Rite of passage parenting: Group activity
I just finished a book titled Men are like Waffles—Women are like Spaghetti by Bill and Pam Farrel. The authors try to explain the differences between men and women and the ways they approach life. I agree with their statement that men think in little squares. When I’m in my work square, all I think about is work. When I’m in my TV-watching square, the house could burn down around me and I wouldn’t notice.
If you look at a waffle, you’ll notice there are no doors to connect the squares. Men have trouble thinking about more than one thing at a time. Since women are like spaghetti, every physical, mental, spiritual or emotional aspect of their lives interacts with everything else. A woman can be mad at the cat and by the time her husband comes home from work, she’s mad at him, too—even if he did nothing wrong. And of course there’s always one leftover emotion at the end of the day with nowhere to go. I’ll find my wife crying and inquire, “What’s wrong?” She always answers, “Nothing.” Men don’t have a square to process this type of response.
I begin this week’s article by letting you know I’m a man. And because I’m a man, there are many things I don’t understand, I don’t pretend to understand or I don’t want to understand.
When it comes to being a man, I’m from the old school. One of the things that makes me uncomfortable is discussions about having babies. Back in the day, people expected men to discuss sports, the weather, their crops, cars and even politics, but not having babies. In fact, when I was growing up, a man wasn’t even allowed to be around for the birth of his own child. The father’s job was to pace back and forth, waiting for someone to come and announce, “It’s a … .”
Now don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with men talking about having babies. It’s just that in the old days, we never considered taking part in that kind of conversation. Today, we have a generation of men who are more in touch with their parenting side. They can intelligently discuss such things as the Lamaze Method, breastfeeding and measuring formula. When I was growing up, we left conversations like this to the women.
If you take a group of mothers and lock them in a room, it won’t take more than 10 to 12 minutes before one of them begins talking about how long she was in labor. And every woman begins to nod her head about the suffering one must endure to bring a child into this world. Of course, an onslaught of labor stories follows, each one worse than the last, until even the war veterans are horrified.
I think it’s good for men to become more understanding toward their wives during pregnancy and childbirth. And it’s even a greater thing that men are moving out from their role as providers to actively participate in the nurturing of their children. For years, we’ve missed out on this wonderful experience. But when did having a child become a group activity?
I was channel surfing when I came across a program that chronicles the deliveries of babies. First, the doctor announced that the baby was about to arrive. As the camera panned away from the mother’s face, I thought she must be having her baby in a convention center. There around her bed stood her mom and dad, mother- and father-in-law along with her brothers and sisters. There was even a grandma in a wheelchair trying to push her way through the crowd. Added to that were a number of unknown bystanders. I’m just guessing, but I think they may have been the mailman, pizza delivery man or newspaper boy. They all had one thing in common: they were all staring as they waited for the baby’s arrival. I was struck by the contrast between when I was born and my dad wasn’t allowed to enter the room, and the way birth has now become a spectator sport.
I don’t know which is right: a private birthing process between husband and wife or inviting the entire Third Division of the Army to attend. I do know one thing, though. Bringing a child into this world is a tremendous responsibility. If we invite anyone to attend, we should make sure it’s the presence of the Lord. A new mother and father will want to recognize Him as the Creator of their child and thank Him for the precious gift of life.
But what do I know? I’m only a man. And I haven’t yet learned to think outside my square.