I think I might be kind of different from most moms.
For instance – these are NOT my prayers for our baby that we sent home last fall:
Please keep him safe
Please keep him warm and fed
Please help him be loved and hugged and kissed
Please help him get a good education and be an upstanding member of society
These ARE my prayers for our baby:
Please help him as he grows up to know what is truth and what is lies
Please help him as he grows up to honor and value other people
Please help him as he grows up to see you in things and people that he encounters
Please help him to be a person of integrity and honesty, and to keep his promises
Please help him to know his value and how worthy he is of love
It’s not that I don’t want those first-list things for him, but I’m not sure those are what make a person have character, or what shapes an identity. I would honestly rather have a kid that misses some meals than a kid that doesn’t know how to be grateful for the food that he eats. Is that weird?
I think of my kid as he goes to school. I don’t have a kid in school, and to date I never have. I know that I obviously don’t really know what I’m talking about at all. But sometimes I wonder if I would rather have a kid that picks up a little too-colorful of a vocabulary on the playground, but invites the potty-mouthed kids over to MY house after school for snacks and age-appropriate conversation and entertainment, who probably would otherwise go home alone to be parented by the TV for the rest of the day…?
Is it more important to have a kid who stays utterly untainted by the knowledge of bad words or PG-13 themes, or to have a kid who notices kids with rough backgrounds and reaches out to them?
I guess part of this is knowing that at least at first, we were on the list for foster kids aged up to 7. (Now that we have a 2-yr-old, they often try to “maintain birth order,” or give placements that allow a “first”/oldest kid to stay “first”/oldest. I don’t know if we’ll do that or not.) But the point is, I was ready to open my home to kids in K or 1st or 2nd grade who probably would be the very kids most (loving, well-intentioned) moms warn their kids to just stay away from and ignore on the playground. And I guess I’d REALLY hope (hope hope hope) that there were at least a couple moms out there teaching their kids something different.
I guess I would just contend that I’m not sure there are 5- and 6- and 7-yr-olds who act up in class, or who pick up violent behaviors or bad language, or who know too much about sex or whatever, because they are just inherently, irredeemably, “trouble” kids. I realize there are exceptions, but I would VENTURE to say that in a significant amount of cases, those kids’ home lives are probably not ideal. I am not breaking any new ground here. I am just saying that when we teach our children to protect themselves from anything untoward at all costs, are we teaching them to throw the baby out with the bathwater, or in this case to throw the HUMAN BEING out with the salty behavior…?
“But what if my preshus baby turns into THAT?” I mean… I know there are limits. Absolutely for sure. But if you have instilled in your child truth, compassion, and integrity; and if you continue to teach your child about their mission and purpose in life, which is to uplift and welcome people who are down and people who are left outside… MAYBE you could end up with one of those rare unicorns of parenting: a kid who reaches adolescence/teenage-dom/adulthood with purpose and peace and clarity instead of with angst and an identity crisis (when they DO finally encounter that world they’ve been hiding from, which they WILL).
Just a theory.
From a noob.
My parents did a lot of this, and never in what I understood to be a very POINTED way. But we had people at our dinner table or sleeping on our couch a lot who either would have been eating alone, or were (on some occasions) locked out of, or unwelcome at, their own houses. This was not like a MINISTRY. I never even considered it as a THING. It was just our friends who really needed a welcoming place, coming into our welcoming place that I loooooooved sharing.
I can remember a couple of times where my mom would say (paraphrased) “I know that you want to make a difference and not to leave people out, but I am looking at you and I can tell that you are changing, and she is not.” And in those cases, a decision had to be made. (I will go ahead and admit that this was never a gorgeous, 80s sitcom “Okay, Mommy, you are SO right! Let’s HUG!” kind of conversation, but still. I recognize there are situations that need to be addressed like that.)
But in a LOT more cases, those people folded into our family, at least for a season, instead of being further frozen out. A lot of them we have lost touch with. I don’t know that I have a ton of like LIFE-CHANGING, GLORY-BE testimonials that I could give you, but hopefully a few people felt welcome and saw what loving parents, a healthy marriage, and an edifying family looked like, for whatever that’s worth. Hopefully they knew that somebody cared about them. Maybe they even (gasp!) connected it with the faith that we claimed.
And I can tell you too that there are 3 girls who grew up in that house to be 3 women who are (if I do say so myself) reasonably compassionate and giving people, and who are not the types to wall themselves off from trouble or hardship in the name of self-preservation.
I’m not even trying to like toot my own horn or anything. I’m just saying have a little faith in your kids; that if they show compassion it will be rewarded and they will not end up flunking out of school and living on the streets. I wonder if you think about what would bring a kid to behave in whatever “unacceptable” way, and see if you can begin to grow in compassion for a child that has a very different home life than your child.
Maybe? What do you think?
From the mom over here with 15 mo of baby parenting experience. Anyway it’s just a thought.