Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A pretty white dress occasion

"Why, oh why am I doing this???" This was the thought constantly circulating through my mind last week as I contemplated preparing for Miss A's baby dedication. It all just seemed like too much work.

We only planned a small gathering, roughly 20 or so people, yet as the week wore on, the task appeared daunting - there was food and drink to organise, a meeting with the pastor to discuss the ceremony, a garden to get presentable and of course, a house to clean. None of it made any easier with the development of Miss A's first cold and her constant early morning wake ups (anything beginning with a 5 is not fondly welcomed in my eyes!).

Before I go on, I'd better explain what a baby dedication is. It's a little bit like a baby Christening but also a little bit different. Essentially it is a time when the parents declare their intention to raise their baby in the Christian faith and the baby is prayed over and blessed. Many baby dedications are held in churches but nowadays, they are also held in homes. We chose to do the latter option as for us, it was an occasion where we wanted the people who would be involved in raising Miss A present and they don't necessarily go to our church, or any church at all. 

As we have a small house we had hoped to hold the ceremony outside, hence the garden preparation. Come Saturday though, the weather was not in our favour. So much for all the gardening preparation! After pouring with rain all morning it was a big relief when the clouds parted and the sun made a welcome appearance in the afternoon. Preparations got under way, the furniture was pushed back, piles of stuff was dumped behind the closed door of our bedroom (or just in plain view in the corridor), bunting was hung and the food slowly made its way to the table. 

We were ready. 

Thankfully Miss A had a sleep before the occasion although even this didn't prevent the tears when confronted with so many people. Poor thing. I think that she may be like her mother and like quiet surroundings. Funnily enough, when it got to the part when she was up the front, she was perfectly happy to babble away and flash her smile at everyone. I finally got to dress her in something girly too...a pretty white dress I had purchased just for the occasion. In my wardrobe there are 2 special white dresses, my Christening dress and my wedding dress. Hopefully she'll get to have the same. Unfortunately, due to the cold weather, she ended up swamped under a cardy and wearing tights, with the end result that she looked rather like a fluffy marshmallow in my opinion.

The actual ceremony was short. Our pastor came along to lead it, he's a pretty chilled out guy which completely matched the occasion. He spoke for a few moments, my sister-in-law did a reading and then we talked briefly about the meaning of Miss A's name and our hopes as parents. We shared with those gathered that our desire was to raise Miss A in a home in which she learnt about Jesus but also saw him displayed in the way we lived our lives. We also talked about the idea that it takes a village to raise a child and invited those present to partner with us in raising Miss A, whether it be through prayer, encouragement, spending time with her or even disciplining her if she was acting up as she got older. After this, the pastor closed in prayer and that was that. We enjoyed some delicious food, fellowship with friends and in the case of my husband, brotherly antics that saw him with chilli covered burning face...not so pleasant. People slowly began leaving until it was just us, our parents and a lot to clean up. Thank goodness parents are so good at cleaning!

At the end of the day, while it was a lovely occasion, it seemed like a lot of effort and energy for such a short ceremony. 

However when I reflect on it, I think that the length in no way reflects the importance. It was in fact quite a significant occasion for many reasons. 

As parents, hubby and I had to think about how we want to raise Miss A (and future children). We took time, or grabbed time in between attempting to complete other tasks, to discuss this. I think the most important thing though was that we made a public declaration of our intention and invited others to partner with us. 

We live in an age where the idea of a village raising a child is something that has been somewhat lost. Instead, we live individualised lives and it is often now only the parents who hold all authority, for want of a better word. There is no village, no input from others and we all tread carefully so as not to impinge of anyone else's family. I know I have been in situations where I have wondered whether or not I am allowed to say something to a child who is behaving in a particular way that is not appropriate, especially when the mother is within earshot and hasn't said anything. Generally I opt not to say anything simply out of fear of offending the mother (or father if it is the father present). Is this the best option though? Yes everyone parents in a different way yet does that mean I or my child need to put up with disrespectful or dangerous behaviour simply to ensure social etiquette is maintained? 

As a teacher, when a child is in my classroom, I have no problem with this question as I know that having that child in the classroom comes with permission by parents to discipline their child (appropriately of course). Imagine if I couldn't? I'd end up with a class running riot and no one able to learn! Okay that might be a slight exaggeration but it is a very definite scenario depending on which children happen to be in the class. It is slightly trickier to discipline if the parent happens to be in the classroom at the time, perhaps doing parent help, and a child acts up and the parent says nothing as then it becomes a case of whose responsibility is it...or does the parent actually find that particular behaviour acceptable? Ultimately however, in my classroom, we have rules, we all know and agree on the rules and part of my job is ensuring these rules are followed through on. They're not rules for the sake of rules, but rather to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all who are present. 

Out of the classroom though and it's a different scenario. We live in an age of tolerance but we also live in an age of an expanding global population. There are more and more people who we cross paths with on a daily basis. More and more toes to tred on! How we live can directly impact others. Not all our decisions do of course but there are definitely some that do. I strongly believe that we have a responsibility to consider how our actions affect others. I don't mean that we have to alter our behaviour to ensure we are constantly pleasing others as that is in no way healthy, but we do need to think about whether we, or our children, are acting in a way that may cause harm to someone else or their property, because if we are, it's just not fair. I know life is not fair, but really, this is just not fair. It comes down to that age old idea of treating others in the way that you would like to be treated. 

Now of course, in New Zealand we don't live in villages. Our communities look very different to what they used to when it was just the people around you that made up your 'village'. So I didn't invite our entire suburb the baby dedication, that simply would have been impracticable and incredibly weird, but I did invite those whom I hope will be involved significantly in Miss A's life. I hope that through acknowledging their importance in our lives and inviting them to partner with us in bringing up Miss A, they will take on board this invitation and should Miss A ever act up in their presence (and let's be honest, that's more a when not an if), particularly if I'm not around, then they will feel comfortable to correct her behaviour. I want Miss A growing up knowing how to respectfully behave in different situations and with different people. Hopefully, this invitation will remove the doubt that I find myself faced with on occasion.

So will a village raise my child? I hope so! After all, if there is a village raising Miss A, that's a lot less work for me as the burden is shared and in addition, she gets a far richer upbringing as she interacts with different people, hopefully in a respectful way. That's a winning scenario for everyone I think.

That's my opinion though, I'd love to know your thoughts on the idea of others being involved in raising your child/ren? Let me know in the comments below or on my Facebook page.

Have a great week,
Trish xx

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