Friday, November 14, 2014

Why Our Parents Made us go to Church

I was thinking about something today, and I think we may have left something important behind when we updated worship a couple of decades back. I think I have finally realized why my Mother made sure we were in church at least three times a week, and it wasn't just because she was a Church of Christ minister's wife. No, as the mother of five boys and two girls, she needed it. She needed to have six hours a week where she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that we would exhibit our very best behavior!

Think of it, any of you who grew up in the pre-emergent Church, did you ever hear this threat? “You had better behave yourself, because this is God's house!” muttered quietly, with a threatening tone, through a clinched-teeth smile, as your mother's grip on your upper arm momentarily took on the quality of a giant bird of prey's talons, pinching down on that one single nerve that had the ability to momentarily paralyze your entire body, connecting directly to the fear center of the brain and imprinting a very powerful image of that same arm becoming the “Arm of God” to wreak havoc on your hind quarters if you dared to ignore the warning.

Some of you, who attend conservative, traditional churches may say, remember? My mother still does that, but now it's weird, because I'm thirty! Anyway, Moms, think of it, one day of the week (in my case twice on Sundays and midweek on Wed evenings, too) when you know for a fact they will be clean, dressed to your specifications, quiet, respectful and all in one place. It was a mother's dream. So, I wonder, did we gain anything in the exchange?

I get that it would be better to live in a world where threats were unnecessary, no child ever needed to be corrected and parents were eternally patient, but, we don't live there yet. I am not suggesting that the methods of the past were the best way of doing things, either, but I wonder if we have lost site of the real goal of that methodology?

I recently saw a buzzfeed article, shared by George Takei, that shared pictures of people's kids screaming and throwing themselves down on the ground. The title insisted that this behavior was hilarious. Do we really believe that? I have eight kids, and I have never, once thought that. Not that a baby's anger cannot occasionally be funny, but at four, five, six, or seven years of age, it loses something in the way of charm, and by the time they are thirty and throwing a fit when their non-fat, half-calf, high foam latte isn't hot enough, it has become a disturbing trend.

With my own children, we have tried to install this once concept in them to curtail this type of behavior. Other people matter. A lot. It really is not about creating tiny little robots, who never lose their cool. Trust me, my kids still get upset and tell me what they think about me on occasion. Mostly when their own behavior has earned them some restriction, that they were duly warned of, which they do not find (in their infinite twelve year old wisdom) “fair”.

At these times I am sorely tempted to recount the punishments of my own angst ridden teen years, when I was grounded once for the entire month of August for telling my mother to shut up, to prove to them how magnanimous I am as a parent, that their five minute tirade only earned them a week long restriction from television. Sometimes I do, but I digress.

Other people are important. They are precious, and when we allow our behavior to interrupt, disturb, insult, injure, or otherwise interfere with them, unnecessarily by making their environment inhospitable, we are wrong. That's right. It is not okay to throw fits in public. At any age. Not even when I occasionally use my superior verbal skills to shame a “sandwich artist” or sales clerk into correcting their horrendous behavior, it is not okay!
So, what do you do about it? I think, rather than debate what type of punishment is best, it is important for parents to understand that you have an obligation to raise, not children, but decent, caring, conscientious adults, that are productive members of the human race. ( I do not say society, because, currently, society could use more “appropriate” interruptions) It's your job. It's expected. It is the bare minimum requirement. Not keeping them out of jail, or off drugs, or not failing school. If you are shooting for this bar, you are too low, and it may be too late for yours. But it is still your job.

Yes, I am old school. Yea, I think this is a big deal, and I'll tell you why. Because, if you do not believe this, your kid is the sandwich artist, or sales clerk I referred to. They will bring havoc with them wherever they go, creating little hurricanes of self-centered, narcissistic, chaos. They will be bosses, who think that employees are there solely to make them rich. They will become office holders, who think it okay to make ordinances and laws, based on their own opinions, regardless of the effect on their constituents. Most importantly, they will become parents, who raise, indecent, inconsiderate and intolerable human beings, and so the cycle continues.

This is not meant to be an accusation of bad parenting. It really isn't. I have made plenty of mistakes as a dad. So did my parents. But, I think we are so ready to just find the easiest way these days. There are no shortcuts. Your kids not only need to know that you love them, but that you respect people around you, and you expect them to do the same. If this is a problem for you, trust me, your unrestricted child will find a world that is ready to restrict them in a million ways.

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