Fatherhood

– Topher Endress

It’s probably no surprise to any of you that I want to have kids one day.  I did after all work with high school students throughout all of college, substitute taught middle school kids and even did childcare at my church every now and then.  I spent my summer working with seriously ill kids at camp (if you haven’t applied for a SeriousFun camp in some capacity by now, I am very disappointed).  Even now, I’m tutoring some first graders at a local elementary school.  Not that I’m getting baby crazy, but once you hit mid-20’s and realize that you are good friends with people who procreate, you start to think about what having kids brings to the table.  And thinking about kids makes you realize several things about the importance of framing.

When a little kid asks you a question, it is usually more than that.  Sure, they may want the answer, but they are also trying to figure out the context of their world.  It’s a commonly repeated statement that kids crave structure – I think this is in part because they don’t have the experience or knowledge to provide any real structure to their own worlds yet.  And so how we, as adults, talk to kids is vastly important.  As they grow, children will learn more and more from the adults around them – directly through education and indirectly through actions and paradigms.  Books are incredible, but until you can pick apart the author’s personality and underlying framework for yourself, there need to be people that will teach you to contextualize your world.

You’re right, this IS a lot of responsibility.  It’s why I don’t want to see kids conceived “accidentally.”    How can you look at something so awe-inspiringly significant and not find it necessary to be at least a tiny bit philosophically prepared?  Most couples I know did this.  They shared a worldview and discussed it with each other.  They talk about what kind of schools to put their kids in.  What kind of churches to raise them in.  What kind of stories to tell them, movies to watch with them, toys to buy them, people to interact with them.  But whether you ever consider exactly how to contextualize their world or what you hope that they learn, you as a parent will color their interpretation of what they see.  Since that is inevitable, I might as well start thinking about the truths of the world that I want my kids to know.

There are several parenting methods and philosophies out there.  I can’t tell you that any one of them isn’t valid for some children, especially not having kids of my own.  It certainly isn’t my place to tell anyone that they aren’t raising their kids the right way.  But, I do think that parenting should, for the most part, be a natural extension of the way the parents think about the world.  To do something other than that seems disingenuous (of course, you have to be adaptable and flexible – I’ve heard that from pretty much every parent I’ve ever met.  Making a few rules that are out of character doesn’t make you a hypocrite at all).  And so, based on my orientation of this world, I had* this thought about raising kids.

One day when my kids worry about the monsters under their beds, the strange things in their closets, the menace of shadows outside their window, I don’t want to be the father that teaches his children that there are no monsters. That nothing can hurt them. That they are safe. No, I want to be the father who teaches his children how to fight back. How to kill their monsters. How to champion their own safety. Because the monsters do exist. There are terrifying truths about our world that children have to learn.  It will be a temptation to protect them.  To keep them from ever finding out about the hurt and brokenness out there.  But it will inevitably find them, just as it found all of us.  Every man knows about the paralyzing fear that can come with discovering one’s own mortality, but every good father knows their child can always be stronger with the right training.  So when I’m called in to check the closet and under the bed for monsters that aren’t there, I’ll be suiting my kids up for battle.  Because one day, my kids will be called into war, to fight real monsters, to battle against bullies and cancer and asking girls out and racism and injustice and learning to drive, and I will know that they will be ready.  HOORAH!

*Much like Mick Jagger’s composition of ‘Satisfaction,’ I dreamed it first, then woke up to write it down.

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