I'm not the best with words, I'm not the most educated on current events, and I'm not well-researched in child development. So, thankfully, there are some trusted resources I can refer to from people who are. Oftentimes I have a thought in my mind that I can articulate well to myself, but I become a jumbled mess of words when I try to explain it to someone else.
We all know screen time impacts how our kids develop - socially, mentally, and physically. We've read articles, seen statistics, and listened to our pediatricians remind us to limit screen time. So how come we think it's cute when an infant sits mesmerized in front of Baby Einstein? How come we think it's innocent when our kids spend hours on an iPad doing "educational" things? I'm not intending to open a can of worms, just reminding myself that the best learning comes from intentional parenting and from encouraging them to explore the world with creative play. Screens, as interactive as they may be, don't teach my kids how to be effective communicators, responsible caretakers, and how to respect other people.
I've made a conscious decision to opt out of the Barbie world for my little girl. She doesn't know it yet because she doesn't know it exists, but I know the day is coming when she'll ask about Barbie and I've already begun now to prepare for the conversation. My little girl is just shy of three and I've made effort to avoid the Princess craze. Thankfully she's unaware of that also, and until she asks about it I don't want to introduce it to her. So what's left for young girls to play with? I'll be honest, I've been excited about the American Girl Dolls, but even now, this collection has taken a spin I want to avoid. No, I'm not trying to take all the little girl fun and world of pretend away from my daughter, but I am trying to be cautious with what captures her heart and formulates her idea of acceptable and good.
It's no secret that most of our churches are void of 18-30 year-olds. Kids leave for college and seem to say goodbye to the church, with only small proportions returning later in life. The reasons are vast and complicated - too much to simply offer a pat answer. But knowing this is the trend, and that it's growing, I'm compelled to think long and hard about what I'm doing now to help ensure my kids develop a personal relationship with God and that they have unshakable and personal convictions about His truth. No, there is no guarantee that anything I do or say will result God-fearing, Kingdom-serving adults. But, by Gods grace, I want to seek to do everything I am commanded to do that instructs them in righteousness.
In this same vein, I've been struck lately that my goal as a parent should not be encouraging my children to ask Jesus into their heart. My goal needs to be teaching them, through God's truth, that sold-out allegiance to Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives is all that matters. Following Jesus and living for Him is much more than a prayer and is not a pat decision.
If you've been a parent longer than the euphoric-filled days of a enjoying a newborn, you know that it's the hardest thing you've ever done. It's tiring and frustrating, while in the same moment exhilarating and rewarding. One moment you see small-step breakthroughs in habits or discipline, and the next you're wondering if there is a prayer strong enough to move God's hand and help your child.
As if parenting itself wasn't a huge enough challenge, we have political chaos, social degradation, and moral relativism making our parenting efforts that much more complicated. On the surface it seems easiest to turn off the news, toss the newspaper into the recycle, and tune out of current events for the sake of managing the hum-drum of day-in and day-out with little ones. But it's not. If I'm delinquent now, in the early years, of talking with my children about the world they are growing up in, they'll enter their older years confused and frustrated.
The terror attack in Boston was horrible. Nauseating and angering. But it happened in the context of something much larger and because of a force that is growing in momentum, not slowing. Am I equipping my children with the only source of truth that makes hope in these circumstances possible? Am I teaching them that although the way of the wicked will never prosper, it is our privilege to cling to the truth even when it's not widely accepted? Am I demonstrating to them that the Source of our truth offers life that no one and no thing can take away?
And then there's the media flurry about the Kermit Gosnell trial. Once again, nauseating and angering. While my eldest looked at me with huge eyes of disbelief when I told him that there are laws that allow doctors to kill babies if moms don't want them, I needed to take it a step beyond and explain that it's actually a logical path for people who refuse to worship God. Without God there is no truth, and without truth there is no value of life, and without value of life there can be no standard for life. I need to be explicit in teaching my children that without God being the center of our lives, we will reject the truth and accept the lies.
So what's my point in all of this? Simply put: What may seem like an easy out for me now may be the difficult heartbreak later.
It's often easier to default to screen time rather than play another board game, read another book, or listen to another, "I don't have anything to do" whine. It's hard hear our children innocently ask for toys that seemingly all the other kids have, and give simple, but meaningful answers why we've chosen no.
It's no simple task to take everyday lessons and put them in the context of an everlasting God and His purposes for our lives. And, it's actually rather scary to introduce our kids to the ugliness of the world around them and in the same breath tell them to love others with the heart of Jesus.
Thankfully, we know God has provided us with truth for every answer we will ever need for any situation. And, thankfully that truth can anchor the deepest of fears.