Thursday, February 26, 2015

The trouble with honesty

Recently, Anna and Levi have both caused me to arrive at a point of conflict within myself.  They used different means, but my quandary was the same. 

What do you do when your child comes clean about disobedience?

I was cleaning the kitchen table, and happened to look out of the window in time to catch Anna doing something she knew she shouldn't be doing.  It posed potential health risks, and we have definitely lived here long enough that she knew that.  When she came inside later in the day, I asked her about it.  Crestfallen, she admitted that yes, she had done it.  We talked about the possible outcomes - that what she was doing could make her sick - and I asked her whether she knew that what she did was both unwise and disobedient. 

The gloomy "Yehhhss mommaaaa......"

Levi's version of the story was a little more amusing to me.  I glanced down the hallway to the kids' room yesterday, and saw a Levi-shaped blanket sitting upright on the bottom bunk.  I grinned and thought nothing of it; recently he's enjoyed playing hiding games, and I assumed he thought we couldn't see him, sitting there with his blanket over his head.  Later on, though, as I was putting him down for his nap, I found Anna's bag of Valentine's candy on his bed - empty.  We had a conversation that went something like this:

"Levi, how come Anna's candy bag is in your bed?"
"Umm ..... puhcause I putted it there."
"Well, I think she still had some candy left, bud. Do you know what happened to it?"
"Uhhh.... yeeaaaahhhh........"
"Where did it go?"
"........................ umm....................... I ated it."
"Is that why you were hiding under the blanket?"

We talked about taking things that aren't yours, and about how his actions would make Anna feel when she found out the candy she'd been saving was gone, and decided that Levi needed to give his dessert to Anna after dinner to make things right(ish!). 

Both kids knew they were disobeying, and thought that because Mark and I weren't around they wouldn't get caught.  But - both kids also told the truth when I asked for it.  Lately this has not always been the case with Levi; I think he's figured out that if we ask him a question, he can actually choose how he responds..! 

The consequence of Anna's poor choice was that she was grounded for the weekend: "If you aren't able to make good choices when you're outside playing, you'll have to stay inside where we can keep an eye on you and help you make better choices."
As I wrapped up our conversation, though, I started to wonder.  She disobeyed - granted - but then chose to tell me the truth instead of lying to cover up her actions.  I called her back over and told her that because she was honest about her disobedience, she could have Sunday back instead of losing her whole weekend, and that I was proud of her for choosing to tell the truth. 

These two incidents have left me with some uncertainty, though.  How do I teach our kids the importance of telling the truth, when often their confessions will lead to discipline?  Do I give them a 'reduced sentence' of sorts when they choose not to lie?  Will suspending their consequences teach them that it's ok to disobey as long as they come clean afterwards?  What happens when I don't know whether they're telling the truth or not?  And what about when they are older and the person meting out their 'discipline' isn't their mother who loves them, but rather a teacher or boss or (heaven forbid!) law enforcement officer?  Will they go easy on people who tell the truth? 

As these questions have bounced around my head during the last several days, I've searched through my mind and my Bible for a verse or passage that might spell it out for me.  So far I haven't found anything that says, "Do this when your kid disobeys but 'fesses up --".  But what I have found is this:

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, and when you walk along the road, and when you lie down and get up.

Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law.  I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous; who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue.

It is better to obey than to offer a sacrifice.

And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

The Bible is clear that God is truth, and desires that His children walk in truth and obedience.  And also that as one of His children, I teach MY children the importance of walking in truth.  However, David's writings are also filled with references to God's great mercy.  Countless times as we read through the history of Israel, we see that God acts with justice after his people sin but that in His graciousness He quickly turns from anger and shows His people mercy.  My favourite verse from the list above is the final one, from Micah 6: that we are to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. 

This has become my guiding verse as I try to parent our kids when they are honest about their disobedience.  God requires that I do act justly; when one of my children disobeys, they must endure the consequences of their choice.  However, my discipline is to be shaped by the mercy He has shown me, and the humility that comes when I face my own sin in the face of His perfect holiness.  This doesn't spell out what exactly I should do in scenarios like the ones I ran across recently ... but it certainly helps me with the how

(Obviously, my actual problem is how to discipline them at all when they're so stinkin' cute. Luckily they don't look like this all the time!)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Some changes

The last few months have been quiet for me on the blog front.  It's been a struggle to create time to write, and there always seems to be something more pressing that needs doing.  But tonight all of my people are asleep and I feel the writing bug, so ... here's to a new post, finally!

I'm not going to attempt to catch up on months of neglected posting, but I am excited about a couple of recent changes in our lives.  (Much of this is the result of a Christmas gift from one of the couples here on station - a date night! Our kids spent a very fun evening at their house while Mark and I enjoyed an entire afternoon and evening of uninterrupted conversation, and a dinner delivery so I didn't have to spend my 'free' evening cooking for us. It. Was. Amazing.)

The areas in which we're making some changes are - my approach to homeschooling, the amount of hired help we have in the house, and my involvement at the hospital. 

After a lot of deliberation and prayer, we are switching our school curriculum.  Our new school books arrived in the mail recently, and we started using them this week - and we're excited!  However, this curriculum doesn't come with DVDs so I am hands-on teaching for the entire school morning as well as preparing for Levi's preschool year (which I think will look much different than Anna's!).  In light of this change, we have decided to hire additional help for me at home.  Currently we have a lady come one half-day a week, so we'll be adding another half day or (hopefully!) two. 

A second reason for this is that beginning the last week of this month, I will be spending one morning a week at the hospital doing patient education.  I'm so excited about this!  Some members of staff recently suggested that patients need more teaching than the doctors are able to provide given the time constraints of a very busy hospital - both on the wards and in the outpatient department.  However, since the current budget doesn't allow for an additional nurse to be hired for this position, myself and another missionary RN will be beginning patient teaching during the week. 
I can't count the number of times Mark has come home from clinic with stories about patients who were truly trying to do the right thing to help themselves or a family member, but because of lack of information ended up doing more harm than good.  The young mother who came in with a malnourished baby after weaning too early, having been told by relatives that she would pass her asthma to her child through her breastmilk.  The man with high blood pressure who had stopped adding salt to his food in an effort to control his hypertension, but had no idea that the boullion-cube-esque seasoning that he'd switched to and is cheap to buy here is also loaded with salt.  The elderly man with COPD who dutifully brought his (unopened) inhaler back to his follow-up appointments but wasn't getting any better. 
It breaks my heart that in order for the doctors here to get through the line of patients who are waiting to be seen each day - some of whom have travelled for days just to get to the hospital - they simply don't have the time to sit and teach their patients how to manage their various illnesses.  And, as it happens, I learned in nursing school that this is something I love to do!  So, starting in a couple of weeks, I'll be working with a translator to provide education on two of the more common (and most commonly misunderstood) illnesses that bring people to the clinic: diabetes, and asthma. 
As I've been creating my teaching material, it has struck me that these are two diseases with which I am well acquainted: I have had some level of gestational diabetes in all my pregnancies, and my son has asthma for which daily medical management is required.  I can easily identify with the patients I'll be teaching. 
It has been challenging to put together teaching material that will be understood across the language and cultural differences. Most of the patients I'll be teaching do not have any concept of foods being made of carbohydrates or being broken down into sugars (so yes, I have come up with diabetes education material that doesn't reference carbs at all!).  And it's not as simple as reading food labels, counting carbs and looking for sugar-free or low-carb options.  When you subsistence farm and what you grow and eat is a very starchy root vegetable, transitioning to a low-carb diet can pose quite a challenge!  Also, there is a fairly prevalent idea here that sickness is brought on by either sin in your life, or the curse of someone with whom you have recently fallen out.  This is an idea I will have to challenge as I meet with patients.
My translator told me today as we went through some of my teaching material, that she was actually a patient of Mark's in the fall, when she'd been having some breathing difficulty.  Mark prescribed her an inhaler to use for the duration of her illness, and was actually able to sit and teach her how to use it.  However, when she went home she confided to her husband that she was nervous about this new kind of medicine.  It wasn't a 'drink-marisin' (a tablet or liquid medicine to drink) and it wasn't a 'shoot-maricin' (a shot), and she felt anxious about it.  Her husband had to remind her that Dr Mark wouldn't give her something dangerous, and that if he told her to use it she should use it. 

Knowledge is something we take for granted so easily in the west.  We can acquire any information we want within seconds online, and do many times a day - especially information pertaining to our health and well-being.  I love the idea of empowering people to take care of themselves and their families by providing them with the information to do so.  I'm a little nervous about it since I haven't done any type of nursing work in about a year and a half, but I'm excited to be able to hopefully make a small difference in the lives of some of the patients who come through our hospital.