Wednesday, September 26, 2012

With great power comes a HUGE amount of responsibility...

Pardon the almost Spiderman quotation, but I can't get it out of my head. There is this huge responsibility that weighs on your shoulders as a parent, that strikes fear in your heart and it has nothing to do with your powers to provide, but with your child's powers to do things in the world.  You wait, and wait for this baby, hoping and dreaming and decorating.  Then you bring the baby home, and sometime between the feedings and the diaper changes you think to yourself, "My God what have I done," and it's not because you are tired and sick of diapers, it's because you realize you now have to help mold this person to be a good member of society, a decent human being, and you suddenly doubt your ability to do that. What will they do?  You may be confident that you can sleep train, and potty train your kid, but can you really teach them to make good choices, to treat people well?  Typically then the icy feeling of fear grips your chest, but luckily you are so sleep deprived, it doesn't keep you up at night, at least in the beginning.

I got that jolt of icy fear recently as we brought a new baby into our home. Ted Theodore Logan (by the way it's from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure) who we call Theo, is a Great Dane puppy.  He is not a human baby, we can put him in a crate and leave the house, his diet is simple and while he has issues sleeping through the night, and we are cleaning up his crap, he is easier than a kid.  Never the less, that fear gripped me like it has not done before with our other dogs. Unlike all of our other dogs, Theo will outweigh us.  He will be taller, bigger and stronger than Valentine or myself.  So we have this HUGE responsibility to mold him into this gentle giant.  Luckily, as with our kids, genetics are on our side.  He is predisposed to being a decent, nice dog.  His 200 lb. dad sauntered up to us very gently and leaned very lightly into me as my kids pet him and hugged him.  Still though, we have to train him, we have to practice good behavior with him, we have to show him the ropes. We have to give him structure and discipline.  Again, this will probably be easier than it has been with our kids.  We will be able to better control his environment.  He won't be going into the world very often without us, and certainly never unescorted by a chaperone.  He might be easier to deal with than our kids, but that sense of responsibility and that cold icy fear are there. He will be a very powerful dog, and it is our job to help him learn to use that power responsibly.

As I think of trying to help my kids, and my dog learn to use their powers wisely though, it causes  me to question my own.  I have great power, but do I use it greatly?  I get to speak into people's lives, especially young people, on a daily basis. People find out very quickly when I meet them, what I do, so they know that I follow Jesus.  Do I show that well?  Am I a good example?  Do my actions and words accurately depict a good image of Christ?Do I use the influence given in good ways?  AAGH, the icy fear is creeping back into my chest. Luckily it isn't only up to me, I am not alone.  I have God with me, I just need to listen to him.  I have a community of other believers in my church, my friends, my family, to hold me accountable, to help me to be the follower of Jesus I need to be. Just as with child rearing and dog training, thank God, I am not alone. Still, am I being responsible with my great power?  Are you?  Is there structure and discipline in your life of faith, are you training yourself well to follow Jesus, are you listening to him? With great power comes great responsibility...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Long live the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and their crazy little Leprechaun friends.

My daughter yanked out her loose tooth on the bus to school the other day.  She then preceded to stash the thing in her pocket all day so she could put it under her pillow for the tooth fairy.  Her dollar was found the next morning, under her beloved Curious George toy, that has to be in bed with her every night.  I delighted in all of this, I treasure it, because as unremarkable as it may seem, she is in 5th grade, and she still enjoys the magic of the tooth fairy, and a good stuffed animal.  I love this!

When people hear that our kids still enjoy and entertain the mystery of the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, the Leprechauns, the Easter Bunny etc, we have been given mean looks, literature, exasperated sighs and more. Some have told us that introducing our kids to these characters will cause them to question God, faith and the existence of Jesus, because we have lied to them.  This infuriates me, possibly more than other parental judgements that are put out there, like breast milk versus formula.

As far as magical, mythical, characters, and the carrying on of their traditions goes, if it adds to the fun and wonder of my children's childhood, AWESOME! Their childhood threatens to be over too fast, every day.  They are not sheltered from the hard things in life.  They have experienced death of friends and loved ones, sickness, and the general struggle and unfairness that life can bring. Reality is not hidden from them, but we encourage, perpetuate, and revel in the continuation of the delight they have in Santa, the Tooth Fairy and friends. We want them to have fantasy, wonder and fun and we will work to continue that for them for as long as we possibly can, and then we will do it for their kids too!

As for their faith, I want them to question what they have learned.  I don't want them to take what I say about Jesus to be the ultimate fact that they must believe whole heartedly, and never question.  Because if they never question it, well, their "faith", or more accurately, my faith will implode on them.  It will cave like a house of cards. Faith, following Jesus, believing in God all need to be personal to them. When the veil of fantasy is lifted on the Tooth Fairy someday, they may wonder what that means for God.  While they look to the santa tricks, and the pretend games they will see us, but, when they look to the stories of how our family was formed and has come through things, I hope they will see God. I hope that they will know and see Jesus because He has been in front of them daily through the people in their lives that are following him.  As we and our friends try and apply Jesus teaching to the ways we live our lives, and treat others, I pray that we are able to model faith, and who Jesus is well.  As we attempt to learn scripture and apply it to our lives in our decision making, in our joy and struggle, hopefully they will see who God is, and they will decide to trust in Him too. I hope our love for them will model the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus.  They know our church community is flawed, they have a pastor mom, but hopefully in the love, care, and fun they have experienced there, they will come to know their place in God's body. From us they will see all kinds of things modeled good and bad, and they will hear lots of conflicting messages. They will internalize all of those things, and the choice will be up to them.  I don't know what they will choose, but I do know, good or bad,  those things will speak louder than any thank you note from Santa.

If you do not want your kids involved with the likes of these questionable characters, that's cool. That's your deal, you can create fantasy and wonder for them some other way. Just don't roll your eyes at me, and keep your literature with studies and such to yourself.  Oh, and if you are the person that ruins this for my kids, watch your back.

The girl may know differently, but if she does, she keeps it to herself and plays along.  She eagerly awaits the fun, the magic, the escape from the day to day. And you know, even when she is far past that, when her wisdom teeth are removed, she is still going to get a visit from the tooth fairy.  When she does, I doubt she will be bitter and angry about the deception her parents perpetuated.  She may roll her eyes, but I suspect she will delight in the fun and wonder, and the memories of teeth under pillows, plates of cookies for Santa, and green Leprechaun footprints on the counter.