Sunday, April 19, 2015

Watch and Pray

"Prayer was never meant to be magic," Mother said.
"Then why bother with it?" Suzy scowled.
"Because it's an act of love," Mother said.
A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L'Engle

When I was home during high school and college breaks, I'd go running with my dad. I'd be running along, trying not to pass out or potentially die, and he'd be prancing along beside me like a magical, middle aged unicorn making me look bad.

Sorry I compared you to a unicorn, Dad.

My dad loves to talk while he runs, and I have always welcomed the distraction. Plus, sometimes I learned really interesting things. I even learned a few things that are applicable now as a parent, including the Model Assist Watch Leave method.

The concept is fairly simple. First, you model what you want to teach. Then you assist the student as they try it for themselves. Then you watch them do it on their own. And finally, convinced that they have learned the material, you are able to leave the subject and move on to something else (or let your little bird spread his depends on the situation).

Now, when my dad was talking with me about this, he was speaking in terms of discipleship, but something about it has lodged in my brain. I think about it a lot now as a parent.

I model a lot of things for the kids. The Man does too. Sometimes I model things I wish I didn't. This is hard. I'm home with the kids all day, every day, so they see all my ugly on display, and I hate that. Thankfully, this is a chance for them also to see God's grace in my life and for me to model my extra awesome skills in the apology arena.

This last month I dug deep and hit the assist phase with Tiny and potty training. I let Littles do most of the modeling for how to go potty although, unfortunately, I modeled for Littles the phrase, "Can you please let me pee in peace!" and he busted that out a few times along the way. He's handy like that. Anyways, after toilet usage was appropriately modeled, I assisted Tiny by reminding him of when to go and, occasionally, helping hold him on the toilet. I also assisted with a few clean ups, but that's beside the point. Now mostly I'm watching, making sure he's going when he needs to. But more and more, I can leave him alone and trust him to make it to the potty on his own. Model-assist-watch-leave. Easy.

I'm not going to get into all the intricacies of modern parenting here, but I've been thinking that part of the problem with how so many of our kids are turning out is that so many of us parents get stuck in the model and assist phases. We either do everything or we help with everything until we (as parents) are burnt out and exhausted and just give up, finally leaving our kids to do it on their own without bothering to even supervise.

That watch phase is important. When we skip it, our kids, having never done anything on their own, are left floundering, unsure of how to handle these incredible lives they've been given.

I read a Little Critter book to the kids before bed the other night. In the course of the story, Little Critter goes by himself to a store to buy a piece of candy. In our day and age, that wouldn't happen. Similarly, I read a few weeks ago that one of the pre-requistites for first grade used to be the ability to walk 2 to 3 blocks unattended. We don't let our six year olds do that any more either. It's not that we don't trust our kids (although some of us don't), but because we don't trust anyone else.

We don't trust that we can let our children play outside, unattended, because we don't know our neighbors and they may be creepers at worst or just not willing to keep an eye out at best. We don't trust that we can let our children play unsupervised with other kids because we don't know their parents and we don't know how they've been raised. We don't trust our schools any more or our police force or our hospitals. We don't trust our politicians. Sometimes we don't trust our spouses. And some of us barely trust ourselves.

We have lost our trust, and with it, we have lost that crucial "watch" phase.

I'm not talking about the watch phase that occurs when I teach Littles how to tie his shoe or Tiny to go potty. I'm talking about the watch phase necessary so that Littles and Tiny (and Bruiser and Bee) grow up to become decent human beings. How do I know who they're going to be as adults if I never give them the chance to discover who they are without Mom and Dad holding their hands but while they still have the safety net of home?

I get the concept behind free-range parenting. At the same time, I'm also married to a cop. If you've heard horror stories on the news, I've heard them from the Man when he gets home from work. There are evil people out there, and we know it. So how can we open our hands and let our children risk enough that they can learn and grow and blossom...without being hurt?

I'm not sure I know the answer to that completely. But I know that when we run our lives and the lives of our children based on what we're afraid of, we err greatly. So I think my new game plan is prayer. Seriously, I'm not joking about this.

Sometimes we feel like we pray when there's nothing else we can do. And maybe this is true. But I think about what Madeleine L'Engle wrote in A Ring of Endless Light: prayer is not meant to be magic, but it is an incredible act of love.

When we learn to release our children from our sometimes smothering desire to keep them safe, when we love them enough to face our own fears and open our hands (wisely and in the right time and the right ways), we pray. We still watch from the sidelines for a while, and we pray.

And we hope that God is worth trusting with the most precious gifts He has ever given us.

1 comment:

  1. Good work, great photos, good use of Madeleine L'Engle quote. I kind of want to recommend this on Google but I'm not sure what will happen if I click that link, and my internet is precarious right now. It should definitely be recommended though. Somebody with good internet--recommend it!