4.26.2011

God's Will for Our Kids


Recently, I've had the pleasure of sharing in the joy of a dad whose kid is getting into hoops like he is, another dad who shows artistic skills like he does, and a third dad whose kid has decided to study econ like he did. But it is a little bittersweet for me to see how happy other dads get when they see their children take an interest in or show a talent for something that they are into. Sweet because I am a dad, too, and there's nothing like being proud of your kids. Bitter because my traits are not genetically passed on to my kids, and so it is not nearly as likely that they will be gifted in the same things or interested in the same things as I am.

You may protest that DNA isn't everything, and I certainly don't want to discount the role of these three dads, or other dads, in shaping opinions and forming preferences and honing skills, all of which takes place after birth. But genetics do matter, and it is clear to Amy and me that, while we love our kids, and while they are influenced by our parenting, improved by our good traits, and hindered by our bad traits, they are quite different from us, and will likely grow up to be quite different from us.

This fact adds a certain edge to the pressure we feel in our given socio-economic class. Other Ivy League parents who whip their kids into shape are building off of some good DNA, while other Ivy League parents who choose to take a more laissez-faire approach have at least contributed those brains to their kids via egg and sperm. It may seem haughty to say out loud that you want your kids to be smart like you are, but it is true, and it may take some getting used to if our kids don't have the same trajectory that we do.

We often pay lip service to the belief that our role and desire as parents is to support our children as they, with God's help, grow into the best whatever that God has made them to be. It sounds faithful to say so, and it is faithful, for it acknowledges that God is in control, instead of trying to bend the result the way we want it to go.

I cannot conjecture how many of us parents are truly that faithful. I can only speak for myself, and I know that having adopted kids has exposed the fact that I am usually not that faithful: I want my kids to grow up to be a certain way, and I want it to be like me, and I struggle to be at peace in the midst of the particular uncertainty about their potential given that it is not my DNA in them. Or, to put in more bluntly: my wife and I are smart, and with that has come all sorts of accomplishments and advantages, and it is worrisome to me that my kids may not enjoy the same successes.

As is often the case with the Christian, I must lay myself before my God and ask Him to wrestle me to that place where I can say, "Not my will, but Yours." Success in this world does not necessarily equate with being faithful to the life God intends for us. Sometimes it helps things along, but sometimes it hinders matters. Sometimes we are meant to forgo our accomplishments and advantages to follow Jesus, and sometimes we never had access to such worldly successes in the first place but can still make a difference for God in this generation.

Having wrestled with God and my ambitions for myself upon graduating from an Ivy League institution many years ago, I now wrestle with God and my ambitions for my children. And, as was the case with my life path, so may it be for the life path my kids go down: "Not my will, but Yours."

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