Like it or not, parents, this is the time of year when school’s out for the summer… and for approximately three months your kids will be pestering you for things to do, or you’ll be keeping a hawk’s eye on them to see that they aren’t doing something wrong.
One of my favorite bumper stickers says, ”Insanity is inherited; you get it from your kids.” While that slogan is biologically flawed, parents understand the practical truth it states. There are many times when parenting seems to be a shortcut to insanity.
We don’t think parenting should be like that. It’s supposed to be fun, like it was when we were the kids. Of course, grandparents just smile, spoil the kids, and think “payback time.”
Being a parent is a tough job. During the early years a stay-at-home mom spends eight to ten hours alone with someone who has an even more limited vocabulary than her spouse, and who is constantly demanding clean clothes, something to eat, or pain relief (come to think of it, that often describes her spouse, too). When they finally are old enough to be able to enjoy some of the things we parents enjoy doing, they want to be with their friends rather than with us. We feed them when they’re hungry, chauffer them to sports and arts events and see that they get to bed when they should, but otherwise they don’t want much to do with us.
So, does the Christian faith have anything to say to this situation? If one’s faith is going to be worth much at all, it should help us navigate treacherous waters such as these. While Dr. Spock wrote volumes more in terms of specific instruction, the Bible has a remarkable way of speaking in concepts that are applicable as generations and centuries come and go. Spock already is passé, but the Bible has been relevant for over two millennia.
First, it says, “children obey your parents.” Whether we like it or not, children are not wise enough, old enough, or mature enough to know the boundaries of safety. They need parents to set those boundaries, and no matter how much the kids scream parents have a responsibility to set those boundaries. Parents are supposed to expect obedience. There are a lot of other “authorities” your children are going to have to obey as they get older; they might as well learn the facts of life while they’re under your care.
The real challenge for many parents is knowing when they’ve done their job and need to begin letting the kids make their own decisions. Letting loose of the reins gradually but intentionally can be one of the greatest risks and tests of faith that parents face. You’ve done your job. If you’ve done it well, this is the time to take pride in what you’ve done.
Now comes the second part of that biblical instruction: “Parents, don’t exasperate your children.” (NIV) “Wha…! Wait a minute!” we want to say. “Who exasperates who around here?” But the truth is that we exasperate them frequently and without even realizing.
Inconsistency is exasperating. Insisting on truthfulness from your children, but instructing them, when they answer Aunt Mabel’s phone call, to tell her you’re not home is exasperating. One teen told me how frustrated she gets when her father says, “I’m tired. Go to bed!” We wonder why dad didn’t see through his own inconsistency, but you and I have done it many times ourselves.
The Bible tops off all of its instruction with one capstone: love. “Love each other in the same way I have loved you,” is one way the holy book puts it. Love them. And use the time as an opportunity to teach them some obedience and yourself some consistency. You both will end the summer better than you entered it.
Make this summer a time to enjoy the kids. They grow up way too fast, and you very soon will not be able to enjoy their childhood years except as memories.
By Don Lindman