How refugees at ground level describe socialism’s latest failure. Will young Americans listen?
Headlines like “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting” always grab my attention. The New York Times article spotlights a divorced, middle-income mother who feels daily pressure to be there for her 11-year-old son. “Being there” means nightly supervision of homework and daytime ferrying to piano lessons, soccer practice, swimming lessons, martial arts competitions, and enrichment classes of all kinds (starting at age 4).
She feels obligated to give her child every possible opportunity, and when he showed increased anxiety and sleep problems, she and her ex-husband added counseling sessions to the rotation. “I read all the child-care books,” she says, but she still wonders if she’s doing enough to ensure her son’s success.
Are you judging her now? I certainly did.
Here’s another headline from conservative commentator Matt Walsh: “Hollywood Director Whines About His Children, Compares Them to Dogs.” A bit sensationalistic, but after all, it’s a Hollywood director. Duncan Jones, the disillusioned dad, took to Twitter to confess that his two kids, both under 3 years old, aren’t fun. “They are exhausting, frustrating & life-destabilizing … it’s HARD and not obviously a good choice in life.” The canine comparison came in the follow-up tweet: “It’s like looking after a dog you can’t housetrain.”
All parents, regardless of conviction, tend to see their children as extensions of themselves.
Walsh reports that Mr. Jones got lots of affirming retweets of these sentiments, but I’m guessing most of my readers wouldn’t share them. So Mr. Hotshot Movie Guy got a taste of real, non-glitzy life when two little barbarians invaded his home. Interfere with his lifestyle, do they? Shocker.
Judging again—this time, even judgier.
And yet—I can identify. I taught our children at home from 1984 to 1996, and difficult as it is to admit, my homeschooling friends and I shared some of the same anxieties and frustrations as these secular parents. Our “hovering” took place at home, but that made it even more intense. Lessons and lesson plans consumed our time; also sports and art lessons, support meetings and educational co-ops, making and enforcing chore charts, juggling multilevel teaching with toddlers and new babies. None of this was mistaken, or always burdensome. Many parents appeared to breeze through homeschooling with kids who turned out great. On the other hand, scores of websites run by our children’s generation testify to controlling parents who were so intent on preparing them for Christian family life they never prepared them for life in the world. Parents so convicted of what a Christian looked like that they forced their offspring into a mold. From the kids’ perspective—which may not have fully matured yet—their upbringing was as “relentless” as any Harvard-bound yuppie’s.
All parents, regardless of conviction, tend to see their children as extensions of themselves. It’s understandable, especially for mothers: Our babies came from us, they depend on us, they obsess over us (“Mama! Mama! Mama!”)—they are us. Even as they grow up and apart, we see them as infinitely moldable, and if we do our job right, they will reflect well. On themselves? On God? No; on us.
For a progressive mom, children are a choice, so the responsibility is all on her if she decides to have one. That choice must be vindicated. For Christian moms, children are a calling, and a measure of success or failure. Whether choice or calling, children turn out to be their own individual independent selves, whether rewarding or disappointing. Even in the womb, they are mysteriously, wonderfully themselves. If humans ever manage to generate life artificially, the result will be a product, not a person. We know how to program, but God knows how to create, and children are His means of ongoing creation—not to mention ongoing sanctification and growth in the parent.
Christian parenting is “relentless” in a hostile culture, and we need all the sound, wise, Biblical advice we can get. But be wary of anything that promises a guaranteed outcome. Parents don’t create children of God—God Himself does that (John 1:12). Raising them is a hands-on enterprise, but when it’s time to take our hands off, they are their own.