13 June 2006

Influence

It is one of the great failures of the modern mind that people are products. We have all been taught from the cradle that if we follow a certain "recipe" (and the recipes vary) we will become "good." Or maybe it's that we will retain the goodness that we had from infancy (depending upon your perspective). In any case, we all have this idea that we have control over children and how they will grow up. The further I get into the process of parenting (and LightGirl is now 12 and a half) and having spent 6 years in youth ministry, the less I am convinced of this.

Society, culture, advertising, parenting magazines, all tell us that if we just choose the "right" products, the "right" pre-school, the "right" after school program, the "right" summer camp, the "right" school. Have all the "right" parties at just the "right" age. Amass the perfect collection of toys to influence the growing mind at just the "right" time. Make sure the friends are just so. In short, control the child's environment in every manner possible.

We are told from all angles that if we find the magic recipe for doing this, our children will be kept safe. They will not experience any trials. They will waft into the Ivy League college of their choice on a magic carpet of woven of grades, character, and beauty.

Yet ... I look around me and see that this is not the stuff of real life. This is marketing. This is parents desparate to find a panacea for all the fear that is poured into their ears every night from media of all sorts. How to protect my children from all the evil in the world? I cannot.

Whether or not you believe in God, or the Bible ... even if you see the story of Genesis as just a nice myth. It remains a myth that is instructive. In the world of the ancient Hebrews they believed it important to tell and write that even an omnipotent, all powerful God created humans who turned their backs and walked away. Those humans were in the most perfect controlled environment that ever existed and yet, they still exerted their own will.

I'm coming to a place where I don't think we can keep our children safe from evil. The very best thing we can do is tell them what it is, and how to keep themselves safe. Like God in the story of Genesis, the only thing we can do is point out the pitfalls, and consequences of bad decisions, and continue to love our children when they do stumble and fall. I'm coming to a place where I don't want to teach my children how to be safe, I want to teach them how to be discerning and wise. I don't think my children are a product of any recipe, but developing humans who change moment by moment and I must be willing to change with them. I must also be willing to let them stumble, for it is that very stumbling which will build their character. In the end, I can only influence them. I cannot control their character at all.

6 Comments:

Blogger Mike Croghan said...

Not that I know jack about parenting, but this sounds pretty darn wise to me.

6/13/2006 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Sounds wise to me, too. I'm sure having wise parents who model God's love and grace will be an immense boost. And if a kid doesn't have that, no amount of products purchased could substitute for it.

6/13/2006 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Whoops -- so I'm not misunderstood, I hadn't read your post below yet. Har! I thought you were talking more about ads and products in magazines, on TV, that sort of thing.
Sometimes, it takes me awhile...
:)

6/13/2006 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

Oh no .. Kate ... I was talking about the larger population and ads, products in magazines, on TV, etc. This post not just about the former post, but grew out of it in some sense, and in another sense is something I've been thinking about for a long time.

But ... even modelling God's love and grace can only go so far. To go back to the Garden analogy ... even God Himself couldn't do very well with that. We all have free will to make our own way in this world.

6/13/2006 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

We always want the very best for our children. Protecting them from 'the evils' of the world is impossible. We can only hope that we teach them how to make decisions for themselves and use the necessary survival tools that only they can wield. And of course we all desperately hope internally that they do a much better job than we did.

As to the bible and the story of the Garden of Eden. Perhaps it was God's plan all along to have his children leave the garden. All was peace and beauty in the garden; frightenly boring if you ask me. How else is the soul/person to learn if not through being presented with challenges, with decisions, with different paths to choose from? Perhaps the fabled Tree of Knowledge, that Eve took an apple from was indeed a test that god had placed in the garden as a sign....as a sign that indeed his children had grown up enough, and with a tear in his eye, God would be able to send his children out of the nest and into the world at last.

6/13/2006 06:59:00 PM  
Blogger kate said...

Scott -- what a very interesting idea. That hadn't ever occurred to me.

6/15/2006 12:16:00 PM  

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