I feel that this post needs to come with a warning. Not only will it most likely be too wordy and long but I will get on my soapbox and possibly do a toe-touch and a pike right off the dang thing. If you choose to proceed just know that you do so at your own risk...
I have spent my entire career in the field of early childhood education, either as a teacher or an administrator. I have received conflicting responses from people when they discover what it is I "do for a living." Some people look thoroughly confused as if they are trying to figure out who in their right mind would put me in charge of the care and education of actual human beings; some thank me for contributing to the future of our community and/or nation; some are envious because they imagine that the sole role of early childhood educators is to create with Play-Doh, paint, sing Kum Ba Yah while holding hands, and eat Goldfish; and then of course there are those that tell me I am "way too intelligent to waste it on such a young demographic." But no matter the comment or response I can honestly say that the court of public opinion has never once made me second guess my career decision. I have found my niche and for better or for worse we are bound to each other by blood, sweat and tears (in addition to other bodily fluids that will not be mentioned).
Of course being in the field of early childhood education, I am thoroughly enamored with children's literature and authors. The author, Dr. Seuss, has a quote attributed to him from the book Horton Hears a Who that states, "A person is a person no matter how small." As corny as it sounds this has been one of my guiding principles when interacting with children, either in my personal or professional life. I can't even express to you the number of times I have witnessed or discovered children being neglected, discarded, or made to feel as an inconvenience. Their ideas are often treated as unimportant or ignored; or my personal pet peeve, they are spoken to as if they are unintelligent or unable to contribute in a meaningful way. It is incredibly frustrating to witness so much potential being trampled on by the selfishness of adults.
On the flip-side of this issue, however, is when children are given too much importance. Their thoughts and feelings are the only ones being considered. Their wants and needs take priority over everything else in life. Their sports and activities are the centralized aspect in which all other components revolve around. And right smack dab in the middle of this overindulgence in children is where I find myself.
In my defense it was a slow-fade into the total submersion of sacrificial motherhood for me. By nature I am not nurturing, sentimental or overly-emotional. I did not feel automatically "changed" into a different person the first time I held my oldest child. I did feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility and love but I pretty much just still felt like me (except WAY fatter and more tired). I did not have the urge to kiss baby toes, make scrapbooks, or save little pieces of hair or (God forbid) teeth. In the beginning I fought for my independence. I made an effort to connect with friends, I learned how to kick-box, scheduled time for romantic dates with my husband, and volunteered for charities. But then this amazing thing happened, I had Offspring #2. All of a sudden I wasn't just this woman who was a mother, rather, I was a mother who was a woman. I saw myself differently, responded to things differently. I automatically thought about how my decisions and actions affected my children before (or even if) I thought about how it would affect me. This change in priorities in itself is not a bad thing, but when children are consistently placed on a pedestal for most of their young lives they can develop a sense of entitlement and individuals, marriages, families and ultimately society will suffer.
So, here is the truth of the matter...my kids have been my idols. I put them above all else. And let me tell you I'm not the only one. There is an epidemic of entitlement going on in homes and classrooms around the country. Teachers struggle with how to make everyone feel "special" and how to "meet ALL the individual needs of EVERY learner." That is a frustratingly tall order to fill. If we as parents struggle to meet the needs of our own children just imagine what that feels like in a classroom of 20-30 kids at varying levels of ability. This isn't a pity party for teachers, just a wake-up call for all of us parents to stop contributing to the problem.
Deuteronomy 5:7 states, "You should not have any other Gods before me." Oh, bless it--I have. And on the rare occasion that I prioritize another relationship, God or myself above my children, I feel guilty. How did this happen? When did society start catering to children in a way that stunts their growth? Why is it so hard to find a balance? Why can't we love and respect our children without allowing them to take over every nook and cranny of our lives?
This plan has to go into effect immediately in my house:
-Say "no" and refuse to feel guilty. [As in, "No, you may not go to 7 birthday parties this weekend." "No, you may not be on the recreational and traveling team for 3 separate sports." "No, I will not edit (aka rewrite) your speech for you that you waited the last minute to complete."]
-Plan "date night" with my husband on a regular basis and talk about something other than our children (oh yeah, and something other than bowfishing--insert eye roll here).
-Let the kids experience the natural consequences of their actions without parent intervention.
-Hold them accountable for family contributions through chores and wise spending/saving/tithing.
Father, please forgive me for esteeming my children more than I have esteemed you; for giving them priority over you. Show me all the ways that I am limiting their potential by contributing to their sense of entitlement. I want to respect them, love them and raise them to have a servant's heart. Please open doors and provide opportunities where we can serve others together. Help me to make difficult decisions that require them to contribute and be held accountable. Help me to say "no" when opportunities are not in our family's best interest. Thank you for being patient with me as I continuously learn how to parent these miniature humans that you have entrusted to me. Amen.