Sunday, August 28, 2011

Parenting and Fear

What would it look like to parent our children without fear?

I think about this a lot.  I think about the decisions that I make and the things that I do in raising my daughters, and I must say, there is a lot of room for fear.  There are a lot of schemes and obstacles that lurk everyday, trying to convince me to be afraid.  Trying to motivate me with fear.

You want examples?  Okay.  I am afraid from day one that if I give my baby even one tiny drop of formula, she will be changed and ruined for life.  Nevermind all of the babies that had formula every day of their lives and turned out to be astrophysicists or brain surgeons.  Be afraid.

Want another? If I am not reading to my child every day, if he or she watches any television, if I don't find all of the right educational activities and playgroups and schools, surely my child will be behind.  She will be doomed.  I will ruin any chance that she had in life.  Be afraid.

It sounds absurd, I know.  But I'm telling you, we buy it.  We cash in the family heirlooms, we sell the farm, and we buy it with all that we've got.

The media has discovered this undercurrent of anxiety and fear in today's parents, and I've seen a number of reports on what they're calling "helicopter parenting."  Parents who 'hover'.  Parents who do every little thing for their child because they don't want them to experience any imperfection or trouble or struggle.  But the reality is that these stories tend to focus on the insanity of the parents (mainly, the mothers).  We laugh at them.  We have some fun at their expense--which is, largely, warranted because they do go and pick up their 20 year old son's laundry at college, take it home, iron his underpants, and return it--all the while he's hungover from his 4 am party.  It's sad.

However, I think that this parenting from a perspective of fear is more than just making moms everywhere look ridiculous.  I think it is actually really harmful to our kids.  There is some notion in our society that any form of pain, discomfort, is tragic.  And so we go to all lengths to avoid it.

But what if, rather than pain being tragic, it is redemptive.  What then?

Then our fear-parenting is not necessary (albeit a little silly).  Then it is devastating.

Damning, even.

More thoughts coming soon.


Melissa Martin said...

Way too much to say to put it all here. Your topic is right on - I wrote a blog on parenting from fear last year - and what I can tell you is I wrote it 14 years into my parenting gig - the media, other parents, etc. will continue to provide you with new things to be fearful about. My conclusion was that it comes down to whether we are really willing to trust God or not. I am eagerly awaiting your connection to the idea of redemption!

Becky said...

Nice, thought-provoking post.

I made parenting mistakes probably every day of my children's lives and still cringe when I think about it (I was a "screamer," for one ~ UGH!!!! Hated myself...still do, when I think about it.) If I could have "do-overs," I would snap them up in a milli-second. With that being said, my girls and I can now talk about "what has scarred them for life," with humor, forgiveness, and reflection.

God is in the business of reclaiming the years the locust has eaten, in turning ashes into beauty, and taking the dry places and giving LIVING WATER ~ redemption. We are all broken, and parent from that brokenness (we do the best we can, but can't give what we don't have because of the brokenness)...but, the TRUE, PERFECT PARENT is SOVEREIGN over our children and works it all out for their good. So, fear NOT...He knows what is best for our children ~ our parenting warts and all. God in His perfect WISDOM placed Molly and Caroline with you and Ben KNOWING it all....good, bad and ugly.

Children learn more from the heartache, pain, mistakes, problems much more than the smooth, happy-go-lucky, fanciful path skipping along oblivious to living real life in a fallen world.

If my childhood had been perfect and my parents' fabulous in their parenting, I probably would have no need of God and be entitled and self-serving (which comes naturally, anyway.) Probably, the same for my children. They experienced ALOT of pain, heartache, rejection and loss...and it molded them into compassionate, caring women.

They went to public school...and it made them STRONGER in their faith and convictions.

Just some thoughts off the top of my head.

I, too, also wrote a blog post about parenting:

Blessed parenting, dear one.