When a person starts to get old, they start to wonder if they have done what they set out to do. That is, if they ever set out to do anything beyond making it to the next weekend.
To avoid this question, some just buy a red sports car, trade in their old partner for a new one and pretend they are not getting old.
When I saw this picture my wonderful daughter-in-law, Marie, posted, I thought of a scriptural phrase: “Now my gray head can go down to the grave in peace.” I have done what I set out to do, at least in regard to child-rearing.
I wanted to raise kids who questioned everything, who loved learning, who were kind and decent-and who never lost the ability to be silly now and then. I think these are extremely important human virtues and as you can see, my son has mastered that last one.
He is computer network engineer, reads voraciously, thinks deeply and though a missionary’s kid, he questioned Christianity for many years. Other Christian parents thought this might be upsetting to me, but no! A belief is not real until it is your own. I had complete confidence in his ability to figure it out for himself.
My oldest daughter once said the most important thing she learned from me was to think for herself. When I think of the many mistakes I made as a parent, her statement kind of balances it out. Now, I admit that kids thinking for themselves gets a little sticky when they start questioning YOU, but in the long run, it’s worth it. In the long run.
In the short run it would have been easier to insist they respect my authority and to use force to obtain compliance. But I was raised with freedom to screw up and freedom to take the natural consequences. This was very effective in developing an internal morality-not to do something because I would get a whipping otherwise, but to do it because I had decided it was right.
Morality imposed by force is external. As soon as the Authority is not looking, anything goes. As the Native American proverb says, “People live their lives as if God can’t see around corners.”
So that is my advice to parents. Encourage kids to love learning, to be kind and decent, to take their consequences and to ask questions.
And don’t forget to tell them-no, SHOW THEM- that it is perfectly all right to be silly sometimes.