What I told my kids about LGBTQ+

What I told my kids about LGBTQ+

 A Biblical Guide for Christian parents.

This blog is aimed at Christian parents and kids who 1) find themselves on the back foot in terms of current culture and popular opinion and wish to equip their kids and themselves with both love and truth, and 2) have a deep awareness that this is only the beginning and a very real sense that the conservation of biblical truth, especially in terms of scriptural sexual ethic, will be the next battleground of Christian persecution. If this is not you, don’t bother reading this. Also, you know this is not going to be a short blog post, right?

Reading time approx:  17 minutes.

I cannot discuss every angle of this in this blog. Lots of people have written about this more and better than me, plus they are all cleverer than I am (the fact that I am not even sure if “cleverer” is a word serves to prove this point! Ha!), So here are some helpful articles if:

Someone said to you that homosexuality is not actually in the Bible, and if you have the appetite for a theology lesson: here are 2 articles that might help you further understand the revisionist/ affirming position.

I was in no mood to write this blog. A lot of my blogs start off this way. I had to write this blog for myself AND for my son, who came home from school recently after his Math teacher wanted to teach them about fractions in class by dividing up the girls and boys and one little girl refused to participate because she doesn’t “identify as either”. My son is 12. It’s already a minefield out there for our kids! We are past the time of pat answers, about God and about culture. We are as parents as always called to lay a foundation, something we can’t do if we ourselves don’t even know the truth we stand on in terms of all the cultural narratives swirling around us and our kids. So I leant in, to the point where I can now, hopefully, through this little bit of writing, at least give you a view steps of light, a few bricks for your foundation.

This is not a black and white issue. I mean, biblically it is. But socially and conversationally and relationally it calls for immense grace in the grey, it calls for huge sensitivity that I pray I can bring to this writing.  You can’t always draw straight lines across a crooked world, and I am not about to try. Here is what I will try to do:

Be as tender and nuanced as possible here as I

  • understand that this is close to home to many, raising kids in an environment where gay or lesbian is not just the parents of a friend at school but a loved one or close family member, or a class or teammate
  • understand that our kids as young as 7 are having to navigate social settings with puzzling pronouns and a social contract where the rules of friendship (and everything else) seem fluid, and all values and beliefs are not always considered as equally worthy of respect, and certainly not biblical ones.
  • Share with you what I shared with my sons, to equip them with understanding so they can navigate relationships – NOT POLITICS. Let’s leave that to someone else.

Considering that our kids are already being confronted with the LGBTQ+ issue, from the classroom to the Disney Channel, I want my kids to

  1. Be informed
  2. Be Tender
  3. Be Truthful
  4. Be prepared

So here is what I told my kids:

Be Informed:

It has never been more vital for all of us to understand what the Bible says, about God, about people and about sin. Any thorough reading of the whole of scripture will confirm that the premise and practice of the LGBTQ position is incompatible with the Bible. It is important for us and our kids to 1) know what the Bible says and 2) know that we can trust what the Bible says.

The way we deal with Scripture in our homes should attest to our kids that our definition of truth does not get set by the world but by the Word.

So begin by talking with your kids about God’s good design, set out for us from the beginning of scripture and why this design is good for families and communities and our world. And talk with them about sin, which is the deviations, temptations and desires that move us (yes, all of us!) away from God’s design. That is what all sin is, a departure from God’s plan. This is something we are all always tempted with, in what we do and say, how we think and reason, what we desire and long for. We can have compassion for the way in which LGBTQ people struggle with sin, because we all struggle with sin. Sin is not God’s best and it’s not His plan or intention.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written you will know that God’s word is always my jumping off point. We have a saying in our house: “Truth is God’s opinion about everything”.

In light of that, this is what I told my kids:

  • I read Romans 1 with them. This is a great starting point. We are all born sinners. Paul points out that we all have this 1 big problem, which lies at the root of every problem in our heads, our hearts, our bodies and our communities: that we exchange God’s truth for a lie. This is not just a problem the LGBTQ community has. This is a problem we all have. All humans everywhere. This is also a helpful starting point because often what our kids are hearing are people saying they where “born this way”, but the truth is, we were all born this way. Born into sin because of the fall of man. And we all have natural tendencies that are contrary to God’s design. One person might struggle with same sex attraction, but another might struggle more than others with greed, with selfish ambition, with lying. We all have areas in our lives where we feel tempted to sin more than someone else might struggle in that same area. It is the nature of fallen man.
  • We need to be clear with our kids that this is a problem we all have. Not just some people. But then we need to be clear about why the LGBTQ conversation differs in the following ways:
    • What God’s word calls sin is now being normalized. In fact, if you just look about what Hollywood and the media present to us, our current culture is not just trying to normalize what God has called sinful, it’s trying to promote it. In this way the world is trying to define for us what is and isn’t sin, and that definition does not line up with what God says.
    • Yes, we are all sinners, but the Bible tells us that sexual sin is different from other sins and here is why:
      • It corrupts God’s representation of his full character in the world. Both male and female represent the image of God (Gen 1 v 27).
      • It corrupts God’s intention: God’s model of male and female matters. God’s sexual ethic as revealed in Scripture is 2 sexes, male and female, created in God’s image, for the sake of family, for the sake of community, and ultimately for the sake of a fulfilled representation of the loving, sacrificial relationship between Him and us, His bride, the church. God is against anything that disrupts this sexual ethic because it’s a disruption of His intention, plan, and purpose with and for us.  The way God creates, the way He does things, always has a purpose!
      • It corrupts us on every level, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It defiles more than just our bodies because we are sinning against ourselves, our nature, our design, and that is why Paul says in 1 Cor 6 v 18  that it stands apart from other sins.
  • Even though homosexuality is one of the most vivid representations of this breakdown, any disorder of God in our hearts leads to disorder in our lives and in our communities. We were all born sinners, with desires and longings contrary to God’s design, because of the fall of man. We all stand condemned (Ps 14 v 1 – 3). It is not about having less of a desire for what is wrong, it is about having more of a desire for God. We all have to deal with sin when we come to Christ, and not just some sin, all sin, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3 v 23). That is why the healing of someone struggling with same sex attraction is the same as the healing of any other soul, in repentant returning of God to His rightful place in our affection.
  • As Christians, we believe that God tells us who we are, because He created us – not the other way around. We read about how we were made in Genesis 1 v 27. Biblically, sex and gender are one and the same. What is now referred to as “Gender Identity” is not a biblical or even biological concept. Some people might tell you that gender is a social construct, meaning people came up with it. Now, of course, some ideas about how men and women “should behave” have been socially and culturally constructed over time – like for example saying all boys like the colour blue and all girls like the colour pink. But the biological categories of male and female is not a social construct. It is not a feeling. It is not fluid. People cannot claim an internal identity that trumps their external reality, that man decides himself who and what he is, is simply people playing God and that is a sign of our times. But that doesn’t mean it’s true or accurate.
  • Eventhough we may live in a world where, in the name of “love” anything goes, and we are expected to change our truth in line with what is popular, God doesn’t change. The first words of the Bible is “God created”. That means He is in charge of it all. That means He gets to say what is right and wrong, true and false, and what is male and female too. Read these scriptures with your kids about the unchanging nature of God: Heb 13 v 8, Malachi 3 v 6, James 1 v 17, Numbers 23 v 19, Is 40 v 8.
  • Many today reject biblical authority by saying that certain texts in scripture have either been misinterpreted or need to be revised. People will base these arguments on for example the fact that Leviticus forbids homosexuality (Lev 18 v 22) but it also forbids eating shellfish (Lev 11 v 9 – 12), yet, how many Christians do you know who don’t love a plate of prawns! But this view does not consider the full counsel of Scripture. , The perfect life of Christ fulfilled all the ceremonial laws (i.e intended to make us physically clean) of Moses around the sacrificial system and ritual purity, which were in place in the Old Testament to facilitate the relationship between a Holy God and a sinful man. We know from verses like Heb 10 v 16, that the moral laws (i.e to govern our spiritual, mental and emotional cleanliness) of the old testament are now written on our hearts (i.e still in force), even though Hebrews also tells us that we are no longer bound by the ceremonial laws. But the prohibitions against homosexuality is  re confirmed in the new testament (Romans 1, 1 Cor 6, 1 Tim 1). PS, the prevalence of this message across the entire canon also puts to bed any argument that specifically the references to God’s sexual ethic, across both Old and New Testament, could have been mistranslated in Romans 1.
  • Lastly we must always be honest with our kids about the counter cultural nature of our faith. The ways in which our position on this and so many other issues alienate us should not be surprising to us (Matt 10 v 34 – 36), because the counter cultural way we are called to live affects everything from how we spend our money and our time, to how we vote, to what we watch on TV (and what we don’t watch!) and to what we believe is the best way for society to function. Just because there is something in the Bible that makes us feel uncomfortable or sound unpopular doesn’t mean it’s not true. This is the tension every believer is called to live in until The Day that all is set right and this is something we need to be honest about with every single person who comes to faith, including our kids. Jesus was honest about it in Matt 16 v 24.

“Forever O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” Ps 119 v 89

Be Tender:

We need to help our kids understand both tolerance as it is required of them to live along with others, but also to understand what I believe is a higher value than tolerance, which is kindness. Because tolerance as a word, can feel a little bit loaded, right? And with the compromise of Christian beliefs in many countries including the US now being set into law (and soon with the PEPUDA act here in SA too!), where standing on what you believe and value now is something you can be prosecuted for (not to mention culturally persecuted for), what is set before believers is a difficult road that must be walked with wisdom, the kind of wisdom that most of us grown ups can scarcely manage!

Even if this is something we as adults still struggle with, here is something I think we would be wise to help our kids understand:

It is possible to love someone without agreeing with them. It is possible to disagree with someone without hating them.

Yeah! Read that again!

So in terms of tender responses, this is what I told my kids:

  • God calls us to look at people the way He looks at them (2 Cor 5 v 16). This is why Jesus was never mean or unkind to people. But He was firm. He was uncompromising. He could do that because He was perfect, representing both love and truth at once.
  • Jesus’s example of compassion towards the woman at the well should be our template for engaging with people in sexual sin of any kind. Jesus saw people through a lense of love and truth, he didn’t see her through the labels others had for her, or that she had for herself. Understanding this, and having a deep awareness that we are all sinners and image bearers at the same time, will help us be more tender with people. When we see ourselves and others as God sees us it means we can have empathy for anyone else deceived by sin, stuck in sin, struggling with sin (even if they/ society does not name it as such and rather calls it a choice or an identity) because we have been there. This is where grace comes in. It is only possible to be gracious out of the position that we are all sick and in need of healing, that we are all sinners in need of saving.
  • So seeing people the way God sees them means being gracious. But it also means seeing their need for Him and responding. That is truly loving. God has a missional heart and so should we. It’s what we are all called to – to share the gospel. The gospel displays the kind of love people really do need, not the watered-down lipservice kind of the World.
  • But we cannot share the gospel in a vacuum. The Gospel is God’s message of love, and so we cannot share it void of love for the person we are sharing it with. Otherwise the gospel becomes a weapon or a stick, something it was never meant to be. So tender compassion is the only valuable starting point. We need to be kind in our conversations, and tender in our telling of the truth, because what people need before they need to understand what the Bible says about their lifestyle choices is the gospel. We cannot lead people to God’s greatest act of love by leading with a theological argument. Before people need a lesson on doctrine, biblical literacy or the inerrancy of Scripture (ps, tell you kids what the inerrancy of scripture means!!), they need the Gospel. Not the other way around. It is a person’s relationship with Jesus that will help them see what He says in His word and start applying it. Without the gospel, none of us can change. My teenager can’t stop being disrespectful, the bully on the playground can’t stop being aggressive, that bachelor can’t stop looking at porn, that neighbor can’t stop gossiping, and someone struggling with same-sex attraction or stuck in sexual sin has no means for change without the gospel. (if you need help talking to the kids about the Gospel’s relevance to our hearts and lives, please consider getting a copy of THE MOMMY DIARIES to foster Gospel-driven change conversations with your kids!)
  • Always remember that how we act is as important as what we believe. We are, for Christ, both messengers and witnesses. If we want to be messengers of His truth, we have to be witnesses of His love.

God’s love doesn’t mean we accept ideologies and ideas contrary to scripture because that seems “more loving”. It’s actually the opposite. The world tells us that to be truly loving is to “love people just the way they are”. But that is not loving. God loved us so much He died so we wouldn’t be stuck “just the way we are” (Rom 5 v 6-8), relegated to a life separate from Him, His peace and His purposes.

“What separates Christianity from other faiths is found in the scandal of grace. It is when we acknowledge our brokenness and inability to live as God wants us to that we begin to experience inner transformation.”

Sean McDonnel

Be Truthful:

In Jesus we saw the example of how love and truth must always go together. He showed us in the way He lived his life that they cannot be separated.

Bring truth in love, and do not sacrifice either, because only truth in love is the fullness of Christ.

Mila Venter

And to His followers, Jesus said: “If you love me keep my commandments” – Jesus said (John 14 v 15). But truthfulness gets tricky when the LGBTQ issue or any other type of lifestyle sin hits close to home. Like when it’s someone we know and love. And we are tempted to tell our kids, when they ask why “so and so” has chosen to do “such and such”, that it’s “it’s ok for him but it’s not ok for us”. What we don’t realise is that this definition categorises truth as 100% subjective, exactly in the “your truth is your truth, my truth is mine” way the world presents it. If you’re truth is your truth and my truth is my truth then what we are talking about is not truth, but opinion. Rather say “it’s not ok for anyone, but he/ she does not believe that. That doesn’t mean we don’t love him/ her. It just means we make different choices.”  In a post-truth culture, we need to be clear with our kids about understanding the nature of truth.

And one of the things we need to be the most truthful about, is love, because this is what our culture tells our kids about what love looks like:

Loving our neighbor = affirming every narrative our neighbor holds to. Every latest sitcom normalises alternative lifestyles and shows our teens that real friendship means saying “You are so brave, I support you no matter what!” But what if that is what God had done for us? What if He had said to us – “you do you! I support you no matter what!”. That is not merciful, loving or gracious. And brazen sin is not brave. And being supportive of it is not loving. We live in a world that tells us that hurting someone’s feelings is what we should truly fear, not the ultimate spiritual position and the health of their eternal souls. It is indeed a most unloving approach to love and as those set apart we have become really terrible at loving people enough to tell them the truth.

“Our culture has wrongly equated loving everyone with approving everything”

Lisa Bevere

So how then do we bring the truth to conversations about love and tolerance, identity and gender, biology and feelings, choice and freedom? What will be their foundation in current culture’s arguments against truth?

This is what I told my kids:

  • Soulish love and spiritual love are not the same thing. Love covering all cannot be used as an excuse for the acceptance of sin. One theologian said “better bad theology with love than any theology without love” but these things cannot be mutually exclusive. It can’t be love at the price of truth or vice versa, well it can, but then we can’t call it Christlike. We can’t call it “what Jesus did”. Jesus is 100% love and 100% truth, that is the fullness of who He is (Eph 4 v 13-16). So without that what we are preaching, what we are representing, is simply not Christ.
  • In a world obsessed with “freedom” which means the absence of restriction, the Bible calls us to a new kind of freedom. Tim Keller puts it this way:

“A fish is designed for water. It is meant to breathe and move in water. Only in water is it free to realize all its inner potentials. But if it is not confined to the water, it cannot realize this freedom. If it is “free” from any restrictions—free to go up on land—then it will die.”

Tim Keller

  • True freedom, then, is not the absence of constraints or restrictions. It is finding and complying with the right restrictions, the ones that fit the givens of our nature and being. Who better to tell us what those are than the One who called into existence our very selves? History is a wasteland of people who pursued the worldly freedom to dispose of the “yoke” of morality and Christian values, to their own destruction. Being left to ourselves has not worked out well for any of us. That is why Jesus came!
  • We live in a world where people believe that how you feel dictates who you are. That it’s our desires that define us. The very nature of the LGBTQ argument affirms this. But the Bible says that Jesus came to restore us from the desires that are at war within us (Gal 5 v 17). The world says those desires define us, but Jesus came to truly set us free!
  • We are all broken, every last one of us, even if our brokenness is expressed in different ways. Brokenness = sin. Sin = the distortion and depravity that is part of every person. Paul states so clearly in 1 Cor 6 v 9 – 11 how we are all sinners, justified only by faith (Rom 5 v 1), battling all our different genetic, hormonal, environmental, and contextual difficulties and disorders that constantly incline us towards sin. It is important for our kids to understand this because the distortion of our affection is justified everywhere around us, the loudest voices in the crowd is calling us to love ourselves first, put ourselves first and be true to ourselves first, because, according to the world, that is what freedom is and that is what is the truest truth and the highest love. But that is not the truth of Scripture.
  • The world and its Instavangelists tell us to just trust ourselves, to follow our hearts, but you just have to be around people for a second to realise that we don’t have to be taught to lie, cheat, steal, be selfish. Original sin is a reality, and that is what has made the heart deceitful above all things (Jer 17 v9) – certainly NOT worth following, until you can – through faith receive a new heart, and a new spirit (Heb 8 v 10). In a world where gender-confused individuals believe their desires reveal their “true self”, it really only reveals the sin nature that is true for all of us. The Bible doesn’t speak of the “true self”. It speaks only of the old self (dead to sin) and the new self (alive to Christ). So the best thing we can do is not to become more like ourselves (whatever that means in terms of feelings/ desires) but to rather become more like Jesus. Putt off the old self, and be constantly renewed (Eph 4 v 22 – 24). All of us need this.
  • That is why the gospel is good news for every single person.
  • But the Gospel is hard, that is a fact. Why? Because it represents a dying to self (Gal 5 v 24), it represents a cross to carry (Matt 16 v 24 – 26), it represents repentance of everything that is contrary to His order and ordinances. The cross will always make us choose. An old way of life, or a new one as I’ve already mentioned. And secondly, when God calls us He doesn’t just call us out of some sins. He calls us to repent of all sin. God does not call us out of these things to be a party-pooper, His biggest driver is always love. And so He calls us out of these things because He knows, they can never bring about our ultimate, eternal good and thriving.

“To carry a cross means you are walking away, and you are never coming back.” A. W. Tozer.

Be Prepared:

Especially in the teenage years and going into young adulthood, our kids are going to be confronted with these things and drawn into conversations about them, whether in person or online.

“You need a thick skin and a soft heart to stay faithful in this world”

Jackie Hill Perry

Here are some things that are good to know for them (and us) to be prepared in these conversations:

  • Not everyone is going to want to hear what you think about this. And that is ok. If you are a kind person, you will in your life have many opportunities to walk with people, and they may even ask for your help or guidance. Always be ready to share what you believe. Also always be ready to defend what you believe. That’s 1 Pet 3 v 13! But never confuse these 2 things. God is a relational God, and it’s not your job to go out and crusade for truth in the absence of relationship and love. Especially in this space and in these conversations, we need to have soft hearts for people who are hurting.
  • Our kids live in a way more volatile world than us, the internet brings aggression, anger, and hate right into our hands, our homes, our hearts. So we need to be sure they know: Yes, your convictions can be expressed, but be sure to express them with compassion. That whole sticks and stones thing is “malarkey” as my dad would say, words ignite, words explode. And we will get it wrong, all of us, all the time. Sadly, what has happened in the church around this issue is an example of this. So remember to be gracious. There is only ONE Word that is infallible, the One that became flesh (John1v14).
  • Walk in step with the Spirit and always practice discernment. 1 Cor 2 v 14 tells us that not everyone is open to the things of the Spirit of God, that to some, it’s foolishness. Seeds cannot be planted in soil like that.
  • Remember that love and compassion should not demand agreement. But, and this is a pretty big but, the rights of one group should not be used as a weapon against the beliefs of another. And that is what we now see happen in the US and it will start to happen everywhere. Disagreement is not the same as discrimination, but there are many agendas today that will try to make it seem such. We need to be aware of this and do what He told us to do when the love of many start to grow cold, which is to endure, with His help (Matt 24 v 11 – 12).
  • We don’t have to honor someone’s lifestyle or choices. We do have to honor their humanity because we have to honor God. We do have to love much because we have been forgiven much (Luke 7 v 47). Remember God looks at our hearts.

“Theological zeal must be subject to the test of love. Not all zeal is from God. Even when the error we oppose is clearly heresy, our aim must be to heal, not to disgrace”

Gavin Ortlund.

If you want to engage with me on this, I would love to hear from you, so please connect with me where I am most of the time, which is here.

I will try my best to respond. Know that every single one of my readers and subscribers are in my prayers.

Dear Grade 1 Mom, these 10 things will help you through that first year…

Dear Grade 1 Mom, these 10 things will help you through that first year…

Sending your kid off to “big school” is hard, even if it wasn’t during a pandemic! If you have a new Gr1 in your home this is a uniquely challenging year, and I get it. I was the mom in the oversized sunnies weeping haplessly in the car on the way home on that first day. Like trying to hold water in a cup made of toiletpaper. That was me trying to hold back tears on my eldest’ first day of school. He’s 14 now and won’t read this so I am not embarrassed to say it (or to post a picture of just how adorable he was mind you!). 

As I recently mentioned over on www.wifemomtravel.com, being a boy mom is like someone breaking up with you very very slowly. But regardless of whether you are sending your boy or girl off to school, that walk away from the school gate feels like a tear in the fabric of your heart, here are 10 things I learned that I hope will help you through that first year (and all the ones to follow!)

  1. Remember that anxiety is contagious. Kids are like dogs in that way, it’s like they just know when there is fear, panic or anxiety around. What has really helped me is to shroud this day, this event, and me and my child in it, in prayer. Need help with this? 5 Ways to pray for your child in the new school year
  2. Expect more from God and less from yourself. Remember, parenting will test the fiber of your faith. Your biggest battles will not and should not be fought in the principal’s office or at the parent/teacher meeting, but on your knees before the Lord. That is where you will make the most progress and see the greatest results in the life of your child. 
  3. And speaking of expectations, right now, going in, set your hope in the right place. Especially among some spheres of our society, the school convo is a big one. But the majority of our countrymen do not have a choice about where their kids go to school. This one thing I know for sure: My child’s future is not in the hands of a school – regardless of how fancy, a principle – regardless of how well regarded, a set of strategically executed moves – regardless of how well reasoned. It is in God’s hands. We should not rely on things, people, countries, institutions or relationships to deliver in the lives of our children what only God can deliver – a secure future and an eternal destiny. 
  4. You cannot control what is about to happen. But I couldn’t say it better than Lysa Terkeurst when she said: “One of the best things you could do as a mom is recognize that God is good at being God.” 
  5. Get clever with the time in the car. Whether it’s a 10 minute trip or whether you have to get up early to trek across the city, the opportunity of having your child as your captive audience for that time is precious. Use it wisely. My book, the mommy diaries, evolved out of conversations I had with my kids in the car. Conversations about winning, losing, about things that happened to them at school, among their friends. on the news, and it’s a great tool to help you transfer your values so you can raise kids with courage and character, simply by using their everyday experiences and your everyday opportunities. 
  6. Be prepared. You are inevitably going to arrive at school when it’s raining. Or wish you had change for the tuck-shop cause he forgot his lunch on the counter. Again. Or you’re going to arrive at 7 and it will already be scorching and no one thought to pack sunscreen. Here is what I keep in the car for the 433 hours a year I spend between home and school . Also be prepared with some clever questions so you can draw out more than a “fine”/ “nothing” to your “How was your day?”/ “What did you learn?” questions on the trip home after school. Be sure to check out my stories on Instagram this week OR check the Mom of Boys highlight on my profile here! 
  7. Get involved at school. And no, I don’t mean be one of those parents who are forever complaining about things. Go ask anyone, it’s always the parents who complain the most who do the least! Don’t be that mom! Research reveals that there is a direct link between your involvement at your child’s school and your child’s performance. No matter their income or background, kids with involved parents are more likely to have higher marks in class, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school. And your involvement will not just bless your child. If you are in a racially and economically diverse school, your involvement will bless the kids  whose parents are not able to be involved, bless the teachers and the school as a whole. 
  8. Embrace this transition in your child’s life as an opportunity to foster independence. For example prepping/ packing their own schoolbag/ using a planner/ diary, setting up a study space or desk and using an alarm clock in the mornings. Why not make a list of skills you want your child to learn by the end of the first school year and put it on the fridge so you can track his/ her progress together. 
  9. Have the big discussions early. I heard Hettie Brits speak about it this way once. When we are intentional about discussing certain things with our kids, for example sex and other tricky things, it’s like we open a file in the filing cabinet that is their brains. If we open the file first, giving them God’s truth about that topic first, every other thing they hear and see into the future needs to line up with that truth. But if we lack the courage or intentionality to have that discussion with them, someone else might open the file and place information in it that does not agree with your values or world view. Do not underestimate the spirit and insight of your child, have the hard talks. And do not underestimate what of the world your child will be encountering in the first year of school. It is both your job and your calling to prepare him/ her. 
  10. Be nice to the teachers. Not because you are trying to get into anyone’s good graces, but because, well, they deserve it! Teachers have a tough job at the best of times, and the last year has taken a toll on our teachers as they had to adapt to changing conditions, as they had to continue to try to serve our kids under challenging circumstances, as they risked their health to be with our kids and as some of them unfairly bore the brunt of many parents’ unwillingness to continue to pay school fees. We can honor teachers by not complaining about them in front of our kids, and we can serve them by recognizing the challenges of their job, doing something kind for them and by staying involved with our own child’s educational development. Check out this great gift idea for the beginning of term!

You are going to be tempted to worry about a lot of things. You are going to find yourself outside the school gate with other worried moms, with concern over this teacher/ that news bulletin/ the fact that your kid keeps losing his jersey gathering like a storm in your heart. Breath, remember Who is really in charge of it all, and then parent like that’s true.

What I told my kids about prayer

What I told my kids about prayer

Teaching kids about prayer in times of uncertainty

In this year we have faced trauma at school, family members threatened by a dire drought, and now, Covid 19, it’s effects reaching into every corner of everything we do, have, own, trust in. Never before has it been more important to be able to pray. And I was confronted through all of this with this question: Do my kids really know how to pray? Do they know why we pray? Do they truly have access to the power of prayer in times of loss, uncertainty, worry, fear and trial, or do they just know how to pray before they eat or before they sleep?

So here is what I told my kids about prayer:

We should pray because it’s a conversation with God:

Imagine living in your house with your parents and your siblings, and never talking to them. Imagine going to school and flat out ignoring your friends. That would be so weird. It would make you feel awkward and it would make your friends and family feel awkward too. Talking is one of the things we do to maintain, foster and build relationships. And prayer is talking. With God. That is why prayer must be honest, just like any conversation between you and someone you love whom you know loves you back. Just like  when you talk to that person, prayer doesn’t have to be full of fancy words, not flowery or over the top. Prayer is a conversation, not a sermon, a monologue or an eisteddfod performance. And just like talking to someone who you know fully accepts and loves you, prayer can change the way you feel, the way you see things and even the way you act. And that is why prayer must go both ways and include talking AND listening, just like any conversation. Otherwise, you are just making a speech. The problem is that we are all better talkers than listeners for the most part, and that is true when we are around people we can see and hear! So listening to God, whom we can’t see and whose voice is not audible, is even harder. But it’s not impossible, and prayer can be a time of talking and listening if we do exactly what we would do if we had a friend we wanted to listen to, which is to intentionally keep quiet. 

Set aside the time and create an opportunity for God to speak to you. Yes, you can pray any time and anywhere, but setting aside disciplined prayer time where you are not just venting to God means you are creating space for Him to speak to you. 

We should pray because it’s a command from God:

And just like all other types of commands, God insists on them because he knows they are good for us. God through prayer wants us to keep the channel of communication open between us, because He knows that without communication, relationships don’t survive and thrive. And if prayer is a command, that means when we pray we are being obedient, right? And before you think obedience is boring, think about it this way: Another word for obedience is trust. So every time we obey God, we are also trusting Him, and when we trust someone, we share our hearts with them, everything about our lives, the good and the bad. And that is what prayer is, and act of obedience and an act of trust. And that is why prayer is so powerful

We should pray because Jesus did it:

Which shows us that it must be a very important thing. And when we start copying Jesus, the more we will become like him. And the great thing is that Jesus, in the way He himself prayed with and for His disciples, shows us exactly how we should pray

  • Faithfully (Rom 12 v 12)
  • Even for our enemies (Matt 5 v 44)
  • In watchfulness about what we notice and gratitude for what we have (Col 4 v 2)
  • With the help of the Holy Spirit (Eph 6 v 18)

We should pray because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us. And also because God gives His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking Him for them.

Heidelberg Catechism

We should pray because it’s powerful and releases God’s power into our lives and the lives of others:

The Bible tells us that the prayer of the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5 v 16), and thanks to Jesus dying for us, we all are “righteous” because we have Jesus’s righteousness. God uses prayer in the lives of us and of others because His desire is always for a relationship, to partner with us in bringing about His will on earth. 

What I told my kids about prayer

 

The Bible we read about many instances where the power of prayer overcame enemies (Ps 6 v 9 – 10), brought about healing (James 5 v 14 – 15), conquered death(2 Kings 4 v 3 – 36) and defeated the power of the demons (Mark 9 v 29). God uses prayer to bring healing and restoration, to give us wisdom and to open our eyes. It is a way to draw on the infinite resource of power that is the God of the universe!

Note to parents:

Prayer is a posture, it’s a conversation, it’s correcting and it’s a contribution to the work of the Kingdom, and in The Mommy Diaries I expound on how to journey with our kids on this and also how to teach them to pray. All orders of The Mommy Diaries during lockdown will come with an amazing free resource by Rev Leigh Robinson called “A solid foundation: Biblical Truths our children must know by heart before the age of 12”. Perfect for discipling your kids and using all the time at home to sow eternal seeds! 

For blog subscribers, there is also a handy infographic with an easy rhyme that teaches kids about praying anytime about anything, some quick crib notes to help you answer those tough questions on prayer (if God knows everything why should we pray?) and how to use the ACTS acronym to teach your kids how to pray. 

Subscribe today if you want that!  

 

Why you should forget about work/life balance in 2020, and what to do instead

Why you should forget about work/life balance in 2020, and what to do instead

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I’ve have written about new years resolutions a couple of times. A new year is a great time to reassess and re- envision, and so we all enjoy making a list of things we think we should do, even of things we think we should stop doing.  As a working mom with a side hustle, I was recently asked to write about work-life balance. And you know what. I couldn’t. Because there is no such thing!  It’s all nonsense. Work-life balance is stupid. I think it was possibly invented by men. Not because I think they are stupid, but because, for example, a man invented the turducken, another thing that sounds much better than it actually is in real life. Work-life balance is pie in the sky, and it’s a concept that makes people (especially women) feel frazzled and unhappy and that they are invariable letting someone down (can I get a heck yeah?). And here’s why:

Balance is a static state, and I don’t know what your life is like but I can tell you right now my life is THE.OPPOSITE.OF.STATIC. Schedules, realities, priorities, energy levels and people are constantly in flux, they are not fixed. That is why it’s the very idea of “balance” as an expected or desired state that is making us feel stressed out and constantly guilty about all the things we are not doing.  Aiming to have it all in balance is aiming for something that is not achievable. I advise we all ad it to the list of things we need to let go of, like fitting into those white jeans we wore in our 20s. Please, I beg of you, do not make this one of your new year’s resolutions. Here’s what I think we should aim for instead:

Work from a place of peace, not towards it…

Unwittingly, we all divide up our life between work and non work – “getting through” the one to “get too” the other. All of our life is in compartments, work in the one, play in the other, toil in the one, comfort in the other. We think, and work, and believe and prioritize like our peace will be found in peaceful circumstances and surroundings. But God calls us to relate to peace as something we already have, not something we have to “get to” or “work towards” or “bring about” by controlling/ changing our circumstances. His Word tells us that Peace is a Person, Peace is a Promise, Peace is a precious Gift. So in every task we do, in everything we engage in, we are called to do so from a place of Peace, from that Source of peace, from a Position of peace, not towards it. When we see our life like this, all the strands of work and play and difficult and easy, successes and failures start forming one single tapestry. It changes our perspective and infuses all aspects of life with more meaning. Not just the bush-break/ beach-holiday parts. And peace as something we already own, as something inside us, empowers us to withstand the pressures and strain that is evident and unavoidable in every season of life. We think of peace as a place we need to arrive at where it really should be a departure point. That perspective can change everything.

Make flexibility a fitness worth mastering…

Now, let me be honest here, I love me a diary. I love a to-do list, a schedule, a planner, a nice crammed-to-the-brink-with-colorful-blocks google calendar. But nothing, and I mean nothing will give you a little productivity and planning reality check like a sick child. Or the school holidays. Or load shedding. Or a dead car battery. Sometimes things happen, things we don’t control, and when we have rigidly structured all of our time and focus because we believe that will give us balance, that will give us peace, those “life happens” moments really mess with our attitude, our perspective and our sense of accomplishment. In my dancing days, we learned that strength and flexibility are inextricably linked. For one muscle to flex, another must give and release. I used to believe white-knuckling it through my days, obliterating obstacles in the way of my sacred to-do list, was a show of strength, but sister, strength without wisdom is just brute force and it will flatten you because here’s the truth:  when the wind blows, the grass must bend.

Your level of peace when calamity/ uncertainty/the unplanned strikes  is directly related to where your faith lies and who (or WHO) you believe is in control. If that’s you, you will be anxious and overwhelmed. If its God you will have peace.

Murray Brown

When we embrace flexibility, when we learn to “roll with it “ (yes, I know, the Enneagram 1 in you is literally wanting to run away right now, I feel you honey!) we are in fact surrendering our agenda to God’s plan, opening ourselves up to embrace the realization that yes, even the bumps in the road are a part of our live before God, Coram Deo. We are submitting to the One that has already called us to do everything, even the unexpected, and NOT just the things we planned to do that was on today’s list, as though we are doing it for Him (Col 3 v 23).

Flexibility helps us live from a place of surrender, not striving.  If you can learn to be flexible when things don’t work out, then it’s just a “change of plan”, not a “disastrous disappointments”. And if we let them – those very disappointments can become divine appointments with God

Choose rhythm over routine…

This is the best way to practice your flexibility “fitness”. As moms, we are drilled about routine early on. It’s the holy grail of parenting when your kids are between 0 and 5. I think we are all in that mindset that if we could just be more rigid with our routine maybe we’d get more done. But it inevitably leads to disappointment when we’ve had 2 weeks of great workouts/ study times/ work or whatever and then suddenly our kids are writing exams or it’s the school holidays or Jesus help us Christmas time. Then we feel frazzled and upset because we had it all worked out and now we feel like we need to start from 0. Then even the call to respond to a person in need becomes something we have to “fit in” to our routine, which to be frank is just a terrible place from which to serve someone.

What if you chose rhythm over routine? The idea of rhythm is a flexible approach that is cognizant of the fact that you do not live in a bubble, but that your days and routines are influenced by the rhythms of your people and your context, the seasons of your journey and your city and ahem your kids. Sometimes there is intense, productive activity, sometimes there are periods where your focus must shift, and sometimes there is a need to respond to where you have an opportunity to serve others with Christ’s love.

Even Jesus’s life attested to this. When he was called on to turn water into wine, to serve and respond to a need, he wasn’t upset because he actually came to “party” and now he had to “work”. He didn’t say “hey ya’ll are interfering with my downtime here!” or “this was not on my schedule for today”. He was simply engaging with the very next thing, the very next good work that God had prepared in advance for Him to do. Rhythms help us to respond, routines keep us rigid. In a rigid routine, we sacrifice our peace and we deny that a sovereign God ordains meaning in all our moments, even the ones we didn’t plan (Psalm 139 – like all of it!)

Choose fruit over fear and meaning over more….

There is a guy who juggles at the corner of Republic and William Nicol Drive. Now, incase you didn’t know, here is the thing with juggling: every time you add a ball, you have to throw the balls you have HIGHER to give yourself more time to catch all of them. It’s almost diabolical. Doesn’t matter what type of mom you are, how many jobs you do in or outside of your home, or even how many kids you have and how many extramurals they do, we can all identify with how much the whole thing feels like juggling. Porcelain plates. Or hand grenades. And everytime we ad another goal, activity, to do or must do, another expectation, another yes, we have to throw the balls we already have higher and higher. Take more risks. Fit more in. Take more vitamins. Get up earlier and go to sleep later. But here’s the truth:

More does not equal meaning. Multitasking and doing/ adding more can never ever deliver on the meaning that you are hoping your life will have/ your kids’ lives will have. There is no fruit without focus and there is no focus if you have to do everything fast. But if you’re schedule is too full, fast is your only option. Focus is one singular thing, it cannot be divided into many things because then, ultimately, it’s not focus. Then it’s just dissipated, distracted, dividided attention that literally serves no one.

I know, I know, us moms wear many hats, we hustle that split shift of work/ wife-ing/ mothering/ all the other things like real hardcore mom bosses, but sometimes it just feels like we did a whole lot of stuff not very well. Something that helped me was to see my day as having various pivot points, each presenting an opportunity to be present. To sow focus so that those moments can bear fruit. Because if I am trying to serve my kids lunch but I keep checking the emails piling up, not only will my laptop be full of peanut butter (this is not good) but nor the emails nor my kids get my full attention. And in the end the precious time with my kids does not bear the fruit of connection it had the potential for and the work does not reflect the excellence I was aiming for and I am exhausted and I feel like a fruitless failure. This is a quote that challenged me this year and that I want to challenge you with:

“Never is a woman so fulfilled as when she chooses to underwhelm her schedule so she can let God overwhelm her soul”

Lysa TerKeurst

Often we add more and more to our life and our schedule out of fear. Fear that we (or our kids) are going to fall behind, fear of not enough, but fear cannot produce anything of value. Fear is not fruitful. But faith is. It’s the only thing I’ve seen that produces anything of value in our life.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

What I told my kid about getting a smartphone

What I told my kid about getting a smartphone

(This is post 1 in a 2 part series about smartphones. The next post will be about what I told my kids about owning a smartphone. You can’t call it a “before” and “after” if you like)

Like all other parenting decisions, the choice to give a child a smartphone or tablet is a personal one. My son, God bless him, is the only GR7 in his class who doesn’t have a phone or tablet, a fact that he reminds me of with irrational frequency. But that is about to change. Soon he turns 13 and the winds of change, which smell suspiciously and strongly of Axe deodorant, are blowing through our house. 

In this blog, I will be sharing with you why we decided to wait this long to give my son a phone. In the follow-on blog I will share with you what we shared with him things he needs to know regarding actually owning one. Our agreement with our eldest is that there are certain rules and responsibilities, attitudes and characteristics that need to be present by the age of 13 if he wants to have a phone by then. If you want this list, it’s available as a free printable to subscribers, so be sure to subscribe to the blog

DISCLAIMER: This is not my judgment on parents whose kids have phones. Far from it! Spend one day with me or interview my kids and you will realise in about 5 minutes flat I am in no position to judge any other parent. Seriously, you do you! The reason I wrote this blog is because 1) People ask me all the time how we’ve handled the smartphone issue and 2) This blog arose from a series of actual convo’s I had with my actual stroppy and frustrated 12 yo in the car on the way to school. Use it don’t use it, like with everything else on this site! 

This is what I told my kid about getting a smartphone:

You are still learning about relationships:

One of the most important skills to have is the ability to build relationships. As I mention in my book in the chapter on popularity, there is a distinct correlation between our general well being and our ability to build and maintain strong, lasting friendships with peers. I don’t believe having a cellphone helps kids with this. In fact, I think in kids, who are still learning about being around others, it actually hinders their ability to be socially comfortable. 

Technology at its best connects us, but at its worst, it disconnects us and desensitizes us to the world. 

Picking up social ques, looking people in the eye, discerning tone and timing, empathy, genuine connection, you can’t develop one of these skills if your only interaction with others is via a screen. Connection via a screen cannot, should not, ever be considered the same as actual connection with actual people and learning from those interactions. 

You are still learning about responsibility:

Here are the facts: learning to be responsible is exactly that, something you learn. And you don’t start that learning by being responsible for a R3000 piece of equipment that gives you access to the internet. You just don’t. As your mom I will not be doing you a favor by starting to teach you responsibility at that level. You learn responsibility by starting smaller. Much, much smaller. You learn it by being responsible for the R60 swimming cap you keep losing. You learn it by taking seriously the small tasks entrusted to you. Here is what Jesus said:

“The one who manages the little he has been given with faithfulness and integrity will be promoted and trusted with greater responsibilities. But those who cheat with the little they have been given will not be considered trustworthy to receive more.” 

Luke 16 v 10 TPT

So if you can’t keep track of the R60 swimming cap or remember that it’s your “responsibility” to take the recycling out on a Thursday without your mom telling you, well, then you are not yet responsible enough to own a smartphone. It really is just as simple as that. 

You have to earn your privileges:

Privileges are earned. This is true for every single person in the world, in every job and sphere we operate in. And the fact is, a smartphone is exactly that. A privilege. Not a human right. Not a necessity for someone who doesn’t have a job or any of the complicated logistics of adulting to manage. And by delaying giving you something you desperately want, we as your parents are actually making you a better person. Some of the most awful people you will ever encounter are the entitled kind. You are not entitled to a phone. There is a tangible list of achievable things (remember to subscribe for this list as a free printable!) by which you can earn this privilege, meaning you are 100% empowered to do so. 

You should still reap the benefits of being a kid:

Experts are now able to prove the negative impact smartphones and access to the internet has on the mental health of children. In the ever rising child suicide numbers and cyber bully headline we as parents are seeing the fruit of the access we have granted to humans who are simply not ready or equipped to cope with it. 

Having a phone also makes you physically vulnerable. Just recently I read about a school in Cape Town where there was a robbery during school hours. Yes, a robbery. At a school. Why? Smartphones is why. In every decision we as your parents have to count the cost and if I have to choose between you being unhappy about not having a smartphone or you having compromised mental health, or being traumatized by a cyberbully or a robber well, I’m sorry, but the choice is obvious.

I am not made of steel. I want a happy child who feels like he fits in just as much as the next parent. Saying no to my kids is hard, even when I have all the wisdom and reasons why. But NO is not bad for you. Most wise no’s are for the sake of a bigger yes. I want my son to know there are values that far supersede the value of fitting in or getting what you want when you want it. I want my son to learn and know the secret to really living, and living well. I want him to know what it means to be free. But those lessons are not normally present in an environment where you 1) always get what you want and 2) get things you are not ready for 3) you do exactly the same thing everyone else is doing. And I trust that my son will eventually see the wisdom in this, if not today then hopefully some day.  My job, my calling as mom, is not to give my son everything he wants and guard his happiness. My job is to equip him with what he needs to live a good life. To love and lead him into the Kingdom so that life might have a purpose, and to guide and guard his body, mind and spirit as I carry out that calling.  Go with God mommas, I know this is a tough one!

What I told my boys about #metoo #amInext and being a woman in South Africa

What I told my boys about #metoo #amInext and being a woman in South Africa

My son saw the #metoo #amInext march in Cape Town last week on the news. The conversation went like this:

“Why are they marching Mom?”

“Because violence against women in South Africa is like an epidemic my son”

“But why Mom?”

“Because there is something fundamentally wrong in our society?”

“But why Mom?”

“Because my son, there is something fundamentally wrong in our hearts.”

I stand behind that protest 100%. But a protest is like a volume button, it get’s your attention. but making something louder doesn’t make it better. It is certainly no substitute for action (Yes this is actually also something I’ve spoken to my kids about). But action by whom? As a mom raising boys, I find myself at the coalface of where I believe the change must happen. Graca Machel was right as she addressed mourners at the memorial service of tragically slain student Uyinene Mrwetyana, when she said: “it is in our families”. The correction needs to happen much closer to home than in a courtroom or a police station or via some system or law. At home is where the shaping happens, make no mistake. Your home is the frontline where mutual respect (yes, boys should respect girls and yes girls should respect boys because people should respect each other. Bottom line ) is modeled or distorted, where we either uphold or disregard, instill or destroy the fundamental truth of our shared worth, value and humanity. We don’t need governments and systems to change. We need people to change. And we are people…raising people. That is actually why I wrote The Mommy Diaries, because we are raising kids in a complex world that is only set to become more so. But there is a way to live and lead in that complexity with courage and wisdom. 

The hashtags of #metoo and #amInext and #femicide is a call to a higher standard of engagement. But as parents we must call ourselves to it if we are hoping to call our kids to it. And so I believe it is above everything not a call to governments and leaders, but a call to action directed at families, a call to parents. 

It’s all of our responsibility to raise the kind of kids who appreciate the uniqueness, equality, dignity and value of the opposite gender. That doesn’t just happen.

It has never been more important to engage with our kids in a new and focused way around these things and to be intentional about it. So this is what I told my boys:

The way women are treated is an atrocity:

This is not limited to South Africa or certain communities or cultures. It’s true everywhere. And women have had enough. Our breaking point has been centuries in the making and now it’s here. And I want my boys to know why. It is based on certain misinterpretations of biology and theology, that didn’t take into account a full set of facts or context.  Misinterpretations (i.e the “glasses” through which people “read” these things) that have been accepted as truths, but that are in fact lies. And I have no problem in calling them lies because the idea that women are somehow “less than” has no biological, cultural or scriptural basis. These lies have informed everything from how women are treated and paid, to where they are and aren’t allowed to be/ serve/work/play and have snowballed into the utter disregard with which they are hurt, abused, spoken of and to. These lies are present in homes, in businesses, in churches and in cultures. I know this first hand.  

But the problem is not in how women are treated:

The true problem lies in the way women are viewed. The problem is deeper than history, than a culture of patriarchy, than biases and blond jokes. Because all of those things find their origin in one place, in the way one person sees another person. In that sense racism, xenophobia (another evil that rocked our nation again this week) and femicide/ gender based violence is not that different. Because at their root they all find their origins in the way one person sees another person. And as is always the case, the way you see someone else is most often based on how you see yourself. If you see someone as less than, it’s because you see yourself as “more than”. If you see someone for some reason as less deserving, it’s because you see yourself as more deserving. 

So yes, it’s important that we address equality, pay equity, femicide and all those good and essential things, but lets make no mistake, real change happens in a different direction. 

I don’t want to raise boys who know how to behave in a way that honors, values and respects women. Having the good manners to not tell blond jokes and not hit girls is not the same as holding firm to a fundamental believe that all people are worthy of honor, value and respect.

Because ultimately if we wish to see changes in our society, in legislation, in our communities, there can be no fundamental change effected on that level if we don’t dig down a little deeper and try to affect change at a heart level. 

Change will not come through laws and loudspeakers if it doesn’t first come in hearts and homes

Always fight lies with truth:

This is the definition of truth in our house: God’s opinion about EVERYTHING. And if God sees everyone the same so should we. His opinion is that we are all equal (Gen 1 v 27/ Deut 10 v 17/ Rom 2 v 11/ Gal 3 v 26 – 29) and have equal standing with Him. 

In God’s eyes we are endowed with worth not because of this or that attribute but because of His likeness in us and His love for us. It is not dependent on status, race, gender or culture. This is something that is true of every human person.

God gives us a different lens through which to see the world. In fact Jesus in word and deed was an example to us in how women are to be regarded and treated in society, in defiance of the social, judicial and religious customs of His day. In all things He is the embodiment of what loving others should look like. Jesus shows us that our lens must never be culture, or history, or tradition or popular opinion. The examples that proves that there is no “less than” attitude in the bible when it comes to women are too many to mention, but I like to throw some at the boys from time to time just to make sure they know: “The first person Jesus told He was the Christ was a woman, the first person He appeared to after He rose from the dead was a woman. Oh, and just incase you were wondering what God thought about women consider this:  none of you would even be here if it wasn’t for us”.

The call on all of us is to regard everyone not by what we see on the outside, but by the truth of them as spiritual beings (2 Cor 5 v 16) and image bearers. Misogyny (and yes, my kids know what misogyny is because they understand prejudice. Thank you South African Public schooling) is based on a skewed idea of worth that we can only correct by acknowledging a higher truth.

Consider carefully, don’t consumer carelessly or accept mindlessly:

When we say things like “the problem is in society or culture or whatever” what we are often trying to communicate is that something has been “normalized” over time to a point where it is accepted. If we do not pinpoint those “accepted lies” and reveal them, they will hide in our hearts forever. That is why I encourage the boys to look and think a little deeper whenever I get a chance. 

At a recent school prizegiving, a Gr 7 girl in The Elder’s class received an award for taking the most wickets in a cricket match at provincial level. Even though my kids attend a wonderfully integrated and dynamic school, there was still that ripple of suprise that went through the audience, and it made me chuckle a little. But it also presented a great object lesson for the boys. Why shouldn’t a girl perform well on the cricket field, or any field?  Look, I’d be the first to tell you I don’t enjoy watching women play rugby, for example! Because frankly if I wanted to watch women shoving and bumping at each other aggressively I’d much rather just go to the Woolworths Quality sale, am I right? But that doesn’t mean women shouldn’t play rugby, or go to space. I don’t want my boys to just mindlessly go along with what societal pack thing dictates as the “norm” and so I look for opportunities to challenge that thinking and to put forward this truth: 

Roles, jobs, positions and participation should be based on gifting, not gender! Always. Everywhere.

Our words reveal our attitudes and so I am pretty brutal when it comes to blond jokes, the use of phrases such as “women driver” and I strongly discourage the boys from listening to music that objectifies women. As an Afrikaans speaking female I am deeply horrified at how often in my culture songs contain those types of messages, but they serve as great object lessons to explain to the boys: 

Make sure that even to the level of the content you consume and the jokes you tell you are reflecting the honor and respect that you yourself would like to be on the receiving end of.

Recognize and respect:

I tell the boys to pay attention to the contributions of not only the women in their lives (there are some epic ones!) but also the women in our world. Reading female authors, watching female athletes and considering the specific strengths and traits of the girls and women in their world that they admire. Not in an “anything boys can do girls can do better” kind of way, then all we are doing is swinging the pendulum the other way. That also doesn’t reflect respect or value. But in a way that sensitizes them to recognize and respect women equally in a culture and society that is possibly not set up for that to happen naturally. 

We have the power to change things.

In a world of man-bashing (mostly rightly so), we as boy-moms should try to encourage positive masculinity and chivalrous behaviour that has nothing to do with long-dead ideas about men and women, but has everything to do with the heart attitude that there is never a reason to be mean, that kindness is always the best response, and the golden rule of putting others first that helps our kids to shine a light in the world. 

When we sensitize our boys to inherent biases I believe we are actually empowering them. It equips them with an understanding of the world that helps them make sense of things, and an understanding of themselves that helps them grow. The power for real change lies not in the pressure we can put on a government or system or institution. Because at a fundamental level it’s not society, history or culture that govern what we do and don’t to, it’s what we have accepted as true, have bought into on a belief/ heart level. 

It is only change at a heart level that helps us see things differently. Only then can we do things differently. 

What I told my boys about girls

What I told my boys about girls

I can’t wait to talk to my sons about girls, sex, dating – said no mom ever! I know, I get it. But I once heard a parenting expert explain your child’s understanding of these type of topics as files being opened in the filing cabinet of the brain. The file will be opened, named and will start containing information gleaned from what they hear, see and their environment. By being intentional about these awkward topics, we are in essence taking the initiative to “open the file”, thereby having a chance to input shaping information that is in line with our worldview, convictions, and morality. Every other piece of information that then comes into the “file” get’s tested against the truth that we put in first. Should we remove our intention we give way to the alternative, a view on women, dating, sex, shaped by the barrage of messaging, content and images that the world is consistently producing and offering up.
I didn’t want to write this. Newsflash: Being a boy mom is not dissimilar to being a girl dad. You experience the same fierce protective streak and compulsion to grab a shotgun. However gracious and “live and let live” you may appear you still secretly harbor the conviction that no one will ever be good enough for your offspring. Even if he is currently obsessed with slouchy pants and continues to be amused by his own farts.
So you can imagine my reticence when The Elder returned from Holiday Club with a hand full of notes secretly passed (some things never change). He had an expression somewhere between bemused and confused on his face as he read me a note from one girl who asked to wear his beanie, another his jacket. When I asked “what do you think about that son?” and he said “I guess they like my clothes?” Ummm, I realized I had some work to do in helping him work out how he should respond.  Because how he respond doesn’t just affect him, but as he is being shaped by this interaction so are the girls he is interacting with, all of them at an age that is forming the neural pathways and emotional understanding of those interactions for years to come. Yes, we have ticked the boxes on the body and sex conversations. But this blog is about the fuzzy stuff. The stuff I want him to keep in mind as my son, as someones’ future boyfriend, as someone’s future husband. So here is what I told The Elder about girls…so far….
Be honourable – Every night before my boys go to sleep I say to each of them: “You are my treasure”. And so I have told The Elder that he must remember that when he is interacting with a girl, she is also someone’s treasure too, her mom’s, her dad’s, and God’s. And all treasure must be seen as precious and must be handled with care. Every person we encounter is an image bearer.
Be kind – “respond to girls in a way that protects them and protects you”. My son is 11, an age where possibly there is a disconnect between the feelings he has and his ability to express them. So arming him with “scripts” that enables confident responses that are also kind is how we have chosen to help him. For example: “ I am too young to have a romantic relationship, but I would enjoy getting to know you as a friend. “ or “I am too young to have a girlfriend, but I know how to be a good friend so let’s do that instead.”
Be a gentleman – Even as a 40-year-old woman, I can still recall valentines day slights, offhand comments that I shouldn’t have heard, boys being insensitive boys, all of these things I remember from being an insecure pre-teen girl. So if I am going to be the mom of a pre-teen boy, maybe I can spare some girl having similar, shaping, sore memories. My boys don’t have sisters, but they have 3 girl cousins, and a slew of friends who are like family, so when I tell them to treat every girl like she is Lila, Isabel, Jua, Hannah, Sophia or Ava, Pia or Sienna, they get it (please Lord Jesus, I hope they get it!). I take pains to help them make sure the little girls in the class that the boys know might not get anything for Valentine’s day gets something, albeit anonymously. I (try) to keep sexist joking and name calling out of the house and discourage them (strongly) from participating in it at school.
In a world of man-bashing (mostly rightly so) we as boy moms should try to encourage positive masculinity and  chivalrous behaviour that has nothing to do with long-dead ideas about men and women, but has everything to do with very much alive #everybodyalways #kindnessalways thinking and the golden rule of putting others first that helps our boys to shine a light in the world.
Be careful – puberty and its company of feelings and hormones are hard to manage. And in the right (and by that I mean the wrong) situation, it can be like a car rolling down a hill, i. e hard to stop. Encountering attraction and trying to understand it is tricky for boys, so sound advise for this life stage is to stay in a group. “Don’t put yourself in a compromising position!” For now we steer clear of concepts like “dating” or “going out” until a more appropriate age.
Be aware – “Not only are you as a boy going to be dealing with your own growing awareness of the opposite sex, but you will also be dealing with girls who are going through the same thing.” In every person, the outside is most often a reflection of what is going on on the inside. So I told my son than when he encounters a girl who seems like she is overly desperate for male attention (albeit via what she wears or how she acts), give her a wide birth and keep a careful but kind distance. There are possibly things going on in her heart/life that you can’t help her with and that your attention is not the answer to.
Yes, the pre-teen and adolescent path is a messy meander of navigating confusing, overwhelming thoughts and feelings. However unpopular it might be, that’s where we as parents come in.
Make peace with the fact that you are going to be the good guy in your movie and the weird guy in theirs (there will be allot of “Awww Mom ! Gross !  I don’t want to talk about this with you!”), and launch as deeply as you can and as quickly as you can into the “girls” conversation. Yes, if you are a boy mom, leave the sex convo to the father/ father figure in your boys’ life. But when it comes to the emotive stuff, remember what it was like for you when you were a girl and use that as a jump-off point to help your boy be the kind of boy your 10-13-year-old self would’ve wanted to encounter.