Children misbehave more when their mothers are in the room. That’s not just cynical anecdotal evidence talking; that’s science. OK, it’s fake science. The article I read acknowledged as much. But the logic behind the argument made a lot more sense that most of the so-called data coming out of the think-tanks these days.
When we lived in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, we lived a short walk from a major intersection, 91st Street and Aspen Avenue. I would often take Samson, the Brittany spaniel we owned at the time, for walks around the neighborhood, and occasionally I could convince the girls to come with me. Yes, they loved their daddy. Yes, they loved Samson. But mainly, they loved ice cream. And on the opposite corner of the intersection of 91st and Aspen, there was a Braum’s ice cream parlor. Samson and I would cross both streets with the girls and then wait on the sidewalk and watch through the glass door as two little girls, not ten years of life between them, walked up to the counter with a $5 bill and ordered some ice cream.
American efforts at sex education are ridiculed by many for a strong emphasis on abstinence. “We know kids are going to have sex,” the argument goes, “so we should teach them a safer way.” Whether this curriculum “works” or not is irrelevant in my view, as it avoids the central issue. The problem is not kids getting pregnant or getting STDs; the problem is kids going to hell.
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
Most games have some element of luck to them. Random elements make the game somewhat unpredictable. It forces the players to be adaptable in the event of unforeseen circumstances. One of the most common of these elements is dice. Rolling a pair of dice does not produce a completely irregular pattern; a seven has exactly one chance in six of coming up, while a two or a twelve each have one chance in 36. Considerably worse, obviously.
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.
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.