From “Addled” to Inventor

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Thomas Edison was the youngest of a large family. A hearing problem and a disconnect with his attention span (“prone to distraction”) made it difficult for him to learn. Or perhaps, it would be correct to say that it was difficult for a teacher to teach him. At any rate, his school teacher labeled him as “addled”. After twelve weeks of being in school,  his mother pulled her hyperactive child from the classroom and taught him at home.

Instead of stifling her son, she allowed him to fill his appetite for books and for learning.  She managed to do this with him learning independently.

According to the story told by Thomas years after his mother’s death, he was homeschooled after that comment from the teacher. He recalled that his mother did visit the school to speak with the teacher about the term he used to describe her son.

From that day forward, she taught Thomas at home. She recognized his abilities and encouraged him to learn and to stretch himself. She also understood his problem with being easily distracted.

Not once did she treat him as someone who was unable to learn. Not once did she focus on his seeming learning disability. She knew her son, and she knew his capabilities. With that in mind, she encouraged him to learn under her tutelage.

That young boy became a famous inventor. Were it not for him, our world would be so different now. There is no doubt that the response of his mother pushed him in the right direction to use his mind and become an inventor. That boy was Thomas Edison.

As mothers of children who are in school or out of school, there are some things we can learn from Mrs. Edison.

In today’s world, a teacher labeling a child with words like “addled” would send the parent straight to the principal or the school board. No doubt the mother would be blasting it all over social media, developing an instant following whereby she could prove that there was nothing wrong with her child, that the system was flawed, and that the teacher or school was at fault and was failing her child. This child would become entitled, feeling that all the world is a stage and he is the central figure, today and always. All the world is a stage, and the child’s performance is the best he can do and cannot be measured or downgraded by anyone. For, after all, he is a child and the world owes it to him to let him succeed.

Tell me it ain’t so!

This does not just happen among parents who are not believers. It happens in every school setting there is. A child gets his feelings hurt and one or both of the parents rush to his rescue, declaring war on the teacher, the school board, or the school system. Sometimes it happens in our own churches. A Sunday school teacher reprimands a child, and the parent gets upset.

A teacher invokes a consequence and parents get in an uproar. A rule is handed down and enforced, and suddenly the world is unfair and no child should be left behind or be made to endure such a hardship.

Mrs. Edison taught, by her example, that even when life is not fair, we can rise above that unfairness. She took an unfortunate situation and turned it into something positive – and in turn channeled her son’s mind, developing an inventor the likes of which we have not seen since.

What would have happened to Thomas had he remained in that school?  Who knows. Perhaps a teacher would have come along who encouraged him, who saw the potential in his little mind and bolstered it by her support and applause.

For Thomas, it didn’t happen. And he was none the worse for the school system that failed him BECAUSE his mother did not allow this to defeat him or to defeat her.

Her attitude shaped his world and he gave us the light bulb, the telephone, the telegraph, and so many more things. The unfairness of a label did not stifle his mind because his mother did not allow that to happen.

Thomas didn’t know life was unfair, for his mother took the situation and turned it into something positive for Thomas. She rose to the occasion, rose above the unfairness, and succeeded in outfitting her son with developing his full intellectual potential despite the unfairness of life.

Had Thomas Edison been raised to be “entitled” to have the best education, the best help for his mental distractions, the best advantage possible, think how different his outlook would have been. Instead, he had a mother who rose above the label given her son, who didn’t fault or blame the teacher or principle and proclaim it loudly for everyone to hear. We have a mother who faced the battle squarely in the eye and won the conquest.

Not only do we have Thomas Edison to thank, we should also applaud his mother.

Moms – when you think you need to right the wrongs for your kids, when you think it’s time to set things straight, when you want your child to have always and only the best, remember Thomas  Edison and his mother.

Remember that life is not fair – and the sooner your child learns it, the better he will succeed. Help him learn to rise above the difficulties instead of bailing him out. Help him accept what limitations he has, then encourage him to reach for the stars. Cheer and applaud, but don’t trample others underfoot in order to achieve success for your child. Don’t addle your child by focusing on the label. Focus instead of who he really is.

I am not saying that when adults are wrong we should applaud them. I’m not saying that speaking with an adult in private is never in order. I’m simply saying this: when we respond wrongly to what happens to our kids, it can mar them for life. Is that really what we want?

We tend to want to make sure that no one else does something that will mar them, yet we fail to consider how our own attitudes and actions can cripple them. We can raise bridge builders or we can raise delinquents who always expect others to fight their battles for them instead of owning up to their own weaknesses and wrongs.

Choose the high road; help your child respond positively when life is unfair instead of encouraging him to wallow in the mire of a wrong mindset. Teach him that in Jesus, he can do all things. Instead of trying to make an adult pay for hurting your child, model to him that nothing is too hard for God and He can help us rise above what is unjust and untrue.

When you think life is not fair for your child, remember Thomas Edison and his mother. Respond like she did. Who knows, you might be raising a son who, because of your attitude, will contribute a wonderful good to society.

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Cherish the Now

 

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Snuggles and hugs, freely given,

Eyes bright with laughter today;

Like apples of gold and of crimson,

I cherish their laughter at play.

 

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Leaves turning colors so vibrant,

Crisp autumn air in these days;

Like pumpkins all shapes and all sizes,

I cherish my munchkins today.

 

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My munchkins those many years ago.

 

Time passes on – this I notice

As summertime turns into fall;

Do I cherish and notice each moment

Of my youngsters, those short and those tall?

 

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I catch in my mind sweet surprises

To hold in my heart from now on

As the seasons keep moving and changing

My love ever and always lives on.

Pinterest Cherish the Now

 

 

 

When Parents Are Failing

Parents who fail. That’s what this blog is about. Written by my blogger friend Rosina Schmucker, it is real and raw. When we view someone else’s parenting, do we sit over, sit out, or sit beside them? Rosina blogs at https://arabahrejoice.com

What do you do when you think your friends are failing at parenting?

Of course, it’s easy to have all the answers about parenting before you’ve tried it out yourself. But suppose you have parented several children already, and what you see in other people makes you shake your head in despair?

Let me tell you a little secret. Having parented successfully does not make you an expert. The end.

Here’s why. You can follow basic guidelines for providing for your children’s needs, but it is impossible for one person to experience every possible parenting scenario. Children are all very different, and beyond that, some children are born with needs that go far beyond what you can put in the “different but normal” range.

However, the pressure to produce well-behaved, smart, socially-adept, flexible kids is high, and steadily increasing with the influx of media-sharing and sermon-sharing about how to raise the best kids possible.

While parents do need to learn all they can about how to raise their children, and it’s important to offer whatever resources they desire, I think many have forgotten the simple and powerful practice of sitting beside.

Let me explain from my own experience. My first child was unusual from the start. Although he was incredibly responsive and sweet at home, many times when we took him out he cried and cried.

I spent Sundays in the nursery trying to soothe a crying baby while the other ladies discussed the finer points of doctrine in Sunday school. After church I would ask Will what the sermon was about, because I usually missed most of it.

When we went to a friend’s house for a meal, the rest of the group laughed and chattered over their pizza while I sat in the bedroom with a crying baby, tears rolling down my own cheeks.

People noticed my cute baby, and they also noticed that something was wrong, but they could not see how fiercely I loved him and how hard I tried to take care of him. They could not see how alone I was.

Before communion at our church, we had a special service in which each of us had to meet with one of the preachers to talk about how our spiritual life was going. Our son was still a baby when Will and I unsuspectingly sat down and shared about our lives.

“I have a concern,” the preacher said. “Your son is too noisy in church, and I feel you perhaps are not disciplining him appropriately.” The rest of what he said was a blur, and although I’m sure he meant to be kind, I felt my cheeks burning in shame. How could we possibly begin to explain what we didn’t yet understand ourselves? That we knew there was something wrong, but we were pretty sure it wasn’t a discipline problem?

I’m not a person given to public displays of emotion, but I slipped to the coat rack in the back of the church foyer and burst into tears. Will and I collected our baby and quietly left for home.

Later we learned that our son was on the autism spectrum and had, among other issues, extremely sensitive hearing. Church services, especially the music, was physically painful for him, and that was why he cried. But we didn’t know this at the time, and going places became miserable.

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On one hand, some people were openly critical. They sat over us in judgment about all the wrong ways we were parenting. We heard sermons and topics and group discussions on how to properly raise children, with little sympathy for anyone with unique challenges.

Then there were also people who politely sat out. They were too kind to judge, so they carefully looked the other way when our son misbehaved. They maintained cheerful talk even when things were going badly, and pretended that we were fine. They did not offer judgment, but they did not either give us the support we truly needed.

We needed someone to sit beside us in the difficult place. And one Sunday, this happened.

I was in the nursery (again) with a crying baby (again). By this time, I had mostly resigned myself to spending my Sundays this way. I knew my baby was tired, and if he could just fall asleep, I might be able to get a little out of church. But he was overstimulated and could not fall asleep, so he wept.

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Partway through the sermon, the nursery door opened, and a youth girl slipped in. She smiled and asked kindly, “Do you need me to hold your baby?” I could feel the genuine sympathy and care flow from her heart and wrap like a mantle around me and my baby. I knew my child wouldn’t do well with a stranger holding him, so I told her that I just needed to hold him until he fell asleep.

But she didn’t leave. She settled into a rocking chair beside me, and talked to me in her sweet way. Within a few minutes, in the glow of her gentle presence, my son relaxed and fell asleep.

Several years went by, as Will and I loved and delighted in our child and did our best to take care of him. He was funny and frightfully clever–at five years old he could crack a side-splitting joke and accurately describe in great detail how a car motor works. But some things were so different for him, and the judgment never stopped coming. It got to the place where I felt skittish every time I saw a preacher drive in the lane, or heard a discussion on child training. I didn’t enjoy going out in public. And I felt incredibly alone.

I remember lying on my bed one Sunday afternoon, sobbing into my pillow and pleading God to send someone to come talk to me and encourage me in my parenting journey. I was too battered to reach out for help myself. “Send someone to talk to me!” I cried. But nobody came.

As our child got older, his emotional problems and developmental delays worsened. Then one evening we went to a big auction designated to raise funds for Haiti. The event consisted of lots of high-sugar foods, noise, excitement, people, and kids tearing around at breakneck speed. Our son’s motor amped up and up, until it was time to leave. Then his fuse blew, and he unleashed the worst tantrum I had ever seen.

As our son thrashed and raged on the floor, Will tried his best to gain control of him while a large circle of shocked onlookers stared in silence. I knew that a mental health therapist (who was also a family friend) was in the crowd, so I dashed off to him and asked him for help.

He came immediately, and went right to Will’s side. Together they were able to calm down our son enough to take him outside into the quiet darkness. The therapist sat with Will for a long time, talking with him and our son, offering hope and companionship.

As we drove home, Will and I both wanted to cry, because while everyone else either looked on in horror or looked away in polite denial, this man sat beside us and extended grace. Just as the young girl had that Sunday in the nursery, this therapist’s presence channeled the healing love of Jesus into our breaking hearts.

That is why I say that when you see your friends struggling with parenting, they don’t need you to sit over them in judgment. Chances are, anyway, that they are not failing as much as it appears. Likely they are facing challenges that require a unique set of skills. These parents are probably more resilient and courageous than you can imagine, and are crying to Jesus daily for wisdom. When you judge their parenting, you are essentially saying that you do not believe in who they are. You are saying that they are not worthy of raising their children.

Neither do they need you to sit out and ignore them. Ignoring sends the message that you are uncomfortable and unwilling to engage in the messy parts of their lives. It tells them that they are not worth noticing, not worth the effort to support. Ignoring says that you don’t care.

Struggling parents need their friends to willingly go to the center of their pain and sit beside them.

No pat answers, no disengaging, just sitting and holding their souls in the love of Jesus. This sitting-beside is what paves the road to redemption.

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

 I Corinthians 12:26 (ESV)

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Encouraging Moms and Passing it On

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What to do with a kid’s tantrum tears

I wheeled my cart to the front of the store and waited for the mom in front of me to finish putting her items on the conveyer belt.  Seated in the cart was a toddler, probably two or three years of age. She was a blond pixie, and cute as a button.  When she asked to get down her mother obliged.

Pixie’s cuteness left when she ran to the shelves next to the counter and begged for the small bag of chips. Her mom told her no. She asked for pretzels. The answer was no. Miss Pixie begged for gum, for candy, for anything else she could find and she touched item after item, begging. The answer was always no.

Finally, Mom told her to come back to the cart, which she did.

Now the tears came. Mammoth tears. Pouring down your face tears. Woe-is-me tears. Won’t-you-feel-sorry-for-me?! tears. Pouting tears. Buckets of crocodile tears.

Along with the tears, there was a lot of noise. Loud, moanful wails. Sobbing wails. Gasping for air wailing.

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One by one, customers and a clerk came by and asked the little gal what was wrong.  From their actions, one would have thought the child was in danger or in pain. Their glares toward the mom told me what they were thinking. Definitely, there was one side to this story, and it was not the mother’s side! How could a mother be so uncaring? How could she continue loading groceries into her cart while her child sat there crying?!

Because it was the right thing to do, that’s why.

Before the tears had ever begun, little Pixie and I had exchanged smiles. I’d said hello and she had smiled back at me.

When little miss Pixie turned and looked at me with those mournful eyes after the crying episode, I gave her another smile.

Seizing an opportunity, I spoke loudly enough for mom to hear.

“You have a goooood mommy. You are so lucky to have a mommy who cares about you. I saw that you begged and begged, and your mommy kept telling you “no”. I’m so glad your mommy loves you enough to keep saying “no” when she has told you “no” once. She didn’t change her mind because you cried and pouted. She’s a good mommy, and you really don’t need to cry.”

Her tears stopped at once. Eyes wide, she seemed to contemplate what I said. I saw a hint of a smile in her eyes. Uh huh. This kid knew what she was doing all the time. Her tears were gone. I find it interesting that when people offered her sympathy, her tears fell faster and her crying was louder. Perhaps, instead of encouraging kids to misbehave by giving positive reinforcement, we should try encouraging moms to “stick to their guns”!

When it was my turn at the counter, I turned my attention to the pile in my cart and started putting my groceries onto the belt. I’d forgotten about the conversation because all was quiet in the grocery cart now.

I almost missed it, but just as mom turned her cart to wheel the groceries and cart outside, she caught my eye.

There was a faint glimmer in her eyes as she mouthed the words, “Thank you.”

Certainly. Moms need all the applause they can get when they are doing it right.

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Applaud the moms who are doing it right.

I remember those days.

Folks critiqued our parenting when they didn’t even know our names. There was the senior citizen who told me that she couldn’t believe I didn’t care if my son electrocuted himself. We were in the doctor’s waiting room and he had crawled underneath the fish tank to see how it worked. She seemed to know more about it than I did.

Another day, a clerk in the store told me I just needed to whip my kid. We’d traveled for six hours with a toddler who had spiked a fever and was sick the entire trip. The young whipper-snapper was obviously too young to have any kids of her own, but she knew exactly what should happen. Somehow she missed a runny nose, pulling at ears, and feverish face of the kid whose head was on my shoulder. (You see how I remember this over a quarter-century later?!)

I especially remember the time an older woman gave me the encouragement I needed. I think she made a practice of encouraging moms, especially when they needed it. You can read about that here.

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What Fun it is to Pass it on!

On this day in our Food Lion, I paid it forward. Instead of nailing the mom (or the kid), I chose to affirm what was right and good. Encouraging moms is a wonderful way to empower them in their parenting.

It’s so easy to sit back and make a judgment call about a behavior when we don’t know the whole story. It is so much better to find things for which we can applaud and then do it heartily.

Encouraging moms is more important than critiquing them (unless they ask). How much better to look for the good and begin paying it forward? It will make this world a better place. Plus, it’s guaranteed to give our kids better moms!

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