Something I’ve noticed in our middle-class American culture at large is a growing tendency to not value children.
I feel like our culture just doesn’t know what to do with kids anymore. At one time, I suppose kids helped on the family farm and had a purpose – a sense of contribution.
But these days our culture puts kids in school, daycare, after school, summer camps, summer school, etc.
It’s as if our culture doesn’t want anything to do with them until they are adults. Only then are they seen as valuable, with something to contribute.
It’s as if children are seen as a burden and not an asset anymore. Kids are perceived as expensive and draining. If our culture could speed up their growth and turn them into adults right away, it would. (Like in Attack of the Clones!)
I’ve already written about some of the hardships of parenting. Trust me, parenting isn’t easy. But today I want to switch gears and talk about the joys of parenting.
As a culture have we overemphasized the chaos and hardship of parenthood and underemphasized the wonder, beauty, and joy of parenthood?
When my homeschool group goes places during the week, when kids are “supposed” to be in school, I sometimes can’t believe how we’re treated. None of the kids are badly behaved. They are just a large group of children, and they have a lot of energy.
Yet people are afraid of us. They roll their eyes when they see us coming. They ask why we didn’t call ahead. Sometimes they ask us to leave for no real reason other than kids acting like kids.
This is why we mostly go to state parks and nature areas. It’s much harder to get kicked out of a park with lots of space and no man-made landscaping. (We also go these places to nurture a lifelong love of nature in our children.)
I want my kids to stay kids for a good, long time. I want them to climb trees and swing on branches. I want them to play in mud puddles and skip rocks. I want them to be free for as long as possible.
I personally don’t think young children need to act like little adults. As long as they are obeying their caregivers and not hurting anyone, I’m not going to apologize for a kid acting like a kid.
On a recent trip to Florida with a bunch of homeschooled friends, a woman sat next to me with a big frown on her face. “Have you ever been on such a noisy plane?” Not realizing these were my friends, she wanted me to agree with her.
Once the plane took off and the noise died down, I think the woman was pleasantly surprised. She asked if it was my son’s first time on an airplane and I said yes. I explained how we were going on an adventure with other moms and their kids.
She unexpectedly warmed up. “That’s so special. Enjoy your time together. Kids grow up so fast!”
I beamed as we walked off the plane together. Her mood had completely changed. She finally got it. This wasn’t the worst flight ever. This was a special flight, through the excited eyes of a child who had never flown before.
A Special Spot at the Table
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
The Bruderhof don’t simply tolerate the children, the elderly, and the disabled in their community. They elevate the children, the elderly, and the disabled.
The ones who the rest of the world usually casts aside and doesn’t view as helpful or valuable. Practically speaking, the ones who “drained” the community more than they “contributed.” These were the ones who were respected, elevated, listened to, and deemed worthy of love and belonging.
I think we could learn a thing or two from this culture.
How can we love and accept even those who are “draining?” How can we give them a special spot at the table?
Not Easy, but SO Rewarding
Nothing could ever have prepared me for how difficult parenting is. But nothing could have ever prepared me for how rewarding parenting is either.
It’s no secret though that the hardest things in life are often the most rewarding. Running a marathon and giving birth naturally come to mind!
Some hard things are soul-draining, but many hard things are life-giving.
In my opinion parenting is one of the toughest things ever, but at the end of the day it falls in the life-giving category. I sneak in almost every night and look at my boys’ sleeping faces, and I think I’ve got the greatest life in the world.
I don’t want to be the parent who complains about my kids all the time – especially not in front of my kids!
I see young people openly confess their disgust with parenthood and desire to never have children.
I see parents who can’t wait for summer to end because their home is chaos until the kids return to school. And while I can relate to the chaos and the need to recharge, I think it’s sad to view one’s own children as a burden to be dealt with.
Do the kids feel that they are unwanted or considered a burden?
It’s a Lifestyle, Not a Job
I know the days can be long and hectic at times. I’m homeschooling right now and one of the hardest things about this decision is that I don’t get a built-in daily “break.”
But you know what? I’ve found that while breaks are nice, I strive to build a family that I don’t need a break from.
They are my family, not my job. And when I start to view them as “work” they start like to feel like “work.”
But I strive to create a family environment that is simple, beautiful, peaceful, playful, even serene at times.
In my experience, many parenting stereotypes just aren’t true.
- There isn’t really poop everywhere all the time (I’ll be honest, I did just clean up some pee…but we’re potty training)
- My house doesn’t smell *that* bad or look like a tornado just passed through (minimalism helps considerably)
- Kids can be respectful and disciplined and kind (mostly!)
- Kids are impressionable, and they will probably learn to like some of the same things their parents like
- You will sleep again – regardless of the unpredictability of a newborn, kids need sleep and they will sleep some every night. (They might just wake up earlier than we want them to….)
- Kids aren’t actually as expensive as people think
- Life with kids is rarely boring and they keep you young at heart
I want my kids to know that I appreciate them. That they add great value to my life. That I love having them around – even when they are unable to “contribute.”
That they bring me joy and laughter daily. That they give me an excuse to play in splash pads and creeks all summer. That they bring adventure and excitement to my otherwise boring adult life.
They are actually contributing quite a bit.
Even though I went through a huge, bumpy adjustment period, I wouldn’t change a thing about my family. My life is better now than it has ever been.
Yes, there are daily sacrifices. Yes, it’s a slow, slow road. My schedule is no longer concrete and predictable. I can no longer meet friends during the day for brunch or coffee.
I don’t get a ton of breaks.
But getting to be around my kids all day means I get a front row seat to witness their jokes and their “ah-hah moments” when they understand something new.
I get to see them grow and learn. I get to witness their quirks and their belly laughs. I get to see their relationship with each other unfold. I get to take them places they’ve never been and see their eyes light up.
It’s not easy but it’s worth it.
How do you think our culture views children? Babies? Young children? Teenagers? What can we do to lovingly change the culture, little by little? I’m definitely not saying everyone is called to parenthood. How can we support those who aren’t parents too?