Recently I was scrolling my newsfeed and was swept up in a post about teaching children openness and tolerance. The main point was that children need to understand that love is love and there is no place for judgement (unless someone is being unkind). It was an interesting discussion and I’ve been pondering it ever since; we are surrounded by trending lifestyle choices and I want our children to be well-adjusted, loving, kind human beings. Where do we go from here?
“Love is love.” “You do you.” These catch phrases sound so…well..catchy! Doesn’t it make us feel warm inside to know that we, as parents, are affirming of our children and encouraging them to be their truest selves? Don’t we want to model for them how to practice acceptance of everyone’s self-expression? Don’t we? What a free society we would have if everyone did this! I pondered these thoughts as I observed my youngsters living life.
They are each so unique in how they experience life: always ready to imagine and play. It’s a favorite pastime of mine to observe them play a cooperative game of their own design; the little ones just as involved as the older ones. Yes, I want them to be themselves, each with their individual perspective on living. But then the squabbling begins. Someone looked at someone else in a way they didn’t like; someone yanked a toy out of another one’s hand; two want to ride on the same bike at the same time; someone bumped someone else and they’re convinced it was on purpose. And then the yelling and biting and hair pulling and screeching and name-calling begins. Hmmm…you do you, huh? Which side of my children is the “you do you” I want them to do?
Obviously we want to cultivate kindness and courtesy within our young ones. This is often defined as loving our neighbors as ourselves and putting the interests of others before our own. Unless one of us is a second Mary, there isn’t a single child who desires to be selfless around the clock; in a nutshell, our society is telling parents to say “you do you until it makes someone else unhappy.” If we know anything about children, it is that they revolt against mixed messages and thrive with consistency. Which brings me to the second mantra of our time: love is love.
For this discussion I propose that an aspect of love is establishing and maintaining boundaries; definitions in their very nature are boundaries. Let’s take a moment to define love. Is it romance? Making someone happy? All the warm fuzzies? Not giving offense or stepping on toes? Or is it being willing to say no, to speak truth, to take risks? I think we would all agree that love would be preventing a child from running into oncoming traffic or grabbing someone from falling to certain death. We wouldn’t hesitate to stand between our child and a bully or track down a child predator stalking our young ones. Does the same loving vigilance step up to the plate when it’s parents versus trending ideologies?
Wokeness. Cancel culture. Gender. Disney agendas. These topics are dominating headlines and are targeting families everywhere. They are so extreme that it almost feels bizarre to legitimately discuss them. And yet we must. For love’s sake we must identify the boundaries they are determined to remove. Boundaries provide direction and protection. When there is a wild fire, burn lines are made to keep the fire from devouring everything in sight; sand bags can prevent rivers from overflowing their banks during a storm; fences distinguish one person’s property line from another. Proverbs 22:28 declares, “Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set,” yet in our land boundaries of old are being removed: definitions of marriage, biological sex, and personhood are being erased and rewritten.
Boundaries are only relevant if they hold firm against assault; they are pointless if they disintegrate under the slightest pressure. If ever the ancient boundary stone is being attacked, it is now. Will our love for our children be strong enough to repair, rebuild and restore what has previously stood the test of time and yet now is crumbling? In his eloquently probing book Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund asks, “What’s the meaning of everything? What’s the aim…for our small, ordinary lives?” He goes on to describe the fulfillment that comes from living to glorify God and observes “[h]ow exhausting is the misery of self. How energizing are the joys of living for another.” Perhaps the best way to affirm and advise our young ones is to point them to their higher purpose: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. May they live Christ and love with His heart forever.