My kids like to remind me that I never let them watch 101 Dalmatians when they were little.
My reasoning was simple: Cruella Deville—evil lady with freaky hair and too much make-up, who is mean to puppies. No child should watch such horror.
They didn’t, nor did they watch The Little Mermaid (I don’t remember why), Lilo and Stitch, Sponge Bob, and countless other dumb-and-possibly-damaging kids’ flicks. I was that parent. I had those sensitive sensitivities with regards to the input in my children’s lives. And in my husband’s defense, I was micro-managing much more of their lives than he probably ever knew.
I’m embarrassed at some of our parenting tactics when I reflect back 10 to 15 years ago, and in true “I used to struggle with xyz, but now I’m so reformed” fashion, I tend to think we’ve come a long way. I think we’re much more mature now and our decisions are based on our freedom in Christ, rather than fear or chained-conformity to a certain mold; but ask me in another 10 years how we did with teenagers and I’m sure I’ll still groan at our failures.
The trouble with parenting is the trouble with life: we learn more by mistakes than by counsel.
We have complicated parenting and made experts of people with degrees, and mankind continues to try and make improvements over his own parents’ failings, again and again. Will we be the generation that finally gets it right?
In the end, God knows human nature and nails us all with His most truthful generality: all (parents) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Children ought not expect to have perfect parents. Parents ought not expect that doing all the right things will make childhood perfect.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
We turn to our own way again and notice that it’s not going well, we’re not doing great, life’s not what we expected it to be. We are always these oxymorons—wanting something better but essentially repeating the same steps. There are no pause buttons on children, so we press on. Ultimately, I think we all end up learning as we go, no matter the intentions we started with.
I’m so thankful for the last part of Isaiah’s quote above:
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
Life is made up of decisions and no area has called for more verdicts in my life than parenting. If I could boil it all down, narrow all the choices and simplify the process, it might look like a list with two columns: what to refuse, what to choose. I’m not sure that Cruella Deville and her fur coat ought to be refused. She just might be necessary for our understanding of human nature and a good illustration of “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life“. The two columns would intertwine according to age and maturity and circumstance, but a choice of one thing is always a refusal of another and the two are hard to separate.
Daniel chose to cooperate and learn the language and literature of a pagan people, but he refused their food. He refused their idolatry. He refused to completely assimilate into a culture that denied his God, but he also refused to isolate himself from it and huddle up with his people.
I need to remember that building walls and protective barriers around people I love will not guaranty anything. I need to remember that we have all gone astray and Jesus came precisely for those of us who realize we are lost and wandering aimless; that sheltering my children from the world will not help them realize their own need for a savior; that the pursuit of God dispossesses me of outcomes.
All my failures and mistakes and the faulty ways I think I can micromanage life are laid on Him, and for that I am grateful. All the outcomes are ultimately in His hands, too, which doesn’t relieve me of responsibility, but does relieve me of the burden. I’m going to continue to make mistakes, but no one ever died because they weren’t allowed to watch 101 Dalmatians.
In a world with so much good to choose, we have nothing to fear.