“Go talk to YOUR child!”
“Here, take YOUR son.”
“YOUR daughter is being emotional again.”
The moment we add “parent” to our resumes, our performance evaluations no longer take place in the privacy of our employer’s office … Now they occur in the aisles at Walmart, the checkout line at the grocery store, parent-teacher conferences, the soccer field, family gatherings, and anywhere our children are seen and/or heard.
When our kids bring home straight “A’s” or earn an award or win a ribbon, our parental egos are puffed up with pride. “Surely,” we think to ourselves, “We have contributed to this success through our superior genetics and extraordinary parenting skills.”
Conversely, when they come home sporting a pierced tongue, get in trouble with the law, cheat on a test, get fired or divorced or end up in rehab, we are shamed, wounded, and humiliated. I remember when my oldest, not yet 3 years old at the time, snitched a handful of rubber O-rings from a floor level bin at the hardware store. I was devastated. Was I raising a future cat burglar? A budding kleptomaniac? I marched her back into the store, found the clerk who had helped us, and made her confess and apologize. The clerk was very stern with her, and then patted me on the shoulder and smiled gently. I think he understood what I was going through.
Our natural tendency is to look for someone to blame. We point accusatory fingers at the neighborhood, the school district, the friends, at great-uncle Joe who had the drinking problem, a lousy kindergarten teacher, etc. The current trend in child-rearing has us refusing to put any of the blame on the children (regardless of their ages) and then scrambling to find a way out from under the pressure of parental accountability.
Take, for example, the mother who is suing McDonald’s for putting those tempting toys in Happy Meals and advertising those toys during Saturday morning cartoons. Um. Hello? If you don’t like it, don’t get a Happy Meal. And if your kids turn into little gremlins after watching TV, turn off the television. Duh. Has this woman talked to her children about their Happy Meal problem?
But, in reality, if we’re going to blame someone, we need to recognize the REAL source of the problem. It’s not the government, the nanny-state, pervasive humanism in our schools, or Happy Meals. It’s not violent video games or Saturday morning commercials. It’s not because we skipped church a couple of Sundays, let them read Harry Potter, or played secular music in the car.
The ONLY perfect parent, God, had significant trouble with His own kids in the garden of Eden. That’s where the blame game started, too. Eve blamed the serpent, Adam blamed God in a roundabout sort of way (“that woman YOU gave me.”) How’s that for some irrational kid logic?
The problem God had with His kids is the same problem we have with our kids: The darn things come out of the womb with a free will. Besides exerting absurd levels of control – whether physical or emotional, which eventually lead to manipulation through guilt and fear – and making them less than what He designed them to be, what could Daddy God have done?
He could have tested them on his instructions to make sure they understood. He could have never, ever, left them alone for any reason. He could have removed that dratted serpent from the scene, keeping them securely insulated from temptation. He could have baby-proofed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to keep His kids away from the thing. You know, all those things we do to try and keep our kids’ free will from getting them into trouble. Think it would have worked? Nope.
So how do you deal with that painful bruised ego when your children falter or fail?
How do you reconcile your love for them with their free will?
Perhaps poet Khalil Gibran expressed it best:
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”
And he said: Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.