There was a trick I taught our oldest child – line up the center line of the waist band of your pants with your belly button. She was totally disinterested in symmetry and wearing pants askew seemed perfectly fine to her. Similarly, her bedroom always looked like the aftermath of an explosion – of toys, of clothes, of stuffed animals, pillows and bed clothes. She seemed to have no instinct for order or neatness, no appreciation of an aesthetic other than chaos.
Imagine my shock when I caught our second child at two years old sitting on the carpet in her bedroom, arranging her socks and shoes in neatly matched pairs. It’s as if she were a different species from our oldest – an alien from a far-off planet where children have an appreciation of symmetry, of order, of fashion even.
This pattern continued as they grew older. During the morning ritual of laying out the day’s outfit, for instance, the oldest child was totally disinterested. Pants, fine. I don’t care. Shirt, got it. Whatever. And socks – they’re the ones that go on your feet, right? But the next one – well, the morning dressing ritual was a lengthy and complex negotiation, sometimes even a battle of wills. This shirt – no. Wrong color. Those pants. Never! Too baggy. Leggings, maybe, if it goes with this dress and those socks and this hair band and those sandals and on and on and on…
Just when you think you have this parenting thing down, then you have a second child and have to learn a whole new set of parenting skills and styles. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that children CHANGE and grow up and are more than happy to lecture you on what they do or do not need you to do and be as a parent.
I wonder if our parenting experience could be instructive to us as we think of our faith life. What guidelines/rituals/spiritual practices have you followed in your faith life? And when they haven’t worked, have you thought to change or add to those practices? Perhaps the child most difficult to raise is the child of God that is YOU. Don’t hesitate to be the kind of parent you need to be.
Your friend and fellow minister,
Rev. Steve Savides