Christian Parenting 4: Valuing a Person
Successful childrearing is not a series of barks, orders, purchases, and room and board and then, "out came this calf." A child is a person, a person to be valued at a very fundamental level. The natural, relaxed way of parenting is having a real interest in the child himself and his accomplishments. I once saw a mother (at least I thought she was the child's mother) at a playground who was so delighted with her little daughter who was truly making her way across the playground equipment. The lady just laughed and laughed and I think she clapped her hands. Who wouldn't want to keep going with encouragement like that? What is it that you cannot do? This is an example of parents valuing you as a growing person. They are providing you a safe, encouraging atmosphere and letting you grow and explore the world around you--you are not a child just tagging along behind your parents and your parents' problems and disappointments.
Many of today's parents went to school. They did not experience the dynamics of an ideal family atmosphere. They were away all day in school under the administration of strangers. They were at home at night watching television which put them under the administration of other strangers. They were on the telephone with other children in the same predicament. They went through the cesspools of modern life with the attendant shocks and curses. These children grew up to become us--and, without example or experience, our parenting is often (but not always) off, even when we are trying. Many children today are falling through the cracks--the wolves know this and they are oftentimes devouring the tender ones. The situation is by no means hopeless. Once we are aware of what is missing and we fall into that valuing and love region, we can acknowledge our shortcomings and make an about-face turn around.
As Christians and as adults, we have constructed a way that we prefer to live. Our children have to have enough room to grow up. Maybe I do not prefer fingernail polish, but my teenager wants to wear it. Each person, including my own daughter, has to be able to stretch out and have space and respect in this life. And just as my child needs space and respect, I need space and respect as well. When we talk about things like this during short little mini-conversations, we get a better and richer understanding of what is happening in our relationship.
Once we truly value a person, we are intensely interested in them and their welfare--this does not mean that we smother them but that we are considering them. At times, we may not get the response from our children that we are looking for, but because we are praying and seeking God, he will make a way for us to recover and go forward. "Good morning," a kiss on the forehead, chores, piano practice, prayer, a game of mini-golf, some softball batting practice, responsive scripture reading, a walk. What's wrong with a summer day like that? Nothing. What is right about it? A lot.
I watched a video about a panda mother and her cub. In the wild they only stay together about one and a half years. The dam* is very attentive. When her cub is very small, she does not venture far away, and when she does, she is always ready to come back at any moment. As the cub gets a little older, she goes off for longer stretches or eats and he explores. If she thinks he is not ready to climb up higher on a branch or tree, she'll pull him down, but, in time, as he gets his coordination together, he makes his way up the tree and she does not interfere (he had a number of falls but he bounced back). She teaches him about being a panda even when they are playing.*[dam: the female parent of a beast]
I've learned a lot by observing others and tribal peoples who value their children. I read of a people that espoused people special foods in order to prepare their bodies for conception and birth. Healthy children are valued. I've seen video footage of a family with maybe ten children. They had cooked a large fish and everyone ate from a common plate. Yes, one of their children had food on her face, but no one was concerned, she was happy, they were together, and their basic needs were met. Also on the video, we see the father and his son fishing, collecting eggs, etc. in just an easy, laid back, relaxed life. What is an example of a situation in which I might be relaxed? Maybe that basket does not belong in that corner. Maybe I'll leave it there or maybe I'll just move it myself even though I did not put it there; I'm okay and life is okay. Some of us are accustomed to meeting objectives and matrices. That is how I am. We want to keep things rolling. There is nothing wrong with goals and objectives, but people are not just another item on the checklist, they are to be valued. In writing about these things--slowing down, valuing people, and loving people--it seems that this just may be the region where we meet charity, something which is for our children and for our fellow man as well.
THOUGH I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.