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.
Andrew Budek-Schmeisser says
The people who say we can’t shelter kids forever are generally those who encourage the toleration of pornography (and much of network TV is just that), perversion, and a scornful attitude toward faith.
I’m tired of these people. I’m tired of the fact that a person can be publicly pilloried and whose career can be ruined for a racial slur (reprehensible, to be sure) spoken twenty years ago, while the purveyors of filth are protected, even wrapped in the flag as examples of ‘free speech’.
Kids should be protected, and so should adults.
What it’s really about is the desire to strip away all innocence, as quickly and roughly as possible.
Robert Ruark described the process well in his novel about the Mau Mau, “Something of Value”. The Mau Mau perverted Kikuyu rituals and became outcast,and then sought to defile as many Kikuyu as possible, so that by sheer weight of numbers those who had originally become outcast were now ‘incast’.
Your children will learn the evil of the world soon enough, but let them learn it as young lions, and not as blind cubs.
Well, said, Andrew – young lions, not blind cubs. I like that. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!
Kathy Aeby says
As you know, I have always enjoyed reading your posts. Some of your writings have given me chances to smile, giggle, and laugh right out loud. Others have made me stop and think. But today’s post is by far the best I’ve read from you simply because you have written such profound truths! I wish every refrigerator in America could have it displayed to be read over and over again.
This is such high praise! You know your support has always meant a great deal to me. And I wish every refrigerator in America could display my posts, too, ha ha. Ours is too full with drawings of flowers and dinosaurs. 🙂 Love you!
Darby Dugger says
I love learning from you! Thanks for sharing your wisdom!
This is so great, Becky. The metaphor really helps illustrate the delicate balance we must strike with our kids. Oooh! And I love your words – “that’s not sheltering. That’s incubating.” So clever and so true! Thanks so much for always hitting your topic “out of the park,” my friend! Hugs to you!
Kids do need some tending! That’s how they learn. I remember our pastor once said that parenting is like a funnel(picture holding it at the bottom when they are young)- you hold tight when they are younger, and as they grow older, you loosen your grasp(hands moving up the funnel).
This is great! I think we should be protecting and guiding for a long time before we leave our children on their own… it’s scary out there.
Donna Reiland says
As a grandmother (& new great-grandmother) who has been a believer for many years, I want to tell you, your post is full of great wisdom! I know it’s possible to protect “too much,” but it’s usually not protection, more about “control. ” The far bigger problem is what you described as seedlings set out too soon. If we merely try to “control” without really nurturing and strengthening, we end up with kids unprepared for college and the world at large. Instead, we need to teach and train them and truly prepare them for the decisions and philosophies they’ll encounter, and arm them with the truth. God bless you as you write for Him, Donna
Oh, thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words, Donna! You’ve blessed me. I value your wisdom and appreciate your willingness to pass it on! Blessings!