Sunday, March 14, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Through a set of recent, sad events at church (some of those non-bloggable topics), I’ve learned that a general criticism of our family is that we are “too tough” with our children. I find it ironic, as pastor’s children usually carry the stigma of wild hellions, and pastors have historically been faulted for not exercising better control over their households. You certainly cannot please everyone. The idea is that this carries over into the way I teach the children in my (church) classes and the way the master councils families in crisis. Apparently, we come off as not being mercy givers, full of love and understanding.
I’m trying to shake it off. No one has said anything directly to me, and perhaps that is what is most upsetting. An upfront critique is preferable to hearsay and innuendo. Then again, I don’t know how I would respond should someone accuse me face to face. Probably not as Christ-like as I should.
And, after all, this Great Experiment is still in the works. Who am I to say that my kids will turn out all right when the youngest is still in diapers and the oldest hasn’t hit puberty? Even in my few years of experience, I’ve known children who were buck wild heathens who grew up to be fine upstanding citizens and vice versa. Is there really no rhyme or reason to it? I am set adrift by this idea: all of our careful study, hard work, and heartache…for nothing?
My children do not tell me “no.”
They ask for permission before doing something.
They do not ask again if the answer is no.
We tell them what to do. Once.
Our children are expected to take on responsibilities in their own care, that of their younger siblings, and the running of the household.
They are punished swiftly and firmly for disobedience.
We do not remove natural consequences
We do not offer bribes for our children’s obedience.
We demand respect—including the manner in which we are addressed—from our children and require them to extend it to others
Does this strike you as particularly oppressive? They seem to be healthy, happy children. Are they really just chafing under this “heavy yoke,” waiting for the day they can throw it off in exchange for shame and humiliation? It may sound as though I am being facetious, but truly I am in earnest. Though we have read extensively and incorporated many parenting strategies (particularly in regard to bringing up Marina) that were not used on us as children, for the most part, we parent as we were parented. Among my peers, I always felt (and was told) that I had the “meanest” parents growing up, but I never felt unloved, and never struggled with true rebellion. As a young child, I feared deserved punishment and as a teen I had too great a respect for them. By that point, I was—for lack of a better phrase—in the habit of doing as they asked. My parents have a three of three record and the masters’ a four of four. But is it just a crap shoot in the end?
I remember when we were going through the process of adopting Cara, the agency director, a lady who we greatly respect and admire, made several comments about our parenting style during the time we were having our homestudy and following. Once—when complaining about her grown children not lending a hand when they came to visit—stating, “Of course, I didn’t raise mine the way you are raising yours.” I didn’t know whether to feel complimented or censured. I am uneasy any time this woman, whose career it is, to a large extent, to evaluate how good of a parent a person will make, points us out as odd or unusual. It is as though she, too, is curious to see how our method is going to play out in the end. It all strikes me as grossly unfair; the results only becoming apparent when it is far too late for remedy.