Ivory Tower Parenting and the Foster Problem

This past Wednesday evening, while I enjoyed a cozy dinner at home with my husband and daughter, a New Jersey woman fatally stabbed HER OWN SON. I wish I could have somehow saved that child from the pain and suffering he must have endured at the hands of his mother, a person who should be a refuge from all things hurtful. Although this story made the news, there are so many cases of child abuse, neglect, and endangerment every day that do not reach the news. Sometimes when I close my eyes, the stories and images that DO reach me, via our media and from others, haunt my thoughts and dreams.

But I do nothing.

It is overwhelming to know that there is so much misery and pain in the world. And it is much easier to focus on the positive. To avoid the “bad” parts of town, to move to the suburbs for the “good” schools, and to blame these problems on others. I tell myself that I am just one person, what change can I possibly bring? So I pile more and more on my proverbial plate, telling myself that maybe soon I’ll have time to volunteer somewhere or help someone in need. I’ve built an ivory tower around my home, my family, and my life. Do you ever do the same?

A few Sundays ago, someone from a local foster program non-profit, the 111 Project, spoke to my church about the foster problem in my state of Oklahoma. As of January 2012, there are over 8,000 Oklahoma children without a home and in need of foster parents. Nationwide that number rises to over 400,000 kids in the foster system, of which a quarter are waiting for a home. The problem has become so dire that Oklahoma City is considering opening back up a shelter for babies and toddlers that they were previously able to close. My friends, no child should spend a single night in a shelter. But there are just not enough people trained and willing to foster. Listening to the presentation, I had tears in my eyes. This is an initative that I can support.

The longer I am a mother, the more I realize that my love and my ability to care for others is a renewable resource. I often feel like the more I give it away, the more it comes back to me. Attachment parenting is such a beautiful gift, both for the giver and receiver. I may not be able to stop all of the bad things happening in the world that overwhelm and sadden me, but perhaps I can make a difference for one child, in my community.

For more information about the current U.S. Foster Crisis:

Are there any social issues that you feel more strongly about since becoming a parent?

Ever since she read a book called “Ministries of Mercies,” Kate has been searching for a way to serve her community. She and her husband will be attending a foster parent information meeting at a local placement agency very soon to find out how they can help. And then maybe, just maybe, she’ll quit feeling like an ostrich burying her head in the sand. When she’s not losing sleep thinking about these things, she cannot get enough hugs and kisses from her sweet and rambunctious 17 month old.

5 Things I Hope to Teach My Daughter About Friendship

As parents, it can be difficult to find friends who share similar parenting philosophies, especially on days when it seems nearly impossible to even get out of the house. This topic is definitely not new here at TOBB, because frankly, many of us struggle with finding a sense of community. Rebecca wrote about finding like-minded mamas, and I shared my struggle to find mommy friends. Thank goodness for the internet or many of us would feel even more isolated.

Something I’ve been thinking about lately, however, is what I hope to teach my daughter about friendship and community. Should we ONLY seek out friendships with those who are similar to us? I should hope not, because how can we learn? As a former high school teacher who taught World Religions, I found that regardless of religious affiliation, many of my students were apprehensive to show an educational interest in other religions. Maybe they were afraid it would challenge their deeply held beliefs.

I think many of us, myself included, fall into the trap of being afraid to befriend those who are different from us in fear of rejection or of feeling challenged. It’s easy to cling to what is familiar, but for the sake of my daughter, who is growing up in a multi-cultural/religious/racial world, I know in my heart that it is time for me to reach outside my comfort zone. I hope to teach my daughter that:

  • Friendship built on mutual respect is far stronger than one built on mutual characteristics. I’ve found that over the years, my own beliefs have changed as have those of my friends. What helped us maintain our friendship was a common respect.
  • Each person is an individual worth getting to know. Even if a friendship doesn’t form, what can I learn from the elderly woman in my apartment building? How can I help the young single mother across the hall? Some of the friendships I’ve most valued over the years are the ones I least expected to make.
  • A friendship may not last, but can still have value. A friendship may not last for very long, but its impact can last for a lifetime. Different people enter and leave our lives for different reasons, and we have no way of knowing why. Instead of questioning the reason, cherish the time, however short it may be.
  • Listening to others is one of the greatest tools we possess. Opening our ears and hearts to truly hear what another is saying is one of the most rewarding experiences. It can be difficult for many of us (myself included) to play a supporting role in a conversation. Learn to love and embrace others by quietly listening.
  • Look others in the eye. One of the most important things I hope to impart to my daughter is to look others in the eye. Lead by example and put down the cell phone. Take the time to respectfully share a gaze with another and show them that they have value.

What values do you hope to pass on to your children about community and friendship?

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Kate misses her old, diverse neighborhood where neighbors cooked out together and a walk around the block took an hour due to all of the impromptu conversations. She and her family currently live in an apartment, but are on the search for a home and neighborhood where they can build community.