One of my favorite movies is Mary Poppins. With all the sliding down banisters, jumping in chalk drawings, cleaning rooms with a snap of the fingers and tea parties on the ceiling, it is easy to entirely miss the point of the story. You see Mary Poppins isn’t really about Mary at all. It is about two parents who are so caught up in their own lives, they have almost forgotten they are raising two sweet, very lonely children. Sound familiar?
My heart breaks as I meet child after child desperate for some positive, meaningful interaction with an adult. Their parents are often delightful people and may even be faithful Christians. They are great parents by the world’s standards. Their children are well-dressed, clean, well-fed, educated and in a variety of societally approved activities. Yet, these wonderful parents are so busy with their careers, charity work, errands and even running the kids to various activities, that they barely know their precious little ones.
I saw an interesting article once (sorry I have no earthly idea where) that gave parents a list of questions to ask their children. The questions ranged from what is your favorite color to whom do you admire to name ten of your friends. I would add even tougher ones like: what scares you the most, what excites you the most or when do you feel closest to God. Predict your children’s answers and then see how many you get right later when you quiz them. (No fair picking all easy questions either!)
The article wasn’t an attempt to get parents to be able to win a round of “know your child” on some game show, but to wake parents up to the realization that they didn’t really know their children at all. Like Mr and Mrs Banks, life has taken us away from spending any meaningful time with our families. Many of us have become chaperones, instead of parents attempting to train and mold our children in godly ways. You can’t train someone to whom you rarely speak or barely know.
Ask any Olympic coach. To be the best coach, you have to be around your athlete many hours of the day. You’ve got to observe their technique and know what is going on inside of their heads because it can effect their performance. Do you know enough about your child to know how they are acting when adults aren’t around? Are they acting in godly ways consistently or do they still need some training? In what areas? Where are their hearts? Are godly actions springing from a godly heart or are they an attempt to make you think they are behaving in godly ways when they aren’t around you, while actually doing the opposite?
I challenge you to clear one day (or even an evening) this week of all activity and spend some meaningful time with one or more of your children. Do something together that will encourage dialogue and discussion. It may be a particular board game, seeing an art exhibit, visiting a historical site or just grabbing an ice cream together. Get to know your children for the people they are. You may find out you want to be the “coaching” parent God meant for you to be. Then perhaps Mary Poppins can just visit to help you clean the house!
“These commandments I give to you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV)