“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
They say that when you feel that time passes by slowly, you must be going though a tough time. But the last 12 months felt so long and it was also filled with lots of experiences, some painful and difficult times, but mostly memorable and joyous moments. And today, Chase is 1!
Yesterday we had a mini-celebration for Chase during the church lunch. During the celebration, I shared that the biggest lesson I learnt in this past year was that whatever Chase accomplishes, I cannot take credit, but it’s all Chase’s responsibility. It’s too complicated to explain that during the celebration, so let me elaborate here.
A baby needs to learn a lot of things. Chase needs to learn to sleep, to drink mom’s milk, to eat solid food, to use his body, to crawl and stand and walk, and to relate to this world in meaningful ways. People and books keep telling us about methods that “work.” One parent even gave me the advice of “見招拆招”. I shun this “results-based parenting.” To me, it’s more important to have your own values than going for things that work and lose sight of why we’re parenting in the place.
It was out of the experience of teaching Chase to eat that helped me put parental responsibility in perspective. I had the pleasure of reading a great book called “Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense” by Ellyn Satter. The premise of the book is the concept of the division of responsibility. As parents, we’re responsible for providing the proper food at the proper time and in the proper environment. But whether and how much the kid eats should be up to him.
If you think about it, to accomplish this, you have to assume at least two things. First, you need to believe that the kid has the desire to grow. Second, the kid has to have the innate ability to regulate his eating, in terms of amount and in terms of nutrition. These two things mean that the responsibility of growing up belongs to the kid. “Eating” is no longer the “parents’ thing” but the “child’s thing.” He’s not eating to please me. He’s eating to grow up for himself. Fighting with a kid over finishing a plate or eating a veggie makes the task the parent’s thing, but proper eating only happens if eating is the child’s thing. I should only be there to “enable” him to eat by providing food.
Actually, it requires a lot out of a young parent like me to be able to realize this and do this. I have to be able to have the proper sense of security to withstand rejection from my son if he refuses to eat or drink when I offer food to him, and not try to stuff the food in his mouth nor bribe him to eat something. I have to know that if he does eat something, I cannot take credit and I don’t expect him to have to appreciate me for it.
Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The proper meaning of the word “way” is more like “bent,” meaning the child’s own personal bent or tendencies. The teaching of the Proverbs means that as parents we should learn about the child’s personal bent and tendencies and play a role in enabling him to grow up in his own unique way and take ownership and responsibility and find purpose in the way God has shaped him from birth.
This philosophy of “enabler-oriented parenting” extends to other areas of growing up. As he learns to talk, to walk, to listen, to read, to think, etc., it’s his responsibility to take ownership for the things he does. And I thank God that in Christ I have the sense of secure and unconditional love from above, that I don’t need to see it as a loss when I let Chase take control of his growing up, but as a gain that both of us can experience more of God’s sufficient grace.
For more pictures of Chase, see:
For more videos of Chase, see: