Raising Kids Right is Wrong

My sister and I are exceptional people. No really, my mother was often told when we were little that she didn't deserve us. We were good kids: quiet, compliant, everything a parent hopes for. My own daughter, on the other hand, has not been so easy.

At four-months-old, she's yet to sleep through the night, she refuses to take a bottle, and she screams every time we try to change her into something that isn't soaked with sour milk. You might say we must not be raising her right. And I'd have to say, that's a weird thing to tell someone.

It's like that awkward moment when the parents of an extremely docile and respectful child are congratulated: "You guys really raised her right!"

Did they?

Because it sounds like they're talking about a trained monkey, not a child. Maybe they're trying to draw from Proverbs 22:6 which says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he won't depart from it." The only problem, as I've outlined before, is that sometimes they do depart from it.

So maybe all they're really saying is that the child is well-behaved. But even this (also said before) reduces parents to floor monitors and children to cookies or any other product of assembly line appearance.

What people are actually saying when they talk about kids being raised right is that they care more about their parenting methods than their children.

They care more that their kids are housebroken into submissive contributors to the family than nurtured into individuals. They care more that their children don't interrupt their lives. But here's the thing:

Children are interruptions.

Before my wife and I had a baby, our life had found a happy rhythm of work, recreation and cats. We spent time with friends and family, saw movies, went to concerts, took vacations, pet our cats, and built good reputations at our jobs. Now that we have a daughter, everything has changed and our lives revolve solely around her needs. We'd be crazy to try to maintain the life we had before--crazy or negligent.

But children don't just interrupt our lives, they interrupt our paradigms. No two sets of fingerprints are the same because no two people are exactly the same. Yet if we're "raising our kids right," we're trying to instill the same virtue (i.e. compliance) in different kinds of people. And the question we should be asking ourselves is do we really love our children for who they are, or who we think they ought to be?

Maybe my daughter won't be compliant. Maybe she'll be strong-willed. If that's the case and everyone else knows it, that doesn't mean I didn't raise her right. It means I loved her enough to let her be who God made her. And when people meet her, my hope is not that they compliment my parenting, but rather say, "You have a wonderful daughter."


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photo credit: Veterans Day in Heidelberg via photopin (license)