Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hopes and Fears of Parenting

I promise this is not the beginning of an inundation of  parent/grandparent blog entries. It is coincidental or serendipitous (maybe even providential) that I read a review of a book on Christian parenting recently and I had saved it my drafts. Here it is, a couple of days after our firstborn and his wife became parents.

I'm inclined to think that is important to be good parents who are Christian rather than Christian parents, as though there is some template for how to do this correctly.We live in a rapidly changing and secular world and our kids will live in this milieu, whatever our concerns may be. We have lovely Christian friends who have home-schooled to insulate their young 'uns, with mixed success. And the evidence is in that a fairly high percentage of children and young people who attend Christian schools are also church and faith drop-outs when they get to college and university. It is hard not to be anxious about whether we are doing a good job of parenting.

We all want our children to have a moral compass and for many of us there is the conviction that Christian faith matters. Values of compassion, generosity, justice for "the least of these" are learned.  I like the reviewers description of the book:

Bromleigh McCleneghan and Lee Hull Moses have written a book about being not-perfect parents in a not-perfect world. The result, Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People, is a joyous celebration of child-rearing in which any parent—no matter how perfect—can share.
"I want to have a happy and healthy marriage, and I want to have happy, faithful kids," proclaims co-author McCleneghan in the introduction to the book. "But I reject the pervasive cultural lie that a happy marriage and the faithful kids are somehow the byproducts of some rigorous and largely unattainable personal or moral perfection."
Thus, Hopes and Fears is neither a "how-to" book nor a mere meditation. Rather, the authors seek to find the beautiful and the spiritual in the sometimes mundane activities that parents have performed since the beginning of history, while at the same time allowing beautiful and spiritual insights of the past to inform and shape the activities of modern parenting. Thus, the words of a hymn can trigger an idea about how to deal with bedtime, and an exercise in baby-naming can lead to a better understanding of a passage in Isaiah. The intertwining of the spiritual and familial in this book constantly surprises and delights: a quote from Paul Tillich can stand next to one from Tina Fey or What to Expect When You’re Expecting. 

Lots of readers are parents of children still at home, and many more are hoping that the family environment "took" as their adult kids venture through life.

Any comments about how you are faring as parents? What about the faith aspect?


roger said...

How 'bout that weather!

Laura said...

Somewhere on my bookshelves I still have 2 books I read as a new parent that sound similar to this. The rest of the how-to manuals long discarded but sometimes I will still flip through these gems, as I pass by them. They were both books that spoke to being a partner in a divine process....neither had answers to how to get a child to sleep through the nights, more just thoughts on the dailiness and the miracle of tending these souls entrusted to us.....still relevant even to life with tweens and teens, even spouses and parents.
I like your thoughts on Christian parenting versus parenting as Christians...

willowjakmom said...

I'm a little late to jump into this discussion but will throw in my two cents anyways.

Like Laura, I like the distinction between Christian parenting versus parenting as Christians. When my boys were first born, it never really mattered to me, to be honest. But as I have grown as a parent and grown in my own faith, I have realized that my own personal desire to raise my children with "values of compassion, generosity, justice for 'the least of these'", these values meld with Christian values and I now see the importance of parenting as a Christian.

In the article we both read, David, about Generation Y and Religion, I read: "Rev. Stuart MacDonald, who teaches the history of Christianity and ministry at University of Toronto’s Knox College, says many millennials have no religious affiliation because their parents didn’t teach them.

“It’s the culture that doesn’t reinforce or influence religious belief in any way. We certainly have lost the cultural cohort of religion,” he said."

- I have had a discussion a couple of times with a friend from St. Paul's and we agreed that we don't see that there is anything wrong with telling your children that they don't necessarily have a choice in attending church, or youth group, at this stage of the game. I was raised with no religious upbringing and I feel sorry for it because now I am playing catch up and I feel that with all of the trials of my life, I could have benefitted from having that faith in my life. Many parents argue that they will let their children decide for themselves, but how can they make a decision if they have no exposure? I don't believe that my son's church attendance is borne of my attempt to 'shove religion down his throat', as much as it is to show him that he is part of a community of people who share the same values that we do. I think that thoughtfulness and worship needs to be a habit for it to become a part of you and if that means telling my child that he HAS to be there every Sunday, it is with the hope that when I am not around to nag him, it will become a part of him so that he chooses to go on his own.

For the record, I have never had to force or cajole Jake to attend yet. I think that's a good sign that I've made the right choice.