Monday, October 14, 2013

Two Ways to Normalize Breastfeeding in Public

#1.  Do it as you normally would in private.

#2.  Be normal when others do it in your vicinity. 

Whenever I see a mom breastfeeding in public, I cheer on the inside.  I do a little mental cartwheel and think of encouraging things I can say to her, like “Good for you for nursing in public!” or “I did that, too!” or “You’re doing such a great thing nursing your child!”

See, I believe breastfeeding in public takes a bit of courage in our culture, and I applaud moms who do it.  Because even though breastfeeding is normal and really no big deal, our culture often says otherwise.

And I feel quite passionate about supporting moms who want to breastfeed and about supporting women’s rights to breastfeed anywhere their babies need to eat (which is anywhere they happen to be at the moment).  I don’t think nursing moms should be relegated to “nursing rooms” or nurseries at church or any other designated space, unless the mom herself feels more comfortable there.

But, I’ve yet to say one of my “go breastfeeding in public!” encouragements to a mom that I’ve seen in the act.  It just feels a little awkward and intrusive, I guess.  Because to me, what she’s doing is normal.  And normally I don’t comment on things that are normal.  I just go about my normal business. 

Today at the gym, a mom was breastfeeding her baby near the play area.  She wasn’t being particularly discreet; neither was she being indiscreet, and who cares?  I don’t.  Apparently another mom near me did, as evidenced by her staring a little too long and then turning to me to give me a disapproving, conspiratorial look. 

What to do, what to do?  Should I go along with Disapproving Mom to not rock the boat?  Should I make a pro-breastfeeding comment to make my stance known and support Breastfeeding Mom? 

I chose the “be normal” route.  I anticipated Disapproving Mom’s glance and diverted my eyes so as not to participate in it.  I sat near Breastfeeding Mom and interacted with her as I normally would – a little chit chat here and there, eye contact. 

Sometimes normalizing breastfeeding calls for political action, nurse-ins, letters to managers, and encouraging comments. 

And sometimes normalizing breastfeeding calls for not turning every normal act into a political opportunity or a chance to declare sides in the mommy wars. 

Sometimes the best way to make something normal is to acknowledge that it already is normal by just acting normal. 

Eden was playing near Breastfeeding Mom and I, and at one point noticed the baby nursing.  She watched for two seconds while climbing down a ladder, and then went on her way playing.  She didn’t need to comment or ask questions; she didn’t need to do anything.  She saw a mom nursing her baby, and in her world there is nothing in particular to comment on when she sees this. 

And I hoped that maybe Breastfeeding Mom was encouraged by the fact that as she fed her child, life went on as normal around her.   

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Faith Of A Child

I’ve taken a laid-back approach to my kids’ spiritual education so far, letting them lead by questions and observations.

They do go to Sunday School and do their share of Old Testament Bible story worksheets and crafts, and I tell stories about Jesus and parables at bedtime, so they’re not totally bereft of any God knowledge.  But we don’t push them to pray or do devotions or that kind of thing. 

Part of the reason for my approach is that I have a hard time finding religious materials that I like…I’ve looked at many children’s Bibles and it just bugs me so much that Jesus is white.  I’m no historian, but people, Jesus was not a whiter-than-white man.  WASPs weren’t created yet.  I can’t buy something designed for kids that depicts a white Jesus. 

Also, clich├ęs and spiritual oversimplifications are pet peeves of mine.  Many religious children’s materials boil things down to such a degree that they become at best, warm and fluffy sentimentality, and at worst, inaccurate and misleading. 

So, we keep things simple in our own way.  And yet, my kids have an amazingly pure and inspiring faith. 

Eden occasionally prays at bedtime, and boldly includes herself in her list of people she loves:  “Dear God, thank you for mama, and dada, and Isaac, and me.” 

Last week, she held her hands out about a foot wide and said, “This is how much I love you.”  Then she held her hands out as wide as she could and said, “and this is how much I love God.”  She’s got her loves ordered in a way that would make Aquinas and C.S. Lewis proud. 

Last night, our conversation question at dinner was:  “When you think of God, how do you picture him?” 

Eden said, “He has a white jacket on, with a blue thing tied around him.”  I’m thinking, darn, it’s the old flannelgraph Sunday School Jesus.  But she went on, staring off into the middle distance, “I can’t really describe the rest.”  “Does he have a head?”  I prompted.  “What does his face look like?”  She replied, “It’s just…I can’t really describe it…it’s real God.” 

And while I have no way of knowing what she is picturing, I swear that her imaginings of God are more real God than mine, and than most any adult. 

And then it was Isaac’s turn, so I repeated the question to him and reminded Eden that we let Isaac talk for himself and we don’t interrupt during conversation questions.  “Isaac, when you think of God, how do you picture him?”  Isaac said, “A lion.” 

Goosebumps, people, I got goosebumps.  We haven’t read The Chronicles of Narnia yet; he hasn’t heard of The Lion of Judah.  But what does my boy picture God as?  A lion, the king of all beasts. 

I’ve heard lots of opinions and interpretations about what Jesus meant when he admonished his hearers to have faith like a child.  Some people say it means having a simple, trusting faith and not asking questions or doubting.  (I never liked that interpretation.)  Some people focus on the utter dependence of children and say we need to have that dependence on God.  Some say it means we need to submit ourselves to the spiritual authorities in our lives. 

I don’t know what it means.  I like elements of most of those interpretations.  And I recognize that what I like is irrelevant to what it actually means. 

But in watching my children, I see a delight in God that I am missing.  Eden truly seems to LOVE God, as she flings her arms out wide to show how much.  Honestly, it’s hard for me to access those emotions related to God.  It seems to come naturally to her. 

Isaac has translated some central characteristics of God -- power, rawness, bigness -- into an image that he can relate to.  On his own. 

My children's faith is bold, and heart-felt, and pure.  I have a lot to learn from them.