Updated: Jun 9, 2020
The last post from me was pretty horrible. It was smug, and implied that all you have to do is points 1, 2, and 3 to get some kind of perfect adult child who rightly recognizes it was your selfless wonderfulness that got them to this place of perfection.
My deepest and most sincere apologies, especially to my own children.
I’m not sure if there is an adequate explanation for that post, but I’ll try, and then I’ll end by saying something a bit more true and less pompous.
What you read in that last post is a pretty good representation of how I viewed life for a very long time. That is, if you do certain things, certain other things will follow. I can’t blame this thinking on my own parents–I honestly don’t know what their thoughts on this would be, but regardless, nobody made me think in this way. I took on this viewpoint because of certain rules I learned through life experience, and certain deductions I made based on these rules.
Here are the basic rules:
If you do what people in authority want you to do, you will not get in trouble, and you will get good grades
If you get good grades everyone is happy, and you get approval
If you are polite and people think you’re smart, you get respect, approval, and sometimes prizes
All of the above can apply to all levels of education and also to jobs
Here are the deductions that I made from all of these rules:
Everything functions in this way, including relationships: put in a, and b will come out
Following these rules will prevent serious mistakes and large pain
This is the best way to make sure your children end up okay
There is a serious problem here, though: life isn’t school, and you don’t get points for keeping the rules. Children are people to be loved, not creatures to be trained. Relationships are living things, not vending machines that give you whatever treat you want if you just put in the correct currency.
Through failure (which, by the way, I continue to experience fairly often in various ways) and thanks to friends and family who have continued to love me in spite of this kind of nonsense, I am learning that life is not a contest to be won, or something to be mastered. Sure, there are manners and life lessons you can teach your kids, but the most important thing is that they know you love them, no matter what. There is a place for goals, but we should never give our kids the impression that life will be smooth sailing if only we do certain things and avoid certain other things.
I did too much of this with my children, for far too long. They are grown, and by God’s grace, they still love me in spite of my tendency to reduce everything to a formula of rules. My daily prayer for each of them is that they experience grace–from me and from all those they love–because it’s grace and only grace that makes room for real life and love.