Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Measuring Up or Messing Up

I have learned a lot through parenting my children. But, the one thing that I didn't realize was how my 'standards" of measurement were messages of "messing up" to my children.

I didn't intend to give them a low sense of "self", in fact, I thought "self" was the problem, as a "Christian parent". After all, I was taught that all of us were "born in sin". And sin was rebellion against God and "proper authorities". I didn't see myself as a "good parent" that "had all the answers" that would "lead others", but as a struggling parent that wanted to do "right" and "please God". I assumed that "pleasing God" meant "measuring up" and therefore, my children had to "measure up".

Inadvertly, I gave my children the message that all I wanted from them was a "performance of behavior", which in reality, I probably did. I lacked heart, because I was so "caught up" in performance myself. I wanted to see obedience and submission, which was verifiable.

I was performing my parental duties before an audience of "Christian people", who in my mind were the "ultimate authorities" of "proper parenting". I have learned there is no such thing. Parents of all stripes and colors of faith commitments and those who have none, love their children and want to do well by them. Parenting is a universal model of "listening, learning and growing along with your children".

Perhaps, it was my low self-esteem and my lack of confidence and my fear of responsibility that made me an over-anxious parent. My goal growing up was to be a "good parent". But, as most of us, I have learned how much I failed my children. I didn't listen so much as hold a standard before them, which was an oppressive means of "control".

Half-way through my parenting years, we moved and I had learned and grown, but "life happened" and I found myself "unavailable" many time and in many ways. Of course, at the time, I did not think I was unavailable, I was only trying to survive myself.

So, I gave two "whammy" messages inadvertedly to my children. Early on the message was, "Shape up" and the latter message was "Ship out".

Our youngest son is going into the military shortly and as I interact with him, I groan inside with pain. The pain of lost years, lost opportunities, and anticipation of a "lost presence" in my life. I have been fortunate to have our children around us and our youngest leaving is the first "child" to"move away" and he is 22.

Why am I thinking about all of this? Because I think that Christian is a label that can mess up people's lives. Christian "confines, conforms and confuses", what should be "human". The 'human' is universal within a context. The human is parental love in context of the individual child. No performance needed. And messes are expected to bring about learning. There is nothing especially "Christian" about that. I have learned that the message of acceptance and love is what I want to give my grandchildren. No strings attached.

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