Disclaimer: we live in a broken, hurting, needing-Jesus world. The thoughts below are my own and they’re just that, one’s person’s opinion on what can [help to] fix violence. Feel free to [tastefully] debate with me/comment on what I talk about below as opposed to what I don’t talk about in the following paragraphs. Thanks!
As we keep the Connecticut families in our prayers, we also really need to pray for the ONE THING that will actually help reverse the tide of violence: today’s families.
Forget gun control, a better mental health system, whatever else people point to as a secondary scapegoat for senseless tragedies like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary yesterday. If we cleaned up the way we raised children, there’d be less of a chance of things like this happenning. Actually, if we thought about our children more than ourselves, we’d be willing to give up that new smartphone, really fast internet, fancy food, expensive vacations, (insert your favorite indulgence here), etc so that parents could work a little less often and be with their kids a little more often. DON’T GET ME WRONG – you don’t love your child any less if you have these these things. But if you have them because you work too much or you sacrifice time you should be putting towards raising your kids to get them, then you should probably take a look at your priorities.
I am not claiming to be a parenting expert. I am, after all, a first time mom with a [nearly] 4 month old baby girl. But I am a high school teacher on leave from a public school and I vividly remember my first parent conference when I was 23 years old and they asked me point blank what they could do as parents to help their child to better in school. I nearly laughed out loud and then realized they genuinely wanted my parenting advice. At 23! From a newlywed who was only 6 years older than their student!
But this is what I think…and I sincerely think that if we, as a country, could do at least some of these things, the awful, horrible acts that occurred at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine, etc (terrible that I can say “etc” at the end of that list) would happen a whole heck of a lot less.
Without further ado…my ideas behind how fixing today’s families can help prevent these awful things from happening
1) Stop treating relationships as something you can toss in the garbage. It’s called commitment for a reason.
Guess what? Relationships are hard. The term “commitment” has synonyms like allegiance, fidelity, constancy, dedication, devotedness, faith, faithfulness, loyalty, and fastness. It’s antonyms are disloyalty, faithlessness, falseness, inconstancy, infidelity, treachery, unfaithfulness. If they were easy, they wouldn’t be worthwhile because nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Ask any athlete and they’ll tell you that to truly be good at what they do, they had to give it their all through injuries, frustration, obstacles, etc. But the ones that see at the Olympics were committed.
Is the going gonna get tough? Heck yeah. Remember, I’m a mom of a 4 month old. We’re living on one public school teacher’s income right now and it’s gettin’ really real if you know what I mean. On top of that, add the obvious sleepless nights coupled with the stress of making ends meet and the usual adjusting to life that is no longer about you (and never will be about you again) and that whole commitment thing suddenly isn’t as easy as it was when you could still be sort of selfish. BUT GUESS WHAT? Commitment is still a choice. I may not always feel like loving my husband but you better believe that because I committed to him 4 Augusts ago and I said I would always be dedicated to him, always devoted, always faithful, always loyal…even when I get frustrated and mad and annoyed and whatever other negative emotion comes out when you have a brand new baby who doesn’t exactly cooperate and you’re both operating on next to no energy, there is still NEVER the consideration that there is any other option than sticking it out.
So the caveat to this is to not get into a relationship without knowing what you’re getting into. But that is another conversation for another day.
2) Parents need to be less about themselves and more about their children. Key word here: sacrifice.
Well isn’t that a loaded statement! Here we go…if anybody reads this (which I fully acknowledge may not occur because the only regular readers of this blog are my aunts and my mother-in-law and that is partially due to the fact that I frequently talk about Serafina!), ya’ll will probably have plenty to say about what I am about to throw out there…
I am learning that when you become a parent, life is no longer – and never again will be – about you. Ever. As soon as that first baby is born, your time in the spotlight officially ends. And that’s okay with me. I am happy to, from this point onward, be known as Serafina’s mom (or the names of the other kids we might have, God willing). But how many parents are happy with that? If it’s the right thing for your family for both parents to work because you found rockstar child care and you trust the way that someone else is raising your children, so be it. If it’s the right thing for one of you to stay home with your children until they go off to school (or you may even decide to stay home and school them yourselves), so be it.
My point, however, is this: when you have kids, decisions should no longer be made solely with the consideration of what’s best for you as the parent. The needs of kiddos should be an integral part of decision making as a family, not just what you want.
Sacrifice has to do with the surrender of one thing (usually important to you) for the sake of something else. When you become a parent, you should be willing to give up your comforts, your wants, your time, etc for the sake of your children. I’M NOT SAYING YOU SHOULD BECOME A SLAVE TO YOUR KIDS. What I am saying is that if I decide to go back to work next year as a teacher full-time because it’s my desire to have a successful career in education, then I am in the wrong. If I go back to my full-time teaching job because it’s the best thing for our family (extra income, we found a great place for Serafina to go to daycare, etc), then that’s okay. But could I find something else to do while she’s still little and impressionable and malleable or could my husband find ways to bring in a little extra money so we could have more time as a family?
Example: growing up, my mom had a great job at Nordstrom and my dad had an equally great job at a hospital up north (now Providence Pacific). They decided – considering my sister and I as part of the equation – it would be best for my dad to go to anesthesia school in Spokane and my mom and sister and I to stay in Seattle so my mom could stay at her good-paying job and we could stay at our school. You might point out that I was dad-less for nearly 3 years and basically mom-less during that time too. Yeah, my grandpa came up every morning to get us off to and I went to friends’ houses after school but I never felt like my parents made the decision to send my dad off to school and have my mom keep working because they wanted to get ahead or they wanted to pursue their careers over my sister and I. They may not have said directly to me, “We’re doing this for you,” but they did make it very clear that their top priority – after God and their marriage – was my sister and I. Yes, my dad had career aspirations and that was obviously a part of why he pursued his anesthesia degree, but it was/is also his prerogative to provide for his family and being a nurse anesthetist covered both of these (career and family provision). Did they have to sacrifice, both in their marriage (though never straying in their commitment) and their own comforts? Yes.
3) We need to take care of each other. Until we stop being so selfish and entitled (me, me, me!), we’ll never address the needs of those around us.
We wouldn’t need a mental health system if we took care of our own. Yes, there are certain mental disorders that can’t be addressed by love and care and that truly need medical attention. But if we were taking care of our own [family, friends], people wouldn’t be falling through gaps and we’d make sure that our loved ones got the attention they needed. And honestly, things probably wouldn’t escalate to the point of needing medical attention if we caught them early enough and loved people through it. There wouldn’t be this foreboding sense of fatalism or the thought that they are not loved. Instead, people would know that they are important and taken care of and would feel safe to be the person that they are, broken, disturbed, or just plain different. But instead of different being a bad thing, they’d be accepted and loved on and even if medication or routine counseling needed to be a part of their care plan, the despair of being alone probably wouldn’t be as devastating as it is currently.
4) This world needs Jesus.
Period. I’m not looking to turn the US into a theocracy or anything; as Christians, we’re supposed to be salt and light to this world, not run it…though it would arguably be nice to have a little bit more of a moral compass on some legislation but that is another story for another day.
Now, whether everyone became a Jesus-loving/worshiping/PRACTICING Christian or whether the current Jesus-loving/worshiping all up’ped their living out of Christ’s love, we’d be in a better spot as families, communities, and as a nation as a whole. And honestly, even though I want more people to enjoy and bask in the amazing love of Jesus, either way would help make this world a better place overall. The long and the short of it is that everyone needs more living-out-of-Jesus around. More serving others (without caring if you get credit for it), more kindness in how we treat each other, less selfishness when it comes to our day-in-and-day-out thoughts and decisions.
Think about how life would play out if we all loved like Jesus. If we stopped thinking about ourselves (standard issue human = innately selfish) and lived even a bit more like Christ, families would be stronger, charities would be fully funded, public school would be the go-to option rather than the fall back for people who can’t afford private [Christian or Catholic] school (aka places that can teach moral values without the teacher getting fired for “pushing their agenda” on students – I’ve personally heard that line in my experience), and politics wouldn’t be quite so divisive, just to name a few.
How do we know how to do this? Parents set an example for their children and children emulate their parents. Then you have whole families living out Christ’s love to the world…
There. I said [most of] it. I’m off my soapbox and I didn’t touch the hot button issues of gun control legislation, a better mental health care system, or stronger security measures at school. Feel free to debate with me on what I talked about above, NOT the things I didn’t talk about. I am sure there’s more I could have gone into with my 4 points (commitment, sacrifice, care, Jesus) but this is what I could think of this blustery, cold, Saturday morning.