Do you ever play the “What If” game? You settle down for the night and then, instead of sleeping, you parade a variety of scenarios through your head, working through some of the possible outcomes.
Eventually you may start tweaking smaller variables. You might begin with thoughts of the upcoming private school enrollment, and work your way down from there….if we send the kids to that private school, we will have to budget X amount per month for education, but this school over here is only Y amount – but the public elementary school down the street, well, we’re already paying taxes for that, so that’s the obvious budget choice. BUT, what education do they need right now? Or what if it’s what they need later, but we need to enroll them now so that down the road, in the tumultuous teen years, they will have the right friends from grade school to help them stay out of the drug scene? And what if our bright 8 year old is supposed to go to graduate school? Is this public education doing him justice right now? Maybe we need something different, so he can advance his high level math skills now, so that later, in high school, he can jump right into college level work…but that’s X amount of dollars….
Sound familiar? Time, money, the future – and as parents, our children’s futures – these are all great topics with which to play the “What If” game. I use the education example because it was a recent deliberation for us, but admittedly, more so for me. I was struggling with whether or not to pursue a private (translation, expensive) dual language program for one of the kids. The primary conflict I was trying to resolve was this: Would not taking this step now impact her negatively later by removing future opportunities from her, opportunities she was supposed to have? Our daughter seems to have a particular knack for literacy, as well as an interest in language.
I have become so accustomed to making decisions with ease and peace, that the fact that this deliberation was stressing me out was enough for me to ditch the entire prospect. It felt forced, which is not the norm in my walk with God. Would I say I had some sort of direct word from the Holy Spirit? Nope. But for the time being, there was too much stress involved, so it just didn’t seem right.
A few years back, I was listening to an educator discuss the necessity of exposing young children to many activities across many domains so that both the child and caregiver could figure out the child’s natural abilities. While I certainly support the idea generally, for the parent of multiple children, the proposal by this educator was more than a little overwhelming. Most families’ time and budget restraints just can’t sanely maintain what this person was recommending. It was, however, an idea – and pressure – that I have found to be fairly common in our local parenting culture. I am entirely guilty of it at times myself.
Clearly, as parents it’s important to know our children and their strengths and weaknesses to the best of our abilities. This will help us give them insight along the way while their self-awareness and skills are continuing to develop. But without very direct insight from God, none of us can see the future. Add to that, each individual has his or her own choices to make. As our children mature, they need to come to their own conclusions about their lives.
Going back to the education example at the beginning: How do I know that graduate school is the final, best option for my son? And are the teen years invariably tumultuous? They don’t have to be. And just because money might create budget challenges now, it doesn’t mean it will do so in the future. While I am all for thinking ahead and being a wise steward of time, resources, and our children’s talents, no amount of planning or tweaking can tell me what is going to happen down the road. And if I am making choices solely out of fear (for example, my children need to be at a private school because if they are not, I fear they will fall prey to bad influences), is that the right mindset for decision-making?
At the end of the day, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” – Jesus, in Luke 12 (NIV)