August Mailbag: Circumcision? Breastfeeding in Public? When Your Child Says, “I’m Bored?”

 

August 2015 Mailbag // jessconnell.com // circumcision? bathtime w/ opposite-gender siblings? writing homeschool curriculum? breastfeeding in public?

TO CIRCUMCISE OR NOT TO CIRCUMCISE?

Q: To circumcise or not to circumcise? I’m anxious about the subject and my husband and I disagree. What do you guys do? And what were your reasons? Thanks!

First, don’t be anxious (this is a biblical command for believers!) and stop reading nonsense anxiety-giving mom stuff on the Internet.

Trust your husband. Lean in to him more than what other voices say. It doesn’t even matter what I say really. Lean in to the Lord and to your husband. Let those two voices drown out all the others. Billions of little boys have lived just fine both ways over the course of history. It’s nothing to be anxious about. Listen to the Lord and to your husband.

I’m serious about the mom stuff online. Leave it alone. They will give you new things to be anxious about every minute of your child’s life.

God will lead you through your husband, again and again through your life. I’ve worked through this particular decision, too (we’ve faced it six times!), and God has always been faithful to lead us through Doug & continued prayer. He’ll lead y’all too.

Hey, I bet you haven’t read my book. Go right now and sign up to get it for free and I’ll send it out. It’s short and sweet but deals with how to face decisions like this. Now is a time to lean into the Lord, and pursue oneness with your husband, and not let a million other moms cause you anxiety and drive a wedge between you and your husband for the next twenty years.

God will lead you. Try to ignore what other women say; take all the fever-pitch opinions with a grain of salt. Pray and talk pray and talk pray and talk and God will lead you. Not saying it’s not important; just that it’s not worth anxiety. It’s not worth frustration at your hubs. Talk it through, yes. Think it through together. But ditch the anxiety. Let your mind and heart be at rest.

 

HOW TO HANDLE “MOM, I’M BORED!”

Q: I have a question for you Jess Connell, how do you handle children honestly telling you that they are bored. My almost 7 year old says this often at quiet time and I think because she’s so social (and has all younger brothers) she wants to interact during this time that I need to nap and rest and so I don’t know what to tell her often. She does school and chores in the morning as well as some chores in the afternoon. Just wondering if you had any strategy esp. for this age range and issue. Thanks and take your time.

A: Well, first, “bored” is kind of like a curse word in our house. When one of our kids says that, I tell them “I don’t ever want to hear you say that again. There is absolutely no reason for you to ever be bored in our home. We have spent your daddy’s hard-earned money on hundreds of things that you can choose to do. You have an incredible array of options and you could go the rest of your life with only the items that exist in this home and never have a reason to be bored.” 

Then I’ll usually prompt them at that point: “I want you to list out 5 (or 10, or more, depending on how despairing their attitude is… the more despairing/dramatic they are, the more I ask them to list) things you could do right now that would be interesting and that you could do cheerfully.”

If they struggle, I would ask them to sit for however long is necessary to come up with the list. Affirm any options they come up with. After a while, once they’ve started the list (and perhaps finished the # you gave them to list out), you add even more options to it… “or you could jump on the trampoline, sit and draw with markers, build animals with Legos, pull out your Bible and read about the amazing life of Joseph, make a domino design and then knock it down, go to your room and play your harmonica, ask your little brother if he wants to play “Guess Who?”, grab the bag of books and read about all sorts of amazing things, listen to books on tape, build towers for your baby brother to knock down, pull out one of the how-to-draw books and learn to draw something better than you used to be able to do.” Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. 

Then restate: “See? You never have a reason to be bored in this house. There are always things to discover and think about… you have a wonderful mind and God has given you a desire to discover things. Now, which of these neat things are you going to do quietly and cheerfully this afternoon while mommy rests?”

This is my basic approach to this, and it typically only takes a few times of this (and the very occasional reminder) for them to be self-starters who make their own adventures and fun during quiet time, and never say “bored.” :) 

By the way– if they persist in this, or act as if the things we listed are terrible options, then I simply assign chores. And they keep doing them until I see genuine attitude change and a willingness to go about normal life, doing options like the ones listed above, with a cheerful demeanor.

Hope this helps!!

 

HOW WE HANDLE BATHTIME FOR OPPOSITE-GENDER SIBLINGS

I actually got TWO questions about this same topic this month. Here’s one of them:

Q: My daughter has recently started asking lots of questions about anatomy, why she is different than her brother, etc. At what point do you start separate bath times for different gendered siblings, enforcing closed doors during potty breaks, etc? Any thoughts?

You know, I can tell you the way we’ve handled it, but more than that, I want to give you some big-picture things to think about as you consider what’s best for your family.

As far as questions about anatomy, I handle those pretty matter-of-factly, according to the questions they’re asking. Consider if the question was, “why are my hands different shapes from my feet?” Or, “why are your hands so much bigger than my hands?” how you would answer that question? I give factual physical information according to what they need to know, and their curiosity level.

So I would tell any child (boy or girl) something like the following: “God gave us all privates so that we can go to the bathroom– everyone has a way to go pee-pee and a way to go poo-poo. Everyone goes poo-poo out of their bottoms. Boys and girls go pee-pee in different ways though. Boys have privates, called a penis, that stick out from their body, and they go to the bathroom that way. Girls have a vagina, and go pee-pee through a hole in their body. God made us different so that we can get married and make families.”

That’s very simple, factual, and –very likely– gives them the information they were wanting to know. ARE we different? HOW? And WHY? If they say, “can I see?” We say, “no. One day if you’re married you can see your husband/wife’s privates and they can see yours. Until then, you need to keep them to yourself and ask mom/dad/a doctor if you have a question, need help, or have a problem like if something itches or hurts.”

For bathtime, we separate genders after/around 4 years old. That seems to be the time when our kids have really noticed “wow, we’re different.” Is this a hard and fast RULE? No. But for us it has worked. It preserves modesty and allows for awareness of differences without encouraging foolish play based on curiosity. Same thing for closing the door while changing clothes and/or going potty.

If there is ever any touching, we address it directly, according to the seriousness of the action.

(Ex: For a 4 year old who reaches out to touch his younger brother’s bottom: “No-no. You are never to touch another person’s private/bottom/chest, etc. Do you understand me? Who is allowed to touch privates, and why? — they answer some variation of: mommy/daddy/doctor sometimes, for going potty or having a bath. — You must never do that again, and no one is to do that to you. Do you understand?”)

And then we move on. (By the way, this means that you need to be present with your children to watch and correct them, and not leave your children alone in the bath together.)

Now, there are times where someone is sick but someone else is getting a bath, so in a family, sometimes you say, “turn your eyes away but go ahead and run in and go potty,” or whatever. Real life happens, and we want to teach our kids to be flexible and protective toward one another amidst real life, not just robotically “follow the rules” but not actually learn to think and care for one another.

We occasionally allow older siblings (say, 5-9 years old) to take a bath with the toddler because they think the little one is so cute and fun. When that happens, I’m in the room the entire time just to make sure there’s no foolish play. I’ve also heard of other families keeping on bathing suits to let opposite-gendered kids bathe together longer.

I’m not saying what I’ve written here is “the way.” This is simply our way.

Big picture things we think about:

  • Are they (or is one of them) aware of differences?
  • Do they seem (or have they ever seemed) drawn to/bothered by/nervous about it?
  • How is what we’re doing teaching them to preserve privacy and that the two genders are distinct?

BREASTFEEDING IN PUBLIC?

Q: Jess, can you write your thoughts about the big trend to breastfeed in public or the trend of posting pictures on social media of your child breastfeeding. I hear a lot of people say things along the lines of “God made my breasts for this” but His word says “Let her breasts satisfy you always” so he clearly made them as sexual objects too. People also use other cultures as an excuse. I thought you would have good insight on that since you’ve lived overseas. Thanks so much!

Yes, I do have some thoughts about this.

Human cultures see this issue differently, in all kinds of ways. Some cultures breastfeed for much longer than others. Many purportedly view breasts as not sexual at all. Some cultures, also, are now post-breastfeeding cultures and prefer formula. American culture views breasts as sexual… that is clear and unequivocal, and we all know it, even if women in “nurse-ins” pretend not to see that aspect.

So we have to evaluate the human culture we live in. (This is the same overarching idea, by the way, that has governed my views and approach to choosing my clothing in various cultures that we lived in… human cultures have varying standards on what is “respectable” but I love the standard in 1 Tim. 2:9-10 (“respectable attire”), because it helped me determine in each culture we lived in and visited: what do “respectable” women in this culture wear?) What the culture we live in believes to be right and respectable is one, human-level determiner of whether or not we are doing what is loving toward our fellow man.

But as Christians we have to go beyond the mere cultural evaluation. What human cultures do can be helpful for us as we draw our baseline MINIMUM standard as believers… but where we draw our ultimate boundaries as Christian women ought to come from Scripture.  We do not only live in a human culture, so how a given culture views it is only one part of the story. As Christians, we are to view life according to the lens of the Bible.

Here are the things the Bible says about breasts:

  1. THE BIBLE PRESENTS BREASTFEEDING AS NORMATIVE, HEALTHY, AND RIGHT.  (Genesis 21:8, 1 Samuel 1:21-24, Psalm 22:9, Psalm 131:1-2, Isaiah 49:15, Isaiah 66:10-13, Luke 11:27, 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 1 Peter 2:2)
  2. THE BIBLE ALSO PRESENTS THE SEXUALITY AND UNCOVERING OF BREASTS AS NORMATIVE, HEALTHY, AND RIGHT WITHIN MARRIAGE. (Gen. 2:25, Prov. 5:18-19,  Song of Solomon 7:7-9, 1 Cor 7:1-16, Heb 13:4)

Breasts are functional. Breasts are sexual. Both/and.

So, then, my simple practical answer is this: I cover while I nurse in public, and it seems wise and loving for Christian women to do so. I’ve covered (in public) while nursing our 7 different babies (with various “issues”/difficulty levels of breastfeeding), and nursed them all to a minimum of one year (my little one is currently only 6 months old but still nursing). Covering does not inordinately hamper nursing (although certainly– like anything else– one must be committed to it and practice with it at home in order to be adept at it in public) in any way that is not already present without the cover (i.e., a baby with a poor latch is more difficult to nurse than a baby with a good latch, no matter whether there is a cover or not).

The argument that “breastfeeding is natural! Why should I have to cover my poor baby while he eats?” falls flat with me. In Eden, even when Adam and Eve covered themselves, they evidently did not do so enough, and so he made skins for them that covered more than their piddly leaves. I think we are apt to not be discreet enough, and apt to think that our covering is adequate when it is not, and in general, we need to watch for those tendencies in ourselves.

I’m not advocating for a burqa, but I am advocating for a simple cover that maintains privacy.

While I can not point to one black and white chapter and verse, I do believe these basic principles should govern our thinking in this area.

Breasts are for breastfeeding, yes. That is good and healthy and right and not dirty, shameful, or bad. Breasts are also for a husband to “lay hold of” and “delight in.” This, too,  is good and healthy and right and not dirty, shameful, or bad. But both involve an area that is private and (at least partially) sexual.

Therefore, regardless of what our surrounding culture says, we cover those things that are sexual, intimate, and private, out of respect for our husbands, out of respect for our Lord, and out of respect for the people around us.

HOW TO TEACH WRITING?

Q: Hey Jess, I wanted to pick your brain for a minute… trying to plan our homeschool year– I’m looking at doing IEW for a language program. Have you done this before? What are your thoughts on doing a separate grammar program? Since you are a writer, I thought I’d go straight to the source. Also how do you feel about the philosophy of Susan Wise Bauer for teaching writing? Are you familiar with that? I was thinking I’d start her book, Writing with Ease, for our 1st grader. I wish I had started that with the older ones.

A: We’re going to be doing Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) for the first time this year with our 8th grader, but I have heard NOTHING but good things about it for years, and I’ve been so impressed with Andrew Pudewa… so I feel really comfortable recommending it even though I haven’t done it.

I don’t know anything about SWB’s approach. I’m personally more of a better-late-than-early gal, so I don’t know where she falls, but that’s where I fall. I’m fairly suspicious of anything that starts formal learning at early levels. Charlotte Mason (18th c. educator/not sure if you’re familiar with her) said that a child who reads only excellent things will have a strong foundation needed for writing excellent things.

For us what that means is I limit their reading to quality stuff. I don’t want them reading nonsense books, poop joke books, or dumbed-down brain-wasting books… anything like what Charlotte Mason called “twaddle.” Part of making a good writer, I think, is intentional exposure to excellent writing. So I’m not trying to produce that at an early age, but rather, giving them continual interaction with excellence, so that when they begin to attempt writing, they’ll have that standard of excellence well-solidified in their mind.

So I tend to be choosey about their reading, and we wait to teach formal writing. But that’s me, and that’s my approach for now. Maybe I’ll regret that 10 years from now; we’ll see.

When I think back to writing, and how it developed for me, it was through 3-4 teachers who took me on more like a personal tutor situation. With two of them– in 7th grade, and in high school, we would sit together and refine my writing bit by bit. With two different college professors, I got specific, honest feedback — and that was often both incredibly humbling and quite helpful. But I don’t remember any writing/purposeful work on writing prior to 7th grade, and I don’t think I suffered for lack of early training.

My approach thus far has been to give focus on verbal narration, and almost never require writing– only asking for short written communication prior to this year (Ethan’s starting 8th grade).  We’re diving in deep this year– he’ll be doing Lincoln-Douglas debate in a debate league, and writing cases, and then we’ll be doing IEW together for more formalized writing. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t written anything (in fact, he’s written short stories, begun several fan-fiction-style novels, and more); but rather, it’s not been anything parent-initiated until now. This year, with him, I’ll begin doing for him what was done for me… careful, thoughtful feedback and critique that will (hopefully) lead to him being a more conscientious, disciplined writer.

I think the main thing to being a good writer is being a good thinker, and knowing how to use language in a way that is precise and winsome (which comes by being exposed to tons of excellent writing), so for me, I put my effort in the early years to exposure to wonderful writing of all sorts (Roald Dahl, poetry, excellent speeches, Scripture, etc.)– I want to spark their interest in WORDS, so that playing with them and using them will become intriguing and attainable to them. Once they consistently see it done well, that will be the standard for what excellence looks like. Those are my thoughts; don’t know if that’s helpful or not. And like I said, I could be all wrong and perhaps in 10-20 years I’ll look back and see flaws and holes in what this approach has produced.

Submit A Question // jessconnell.comThanks for your question & I hope you have a great year homeschooling, whatever you guys decide to do.


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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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4 Responses

  1. Christy says:

    I appreciate all of these answers. I just wanted to chime in on the breastfeeding in public question/answer. I think the necessity of the use of a cover for breastfeeding in public depends on the mom’s figure (or lack thereof!). Personally, I am small-chested, even when breastfeeding, and it has never been difficult to remain covered with just my shirt and still breastfeed in public. The baby covers my breast, and my arm and the baby’s arm cover my side, and my shirt covers the rest. Just a point that those more endowed may not consider. :-)

    In response to the IEW question, I wondered if the reader is familiar with Classical Academic Press’s curriculum for writing called Writing & Rhetoric. It starts around 3-4 grade, and I love that it has a lot of word play in it. It’s very simple to implement, and we’ve used it for a few years now. It requires thinking on the child’s part as they play around with synonyms and re-write sentences. We used WWE for several years, and now we’re using W&R before we dive into IEW eventually.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Thanks for adding your experiences with the writing curriculum!

      And yes, I have definitely seen its a different ballgame with different-sized women. For women in that circumstance, one good way to be more sure about what’s being seen is to having a friend or husband walk around you at various angles, especially during latching on and pulling off and seeing what can be seen and if things are really as discreet as it seems.

  2. “Lean in to the Lord and to your husband. Let those two voices drown out all the others”. Oh Jess, I haven’t even read the rest of the post yet, but I just had to say “Go Sister”.

  3. Brittany says:

    I love your answer for the first question…it applies to any other “hot topic” too. I can make myself crazy and stressed out reading all of the mom battles online about whatever. Really the only opinions that matter on any issue involving our family are the Lord’s and my husband’s. I could save myself so much anxiety if I could remember that. :) Thanks for the reminder!

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