Kids are like seedlings. They need a certain amount of tender care before they’re strong enough for transplant.
That’s not a popular parenting philosophy these days.
Instead, I hear this one a lot.
Kids need to learn how to live in the real world. You can’t shelter them forever!
True. But when does “forever” begin, exactly?
Memorial Day weekend marks the start of gardening season in Wisconsin. Garden centers and hardware stores statewide are bustling with eager growers, ready at last to dig some dirt after a long and brutal winter. Here in the frozen tundra we hold off on planting until late May because premature attempts mean risking frost or, worse, snow. Any home gardener worth his spade knows you can’t plunk petunias in the ground until they’ve spent half the spring building muscles in a greenhouse.
It’s the same with kids.
Release them to the “real world” too soon, and they might not withstand the elements. Television, books, Internet, even other kids can uproot our seedlings before they’re grounded firmly in the soil.
But if we take the time to nurture them first, to protect and fertilize them until they blossom in wisdom and strength, they’ll be far more likely to thrive one day among the weather and the weeds.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will,” (Romans 12:2).
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying we shouldn’t expose our kids to modern media or friends from different backgrounds. And this isn’t a debate of public school vs. private school vs. home school. All are good decisions when made with the right motives by loving, intentional parents.
The key is how we’re establishing ourselves as primary influence. Because parenting is our job, not the world’s. Are we monitoring what our kids see on TV and hear from our lips? Are we modeling kindness, selflessness and discernment? Are we granting mercy for their mistakes, and coaching grace and confidence when other kids are mean or teachers are unfair? Are we making ourselves available to talk when our children want to talk—and even when they don’t?
In a world that so readily disrespects our faith, are we pointing our seedlings always to God, who loves them and defines them above all else?
That’s not sheltering.
And every child needs it before they can bear fruit.
So just like my flowers, which are finally ready to stand on their own, I hope my children—and yours—will one day bless many people with the unique beauty God gave them. But until then, I won’t be ashamed to protect it for a while.