I read an article earlier this week in which the author outlines 16 Things Kids Should Decide For Themselves. I don’t mind telling you that my clever nineteen-year-old long ago dubbed our family’s system of government a “momarchy.” Admittedly, there is truth in that, which would probably explain why the title of that article caught my eye. When I clicked through to read it, I was hoping for some perspective that might shed light on little decisions I could relinquish. Unfortunately, not so much.
The very first thing the author suggests letting a child decide on for him or her self is religion. Just a hunch, but I’m guessing that the author and his wife aren’t Christian folks. If they were–if they had intimate knowledge of and whole-hearted belief in what the Bible has to say about salvation–I just don’t think it would be so easy to be arbitrary about spiritual discipline and a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. While it’s true that faith cannot be forced and it must be a personal decision, we have a responsibility to our children to go beyond just exposing them to the family religion. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus himself commissioned us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” I’m no theologian, but if you ask me, that command doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for arbitrary decision-making. And when it comes to making disciples, what better place is there to start but right here at home?
The author and I didn’t get off on the right foot, needless to say. A few slides later, the author lays out his case as to why a child should be permitted to decorate his or her own room. Oh boy.
Here’s the thing, I’m all for artistic freedom and creative expression–as long as aforementioned freedoms and expressions don’t damage the carpet and walls in the home I’m far from paying off. If you were to visit my home, you’d see that my husband and I have gone to great trouble and expense to create comfortable and expressive living spaces for each of our four children. We’ve updated these spaces over the years to more appropriately reflect the ages and tastes of each child. We’ve even collaborated with the kids on the projects, though we have never just let them go all willy nilly with paint and endless thumbtacks. I am of the conservative belief that until one can afford to make a mortgage payment, he or she must abide by what is aesthetically pleasing to the payer of the mortgage. Sorry not sorry.
Oh, and then the author had to bring up occupation. Of course. I should have known. Now might be a good time to mention that one of my children has accused me of “crushing her dreams.” This, after she informed that she intended to pursue a career in producing movies (Steven Spielberg) with a back-up plan of event planning (think Colin Cowie here). In my defense, my intention was never to crush anybody’s dream, but instead to offer solid advice for a teen who is on the brink of college. Also in my defense, money has never been motivational to me when it comes to advising my children on future plans and goals. Rather, I encourage them to pursue careers suited to their interests and strengths, while also giving ample consideration to the availability of gainful employment. I’m not saying that I don’t have the next party planner to the stars living under my roof, I’m simply pointing out that that particular gig was more likely a lucky break than a hard-earned position. And, somehow, I’m not eager to fork over thousands of dollars in college money in hopes that a lucky break will come our way.
Moving right along, though.
While overall I think the author had good intentions, I think he crossed a line when he wrote,
“If you ever tell your kid that there is no Santa Claus on moral, religious, ethical, sociological, educational, or whatever grounds you can possibly conjure up to say such a thing, then you are overstepping your parental bounds by a country mile, my friend.”
Wow. Really? I beg to differ.
This goes back to his original argument that children should be permitted to choose their own religion. While I raised all three of my daughters to believe in Santa, my husband and I chose to go a different route with our son. Instead of getting him hyped up on the potential gifts of a mythical man, we wanted to focus his heart on a very real gift given long ago by a Savior who died on a cross. Christmas, after all, is by definition the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Our family most certainly celebrates with a decorated tree and yummy treats and brightly wrapped packages. We even have one of those elves who makes mischief in the middle of the night. Ours is not a home that lacks magic and wonder. Santa is a part of our celebration, though each of our four kids know that he is an imaginary part. Christ, on the other hand, was and is and forever will be real. He is at the center of our celebration as He should be. And that, my friend, does not equate to an overstepping of parental boundaries, but rather serves as proof that indeed we strive to fulfill our calling as parents.
I didn’t disagree with all of his points. Yes, kids should get to choose the bedtime story and what presents they will give loved ones. They should pick a Halloween costume and a sport to play. Nobody should choose for anybody else a political party to support. Within certain limitations, kids should also choose what foods they will eat and how and when will play. But when it comes to parenting, there truly are some things that are non-negotiable.
And rightfully so.