Being a parent of a six year old is eye opening. Recently especially. At a friend’s house the other night Ani and our friends’ six year old girl decided to cut each other’s hair. I get it, totally. No parents in the bathroom, scissors just sitting there, mocking them, all but saying, “Hey girls, pick me up. Yeah, that’s it. I’m shiny and sharp and I can cut really, really nicely. It will be soooo much fun!” Faced with convincing arguments like that what kid could resist the urge to give their buddy’s hair a little snip, snip? The snipping wasn’t the real problem. Hair grows back and truth be told, the cuts were actually pretty straight. Recoverable. The real problem was that the girls knew that ‘no hair cutting’ is a rule. They knew that what they were about to do was wrong because their parents had imparted the ‘no hair cutting’ rule to them. And really disobeying the rule wasn’t the actual problem. It happens. The real issue I landed on was how do we, as parents, convey the concept of right and wrong when it comes to the big stuff. How do we trust that our children will be able to run away from a stranger with a puppy when they are not yet running away from their friends with scissors?
Another friend of Ani’s made the same sort of mistake about a month ago but with higher stakes. The friend cannot swim but decided to jump into the Cape Fear River anyway to acquiesce the exuberant calls of Ani and another girl. “Jump in, jump in!” The temptation overran her internal guidepost, pointing to what’s right. Jumping in, without the ability to swim somehow seemed like a better idea than heeding the steadfast, safety rules of her parents. If the fear of mortal danger was softened against the calls of her peers would the guidepost be in focus against the claims of candy from a stranger just out of parental sight? This is the real worry of the parent.
So where does this leave us? Endless conversation just hoping that something sticks? Hoping that when faced with the hard questions our children will prevail? We put our unequipped, naive, vulnerable six year olds up against the world. We expect the world to push and we expect that our children will push back. But their limited life experience means they might not push. Instead they jump in the river or cut their own hair. Once we realize that it’s impossible to keep our kids 100% safe we hope that they don’t always push back. We hope our children will breech our trust and make mistakes. When they do, we stand poised to use the experience to talk about the big picture stuff. To remind them of strangers with candy and how fast cars drive. To remind them that water can be dangerous and our rules are our rules for a reason.
I often find myself relating parenting moments to our walk with Christ. Children have an uncanny knack for illustrating our relationship with God. We, as parents, become the children in this analogue as God steps in to fill our shoes. Looking at parenting through this lens offers us a brief, near-sighted view into our family lives. Our experiences with God allow us a momentary omniscient vantage point by which we can better relate to our children. We can glean a better understanding of the plight and mindset of our kids because we are those children to someone who truly is omniscient. He is our guidepost and we need not fear as long as our kids know this too. If they have a beacon of light to look towards their view will be less clouded by the distractions of the world, so will ours.