It may be Christian-like, a practice of many Christians, to make a child ashamed of having fun. Yet, it’s not Christian, it’s not of Christ to make any child ashamed of having fun.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
I grew up in a household where it was early learned that fun in any form was prohibited 🚫. No TV, no playing with other kids of the neighborhood, no staying in the exposed front porch of the house. School and bible were to be the occupation of the youngsters living under the roof. Such was the belief of my dad. And his beliefs were laws. My mom, on the other hand, believed differently. I had the privilege of being molded mostly by mom than my dad. Yet, I could not easily escape my dad’s influence because as a son I looked up to him, not always knowing or understanding the difference between right and wrong.
One story goes as such that my dad once whipped one of my older siblings just for hearing his name mentioned as a crush of a neighborhood girl. Another story had said that he spanked one other brother of mine for uttering suggestive, yet non-explicit lyrics of a song which my brother may not have even known what those lyrics truly meant. Getting spanked for seemingly bringing shame to the family is a common occurrence to children in almost every culture.
With the rush to feel that I have measured up to my parents’ expectations, I, later on life, concluded that it was pointless, a waste of time, to engage in any activity unless it was one that would readily be approved by my parents. If it wasn’t for those years where my dad came to the states with two of my elder siblings seeking better opportunities while I was left behind with my mom and other siblings, I would have entirely skipped childhood and go straight to adulthood. Of course, I probably would have been observed as a role-model and successful child in the community: the dream of every parent, and not so much the children’s.
After your child has gone through college and received all the degrees you were hoping he or she would receive, you may think that “he (or she) should then be happy.” Yet, have you ever thought of asking, “will he (or she) be happy then?”
Childhood is the foundation of adulthood. When we adults anxiously graduate a child from the womb out of childhood into adulthood, are we fulfilling our dreams or their dreams?
The most confusing thing for any child is to feel they have to work for or gain their parents’ love. That is, unless they do exactly as told by their parents, regardless of maturity, they’re no longer the proud children of their parents. In some cultures, they’re entirely disowned.
My joy is in seeing my kids being kids, having fun freely, yet safely (I hope). I am reminded of joy when I see them singing and dancing, cracking jokes on each other, engaging with other kids without having to fear of being a kid, without having to wish or pray that they were adults so that they wouldn’t disappoint their parents. Any kid hoping to have been an adult just so that he would make his parents proud by making less mistakes or not making any at all probably needs to know that adults too make mistakes.
Let the kids be kids. Let the adults be adults. Let the adults be kids again should they wish to put their worries aside to simply have safe fun with their peers or even their own children.
Success is not in the measure of acceptable things we do for one group, but in the measure of happiness. Children have dreams like adults. Let’s not force our dreams onto them and thus deny them the basic skill of dreaming or seek to persuade them that it’s pointless to dream. Help them with exploring their dreams as much as possible and they’ll remember us for being there even when their dreams were very childish. Childish dreams like walking on the moon, childish dreams like flying like a bird, childish dreams like driving a car without ever touching the wheel.
I learn a lot more from my kids being simply kids than I had ever learned from my parents anxiously hoping that I would be an adult already when I was their age. I learn the skills that are ok to have without feeling any shame or fear.
Now I have tried to maintain some sets of expectations with each of one of the boys, and some times they just amaze me.
Given that my second nature can be one of a control freak, I could have been the last one to be around kids having fun. Yet, I actually enjoy being around kids to the utmost care. They remind me so much of myself before God. They remind me so much of myself before Christ Jesus.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)
The discipline and instruction of the Lord that we often confuse to be harshness and fear, is rather love and grace. Love is the discipline. Grace is the instructor. Fear is for the slave of sin, not for the child of God.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 John 4:16)
Love. Not fear and anxiety, but love.