Monday, February 27, 2012

Choosing honesty over self-esteem

Is it just me? Or do you find yourself in those terrible places where you have to choose between building your child up, and letting them down - by being honest? 

It starts when they're two. Those big eyes look up at you as they hold up their latest masterpiece, and you exclaim with great wonderment - how did they become such an artist? Or perhaps it was when they were still one, and you remark on the fabulous kick, when their big toe did actually connect briefly with the ball...

Before you know it you are relieved they can count to ten, and excited they can read the word 'the'. And you tell them so. Their eyes shine and their little faces light up. They feel special. 

You try to make sure you are making many more comments about their character. About the people they are becoming. Though with homework, sport, much conversation seems to be focussed on the 'doing' rather than the 'being'. Okay, occasionally punctuated by the reprimands for the faults in character. Wrong, wrong, wrong emphasis.

I find myself with boys who are growing up. A couple of nights ago there were tears. Torrents, actually. About not being recognised for the sporting prowess that is very much present as far as he is concerned. Absolutely indignant about it all. I hesitated for a moment, before - hopefully gently- pointing out his view of himself was perhaps skewed on this occasion. That really, the coach was making a reasonable decision.

And his heart broke.

Of course I followed up with attempts to console, encourage...

But I do believe my boy was disappointed in me. That his own mother doesn't think he's the best in the team, was devastating. And it was the split second decision, as to whether to let the comments slide. I couldn't. Because I think it's worse to believe you're the best in the team when you're not, than to not be the best in the team. Much more to learn when you live in reality.

There are some basic rules of communication. Say something positive before the negative. Speak encouragement and affirmation into people's lives. Love.

I'm not convinced I made the right choice. But he's not two, and he can count to ten. Surely there's no point in going out into the world with an unrealistic view. Yet there is the argument that you should only build up your children, because the rest of the world will be busy tearing them down. I'm not sure I fully agree.

What about you? Have you disappointed your children when instilling some reality?
The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1 
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4
 ...rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. Proverbs 9:9
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 13:18

Giving thanks:
  • 80's parties. A great excuse to dance with my groom.
  • A little boy teaching the littlest boy fractions. With passion.
  • A progressive dinner with nearly 50 people - and seven apartments/countries to visit.
  • Seeing the boys surrounded by new friends. And loving it.
  • Flowers behind my ear from my sons.
  • Sitting on the balcony, chatting.
  • A coffee and good conversation with two new, and lovely, women.
  • Gifting my groom a morning off from soccer.
  • Chances to be honest. And loving. At the same time.
  • Loving every bit of uni reading.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What do names mean?

Our lovely new Pembantu is named Ami. That's it. Like Madonna. Or Prince. No surname. We're still getting to know one another. Ami is a single Mum. I'm not sure whether 'Dad' is no longer of this world, or is just not in her life. Though Ami has made it clear she has no family other than her daughter.

Surnames are certainly funny things. The day I floated up to my groom I eagerly embedded his name to mine. Though I did question the wisdom or altering my standard 'Davis' for 'Sinn' once we had children, often remarking we should have perhaps gone the other way... Of course many clutch tightly to their original surname, resisting any blending of the names after they walk down that aisle.

And that connection to family. With my sister and I now our own family units, not sharing our family name, is anything lost? One of our boy's middle names is my maiden one. Links to my past. Of course there are many who would rather deny their family name and forget what went before, all the damage behind. Would prefer no connection to that history.

Then there are middle names. Teasing at school because of mine - no, let's not talk about it now - meant careful selection for my boys. My groom telling it was just a name that went on forms, was not how I perceived it. Yet apparently we can get it wrong. We changed one of our boy's middle names when he was two - okay - maybe he was almost three. Yes, I know, embarrassing really. But now it is perfect. And how many times have you continued to call someone the wrong name, because they 'looked like' that name? Our boy looked like a different name. Happy to justify that one.

What of the meanings? Do you believe they reflect in the child? I don't, and yet I look at my 'bold and impetuous' boy, the stubborn 'strong and steadfast' one, the sensitive 'light and merciful' child, and the 'happy one', and I am perplexed. Coincidence, I'm sure...

The Bible tells us we are adopted in to a family, if we choose to be. It doesn't matter what our surname was.  Or if we don't have one. What our past looks like. No one is rejected. There is only one name, which is far above every other name that can be invoked (Ephesians 1:21). Indeed, that the Holy Spirit is a "deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are in God's possession" (Ephesians 1:14). That "...everyone whose name is found written in the book - will be delivered." (Daniel 12:1b)

Whether you are Ami or Madonna, or one of my boys, there's one family to be associated with. Ultimately only one name will endure for an eternity. May it be on my lips more than any other.

Giving thanks:
  • Tears from a boy when his big brother lost a soccer game.
  • Book reading, making for peaceful, extended times in Jakarta traffic.
  • Bandaids on little fingers, with a plan for change.
  • Ten in our car - three adults, seven kids.
  • Valentines from my boys.
  • Thoughtful cards made for friends leaving the country.
  • A fun, and interesting night, with fun and interesting people, at Book Club.
  • Meeting so many new arrivals to our community here. People you want to see again, soon.
  • A night on the balcony with my groom, no assignments in sight.
  • Readings posted for uni. Good and terrifying.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Jakarta Jockeys

It's amazing what people do to make money in this city. Anywhere between 11 and 15 million people live in Jakarta, depending on who is giving the estimate. Part of the reason the figure is so fluid is due to the difficulty in obtaining official statistics, and people travelling to Jakarta from other provinces for work. About 10% of those people are unemployed. Which equates to somewhere between 1 and 1.5 million people. In one city. The population of the last city I lived in. Hard to comprehend.

Of those employed, a small percentage are earning an exorbitant amount. The divide between the wealthy and the poor is immense. The minimum wage was recently increased by the government here to approximately $160 per month. Under $40 a week. Or less than $6 to survive each day. For those who do get that much. Many don't. Not only do people rent a 'house' (tiny room without furniture) and eat with that money, but frequently they are also supporting extended family either here or in their provinces.

It is incredible watching what unemployed people will do to earn money, any money, to survive. One of the 'jobs' that I am fascinated by is that of a 'jockey'. People line up along the side of the road, during the peak morning and evening traffic. Frequently they have a baby or young child attached to them in a sling. They hold their one or two fingers in the air, and wait. To be picked up by a stranger, who needs extra passengers so that they can travel in the transit lane in order to beat the crazy traffic.

We have occasionally picked up a 'jockey', and I find I become quite 'anxious' as I wait for my driver to select someone. Why that person? Why not the guy next to him? What if they don't get picked up, and don't have enough money for their children today? What about the Mum who looks to be about 18? The baby so tiny. The young boy?

When you slow down, there are a number of people close to the car who assume it is they you are stopping for. That they were chosen. But it's him, not you. I'm sorry. And my stomach wrenches. People oscillating between hope and hopelessness as the minutes progress, people plucked out around them. Them still standing, though the arm not raised quite as high.

If they do get a job for the morning, they have no real idea where they will end up. They sit in the front seat, completely still and silent. At some point they are not needed anymore. The car stops. They are handed the equivalent of about $2 and they alight. Then they find their way back. Either to fill in the day before trying again in the late afternoon, or head back home. I have been told that sadly many do not receive the full $2, handing a portion to a third party who 'organises' a group of jockeys.

Each time I gaze at these people, from the comfort of my air-conditioned car, belly full, driver weaving his way through...I wonder. Why are they out there, whilst I'm in here? My boys given every privilege. Their children so often hungry, and sick because they don't have proper medical care. Too often uneducated.

Can I encourage you, as you read this, to give thanks? Now look around you, and give thanks again. And as you eat your breakfast, go to work, shop for groceries, take your kids to school...okay, yes, you understand. 

Be grateful, be grateful, be grateful. 

Giving thanks:
  • An incredible sunset from our balcony. Whilst listening to the 'call to prayer', reading our bibles together.
  • Farewelling gorgeous people. Special friendships, built quickly.
  • The offer, and acceptance, of another year in Jakarta.
  • Going on a Field Trip with my boy, who was so excited to have me there.
  • New arrivals, and the promise of new friendships.
  • Dugongs. Evidence of God's incredible imagination.
  • One of my boys saying he didn't want to change swim lessons if he couldn't be with his brother.
  • News from Australia that we have been waiting for!
  • Big brothers piggy backing little brothers.
  • Listening to Keith Jarrett as I write.

Monday, February 6, 2012

How do you make the big decisions?

I have really struggled to decide. What to do for the next decade or so? Policing was what I did, who I was, for such a long time. Then the tag of 'Mum' took over. Which is a role that has been a privilege. But there have been many moments when I longed to be working again. Arriving home with a stimulated mind, having engaged adults and worked through challenging problems. Being sure I was doing a fantastic job.

Yes, I know, I shouldn't be seeking such affirmations anyway. Yes, absolutely, I should be satisfied and fulfilled in my role as a Mum. And there are many days when I am. I could tell you it was about adding income to our family to help pay for my boys' education. And that is a huge part of it. But now that all four boys are at school, I also just want to be involved in something outside of these walls, beyond unpaid work.

Why not go back to policing? When we move back to Australia, I will have one, nearly two teenagers, with another two boys following closely behind. I want to be available to them. As much as possible. They say boys don't talk often, so you need to be around enough that when they do, you are there. Not many occupations offer that option.

I would love to decide what to do for the next ten or fifteen years based purely on what I would like to do. But that isn't realistic. I need to consider the needs of my family, and under pinning it all of course is the reality that I have been placed on this earth to fulfil a purpose. I don't want to go off in my own direction, achieving only what is temporary. I want to choose something lasting.

And so I examine my life, work, experiences, and ponder what is to come. What do I have to give in the future, that doesn't waste my past? Counselling leapt out at me. It seemed to fit within my past, both paid and unpaid work, suit my family's needs in terms of potential flexibility. And amazingly, was also an option I felt excited about. Something meaningful. With the potential to have impact on people's lives.

Since then doubts have filled every crevice. The Masters is too expensive when I am the secondary income earner. I will be a terrible counsellor. Am I employable? If I start my own practice, will someone want to be my client? Confidence lost in the abyss of motherhood. And is it work that is significant enough? When I talk to people about my plans, they look at me with vague interest, but not the animated response I see offered to those embarking on an MBA or Masters of International Relations/Policy/Development. I'm surrounded by those.

Mr Chambers, Oswald to some, has been challenging me through all of my wanderings. 
Never ask another person's advice about anything God makes you decide before Him. If you ask advice, you will almost always side with Satan. 'My Utmost for His Highest', Oswald Chambers
He's never been one to hold back. And Paul. He always challenges me. 
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
So I look to Him. Every time I feel at peace about this, I falter again. With every confirmation, I doubt. I think perhaps I just need to start and gain some momentum, and stop thinking about the 'after'. I was encouraged a little by Paul this week when I saw that when he
...found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind... 2 Corinthians 2: 12b-13a
I'm confident the peace will come. Only from Him.

What about you? Have you changed direction? Would you like to? What influences you? 

Giving thanks:
  • Monsoon trampoline jumping.
  • My boys coming home with flowers for me, placing them behind my ear.
  • One of the boys exclaiming, about the 'White Box Foundation', "The Sinn family are changing the world!"
  • The smell of rain.
  • Soccer in the pouring rain, boys grinning.
  • A farewell party for friends' children.
  • Pink nail polish on little nails.
  • One of my boys writing on his exam, that he did well because I helped him study.
  • On a written page, hearing my boy talk.
  • A spontaneous meeting with a new arrival.