On Sense of Self
Nowadays, I hear plenty of complaints and see colorful Facebook posts about how children are so entitled.
I'm sure we've all had an encounter with a child or two that's caught up in what the world owes them. We've seen parenting styles that are inclined to give children their every whim, and we've seen how the effects of spoiling young people can often result in a grown up adult who somehow doesn't grasp the fundamental concept of hard work and toil.
Don't spoil your kids, they say.
Now, I am certainly against "spoiling" my child. Hell, I'm pretty sure I have a pretty laid back parenting style. I let my baby cry for a few minutes if I am completing a task or getting something important done, because I know that I will be there to comfort him shortly. I don't have mom guilt when I take a fifteen minute shower or leave to go on a work retreat for two nights. My identity is not encompassed by my role as mother, because I know that I am a daughter, spouse, and woman also. Becoming a mother has made me infinitely more alive, but it is not my only vocation in life. I would feel comfortable saying that I do not plan on spoiling my child materialistically. I do not expect to give my child a smartphone with endless internet access, nor do I expect screens to entertain him, nor do I expect to still be doing his laundry or dishes when he is fifteen years old.
But I think there is a essential difference between "spoiling" your child and providing them with absolutely, utterly unconditional affirmation that they are simply incredible, loved beyond all comprehension, and supported endlessly in whatever ways they are destined to reveal God.
It took me a while before I understood that not all children were as blessed as I was to have receive this unconditional, ceaseless affirmation from their mother and father. I have never once doubted that my mother and father loved me without any strings attached, because they repeatedly told me that I was willed by God, destined to fulfill a particular vocation that only I could fulfill, and that there was no crime or awful moral act that I could commit that would stop them from loving me so absolutely and freely, even if I lost their trust or approval for a season. This love informed the deepest parts of my personhood and rippled out into every aspect of my life.
That is the sense of self worth I want to douse my child with.
I don't want to give my kid gadgets and material rewards. I don't want to be associated with easy money and reward without toil.
I want my child to associate me with bountiful, endless affirmation of the miracle of his existence, because it is not spoiling your child to help him to build up a confident sense of self and purpose.
Regardless of what path in life he takes, or what failures lie in wait for him, I want him to know that his existence is intentional, wrought with deep meaning, and groaning with goodness.
That doesn't mean that I don't want my kid to be a stranger to hard work and humility. You can bet anything on the fact that I will do absolutely everything in my power to teach him the ways of grit and hard work, of planning and patience, of accepting burdensome tasks and to understand that life is a hard ass thing in and of itself.
But I feel compelled in the depths of my mothering soul to speak the truth of the beauty and goodness of his simple existence to him, and to continue to affirm him to be brave enough to believe it.