Monday, October 19, 2009

Extreme Parenting

The Balloon Parents have landed.

Forgive me if I want to look away, to somehow allow these children to hold onto a family that for all its flaws, is theirs and thus entitled despite the parents attempts otherwise, to a bit of safeguarding. I would seek to shelter this family from its worst impulses, and to use this unfortuante incident to allow child protective services not to take away these children, but to investigate and ensure the long term health and stability and safety and security of this whole family.

The arm chair pundits have prepared for the ultimate drama of watching children be removed from a home. We should not be wishing such a public blow up on anyone, even a person who believes in UFO's, chases storms and now has finally caught the noteriety he so craved and found it far more dangerous than any of the real or imagined monsterous realities he sought.

As painful and frightening as watching a homemade weather balloon drift 8000 feet in the air possibly carrying a six year old was, watching a homemade television tornado destroy a whole family publically and probably permanently, is worse.

We've known trophy kids for years, children who are immersed in activities done more for show than tell, more for the awards and accolades and prestige than the joy of movement, pleasure from the experience or benefits of a skill. Competitive parenting has always existed in the fields of academics, athletes and the arts. Sometimes it was kid driven, but more often than not, there was a grown up reliving Glory days that never were, or dreaming for their child.

We have witnessed the fruit of that unhealthy impulse in this family. But they are a product of a society that seems committed to the demise of leisure. When we measure down time in billable moments, not allowing for dullness, we are not taking a break but announcing our change in schedule. Vacations ought to include times when one learns to entertain one's self and others, (road trips), rather than a spin of perpetual enrichment exercises that make for good photo-ops and bragging postcards, twitters and the like, squeezed in-between isolatory moments of self indulgent individualized entertainment. We are becoming islands within our own families with the iPods and DVD’s and game boys that mean the only human contact is the occasional demand for batteries or a bathroom break.

Even camping has become something that must include a Face book worthy posting quality, a blog about being along the Appalachian Trail, a green awareness epiphany or a Zen moment of clarity about one's future job. We should be praying for moments that are not definable by praise or appreciation from others in our lives and seeking them. All of life is not blog, twitter, face book, IM, text or YouTube worthy.

So read a story to a child not because it will improve their test scores but because you think they'll like the book. Brush their hair and put in the ribbons if they love them, even if they don't match. Allow an older one to take a break from studying even if there's more time, and break out the Rock Band. The pseudo accomplishments of play that aren't taken seriously have serious benefits that no ribbons, trophies or public "Like this" thumbs up can match. Play for fun. Write for fun. Create a hearth out of your home and do all the things you do, because you would do them even without the A's, without the accolades.

Life is not just about showing up, but about being present. Not about being noticed, but noticing others.

There are places where it is easy to see the creative heart of God. For some, it is in their children’s eyes. For others, it is found in hiking trails and breathing in the smells of a hardwood forest or on the ocean surrounded by the sheer force and energy and beauty of the sky and water. We are called to come to the mass and find Christ in our midst, and to learn see Him present with us in all our sufferings and in all our joys. We are called to come and be present and learn how to be present to others. Because ultimately, what creates childhood memories, what creates dreams and drives are not all the extra classes or ultimate experiences, but the times of everyday, the little touches and something extras that made the ordinary time sacred.

2 comments:

JimmyV said...

Good clarion call.

MightyMom said...

hear hear!!

and you've hit the nail on the head (again).... somehow I think you read my feelings from all the way over there.

This is just what I've been exploring lately...and why my blogging has slowed down...I'm redirecting.

it's a good thing

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!