No less than 20 times a day I take pictures of my kids and usually send ’em out to grandma’s, grandpa’s, friends, and the like so they can keep up with their rapid growth and changes. Christopher is 4 months old, sitting up unassisted (a majority of the time), and just under 20 lbs. Kerrigan is taking dance, about to start soccer, and has verbal skills that rival Chris and mine. That being said, those pieces of our family we keep close and intimate. Why? It’s one of those “S”word things we Christian’s wives are instructed to do: Submit.
Chris has stronger opinions about social media than I do. I couldn’t really care less. His preference is that our children make the decision when they’re old enough to share part of their lives with the world. Since I’m not as outspoken on the issue I choose to honor my husband and leave the pictures of us baking, playing, and visiting friends to be shared in a smaller circle.
Our decision (Chris’ preference and my decision to honor that) is purely personal. I love to see pictures of my friends kiddos grow up. My people have some good lookin’ babies and I’m trilled to “ooh” and “aah” over God’s creation. We’re all given decisions through the day on what we feel is best for our kids, and that range is wide and so very, very different. To chastise a parent for doing what they feel best for their child (with the exception of harming them, of course) I say we spur each other on. There’s so many oppressive opinions on why you should or should not parent, discipline, feed, etc. your child how you feel led. Far be it from me to pretend I’m an expert and superior to anyone.
While I throw our parenting preferences under the bus I may as well lay ’em all out there. We don’t support K wearing a bikini. Or two piece dance costumes. She’s not allowed to be in a room alone with boys. We sound rigid. Typing this makes me feel like we’re these strict rule makers who are crazy. Hear me when I say these decisions are made with Biblical principles in mind, and also for her safety as she gets older. The chances of someone taking advantage of her are slim, I’ll admit. But I’ve been in enough closed group recovery meetings and spent countless hours reading client files as a Social Worker that it’s my job to protect her as long as she’s in my house. My hope is to instill in her a healthy fear of others-one I do not have. My trusting nature has gotten me into some very serious situations that have not ended well. Even after those experiences I still choose to assume the best in others and walk around with my head in the clouds.
Teaching her how to say “no” and both respecting and valuing her body as the temple God designed it to be is a constant conversation. The opportunity to remind her of who is safe if she gets lost (people in uniform, mom’s with kids, for example), what parts of her body are private, and the like are fluid topics of conversation. And she remembers. She asks my permission at the park, is friendly and not rude but also not engaging long term with adults, and does a great job of listening to perimeters we set for play areas in our front yard. The magnitude by which we’ve been blessed with her generally compliant disposition is crazy. We’ve been richly blessed with a daughter whose love language very well could be people pleasing. This desire to make others happy is one we’re trying to mold in a healthy way. Encouraging her to be giving and loving while not compromising her safety or interactions she feels uncomfortable with is a top priority.
This parenting stuff is hard. Never in a million years did I think through this aspect of child-rearing. I just assumed you go on about life and your kid will just know how to stay safe. Like I said, my head frequently visits the clouds.
Maybe you’re pro-bikini. Perhaps your child can play with boys and girls alone in their room with the door closed. Maybe they walk to the park in the afternoon. I’m not sure how you parent, what your child’s demeanor is, or what rules you expect them to follow. I assure you I’m in your corner. As a parent with a likely different view than you my sincere hope is that our differences do not drive a wedge between us. At the end of the day we love our children, want this life to be as pleasant for them as possible, and to encourage them to be self-sufficient autonomous human beings that are helpful, functioning members of society.
Will our decision to keep Christopher and Kerrigan’s images off the Internet deeply shape them? Probably not. Will K resent us, rebel, and join a nudist colony because she wore a tankini all her life? It’s possible. The resentment and rebellion part, that is. But we can love them just the same. And we can encourage them when they do fall into trouble. And we can love them despite our differences in what’s “appropriate” or not to wear. My children are gifts; ones that have been entrusted to me to make disciples with and prepare their hearts to love their God. How we shepherd them is no small undertaking and one I’m thankful for the opportunity to have.
To those of you who have honored our decisions in this area: thank you. I know there’s grandma cuddles, wedding dances, and playgroup fun that you’d love to share with those who are walking closely with you. It has been a somewhat difficult decision to navigate with the awkward “Um, yeah. So…we don’t really want pictures of our kids online. Could you take it down? You look great in the image, though!” conversation. I’ve gotten better with it as those closest to us are aware of our preferences.
Living as a Christian in a world with such different views is difficult at times. I’m being faced all the time with my people pleasing nature. Our parenting style is not necessarily “popular,” but it’s working. God’s best for our children has so much more to offer than filling them with the lie that their bodies are a means to an end or that objectifying women is something to be praised. We’re figuring it out (and failing miserably) one day at a time. My sincere hope is the seeds we’re planting now to remind them to live above reproach and honor others above themselves, even if it’s just sharing a toy, are stepping stones to a life filled with fewer consequences, less guilt, and infinitely more joy than they could imagine.