Dear parent: let yourself off the hook

A few days ago I ran into my aunt at the library. The two grandsons in her charge were glued to touchscreen computers. My son made a beeline there too. Will a three-year-old choose books and blocks over an interactive digital game? Not very often. 

We chatted about the allure of colourful, kid-friendly computers in the children’s section.

“Parents these days have to make hard decisions,” she said. “How much screen time is OK?”

I don’t know. We let them play.

***

It starts during pregnancy. And at first, the questions sound innocent. No one warns you that the answers will shape your Parenting Personality for the next 18 years. Cloth or disposable diapers? Homebirth or hospital? Attachment parenting or the Babywise method?

There may not be an official Pro-Day like in the NHL, but every parent today faces a drafting season just as intense. Which team will your parenting style represent?

The pressure’s enough to make anyone snap.

“Last week we had the 20 week ultrasound,” writes blogger Janelle Hanchett, “but we didn’t find out the sex of the baby. And no, I’m not ‘Team Green’ [organic food only]. Please don’t call me ‘Team Green.’

“I want off your team. I want off all cutely named mothering ‘teams.’

“I’m team ‘Just trying not to yell today.’

“Sometimes, I’m team ‘WHO ARE THESE CHILDREN AND WHY ARE THEY EVERYWHERE?’” (renegademothering.com).

***

Parenting has never been easy. Don’t worry – I’m not going to argue that it’s harder now than ever before. But certain problems are new. Gluten-free or grain fed? What sandwich can I send to a nut-free school? Is eight the right age for her first email account?  

For the average parent (and I’m speaking for myself here), these decisions can be somewhat
soul-crushing. And I don’t mean just the pressure that we put on each other to choose the right “team.” I mean the pressure we put on ourselves to be card-carrying members of Team Perfect. 

Pardon me

Our household has three children – ages three, eight and nine. That means the parenting To-Do list currently looks something like this: teach kids how to clean, read aloud, pray, serve company, use imagination, be kind, flush & wash hands, budget, tithe, garden, bike, vacuum, kick straight, catch a ball, swim, bake, make the bed, say sorry, say sorry and mean it, forgive each other, talk to adults, make friends feel welcome, play on your own, clean up after yourself, floss, hike, answer the door, braid hair, build forts. In no particular order. Our family’s list will not look like yours, and in a few years ours will change. 

It’s easy to pretend that making a list puts us in control. The truth is that as parents (re: humans), we don’t control much. Our world belongs to God, as the Christian Reformed Church’s contemporary testimony says so beautifully – right down to each household. This should alleviate some of the underlying stress that I have and overhear among other parents. We can pretend Team Perfect is real and propogate the myth that parenting is easy and fun, or we can just admit how hard it is and share some of the ways we’re falling short. How about a new team called “Let Yourself Off the Hook,” in which we concede that many parenting decisions seem more significant than they are.

Trends and teams come and go. Some of them can be traced back to our love affair with the American Dream – believing that this one thing will bring happiness. But our task is to transcribe, not tally, as Cal Seerveld describes the challenge laid out in 2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6:

“That we ourselves be letters from Christ, in the handwriting of whatever godly mentors we ever had like Paul and Titus, and that we accept the task of transcribing the next generation of our [children] as letters from Christ, breathing a holy spirit into the script of their talk, thought, diet, art, ruling, use of money, smells. . . .” (Biblical Studies and Wisdom for Living, 195).

Do we parent as though our world belongs to God?

I want to be on Team Loving.

Team Forgiving.

Team Forgiven.

Or, as Hanchett says, Team “Doing whatever I do while you do what you do and we both try not to ruin small people.”

  • Angela became Editor of CC in 2009, having learned English grammar in Moscow, research skills in grad school and everything else on the fly. Her vision is for CC to give body to a Reformed perspective by exploring what it means to follow Jesus today. She hopes that the shared stories of God at work in the world inspire each reader to participate in the ongoing task of renewing his creation. Angela lives in Newcastle, Ontario with her husband, Allan, and three children.

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