The other day my wife and I were having a conversation at the dinner table about our collective ignorance in dealing with our boys in their current stage of life. Meltdowns seem to be an almost daily occurrence as they try to redefine themselves and assert their individuality, most of which involves them choosing not to do what Mom and Dad ask them to do. Having sought some wisdom in a book on parenting yesterday, I found this saying:
“Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Sagacious though that saying is, we both had to chuckle at the fact that it gives little comfort to struggling parents. Why? Well, let me paraphrase a little:
“Parenting is a long, hard, grueling process that you’re really only suited to undertake if you have undergone extensive training and years of hard work. And even then, if you mess up at some point along the way, it will only make the rest of the process that much harder. And by the way, you won’t see the end or know how well you’re doing until you get there, so you can’t be sure if you did it right until it is too late to fix it.”
See what I mean?
This is what prompted my wife saying, “That’s why you’re not meant to do it alone.” And she is exactly right.
There is a thread that winds through the entire Old Testament where people are encouraged to pass on what they have learned to the next generations. While God specifically applies this to the passing on of his Word, he also applies it to “wisdom” in general. In the New Testament, the thread is continued, most clearly in Titus 2. There Paul encourages older generations to teach younger generations how to live and act, and even applies that concept specifically to the family. So Scripture is pretty clear: God doesn’t intend us to do it alone.
Consider this analogy: Let’s say you wanted to sculpt a statue on the level of Michelangelo’s David. So you buy the tools, you get the stone, and you start creating. But the only training you have is from occasionally watching a sculptor when he happens to be working in the public eye. Maybe you’ve watched a handful of videos of sculptors working. You’ve heard snippets of sculpting advice from people here and there, but having not actually held the tools in your hands, you didn’t really know what the advice meant. You have no experience, save maybe that once in a while a sculptor allowed you to come into the shop, sweep away the dust for him, and keep an eye on the sculpture while he is out for a while so that no one comes along and defaces it.
In short, you are less than an amateur. So how do you expect that sculpture to turn out?
I realize my analogy breaks down in some places, so I won’t press it too hard. Suffice to say, going at it alone is not wise. It is wise to approach parenting as a task that requires skill, and skill comes through education. Maybe that education takes the form of learning from a trusted, experienced, older person – a parent, a grandparent, or a mentor. Maybe that education takes the form of reading books and listening to CDs or watching DVDs that give good advice. Maybe it takes the form of getting together with a group of fellow parents and talking about successes and struggles, discussing what works and what doesn’t.
At St. Paul’s we try to offer those last two. We have opportunities for people to engage in a course together. We also are building a library of materials that people are welcome to check out and use. But like an unexperienced sculptor who tries to just take on the project on raw skill alone, those resources are of no value to a parent who chooses not to use them.
Where are you? Are you trying to make it on raw skill alone? Or would you like your sculpture to be the best possible? Don’t try and do it alone. However you find what you need, just don’t do it alone. We weren’t meant to.