Sunday, July 5, 2009

parenting is death to self

the other night i was talking with my friend who likes to go swing dancing and she mentioned that there are a few parents at the venues who bring in their kids/babies for these late-night shin digs. my response: what are they thinking? ...ok, ok, i know what they're thinking: just because i'm married with children doesn't mean i can't be hip/ go out and have some fun. just because i have kids doesn't mean i need to be boring! a little swing music never hurt anyone, right? or for the ones that are a little more honest about their motives: "darn it, i'm a great parent all day long. i deserve to go out and do the stuff i used to do. get in the pouch, gina! we're going dancing!"

young people may think that they will be a "cool" parent who can totally hang with all the young single peeps and not lose a whit of their spark. martinis, night clubs, mini skirts, pedicures, long stints at the gym, roadtrips, etc. whatever it is that floats your boat, why should you give it up when you become a mom or dad? you can be an intuitive parent, raise your kid (or kids--2 maximum!) in an "alternative" manner, and be that vivacious, up-to-date vixen at the same time, can't you?

well, sure, you can stick the baby in a sling and take them anywhere and everywhere all day long, and they LOVE it! right? close to mommy, etc. but follow this approach a little further. toddler age: if they are not in day care most of the time by now, then mom takes them out on a string of play dates, parks, and exercise sessions. these kids turn into grade schoolers who go to school all morning and to soccer all afternoon. and before you know it they are in high school and driving themselves around to multiple activities a day, and then they leave for college and you never cultivated in them a love for home nor the ability to be content in stillness.

but the bigger issue is that people are missing this one fact: parenting IS essentially a call for death to self. that is how God designed it to be. kids are people. they are not just property to tote about and show off, like clothes or dogs. so--take the home school family with the seven children, the semi-frumpy mom, the tired dad, the mediocre house... to a young outsider these people may look dull, certainly not a lot to be envied. they are wrapped up in the home life, don't know about the latest movies and music, and can't spend much money on clothes or eating out. Lord, spare me from such a fate! right? but when you look inside the family, there is LIFE. there is exuberance and love and joy and togetherness and collaboration. ideas. conversation. learning. this is what most any person in the world would say are "the most important things in life:" family, relationships, love. the parents here are rich, rich, rich in what is important. i'm willing to bet, too, that you can't have both your youthful, less meaningful pursuits AND a healthy, happy family.

you know, it is actually sad when your values don't change and deepen with experience. do we really want to be stuck in the teenage mindset of coolness and beauty obsession for the rest of our lives? that thing in us that wants to be parents who are hip and self-fulfilled has not a bit of root in God's word. rather, it is based on self-interest, worldly image-idolatry, and feminist theory. not to mention temporal perspective. God's word only ever speaks of children as an asset and a blessing. our society views them as a liability. liability to fun! how disgustingly trite that sounds. is that the kind of parent i want my kids to have?

sure, perhaps you can raise one or two kids, be a cool dancing (working/city council/perfectly pedicured) mom, and even accomplish good friendships with your children when they are grown, but is that the high road? was that the best thing for your kids? did they witness sacrificial love in their home? did they feel that their parents knew and understood them? did they gain an understanding of God's heart for them? are they well-adjusted, productive? free of emotional pitfalls like self-pity, anger, and depression? are they christian?

i know you ultimately can't make your children become christians, of course but my point is this: HOME. home is where the foundations for life are laid. and if you and your children are NOT home very much, not focused on one another, it is practically impossible to train them, let alone get to really know their heart and have opportunity in shaping it toward God. i read recently a mother who wrote that quality time is impossible to schedule. quantity time is what we must strive for, because quality time crops up in and around the mundane tasks of daily home life. so, die to yourself! take your joy and your cue from the Lord's word. make home the exciting, affirming place to be, and you will find so much fulfillment in watching your children flourish and love. you will never pine for your lost dancing nights again.


Natalie and Lily said...

Love it.

Lorrie said...

I agree with it all...I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I put my own version of your entry, more personal to me and where we are as a family, and a reply to you on my blog! :)