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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “The Parent Map”

You can’t spell “smother” without “mother”. ūüėõ

Joking aside, I’m sure that’s exactly what Sunburst was feeling about his own mother in this episode, and what Starlight Glimmer was feeling about her father in a similar light. Most of it was a form of mild torture for them as they were forced to deal with the overbearing, controlling and/or condescending behavior of both parents. Starlight was infuriated that her dad was still treating her like a filly after all these years while Sunburst was aggravated that his mother was still trying to plan out his life for him. I personally can see where Sunburst is coming from, and I can imagine that many folks out there can see a bit of themselves in either Starlight or Sunburst in this one.

However, I think it is important to keep in mind that while both parents went overboard with their children, the motivation and intent behind their behavior was pretty understandable. The fact of the matter was both Starlight and Sunburst had long “bad” periods of their life they went through. Both of them suffered from emotional scarring: Starlight from having lost her childhood friend and spending many years isolating herself from others, and Sunburst having felt like a failure for most of his life for dropping out of magic school. Firelight felt that he had to take care of all of Starlight’s needs himself, while Stellar Flare thought she had to plan for Sunburst’s future; and both thought doing so would be the way to get them through their personal problems.

What both parents failed to realize is that personal problems are ultimately just that: personal. When individuals are children and are both emotionally and intellectually immature a parent may need to step in and do most of the work both for support and for planning, but eventually children grow (or, even more importantly,¬†need to grow) into adults and become responsible for their own emotional and personal well-being. At that point, their “help” not only became unnecessary but also unwanted, insulting, stifling, and frustrating.

Over the past decade, I’ve noticed a popular trend among outspoken Christian fathers toward their daughters. I’ve seen how they always talk big about how they will repel, sometimes physically, all potential boyfriends away from their girls if they don’t meet a rigorous set of standards both from a moral and behavioral standpoint. Often they speak of this as a point of pride; as if this is not only something great to be applauded but that it’s what a true, good Christian father would and¬†should¬†do. Me? I can’t help but grimace a bit at it.

I’ll admit that there are a lot of creeps out there and that adults often know better than their kids, and perhaps at a certain age it would be better for this kind of behavior. But these fathers need to realize their “little girl” isn’t going to be their little girl forever. She’s going to be a woman one day and part of becoming mature is being able to make your own mistakes and learn from them. If a parent spends all of a young person’s early years sheltering them and forbidding them from making any decisions for themselves, eventually they could feel too controlled and constrained and grow resentful toward the parent about it. That might lead them to making an even greater act of rebellion than simply dating a subpar boyfriend with much more undesirable consequences, especially if this constant behavior makes them begin to think they can’t take care of themselves and need the male figure in their lives to make all their decisions for them–whether it be their father or otherwise.

In a similar vein, many other parents follow a history of “caretaking” and “supervision” even until late in life; wanting to either take care of their children well into their adult years or dictate a plan for their lives that will give them success. In most cases, this is based on a combination of love and fear. All true parents care for their children and they want them to have better lives than they did. Problems arise, however, when they end up feeling that they must continue to care for them past the time when they need to care for themselves. Sometimes parents take care of their children too much to the point where they never gain maturity and become codependent upon them; needing their parents to constantly bail them out to survive while the parent needs to constantly act as caregiver to keep from “feeling guilty”. Other times when parents are too controlling–feeling that they always need to correct every little mishap or roadblock in their children’s lives rather than let them make their own choices for good or ill–leads to resentment and anger on the part of the children and can make interacting with parents unbearable (as it was in this episode) to the point where familial ties are strained or even broken.

The Bible has a lot of words to say about parenting, with most of them being geared toward not shying away from disciplining your children so they don’t grow up spoiled or wayward. However, there are a couple of passages that tie into this episode I’d like to focus on.

Start¬†children off on the way they should go,¬†and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children;¬†instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

What these two verses say to me is the key of “long-term” Christian parenting, which is rather than try and make choices for a child their whole lives parents need to focus on teaching them how to apply the same instruction that they themselves do to their own lives (namely Biblical instruction) and use it to direct their own decision making. And part of that, to me, is to create a solid enough foundation in a child that they have confidence in true morals and principles as well as in their own efficacy to make the right choices of their own.

This is just my opinion as I myself am not a parent yet, but, going back to the Christian father barring boyfriends from seeing their daughter, what I would say would be far more valuable in the early dating than acting as a personal bodyguard is to make sure that their daughters know who they are, what they want, and have respect for themselves so that they will already know whether or not someone is mentally or emotionally abusive/manipulative so that they will not tolerate that sort of treatment to themselves. The same thing with all other decisions in life. Maybe a child won’t always know what the best choice is or what exactly they want to do, but they’ll know what the¬†bad choices are and will know to avoid them, and they’ll know to be responsible enough to recover from the ones they end up choosing. Will they stumble and make mistakes? Of course. Every young person makes mistakes growing up. But some mistakes are far less costly than others, and giving a child the “freedom”, so to speak, of suffering through it, being forced to dig themselves out of it, realizing that the advice and principles they learned earlier were the ones they should have followed all along, and deciding to follow them in the future is all ultimately better than simply jumping to the rescue or dictating what they should do.

Remember the story of the Prodigal Son. When we have our own plans that go awry, God doesn’t always immediately leap to our rescue or stop us where we are and dictate a new plan to us. Sometimes he lets us go our own way until we’ve learned something from the experience, even if it’s painful, and then remember him and seek to return to him and his instruction. Maybe we should do the same with our own children.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you that you have given us the ability of free will, so that virtue may truly be virtue when we choose to pursue it and wisdom and obedience are also true when we choose to follow you. For all of us who are parents, please help us to guide our children the same way you guide your own children: through constant love, appropriate discipline and instruction, affirmation, and ultimately plenty of opportunities to grow toward completion. Please help us to always give our children what they need, and not simply what we think they need. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

Merry Christmas everyone.