Our son Cannon has recently started crawling and has gone from easily amused to easily distracted by anything and everything. Embracing his new found freedom, Cannon is exploring every nook and cranny that he can muster up the energy to experience! Pushing boundaries, stretching limits and growing from his mistakes, Cannon is becoming more and more independent each day.
It's Saturday morning; Bonny & I are chatting about how to best parent our children when we begun to utter some oh so familiar parenting rhetoric..."kids at this stage need to have projects, they need to be entertained so that they don't get into trouble." As our conversation continued, I began to chuckle. As a youth pastor I have heard this same sort of jargon for the last 9 years, and I'm sure youth workers before me heard this very same parenting premise. The goal of youth ministry has been to provide Christ-like options for teens and their parents to take advantage of in order to stay relevant, connected and somewhat passionate about faith in Christ. The problem with this kind of ministry philosophy and parenting strategy is that they are both too narrow minded; they are short-term fixes.
As I began to dream a little bit about what it would take to stay connected to my children as they grow up, a few things came to mind. I must be willing to listen; I must be available and present in their lives; I must be willing to engage their personality and I must be willing to share experiences with my children.
When kids grow up and reach the teenage years, it seems as though parents reach their limits...they are tired, frustrated and weary of the battle up to this point. As our children grow we begin to farm out more and more of our parenting responsibility onto others. Yes, it's very important to have different voices speak into the lives of our children, but the primary voice that is present, and will continue to be present until they have a family of their own, will be the voice of the parent. We cannot nor should not expect our children to learn, grow and develop immensely through a program that may or may not reinforce the values, behaviors and practices that are being taught in the home.
As parents, we need to recognize that our responsibility is a 24/7 role. We cannot farm out this responsibility to others, then hold our breath and hope things will turn out alright for our children. Instead, we must learn how to partner with others in the formation of our children. We are not only parents, we are disciple-makers. Our primary focus must be to demonstrate relevant faith in our home so that our children learn the true meaning of life. The family doesn't exist as a source of entertainment, but as the source of learning, growth, and formation for our children. We need to find ways to strengthen the bonds of the family. This may mean sacrificing the sacred cow we call the program in order to build the relationship. We may need to begin to schedule family time that focuses on listening to each other, sharing experiences together and learning to engage each other's personalities while establishing a relevant and authentic presence in each of our relationships with one another.
This is the parenting challenge we face moving forward. I'm humbled and yet excited by this challenge. Remember that with God all things and possible, even when the impossible seems large and menacing!