Yesterday I caught my son inside the house with a toad. The toad was named Hoppy. Personally, I didn’t care, but I knew my wife would have a fit if she came downstairs and saw Hoppy pooping on the kitchen counter. So I made my eight-year-old son and his two younger siblings take Hoppy outdoors for a walk. Twenty minutes later my three-year-old daughter came back in with tears in her eyes. “Daddy, Hoppy is dead!” Without missing a beat, I replied, “That’s okay honey. We’re going to eat him for dinner tonight.”
Amethyst just said “Okay” and ran into my arms to be comforted. Oddly enough, she wasn’t upset that we were going to eat a toad for dinner, she just wanted her hug. My conclusion was this: kids don’t care what you teach them; they just want to be taught and cared for. In fact, for good or for ill, kids are totally at the mercy of the adults around them.
Parents always teach their kids, either actively through a well-thought-out belief system and set of moral standards, or passively, just by living any way you want, ignoring them and allowing them to model themselves after you. But one way or another, your kids are going to learn something. And if it’s not from you, who will it be, and what will they learn?
All of us need to be actively teaching our kids how to live in this screwed up, narcissistic world called Earth. I believe the Biblical view of humanity: we are all inherently evil, and when left to our own devices, we will hurt ourselves and one another. History teaches us that we are a bunch of selfish bastards who think only of ourselves. Don’t believe me? Have you ever taken a “selfie?” I bet you have. Do you think Jesus would take a picture of himself and post it on Facebook? I doubt it.
Jesus was not self-promoting. He was self-sacrificing. Look down through the ages at all the heroes of history. Jesus Christ, Moses, George Washington, Gandhi, Martin Luther King. These people aren’t famous because they thought they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. They’re famous because they thought of others before themselves. We don’t give soldiers the Medal of Honor for running from battle to save themselves. We award the Medal of Honor to soldiers who endanger and sacrifice their lives to save others. We have a special day set aside just to honor them; it’s called Memorial Day.
As a parent, I don’t want my kids to sacrifice their lives for others; I can’t even entertain the thought of my little ones dying, much less sacrificing themselves. But here’s the truth. There are only two kinds of people in this world: selfish narcissists and self-sacrificing heroes. Your children will grow up to be one of the two. It’s easy to raise a narcissist. Just do nothing. They’ll find the video games and television on their own, and they’ll sit in front of the electronic babysitter all day long, every day until “Poof!” you have a narcissist. It’s easier than making a ham sandwich. Just be self-absorbed and you’ll clone yourself into your kids.
My eight-year-old son wants to be a warrior. He loves to study weapons and warfare. I think that’s just the way God made him. We knew in Kindergarten that he wasn’t compatible with public schools, so we’ve been home-schooling him. Almost every day he’ll come up to me and say things like: “Dad, how can we get Obama out of office? How many people would we need to take him?” or “Dad, all we need is one nuclear bomb. I think that would do it. How do we make one?”
Of course, I redirect his efforts into something more Christ-like and less like Timothy McVeigh. My son wants to be a hero, and I think most kids are like that. They have a keen sense of right and wrong, and they have a hard time dealing with it when the bad guys win or aren’t brought to justice. As a parent, the trick is to teach them a proper sense of justice, virtue and right and wrong. When he says something like that I don’t flippantly tell him “That’s okay honey. We’re going to eat Obama for dinner tonight.” Instead, I have to stop what I’m doing (trying to make a living in an economy that sucks) and explain to him this is not a physical battle, but a spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of America. Interestingly, children are better able to understand and accept the metaphysical than most adults.
I say, “Listen, son, we won’t win this war by fighting with guns and swords. We have to pray for Obama. We have to ask God to deliver us from evil. But we also have to tell everyone we know they need to return to God. The only way to defeat evil is to stand up to it.”
I teach my son about service every chance I get. I teach my son to be brave. I teach him to care about others. I teach all my kids that power, of any kind, is best used when defending the weak.
I’ve come to believe that this country is not a safe place for heroes. In fact, it’s only safe for narcissists who take selfies and promote themselves on social media. Why? Because a society of narcissists is not capable of seeing beyond their reflection in their own private pool. They will protect themselves at the expense of others; whereas, a true hero will protect others at the expense of him or herself.
I balk at sending my children, as heroes, out into a selfish world, because they will be abused, misunderstood and unappreciated. But then again, so was Jesus Christ.
Image: Courtesy of: http://www.choosehelp.com/topics/parenting-family-therapy/supporting-children-of-alcoholics-addicts-in-early-recovery