Sunday, April 22, 2012

Battles: Choose Them Wisely

We have six kids.  Our kids are between eleven and almost twenty-five (Yikes!).  They came in boy-girl pairs (two years in between) with the pairs occurring four years apart.  We are a blended family, but as I have mentioned before, it is often hard to remember who's blended and who's not. 

Like our children, we have gone through many stages in these last two-plus decades.  I feel really sad for the older ones so, if you two are reading this:  "I am so sorry we fought every battle.  We didn't realize how absolutely necessary it was to win the war."  I think they spent a lot of time thinking I was ridiculous, and if the truth be known, so did I.  I just had no sense of the big picture. 

Scripture was very helpful.  When I first read Proverbs 18:2, I knew it was written directly for me, several thousand years prior:  "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind."  (NAS)  God had actually seen my very articulate self telling these poor kids the same thing again and again, every which way but sideways.  I honestly watched their beautiful blue eyes glaze over on dozens of occasions.  And yet--I did not stop.  I heard the words of the proverb repeating through my brain like a broken record (a-fool-delights-in-revealing-his-own-mind-a-fool-delights-in-revealing-his-own-mind-a-fool-delights-in-revealing-his-own-mind).  I knew exactly what I was doing as I was doing it.  And yet--I did not stop.  I guess I felt I was compensating for what my husband wasn't saying.

When attention turned to the next two children, I think I did a little better.  I didn't wax as philosophic, but instead, I embraced and gave voice to my inner twins, Nag and Threaten.  Even though I wasn't as clever and articulate of speech, the result was almost the same.  I nagged and their eyes glazed over (a-fool-delights-in-revealing-his-own-mind).  So, I threatened. My mouth, at least, wasn't running until my head turned blue.  Before long, though, I gave up.  I'd say things like, "A gnat--that's what I am.  An annoying little gnat flying around your head."  Then I'd huff away.  I think they spent a lot of time thinking I was ridiculous, and if the truth be known, so did I.  By God's infinite mercy, they have turned out well.

And now for the last two.  I don't explain a whole lot, don't nag until their eyes glaze over, but I admit it--I threaten.  I try not to threaten crazy, over-the-top restrictions like I did with the middle children.  I often lack follow-through.  The Bible admonishes me again:  "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly." (Proverbs 13:24/NKJV)  Our kids are a little old to spank, but I feel we are beginning to parent like grandparents.  They have begun to count on our forgetfulness.  And it's past time to reign them in, because we do not hate them.  We love them, and therefore, must discipline them.

So, I guess my point is that there needs to be balance.  Consistent parenting which forces children to take responsibility for their actions is the best kind.  Reasonable parenting which doesn't make gigantic mountains out of little, tiny molehills is the best kind.  We are engaged in a war for our children's hearts and their futures, for their spouses and their children.  That is the actual war.  By comparison, the messy bedrooms and incomplete math assignments, the failure to do the dishes or take the trash out--those are merely battles.  They can't be ignored because they add up, but to put it in my dad's words, "everything is not a tragedy."  We need to choose our battles wisely, or we will lose the war.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What's in a Word?

INTEGRITY.  I was substitute teaching in a high school English classroom last week when a student asked me the meaning of integrity.  The dictionary discusses adherence to moral and ethical principles.  That's nice. It also mentions honesty, virtue and the soundness of moral character.  I don't believe those definitions hit the mark.  They describe attributes of the person of integrity.  I believe the answer I gave when asked is better (How's that for arrogance?):  "Integrity is doing the right thing even when nobody's looking."

Wouldn't it be nice if that was everybody's standard?  Sadly, it's not.  We have become such a sly people, such a sneaky lot.  I hate to be the one (of a zillion) harping on television, but I do feel tv is a culprit.  As far back as the eighties, television has seen young characters emerge who are smarter than their parents, get over on adults, and justify their actions because they are, after all, dealing with the less hip.  At first, the parents are clueless, then they figure out they've been duped.  At that point, many of us would put our kids in their place (i.e., take the iPod, ground them from the phone, make them write sentences, whatever).  The tv parents, instead, listen intently as their children explain to them just what's wrong with their archaic thinking.  The closing credits scroll past before a backdrop of sappy, smiling parents sitting on a couch cuddling and talking about how wise and wonderful their children are.  But the children who were influenced by those early sit-coms are not the same ones who are children today.  No!  They are the parents and grandparents who grew up thinking children need to be given equal voice in decision making. 

What has happened is that our children have become empowered.  They are raised to believe they are smarter than (or, at the very least, equal to) the parents and teachers in their lives.  The arrogance that reared its ugly head between 18 and 22, now shows up in elementary school for some children.  This behavior is wrong.  Parents are not supposed to abdicate authority.  It ruins the kids.  They never have to become wise because what they feel is always right.  THEREFORE, there is no need for integrity because there is no such thing as the right thing.  Everything is relative to their desires.  How do we instill integrity in a system that does not acknowledge moral absolutes?

Projected out, this gets ugly.  We need to wise up and start reigning our kids in.  All of us--me included.