Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. — Proverbs 22:6
Please help us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks for the blessings we receive in answer to all these prayers. — 2 Corinthians 1:11
My wife and I spent four years of dating and seven years of marriage discussing children. We talked about what we would expect of them as their parents, how we would discipline them and how we would educate them. We had both gone to private schools ourselves, I to Catholic and she to Lutheran, and we agreed that we wanted our kids to have the benefits that we saw in Christian education.
Once our kids began to come along, we quickly found out that agreeing on such things was a lot easier when it’s theoretical and mere principles that we’re discussing. When we get into the day-to-day practicalities, it’s a lot easier to disagree. She quickly discovered that I can be an ogre. In some situations I wanted to come down hard on the side of discipline. But in other situations, I thought she was an ogre (adorable, but still an ogre) because she was the one wanting to come down hard. Life is like that. We agreed on all the principles, but when it came to putting them into practice, we didn’t always agree on which issues were mountains and which were mole hills. They say you have to pick your battles, but sometimes we picked different ones. And that can lead to skirmishes between the parents!
Parenting is brutally hard work. You’re always mindful of the possibility of life-long consequences from the smallest decisions, and you take that responsibility seriously. We had a great marriage with good families supporting us. We had no prior marriages, no step-children, and no exes to make things even more difficult. Yet it was tough. My heart always goes out to blended families and the challenges they face.
Our youngest child is 27 years old, so we’re past those problems ourselves. Being the parent of adult children carries a whole separate basket of challenges, but this blog isn’t going there. Right now I just want to recruit your compassion and help for the parents of young children because they are facing all the challenges my generation of parents faced and more. Since our kids entered their young adult years, parents of younger children have had to add such extra concerns as sexting, porn on their phones, social media bullying and the loss of outdoor exercise and play as a daily part of children’s routines.
The year 2020 now takes the ongoing parental struggle up another notch. Parents have been debating school choices for over 30 years. Even when our oldest was in diapers, parents were weighing the possibility of Christian schools verses public schools verses the new and unconventional option of home schooling.
- Some parents argued that the responsible thing to do was to send your kids to a Christian school where they would be taught academic subjects and biblical truth. A Christian school, they said, could shield kids from corrupting worldly philosophies presented by anti-Christian teachers and curriculum.
- Others argued that our job as parents was to teach kids godliness at home and to send them into the schools as missionaries to the other students. Their anthem was “You can’t shelter them forever.”
- Finally there were the new breed of home schoolers who believed that they could do a better job of teaching their handful of children themselves than could the public and private school teachers who had to teach 20 or 30 students at once. And they shielded their kids from just about everyone.
Those debates could get lively at times, but at the end of the day we all knew that we were aiming for the same goals and sharing the same love for our kids. It was a kinder, gentler time, as one former president might have said. Since then the internet has created the perfect environment to set loose the baser traits of our sinful nature. Debates with strangers in the comments section of an online news article soon devolved into arguments, and arguments devolved into insults. Social media exacerbated the problem.
So what makes 2020 any worse than 2019? Covid-19, of course. Not to mention — no, let’s do mention — the heightened tension of divisions in our nation. Our country began the year with some stark political demarcations between conservatives and liberals. That, of course, spilled over into how we responded to the Covid-19 threat. First President Trump was criticized for responding too harshly as he banned travel from China. Then he was criticized for not taking the threat seriously enough. Then the democrats were criticized for their various responses to it. These fights aren’t over, mind you, but they’ve been stacking on top of one another as we’ve argued over the closing of the economy and the government orders concerning masks and churches and social distancing.
Thank goodness we don’t have anything else to argue about and divide over! No racial problems; no police brutality; no crossing the line from peaceful protest to looting, vandalism, violence and murder. We wish.
So what does all this have to do with the challenges of parenting? Only that now, with all the stress and grief that is already crushing every one of us because of these things, parents are in a mad scramble to figure out what to do about this next school year. Administrators themselves are just now beginning to release their plans for how to provide a quality education in a season of great Covid concerns.
I haven’t read up on what plan of action each school or district has chosen. I know some are choosing to stick with virtual learning. Some are meeting at the schools again. My nieces’ school is giving parents a choice between the two but not providing the usual after-school care. You can imagine how disruptive that is going to be to a lot of homes. Parents who work full-time at jobs with inflexible hours are going to be scrambling to figure out how to get their kids from the safety of the school through the last few hours of the afternoon until Mom or Dad can provide them with the safety of their homes. And parents who last year debated public vs. private vs. home-schooling are now debating those same options and more — but doing so with greater pressure, greater fears and fewer resources.
They need our support. They need our prayers. They need us to listen and to care. Satan — Remember him? He hasn’t forgotten us! — will be using this opportunity to turn up the heat and cause more marriage problems, more arguments between friends, more child abuse and more division even in the Church. Let’s not give him a foothold. Let’s not judge each other. Not every family can afford private education. Not every parent is cut out to home school. Not every parent is comfortable with public education. Don’t judge parents — or other parents — for the decisions they arrive at in this mess. Their circumstances aren’t identical to those of parents who decided differently. Let’s show the world the unity and love that Jesus said would distinguish His people from outsiders. Here are some ideas of things to pray for.
- Pray for them to have wisdom as they weigh their options.
- Pray for unity in the process as mom and dad try to make the right decision.
- Pray for patience as they deal with each other, with well-meaning friends and relatives, with school officials and with their own children.
- Pray for the health and safety of their families.
- Finally, pray that God helps them to grow more like Christ in the process, producing the fruit of the Spirit and shining like lights in this world.
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. — Romans 12:18