I remember walking to my homeroom class at Fondren Middle School. I knew if Stephen was there he would have some random insult de jour. It would make me raise my defenses at least until homeroom was over. I would not deem Stephen a bully, just a middle school boy.
His power was limited to his audience and most of us were aware that his harassment was merely a thirsty attempt to elevate himself. The awkwardness of middle school drove us all to make questionable choices. Like the salmon polo / salmon jean combination I proudly wore with bright green socks and loafers. None of us of us had unimpaired judgment.
Imagine if Stephen would have had a larger audience. Say, the entire cafeteria. But instead of just having a minute to craft a creative criticism he had an entire school day. And a cache of internet references from which he could fashion hilarious memes. Say a side-by-side of an actual salmon and my salmon-on-salmon ensemble. What was an uncomfortable ten minutes could potentially expand to consume an entire day. Or two. An embarrassment limited to a homeroom class now would be granted a limitless geography.
Because this is the reality our children swim in each day we must do our best to arm them with perspective: a reality which transcends their current reality. We must strive to imbue our kids with an eternal perspective. This is an encouragement which if embraced can transform our lives and strengthen our children.
An eternal perspective has the potential to bring peace to our anxious minds because it takes the pressure off of any one moment on any one day. Did we forget a lunch or the donation to teacher appreciation week? Space out in a meeting and screw up the fundraiser? I mean, don’t dare screw up the fundraiser, handle your business, man. But seriously, will the rotting orders of cookie dough you forgot in the back of your SUV matter in ten years? No! You did not forget your toddler in the car. It will all be alright.
Eternal perspective is not the magic bullet which will remove all chaos from your household within 24 hours but it will arm you then alternately your child with a sense of security. I have viewed my role as parent as such: to raise self-sufficient humans who make a positive impact upon the world. Part of self-sufficiency is learning to soothe yourself. You may have had a night or two of baby wailing when your taught your child to soothe themself. The baby was fed and dry and just needed to learn that she could be content even without you. Some never taught that lesson because being needed is our reason to live.
The reality is that we will not always be with our offspring to dry every tear they cry. Because college. And marriage. And so the encouragement we give while we raise them will either give them a steel core of survival:
“you can do this on your own.”
“In the entire scope of eternity this day will seem less horrible.”
“It’s a bad chapter but a good book.”
Or our intervention in each situation for a favorable outcome will convince them that life will always be fair and people are here to guarantee that:
“If your third grade teacher wants to torpedo your chances at Stanford, he’s got another thing coming.”
“The online assignment did not specify a number of sources and she penalized you for that? What an idiot”
“I’m friends with his mom’s friend on Facebook. I’ll just reach out with a little heads’ up about his bullying since the principal refuses to get involved. We’re not gonna let this one slide.”
The problem with reactionary parenting is that it treats each mogul as the hill to die upon. Instead of doing the hard work of setting up our children to maneuver around the moguls we stop on each one and fight until it is smooth for our child to pass. In doing this we create fearful humans who look back for our permission to proceed each hour rather than people equipped with the confidence that they may fall but they’ve got this. It may be rough going but one bad day does not dictate one’s life.
So here’s to you in the middle school hell your child is in. Facing wack-a-doos with followers. Bullies with audiences. Should we never intervene on our child’s behalf? Absolutely not. There are times when that is completely necessary. But today, ask God to give you an eternal perspective to impart to your children. It may just be the fresh air your families’ lungs need.