Creating Balance

If there were any lingering doubts that the Crawford boys like
(the) Ducks, let them be once and for all put to rest. :)
Go Oregon!
One of the things I learned from my former co-worker/boss/friend Mark Dew was that sometimes, you have to bring balance to a situation. At social functions, if no one was talking Mark would carry the conversation. At work, if I was insisting on one course of direction Mark would suggest that the other side of the coin be considered. During theological discussions, if one particular theology was being favored, Mark would bring up points from another school of thought. In each case, though sometimes mixed with a hint of playful contrarianism,  Mark always seemed to bring a certain sense of balance to the situation, either to ensure a successful social event, or to prevent an easy course of action at work from outpacing wisdom, or to have another equally valid viewpoint of God considered.

As parents, and in particular as it relates to our current situation living here in the UK, Alisha and I are realizing that we need to employ this nugget of wisdom demonstrated by Mark (though I’m certain that my inclusion of his name here will bring much blushing to our good friend!). What exactly am I talking about?

My sister Terri stopped through the UK for a visit! She was
on her way home from a conference in Europe with a women's
ministry she's involved with.
Back in the USA, and even to some extent during our time in Uganda, our boys have largely lived in a Christian bubble. Don’t get me wrong – we love the bubbles we’ve lived in and these days we sometimes catch ourselves longingly dreaming of being back inside one of them! However, we recognize that nearly all of the boys friends and acquaintances up to this time have been of the same heart and mind as we are when it comes to matters of faith.


Alisha and Terri, enjoying a warm autumn day in Colchester.
Pay no attention to the chattering teeth.
Consequently, we have often felt the need to show a little bit of ‘the world’ to them so as to prevent them from being so sheltered as to become vulnerable later in youth to an awakening that might lead to rebellion and a bit of sowing the seeds of the wild side. Sure, that’s bound to happen to some extent regardless, but we’ve figured that the less ‘surprises’ they encountered later, the better off they’ll be. So we’ve made a point of listening to some non-Christian (though fairly sanitized) music – their favorite was Weird Al’s ‘White and Nerdy’ – and watching a few TV shows that might show them some things that would prompt ‘discussions’ – shows such as ‘The Amazing Race’, or more ‘edgy’ kids movies such as ‘Kicking and Screaming’, ‘Harry Potter’, and ‘Home Alone’ to name a few. Nothing too crazy, but taken as independent entities, many Christian parenting resources might have counseled against showing them certain aspects of the contents of these films at such young ages. From our standpoint, however, we wanted to prompt some of these conversations as we’d watch things that were generally inappropriate for children their age. And, bringing these things up in the context of our home where we could talk about them, we hoped that the boys would see mom and dad as not trying to over-protect and shield them, but rather as willing to expose them to some things that make them feel 'older' and therefore more responsible. (I recognize some of you might laugh at what I’m calling edgy – if so, you might re-consider what you find appropriate for your kids to watch! Ha - I promise, I'm at least 50% kidding in saying that. ;) )
New Friends! We went to Cambridge last weekend to visit
Matt & Cara and their two small children. We have been
friends with Matt's older brother Jason and his wife Julie
(Julie was in our wedding) since college. We felt as if
we'd been friends for years with these DeJong's too. Matt
is an engineering professor at Cambridge and they've lived
here for 3 years. Actually, they both grew up about 15 miles
from where I grew up in NorCal and both went to UC
Davis as well, albeit a few years after we were there.

But living in the UK thus far, I think our boys have been exposed to more in the past month than the rest of their lives combined! (A good portion of this has less to do with the UK and more to do with the environments they’ve lived in up to now – a mission community and school in Uganda and a charter school in the ‘capitol’ of Christianity in America, Colorado Springs.) But suffice it to say, the days of living in a Christian bubble are no more. At first, we started to panic – what in the world have we done to our precious little boys?! Have we corrupted them forever? Have we ‘ruined’ all the work we’ve done to this point? Ultimately, we’ll never know the answer to this for sure – perhaps these things are true. However, as we’ve talked about it, we’ve realized that through some intentional efforts on our part as well as some blind luck, mixed with a double portion of God’s grace, some very positive things seem to be coming of this. Here are just a few we’ve noticed so far:
A dining hall at one of the Cambridge Colleges - setup just as
in the Harry Potter movies. Matt told us they have formal
dinners there regularly, where all students eat in black robes
just as in the HP movies.

1)      Our boys seem to be telling us everything. All the nitty gritty details, including bad words, jokes and innuendo that they’ve heard at school here.  What more could a parent ask for? When there’s open communication, then parents have a chance to speak into the lives of their children regardless of what’s going on in their world. And most importantly, they know what’s going on in their world in the first place.

2)      The boys seem well prepared for this and seem to be passing the test. They know that the kids and most adults around them don’t share their faith, and are recognizing the fact that their inappropriate talk and behavior is a direct result of that.

3)      They’re viewing the inappropriate behavior and language as bad! J

Guy Fawkes day is celebrated like the 4th of July back home,
though there's a completely different back story. Google it,
too long to explain. Also, sorry about the demon eyes.
4)      Certain ‘taboo’ subjects and topics of conversation that are difficult to bring up are coming up naturally, giving us a chance to speak about what God’s perspective might be about them. Sometimes, when these things don’t come up, I think it’s hard as a parent to just randomly bring up a topic that is otherwise not something you would talk about. When a situation is presented to the boys in their daily lives, it gives us the opportunity to seize the moment.

5)      We have seen the boys start asking questions about their faith – the first step in making their faith their own. Plus, I love a good theological discussion myself so I’m looking forward to having three more participants around the house.
We went to Luton this past weekend to visit our good friends
Joe and Jess (and baby son Nathan) from Uganda. Joe took us
to a Luton Town football (soccer) match while we were there.
Luton used to be in the Premier League, though poor mgmt.
led to their rapid fall through the leagues the past several years.

So while our boys have had to grow up a bit thus far here, even in the short three months that we’ve been here, we’re realizing that God had prepared them for this journey just as he’d prepared Alisha and I. We often think our kids are just little ‘trailers’ attached to us, and the big things God wants to do in our lives seem to crowd out anything he might want to do in our kids’ lives. But we don’t think as much about the fact that God is working things out for the good of all of us who love him, and that certainly includes our children. For this reason, we feel very fortunate that we included the boys in the decision to move to the UK.  Ultimately, we feel he wanted our whole family to move here, so it’s vital that the boys have at least some sense of that in their own hearts, even if only on a very elementary level.


The boys were full-fledged Hatter's fans thanks to Joe's
'spare' Luton Town jerseys, hats, scarves, etc.
So, back to the point I was making in the beginning – about bringing balance. Where once we were trying to bring a little ‘edginess’ into their world to push the boundaries of their ‘Christian bubble’, now we’re realizing that we need to turn it around and create a bit of a bubble in our own home to make sure they see the stark differences from the world around them.  Again, I’m certainly not meaning to somehow equate the UK with some den of inequity! Of course there are many wonderfully kind and even Christian people here in England. I’m only speaking of some of the kids the boys happened to run into at their school.


Driving by a house in the UK, what are the chances of seeing
a Ducks' jersey hanging out front on gameday?! Ok, the real
story is that I gave our friend Joe this Ducks' jersey as a gift
back when we were in Uganda. We came to visit them, so
he hung it out front so we'd know which house was theirs.
So, these days we’re queuing up the Newsboys and other Christian music in our household, and breaking out the old veggie tales videos and Christian books we brought over. We’re also reinstating our ‘Sticky Situations’ reading time at night. (Side note:  If you’re a parent of young kids and haven’t heard of the book ‘Sticky Situations’, you need to go on Amazon.com and order it today! It’s a great little activity book that takes about 10-15 minutes each night and gives your kids a chance to show you how good of a job you’ve done at raising them with Christian values by testing them with ‘sticky’ situations that have multiple options to choose from – sort of a ‘choose your own adventure’ of character building!).
Anyway, it’s taken us this long to realize this paradigm shift that needs to take place in our house, but rest assured, we will continue to look for ways of implementing these kinds of things into our home. Thanks for the lesson Mark, though it took us a decade or so to apply it!
 
Some random pictures...
 
Not approving of the misspelling of his name.
Homeschooling is underway in our household! This was a
science lesson. Lesson learned - both red and blue balloons pop
if you poke them with a pin. Next week: green and yellow.
(Rest assured, I am *not* in charge of curriculum).
Homeschool writing assignment, at the duck pond. Graysen is
pondering if using alliteration (the "dark and dirty duck pond")
would detract from the point of his metaphor, that is, that we're
all like sitting ducks in this world without the 'pond' of God's
love. In the end, he went ahead and used the alliteration and was
subsequently docked 5 points for being too young to use such
sophisticated literary tools. Also resulting from this incident,
Dad is no longer allowed to grade writing assignments.
(Yes, this is all just a bunch of jibber jabber.)
 
Graysen working hard at 'Crogwarts' (no relation to the
school for young wizards in the Harry Potter series -
when we found out about 'Hogwarts', we couldn't believe
the coincidence.)
Jonah at homeschool - we make them wear uniforms still.
Makeshift Halloween costumes, thrown to-
gether at the last minute after trick-or-treaters
began showing up at our house after we'd
told them no such thing happened in the UK.
Overall, only a handful of houses in our
neighborhood were participating, and we
learned later that the giggles and funny looks
the boys received were due to the fact that
typically, UK children *only* dress up in scary
costumes for Halloween.

Comments

Anonymous said…
So blessed to have you with us and read your wisdom. The UK is very much a post-Christian culture and hearing your take on parenting in it is both encouraging and helpful. If only we'd asked you to be Nathan's Godparents - oh, hang on, we did! :) So, so, so, sorry about the Luton performance yesterday. Sure you'll have plenty of 'new words' to discuss with the boys after listening to a rather 'frustrated' crowd! We'll look up the book. Bless you guys and see you soon hopefully. (Joe)
Sull said…
When I grow up I wanna be like you :P No kidding, if/when I have children, I'll definitely want to do some internship (again) with you and Alisha.
And all these pictures just made me miss the boys a lot!!
God bless you
5Crawfords said…
Thanks for a great time Joe, and our experience was soured by Luton's loss. Suellen - ahh, that's so nice of you to say. We'd love to have you back as an intern...or volunteer...or staff! :)
RDVG said…
Brad, I totally agree with your grading of Greyson’s paper. It falls right in line with my first book, “True Literature Waits.” Highly recommended for parents of pre-teens. You might also be interested in my latest book “When Is My Child Ready for This Book of the Bible?” The word of God is sharper than a double-edged sword. Don't let it stab your children.

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