I tend to be a worrier, and one of the things I worry about most is my children. I suppose a lot of moms can relate to that. :-) I especially worry about how our life overseas is impacting them.

Am I giving them what they need?

I can't give them whole wheat bread and organic produce. I can't take them to zoos and parks and libraries and museums. We don't have a schoolroom full of educational games and craft supplies. They wear hand-me-down clothes and sleep on a foam mattress. I'm not saving up money for their college education. They don't even get to see their grandparents on a regular basis!

What if they miss out somehow? What if their education, or their emotional development, or their overall success in life is damaged by the choices I'm making for them in these early years of their lives?

I have to step back every so often and remind myself of what really matters. From my limited expereince as a mother, and my somewhat broader expereince as a people-watcher, I believe there are a few basic things that children really need. If those needs are consistently met, things will turn out okay . . . and if those needs are NOT met, it really doesn't matter how much organic granola they eat or how many educational toys they have. Right, ladies?

What our children really need:

1) Time. Ouch. That's a precious commodity, right? We have housework to do, languages to learn, people to minister to, a mission to fulfill, and we just don't have a lot of time left for our children. But our children NEED our time. They need to know that we care enough about them to give them time. And all that discussion about quality time vs. quantity time? Honestly, our kids need both. They need some special, focused, one-on-one time. But they also just need lots of time. Let them follow you around asking questions. Let them help you wash dishes or make cookies (even if it takes twice as long and makes a huge mess!) Take a few minutes to cuddle when they wake up from naps. Sit with them while they do their schoolwork, with a book or project of your own if they don't need your help.

2) Love. Well this one is easy! Of course we love our kids! But do they know it? How often do you say it? How do you show it? They don't assume that you love them just because you're their mom. They need to hear it with words, to feel it with hugs and kisses, to see it in your eyes and your smile when you look at them. Make sure there's no doubt in their minds that you love them like crazy.

3) Respect. This is actually the hardest one for me. I'm supposed to teach them to respect me . . . but at the same time, I need to respect them. They respect my authority, I respect their personhood and individuality. I am still learning what this looks like every day as I interact with my children. But I do think it's important, and becomes more important the older your children are. Although I have lots of dreams for my children, most of all I want to respect God's call on their lives and let them be all that He wants them to be.

So relax, Momma. You can give your children time and love and respect no matter where you live or what your circumstances are. Let's keep our eyes on the things that are really important.

I am still new on this journey of motherhood. Are there any older mothers who have words of wisdom for us? Keeping the right perspective on our children's needs is so helpful in the stress of everyday life!

I wanted to write today's post as a thorough answer to this reader's question. But I simply don't have the answers! So instead I'm just posting the question and hoping that the rest of you can help us out!

Question:

Hi!  My husband and I have begun talking about starting a family, but we're overwhelmed just thinking about how we will plan for childbirth.  I've heard stories of women going back to their passport country for childbirth, and I've also heard stories from women who give birth in their assignment countries.  What are the factors we should consider when making this decision?  What about traveling before and after birth, family help, or separation from my husband if I need to travel and he needs to stay and "hold down the fort"?  I'd love to hear the wisdom your readers have on this topic, especially about what some needs may be that a new mom might not expect!  Thank you!

Please help us! What kinds of things need to be considered here, ladies? If you gave birth overseas, what was your expereince, and how did you make that choice? If you traveled back to your passport country for childbirth, how did you plan, what factors did you have to consider? How long were you away from your assignment country? Have any of our readers been seperated from their husbands for childbirth? What kinds of questions should this potential new mom be asking right now?

Today we have another question from a reader - thank you for asking, ladies! Keep the questions coming! Today's question was beyond my stage of parenting, so I enlisted a dear older friend of mine, who has raised 5 boys on the mission field over the last 20 years. I'm excited to share Cynthia's wisdom, but also interested to hear thoughts and advice from others!

Question:

"We live in the city here, and we have NO grass... no courtyard, nothing but a garage and the street, and a little strip of dirt on the other side of the street. We are very thankful for what we do have... but it doesn't provide work for your BOY and work is what he desperately needs. We've given him all sorts of indoor chores, but that's just indoor chores--it's not the type of work that he really needs at this point in life... work like hauling wood, caring for chickens, mowing lawn, pulling weeds, and all that sort of thing. It also doesn't allow very much of the type of free outdoor, run-and-play type development that encourages make-do skills, building and creating... all those things. We've banged our heads against that wall of what we don't have so often that we're sore. It finally occurred to us that... we should stop. =) If we cannot do anything about it, we're going to have to work with what we have. So my question is really this: how do other people work with that?"

Cynthia's Thoughts: Some Ideas For Boys While Living In A City Type Environment
Yes, we do understand that boys need active and constructive things to do to run off or use up their abundance of energy. We had 4 sons left at home when we moved to a city suburb in Africa with a small amount of grass and a small garden. The garden was seasonal and when the dry season came there was nothing of that to do. Also, there was no grass to cut during dry season. It was a challenge to keep our boys profitably occupied but we really did see the need for it and tried hard to keep them busy! At the present time we have only 2 sons left at home and their ages are 15 and 18. 
*Raising animals taught discipline as our sons learned to feed and care for them. Rabbits and guinea pigs can be raised in cages in a small place. We hardly had enough space for chickens. 
*How about carpentry? My husband had been a carpenter by trade so it came naturally for him to help our sons to learn to make things with wood. This is a wonderful way for them to be creative! Maybe you can get some tools and wood and let him learn to use them to make items for you to use around the house like little stools, benches, tables, etc. You can use the corner of a garage and let it become a carpentry shop area. I heard of one mom that had four boys who ended up learning carpentry so that she would have something to do with her boys.
*Learn to be a fixit man while young!  My husband, also by his example, showed our boys how to do about any type of handyman fix-it job around the house, indoors and outdoors. That has been a tremendous blessing for all of us!
*Gardening is great! Would that strip of dirt across the street be sufficient for fencing around and making a small garden? What about using large flower pots (or buckets, misc containers, etc) for gardening right around your house? You can stake a tomato in a pot or make a trellis to prop up beside a pot for a cucumber vine to grow on. Maybe you could use a rectangular box pot for growing lettuce, etc. This is not hard work but is profitable and is better than nothing.
*A competitive game like soccer with neighbor boys at a nearby park or field is a good way for a son to play hard, sweat, and use up extra energy. Another family member can also go along to watch over and be an encouragement. We have allowed this and it has worked out well for us.
*If there is an interest in motors he could learn some things about mechanics and tear apart old motors, using those which would be according to his age level, of course. This was a project that several of our boys worked on. They even made a little go-cart-type thing using the wheels from a child's wagon. 
*Biking is another thing that our boys have done. Often two went together when they were younger. As they got older and more trustworthy, I would send them out on errands to the nearby market or street vendors for food ingredients or whatever I needed. They loved to run errands for mother, but mostly because they loved the chance to bike! :-)
God bless you as you raise your son and keep him busy!
******
Let's hear some ideas from the rest of you! How do you keep your children occupied and teach them responsibility with little or no outdoor space?

I am a huge believer in identifying what exactly causes the most stress in our lives - and then finding a solution for it. Here's two of my favorite solutions that make village life just a bit easier. These two are just to get us all started... add your comments, please! :-)

My number one every-day stress: trying to cook over a charcoal fire with a one-year-old into everything. OK, it's definitely not the worst thing ever. But day after day, it can get on your nerves. Especially for someone like me, whose food has a mysterious tendency to either burn, boil over, or just flop in general if I turn my back for so much as a second.

Solution #1. A baby swing. {My husband deserves all the credit for this - he came up with the idea AND made the thing out of bamboo from our back yard!} We hung this from the rafters on the veranda where I cooked. I used it EVERY day. She had a perfect bird's eye view of the cooking process, she could swing and get some breeze in the sweltering afternoon (I honestly got jealous sometimes, ha!) and she was safely contained. The neighborhood kids loved to come and push her - a good way for them to interact without a lot of oversight needed. This was a WINNER. Highly recommended!

Solution #2. A prayer mat. I was so amazed at how easy it was to teach my one-year-old to stay on a prayer mat for a certain amount of time. And we're not the kind of parents whose kids are just naturally obedient, ahem. But this works! (She still loves it at almost 3 years old). I set a timer and she gets some specific toys and books. She's right where I am, but I can work in peace for a little. This worked awesome too when we had a new baby and I needed to be able to nurse without interruptions.

SO, what are your little things that make a big difference?