Boys and Caregiving

Late summer, I was walking our dog, a Great Pyrenees, in the yard and looking for a missing toy in the grass. As we were walking a rabbit took off and my dog tried to as well, pulling me into a divot in the grass. The result was one of the worst ankle sprains of my life. I required assistance just to get back to the house. The males in my life sprang to action. My husband helped me get into the house. My oldest son helped me wrap my foot; finished cleaning the floor, an interrupted chore; and picked a flower for me. My youngest son stayed nearby offering comfort. I thought as I sat there, my ankle on fire with pain, as the only female in my house, if a female is required for caregiving to happen, I would be in trouble. I thought exploring the topic would be interesting.

When it comes to raising boys, there are few discussions about boys and the role of informal, unpaid caregiver. In popular culture when a father cares for his child without the mother present, some have called his care “babysitting.” There is a counter movement stating father’s when left alone to care for their children are parenting, not babysitting.

Both children and adults at some point in life require caregiving. Statistics show the economic value of unpaid caregivers in the billions of dollars. According to caregiver.org, out of the 43 percent of the population that provide care to a child or older adult, 14 percent are males.

In an article by the New York Times, the risk of divorce when women are diagnosed with a chronic or terminal medical condition is discussed. According to a study published in the journal Cancer, “female gender was found to be a strong predictor of partner abandonment in patients with serious medical illness.” Having a spouse for support when managing a serious medical diagnosisis an important part of improved mental health and physical health outcomes. The conclusion in the study from Cancer mentions this as well: When divorce or separation occurred, quality of care and quality of life (for women) were adversely affected.”

I believe valuing caregiving and care for the home are important to the health of my son’s future marriages. By investing in the training of my sons to run a household, care for children and adults, and complete house cleaning chores, my sons will be better prepared for marriage and parenthood.

A simple way to model these skills is to include children in daily work. In fact that’s what we do, we start with doing the work together. I’m not looking for the boys to pay attention to every detail I would, or in the way I would. I observe simply if the job is done, with increasing attention to detail as the child gets older. Yes, the boys fuss and argue, but often, with using some whimsy and playfulness, we are able to have fun together through the duration of the project. My 3-yearold has announced he hates laundry and loves to do dishes. My 6-yearold some days fights me, and other days initiates working on chores. In fact, setting the table is a specialty of his, with attention to detail and the comfort of the family.

The process of modeling these skills has provided opportunity for my husband and I to have discussions about who does chores around the house and when. This part of our lives continues to be a work in progress. Fortunately, how we handle these discussions can be helpful for our boys as well. Modeling how to have a conversation about chores, even using tools to help identify areas of improvement, can be helpful. In an article on the chore war, which includes a checklist to guide a conversation about chores, because couples who do the least arguing about housework are those who have talked about it and made choices together.”

I want my boys to be fully prepared to graduate into meaningful employment and relationships when they leave our home. I want my boys to realize the work in a home isn’t men’s work or women’s work; it’s the work that benefits everyone closest to them, benefits a wife, benefits their children, benefits their family.

“The work of making home happy does not rest upon the mother alone. Fathers have an important part to act. The husband is the house-band of the home treasures, binding by his strong, earnest, devoted affection the members of the household, mother and children, together in the strongest bonds of union,Adventist Home.

References:

https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-statistics-demographics

https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/men-more-likely-to-leave-spouse-with-cancer/

Glantz, M. J., Chamberlain, M. C., Liu, Q., Hsieh, C.-C., Edwards, K. R., Van Horn, A. and Recht, L. (2009), Gender disparity in the rate of partner abandonment in patients with serious medical illness. Cancer, 115: 5237–5242. doi:10.1002/cncr.24577

https://psychcentral.com/lib/chore-war-household-tasks-and-the-two-paycheck-couple/

White, Ellen G. The adventist home counsels to Seventh-Day Adventist families as set forth in the writing of Ellen G. White. Southern Publ. Assn., 1980.

Life Skills — Health, Nutrition, First-Aid

Teaching life skills such as health, nutrition, and first-aid may seem unnecessary to some. In fact, many of us considered the mandatory health class in high school quite annoying. However, our family includes these and more in our homeschool lessons.

Actually, our children begin these life skills prior to most organized schooling. Many of you may also be teaching health and nutrition from an early age.

Life Skills to Toddlers

Very young children learn to eat foods that we provide. Serve chicken nuggets with fries, and they learn to enjoy these fast foods. However, if we provide an array of vegetables and fruit, prepared and served in a healthy combination, our children learn to enjoy these.

Many times parents have commented to me that they wished their children would eat vegetables like mine do. I explain that they will eat them, once they learn to enjoy them. Sugary foods laden with processed ingredients will tempt those who are accustomed to their tastes. Likewise, people will learn to love broccoli and brussel sprouts if that is what they are accustomed to.

As children grow we encourage their nutrition knowledge. Talk about the foods they are eating. Explain why you avoid certain foods. Discuss food fads.

Tie Into Health

Discussing food usually leads to discussing health. Explain how eating nutritious foods and avoiding “junk” food allows the body to grow and function properly. For young children, the conversation remains basic. However, over time, find ways to educate your children on health and nutrition beyond the basics.

Sometimes a website or book may be useful. Our family likes drfuhrman.com andrmcdougall.com. Both of these sites are family friendly and explain plant-based eating and the correlation with health. Old nutrition textbooks contain some useful information, too, but may have misinformation, especially with regard to meat, eggs, and dairy.

By the time your children are teens, they should have a solid understanding of nutrition and its relationship to health. As you prepare meals together, discuss the various foods and how they benefit health and growth. We also discuss foods that are not beneficial, to give a balanced approach to the subject.

First-aid and Emergencies

Most children will experience bumps and bruises as they grow. Often parents treat and bandage, then send the child off to play again.

However, even young children can learn basic first-aid as they go through these life experiences. Explain what type of wound it is, why you treat it as you do, and how to manage the care. Involve your child in his or her own treatment. And, if a sibling is injured, let everyone take part in that learning experience, too. We also discuss how to avoid problems.

But of course, first-aid goes well beyond the need for cleaning a wound and applying a bandage. Even young children can learn basic CPR, wound management, and other first-aid measures. Reading and understanding helps, but active learning with living examples will result in long-term knowledge.

Several organizations, including the Red Cross, offer first-aid training for teens. Some churches do, too. This encourages teens to learn beyond their basics.

All first-aid training, at home or in a class, will help prepare your children for life’s emergencies. It also provides a better understanding of overall health issues.

Focus: Health, Nutrition, First-Aid Life Skills

Taking care of our bodies as the temple of God begins before birth and continues throughout our lives. Teaching our children these skills enables them to begin a healthy start early in life. A healthy lifestyle that begins early will serve them well.

”Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body,” I Corinthians 6:19, 20.

Finding God in Hardest Times? (Part One)

There is a moment.

That moment when the world feels like it is crashing down on your shoulders.

That moment when you are sure you are alone, no matter how many people are around you right then.

That moment when God feels so far away but you have nowhere to turn, nowhere else to go.

So you pray. But, deep in your heart are the doubts that this prayer (or any, really) is reaching God. That He even cares. The lies Satan is whispering have taken root and are spreading.

And, we hurt. Because that moment is pain. It is deep, unrelenting, excruciating pain. When all we can scream is WHY?! Why me? Why now?

This story is indirectly related to why we later homeschooled the boys, but that is not why I am starting here. Somewhere out there somebody needs to hear that God is there, even when we can’t feel Him. That our prayers are not going into thin air. That we can trust Him, even when His answer isn’t to turn back time and somehow make the bad news, in this case the diagnosis, go away.

The date was April 1, 1997. My husband was 27, I was 24. We only had two kids at the time: a 26-month-old easy-going, talkative son (Alex), and our 10.5-month-old daughter (Angela). Because Angela was our second child, her doctor,  Tim, and I noticed some red flags in her development. For example, she only weighed 14 lbs 9 oz, and was about 20 inches long (a nine-pound weight gain and only about two inches in length in 10 months). She was tiny and not growing well. She also couldn’t sit up, roll over, hold her head up, or interact with us; she choked on all solids, and she didn’t really play with toys. And, as a mom I knew, absolutely knew, there was something wrong. (Of course there were other things as well, but you get the idea.)

Angela with Grandma Lee – August 1996

So her doctor referred us to Children’s Hospital in Seattle. They sent us a schedule that had us in appointments from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. First on the list was aptitude testing, so they could get a baseline, as well as a variety of other tests throughout the day.

After being told Angela was 57% behind other kids her age, I was already feeling … lost. But, we had yet to see a doctor. So, the second appointment was with a geneticist. She walked into the room, introduced herself, and then asked us three questions. Just that. Three. Questions. She then left the room and came back less than 10 minutes later with a book. And a diagnosis.

It was that moment.

Because feeling something in your heart and being told something concrete, with proof, are two completely different things.

Now, I am not going to tell you that getting the diagnosis that your daughter has a permanent disability is the hardest news ever. Because it isn’t. After all, we could have been told so many other things. However, it was devastating and the loss of a dream.

By 3 p.m. that day, I had a raging headache and felt dazed. Too much information, too many tests, too much emotion. Honestly, it was just too much everything. And the emotional pain, I cannot describe the pain – or the guilt that seemed to come from it. Could I have done anything differently? Did I have caffeine, not get enough water, not eat enough? What did I do wrong? The moms out there know this guilt. It’s called Mom guilt, and I can tell you from years of experience, it’s a useless emotion that Satan uses to derail us.

Angela was diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS for short). This can be genetic; however, after blood testing it was concluded that hers was a mutation that occurred at conception. There was quite literally nothing we could have done differently. At the time of her diagnosis, there were 2,500 cases known worldwide (there are now more than 2,500 people in my Facebook group alone), and they didn’t yet know which gene or chromosomes were involved. There is a lot of information about those afflicted with this syndrome at www.cdls-usa.org since I could fill pages and pages with just details about it. I will also be sharing more about exactly how the syndrome has affected our lives and her medical, physical, and intellectual challenges in my next blog post.

Angela in 2014 – taken by her teacher at school one day.

And, that was just the beginning. She had more tests added to the schedule that day and over the next few days. Then, her first surgery was just 16 days after that. We went from thinking we had two healthy kids, to one healthy son and a daughter with needs we were only beginning to understand (and still struggle with, if you want the truth).

In that moment (and many others) I related to Job when he said, “I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look,” Job 30:20. I felt so alone in my grief, anger, and pain. But, just like Job, I wasn’t going through it alone. God was there the whole time. Jeremiah reminds us in Lamentations 3:55-57, “But I called on your name, Lord from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried ‘Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!’ Yes, you came when I called; you told me, ‘Do not fear.’” Oh, thank YOU, Lord! You are there, even when we cannot feel You. You have not left us or forsaken us. There is a relief in that thought, isn’t there?

However, as you all know, prayer is hardest when your faith is weak. And, the devil strikes then! The deceiver wants us to feel alone in our pain. Have you ever felt that your prayer isn’t going past the ceiling? In a recent discussion about prayer, someone mentioned that David said in Psalm 23:4, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid; for you are close beside me. Your rod and staff protect and comfort me” (emphasis mine). What a comforting thought!! “God is right there with us,” my friend said, “listening to every word we say.” We don’t have to worry about the prayers not going past the ceiling, He is sitting with us in that moment!

I won’t lie to you and say that feeling of being alone went away quickly. It didn’t. I won’t tell you I felt God’s arms around me in that moment. I didn’t. I will tell you I did slowly start to feel less alone and could eventually feel Jesus holding me as I cried, raged, and screamed out my pain. And, I did keep my faith, even if I was hanging on with torn fingernails.

And, He is right beside you in that moment, and the next, and the one after that. Let me say that again: JESUS IS SITTING WITH YOU RIGHT NOW! The pain and anger may keep you from feeling Him, but turn to Him anyway. Our Lord is waiting with open arms, a big lap, and strong shoulders to cry on. Let Him comfort and heal you. No, it’s not an easy process, but it is worth it.

An excerpt from Footprints in the Sand, author unknown

There is so much more to tell you (and look how long this one was!) that I have to make this a two- or three-part series. So, watch for my next blog to hear more about Angela, her diagnosis, learning to cope, and learning to trust God with all of it. For now, I leave you with this thought:

Lamentations 3:20-24 (NLT)

20 I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
21 Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends![a]
His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”

We Teach Life, Not Just School

I am a big proponent of using life to teach academic skills. It takes some creativity sometimes to incorporate school into our lives, and our lives into school time, but it’s possible and hugely beneficial! So many times we hear from our children (and have said it ourselves) that they do not understand how what they are learning will apply to them in the real world, how it will benefit them in their adult life. Let’s show them… Make it real for them!

I believe in allowing our children to explore their passions, to explore their interests, to try and fail, but to get up and try again. These are essential life skills. We should teach our children how to make wise decisions, to know when to persevere and when to move on to something new, to honour their commitments, and to be responsible for their choices. I believe these things are just as, if not more than, important as book learning.

Sometimes this means we do weird things. We make strange mistakes, we fill the calendar, we step out of our comfort zones.

Our school board is hosting a science fair in March. TLC decided last year that he wanted a snake; actually, he’d wanted a snake for years, but last year he convinced his father to allow a snake to live at his house (our lease forbids it from living here). Waffles, as the snake is called, has been a fabulous experience for TLC. He’s had to learn how to care for it, feed it, clean its habitat, and buy food. This has increased his sense of responsibility and money management. It’s also been a source of science projects. He had to research how to care for a snake before he was allowed to get one. He had to save up the money for it and buy it himself. He has to buy the food for it and know what to feed it. Waffles will be his exhibit and project for the upcoming science fair, and one of the rewards for doing it will be that Waffles can come live at our house the week before the fair.

He gets a reward because the science fair is far out of his comfort zone. That’s okay, because one of the responsibilities of parenting and teaching our children is to push them out of their comfort zones. It’s hard for TLC to be outside of his comfort zone, and one of the signs of his maturity is that he is starting to recognize where the comfort zone boundary lies. Now he will learn that he can safely, successfully, and enjoyably step past that boundary. In order to achieve his goals and dreams, he’s going to need to be past those boundaries. It will not benefit him if I allow him to hide, to remain in the box. None of his dreams are in a box; he has huge dreams! He’s never lived his life in a box, and I refuse to allow him to build one around himself now.

Let’s teach our children — not only to read, write and do arithmetic, but to step outside the box, to explore past their comfort zones, and to persevere when things are hard in order to achieve their goals!!

Lead Me Lord, Please!

Prayer: a starting and ending point for all we do as Christians. While this post talks more about where I feel God is leading for my 2018 posts, it really is about prayer, learning to trust the paths shown to us, and following where God leads. I hope you find this encouraging, if in no other way than to at least know what is coming later in the year.

Before I start writing a blog post (or anything really), I pray. A lot. I pray for guidance, for a subject, for the right words, and most importantly I pray for each of you and each word I type. While I don’t have the right words all the time or even the subject, God does. My trust is in Him; in where he wants a blog post, skit, play, sermon, blog post, Facebook comment or post, or anything I say to go — and who HE is trying to reach.

We come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures around the world. Some of us are married, some are not. Some of us are young, and some of us (cough, cough) are not. Some of us have littles, while some of us have only teens or adult kids. Some of us are new Christians, and some of us dedicated our lives years ago. We are moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, or brothers. All of us are just doing the best we can with what we have and what we know. All of us need Jesus in our lives to do it. So, while all our experiences are not the same, we do share some commonalities, and I keep feeling led to find ways to encourage you all as you journey down the various paths you take.

When LaDonna asked for volunteers to become blog writers, I jumped at the chance. I love to write (and talk – seriously just ask anyone). I love to share about how Jesus has worked in my life. LOVE IT! He has performed more miracles than I can share in one blog post (although I will be over the course of this year). And, I love homeschooling my kids. Right before she posted her request (and I mean minutes before), I had just finished asking God to expand my horizons and lead me to a path to share my story, or more appropriately, His story through my life, with others.

The Sabbath before she posted I had given a sermon at my church, which turned out to be more of a testimony than I expected to give (in case you want to see it https://youtu.be/JRf0cirwH8A). It was a very personal sermon. But, God is in control — where he leads I follow. Always. Even when it doesn’t feel like that is the right path. Even when the sacrifice seems bigger than I can bear. Even when it hurts. And honestly, it was one of the hardest things I have EVER done. The pain was worth the result, the people reached and impacted. The sacrifice seemed trivial in comparison to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. And the path ALWAYS turns out to be the right one. ALWAYS! The sermon turned out to be the right choice. Or, more accurately, saying “Yes” to God was the right choice.

Where was I? Oh, blog writing. Asking God for a path and taking said path are two very different things. He didn’t just show me a path — he practically shoved it under my nose. And to be honest, I nearly turned tail and ran! I very quickly became overwhelmed with sharing those deepest parts of me with all of you. When I finally sat down to write that first blog post, I was nervous; ok, slight understatement there, I was terrified. So, like I did before and during the writing of that sermon, or any of the dramas or skits I write for church, I prayed. I prayed because, knowing what I know about myself, how was I going to get all these ideas about God, living, homeschooling, etc. onto paper (or laptop), without seeming preachy or condescending? I have not had an easy life (and I promise to share more about that as the year progresses). I wasn’t raised Adventist and I am far from the perfect Christian woman. I am not the best mother ever created. I have made and will continue to make more than my fair share of mistakes with my kids and in my marriage. Who am I to try and encourage each of you in your walks with Jesus and through homeschooling?

I put my heart and soul into my writing. It is a true expression of my innermost feelings. All my fears, regrets, pain, joy, love, and encouragement go into every word I write. Whether I am letting you know you are not alone in homeschooling, trying to get you off the worry path, or helping you find ways back into the Word, these are all things I have either experienced or am currently experiencing. Although, I did manage to not truly share myself in those posts.

I have been feeling convicted to go deeper. That what you really need and what I haven’t done yet, is share with you who I am and how God has worked in my life. I haven’t shared how or why we came to homeschool our boys. I have mentioned I have a child with a profound disability, but not how this has truly changed our lives. You don’t know I deal with chronic depression and PTSD from childhood abuse and how I cope with that. I haven’t explained how I survived, faith intact. How Jesus and getting into His Word literally saved my life. And more importantly, how I regained my trust in God afterwards. You don’t know how often I retreat into books rather than dealing with frustrations, anger, or worries. You don’t know that I struggle with parenting, marriage, homeschooling, my faith, or physical and emotional pain. You don’t know that I am or have been where many of you are now. Yet.

While telling all of you these things won’t be the easiest path I have ever taken, I do know that God is not only with me on this path, he guided me to it and is carrying me down it. While I don’t know or understand His reasons for me sharing these pieces of myself over the coming months, He does. I know that His ways are good and true and that He has not only my best interest in mind, but yours as well.

Credit: https://i2.wp.com/www.jeremybrummel.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/study-862994_1280.jpg?resize=350%2C200&ssl=1

So, whoever you are — the one(s) God is trying to reach — I pray for you as I write these words down. I will continue to pray for each of you as I share the good, bad, and ugly of my journey to this point. There will be tears and pain, but there will also be release, joy, and love. At church, we have a saying about our big productions. “If only one person’s life is changed by what we have put together, then all the time, effort, skill, and work that has gone into it was absolutely worth every drop of sweat and tear shed. We are merely the vessel for God’s word to touch those around us.” I am the vessel of God, so I will share these things with you and pray.

Ultimately, my prayer is that you are blessed and enriched by my words and thoughts. That Jesus should lead and guide each letter I type. That He will protect my heart and mind as I share and my story will somehow bless you in your journey. I ask that you join me in prayer, and that our faith and trust in God will grow through this shared experience.