PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Thursday, August 17, 2006

 

Parenting: delicate balancing act

I know I'm encroaching on other people's turf when I dare talk about parenting, but I have found myself belonging to a small group where I got to interact with married men as co-members. The day they started talking about their kids, I felt so out of place, yet I found I stumbled into a a world so different from mine it was actually interesting, even fascinating.

I myself have visualized having clones of my own but I am constantly having questions as to how I could possibly raise kids when I couldn't even seem to keep my own body and soul together. Either it was such a scary prospect or it's best to perish the thought. But then, who said he or she was prepared the time his or her first child was born? The truth is, no one is, and I am just being cowardly. These are the things I found out from my groupmates:

In the birth of a child, as in the rest of life, we always say we'll cross the bridge when we get there. Our parents were certainly just as clueless and even if they have learned the ropes of parenting through years of trial and error, they could not possibly pass on the same exact lessons, particularly the nuances of handling relationships, to would-be parents precisely because each child is a different creature. (That's what I learned from my own mother, too, by the way.) Would-be parents would have to learn the lessons themselves - or unlearn, as the case may be. Maybe God intended that things like child-rearing be gone through with all its joys and pains without the benefit of a blueprint; it's more thrilling that way; life becomes truly an adventure, even down to the little things.

I was amused by the litany of dilemmas I'd hear: A young father fussed about whether he was too strict or too lenient with his kids who were fast becoming grownups. Another, a newly married man, shared about how he couldn't keep a single glance away from his first-born daughter lest the toddler bumped her head on the floor. Parents who have grown-up kids, I'm sure, struggle similarly when it comes to when to hold on and when to let go, like another guy anguished.

Parenting, to paraphrase a newspaper columnist (Ms. Grace Shangkuan Go), is a precarious balancing act tailored to meet the specific needs of each child. There are no hard and fast rules, except the need for parents "to give their children roots and wings." The mixed metaphor would no doubt give us a freak of a child - one who is part-plant and part-bird. How can something planted on the ground fly? But the advice makes perfect sense.

"Roots are the foundation that give stability to children - family, security, moral and spiritual values. Wings give them freedom to fly to higher levels of accomplishments: creativity, independence, courage and confidence." ..."While the depth of our children's lives is dependent on their roots, the height to which they will soar is dependent on their wings."

To echo my fellow group members: When and how much do we enforce discipline? When and to what extent do we allow play, warmth, love, protection? It's beginning to sound like an adventure, right? The message to singles who are afraid of commitment and responsibility is "Get married and have children. It's fun!"

"It's hard, but it's fun," another from my group summed it up. Perhaps this ambiguity is where the beauty of parenting lies.


4.13.2001


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