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Full of grace, seasoned with salt.

7 Oct

A couple of weeks ago, a blog post was written about the attitude of young girls on Facebook. The writer described how teenage girls’ selfies are a stumbling block to her growing sons and that sadly, (girl)friends on Facebook who will display inappropriate photos will have to be unfriended. Her blog post went viral and created mixed emotions around the world. It certainly generated discussions in my neighborhood and was a main topic at my daughter’s birthday party (among the parents, not the children!)

The writer’s intention was not to hurt anyone’s feelings nor to be judgemental. Her intention was not – but the impact was unfortunately not what she intended. Her post was considered by some to be unkind and judgemental; for me, it made me reflect on whether it truly reflected who we want to be as Christians.

Part of our discussion here in my house was around the question: how would you have done it? Was it just a matter of tone? Should she have chosen different words?

My initial reaction when I read her post was to be angry and frustrated. I am a Christian woman and a mother and I have real concerns over what is accessible on the internet. I have two young boys and the idea of helping and teaching them to keep their mind pure is, at times, overwhelming. I have a daughter and the task of teaching and showing her to ground her identity in Christ and not in the fleeting values of this world is, at times, overwhelming. I too, feel my blood pressure rise when I see teenage kids doing the exact opposite of what I would want for, or what is helpful to my own children. I too, feel like walking up to them and say “really….???”.

But then I go back 20 years ago, and I remember that teenage girl that wore tight pants and low-cut tee-shirts. I remember that teenage girl that would have done anything to attract the boys attention, just because it felt good, just because she needed to be accepted and loved and she didn’t know any other way of doing it. She didn’t know that there was a God who loved her a thousand times more than any man looking at her with lustful eyes. If somebody had said to her “If you dress like that, you cannot be friends with my family”, she would have felt judged and misunderstood. She would have felt alone and angry. She certainly would not have tried to understand where that somebody was coming from. She would have been taken away from an opportunity to know Jesus – the one who accepts even the prostitute.

The day I gave my life to Jesus was the day I understood that He had always loved me unconditionally. And on that day, I was probably wearing inappropriate clothes.

So how would I have done it? Was it just a matter of tone and different words?

There are no words kind enough to reject the outsider based on his behaviour. There is no tone gentle enough to judge the outsider. 1 Corinthians 5 puts it so simply: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside”. The word of God has so many beautiful things to say to those who still try to find love, acceptance and purpose in the things of this world.  I have been given a precious gift to share with the girl who is selling herself so short on her public profile. Would not the knowledge that the Lord loves her as she is be more life-changing than the knowledge that her clothes are too skimpy? It is tempting to enforce our moral compass on the people outside our faith, but how disastrous an effect it has on them.

The Lord has not called me to control their behaviour. He asks me to control my own, and He has given me the responsibility to teach my boys how to control their own. I cannot blame the girls’ dressing code for my boys’ lustful thoughts.(Would that not be a lost battle anyway??) No, my boys need to learn to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. They need to know deep in their heart that the lasting beauty of a woman does not only lie in her bosom (because let’s be honest, some of her beauty is in her bosom!) but more importantly in her heart where she nurtures Jesus.

I know that the responsibility is on my boys’ shoulders. However, I also know that, until my boys reach a certain level of discernment, I will monitor their online presence, unfriending people with questionable profiles if it helps them. I want my boys to grow to the point where they find the quiet confidence to detach themselves from the girls whose selfies make it too hard for them not to stumble in their thoughts. I want them to know in their hearts that the Lord values women so much that He would hate for them to have a distorted view of them by looking at their ‘sexy’ pictures and lust after them. Until they are mature enough, I have the responsibility to guide and encourage them.

If my responsibility to outsiders is to present to them how wonderful the Gospel is, a lot of thought is to be put into my online presence.The widespread online media makes it that much more difficult to act and react in a way that brings glory to the Lord’s name. Social networks are a knife with a very sharp blade. Sometimes we cut more than we intended. Most of us have good intentions for doing or writing the things we do. But sometimes, good motives aren’t enough. The only stumbling block to someone’s view of the Lord should be the Lord Himself, not our pet-peeves and rantings.

Let us be bold of the Gospel, of Jesus who forgives, of the Lord who loves, of the undeserved gift that He freely gives us.

His word will bring conviction and repentance.

Not ours.

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French kids don’t have ADHD? Well, mine does.

22 Jun

An article from Psychology Today was published last year. It was called “Why French kids don’t have ADHD” and it resurfaced a couple of weeks ago on Facebook.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/suffer-the-children/201203/why-french-kids-dont-have-adhd

Now you might not know me at all or maybe just a little but you should at least know these 2 things about me:

1. I’m french.

2. I have a kid with ADHD.

Obviously, it appears to be a shaky start for the writer of this article because I am the living proof that French kids can have ADHD. Maybe it is because we live in a plagued-by-ADD South Africa, or maybe because we are the exception to the rule – since French love exceptions. 

A few of my friends shared that article with me and wanted to know whether it’s true (Don’t they know the first 2 things about me??) My first two reactions were:

1. Mwahahahahahahahahaha! (after reading the title)

2. Roll of the eyes (after reading the article)

But being french with an ADHD kid, I felt compelled to look deeper into the article.

Marylin Wedge, the writer of the article, starts by comparing how ADHD is labeled differently in the US and in France. On one hand, the US  call it a biological disorder, treated with medication like Ritalin, while in France, it is considered a  psychological disorder, treated with counselling. The difference is ‘treating the symptoms’ vs ‘treating the cause/ root of the problem’, the difference between ‘chemical’and ‘psychological’.

I don’t really want to dissect the article (you’re disappointed, I know!) because the topic of ADHD is so vast and so controversial that even after reading up so much on it, even after living with an ADHD boy for 8 years, I don’t feel like I have enough knowledge to do it justice. However, reading the writer’s observations about the french way of raising children (2nd-hand observations, taken from a french book), it made me think about what I observed; first, as a French person raised the ‘French way’ and second, as a mother of an ADHD precious boy.

The part of her article that makes me uncomfortable is when she states that French kids are better behaved than American ones.

French kids are awesome. I wish I had one.

French kids are awesome. I wish I had one.

I would argue that it is debatable. The French society is without a doubt much less permissive than the American one. When I go back to France for holidays, I am always reminded (‘shocked’ is a more accurate word) of all the rules – said or assumed – that my children are expected to follow. Starting with wearing shoes (winter or summer), not walking more than 3 feet away from me, not climbing, jumping, leaning over or reaching for anything higher that their knee-level, sitting quietly at a restaurant, not speaking too loud or making sudden moves… I find that often kids have to live through the old adage of ‘being seen, not heard’. In my observations, the discipline that the writer mentions is not a thought-through decision taken for the sake of the child but rather a discipline enforced when the child’s behaviour becomes inconvenient for the parents.

Every child is off to school from 3 years old until 18, 8.30am to 4.30pm, 4 and a half day a week. If they are not ‘Sage comme une image’ ( literally ‘as well-behaved as a picture’), they’ll quickly learn. The way kids were brought up 50 years ago is the way that they are raised today because, after all, why change something that worked so well at the beginning of last century?

It might seem strange that I would take a stab at the french way of raising children. Being French myself, I’m sure that I have – consciously or not – adopted some of the French behaviour, even when it comes to raising kids. A friend of mine has been incredibly helpful when my kids were younger, reminding me that it should be an age-appropriate discipline. In other words, expect a 2 year old to behave like a 2 year old!

The writer seems to imply that this strict discipline is what saved France from the ADHD that afflicted other countries.

For me personally, I rewind a couple of years: the year my son turned 5, the year we took the decision to try out Ritalin for our ADHD son. A decision not taken lightly, a decision that came after taking him out of his preschool because the teacher asked us to, a decision that came after having him assessed by a paediatric neurologist, a decision taken after realising the impact that his behaviour had on the rest of our family, a decision taken not just for my sake, but also for his.

When parents – and I include myself – find that no strategic parenting style seems to work the way it should, when your child is unable to sit still long enough to learn, when his relationships with friends, siblings and parents suffer because of his lack of impulse control… when these parents turn to the help of Ritalin for the sake of not only the ADHD child but also everyone else in the family, I cannot but roll my eyes at this kind of article.

I do not know whether the french society has less ADHD kids or whether they suppress their symptoms and spirits through rules and punishment. What I know for certain is that there is a place for Ritalin for those overwhelmed children who suffer academically, socially and emotionally. I know for certain that Ritalin brought balance into my son’s life and into our home and I know for certain that he is grateful that there is a medication out there to help him control his emotions.

I know what I aimed to achieve when I put my son on Ritalin. I am confused as to what the writer aimed to achieve with her article.

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