Real dangers vs. imaginary ones

Hospitals across the country are retheming after a recent study unearthed a startling fact.  Of 250 children surveyed, exactly 250 of them expressed an aversion or out-and-out fear of clowns.  I suppose a generation of administrators raised on Bozo and Ronald McDonald were slow to realize that garishly painted faces were just about the last thing children wanted to see when they were already scared out of their minds.

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A few examples of "The Small Things"

Last week in this space I encouraged the “one-talent” Christians out there to not lose heart, but rather to rejoice in the “small things” they may be able to do in service to God and to the church.  I thought I would follow up today with some specifics.

Again, these are things that virtually any Christian can do. 

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Nerf

A 9-year-old boy in Wales has lost an eye to a Nerf gun.  This is not the beginning of a joke.  This is the conclusion to a two-act tragedy.  It seems he lost sight in the eye because of an incident with a toy arrow when he was only 3; the second incident caused irreversible damage to the eye, forcing him to have it removed entirely or else risk losing sight in the second eye as well.

The mother, who is raising money through crowdfunding to get her son a more realistic prosthetic eye, says she doesn’t want people to think she is a bad mother.  I wonder why she would feel compelled to say that?

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Short cuts

It’s time for another report from the Facebook links.  Really, one of these days I will quit watching these things.  But then again, if I did, where would I get ideas for this column?

Anyway, in this particular instance a woman was being interviewed by a TV reporter because she had difficulties while dropping her children off at school.  She was running late, so she decided to cut through an elementary school parking lot to get to another school in the neighborhood, driving around two traffic cones while doing so.  One schoolteacher was so upset at her actions that he literally threw himself onto the hood of her car.

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Dead mice, baby eagles, and children

We saw what appeared to be (from inside a car moving at 30 miles per hour) a dead mouse on the road the other day.  It struck me because I had just been thinking how rare that is.  We see dead possums, raccoons, and various other critters all the time in these parts.  But mice, which surely are as plentiful as any of the others, manage to escape road-pizzadom.  Until last week.

As is generally the case, I have a theory.  I think mice have smaller lives than the other, larger mammals decorating the highways and byways of the Florida Panhandle.  They do not need to roam far from their nests, so they have much less reason to cross 20 feet of asphalt.  That has certain advantages which, given the circumstances of this conversation, would seem to be obvious.  And perhaps they are not worldly wise enough to appreciate the disadvantages.  But we appreciate them on their behalf.  And we can’t help but pity them a bit.  The experience is worth the danger, I say.  I suspect you agree.

I write this having pushed one of my mice out of the nest recently.  The other one will follow one day.  And in many ways, it would be safer for them if they stayed home, keeping their lives small and uncomplicated.  But I want more for them than that.  So occasionally, like the eagle of Deuteronomy 32:11, I stir the nest up a bit.  I remain close at hand to catch them if they aren’t quite self-sufficient, certainly. 

But it’s not my job to make them safe.  It’s my job to make them fly.

I want a full life for my children.  But they have a greater chance of heartbreak if they get married.  A child who is never born to them can never apostatize.  They can’t get fired if they never get a job.  So if my top priority is keeping them from the bad things in this world, the reasonable thing to do is to shelter them from all the decisions that can go poorly.  As a side benefit, I get extra people at the table on board game night for the rest of my life.

And then, one day, I’ll die.  Tracie too.  And two teenagers in the bodies of women in their 60s will be left by themselves, completely unfit for life. 

I don’t want that.  So I let them grow.  When necessary, I force them to grow.

Training a child (Proverbs 22:6) is a multistage process.  First they watch.  Then they help.  Then you help.  Then you watch.  Then you leave.  Whether you are teaching them to bake a cake, build a friendship, serve society, or study the Bible, the process is the same.  You will probably go backward a step or two from time to time to finetune their skills.  But the objective is always to abandon them.  They must be allowed to fly.  And, yes, perhaps crash.  Hey, if Geppetto wanted Pinocchio to stay safe, he shouldn’t have wished for a real, live boy.

The problem I see with “helicopter parents,” as they’ve come to be called, is ultimately selfishness.  The parent cannot bear to let the child go, for fear of either the child’s failure or the parents’ isolation; in so doing the parent stifles the child’s development.  Either the child’s life remains small forever, or the child one day wakes up in a world for which he or she is completely unprepared.  And gets run over.  This is fine for parents in the short term.  They don’t have to cut the cord, and they don’t have to watch their child suffer quite as much.  But it hurts the child in the long run.  They can’t sleep in cribs forever.

“The discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) has to be administered by me, the parent.  I teach them what God’s expectations are.  I train them.  I correct them.  I show them the proper way, both in word and in example.  And always, I emphasize that it is His guidance, ultimately, and not mine.  I teach them to obey me (Ephesians 6:1) so they will be positioned to obey Jesus (Matthew 7:21) — even when I am not around to guide them. 

Yes, it hurts to watch them disappear into the world.  But it would hurt more if I left them unprepared, thinking that day somehow would never come.   HH

 

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Adulting

It is trendy these days to admonish millennials into better practice of what is being termed “adulting.”  Basic skills such as cooking, shopping, laundry, auto maintenance, and the like are being neglected.  As a result, a generation is going off to college unable to boil an egg or sew a button.

The cry goes out from far and wide to bring back home economics classes, shop classes, and financial literacy classes.  Get our schools to empower our children so they will have a chance of coping in a world that will soon try to eat them alive.

 

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Parenting

When giving parenting advice, I have gotten reactions that fall almost completely into one of two categories.  One, the listeners will wholeheartedly agree with me; this indicates that my advice mimics what they are already doing or what they are determined to do when the situation calls for it.  Two, the listeners will ignore me; this means they disagree with me and have no intention of changing — and that they likely see me and my ilk as the cause of the downfall of society.  That’s fair, I guess, since it’s what I think of them.

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Stork

Most references to “love” in the New Testament use one of two Greek nouns — agapao or phileo.  (Hide the children!  Hal’s faking a knowledge of Greek again!)  But there is another Greek word included in the compound word astorge, which is usually translated “unloving.”  The root storge is generally defined as “family love,” that which exists (or does not exist, in the case of references to astorge in Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3) between parents and children.

This root may be an explanation for the strange but pervasive myth of a stork bringing newborn babies to parents.  Or maybe not.  Who knows?  Who but me cares?

In any event, a new birth stirs instinctive and emotional connections in the parent as well as the child.  It would seem to be a natural, undeniable, inescapable thing.  Tragically, it is not.  We occasionally hear horror stories of mothers abandoning children after delivery.  Just last week a 21-year-old sorority girl was found guilty of literally putting her newborn daughter in a plastic bag and throwing her in the trash.  And these stories seem to be more common every year.

Personally, I blame abortion.  We’re being trained to think of babies being a burden rather than a blessing, and to minimize the consequences of all our bad choices.  And so here we are — a society without natural affection.

The cure is as obvious as it is hard.  Turn an entire culture toward God.  Read Jeremiah, and Hosea, and Zephaniah, and all the other passages in the Bible that warn rebellious people of judgment to come.  And it will come, even surer than the stork.