May-June Raising Parents Article

As promised, here is the article from the Calvary Messenger. This is a bit lengthy…my apologies:

There is nothing easy about being a parent. Let me say that again, there is nothing easy about being a parent. I can see the nodding heads and hear the cries of “amen!” Although I have only been a parent for a few years at this point, I feel like the school of parenting is a quick and hard teacher at times and we are not graded on the curve. That is not to say that we have to be perfect, rather that we learn quickly how important and hard a job it is to be a parent.
What is it that makes the job of parenting so difficult? Among some other things, you might consider a few thoughts below.
–>Children don’t come with an owners manual. They are people – not a piece of electronics, but it would be nice if they came with some kind of information. Ethan’s first pediatrician cleverly provided us with an “Owner’s Manual” that he gave to new parents. That only took us so far.
–>Changes in culture that have changed the dynamics of community. We are less likely to live in the same location for long periods of time or to live near family. It is necessary that we find support systems in other places. The Church is an especially important position to provide this kind of support, but it is not always done well or extended beyond those who are already members.
–>Our fears. We know what a big job that is before us. We also may intimately be aware of failure, whether it be in our own family or in those who are close to us. Fear of failure or fear of harming or damaging our children can impede our ability to make good and right decisions.
–>Our own sinfulness. This is a big one – whether we realize it or not. Children, just like marriage, act as a window to your sinful attitudes and actions (ie. selfishness, lack of patience, unchecked anger). Our sin affects the way parent and makes parenting that much harder.
–>Our desires for our children. More times than not, our desires are good and right. We want our children to become well-adjusted, well-rounded, God- fearing, respectful, happy, talented, bright (on and on) members of society and church. However, these desires can lead us to the wrong things for the right reasons. We can squash the burgeoning independence of our children

I want to spotlight this last complication of parenting. I felt like this issue came up in two movies that Lydia and I rented in the past couple of months (The Village and Garden State…Please note that my use of these movies here does not constitute a recommendation. Please use your own judgment when considering what you should or shouldn’t watch and what your children should watch). If you plan on seeing The Village, then I suggest that you stop reading here, as I will give away something of the surprise/main story of that movie.
Although these movies were very different in genre and mood, I found it interesting the way that parents were portrayed in each movie and the commentary (explicit or implicit) on parenting. The Village is a subdued thriller/drama that takes place in a quaint village that is bordered by woods where mysterious and dangerous creatures roam. Garden State is a quirky romantic comedy whose main character returns home for the first time in nine years for his mother’s funeral. The primary characters are in their early to mid-twenties in Garden State. In both movies, the relationship between children and parents is both on the periphery of the main story and yet places an essential part in the story and the development of the story (This theme is more prominent in The Village).

In both movies, the parents have good desires for their children. They desire to protect them from the evils of this world and they desire for them to be happy. Unfortunately, this leads these parents to go to unhealthy lengths to try to achieve this desire. And in the end, they are unable to meet these desires. In The Village (here comes the giveaway), it is the parents and leaders of the village that are actually the dangerous creatures in the woods. They dress up in hideous outfits to perpetuate the myth and to keep the children safely confined to this village surrounded by woods. Their desire is to protect their children from the tragedies and affliction they have faced themselves in the “real” world. However, the movie shows how death and pain still reach into their world, despite their best efforts. In Garden State, after an accident in the home involving the main character and his mother, the main character is sent away to boarding school and properly medicated by his psychiatrist father. The father’s stated desire is that his son would be happy, however, he only feels numb. In both cases, the desires are good, but the efforts and results are bad.

This issue of desires is part of the overall struggle that parents have with dominion/dependence. When children are young, like Ethan and Kara, they are almost completely dependent on us. In other words, our dominion over them is complete and total. However, as children grow and become more independent, the dominion that you have over your children is lessened – or it should be. Again, our desires can lead us to an end that is not helpful or healthy. We can do the same thing that the parents in The Village did by holding our children close, constantly tying to keep them from the dangers of the world, and scaring them from time to time. Again, it is not wrong to protect our children (in fact, it is imperative). But the way we do that must change as our children are growing into their own persons. If there is never an opportunity to grow, then we risk losing our children off the deep end when they leave for college or leave the home. We can also be like the psychiatrist father in Garden State doing whatever we think is necessary for our kids to be happy. But the reality is that it is our happiness that we are after, not that of our children. It is a challenge for us to know when and where to apply our dominion or to allow for independence. As our children get older, it gets harder. And yet this is an essential part of what it means to be parents – to wrestle with our children’s growing independence as we maintain the appropriate level of dominion. It is easy to fall off on either side – too much dominion or too much independence. Most of the time in the church, we err on the side of too much dominion.

I do not have a proposed easy solution to this potential problem, other than to say that it is something for us to be aware of. This is especially true as our children grow from kids to teens to adults. We might ask ourselves what are our desires for our children? Are these desires good? How are we attempting to achieve these desires? How do our children respond? Are we exercising dominion when we should be helping our children grow in independence? How did your parents do with you? These are a few that come to my mind. I am also aware that I have probably raised more questions than answers. That’s not a bad thing.

What are your thoughts on what I have raised in this article?


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Helen Lee on May 13, 2005 at 1:06 pm

    Hey, Adam. Good article. I appreciated your insights to the parenting issued raised by the movies. It is certainly difficult to learn to move from dominion to encouraging independence in raising our children. But it feels good and right when it works.

    So far as I can tell, there’s no place to comment on your reading material, so I’ll do it here. I liked Mountains Beyond Mountains. It was an enlightening read and gave food for thought about poverty and the causes of it in other parts of the world.


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