When my kids were little – requiring spoon-feeding and twice-daily naps – I was dubious when grade-school parents told me that we would not be any less busy as the kids aged. It must get easier, I thought, looking at their enormous nine-year-olds who could zip their own jackets.
OK—is anyone surprised? – I get it now. With our second grader, we are getting glimpses of the complications that come with kids who are old enough to have homework but not old enough to track the assignments’ due dates very well. We are not hockey parents and never intend to be, but it’s amazing how a couple music or swim lessons a week can make a working parent’s schedule exponentially more complicated – especially when one working parent also works some evenings and the other frequently travels.
I get it. I know why people “sleep in” on Sunday mornings, even when “sleeping in” only means staying in your jammies after your 4 year-old hauled you out of bed at 6 a.m.
People are busy -- sometimes by choice but often by sheer economic necessity. Church can feel like one more optional thing, the first one to fall off the schedule. What’s a congregation to do? The answers usually fall in one of two categories.
1. Teach people what to do. If they’re not at church, it’s because they don’t understand how important it is. Just hold your ground and keep reminding them how urgent the task at hand is.
2. Add options. If one program is getting just OK results, two or three other options would strengthen the whole. More options means more face time, which means people might get to know one another better, and the vicious cycle of low-attendance-low-energy reverses. If you need to add staff to accomplish this, that’s fine.
As a pastor, I can see value in both of these approaches, but as a parent, I’m stymied. When I look at my life, which I assume is neither much less nor more complicated than others, here’s what I see
· I don’t want another program to drive my kids to.
· I don’t need another thing to track in my head or on a chart, like minutes of piano practice, servings of vegetables or time my child spends reading.
· I don’t need even one more “hidden danger” to be aware of.
· I don’t want one more damn bullet point list of how to parent better (“Oh! Now that you’ve put it simply, in a quick-to-read list, I’m sure I can follow all 12 ways to ensure perfect nutrition for my kid who only eats noodles!”)
· I don’t need one more thing to feel inadequate about as a parent.
Here’s what I do need:
· Gratitude and wonder for each and every day my children are alive, growing and learning
· Reasons to get down on my knees and see the world through their eyes.
· Confidence that I can be a good faith guide to them even when my own faith is shaky.
· Friends who will ask how it’s going and to whom I can give a completely honest answer.
· Adults who’ve gotten through this stage of life and encourage us even if they did it differently.
· Faith that God loves my kids even more passionately than I do – as if that were possible.
How can the church provide the latter without creating more of the former? That’s my question, and I continue to ask it.
Dear Readers, what do you long for?