Every Generation Judges the Next (and usually harshly): Parenting Edition

No, I have not read this book:how-to-raise-an-adult_custom-486b723d84bbdeae0e5b15b621999f90af939d6b-s400-c85

But I am a parent of my times, and so I know ALL about “helicopter parenting.”  Honestly, I can’t take it too seriously.  Do some parents go overboard?  Yes.  In every generation, are there some parents who are outliers of the norm and give the rest a bad name?  Yes.  Am I tired of this discussion?  A resounding YES.

It might be because I’m a wee bit defensive, having just dropped my first kid off at college, and am facing the consequences of “attachment parenting.”  (My preferred name for my parenting style.)  Holy cow, no one told me it would be THIS hard.  I knew it would be hard, but my household is reeling – Spouse and daughter included.  And no one warned me how it would feel to be an “attachment parent,” and have those kids actually grow up into amazing young adults and, gasp, LEAVE.

In case you want to start, yes I have a life.  I have an incredibly rewarding vocation as pastor.  I have deep, close friends I see regularly.  I practice yoga, and I’m studying to be a yoga teacher.  My life does not revolve around my kids.  BUT:  When they were born, I nursed them, and found it very hard to leave them even for a night when they were babies and toddlers.  When I weaned my first because I had a week-long youth mission trip in NYC, halfway through the week, my spouse and son joined us.   I chose Doctor of Ministry program because friends lived in the area, and could watch my toddler for me.    (Daughter came in-womb.)  I didn’t plan it, but I’ve been entirely grateful that my work allows me the freedom to be there for my kids – after school, for sports, for rides (Just not on Sundays.  Or some weeknights.  That’s the gift and curse of parish ministry.)

And my kids are independent, fight their own fights, and when those times come, freely asked us to not get involved.  And we don’t.  But when we’d have the international students of the Hopkins Masters of Public Health over for dinner, and I heard these mothers and fathers leaving infants, and toddlers, and school kids behind, on another continent, for a year – my heart broke for them.  And again, I was thankful I never had to make those agonizing choices.  Motherhood and ministry just worked together, more or less seamlessly, with my personality and attached parenting.

Maybe that’s why we’re floundering so.  I wouldn’t change a thing, but I would warn other parents who are practicing “attachment parenting.”  It’s really, really hard when they leave the nest.

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Breathing, Part II: In the pulpit

So, breathing meditation helps with fear.  How about anger?

Maybe you don’t get angry – but probably, you do.  And at inappropriate times and places.  Maybe certain issues push you over the edge and your heart is racing and your palms are sweaty and your breathing is shallow and fast.  Maybe you too can go from peaceful to raging in less than 6 seconds.

One recent Sunday afternoon found me in the pulpit of a funeral home, leading a very eclectic memorial service for a friend’s sister and brother-in-law who had died in a climbing accident.  American-born Koreans, first generation Koreans, and Koreans who just flew in for this service and didn’t speak English were joined by the yoga community to honor these two beloved people.  I was trying to hold together a multitude of world-views, traditions, faiths, and spiritual practices, and I’d be lying to say I wasn’t a tiny bit nervous and self-conscious.  We would recite the comforting 23rd Psalm along with a responsive reading from the Bhagavad Gita.  “Nothing in life or in death can separate us from the Love of the Divine,” from Paul’s letter to the Romans would be joined by chanting in sanskrit.  Then 20 minutes before the service was to begin, I was told that the pastor from a local, large, well-known non-denominational church had been invited to say a few words – Could I find a time in the service to have him speak?  Yikes.  I was not a happy camper.

My anger started to build.  I don’t much care for non-denominational pastors.  I am too Presbyterian, too connectional.  I believe pastors need outside accountability.  I believe churches need to be less pastor-centered.  Such churches present as liberal when they are anything but.  They tend to have very narrow interpretations of scripture.  They easily become all about the personality of the pastor.  But mostly, I firmly, passionately believe God calls women to ordained ministry, and take it extremely personally when told otherwise.

It’s now one minute before the service is to begin and in he walks, and I am now very ticked.  I had worked hard on this service; I was anxious; I really did not want to have Jesus shoved down people’s throats as this time, as I assumed he would.  In retrospect, I realize I did not want my Christian faith represented by him.  After introducing myself, I invited him to stand up and speak.  And my blood started boiling.  All my buttons were getting pushed – It wasn’t his fault, I just have issues with (usually men) establishing their credentials in the pulpit  – Naming his church, how long he had been there, how he knew just what people needed to hear at times like these, how Jesus loved them, how the week before he had been leading his own mother’s funeral service.  I unkindly thought, this isn’t about you, Mister!

Thankfully he spoke long enough I had plenty of time to breathe.  Deeply.  Over and over and over.  Inhale – this isn’t about me – Exhale – It still isn’t about me.  Inhale – what does it matter what he thinks about me – Exhale – It still isn’t about me.  Inhale – de-personalize.  Exhale – trust the Spirit is at work.  Inhale – I am here to help this family – Exhale – it will all be okay.  Over and over and over.  Inhale – who cares how long he’s served  – Exhale – I too am called by God.

And finally, my self-righteous anger subsided. Never mind how inappropriate or poorly timed.  When we’re angry, we’re angry, and denying we are can just make it worse.  But letting the beast be in control isn’t the way of compassion; in fact it’s downright selfish.  And so I breathed.  And so my nervous system found a balance.  And so I was able to lead the rest of the service from a place of calm and compassion.

Yep, guess I’d better keep on meditating.  Give it a try – maybe it will help you through some of your own tough times when your own less-than-best self shows up.