Remember when road trips required “taking turns”? Taking turns in the front seat, taking turns in the back, taking turns by the window and taking your turn for your “tape”…These were the days when I had to learn to wait. I had to wait my turn, and simultaneously, I had to endure something I may not like. Maybe the middle seat was uncomfortable, but I had to sit there. Maybe the back seat made me feel isolated, but I had to sit there. Maybe I didn’t like my brother’s choice of music, but I had to listen to it. It was a lesson in waiting and endurance. As I grow older, it is clear that these are two necessary tools for life.
Interestingly, the subconscious goal most people have today is to eliminate any potential for these two uncomfortable lessons. It almost seems as if the highest value is to figure out a way to avoid all situations that are unpleasant or even simply annoying. As a kid, it seems like such a meaningless undertaking to stay put in the hard place. Yet as we enter into adulthood, these character traits, when underdeveloped can result in a failure to launch.
I realize for parents this is a tangible, internal wrestling match. To see your own child suffer any level of pain, anxiety or fear is torturous. Without even realizing it, parents make it a daily mission to rescue their child from all levels of discomfort or unresolved conflict. In the end, I often wonder how detrimental this will be. Teaching the child to strengthen their ability to wait and endure through trial is a gift we can give them. We do a disservice to them at a young age when we play videos for them while we drive to and from the store, when we allow them to play their hand-held games in the restaurant, when we never make them put their headphones away. It becomes our fault when we buffer downtime, quiet time, boredom and loneliness. What would it look like if we attempted to simply not “fix” everything for our kids? What treasures would this give them?
Parenting is like being caught in a white squall out at sea. For the most part we live in survival mode and because of that, we rarely stop and consider what the marks are that we want our children to bear. One day leads into the next, schedules packed and no time to think, evaluate or examine who are kids are becoming. Our lives are hijacked by fast paced living and thoughtless decisions. We want peace and quiet, calm and order, so we do whatever we can to make that happen around us so that it can hopefully happen within us. True rest and genuine refreshment are hard to find because most people do not even know what they look like. In the end, we only stop the chaos temporarily.
So consider for a moment what it would look like in the future if your children never acquired the qualities of learning to wait in unsettled circumstances or to endure what is annoying, frustrating or painful to bear. Life is full of these seasons and moments. If we were to stop and observe the lives of those around us, we would see how necessary these virtues are.
Marriage is one of the most clear examples. Sacrifice, selflessness, patience and the ability to sit in the mess in order to get out of it, are the building blocks of communication and conflict management. On a daily basis and for stretches of time, marriage presents the constant opportunity to practice endurance. In fact, the very nature of reciting vows is to make a promise to not walk away from the commitment under the assumption that one day they most definitely will want to. If a child is never taught to hold tightly or sit in discomfort, he will not have the tools to navigate the hills and valleys of marriage.
Too often people think that when things are hard, they must not be right. The mindset becomes one where normal disappointment in marriage is now considered crisis. People are quick to walk away and give up. In the end, I guess if we don’t want our kids to have to suffer through a quiet, 30 minute car ride without entertainment, we are also not helping them suffer through the much harder conflicts in life. If they never have to sit in boredom and frustration, I wonder how they will handle walking through those valleys of suffering which are long, arduous paths of waiting and aching.
So step back and take a look at how you run things in your home. Look for possible ways you may, as parents, allow too much comfort for your children. Do some evaluation and be honest in your appraisal. Don’t be afraid to take back the authority in your home, and by all means, don’t be afraid to say “no” to your children. If they tell you that “you are the only one who…”, pause and calmly tell them “thank you for the compliment.” The truth is that these days, if you are in the minority on parenting decisions, you are probably doing what is right. The norm today is what is so scary.
Dawn graduated from Messiah College with a degree in English and went on to get her master’s degree in Christian Counseling at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She presently works as a counselor and teacher in the high school at Covenant Day School in Matthews, NC and in her spare time likes to read, write and teach Bible studies. For the last 15 years her passion has been to mentor young women in life and Scripture. Dawn’s blog may be seen here: www.dawnfromphilly.blogspot.com.