As the father of a 2 year old I can tell you… this parenting stuff is a lot more difficult than it could ever have been described as before I actually started having to do it.
It’s not like I didn’t already think it was an amazing challenge and one of the most sacred undertakings a human could take on before I had my kid. I already knew it was a lot of hard work and a lot of sleepless nights and blah blah blah (insert parenting cliché here). What I didn’t stop to realize was that I was about to watch a human become a human before my very eyes.
You see, before we have a kid we only have our own childhood to give us the perspective we have. It is the one thing that has informed us of what it’s like to grow up as a human being and if you ask anyone who has ever done group spiritual or therapy work they will tell you, most of us have some serious boo boos from those days that never healed. The part we rarely talk about is how much perspective we have from our own childhood, which is very very little.
Another obstacle to greater perspective on youth is that all too often our conversations about our youth become direct comparisons to each other. While it seems logical, the truth is, comparison is the worst way we could gain much more perspective because the one person we are comparing with is also limited to their own experience. With over 300 MILLION humans in America alone… the number 2 is nothing short of a joke.
Being a parent affords us the closest opportunity to watch it all, from the outside in, of any other thing we can do. As I watch silently as my daughter tries to figure out how to get her snacks out of a loose zip-lock baggie I can’t help but marvel at the focus with which she attempts this task. Literally nothing else in the world is on her mind. It’s just her, the baggie and the snack. It is truly impressive to watch her mind develop while mine is spinning around and causing me so many problems all the time.
So what can we learn from this theater of human development? How much time do you have? For the sake of this post I’ll give you one thing to consider… how personal does it become to know that there are children, just like the one you are watching grow, that spend long amounts of time with out any food? How would you feel if your child had never experienced the warmth of a long and loving hug? How would you feel if your child was wearing the same clothes for the twelfth day in a row?
Raising a child has brought me closer to understanding that every human got to be where they are in a different way, true. But more importantly, it has reminded me that, during the most important years of a human life, many of them are dealing with problems that most adults I know would have no idea how to cope with. I am also gripped with the feeling of helplessness to do anything about it. As parents it’s our job to be good to our children. Not just the ones we created… but all of them. Every single child has become my child since the birth of my daughter. I can’t explain it and that’s how I know it’s really important to notice.
The key? Don’t let that paralyzing feeling alleviate you from taking whatever actions you can to make a difference in a child’s life. Every child you see is a chance to make a difference. Sure… maybe I can’t cure child hunger in America, but what if I could smile at every single child I ever see my entire life? Is it possible that one of them may grow up to be the one who does? What if I volunteered to work with the children in my faith community? Could I teach them how important they are to such depth and degree that they do even more to help children when they’re my age?
At the end of the day it’s not about becoming a savior to all the children at all. It’s about saving the best of yourself for the children you can. Don’t get me wrong though, volunteer, donate and get involved with organizations that make a difference in children’s lives too! Just don’t forget that often times the greatest impact you have on the children of the world is based on who you’re choosing to be in front of the ones that can see you.
PS – This doesn’t mean being a parent makes a human superior to another… not at all. Don’t let yourself be offended by these words if you don’t have a kid. It’s just like jumping out of a plane. You can understand what’s going on just fine but claiming to know what it’s actually like is an inaccurate statement to make. Just ask anyone who’s jumped out of a plane and they’ll tell you. Same thing here. People who jump out of planes aren’t better or worse humans. They just have a perspective we can’t fully identify ourselves. Don’t forget to value the extra perspective you might gain by knowing parents though… because you could be getting some great perspective with out all the work!