October 28, 2014

What Would Your Child Say?

Several years ago, I got to talking with an acquaintance whose daughter was then nine months old. After a few minutes, the woman said, “Actually, parenthood is great. It hardly feels any different than before she was born. She’s at daycare from 7:00 to 4:30 and then she goes to bed by 6:00. Frank and I have all night to ourselves, just like before.”

I kept in touch with the woman for a few more years. And, sadly, her initial approach to parenting continued beyond her daughter’s infancy. The child remained in daycare every weekday for about nine hours a day because her mom enjoyed her career, not because she had to work. Then the girl was put to bed by 7:00 each evening. And a couple nights a week – while her dad was working – the mother hired a babysitter and went out with friends. On top of all that, she arranged for other babysitters two or three weekends a month so she and her husband could “get away,” and they took more than one longer vacation each year as well, all without bringing along their daughter.

I got to know the daughter. I was grieved but not surprised to see that she was shy, tentative, and insecure.

If I’d asked, I’m sure the mom would have genuinely insisted that she loved her daughter. However, the sad truth is that many of her actions belied that reality. Thus, the daughter simply didn’t feel valuable and important in her mom’s eyes.

The problem wasn’t that the mom worked outside the home or enjoyed time with her husband and friends. We all need time with other adults, and strengthening a marriage definitely benefits children. Additionally, it’s entirely possible to work at a paid job and yet still prioritize one’s children. However, in this case the woman appeared so set on continuing to operate her life just as she had before the birth of her daughter that she left the little girl out in the cold, emotionally speaking.

Our culture is very me-oriented, and we’re regularly fed the lie that our highest aspiration involves fulfilling ourselves. But the truth of the matter when we become parents is that we have to choose to be different. We must consciously decide – on a daily basis – to put the needs of another human being ahead of our own wants. And we need to pray for the strength to do that consistently for the sake of the child’s physical and emotional well-being.

We don’t want our children to become narcissists, believing the entire world revolves around them. But we should know in our guts that they deserve to be secure in their parents’ love for them. If we ask, “Are you important to your mom and dad,” a child’s enthused, instantaneous answer should be, “Oh, yes, yes!”

Is that the answer my child would give? What about yours?

Photo Credit: Evan Long


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