Marshmallows and Motherhood

Setting proper priorities at home is always a problem. Children's needs can almost seem like a distraction. These experiences, shared by a busy educator/mother, may cause you to reexamine or reaffirm your priorities.

Miriam S. Tumangday, Ed.D., is the director of guidance services; coordinator of English teaching, graduate school; and professor of psychology and education at Philippine Union College, Manila.

What home has not been touched by the changes taking place in society today? Is it possible for the Christian home to meet the challenges confronting it in today's world of confusion, pressures, and changing life styles?

During the women's meetings at the 1 983 General Conference Annual Council in Manila, Philippines, Miriam Tumangday presented this excellent material, which we feel should be shared with those of you who were not present. She points out important factors that are threatening our homes today and challenges us as workers and Christians to demonstrate that there is hope for the modem home.—Marie Spangler.

My husband and I started our new home on the campus of Mountain View College in the Philippines, three and a half hours by air from Manila. The campus is beautiful, but very isolated. In the early 1960s we ventured more than 125 miles of precarious roads to the nearest city only once a month, so provision for entertaining visitors had to be made far ahead of time. One day I received notice that we were going to have distinguished company. The dessert I wanted to fix required marshmallows, a commodity very difficult to secure in that part of the world. Fortunately I had some left from my last shopping, so I put these up in the pantry, supposedly out of reach of our three little children.

But when I went to the shelf three days before the company was expected, I discovered that the marshmallows were half gone. "Oh, no!" I gasped, almost frantic. "What shall I do for dessert now?"

Turning to the living room where our three children were playing, I began my domestic investigation. "Who took the marshmallows from here?" I blasted. The children quit playing, but no one dared answer me.

"Who ate the marshmallows?" I demanded, my voice tinged with sarcasm and heat. The children kept still, almost petrified with fear, but I could not get an answer from them.

That night the children went to their bedroom unusually early. When time came for me to go to bed, I opened the closet to change into my nightwear. Taking it out, I found a slip of paper pinned to the seam. Fired with curiosity, I hastily detached the paper from my gown. In big grade-school scrawls, the note read:

Dear Mommy:

I'm sorry I ate the marshmallows, but I couldn't tell you the truth because you were angry and I was afraid.

Now I'm telling you the truth because I want to see Jesus.

 

"Oh, Lord, forgive me!" I cried as I darted toward the children's bedroom. My unbecoming behavior stared me in the face, and I wanted to tell my little girl how sorry I was, but I found her fast asleep. My apology had to wait for the morning.

Sleep eluded me that night, and every minute became a precious opportunity for heart-searching. That little note was all I needed to jolt me into self-aware ness, into a new perspective of my accountability as a parent.

As I look back to that lesson-filled episode in our home I still seem to hear the unspoken queries from our three children, now in their teens: "Are marshmallows and company more valuable to you than we are? Are they worth the heat of your temper and the bruising of our feelings? Why do you make it so difficult for us to do right?"

These questions may well come from your children too. When a parent considers these questions thoughtfully, a new dimension of accountability dawns upon him. I can assure you that I have never been the same since the slip-of-paper encounter.

We find ourselves in an apathetic, materialistic, fast, bewildering, depersonalized, and treacherous world. What challenges such a situation presents to modern homes, to Seventh-day Adventist workers' homes! Isn't it time that we showed our children and our spouses that Christ in the home makes a difference? Isn't it time that our homes radiated Christian concern and love rather than apathy? Deeds of service and selflessness rather than materialism? Respect, understanding, and human treatment for the individual, rather than depersonalization? Isn't it time that we concretized to our families the abstract Christian virtues and standards that are very dear to us? Isn't it time that we workers led out in demonstrating before the world that there's a glimmer of hope in the little fortresses called our homes? Sometimes we need to be jolted out of our apathetic and depersonalizing complacencies.

As a counselor at Philippine Union College, I listen to various problems of Filipino young people. One of the most common heartaches of youth is the loneliness owing to mismanaged homes, to parents being away in a foreign land in pursuit of dollars, to inconsiderate and authoritarian fathers and mothers. All of these echo the prevailing climate of modern times. The cry of many children today is aptly couched in these lines scribbled on an ink blotter found on an empty desk at Wheaton College:

Out in the cold I stand,

Looking on at the world sitting tight,

With its people in their nice little worlds,

And the friends who don't even know me.

It makes no difference to their world where I am.

If I'm there, it keeps going.

If I'm not, it goes on.

While I walk around, wandering, wondering,

My mind a mass of mixed-up machinery,

Clashing with conflicts and unans wered questions.

I don't ask if the world is real. . . .

I'm alone in a world full of people,

Apart, shut up inside myself,

Cold, unfeeling, in a cold, unfeeling world. *

Sociologists point to six causes of the widening communication gap in families today. The mobility that goes on as a way of life of many families is certainly threatening to the security and stability of domestic life. The hurried pace of life in a technological age creates emotional vacuums in the home, resulting in frustration and despair, anxiety and loneliness. Another deadly foe of the Christian home is the sexual revolution, the utter disregard for the sanctity of marriage. Then there is the feverish reaching out for affluence, which debilitates or does away with interpersonal relationships. Onto this already shaky foundation is added the growing permissiveness in child training and teenage education. Such laxness and neglect doom human beings to unsuccessful and unhappy marriages. And, of course, we have the media—television and radio especially which lull the young and the old into a life of fantasy.

At the dinner table one day my husband and I shared with our three children the problem of some young people in our community—their desire to link with youth of unlike faith in the name of brotherhood and to pledge their loyalty to this group above their loyalty to truth. As I asked them what they perceived must be the reasons for the choice such young people were making, our son piped up, "Oh, I guess those guys are really missing something." Then he went on, "They just don't have a home like mine."

My eyes became misty, and in humility I thanked the Lord that in spite of my imperfections, He has made our home an instrument to stay the onrushing tide of evil for our children.

In this age our challenge is for us to keep the lights of Christian virtues and values burning in our homes. Our children and our spouses need to feel our love and concern in this apathetic and unfeeling world. They need to know that service and caring have more priority in our lives than the pursuit of fortune and fame. In this world of depersonalization they must experience, as we treat them with respect and dignity, what it means to be a human being created and redeemed by God.

Our strength in meeting the bufferings our modem homes face is proportionate to the strength of our hearts, for it is appropriately said that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. We can be equal to these challenges only as our own hearts are warmed and lighted by the heavenly fire.

* David Watson, I Believe in Evangelism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1976), pp. 22-23.

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Miriam S. Tumangday, Ed.D., is the director of guidance services; coordinator of English teaching, graduate school; and professor of psychology and education at Philippine Union College, Manila.

February 1985

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