Spiritually Speaking

QUESTION: My husband and I have been married for three years and for two years have tried to start a family. Even though medical tests indicate there is nothing that would prevent us from having a child, nothing has happened. We’re both in our mid-30s and time is running out as far as child-bearing years are concerned. I’d like to adopt and he is totally against that option.

This has been a source of contention between us. Any suggestions to move forward into parenthood are welcome.

We both love children.
 ~ Frustrated Want-to-be Mom

Dear Frustrated,
At the outset the reader should know that this writer, this preacher, this minister has no children and that he made that choice years ago not to have children. He is married – for the second time – to a wonderful woman who was never able to have children with her first husband. So being a non-parent by choice may color what I’m about to say.

Two of my brothers adopted a child when they thought they couldn’t get pregnant, and then one of my sisters-in-law conceived. (I am told that that happens often once an adoption occurs, the woman gets pregnant.) So if you do eventually adopt, get ready to get pregnant and then you’ll have two children to raise!

I am being facetious, of course, but such pregnancies following adoptions have occurred. I am troubled by the husband’s refusal to consider adoption. I understand his reticence, but it still troubles me. It seems to me (if the husband doesn’t change his mind) that the wife has a choice: stay married to the man you love and face the fact that you’ll never be a mother or leave the man you love and adopt a child, raising that child as a single parent. Neither is a happy choice, and as a minister I am not exactly comfortable urging you to split. But those are the stark choices: stay with him and be childless or split from him in order to become a mother.

One more thought, and please forgive me for even thinking this, but if you are in your mid-30s and still have not conceived, is it possible that you two should not conceive? You said that everything is fine, that both of you are in good health, etc. However, maybe there is something in one or both of you that really doesn’t want the intrusion of a child into your life. I feel bad for both of you, and I have no answer.

Have you two prayed about this? Have you really bared your souls to each other about your feelings? In one of Shakespeare’s plays is the great line: “This above all: to thine ownself be true, and then thou canst not be false to any man.” And from Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, right before he was arrested and taken away to be crucified, he prayed that God would not require him to suffer, but he ended his prayer with these words: “… yet not what I want but what you want” (Matthew 26: 39).

The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church

Dear Frustrated,
Over 20 years ago and before the arrival via adoption of our now 17-year-old daughter, my husband and I were in this exact same situation. I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing like wanting a child and not being able to have one that causes couples to question the nature of God, their place in the Universe, as well as the foundation of their relationship. The despair can be so very profound. Few who have not experienced the same can truly understand how challenging such a situation can be. While some couples seem to enter into family life without much conscious thought or effort, you and your husband have the powerful opportunity to make some very deliberate and conscious decisions about how you will create your family, including the possibility of having a family that is happily child free. Taking this “time out” to carefully determine what is right for each of you is truly a blessing (even though I know it hardly feels like one at the moment).

In order resolve the dilemma of how to proceed, you both must first give up the notion that God has a “separate plan” for your family other than the plans and choices that you are now making together. God is already working for you by working through you, manifesting from your heartfelt desires that which is best for your family. As members of your loving community, we must know together that whatever you decide about when, how, or even if you will become parents, God is going to find a way. The solution is already present and working itself out for your greatest happiness.

As this process moves forward, each of you should avoid the temptation to make the other “wrong or bad” for their current thinking about the future of your family. Having children (or not) is fundamental to each person’s “life mission.” Getting very clear about what each of your “life’s mission” is – including the full awareness of any “barriers” that may be preventing the full expression of “life mission/vision” – is where you and your husband can focus useful attention now.

Here it is important to engage the loving and knowledgeable support of friends, family, a licensed mental health professional and/or spiritual care provider to explore possible barriers to either becoming parents or finding peace of mind about the decision to remain child free. As there is no evidence of barriers in the body, then core beliefs that may exist in the realm of the Mind, the Emotions, and/or the Spirit should be investigated.

Do either of you hold beliefs that adoption is a “less than” situation? If so, seek out factual information about adoption from credible sources such as Adoptive Families Magazine (http://www.adoptivefamilies.com) or from others who have successfully adopted. (A memorable, “point blank” discussion with a compassionate OB/GYN and adoptive father that occurred after our third miscarriage finally helped my husband overcome his reluctance to adopt.)

Are there feelings or beliefs that either of you is holding about becoming parents or parenting that originated from the families of origin that must be forgiven and resolved? Do either of you have limited thinking about the choice to remain child-free?

Whatever the concern, fear or issues are – now is the time to investigate, release and resolve them.

Finally, you both should know that once you have addressed and resolved any barriers, gathered your courage, and put yourselves faithfully and lovingly into full alignment with your life choices, then you should be prepared for the swift and joyful resolution of your concern in a way that is truly highest and best for both of you.

Sandra Shields, RScP (Religious Science Practitioner) Center for Spiritual Living - La Crescenta Shields.sandra@ymail.com
 Sandra Shields, RScP (Religious Science Practitioner)
Center for Spiritual Living – La Crescenta

QUESTION: I was sitting in the deli section of a local grocery store at lunch time. A mom with two teenagers came in to shop. The teens went over to the magazine rack and brought magazines over to the table area to read. One of them had very dirty hands. I told them that wasn’t a good idea and asked them to put the magazines back, which they did. Later, the mother came over and loudly yelled at me for correcting her children. Had those been my children, I would have welcomed the correction. She was very angry, and as I was shaking my head and walking away, she shouted after me, “Why don’t you call the police if they are so bad?”

I know all of the arguments about retailers expecting certain percentages of loss; however, I don’t want to pay for a magazine that someone with dirty hands has read. I’ve also seen individuals in the produce section of markets eat grapes and other produce. In toy stores, I’ve observed children playing with toys in ways that render them no longer suitable to sell.

I’ve learned my lesson about speaking directly to the teens or children; however, my concern is that these youngsters are not being taught respect for others’ property. Is there a spiritual solution to this challenge?
~ Baffled Shopper

Dear Baffled Shopper,
I grew up at a time when parents would have expected and even appreciated the help of other adults to provide needed guidance for their children. But for a number of mothers and fathers today, that no longer seems true. We do not know what makes some people so angry that they need to lash out at others. They are certainly not providing positive examples for their children. And, unfortunately, the children are the losers.

So what can we do? One thing is to continue to speak out about things that concern us. When actions are being taken that we find objectionable, we have a responsibility to let others know what we think. Our ideas may not be met with overwhelming approval, but we need not let the negative reactions of others render us mute. If we speak our truth in love, we may plant a seed that will bear positive fruit in the future – perhaps even in the lives of the teens whose mother did not want to hear what you had to say.

A corollary to the suggestion above is to continue to provide examples of nonviolent communication ourselves. When we treat people with kindness and respect, others may find that our behavior motivates them to be more pleasant with each other and with us. The same message, delivered with caring concern rather than judgment, may be received with a more positive response.     There is no guarantee we can change the actions of others, but they may be less likely to go on the attack if we are not seen as the enemy.

My hope is that we can find ways to be gentle with each other and ourselves. I believe that life can be more spiritually and relationally satisfying when we do.

Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford,
Unitarian Universalist
Church of the Verdugo Hills
La Crescenta bstaple4d@aol.com

Dear Baffled Shopper,
As a father of young children myself, I have a set of rules that I expect my children to follow and I try my best to guide them properly when it comes to respecting other people and their property. Many times I see children acting in ways that I feel are unacceptable, and I want to correct them (and very often their parents as well). However, I suppress the urge to chastise them. I do so because the responsibility to raise a child belongs to his or her parents.

As much as I would like to set them on the right path, intervening – as you have seen – often backfires and ultimately causes more harm than good. I believe the only exception to this rule arises in situations where there is a danger to the child, a threat to others, or the possibility of a great loss of property. In cases like this, it may be wiser to call the police (or alert store management if property is being damaged) rather than confront the child or the parents. Obviously, one’s response should be geared to the seriousness and urgency of the situation, but generally the best option is to engage authority figures rather than directly intervening with the parties involved.

Ultimately, the responsibility of education is placed upon a parent, and they have a sacred obligation to raise a child in a way which is befitting him or her.

King Solomon states in the book of Proverbs: “Educate a child according to his way, so that even when he grows older he will not depart from it.” In my view, one key to successful child rearing is to realize that every child is unique, and no two are alike. Education must be tailored individually so that it has a lasting, positive impression on the child.

Rabbi Simcha Backman
Chabad Jewish Center