2007-08-11

Mary DeMuth: Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture

Recently, my good friend and writing cheerleader, Mary DeMuth published a new book, Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture. I had the chance to pick her brain about it a little bit.

What does postmodern mean? And why should it matter to parents?

Postmodernism is the waiting room between what used to be a modern worldview and what will be. According to several postmodern scholars, we’re in a shift right now, leaving modern ideas behind, but what we are shifting to is not yet fully defined.

Postmoderns believe that rationalism and/or more education doesn’t necessarily create a better society. They typically don’t embrace the notion of absolute truth, though they reach for the transcendent. They are skeptical, and often question whether science is something to be embraced or feared.

The question for parents is how will we mine the current worldview, even as it shifts? What in it can we embrace as biblical? What is not biblical? What I’ve seen in the church is a fearful adherence to what is familiar. So we cling to modern ideas, even though they may not be biblical and shun postmodern ideas even when they might be biblical. Our children will meet this shifting worldview no matter what our opinion of it is.


Should it matter even MORE to CHRISTIAN parents?

Yes, because how we interact with the world around us is very important. Parenting is something we do to train our kids to become interacting agents with the world. If we isolate our children in fear, then let them out the front door of our homes to college, they will not have the necessary tools to engage with all sorts of folks. If, however, we walk alongside our kids in community, teaching them about how to love the unlovely or discern right from wrong, they will have more tools to navigate the culture after high school.

I liken parenting to discipling. It’s a great walk-alongside endeavor. We disciple our kids to engage culture, yet remain unstained by the world. That’s a terribly difficult thing to do (something I am still working out in my own heart), but vitally important

What if I don't want my kids to think like post-moderns?

The book isn’t about getting your children to have a particular postmodern mindset, it’s about navigating through the culture alongside your kids. The key is to be there for them, model authenticity, and help them discern the culture they live in. More than anything, I want my kids to be Christ followers, not culture followers. I want them to be infatuated with Jesus and His kingdom. Most of that comes through the bread and butter art of modeling my own love for Jesus.

So how can I help prepare my kids for the world that is looming outside their door?

Become a conversational parent. Talk to your kids. Listen. Share your story.
Dare to believe that God has much to teach you through your kids. Be humble enough to learn from them.

Create a haven for your kids, an oasis in your home that protects, supports, and gives kids space to be themselves. Take seriously the mandate that you are responsible for the soul-nurturing of your children.

Teach your children to joyfully engage their world, while holding tightly to Jesus’ hand. Teaching this comes primarily from modeling it in your own life. Do you engage your neighbors? Are you more interested in God’s kingdom than your own?

Admit your failures openly with your children, showing how much you need Jesus to live your daily life.

You are the first to admit that being authentic might require a parent to apologize after an angry outburst. Are you saying that authentic parents don’t always have it all together as some would like to think?

Yep! We are all frail, needy humans. If we present ourselves as perfect parents, never failing, always doing this correctly, we show our children we have no need of Jesus. We also set up a standard of perfection—that to be a Christian, one has to be perfect. This can lead to our children creating elaborate facades or hiding behind masks. I’d rather have my children see that even mommies make mistakes. Even mommies need Jesus every single day.

You talk about the twin values of engagement and purity. What do you mean by that?

Many parents subconsciously believe that true parenting means protection at any cost. We received a lot of flak for putting our children in French schools because the atmosphere there wasn’t exactly nurturing. Believe me, the decision was excruciating. But through it all, I realized that Jesus calls us all to be engaged in the culture we live in, yet not to be stained by it. That’s the beauty of engagement and purity.

Abraham understood this. After God told him to leave everything and venture to a new place, he obeyed: “From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:8). Oswald Chambers elaborates: “Bethel is the symbol of communion with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abraham pitched his tent between the two.” As parents journeying alongside our children through a postmodern world, this concept of pitching our tent between communion with God and engagement in the world should encourage us.



If you would like to read an excerpt of Mary's book, click h
ere.

To get your own autographed copy, click here.

And while you are at it, check out Mary's blog and website.

To check out Mary's great fiction, go here and here.

2007-08-09

On our way

Well, I think I'm ready. The bags are packed except for a few last minute things that have to go in when we get up (at 3:15 AM!!) The house is clean (except I didn't dust, for shame!), the instructions for the house guests are written out.

Now I just need to take a shower and pack up toiletries and then hit the hay. I am not thrilled about the actual journey, but can't wait for dinner tomorrow night when we'll join the other team leaders for dinner and our first session.

One of the BEST things about staff conference (or Connect as we are supposed to call it now) is that there is always an excellent program provided for our kids. A team comes from the US to basically do VBS with them and they always have a blast. So we can enjoy our sessions and they have a great time. I am really grateful for a mission organization that values my kids.

Not sure about Internet access or time to get online, so if not before, I'll be back in Madrid on the 18th but probably not back online until the 19th.

Until then, have a good one.


2007-08-07

Tuesday

Posting is probably going to be slim from me this week as I try and get everything on my to-do list done before we leave for Hungary early (read, the shuttle is picking us up at 4 a.m.) on Friday morning. As usual, there are some last-minute glitches showing up.

August in Spain is a challenging month, because businesses literally shut their doors for part or all of the month, simply putting a sign on the door saying "We're closed for vacation; we'll be back on...." It's a crazy way to do business, but totally common here. Enter the vet. I have called a few times and left messages saying I want to board the dog. So far, nobody has called me back. This happened to me 2 years ago but then the vet called me back at the last minute. I am hoping that happens again, but if she doesn't, I'm going to have to figure out something. Arghghghghghghgh.

I also still need to do laundry and pack, which is do-able, if I just get to it.

In more exciting news, our Amy is coming home tomorrow morning! Yay! We're so excited.

We got rain over the weekend (yahoo!) and so much wind that big tree branches fell down all over the city. It was crazy. But the temps are down a bit, so it's all good.

Last night, the boys were gone on The Sleepover so Meg and I grabbed a burger for dinner and then watched Ever After. Meg was a bit sad that the boys were gone, so she ended up sleeping with me.

Today we have staff meeting and office hours, then I really need to see about getting our newsletter photocopied (yeah good luck it's August!) and getting the house clean. A German friend and a friend of hers are going to be staying in our flat for the weekend after we leave, so it really needs a good going over.

And now I need to get dressed and take the dog out!