Thursday, March 31, 2011


2. : an underlying often ideological plan or program

Do you have an agenda for your children's lives?  Do you hope they will live near you when they are adults?  That they will pursue a certain profession?  Play a certain sport? Share an interest you have? Make the Honor Roll?  Attend your alma mater?  Love your favorite food?

I think most of us have big and small agendas for our children.  They can be as innocuous as an unspoken fact that your entire family drinks milk with dinner or as poisonous as the notion that nothing less than perfection is acceptable.  I have a few agendas for my girls: the biggest is that they be who they were made to be.  This is a somewhat dangerous agenda because it means all of my other acknowledged and unacknowledged agendas may fall by the wayside.  I truly, deeply hope to have three daughters who love to read - for all of their lives.  This is a partly selfless agenda.  I know from experience the worlds that a book can open and I think books have encouraged me, broadened my mind, expanded my horizons and made me into a life-long learner. 

But it's also a selfish agenda.  My husband and I are readers - it's a core part of who we are and it's a big way that our family spends our time.  So what happens to my agenda if a daughter (or two) doesn't fall in love - and stay in love - with reading?  I'm not sure what would happen.  But I know this: I am not going to shame her into complying.  I'm not going to pressure her to just try this book - or this one - in the hopes that I can ignite the flame by force.

I think as a parent of young children, your agenda is, in some ways, less important.  It's easier with toddlers and preschoolers to cover all the bases.  You teach them a smattering of manners, behavior norms, faith principles and general expectations.  But one thing that's challenging about having your children age before your very eyes is that I feel I really must decide what things on my agenda are most important because I can't do it all.  One of my key goals (if not my primary goal) as a parent is to not get in the way of each of my daughters growing into themselves.  That means not putting my own ideas of who they should be on them, but it also means helping them shake off and stay free of agendas that the world might put on them.

This line of thinking has led me to a desire to really combat consumerism in my life and the lives of my children.  Because if you spend your life worrying about what things you have or don't have, how can you be who you're meant to be?  Consumerism is all about comparison.  It's about who has what and how much.  And becoming your own person isn't about anyone else but you.  I'm sure the path looks different for each of us, but it's only been as I've been able to decide for myself who I am - free from comparing myself to others - that I've grown to even get a glimpse of who I am.

I think consumerism and/or materialism is a battle every parent in our culture faces.  We live in a world that bombards our children with images of what they should want from an incredibly young age.  Thanks to large doses of commercial free PBS, a blessedly sweet non-competitive elementary school and enormous imaginations, my girls have mostly avoided the gimmes.  I am thankful that they aren't currently defined by what they have and I am determined to fight to keep it that way.  This will require some tightrope walking during the late middle school and early high school years, when fashion is likely to become more important to them.  I don't want to ignore their desire to explore who they are through what they put on, but I also don't want them to fall into a pattern of spending too much of their time, energy and thoughts into what things they have. 

I don't what that for them because I firmly believe it's a trap.  It's a way to keep their focus off the things that matter and on the things this world tells them matter. Obsession with material things can keep someone from pursuing a job they love because it doesn't pay enough.  It can keep them from living in the place they want because it doesn't fit their self-image.  It can keep them from seeing God as their provider because they are so busy buying non-essentials that it doesn't even cross their mind to be thankful that their needs are actually being met.  I don't want any of these things for my girls.  I want them to hold the things of this world loosely, so that the world has a loose hold on them.


EJN said...

What a great last line and a wonderful goal. We are all meant for other than this world. Thanks for the posting WordGirl

Variations On A Theme said...

I grieve that we've started the kids off with TOO MUCH STUFF. It overwhelms me and presses down on my spirit. And my agenda for Olivia: I want her to travel (and I'd like to go with her on some of those travels). I want her to see the world before she settles down and has kids. This is probably my old agenda for myself that never happened. BUT Olivia already has the desire to travel, so I won't be pushing it on her at least.