Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tending versus Taming

Carla Barnhill wrote something in The Myth of the Perfect Mother that has stuck with me for the past two weeks:

God has crafted each child with hopes and dreams of her own, with a personality and set of passions that we are to tend, not tame.

If the title of this post didn't give it away, it is the idea of tending our children rather than taming them that has caught my attention. All too often I am tempted to tame our children. Both of our kids have energy and exuberance to spare. I am often tempted to "tame" them into being quiet and obedient. While the obedient part is good, I need to be careful not to expect them to be someone they are not. Maybe God didn't intend for them to be quiet. All the harder for me, perhaps, but how sad would it be to "tame" them so that they lost their joyful exuberance.

For example, I approach Eucharist with a sense of quiet meditation and respect. Josiah, on the other hand, skips forward, pops the bread into his mouth and chugs the juice. My tendency is to put a restraining hand on his shoulder and try to "tame" him into participating in Eucharist the same way I do. A few weeks ago a friend from church told us how much she enjoys watching Josiah take Eucharist. She appreciates his joy. What a good reminder both that Eucharist has multiple layers of meaning, one of which is joy at the resurrection, and also that different people relate to God in different ways, including Josiah. Quiet meditation and joyful exuberance can both be appropriate responses during Eucharist.

I struggle with discerning tending from taming, but Carla's quote was a good reminder for me to be more concerned with tending our kids God-given gifts and passions than with making them polite and well-mannered.

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