Saturday, July 30, 2011

book review: just moms

This book, Just Moms: Conveying Justice in an Unjust World, came out last spring from Barclay Press. It's a collection of essays from moms in peace churches about the challenges and joys of being a mom and attempting to raise kids who care about peace and justice in our violent and unjust culture. I know several of the women who wrote chapters, including the two editors, Melanie Springer Mock and Rebekah D. Schneiter, so I was excited to read this book, and I definitely enjoyed it. I appreciated that they chose essays from women in different stages of parenting--parenting small children up through parenting children who have children themselves.

Even if the essay "His Pink Shoes" by Amy Lutz was not first in the book, I probably would have read it first anyway. I figured I would get some good pointers on what to do with a boy who loves pink, or at least be able to commiserate with another mom. My son LOVES pink. Pink is not my favorite color. I find myself unsure about what to do often when we have to buy something (like shoes) and he gravitates toward the pink ones. Do I let him choose? Or do I shelter him from the teasing he would likely receive from others who say he's wearing girl clothes? I appreciated Amy's story and thoughtfulness, and I wonder with her why we have to have such rigid boundaries about what's OK for boys in our culture.

Marilee Jolin's essay, "Uniquely Qualified," hit particularly close to home. Her oldest daughter and my oldest son are about a week apart, and we have prego pictures together at Thanksgiving in Massachusetts. She writes, "My journey toward my Ph.D. ended when Mira was born. I know putting school on hold was the right choice, and I'm glad to be able to stay home with her. Still, I sometimes feel my daily activities of diapers, dishes, laundry, and play dough do not give Mira the clear message I'd like to send her about female ability and ambition" (29-30). She wants her daughter to know that women can do things just as "important" as men, women can achieve things and can be the ones who work outside the home. She fears this isn't coming through because of her family's choice that she be the one to stay home with the kiddos while they're little. I have this same fear for my sons--not that they'll not know they can strive for a career they enjoy, but that they won't have the role models of how to also allow their future spouses to perhaps be the ones who focus on their careers while the men stay at home with the little ones (assuming there ARE spouses and little ones--I'll leave that up to my boys!) I remember my dad staying home with my sister and me when I was little, and my husband Joel stayed home with E for a while, but E was too little to remember it even now. The other day E was role playing, and we were elves at the North Pole. He said something like, "You're a girl elf so you cook all the meals." How's that for gender stereotypes???

Several essays had to do with boys and guns, or the topic of guns and public settings where others are socializing our children. These topics are difficult, and no one had a really good answer, but it was nice to know others struggle with the same issues and to see how they handled it.

In "The Economics of Bouncy Balls," Melanie Springer Mock talks about cheap toys, the violence they cause between siblings and the violence they cause due to oppression of those in other countries sitting in factories making our cheap toys that will be loved for only two hours or so. How do we live in a Christ-like way in this culture? She says, "But if I am honest with myself, I am just as much a consumer--and, by extension, a potential oppressor of the poor--as anyone else who has rejected the idea that when Christ means we should sell everything, he really means everything." Convicting, anyone?

And then there's Lisa Graham McMinn's "Starbucks-colored Glasses." She and her daughter, Sarah, then in middle school, saw a homeless woman. Another Starbucks customer treated this woman poorly, and Lisa apologized to her. Sarah suggested (later) that they invite the woman to live with them. Lisa compromised by taking the woman dinner, and doing so each week, building a relationship with this woman. Lisa now sees in her grown daughter an intentionality about standing up for the rights of the oppressed and actions that encourage solidarity with them. This is an inspiring story, one I want to emulate as a parent. I try to listen to the compassion that my kids exhibit, and follow when God speaks through them. I want to do that more and more often as they grow up, not only for their sakes but for mine as well.

That segues nicely into my next planned post, during which you will get to hear about E's lemonade stand for a homeless shelter!