Parenting is a mixed bag, y'all. I have this sweet, lovely little newborn who just wants snuggles, milk and a clean bottom. I have this five year old who wants to dance and craft and sing and test every limit we put out for her. And then, there's Drengen. Drengen wants a philosophical reason for every little thing. It's getting harder to parent him.
We are Protestant Christians. I say "Protestant" specifically because we are non-Catholic, non-Orthodox Christians. We raise our children accordingly. We understand that our faith is a choice and that there is a chance that our children will stray from what we have taught them and the exposure they have been given at church and with like-minded people. We hold fast to the verse from Proverbs 22:6
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
If we're being really darn honest - I did turn from it. I questioned every aspect of what I had been brought up with. When I came out on the other side, I had more questions, a different perspective and a much, much deeper faith. The basic truth of what I was taught remains: I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I want my children to believe what I believe. But, I know I cannot force the issue.
"Momma, why are there starving people? Shouldn't everyone have exactly the same?"
"Drengen, there shouldn't be starving people. We live in a very imperfect world where people suffer because of other people, political situations, financial situations and other really big things. That's why we give money to missions and we conserve our own resources - so that there is more for those who have less."
"Momma, how can some people be so cruel?"
"Drengen, some people, even people who claim to be good or even Christian, are just so selfish or so damaged that they intentionally inflict pain to make themselves feel powerful or better. Sometimes, they do it just because they are so sick that they derive pleasure from seeing other people hurt. It's wrong. Just because someone hurts you, don't hurt them. Love them and forgive them, but stay away, too."
"Momma, I don't understand why that is wrong."
"Drengen, the lines between wrong and right are so fuzzy these days. This is how I judge a great many things, it was one of your Pappy's favorite verses: 'Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. - Philippians 4:8.' Also, this is my favorite: 'He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8' When I am trying to figure out if something is good, I think about these verses and how it fits in with what I'm judging. Sometimes I have to think about it for a long, long time. Even I make mistakes, though. Even I do things that are wrong. It's tough trying to always do the right things - even if it has nothing to do with our faith - even if we are just trying to be good people."
"Momma, what if I don't believe in God."
"Drengen, I didn't think I did for a long time. This journey is yours. I can only help you by telling you about my faith. Not my lack of faith."
"Momma, sometimes you and Daddy don't act right. You don't do the things you ask me to do."
Now, if that doesn't beat you with a humble stick, I don't know what will.
Seriously. People, when your kid calls you out because you hollered at the five year old simply because she was in your way, or worse, you know you have a philosophical moment on your hands. The old adage of "Do as I say..." should be followed up by "Not as I do..." But, is that really right? Should we really expect our children to respect us, respect our beliefs (I don't care if you are Christian or not - you should raise morally praiseworthy people..), and do as we say?
Uh, NO. Well, sort of.
I can remember very specifically sitting in church one morning and listening to my father preach (I was a preacher's kid - talk about a juxtaposition in faith). As he was speaking, all I could think about was the fight that he and my mother had that morning. It was over something entirely stupid that they should have just let go. And that morning, it changed my perspective of them. Here they are, sitting in church, in a ministerial position after ripping and tearing about breakfast. One of my biggest struggles with my parents was respecting them even when they were struggling.
My father was Super Man. And by Super Man, I mean "really big guy with a really big voice who is really well liked outside of his house." My mother was different. She wasn't into the big fights, but, dad gum - the woman could get even. They had an interesting marriage. And I had an interesting childhood. They never really discussed the struggles that they had when it came to telling me what to do. I was simply supposed to do right because right was right.
But, my Daddy was big and loud and used to getting his way. And, my Momma could freeze water on a window in the summer. That's a wicked combo for a kid. Because I can do both. And I tried, all of the time. I still do. I fight with the nature I inherited from my parents constantly. So, I understand how Drengen feels when I bring the fire followed by the freeze.
We run a tight ship. We expect a great deal out of our kids. But, do we expect enough out of ourselves? They see every little thing. They see the eye rolls between me and my husband. They hear the gripes that come out like a whisper but smack like a paddle. They know the doubts, the misunderstandings - all of it. Family life is it's own glass house. I really should do a better job when I expect so much out of my children.
All I can say to him is this (and I wish my parents had said this to me): I struggle, Drengen. And I'll keep struggling because I'm never going to stop trying to be a better person. Help me out. If you think I'm wrong, let's talk about it. Let's share how we feel about behaviors. Forgive me for not being a better example. Thanks for holding me accountable. We can all learn how to be better people together. Please respect my guidance and defer to my judgment because I am your parent. I will always listen, even if I don't agree. You are a good person and a good child. You're a credit to me and more importantly, to the God who created you. You help me want to be a better person and survive this struggle.
Do as I say - and I'll try to, too.