Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Parenting For Dummies

I was snuggling Chaia to bed last night. The custom is that she demands mom or dad lay next to her in a bed we don't fit in, she plays with our face in the dark and says, "tell me about my day, daddy" and so we reflect on everything.

Last night as we're rehearsing some of this evening ritual, there is a search helicopter flying back and forth on our street and the surrounding neighborhood. This seems to be about a monthly occurrence. Probably looking for someone in the shadows.

I grew up in a pretty rural part of Ohio, equal population of cows and people. To be sure there were typical small town dramas. But I don't recall any search helicopters.

To be clear, we live in an incredibly safe neighborhood in Columbus, but it's a city and the reality is that there are some inherent risks with residing in a city.

One friend had his car window broken and his laptop/iPad stolen at noon, broad daylight, in a high traffic area of campus.

Another friend got struck by a car while walking.

Forget violence.

Just think about the environment of city schools. There is no way to control or protect what your kid learns or experiences at school. From inappropriate words and behavior, to bullying and being bullied to pressures on self-image. Sure these are real things in every context, but they seem more magnified in the city.

As the helicopter circles around for the 3rd or 4th time, I start to think about my desire to protect Chaia from this stuff. She's a fun and innocent kid (though sometimes we worry more about what she'll teach other kids than what other kids will teach her!) The day will come when she gets her feelings hurt at school. The day will likely come when she will see a classmate pass away. The day will come when a boy will try something or say something inappropriate to her that will steal innocence or heighten insecurity. (Stupid boys!)

And this tug at my heart strings left me saying "I need to protect my kid." Her sweetness needs sheltered, her innocence needs preserved. Is she safe in this house? Should we be in the city? Should she go to that school?

And then? The moment of clarity.

The still small voice whispering loudly.

I'm not called to protect my kid.

I'm called to parent my kid.

If anything has been revealed through Chaia's story, it's that even if I wanted to protect her, I can't. I can't prevent a spontaneous mutation in utero that resulted in the double recessive mutation that gave Chaia a heart attack and 5 days to live and brittle bones, a messed up heart and a pseudo tumor . I can't protect her from life. Life is going to happen.

We're not called protectors. We're called parents.

My sister is a teacher in another state. She's a good one too. She told me about a student who had clearly botched an assignment, hadn't paid any attention to the instructions and because of it, got a D on the assignment. The parents came in and asked for a do that the kid could get a better grade and get the A on the report card. My sister said the grade was what it was. Then the parents wanted options for extra credit and basically said, "how do we get the A we want for our kid?" My sister responded that her role as a teacher was not only to teach curriculum but to teach life lessons and this was an opportunity to teach a lesson. If you put forth "D" effort, you get a "D"...not a do over...a "D".

Part of parenting is letting it all hit the fan so that your child(ren) can understand life values and consequences and grace and love.

Sure, I can move to the suburbs, the safest schools or even pull Chaia out of school altogether. I can put a helmet on her when she rides a bike, when she rides in the car, when she rides in the grocery cart. If she goes to touch the oven, I can chase her and protect her from touching something hot, until it becomes a game and I protect her 47 times in 5 minutes.

But at some point, maybe the call to parent is to let her fall with training wheels let her touch the oven and understand "HOT" for herself.

Sometimes I wonder if our "PROTECT AT ALL COSTS" parenting approach has screwed up our kids to be the most entitled generation and the most over-sensitive, thin-skinned generation in history.

Sometimes I wonder if this approach has screwed up our view of God too. It seems whenever something hard or painful comes along, God's goodness and faithfulness and nearness are all called into question. "God, you're supposed to put my helmet and knee pads on so I don't get hurt. How could you let this happen to me?"

So you can grieve over what happened to your kiddo the other day at school. You can go on continual quests for justice or better supervision or repercussions for other kids. You can vow to never let it happen again. You can pull them out of environments in the name of protection. You can shelter and preserve innocence. You can exhaust yourself in preventing life from happening to your kids.

Or you can parent.

Because life is going to happen.

And you protecting your kids is a myth.

The best lessons I've learned have been through adversity and hardship, not comfort and security.

Perhaps parenting through the hard stuff rather than seeking to protect from the hard stuff is the best way to disciple your kids and change the world.

Chaia will go to Columbus schools. And she will see and hear and experience things that are going to be less than stellar.

And how we parent, teach, and talk about those things will make all the difference.

What do you think?

*Note this is not an indictment on suburbia or homeschooling. It is merely an encouragement that if you've chosen those things primarily to "protect" your kids, you should reconsider.


Mama Karen said...

Well said!

MaryBeth McKinney said...

It is hard when the innocence of your own child is lost because others aren't raised with the same values. Having had several incidents this year where my kids have been exposed to things less than desirable, it has forced us to have conversations with them and reinforce how important it is for them to communicate with us. I am thankful that my kids talk to me and ask questions. It makes me feel as though we're doing something right. As for the teaching thing...well, it is a rewarding, yet extremely challenging profession. There's a cartoon out there that compares teaching from like the 1970s or something and today. In the old cartoon the parents are asking the kid "what on earth?" And in the current cartoon the parents are raising heck at the teacher. Core values, hard work, good habits, and respect have to be taught at home before kids get in school. And then, you have to send them out into the world and pray they carry those things with them. Parents, stop making excuses for your kids!

You're doing an awesome job with Chaia and she will be a light to those she is around! Love you!

Heidi Kiefer said...

Just what a new mom needs to hear!

Jimi Vanderpool said...

Had an epic comment. Phone lost it. I hate this thing.

Long story short, I agree. :)

Anonymous said...

If a parent isn't going to protect their child and shield them from harm, who is? I agree that being a helicopter parent isn't the answer; kids do have to learn some things on their own. But I believe your responsibility as a parent is to protect your child from harm that you, as an adult, know could happen, whereas the child is not mature enough to be able to handle. For example, as a child, I was sexually abused at the age of 6 by my older brother. My parents knew that my brother had some serious issues. They should have been vigilant to make sure the younger girls in the home were not being harmed by him. But they did not. Because my parents did not care enough to protect me from my brothers, I grew up with much baggage that carried over into my adult life. Some other people in my adult life, along with counseling and my faith in God, enabled me to work through the damage and I am now in a good place. But had my parents protected me from this harm insteading of turning a blind eye, my life may not have had so much turmoil.