Friday, December 08, 2006

I don't know about you, but I'm raising Pharisees

I was brought up by extremely strict born again Christians. It is difficult to overstate how absurdly draconian and uber-religious my parents were (and are, for that matter). My father spends a couple of hours a day reading the Bible and praying, and he is known to speak in tongues around the house on a daily basis.

As a child, it drove me completely, frigging insane that my parents were so obsessed with what I was thinking and feeling. It was not enough to obey them instantaneously without complaint; if there was the slightest indication that I had anger, impatience, or any other forbidden emotion hidden in my heart, I'd be punished on the spot. The worst example of this was the time I came home from elementary school to be informed that since someone had drawn with crayon on the freezer (which was easily removed, with no permanent harm to the appliance), my sister (the guilty one!) and I were both to be punished until one of us confessed. She was forbidden to watch TV; I was forbidden to read. On Sunday, my sister cracked and confessed, but my parents informed me that they intended to continue my punishment throughout the entire weekend because, although I had been obedient and had't said anything, I had had a bad attitude about being punished-- for something I didn't do!

Now that I am a parent, I not-so-secretly like my Iris's sassy attitude. She's allowed to talk back so long as she is witty; indeed, at age six, she brought me to the point of laughing so hard I nearly threw up when she screamed at her father, "SHUT YER MEAT-LOVING HOLE!" I view Iris as an experiment: she's incredibly, uncannily like me in personality, so I figure she'll turn out the way I would have if I had been raised by loving, indulgent parents who wanted me and who raised me in an exciting, cosmopolitan city. (I can't wait to see how I would have turned out!).

That doesn't mean that she's allowed to be that openly rude to anyone other than her parents. Her actions towards others must be Miss Manners-ish. My whole parenting shtick is that children are allowed to think and feel whatever they want in the privacy of their own brain, so long as their actions are acceptable. This, I have learned, is "raising Pharisees." Take in the wisdom of Maranatha Chapman:

If I tell my son, Benjamin, to take out the trash, he may take it out but in his heart resent having to do the chore and wish he was doing something else. This is unacceptable in our home. He must obey fully, not just in deed and action, but with his whole heart. Both are imperative! I am sure to some of you it sounds like we are too hard on our children or that we are looking too deep. But I am convinced the Lord desires full surrender of our hearts and therefore we need to train and require full surrender of our children's as well. [Ms. Chapman explains that outwardly excellent behavior which is not completely sincere is akin to the loathed Pharisees and then returns to self-righteously criticizing her own children in an article for public consumption].

It takes discernment to know where your child's heart is. I remember one morning I watched my oldest daughter go from one task to another. She is a "doer." She was getting so much done and was truly helping me. But the longer I studied her I realized that she was not "with" me at all, and I was unable to taste of her heart. In her effort to serve she lost the main point of serving, which is to love. What I witnessed was her pushing her siblings aside and being very short in her answers. On the outside everything was accomplished, but I knew I did not have my precious daughter. She also left the heart of following and took on her own agenda. She was being very independent and self-absorbed. The world tells us that independence and self-reliance is good. The Lord, on the other hand, teaches that we are to lean on him and draw off of His life. If we allow our children's hearts to live independently of us then when they are adults they probably will not have a capacity for yielding, trusting, and depending on the Lord Jesus. I have seen so many people who grew up this way and as a result, their hearts wandered from the Lord.

So there you have it. My Iris, who has certainly never given "full surrender" of her heart when doing menial chores around the house, is a Pharisee. I suspect Iris would say something along the lines of "SHUT YER MEATLOVING HOLE!" to that.


Anonymous said...

i assumed resentment is one of the tenets of being young. and one of the joys.

i hope you are lucky enough to later be able to say to your daughters "remember when you said..."

of course by then they'll be mormons or something.

Freewheel said...

I think Chapman's book should be called "A Guide to Crushing Your Children's Spirits." How were you able to grow up and become the free-spirited Drunken Housewife that you are?

BTW, have you read the classic "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Faber & Mazlish?

Anonymous said...

That woman wants to taste of her daughter's heart??

On a side note, I love your page.