Tag Archive: children

This is not a topic i have a lot of personal experience of. Or any. The beautiful Val [tbV] and my philosophy about children is that we enjoy other peoples and the opportunity to give them back to them at the end of the day. We enjoy kids but we don’t particularly want our own. But we also understand that for a lot of people [perhaps the majority of people who are married?] having children is one of the biggest things in their life, especially for many who have wanted kids their whole life, even some of them from when they were kids.

We have both babysat kids though and we have witnessed kid tantrums [with kids of strangers and also with kids of parents we know] and i was a primary school teacher and did a year’s worth of practical teaching at least and we have both been involved with kids on camps and in holiday clubs and in many other shapes and forms. We get that sometimes [hopefully mostly?] they’re amazing. They’re like little people. Oh wait that’s exactly what they are. But little people who require a lot of love and grace and energy and patience and forgiveness and a whole lot of other stuff.

not always a bundle of joy?

And so we get that it’s not always easy. And for some of you there may be whole periods where it seems like it is never easy. There are books that have been written but there is no real users manual. Each child is different, each family circumstance is different and so there is no one-size-fits-all in any aspect of raising children. I imagine for some parents out there, parenting [or trying ones best to parent] can be a really lonely, frustrating or at times paralysing thing. People tend to brag about how amazing and well-behaved and excellent their kids are as opposed to taking joy in sharing how difficult or frustrating or hurtful their kids can be. So i thought this might be a great topic to get some stories on here. I imagine there is some help for parents of small kids in the form of books or groups or workshops, but not everyone will necessarily have access to those.

So i wanted to chat to some of the parents of young children [talking under the age of about 8 here] that i know and see if i can get anyone to share on when being a parent of a young child, or young children was not so easy and if there was a way that they managed to get through it [if they have yet] to be able to share that and hopefully give some help or encouragement to those of you out there who may be struggling. Maybe just the notion that it’s okay to struggle. You are not alone:

First up i have this most excellent letter to Parents of Small Kids by Steve Wiens

Meet my friend Candi Fourie [includes Postnatal Depression]

Meet my friend Nicolette Ferreira [juggling work at home with looking after baby]

Meet Terran and Julie [and their FIVE!] and a really HONEST, raw and rough cry out from a parent

An excellent post and series from a number of my friends with crazily creative ideas for raising young children as world changers

To wives before you were ‘Mommy’ – an important reminder to both new moms and dads, by Becky Thompson

my wife and i love children!

other peoples! we love the bit where we get to give them back afterwards. and then return to our childrenless lair.

[okay, it’s not quite a lair, more an intentional community house in the inner city area of kensington, philadelphia… but still, no children living with us in the house at this particular point in time]

so kind of like a choose-your-own-[children]-adventure of sorts – we get to decide when they’re around and get to retreat when they get a little too much for us, or if we just want a break.

and then there was the time i went and watched ‘Scream’ at the local movie house… only problem is, i was trying to watch ‘The Avengers’ at the time… fortunately all that action happened during the trailers and the child was stopped or removed or something before the film began, but it definitely felt like a place that needed to go on a list of places particularly loud and screamery kids are not all that welcome at.

i imagine if you are a parent of a young child [not ‘kid’, you say ‘kid’ and the goat people get riled!] that idea will make you just a little bit sad, and i get that, or at least i would if i wasn’t being so distracted by all the people without children who have all jumped to their feet and burst into spontaneous applause.

because it is a topical issue right? and one, which i imagine for the most part, will have people-with-children on the one side and people-without-children on the other. there will be some exceptions, but i am guessing there will not be too many people-with-children clamouring for more childrenless environments and not too many people with no children whining about the lack of screaming and general chaos in said areas.

“children should be seen and not heard” – for the most part i don’t like that one – especially in places where celebration is happening like at a wedding or in a church service or at a party, i think that a certain messiness adds life to the occasion and i am all for a little bit of hum, or laughter or childlikery. but it is when it crosses the line and becomes a baby crying or a tantrum being thrown where i do appreciate a parent who acts quickly and decisively.

“children should be seen and not herded” – that feels more true – how does the saying go? ‘Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, call a child a kid and some old person slash teacher slash grammar police sergeant will charge in brandishing their “kids are children of goats, you are talking about children which are children of people” sign…’ Maybe not be an actual saying, but it should be!

for me i think the chief point is distraction – if the noise/actions of the child begin to take away from the focus of whatever the event is that you are attending, that is where it becomes a problem. the rising muttering and angry stares being flashed in your direction you should receive as a clue.

so for most happenings of a celebrationary nature, let the little children come to me i say… until they start whining, that is… or fighting, or smelling… then let the little children come to you…

what do you think? [and tell us if you have children or not before commenting]

So I’ve been putting off writing this for a while ever since Brett asked a few weeks…ok maybe months ago now. For many reasons I didn’t feel ready to write this and to be honest it’s still something I don’t feel quite equipped to write. Not because I know nothing about singleness…ha! But because the emotions and stages and experience changes daily and is sometimes hard to pin down and describe.

I have been single most of my life and I’ve just turned 40 early this year. I have never been married and do not have any children of my own. I live on my own with 2 cats that I feel quite comfortable with posting pictures of on Facebook as often as some people post pictures of their kids…well maybe not that often! But I can quite easily be described as the archetypal old maid cat lady.

But that is not who I am. I am not defined by my marital status. I refuse to be. It annoys me when the first thing people ask when they meet me is “so are you married? Kids?” as if that is a woman’s only purpose in life. And then proceed to tell me that I shouldn’t worry about it as they know so and so and they recently got married after being single for a few years and now they have 2 beautiful children and you never know, anything can happen and lots of people are having kids now in their 40’s…ho hum. Do I sound a little jaded or cynical? I don’t mean to.

I appreciate my friends who care about my happiness enough to know that I would love to meet the right person and share my life with someone. Because that is a truth I will not deny. Even harder than being a single woman in your 40’s is being a single woman in your 40’s when you don’t want to be.
A friend was telling me recently about an article that described how a non-event in someone’s life can have as much impact if not more than an event. For example a person gets married and that is a defining event. From then on you are married and you learn to process and grow in that relationship status. However someone who doesn’t get married doesn’t experience that “event” and so it’s not something that you can pin point to a date on a calendar. It just slowly develops until you realize that relationship status.

Most of us don’t consciously make a decision to be single. But over time and through relationships that don’t work out as hoped for or choosing at different stages to prioritize work or studies we find ourselves on our own doing life slightly differently to our married friends.
In this journey we have to slowly let go of some of our hopes and dreams. We let go of the dream of being a young mother. We let go of the hope of falling pregnant easily without the help of medical technology. And finally we let go of the hope of having children at all. We start to hope that we’ll maybe meet someone who already has kids. Or maybe we’ll adopt.

For me the question of children has been a difficult one since I was 24 and told I would most likely not be able to have children due to severe Endometriosis. So those dreams and hopes were let go of a long time ago. And then resurrected after having related surgery in my early 30’s and being given hope by my doctors only to have to go through the process of letting go of that hope again when life didn’t quite turn out the way I had hoped.
During the last two years I had to let go of the dream most daughters have of dancing with my father at my wedding and seeing him holding my children because he lost his battle with cancer before I met the right person.

And then you start to let go of the hope of meeting anyone at all.

It is a slow process of letting go of your dreams and your hope.

And in the process there is hurt, pain, loneliness, anger, disappointment and if you nurture it even resentment, bitterness and envy. In the process it’s easy to get drawn into unhealthy friendships and damaging relationships, and when these don’t work out we start to protect our hearts to the point that we may stop letting people in if we are not careful.

There is a very clear message in the Bible that tells us that neither singleness nor marriage is more desirable; that the one is not better than the other. It is our society that has exalted being married and having kids above singleness. We design our church programs around families. It is subtly implied when we as singles are not included in “couple” events or disenfranchised from church leadership because we don’t have a spouse.

We teach our children through fairy tales about the handsome prince who will rescue the princess and everyone lives happily ever after and we all want to be the princess, but no one mentions that we may end up being the spinster Godmother or ugly Stepsister!

But life is not a fairytale and there are all types of families that make up the world. Mine includes my mother and brother, my two cats and a crazy group of friends, married and single who make my life fun, interesting and joyful.

There is a difference between the patronizing attitude of so many and the support and understanding of people who love you. And to the marrieds out there who have single friends my advice is simply:

Don’t treat my time as less valuable than yours. Don’t treat me like my life and attitude is selfish because I haven’t had children. Don’t expect me to always be available when it suits you. I have my own priorities, demands and responsibilities. They are no less important to me than yours are to you. They are just different. You don’t have to “fix” me or my life.

In the midst of the struggles and journey of being single there is life. My life. And it is valuable, good and blessed. It has a purpose beyond marriage and children. A purpose that I’m constantly working at uncovering and developing and some days I “get” it and some days I don’t. And it’s still strangely hopeful.

[to read my friend and housemate Sueihn Lee’s story of singleness click here]

[For an inspirational post titled ‘I don’t wait anymore’ click here]

this is the third in my series of Taboo Topics that I am tackling and the topic this time around is INFERTILITY

the idea of Taboo Topics is to take a topic that is very real [and often raw and painful, perhaps embarrassing or just difficult to speak about] but which no one, for various reasons, is speaking a lot about and to invite people who have had experience in that area to share their stories and perhaps offer some encouragement or advice to others who have experienced or are currently dealing with the same thing.

a lot of people suffer or struggle in silence and because no-one is speaking/writing about these things it can feel like you are along in it and are the only one and that no-one else can even begin to understand or appreciate what you are going through. and while each situation is different i think that often someone who has gone through the same type of situation is a lot more able to speak life, truth and encouragement or else able to simply cry/scream/wail in a language you completely understand.

so these are real stories of real people and for the most part people who have been brave enough to share their names and contact details [or are largely open to you being linked to them via me]

for people desperately wanting to start a family, the topic of INFERTILITY can be a huge and difficult one – some of the people who shared stories in the ADOPTION topic spoke about this already, and here are some other stories of brave people who have decided to speak up in the hope that their struggles, frustrations, questions, pain and hope can speak into the lives of others.

i really hope this blog series will be a light at the end of that dark tunnel for a lot of you. if you know of someone who you think will benefit from hearing the stories that follow, please feel free to cut and paste/tweet/share/link/email, whatever it takes to let them know that these stories are here.

you are not alone. there is a light. and there are many people who have walked this road and are walking it and will offer you support where you are on it.

to read some helpful words from Steve Wiens who really seems to get it, click here

to read Wendy and Richard’s story, click here

to read Bettina’s story, click here

to read Melanie and Willem’s story, click here

Hey Brett

Thanks for the opportunity to share on your “Taboo Topics” series in regards to adoption. This is our story thus far:

Myself and Caraleigh decided to pursue adopting Andrew around mid-Jan 2012. We are currently waiting for the adoption to be finalised. This is a process that requires much patience & prayer, but it’s looking really good so far, even better than normal cases for some ‘God-intervening’ reasons I’m sure. In the meantime we have been allowed to be the legal guardians of Andrew since 9 Feb 2012, and he is indefinitely in our care until all the paperwork gets sorted.

I would start off by saying that this wasn’t part of the plan. We never looked to adopt, but rather it seems that God looked to us to adopt. I do remember a conversation when myself and Caz were dating (maybe 7-8 years ago) where she mentioned being open to adopt (while I silently prayed that we’d never cross that road, ha ha). Recently, in our marriage, Caz resigned to a part-time post as an Occupational Therapist to pursue establishing a home of safety for abused and abandoned children (checkout http://www.nthandohome.co.za), something I assumed was the ‘manifestation’ of her ‘want to’ adopt or to help the vulnerable – I was wrong.

In the inevitable networking that occurred while Caz pursued establishing the home of safety she linked up with another home of safety nearby that creates an opportunity for community involvement by letting families take children home during the Christmas holidays to relieve the staff for that period. We signed up to do this mainly because Caz loves this type of ministry, and I was open because we were/are very open to starting our own family soon and what better way to get a taste of what it’s like?

We were fortunate enough to have a wonderful experience (we have friends who did the same who didn’t) with little Asemahle (now, or soon to legally be, Andrew), a 14 month old legend. All the joy parents try to describe to you when you have children proved true – even with the sleeplessness. Many jokes in jest occurred within our church community that we would keep him, all thoughtlessly blown off at the time. Taking him back, understandably, was like someone dying, which we expected and even set a day aside to ‘mourn’.

This is where the story turned. Up to this point we did not know Andrew’s story. Did he have parents? When/where was he born? How long was he at the home? Did he have TB/HIV? Etc. With us both struggling to ‘let go’, we desperately needed to know his situation for our own closure. I assured my wife we would try to find out his story, and that if God desired further involvement from us in his life that we pray He would make this clear to us. I said this knowing that no matter what the story was it would never be good – how could it if we had him for Christmas and his family didn’t? But I assumed or hoped that his being at the home of safety was some temporary arrangement.

We eventually found out his story (difficult when they’d lost his file, and the fact that he did not have a birth certificate, yup!). He was born 10-weeks premature and abandoned at the hospital. Authorities had tried to locate his parents on several occasions with no success. He been staying at the home of safety since Feb 2011, and the first time he’d ever left the home was when we hosted him. And finally, the report in the file declared him eligible for adoption.

If ever one there was an open door, this was it. I admit that personally my initial reaction wasn’t “whoo-hoo” but more like Abraham in Genesis 18:16ff when he repeatedly goes back to God with the whole “May the Lord not be angry but let me speak once more” vibe. Wanting to be the supportive husband I suggested we then go inquire about what an adoption process would entail (hoping this might close the door). We began to go to home affair offices, magistrates, social workers, etc, and doors just kept opening – far easier than they should of according to others we’ve spoken to. During this time we we’re granted permission to have Andrew over on weekends, which we did.

We both did a lot of inward searching, praying, and discussing with people we trust. I’m sure by now you’ve picked up my initial hesitations, admittedly I struggled more with this decision than Caz – but I think necessarily so (rather before than after adoption!). It was important that we not only discern God’s clear will in this opportunity, but that we make the decision to adopt together as a couple, otherwise the potential to blame the other partner becomes huge. An article that helped tremendously was a devotion in John Piper’s “Taste and See” titled “A letter to my wife saying yes to adoption” (pages 57-59) – a must read! Most importantly, I felt, was to have a clear passage of Scripture that you really really really know is from God. God eventually led me to one of my favourite passage in Scripture (which was especially cool) to a verse in Acts 17:
“He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live” (Acts 17:26)
…that verse carried me, and cemented my faith in the Sovereign hand of God in this process.

I would say that aside from the typical fears of becoming an instant parent, all the concerns around ‘cross-cultural’ adoption (especially being a South African with our past), it was the disapproval of some people we love that was the most difficult thing for me to bear. However, you soon discover that this is not uncommon with other folk who have adopted. Thankfully this really was a small minority compared to the vast and overwhelming support we received by many whose opinions we highly value.

It’s all happened so fast, and everything still seems to be racing ahead, but I have more certainty everyday that we’ve made the right decision (even as we grow increasingly tired as new parents, ha ha). I think what I’ve grown to experience more through this in my relationship with God is how he grows our faith, or confidence, in Him through past experiences (just read the story of Abraham and you see this). What helped tremendously as the process of adoption unfolded was when we reflected on other occasions when our faith was being stretched and to remember his faithfulness in to us on past occasions (Psalm 77 is dripping with this truth). There were times when God closed doors for us even when our motives were right (see Prov. 16:2), and though difficult to accept at the time, we’re now grateful (in hindsight) that he did close them. What occurred to me more clearly is that the God who acted like that toward us in the past would continue to do so now in the present and in the future.

I’ll end with two more things.

First, why we named him Andrew. Erwin McManus tells a story about how he got his name (I think it’s some great German pilot from WW2?), which he despised at the time. He was moving to America with his family and needed an English name. Longing for something normal like ‘John’, his grandfather named him Erwin. What occurred to him later is that his grandfather was urging him not to be ordinary. That story inspired the name Andrew long ago before we met Andrew – it was always going to be the name of my first son (inspired by a radical, not ordinary, follower of Christ that I know, which I hope my son will turn out to be). That’s why we gave it to him. We also kept his original name ‘Asemahle’ as his second, because we want to honour any heritage he brings.

Secondly, and lastly, just a recent journal entry I wrote regarding Andrew (more to show how God has changed my hesitant-heart in this journey):

“Andrew himself…growing so fast! Almost walking. Very strong (physically). Great temperament – very happy child (no signs of trauma). Seems to be accepting us as his ‘parents’. Beginning to mouth sounds. Adjusts very well to environments (e.g. camping). Can roar like a lion. Snores! Can give high fives. Has natural rhythm. Enjoys sitting on my shoulders. Sucks his thumbs (may do this forever). Always wakes up happy in the mornings.
It’s hard to imagine our lives without him…and I don’t want to.”

Regards my bro
Tyron & (in spirit) Caraleigh Otto

some more quotes from ‘Prayer: Does it make any difference?’ by Philip Yancey, which i am really enjoying at the moment:

‘In Jesus’ day tax collectors, prostitutes and unclean persons reached out their hands to receive God’s grace while religious professionals closed theirs into tight fists. In receiving a free gift, having open hands is the only requirement.’ [pg. 23]

‘Most parents feel a pang when the child outgrows dependence, even while knowing the growth to be healthy and normal. With God, the rules change. I never outgrow dependence, and to the extent I think I do, I delude myself. Asking for help lies at the root of prayer: the Lord’s Prayer itself consists of a string of such requests. Prayer is a declaration of dependence upon God.

A character in one of Henry Adam’s novels cries out in frustration, “Why must the church always appeal to my weakness and never to my strength!” I can think of several reasons. In a world that glorifies success, an admission of weakness disarms pride at the same time that it prepares us to receive grace. Meanwhile, the very weakness that drives us to pray becomes an invitation for God to respond with compassion and power.’ [pg. 27]

‘We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us,’ wrote C.S.Lewis. To put it another way, we must trust God with what God already knows.’ [pg. 32]

for more thoughts from Philip Yancey on prayer, click here.

this series of blog posts has been on my heart and mind for well over a year and i am excited to finally be at the point of getting started on it.

there are a number of incredibly important, life-transforming, heart-breaking life events that happen to huge numbers of people that no-one, or very few people, ever seem to talk publically about – and so for the most part there are hundreds or thousands of people living quietly and alone with their pain or confusion, struggling along as if they are the only ones that have gone through that thing and as if help or advice or at the very least understanding is not freely available.

my hope with ‘Taboo Topics’ is to be able to deal with one of those topics at a time by finding people who have experienced the very thing in question and are brave enough to share their stories and hopefully also offer some insight and advice as to how they managed to get up again, dust themselves off and keep going…

and the first one that i am wanting to look at is a hectic topic – that of losing a child and i am specifically wanting to look at miscarriage or stillbirth so a baby that has died before it has been given birth to, or very soon after, before the parents concerned really get a decent chance to build relationship. i heard a while back that this is a lot more frequent than most people would expect and i know that i have hardly ever heard about it and so there must be a lot of people silently suffering alone [or alone as a couple] with something that is either too painful or shameful to speak about.

i really hope this blog series will be a light at the end of that dark tunnel for a lot of you. by simply writing my intentions as a facebook status i was inundated with responses from a number of very brave people who want to share their stories and so i am wanting to create a space for them to do so. if you know of someone who you think will benefit from hearing the stories that follow, please feel free to cut and paste/tweet/share/link/email, whatever it takes to let them know that these stories are here.

you are not alone. there is a light. and there are many people who have walked this road and are walking it and will offer you support where you are on it.

click here to read an amazing series by Christa Black on losing her daughter titled ‘How I know God didn’t kill my baby girl.’

click here to read the story of Graeme and Nicole

click here to read the story of Heidi and Shaun

click here to read the story of Sandi and Mike

Jennifer (and Allyn) Harris Dault has shared a whole series of blog posts with us as she walks through this difficult time.

click here to read the story of Debbie and Bruce [infertility and losing a child]

click here to read the mother’s side of the first story we shared as we hear from Nicole, Graeme’s wife

click here to read the story of Grant and Mauri

click here to read the story of Sandra and Shane

five more stories and links to resources including those of David and Sarah Seabrook, Cath, Margaret Ann and Adam Schaaf, Rory and Debbi Windell and Adrian and Benita Wright

and finally a rather more hardcore, in your face, pull-no-punches, commentary specifically for those who have not gone through it, from someone who is still living through the pain

%d bloggers like this: