So many times, I sit watching the news and think, “What kind of a world am I raising my children in?” and I feel afraid. Genuinely afraid. Sometimes I even think, “Should I have even brought more children into this screwed up world?” And I wring my hands trying to devise plans for how I can lock them up until they are thirty-five.
Evil is often glorified. Everywhere you look you can see immoral behavior being praised as “the norm” or “the cool thing to do.” And naively I tell myself, “My kids will be smart enough to see through that,” or a delusional notion of the control freak in me, “I won’t let them go down that path!” But let’s be honest. They are human and are going to be exposed to all sorts of temptation including things that didn’t even exist when I was younger. They will be tempted and will have their own vices and follies to trip over while trying to achieve happiness. And I won’t be able to be there for every instance making sure that they do the right thing.
So I am back to feeling fear. I am fearful of the things I can’t control. I would like to be able to lead them by the hand to what I think would be the path toward self-actualization. But there is the problem. That would be on my terms and SELF-actualization can only be reached by one’s self and at the risk of sounding “too-religious,” through one’s faith.
The other day, I was verging a panic attack over it all. And I went to my go-to mantra which I have been chanting when I get like this: “Let Go.” I let my head go quiet and then I heard that voice speaking to me. “They can be the change.” It brought a calm over me.
We actually live in a very exciting time to be raising children. With more opportunities to lose their way than ever before, our kids can become stronger than we were. It can be our children’s generation who redefine norms and bring morality and peace back to the world. They can use all of this mind-blowing technology and accessible education combined with real, honest and good intentions to create a super army of do-gooders. Sure, there will always be evil and temptation; the light can’t exist without the dark. But maybe it will be attractive to do the right thing for once.
But we have to be that voice that they hear when they are confronted with temptation. We have to model our lives to be something that our children respect and aspire to. We have to chose our words with love so we can establish trust with them. Now a lot of times, we think that all of this means we have to be our kid’s friend to gain their respect and acceptance. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. We still have to set boundaries. It’s such a fine line to be loved and respected. They almost can’t exist together for a little while. Sometimes it means being resented for not allowing them to go to that co-ed sleepover. Or forcing them to be the only one who can’t have a cell phone in their third-grade class.
But we need to show our children that sometimes, a little bit of deprivation or “DELAYED” gratification isn’t a bad thing. This world we live in is in the shape it is because people need everything to happen NOW! NOW! NOW!
I have just started these conversations with my five-year-old. Recently we had some friends over for dinner. I fed Noah and Luke their dinner before everyone arrived and Noah wanted to have a treat afterward. I told him if he had to have a treat now, he could choose a piece of candy from his Halloween stash. But if he could wait until everyone else finished dinner, he could have a brownie and ice cream sundae with the rest of us later on. He chose the Halloween candy. And of course when all of the adults sat down to eat their sundaes, he asked for one. I told him he had already made his choice earlier to have his candy and that was it. No more sweets.
He said, “I wish I didn’t have my Smarties, Mom.” And though it broke my heart a little to tell him no, I stuck to my guns. Maybe next time he will be able to wait instead of needing that instant gratification. It’s a small lesson in finding true happiness by waiting. It’s not a game or a way for me to make my kid feel excluded. He got what he thought he wanted but later realized something better was to be had by waiting. That’s real life! We can have the fun now if we want, but sometimes by buckling down and working hard we can find our joy- our purpose– later.
I know I am going to give in to those sweet little faces at times, but I pray it won’t be at the expense of preventing them from finding their true character. I want to be a part of guiding them to become who they are meant to be for the improvement of this world. And I see so many parents who are trying to do the same thing with their little ones. It gives me hope. “They can be the change.”