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  Children's Ministry Today    
 

Today's Featured Article

Children Are Not for Our Convenience 

John L. Albright

 

  My heart broke. Lyle, an eleven-year­ old on my son's Little League team, had a great day--a home run, a triple, two doubles, and several key fielding plays. In every way it was nearly any kid's dream except for one thing--Lyle's parents were not there. Everyone congratulated him--even two players from the opposing team, which was pretty generous considering that it was Lyle's home run in the bottom of the seventh that defeated them.

"It's too bad your parents couldn't be here to see that great home run, Lyle," I said as we walked toward the refreshment stand for his complimentary victory Coke. "Are they at work?"

"Nah," he said, trying to shrug it off. "Dad's mowing the yard and Mom went shopping or something."

I learned later that Lyle was nearly withdrawn from the league because his parents said "it was inconvenient to get him to all those practices and games." Some friends kept him involved by volunteering to drive out of their way every day to pick him up for practices and games and deliver him home afterward.

Bill Cosby does a routine about the behavior of parents and grandparents when a new baby is brought home from the hospital. The newborn does four things weIl--eat, sleep, cry, and mess diapers. Parents and grandparents marvel; neighbors are invited in to witness "the changing of the diaper." Everyone wants to take his or her turn. Before long, however, the routine grows thin and, rather than an exciting task, changing the diaper becomes a chore, an inconvenience. For the caring, nurturing parent, of course, it becomes a loving act.

Where did we ever get the notion that our children are for our convenience, when in fact nurturing our children to maturity is an all-consuming job that is often inconvenient? The fantasy that my sons would bring praise and honor and glory to their father and mother, with minimum effort on our part, was blown away after the seventh diaper change and the seventeenth cry-out-in-the-night­with-colic episode. Some parents never come to grips with this, even as the children grow older, and there is always the expectation that children should fit into the parents' schedule rather than vice versa. While there must be some compromising both ways, primarily it is the parents' responsibility to do the adjusting.

If Lyle's parents find it too inconvenient to attend his Little League games (or even to get him there), do you suppose it will become easier to be supportive when Lyle wants to join the junior high drama club, or tries out for the high school swim team? Will Lyle even have the incentive? Maybe, but not likely. "The deck is stacked against him.

Now, certainly, parents should not cater to every whim of their children (which creates your basic spoiled brats), but rearing children is a constant shuffling of schedules in order to be supportive of every major event (and most minor ones too) in their children's lives.

When possible (and that's 90 percent of the time).... 

  • Mom will reschedule an out-of-town business trip to attend the school play in which her son has a bit part.
  • Dad will leave an office staff meeting early in order to eat lunch once a semester with his daughter in the school cafeteria.

  • Mom will get up from the couch in the middle of her favorite TV -sitcom to see the tent the kids have made with old blankets.

  • Dad will leave the office early and throw together a couple of dishes for the Scout potluck awards dinner when Mom has to work late.

  • Mom and kids will work together on costumes for the church Christmas musical.

  • Dad will mow the neighbor's yard for his son who’s too sick to do it.
  • Mom will take time to write a personal note for her daughter's lunch box.
  • Dad will get a late start to work because he took time to press his daughter's outfit she wanted to wear to school on her birthday.

  • Mom and Dad will attend nearly every one of their son's sixth-grade basketball games, even though he only plays the last two minutes. .

  • Dad will stop in the middle of washing the car in order to help his daughter wash her bicycle.

Don’t misunderstand me. A child is not created to make a parent’s life a constant state of inconvenience. But we need to get out of our heads the idea that all we have to do is read a few behavior instructions to our son or daughter, mix in a little of our own magic personality, and presto--perfect kid.

Effective parenting is a matter of giving and giving and giving; giving of time, resources, and personal attention. This is not done to the degree that we develop immature, irresponsible, spoiled children, but to the extent that we model patience and what it means to invest ourselves in the lives of others. Yes, indeed, sometimes we are inconvenienced, but more often than not, we are gratified and feel fulfilled for our "inconvenience"--our loving acts.

Children are not for our convenience. We are for theirs. And as we see them growing, we see them becoming mature persons who return honor, respect, and maybe even a little glory to us, for they have learned from us the meaning of commitment to others.

  
 
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