Tangent: Homeschoolers are often asked, “But if you’re sheltering your kids by homeschooling them, what are you going to do when they reach the real world [emphasis mine] and go crazy?!” We crack up at this and have all sorts of stored-up witty quips to this standard objection, an offshoot of the socialization question. Just ask us. We’ll talk your ear off.
If we lived in the Victorian age, we could feasibly avoid talking about the hard issues, the sin, the ugly truths with our children with as much assiduity as we draped the legs of our pianos. I can’t vouch for the efficacy of this parenting philosophy; I think it would still be an epic fail in regards to raising up kids of virtue.
But we definitely cannot avoid talking about the hard issues, the sin, the ugly truths with our kids, who live in today’s world. Because the world is doing a fabulous job of communicating its very different perspective, and if we parents don’t weigh in on the issues, what is a poor kid to think?
I personally am not excited at all about talking about these embarrassing, awkward topics with my kids.
But, the fact is, every person alive will encounter them.
Pain. Death. Suffering. Unforgiveness. Marriage problems. Divorce. Racism. Betrayal. Temptation. Disappointment. Addictions. Pride. Fear. Abortion. Selfishness. Violence…
See what I mean? I think I’ll pass on that conversation! How depressing!
Some day, my kids are going to be grown ups. They’re going to see or deal with every single one of these issues in their daily lives.
Will I have prepared them? Will I have shared the tiny bits of wisdom I have managed to glean at thirty-one, forty, fifty years of age? Will I have given them the Christian’s perspective? The Bible’s final word?
Or will I, in my embarrassment, fear, confusion, lack of knowing exactly how and when to address it, leave a vacuum which the world is only too happy to fill….by my saying nothing?
Will I leave them to have to reinvent the wheel, to discover through trial and error the things that I could have gently taught them?
Or will I bite the bullet, get over my fears, and prayerfully begin to open my heart and my mouth for the sake of the young hearts who have been given to me and Jarret to be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
Timing is, of course, paramount.
I am not bringing up the major things with my seven-and-under crowd. I would like to preserve their innocence a bit longer, thankyouverymuch!
What I am trying to do is to lay the groundwork for those future conversations.
To prepare the kids for adolescence, I’m teaching them about modesty and privacy now. We talk about temptations: things like being tempted to steal a cookie, being tempted to hit our sister. Later, (far later, please, Lord!), we can phase into openness about the struggles with temptation particular to young adults. We’ll already have the concept, the vocabulary. We’ll simply apply it to more mature topics.
I’m opening up about my own struggles with food addiction in order to prepare them for the problem of drug and alcohol addiction. It is definitely awkward to betray a weakness like food addiction to the children, whom I hope will regard me as a wise, nearly perfect mother! But I find that they have grace for me and respond well when I tell them about how I fail to turn to the Lord in times of need and instead turn to Dairy Queen. I tell them how a thing can never satisfy.
When I hear them mention a particular unattractive physical attribute of someone around them, I share with them the struggle I have always had with acne. I ask them how they think I would feel if someone drew attention to it in a negative way?
You know how I have been recently trying to apologize and ask for my children’s forgiveness every.single.time I sin against them. (I don’t. Not by a long shot. But I want to.) My natural instinct was to explosively blow off some steam, stomp off, wait for the situation to cool down, and then act like nothing happened. (If I don’t acknowledge it, maybe they’ll forget! And it’s totally embarrassing to bring up! And I do it all the time! I’d be apologizing, like, all the time if I put this into play!) But then I realized what a horrible hypocrite I was being. And what a terrible example of relationship I was demonstrating for them.
It will take stories, personal examples, countless conversations. Openness, honesty, humility.
This does not come naturally to me.
But I’m learning that I must be courageous in breaking those self-protective barriers with my kids in order to present an authentic view of life in this fallen world as a Christian. (Appropriately. I’m trying to have discernment here, obviously.)
Isn’t that my job description? To raise my children to be Christian mothers, fathers, servants, who know how to comport themselves in the real world?
There’s so much to teach, and only eighteen to twenty years in which to do it.
Thank God that he promises to gently lead those that are with young (Isaiah 40:11). Because we’re going to need it!
Notice that my plan is not to 1) throw them into difficult situations early on, 2) let them watch certain movies or read certain books or listen to certain music heedless of an un-Godly message, or 3) in any other way introduce them to the world’s philosophy in an attempt to harden them and give them a jaded, worldly-wise outlook on life. Instead, I hope to prepare them for life as an adult by candid conversation and example. (As best I can.)