Are we acting as manager or as buffers for our children?
Being a family implies that we live in a certain society, a culture, that has its values, norms and demands. As parents we often are influenced by that pressure to fit in, to have children, who are adapted, quick and clever enough. Many times, the temptation for us parents is to act as a manager of society for our children.
This means that we, like a manager of a famous music group, organize our children’s lives, in order that they may be successful in life.
We do that in many different ways:
For some that means they will provide the child with his own TV in their own bedroom, give a child a Smartphone to stay in contact with its peers or provide their child with the most popular wardrobe. This, simply because they want their children to fit in and be accepted by others.
For some this means to make their children fit into society by teaching them to obey any authority. That kind of teaching says the will of a child has to be broken, in order to be a good (and godly) citizen.
For some that means to push the children hard in order that they may make it into a university and “become someone”.
For some this means that they fill their children’s schedule with sports training, music or dance lessons and so on, because to them, that is what will make their children successful.
For some this means that they give their children into daycare, school, camp, a sleep-over, Sunday school, planned activities on a camp site or any other place they need or want to let their kids go to – and as a result strip off all responsibilities of a parent. It is one thing to let your kids go there after making sure you agree with how things are done there, knowing that you still are the parent. It is the other thing to have your authority end at the moment you enter a place where someone else will take care of your child.
Summing it up, to be a manager of our children means, that we try to make our children fit into the norms, demands and expectations of our society and culture. Like in the above example, the heart of such a parent is always to lead their children into success. But the big difference maker is what they define under that word “success”.
This attitude of a “manager” starts even in small situations, and there are times I am falling into them as well.
Last week we spent some days at my parents place. They live near the mountains and we wanted to let our children try to ski and enjoy winter wonderland without driving a few hours each time to get there.
One evening we came back after a day out in the snow. We had beautiful weather, a great time and everyone except our toddler had been trying the art of ski. Now, our four year old was exhausted and hungry. And he was quite overwhelmed and crying. Now I know my dad loves to have his peace. He gets tired and irritated with crying children. I love and understood my little boy, and normally I would just have hugged him and showed him my understanding and care.
However because I felt, that my dad grew impatient and irritated, I found myself trying to calm my boy down quickly. That was not an easy task and I grew impatient with him. I felt pressured by what I knew was felt by my dad. Luckily, I was aware of why I was feeling impatient and I was able to stay calm and calm my son down by giving him a cup of hot chocolate and a warm blanket.
By my observation, this pressure exists everywhere. Pressure to have children who behave. Pressure to have children who fit into a norm.
Many times, the demands of society, of the culture we live in are telling us loud and clear what we should do as “managers” of our children. How can we stand in that pressure? How can we overcome that pressure to be the manager to society of our children?
Jean Jaques Rousseau said that:
“one of the most significant responsibilities of parents is to act as buffers between the child and the society.”
This sentence helped me a great deal, to understand how to stand up for my kids. It helped me, not to be that manager to our society, not to serve my children on a tablet, so that they might “fit into” whatever philosophy or cultural norm that is seen as “normal” at this time in our culture. It is not our job to be the manager… but the buffer.
The buffer unit in a car – which is actually called shock absorber – is used as protection against shocks and violent impacts from the road. A ride in a car on a bumpy road without that shock absorber/buffer will be a very uncomfortable and even painful drive. Being the buffer in the lives of our kids means to serve as protection, as a damper to the things society will throw at them.
As I wrote in this post about my girl having her challenge on the way home from kindergarten. When one of her teachers knew what I was doing, she told me: You know, your child has to learn to deal with such things. My answer was: Yes, she has to learn it. But right now, I know that her way to deal with it consists in making friends with that girl by being mean to other kids. That tells me that she’s not ready yet, to deal with that situation. One day, she will. But today, I will accompany her everyday.
We are the parents. We know our child. Our job as parents is not to be its manager. Rather, we need to find time for them in our busy, demanding society. We need to find times where we can collect their eyes, their smiles and their nods for no other purpose than to fill them up and help them know that they are unconditionally loved by us. They need this dose of fulfilling connection in the morning before leaving for school. They need this after school when they get home. They need this at family meals and during special family times. They need this before going to bed.