Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Kids We Have

I'd like to riff off Dr. Maxwell's now famous quote, meant for teachers, for the purpose of relating an idea that I admit to finding difficult to accept at times:

Our calling is parent the children God gave us.  Not the children we would like to have. Not the children we were when we were little. The children we have right now.

Perfect Children
My kids aren't perfect. 

Yes, they make messes everywhere. (I actually cleaned spaghetti sauce off the ceiling once . . . and before you ask, I have no idea.) 

They whine. ("Shall I call the 'waaaaaambulance' for you?") 

They fight. (I swear there are two cushions on the couch, but they both seem to see only one . . . and each must possess it.) 

Ironically, Sunday Mass seems to bring out the worst in them. (I wrote about this in more detail here.)

And yet, my kids are small-- my youngest only about to turn two. I'm not complaining. These misbehaviors are normal, routine, and entirely understandable. 

So, why do  I sometimes wish they behaved even better? I believe it's because I've fallen into the trap of wanting to parent the children I wish I had, and not the children I actually have.

To use the classroom metaphor, it is ineffective for a teacher to approach his or her class with the expectation that the students will "be" precisely what he or she expects them to be, sight unseen. Teachers can't direct and orient their teaching to the "ideal" student or to past students. They must adapt to and address the needs of the students sitting before them at the moment.

The same goes for those of us parenting imperfect children. (Yeah . . . that's all of us.) We can lament the fact that they don't behave a certain way, or that they aren't as good as we were when we were kids (or as good as a brother/sister). Ultimately, this does our children no good, and it creates a harsh environment for learning and growing.

I'm not suggesting we do away with standards of behavior and accept misbehavior as the norm, just like I wouldn't suggest that a teacher forget the subject area standards or codes of conduct.  What I am suggesting is that we focus less on the "wishes" and "wants," and more on embracing the children God gave us, faults and all. Their flaws are opportunities for growth. Their sins are doors to God's grace. 

The fact is, I love my kids more than my own life. I owe it to them to parent the children God gave me.


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