I just read this long and gloomy article on my phone, it’s bright shiny screen taxing my bespectacled eyes and causing me to furrow my brow. For two days I’ve been mulling over to myself the properties that make up the task of parenting. There’s that old prayer that we say every Sunday, somewhere in the service, speaking about God to him, as in, you’re like this, in case you, God, were wondering. We pray out loud, ‘But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.’ We should have updated this line to the new ACNA version but we started using this prayer before that came out, and those of us kneeling in the pew are emotionally attached to it.
Mercy is one of the properties of God. It belongs to him. It can’t be separated out of his person because it wasn’t sometime added as an afterthought, or out of necessity, although we do need it all the time.
So what are the properties of parenting, and it’s close relation, ‘adulting?’ Surely you have noticed that the word ‘adult’ has been turned into a verb because, I think, it is no longer the sure property of being grown up. You get to be a certain age and at that point you should be an adult. That’s just the way it was, inevitable if you will. But no longer. Being an adult is something that people try to do, make a jolly good effort toward, and then collapse at the end of the day from the endeavor to suck down a glass of wine and recede back into whatever state they were in before.
Then maybe they have a child, and if that happens, the child and the person of greater age vie for control. The child’s will constantly supersedes that of the grown person because the properties of adulthood never took root and grew in the person who should have had them. Or that’s my theory anyway.
When there is no adult, there really is no parent. There is only a grouping of differently sized people all frustrated and angry with each other.
One of the properties of parenthood should be the outflowing socializing force of adulthood. The parent should constantly be trying to turn the child into an adult, a person who is sociable, competent, curious, and turned out toward the world he will eventually inhabit. It is the parent’s job particularly to socialize–that word every homeschooler dreads to hear.
Consider the table. There should be one, with chairs around it if you live anywhere in the west. Everyone should have to come sit, and eat. And the business of eating, it can’t be that the infant goes on eating as an infant only changing the kind of food–cereal to pizza–but still eating it in exactly the same way. If you don’t socialize the child for a life of sitting at a table, the child will grow in size, but then when confronted with the social obligation of eating there with other people, will not have gained the property of that endeavor and will eventually use the verb ‘adulting’ to describe the experience. It will be stressful, unpleasant, and mean a retreat back into isolation to recover.But believe me, I am now fifteen years into the process of socializing children to eat at a table and it’s not fun. When the properties of my own person are not so perfectly inhabited as I would like them to be, I am sorely and catastrophically tempted to retreat into my phone and its soothing, if burdening perfect response to the touch of my finger.
My phone, and the social media I have heretofore allowed on it, has been trying to train me, to socialize me to its use. Facebook is mad that I haven’t been on it every day, that I haven’t posted a ‘status update’ every day the last two weeks. To encourage me to come back, besides asking me not if I want to post something but rather, ‘What’s on your mind this morning?’ has started congratulating me with notifications like this one, ‘You’ve shared 4 days in a row and your friends are responding.’ That’s because I’ve blogged four days this week, and put it up on Facebook, so that you would see and read it. For this Facebook wants me to have a warm fuzzy so that I’ll come back and do it again tomorrow.
I, personally, find this a bitterly swallowed intrusion on my person and it makes me mad. It makes me want to quit Facebook forever. Leave me alone, I think. I’ll post if I want to. Don’t ask me what’s on my mind. If I feel like posting I will. I blog every day as a disciplined habit of life, and I post my blog on Facebook because my husband told me to, because apparently it’s not terrible manners to do such a thing. But I don’t enjoy it. And I don’t need to be reminded that I did. But I am rebellious by nature. Docility is not a property of my character.
For some of my children it is. And certainly the property of every child is need. Children so powerfully need attention and love that they will get it anyway they can. It can be hard to tell with some children because they put on a pretty trough front. You don’t look at them and think, ‘those little thugs would do well with a hug.’ You think, ‘let me go back into my quiet world and not be with them at all.’ But children, all children, are needy for attention, for boundaries, for the hard won habits of true socialization that could protect them from total social isolation.
Just as we are needy for God’s mercy. Without mercy we perish, we go into the darkness to experience the full property of being human–a rebellious and passionate devotion to the self. Without the merciful rescue of God from that darkness, we would not put one foot in front of the other out of the isolated social media imprisoning bedroom and into the light of a conversation with words and lips instead of thumbs and emojis.
And now, if you will excuse me, I must lay aside this screen and go cook some food so that my children can sit at the table and learn the nature of God and his property of mercy.