As a parent with two young, wild, and amazing children, about half the time I want to put a leash on them… and the other half, I feel like I’m the one with a leash.
Think about it this way. Children ARE vulnerable. We hear it from our children’s doctor every time we visit – be careful around pools, be careful what they put in their mouths, make sure they wash their hands, watch what you say around them, so on and on.
You have to have your head on a swivel, always keeping them in the corner of your eye.
Just the other day, Joseph, our two year old, climbed down from the steps on his grandmother’s porch, saw a cat in the neighbor’s yard across the street, and took off with joy, curiosity, and reckless abandon… never mind the busy street between him and the feline.
Such moments test you as a parent.
Other moments shouldn’t test you… but they do. Watching the kids play on a local playground should be an opportunity to sit back, relax, and let your little ones have fun, but that nagging suspicion that something terrible might happen if your child falls from a precarious perch from the tornado slide grows. You end up watching nervously, ticking off the moments till you can strap him or her back into the relative safety of their car seat or stroller.
Is there a perfect way? Maybe not. Parenting is what it is – an exercise in constant conversation and delicate maneuvering and hopeful decisions. Your child is vulnerable, and yet… we must all let go. We must trust that our kids will be okay.
Perhaps the worst case scenario is when a child grows up without such an attempt at balance. What happens when there is no supervision at all? What happens when a parent smothers a child in overbearing, micro-management parenting?
It’s funny that those two scenarios are also how a lot of people see God – either as One who is absent from Creation or the Ultimate Micro-manager.
I think the truth is that God is always shooting for that balance in our lives too. God knows we are all vulnerable. God sends people into our lives – friends, family, and mentors – to shepherd us along. The Bible’s constant underlying current and message of God’s preferential care for the poor and outcast in our midst also underscore this desire for people to treat each other with compassion. God also leaves us to our devices from time to time, sitting back as we learn, grow, make mistakes, and do what we think is best.
I have a lot to learn as a parent and as a human being. I bet you do too. As we attempt to find this kind of balance, may we always keep in mind how vulnerable all of life is… and especially remember those in our midst who are the most vulnerable of all.