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Friday, October 7, 2011

Teaching Our Daughters

  A self-help post by Barbara Early

One of the ways I judge a book is by the way it makes me feel when I turn the last page and set it down. Some books make me glad to be finished so I can read other things. Others I enjoy, but once I close the covers, I might never think of them again; they were a momentary diversion. In others, I hope there's a series, because I don't want to let go of the characters. Some may leave me smiling, crying or hiding under the covers--others made me want to toss the book against the wall. Which I've done (before I switched to ebook) because I'm a tad prima donna that way.

Dance of the Dandelion left me thinking.

Dina Sleiman's novel has a literary quality. The focus on words and sounds is artful. Phrases danced on the page, forming pictures and moods. But, more importantly for me, there was a subtext there--a whisper of meaning transcending the plot that drew my attention--and wouldn't let it go--until I could determine what it was trying to tell me.

Dance of the Dandelion has a message.

Now, I'm not saying it's preachy or didactic. It is, first of all, an engaging and entertaining read. But underneath is a story of love and faith that has the potential to change the reader in a positive way.

As Deb said yesterday, Dandelion is "looking for love in all the wrong places." While this makes for an edgier story than is typically found in CBA Christian fiction, it does so in a way I find edifying. And in a way I think is important to share with our daughters.

What are we teaching our daughters about men? About romance? About themselves?

Are we teaching them at all?

One thing I learned while teaching Biology, Life Science and Health in a Christian school is how seldom even Christian mothers talk with their daughters about their changing bodies, love, and sex. Hence, many girls and young women learn about romance mostly from songs, movies, television shows, and books. And even if those are Christian books and family movies, those of us who write fiction understand that romance is written to a "formula" that doesn't always work in real life. We've taught them that romance can be a wonderful thing, often to the point of idolatry. We haven't always taught them that it can also be a tragic and destructive thing.

While I knew Dina's novel did a good job at showing the dangers of looking for the wrong kinds of love, I was excited to learn that she gathered some of her inspiration from Dr. Wheat's Love Life for Every Married Couple. It is an old book--our pastor used it in our premarital counseling over twenty-five years ago. But the message is vital.

So when you order your copy of Dance of the Dandelion (and you should), why not order two? And talk with your daughter about the difference between lust and desire and love, and the qualities to look for in a man and a relationship. While Dandelion might have made her share of mistakes and reaped the consequences, our daughters shouldn't have to.

We need to teach our DAUGHTERS the difference between
A man who FLATTERS her
And a man who COMPLIMENTS her.
A Man who SPENDS MONEY on her
And a man who INVESTS in her.
An man who views her as PROPERTY
And a man who views her PROPERLY.
A man who LUSTS after her
And a man who LOVES her.
A man who believes HE IS GOD'S GIFT to women
And a man who remembers a WOMAN WAS GOD'S GIFT to man.
And then teach OUR SONS to be that kind of man.
-author unknown.
Questions of the day: What was the best advice you've ever gotten about love and romance? What do you wish you'd heard?

Please comment and let us know if you'd like to be in the drawing for Dance of the Dandelion. Drawing will be held at the end of the blog day, Sunday night, October 9th.

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and facebook scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder will be released from White Rose Publishing in time for the holiday season. You can learn more about her writing on her personal blog: http://barbearly.blogspot.com/ or see what's for dinner on her recipe blog: http://bflogal.blogspot.com/.

26 comments:

  1. Wonderful, Barb. You had me nodding with you. Dina's story really drew me along the same way.

    I love that anonymous quote. I also agree there's too little preparation by most parents for their teens' sexuality. Dandelion is an excellent springboard for discussion. And so well written.

    To be blunt. Charming, sexy men should come with warning labels. So should all men. And women. That warning label is there if we as parents help our children read the fine print (bible) earlier rather than later.

    Oh and we love charming sexy men around here by the way !!

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  2. You know, one of the coolest things about this week for me is the opportunity to see people "get" my writing. What you have here was precisely my initial reason for writing the book, Barb. And yesterday Deb really hit on the spiritual elements that developed as I wrote it.

    I started this book at a very tough time in my life. Basically I asked the question, "What is true love?" I put it down for five years for a number of reasons, but among them was the fact that I just didn't know yet.

    My sincerest hope is that reading this book help young girls to learn through Dandelion's experiences and not have to make these mistakes for themselves.

    With CBA being a largely middle aged audience, it's such a huge blessing when I hear women say they want to share this book with their daughters, or give it as a present to the younger ladies in their lives.

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  3. Deb, so true. As someone who learned the hard way, let me say that a lot of the dominant males who play romantic leads in romance novels have "abuser" written all over them. I guess the presumption is that the spunky heroine can change him. But it doesn't always work out that way in real life, especially when you add the Christian complication of desiring to be a "submissive" wife.

    God can redeem anything, but I'd certainly rather see young women choose wisely and avoid all of that.

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  4. LOL. And charming, sexy men aren't necessarily the problem.

    One thing I tried to teach my daughter and my students was that we are hard wired for sex. Those feelings are natural. Only God has a plan and a time for the expression of those feelings.

    Dina so masterfully makes that whole "lesson" come alive. Apart from godly instruction, Dandelion follows those natural desires in a way I think teen girls will identify with and can learn from--without necessarily knowing they are learning.

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  5. I agree wholeheartedly, Barb. But I should also point out that while I think this book is a great one for highschool age and up, if parents are terribly protective and don't let their kids watch most tv and movies, they might not find this appropriate for teens.

    Sometimes I almost wish there was a rating system for Christian fiction. I wouldn't want anyone to be offended by the content of my book, and I kept as much off screen as possible, but I do think the topic is important and should be dealt with.

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  6. Dina, and I fall into that conservative category. I'd read the book myself before passing it on to my daughter.

    But I would pass it on.

    Because of the content, Dandelion is a tad edgier than I'd normally read, but not for the purpose of being edgy.

    And I do think it's a message our daughters need to hear, especially while they are forming their ideas of love and romance.

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  7. Best comment besides make sure you are friends first (and I've shared this with young women myself) is to WATCH how he treats his mother and LISTEN to what he says about her. If he doesn't love his mother, usually that means he won't be nice to you.

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  8. Barb, that's how I felt about Roseanna White's Stray Drop of Blood. At first when I came to a particularly passionate scene, I thought to myself. "Oh, I don't think my daughter should read this." But once I saw how she handled it and how it all turned out, I thought, "Oh, I definitely want my daughter to read this." LOL.

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  9. I agree, Michelle. I tell young women the same thing about choosing someone who is a good friend. Of course you need that spark also, which Dandelion didn't have with Giovanni despite her wish to.

    I had a whirlwind courtship and marriage. Never a good plan.

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  10. Oh, Barb, what a wonderful post!!! As I was reading, I kept feeling like you had snuck into my brain and put all my thoughts on paper--well, computer screen.

    My oldest daughter has watched all the Twilight movies with me. We've had many a discussion on love and comparing the love Jacob and Edward had for Bella verses her love for them.

    Funny thing is the other day I was at the mall with my 8-yr-old daughter. Since I had a coupon for free pair of panties from victoria's secret, I thought I'd run by there before we went home. As we approached the entrance, two guys (somewhere between 17-24) walked in the store before us.

    I gave a little annoyed shake to my head.

    Rhyinn very loudly said, "Don't they know it's inappropriate for a boy to go into a girl's panty store?"

    I managed to contain my laughter as numerous people looked out way.

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  11. Oh, Dina, about romance heroes and the spunky girls who (supposedly) can change them . . .

    Call me cynical, and my feelings won't be hurt because I am, but I do not believe that a promiscuious bad boy alpha male's behavior can be changed by the love of a good woman.

    Real and lasting change can only come through the redemptive power of God's grace.

    So my favorite aspect of Dandelion is that she didn't find that right relationship with a guy until she found one with Jesus.

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  12. Your kids are always good for a funny story, Gina. And I don't think you're cynical at all.

    Womanizers stay womanizers without some serious intervention for God. And guys who are domineering and charming tend to switch to controlling and manipulative, if not downright abusive, again, without some serious Godly intervention.

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  13. Michelle--Great advice about being friends! If you can't be friends with a prospective mate, what can you really build a relationship on?

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  14. Oh, wonderful post!

    I loved this in particular about the difference between:

    A man who believes HE IS GOD'S GIFT to women
    And a man who remembers a WOMAN WAS GOD'S GIFT to man.
    And then teach OUR SONS to be that kind of man.

    It's so true.

    And it's true, too, about that fine line between protecting our children and preparing them. People ARE made for intimacy. We are just designed that way. It's not wrong!

    But it can be expressed wrongly and abused in so many ways. Ignoring it is not the answer. Helping children learn the the appropriate way to handle it, especially in our messed up culture, is.

    And, even though some may call my medieval trilogy "edgy" in that department, I wanted to express the idea that romance doesn't end at the altar.

    If it all stops there, no wonder so many young people delay marriage or skip it entirely.

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  15. Yes, I agree, DeAnna. There is this extreme purity movement that's popular right now in the church, but I find it out of balance. They don't want singles to feel desire in any way. If you read between the lines, there's a message that feeling desire out of marriage is a sin.

    That's just ridiculous. And it causes needless guilt. I say better to be open about these things and teach young people to submit their desires to God and handle them properly.

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  16. Gina--

    It's great to use all those life experiences as teaching ones. I think that's what God was meaning in Deuteronomy 6:7. How often do we, as parents, not take those opportunities?

    And I'll chime in and say I don't believe the love of a good woman has to power to change any man. In fact, without God working in a man's life, whatever negative character traits a man has are likely to get worse after marriage, since he no longer feels he has to be on his best behavior to win a mate.

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  17. I love books that leave me thinking, too. Dina's book definitely did that for me. It was also one I was sad to finish. But, Dina probably could have doubled the pages and I still would have been sad for it to end. That's how wonderful, inspiring, and thought-provoking it is.

    I love the quote, Barb. I don't have daughters, but I hope I taught my son to be that kind of man. He's a good, compassionate and caring person. I just sent him my nook, since he's currently sitting in a wheelchair bored out of his mind. I did not delete any books, so I'm hoping he discovers all the wonderful books of Christian fiction on there - Dina's included. :)

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  18. DeAnna-

    LOVE this: "And it's true, too, about that fine line between protecting our children and preparing them."

    Interesting discussion. And interesting point that Dina made about the purity movement. I think the message of purity is a good one. And there are a lot of parents that are doing it right, for sure.

    But I can see where it might dump a load of guilt on a young person who doesn't understand where these new thoughts and emotions are coming from. We need to explain those things to them too.

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  19. You know, I wonder if people realize it's actually a 125,000 word novel. The print version came out at only 300 pages due to small margins and smart layout. But it really is a long book for CBA.

    That would be too funny if your son read my book, Suzie. A few guys have, and there was enough universal appeal in there that they did enjoy it.

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  20. Suzie--

    Yes, when that quote circulated on Facebook, I knew it was a keeper. I guess I can relate more to teaching our daughters since I have no sons.

    But sounds like you've done a great job.

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  21. You know, Barbara, the best way I've heard it described is if you think what it would be like if your ten-year-old asked to drive the car.

    Well, um, no. No rational person would think that's a good idea.

    But that no doesn't mean never.

    WHEN that child is mature enough, emotionally, mentally and physically, and when he has A LICENSE (ahem), then it's perfectly right for him to drive.

    'Nuff sed.

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  22. Fabulous post, Barb. I agreed with you all the way!

    I'm like you, and I read a lot of books before I let my daughter read them. That way I can say no (it's only happened a few times) or we can discuss them while she's reading. I find it works pretty well for us. I also watched Twilight etc with her, and we've had a lot of good discussions.

    Great line DeAnna about preparing and protecting your kids. It's a tough line to balance sometimes!

    I liked the anonymous quote, too.

    Dina, I pray Dandy's story not only entertains women of all ages, but helps them make careful choices.

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  23. Susanne--

    Let me add a hearty amen to that prayer.

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  24. Believe it or not, I let my daughter read Dandelion when she was eleven. I know some of it went over her head at the time, but she was so excited to read my first book.

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  25. My mom's advice was:
    - watch out for the quiet ones
    - handsome men are full of themselves

    Now I have to admit that all 3 of her husbands were/are handsome men, but none of them are/were quiet. I didn't take her advice. I married a very quiet and handsome man (just don't look at his nose in profile).

    But I can honestly say the best advice I received was when I was 12 and read an article in True Story called, You Try on a Man Like You Try on a Dress. This shocking article had a profound effect on my innocent virture because it advised seeing what a man was like in bed before actually marrying him. It said men are different creatures in bed and where they seem like gentlemen in normal situations, some turn into brute beasts in a sexual situation. Some turn violent. And some are selfish and uncaring of a woman's needs.

    Now while this article went against all my morals, I could also see the truth in it. Like Barb's post here, there are all kinds of men out there and they all react differently in high emotional situations.

    The key is praying for guidance and then listening for God's voice to lead you to the right man He's picked out just for you. Many women pray and then marry without hearing God's confirmation and then wonder why the marriage didn't work.

    God gave us a variety to choose from, but He also gave us the wisdom to make the right choice. That's not to say we or our spouses won't change. But picking God's choice is our first step. The next step is working hard to keep him.

    Speaking from experience,

    Anita.

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  26. The article you mentioned sounds very interesting and true, other than the trying men on for size thing. I think that's why we need so much more discussion and transparency about sex in the church than we currently have. Mature men of God should be discipling young husbands in this area.

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