Molly, age 13, read this to me from a local parenting magazine:
My 10-year-old got in trouble at school because she was playing with her cell phone. What should I do?
My gut/knee jerk reaction wasn’t very nice. (And Molly had already beat me to saying a huge “DUH!”) I thought about writing a snarky column here about the epidemic of stupidity out there but I thought twice.
I remember those early days of holding my firstborn watching Katie Couric and her interviews with “Parenting experts.” It was pretty intimidating. Did we have what it took to parent children? Did we have enough education? How would I ever learn all that I need to know?
We read a lot of parenting books but that only deepened my insecurities. And when our first born was diagnosed with an alphabet soup full of “issues” (ADHD, PDD-NOS, SID to name a few,) I was down right panicked.
Thank goodness for my awakening in the office of a developmental pediatrician who firmly told me, “That child needs to be in school and on medication.” Mother bear was aroused….and she was pissed.
And I began questioning all of the experts. I revisited my insecurities, and trust me….there were plenty of them. I began to realize that my children would grow up just fine without the “developmentally appropriate” toys (Tupperware and wooden utensils delighted them) and just the *right* amount play dates and (gasp!) they would not die if I used the kitchen dish rag to wipe their grimy little faces. No longer would I agonize over the merits of cotton versus the much pricier organic cotton. (Okay, I lied on that last one for the sake of drama. I never agonized over that and only bought organic if I found it at a yard sale.)
There’s a lot of insecurity propagated when it comes to parenting. I think, in part, it’s a fruit of a dumbed-down culture that is not trained to think.
One of our last experiences in an institutional church highlights some of the dynamics I see going on. Example: We were invited to start a small group in our home….something that I’ll admit was a bit flattering. We had arrived.
We started one. And it wasn’t long before the phone started ringing from the church leadership. Perhaps we needed to change the description of our group. There were attendance polices that needed to be adhered to. Yada, yada, yada.
We found piddley things being second-guessed. The control and micro-managing was ridiculous. It got so that we, healthy intelligent adults, were intimidated to do anything for fear for being corrected.
It’s was a sick interaction.
But I’m grateful for the learning experience because now I see that attempts to control people is one of the most detrimental things that can happen to the human soul. And it is what happens anytime we allow a system of rules to trump over relationship.
And yet this is the sort of goofiness that takes place everyday in schools and churches….and homes.
When Jesus said, “Love one another” he meant, brace yourself: Love one another. But yet we reduce that even to a list of do’s and don’ts. (Or as a former pastor dude told us not too long ago, “Love is action.” As defined by his suggested actions. We disagreed and pissed him off.)
As parents we’re told we’re not smart enough, haven’t read enough books or attended the right seminars. (How about that obnoxious radio spot for behavioral therapist James Lehman, who promises in his Brooklyn accent, to “Turn your child’s attitude around in 30 seconds or less. And then another obnoxious voice says, “It’s like [dramatic pause]….an instruction manual on how to deal with your kid.”)
Parenting is NOT about having a flow chart and a how-to book on how to raise your kids. (And sorry Lehman, I’m not interested in your instruction manual.) It’s an invitation to a relationship and hopefully, one that will reflect God’s deep passion for us.
We were created for freedom. We were created to learn how to make decisions because, as Danny Silk said so succinctly, a person who can make decisions is a powerful person.
I think the flip side of that is, a person who is unable to make decisions will be a victim and at the beck and call of those who ARE able to make decisions be it a boss, a teacher or a religious leader. At least until they’re ticked off enough to realize they don’t want people telling them what to do all the time.
I think it’s sad that this aforementioned mom was stymied by what to do over her 10-year-old’s cell phone misuse.
It is tempting to spit out an answer to her question….but that is the very thing I’m talking about NOT doing. (Mind you, I’m not talking about more experienced moms encouraging younger moms. I hope you can see the distinction I’m making.)
I hope this mom can find the courage and time to reflect on deeper questions when it comes to her daughter.