I have a friend, a fallen away Catholic, who has chosen to dismiss God and religion and raise her children in "kindness" instead. And I have a problem with that.
You see, I have four kids.
They have the same two parents.
We all live under the same roof.
And not all of them are kind.
In fact, with mood swings and stress and hormones and life, we can all admit that at one point or another in life, we are unkind.
Am I raising my children to be kind?
Yes. Of course.
Do I teach them how to treat others?
Is my marriage a witness to how we should love one another and put another persons needs first?
I believe so. On the good days, at least.
But there are these people in my house. These ... teenagers....
and the vision and mind of a typical teen seems to narrow in on one thing and one thing only....
And when one comes down with this thing called teenager...selfishness is likely, and it has been my experience, both as a former teen, and now a 45 year old woman wrangling two teens of her own, rarely, if in fact never, is kindness ever a result of being selfish.
So great. Now what?
16 years of teaching kindness, and now what?
How did my plan to raise kind people fail?
And more importantly, what is plan B?
What is there to fall back on when kindness fails?
We are moving in two weeks, and winding down four schools with full schedules of end of the year activities. This also happens to be my husbands heavy travel time of the year. And this is typical of everyone, not just me, right? Down to the wire, end of the rope, limping to the finish line, whatever it is, it is stretched and pulled to the limit. And when the sink is full, and the house needs to be emptied, and your 16 year old tries to print a class paper at 6am and there is no more paper, and the 14 year old can not find her jeans that you know are in the dryer because you put them there, but for some reason only mom's eyes can spot them, and final exam stress is building, and you have found your hand deep inside the bag of those darn multi grain pita chips again...
where then does your strength come from??
What well are you capable of digging?
How do you manage?
When seemingly ungrateful children and physically not present husbands are your present reality, all before 6:30am, who do you have to turn to?
Better yet, when you are the last thing your children feel comfortable sharing with, and they are running in all the wrong directions in search of purpose and meaning, two whom do they turn?
Do they call on kindness to step in and help?
Does kindness swoop on in, pick them up, dust them off, and send them on their merry way?
Will kindness comfort the teen who feels left out, an outcast? Stressed and stumbling? Will kindness put to rest the anxiety that adults may not see, but is slowly chipping away at their insides?
With my own early morning despair moving in at a rapid speed, I scrubbed furiously at the dishes, adding more soap then needed, while staring out the window feeling like there was no end in sight...like these dishes would never get clean and the teenagers, who let me add, I love fiercely and madly, would stay stuck in themselves, never to break free. And truly, if you dumped the box of my life out on the table and labeled my problems, it would not be the lack of money, or stress, or surly kids or even dishes piled high that hurt me the most, but rather...it would be the unkindness. It would be the echoing of the "you are so annoying" or "I hate him" "or the indifferent "whatever" or "I just don't care" thrown my way, or towards a sibling, that hurts me the most. Because this family of mine...I have raised them to be kind. Just like my friend, I too want to raise kind people. And yet, the way they live out their lives under this roof lately, feels like anything but kind. And I am not excluded from this mess. I have had daggers roll off of my own tongue that I am not proud of. And this is not even scratching the surface of how unkind we can all be to ourselves; how quick we are to compare our bodies and lives to those around us, how easily we hate our own reflection. We struggle with being kind to our ourselves, and so how on earth do we learn to be good to others? The better question really is WHY on earth should we would be kind to others?
The last decorative mug to be washed rested in my hands, and I turned it over to read the inscription. It was Scripture. His Word. A love letter emerging from the swampy mess in the sink, an anchor of hope in just the right spot. It reeled me in.
"So let us not grow tired of doing what is good. For at the right time, we will reap a harvest of blessings. If we do not give up." Galatians 6:9
I read it and read it again until I nearly washed it off of the cup, and wrote it in my mind.
Raising children to be kind? Yes, that is good. That is doing what is good. My friend is doing a good thing. But parenting is not for the weak. It is tiring. And when we grow tired, we are tempted by many evils, one of which is to give up. At least that is how I feel. Or have felt. But if I root my parenting, not in my own teaching, but in Christ's teaching...well then that is a game changer. We are taught to be kind, and we teach to be kind, because we belong to God, not ourselves. We are made in His image. And if we are to mirror Him, then what we do and what we say matters a whole lot. You see, when I put Christ in the middle of my parenting, the accountability of all of our actions is suddenly raised pretty darn high. Like up to heaven high. For the reality of our short time on earth is exactly that; a short time. I don't want my children to be kind so that they can live a peaceful life on earth. I want them to be kind so that they can live a peaceful eternity with God. And at the end of the day, these growing kids of ours?? They are going to stumble and fall, waver and bend, no matter what we teach them. The only way to ground them is to give them solid roots; plant them in faith. They may wrestle with kindness or the lack there of as they journey, but I trust that if I continue to do what is good, the harvest will be abundant, and the blessings are sure to bloom. Will these blessings blossom here on earth? Well, that, I do not know. But I am grateful for his Word that encourages me to persevere in doing what is good. You can raise your children in kindness, but that is not enough. Raise them in faith, for kindness flows freely from a life lived for God.