Sunday, March 3, 2013

What if Jesus had helicopter parents?

There was a recent report that children with so-called helicopter parents—those that hover over their children, even adult children, and are ready to swoop in and "rescue" their children at a moments notice—are more likely to be depressed and dissatisfied with life.

Stories of helicopter parents abound, and I'm sure you have heard some interesting ones. From not leaving a child's side at his friend's birthday party, to asking professors why he got a less than ideal grade on a lackluster paper, to attending job interviews, parents appear to be taking an ever-active, dare I say intrusive, role in their children's lives.

The idea itself is a noble one. We all want what's best for our children. At times we may even perceive some hardship we experienced as a child, and we don't want to have our children "suffer" through the same experience. But we mustn't lose sight that those hardships (real or imagined), those hurdles, those hurts, bumps and bruises, those sufferings are what made—and continue to make—us the people we are today.

Imagine if Mary and Joseph, even God the Father, were helicopter parents to Jesus. If ever there was a person that deserved the utmost protection from His parents, it was Jesus during His earthly life. However, the bible reveals that just isn't God's parenting style—and for good reason.

The finding of the child Jesus in the temple (cf. Luke 2:41-52) is a great example. Mary and Joseph obviously didn't hover over Jesus' every move, or He never would have gone missing. They gave Him the freedom to explore, to interact within their traveling caravan, to exert His independence. Jesus never would have been able to reveal His relationship with His Father in this special way if He was smothered and not able to push the envelope of His age-appropriate independence.

Just in case you're thinking, "Things were different then. We have so much more to worry about today. Jesus is different; God and His angels were constantly looking out for Him," think of the escape to Egypt (cf. Matt 2:13-18). Herod dispatched an army to kill Jesus. Can you top that for difficult parenting situations? Didn't think so.

The temptation of Jesus in the desert is also very revealing. In fact, telling Jesus that His Father is a helicopter parent is one of the temptations. "If you are the son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you' and 'with their hands they will support you lest you dash your foot against a stone.'" (Matt 4:6). Did Jesus take the bait? Nope! He knew temptation, trial, hardships, persecution, suffering and death was the only way to fulfill His mission. God saves in a different way. God's wisdom is different than ours. (cf.  1 Cor 1:25). It's worth noting Jesus' response, that we should not put God to the test, teaches us it's also not fair or reasonable for children to expect parents to be there to bail them out all the time.

It's hard for parents to witness a child suffering. Heck, even when a kid stubs their toe or bonks their head, parents want to be there to make it feel better. Wrapping them in bubble-wrap isn't the answer, though. I'll never forget the scene in The Passion of the Christ where Jesus falls in front of Mary on his way to Calvary. They flashback to a scene where the child Jesus fell in that very street, and Mary runs to comfort Him. It's a heart-wrenching scene, and it perfectly illustrates the role of a parent. She knows this time there is no comforting. This is Jesus' hour, and she has to suffer with Christ. As hard as it is to witness, it's His choice, and she knows He has to make it.

We know from God's example that good things come form suffering. Soon we will be commemorating that reality when we celebrate the triduum.

As parents, may we have the wisdom and fortitude to remain steadfast in teaching and protecting our children while offering the freedom for them to explore and experience the wondrous world around them. It's for their own good!

1 comment:

  1. It's hard not to want to protect your child; it's also hard to deal with societal disapproval when you don't keep your kids within eyesight at all times. I've had "those looks" or attitudes when I mentioned that my daughter started walking home from the bus stop by herself in sixth grade. It is 1/2 mile in a middle class subdivision. Yes, something could happen to her,but something could happen to me when I go walking and I don't plan to stay in my backyard for the rest of my life.