Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Identity, Boundaries and Children (Part 2)

As I return to this post I will offer this caveat, I am not a parent, however what follows is not abstract reflection but reflection on how I was parented.
When I say that parents may be missing the point of raising Christian children if their priority is on protecting their children, I am not advocating some reckless parenting where the child has no place of safety. I am suggesting that providing safety is not the same as doing all in ones power to keep one's child from all danger. Rather parenting is teaching one’s child to learn to negotiate the world such that the child identifies danger on his or her own. This does not eliminate protection from parenting but qualifies protection under another goal, pedagogy.
If pedagogy, "the training up of the child in the way she should go," is the goal for the Christian parent then teaching the child about her identity in Christ has priority over all else especially for those who baptize infants. In this sense "What Would Jesus Do?" is good Christian pedagogy (even if there are obvious lacunae if used as some absolute principle). The point is to teach the child what it means to be identified with Christ, and to recognize that one's child isn't properly one's own but belongs ultimately to God Christ and the Church. This is not an abdication of responsibility but again the right ordering of the true responsibility of a Christian parent. This means that even if other adults the child encounters are involved in "dangerous" activities or if there is "identity confusion", if the parent is training the child in her true identity in Christ, these "dangers" aren't things to avoid but opportunities for learning.
Lastly it does not seem to me to be truth telling to present the adult world as a stable unchanging and unambiguous world. From my own experience I knew the adult world was imperfect from a very early age, largely because my parents did not hide the imperfections of that world, or the dangers of the world at large from me. As far as I can tell I was able to make the transition from child to adult much more smoothly than my peers whose parents attempted to protect them from the ambiguities and dangerous realities of the world. However, I also always knew that there was a deeper reality of being identified with Christ in the Church through baptism and faith. I was taught from a toddler to discern the Mind of Christ that was my parents' first priority. Their parenting served Christ in me. Protection was then not their priority.