I get as many questions about parenting outside the traditional congregation as I get on any other topic. It seems many believe there is a right way to raise our children and if we can learn all the principles involved we can guarantee that our kids will be good examples of what it means to follow Jesus by never making mistakes and always having a Godly attitude. At least we want to save them from the mistakes we made. And that’s a recipe for disaster and self-condemnation if I ever heard one.
To start with, kids deal with the same flesh we all do, and growing up in a broken world provides opportunities none of us can control Besides, God gives kids to rookies. Our only experience in doing it, is when we’re actually doing it, and I don’t know any parent that hasn’t made his or her share of mistakes. That doesn’t mean we can’t do the best we can, but you’re still growing, too. I wish I had raised my kids back then with the knowledge and freedom I have now. No, I still don’t think they would have turned out perfectly, but perhaps they would be less encumbered with the obligations of religion and would have had a better chance to know a Loving Father.
So when I read this a few weeks ago on the Lifestream Journeys list, one that we provide for those who are being touched by some of our things at Lifestream and want to learn from others, I knew I wanted to share it on my blog. So with permission from Pamela, it’s author, I want to share with you this perspective of parenting. She has been at it awhile, raising her children in a religious construct and now loving them as adults. I love the humor, the honesty, and the reality that loving adult kids involves a lot of apologizing for the ways in which we complicated their lives and journeys. If it helps you relax a bit more today in your own parenting and realize that you are never going to get it all right and that parenting is a lot of doing your best when they’re younger, and apologizing when they are older, then it will have served its purpose.
Pamela was responding to another parent who was struggling with raising her own young children:
Truth is, I don’t think there is a parent anywhere who doesn’t–at some point or another–feel completely overwhelmed and incompetent. I know I’ve banged my head on the floor more than once, and cried out to my Dad “What in the world were you thinking to give me children??!! Hello! I am clueless here!”
And, then you have those moments of brilliance when you think “I’ve got this parenting thing down!” I said that to myself after my first-born was about 2 years old. Then, the second child was born. And, nothing I did with the first worked with the second. By the time I got to the fourth…well, the head-banging was almost a daily ritual. Perhaps God gives us more than one child just to keep us from getting cocky… or to keep us on our knees, admitting our powerlessness.
Have you seen M. Night Shyalaman’s movie “The Village”? Oh, my! It’s an amazing depiction of parents’ desire to protect their children from evil, and the lengths to which they will go to that end. I have watched so many loving parents erect a border of “yellow flags” around their children, believing that if they can just keep them “contained” in a “safe zone”, then no evil will be able to get to them. But, as others have pointed out, the evil is in our human nature. Of course, that doesn’t stop the powers that be from telling us “if you will just dress ’em right, take them to the right places, don’t let them go to the wrong places, keep them in Sunday School and Children’s Church, don’t let them watch TV, put a bad-word bleeper on the TV, nothing but G-rated movies, have them memorize Scriptures, have family devotions, pray before every meal, say bed-time prayers, go to church some more, only have church friends, only play sports with church leagues, read the Bible, teach them to tithe, go to church some more, don’t let them go to public school, only send them to Christian school… thennnnnnnn you will get perfect children who are angels and never make bad choices and never sin and never get in trouble and never make you look like a bad parent and will go to heaven and won’t go to hell”
And I’ve had my share of well-meaning family members pointing out that my children’s bad choices was because of something I did. When my oldest son was struggling with addiction, and had attempted suicide, my sister said “I just feel like God wants me to tell you that all of this is happening because you took him out of the presence of God.” (i.e. left the congregation she was in.) Whew! That one knocked the wind out of me. At the time, I was so traumatized by everything that was happening that I figured she was probably right. (By the way, Father tells me that it’s not even POSSIBLE for me to take anyone out of His presence! Remember that whole “if I make my bed in hell….” thing!)
The thing is, as broken and messed up as we all are, it’s a wonder that any child survives. My husband and I are on a mission of repentance with our children. As Dad makes us aware of the mistakes and bad parenting, we go to our children and repent to them, and ask their forgiveness. My husband has apologized for specific things so frequently that our oldest son has told him “Dad, you don’t have to apologize anymore.”
Tony responded “Yes, I do…because I have to own this stuff, and I can’t get better until I do.” The coolest thing is that as we respond to the awareness His Spirit brings us with contrition, it is healing our family! To tell you the miracles we watch everyday in our children would take a book!
And yes, seeing them make unwise choices, knowing the painful consequences that are coming their way, is very hard to watch… agonizing, actually. But, my Shepherd just gently reminds me that He is THEIR Shepherd, too, and He loves them way more than I do, and He’s been known to leave the “ninety and nine” to go retrieve that ONE foolish little lamb and bring him safely back to the fold.