questions was what is the biggest difference between my life and yours? The amish man asked the bus how many people have tvs. All raised their hands. Now, he asked, how many of you think your family life would be better without the tv? Most raised their hands. The main difference between me and you is that I would go home and get rid of the tv. You will not. Nothing comes before the family.
Do I really need to expand on this? I think you get it.

Nothing is learned in an instant.
This is really about homeschooling although I suppose it could apply other places. Everything is an ongoing development. I used to get so frustrated with my daughter because I wanted her to learn what she was supposed to learn. But often she did not understand. And even after days of practice she still wasn’t a master of the subject. Stupid me, I more or less forgot that she still has 11 more years of school where she will still be learning these same subjects. Often we want our children to become a genius on a subject so we overfill them, trying to get them to know more than any other child could. But no child is able to do that. Well, almost none. Learning is usually more about small long term growth than short large growth.

Don’t have sex until you have nothing left to share.
Although generally speaking I think the whole wait till marriage is a better piece of advice, I think this needs to be plastered all over ever single high school everywhere. Too often sex is used as a way of looking cool and that absolutely needs to stop. Waiting till you have nothing left to share doesn’t mean “well we’ve done everything else so…” It means until you are comfortable enough around someone to go to the bathroom with the door open then you are not ready for sex. Sex is not about looking cool, it’s about a relationship and you have to have a strong relationship to be ready for it.

Your family is not a monarchy. There is no ruler, only problems. Problems that need to be solved.
I love this so much because, again, it really helps me to focus on understanding and learning instead of straight obedience. Our children are old enough now that when there is a problem we can really look at it and all think together about what should be done. Shockingly, our kids are pretty fair when it comes to their own punishments but more importantly, it gives them the opportunity to really reflect on what they did wrong, which is what any punishment’s goal is.

You have been given the gift of not being responsible for others actions
When the amish schoolhouse shooting happened one of the fathers told a newspaper that all he could feel was thankfulness that he wasn’t responsible for judging that man’s soul. And none of us are. We like to pretend that we are, but we’re not. We are people who should help each other, but it is not our job to condemn or to forgive absolutely. We can do neither, and we should be thankful that we are allowed to simply let things go and move on.

Be honest.
This is one of the best things I could say to someone about marriage. And I don’t mean be honest like tell them all your deepest darkest secrets. I mean when you’re annoyed, say it, don’t roll your eyes and do all that passive aggressive stuff. When you’re arguing and they say something really mean, tell them, don’t storm off and harbor resentful feelings. But it’s not just about negative things either.
When you’re feeling really lovey, say it, show it. The opportunity to be nice is something we pass up on very easily, always thinking I’ll do it later. But you don’t. As soon as you think it, say it.
They say communication is one of the biggest problems in marriage. But it doesn’t have to be. Stop hoping “he’ll get the hint” or assume  that “he should just know” and be upfront about things. None of us are very good at picking up subliminal signals so stop trying to make your marriage a guessing game.

Don’t discipline, educate.
Again, childhood is not a time for children to learn all the things they’re doing wrong and to be punished for them. It’s an education, just like school. Just think of it as “getting along in society” class. Your goal as a parent isn’t to make your child feel bad for the things they do, it’s to help them learn how to make better choices. Educate them.

Children are fully developed human beings.
This is a favorite saying for the pro-life community but this bears repeating for once the children are born. The only thing my husband and I resolutely decided when our daughter was born was that we would not treat her like a baby. We would not talk down to her, belittle her ideas, or treat her as less than we would any other person. Be respectful.

Your freedom naturally infringes on someone else’s right. And sometimes you don’t have the right to be free.
In the U.S. we love our freedom but the majority of the issues in our country seem to be about what freedom is. Is it the right of a company to put their factory wherever they want or is it the right for people to not have a factory spewing toxins next door to them? Your rights naturally infringe on someone else’s so be cautious with how you live your life. Just because you are upset does that mean you have the right to make every one else in your house on edge and upset too? Just because you want to go on a date does that mean you have the right to let your child cry the whole time your gone? I don’t know, I don’t have the answer to any of those complicated questions, but they are questions that are worth thinking about. Whose rights are you violating by doing what you want and are those violations worth it?

There’s not a question about how many people the world can hold, but how many rich people the world can hold.
In the U.S. we are all rich. Out of our minds insanely wealthy. And we also have a lower birthrate than poorer countries. Because inherently we understand that while in another country having a child may cost you nothing, here the cost of raising a child is very very high. Ridiculously high. We should all strive to stop living so much like rich people, and not because we want to have more children, but so we can give more opportunities to the children that already exist. When you hold off on using resources that means there are more resources for other people.

Reconsider, reduce, reuse, recycle
Just one more word make this hippie manifesto even better. Before we reduce or reuse or recycle we need to reconsider whether we should use/buy/consume that thing altogether. That is true environmental friendliness and human friendliness.

Respect your spouse.
When it comes to pairing people I always think this is the biggest IF factor. It is a very rare relationship that can survive without mutual respect. A respect that comes out of acknowledging that someone does something better than you can. Because otherwise what would be the point of a marriage? It’s designed to be a way to two people to lean on each other so they can accomplish more than they could by themselves. But if you feel like the other person is giving nothing to you other than straight companionship, relationships can easily fall into patronizing and demeaning and subordination. At worst, it can lead to abuse. Respect for the other person is, in my opinion, the most necessary thing for a relationship to really thrive. There’s nothing more attractive than watching your spouse really nail something you’re terrible at doing. Am I right??

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