Thursday, May 19, 2011

Paradox of parenting

Parenting is very easy until you have to actually do it. You can have all the theories down, methodology straight, say to yourself or spouse "I would never do it that way," become angry at your own parents for their shortcomings until you actually become a parent and then realize that your kids aren't robots or broken machines in need of fixing. Actually since I'm not good with my hands, I'm thankful that they're not. Kevin DeYoung writes:

I remember years ago hearing a line from Alistair Begg, quoting another man, that went like this: “When I was young I had six theories and no kids. Now I have six kids and no theories.” I must be smart. It only took me four kids to run out of theories......

Kids are made in the image of God-which for some reason when you join a P.C.A. church is glaringly omitted (we just start with the Fall and ignore Creation)-and so much more complex than we probably realize as we search for the perfect formula of what to do. And of course they are sinful, just like their parents, which complicates things on both ends (if it were only THEM, parenting would be so much easier....)

Add that to the myriad parenting books out there, which always seem to disappoint because they can leave you feeling guilty, misapply the gospel, or promise to be "gospel-powered" but seem more pharisaical.

I think it is a good thing to read books on all subjects, (and read them in community) including parenting. My new favorite is a short book that is actually made for small group discussion: Gospel Centered Family. It is funny though how publishers put "gospel-centered" anything and we immediately are drawn to it.

While I don't think that we should necessarily abandon trying to mine gems from pages of rocks, there is somewhat of a danger of either paralysis by analysis, despair, guilt which can come from too much theory.  

Kevin DeYoung provides a surprisingly refreshing perspective on the difficulty of parenting. It's actually easier, at least in principle and methodology, than we think.

 I worry that many young parents are a) too adamant about the particulars of their parenting or b) too sure that every decision will set their kids on an unalterable trajectory to heaven or hell. It’s like my secretary at the church once told me: “Most moms and dads think they are either the best or the worst parents in the world, and both are wrong.” Could it be we’ve made parenting too complicated? Isn’t the most important thing not what we do but who we are as parents? They will see our character before they remember our exact rules regarding television and twinkies.
Some parents may under-think and ignore good material out there. Continuing education for work is standard, but for parenting is ignored. Just for the record, the best "continuing education" probably comes more from your small group than it does from publishers.

But many parents probably over-think, and become too "spiritually" cerebral. The parenting paradox is that it is both harder than we think it is (we need Jesus more than we think), and yet not nearly as complicated as we've made it (Jesus is more faithful than we think). I love paradoxes, and am thankful for this paradoxical encouragement from DeYoung. Check out the rest of his post here. You'll be glad you did.

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