Culture challenge of the week: A lack of vision
Through the years of writing my column and giving speeches about the joys and challenges of parenting, I've often heard from desperate parents who are sick and tired of having to fight a never-ending battle for their kids' hearts, minds and very souls.
Parenting is tough, tiresome, and even tedious at times — sometimes it's difficult to remember exactly what it is we are trying to achieve. When we get caught up in the "tyranny of the urgent" and an onslaught of negative forces and influences, losing sight of the big picture is very easy.
The Good Book says, "Without a vision, the people perish."
Many moms and dads seems to have lost their way in this great journey we call "parenthood." Could it be that we — as a culture and as individuals — have lost sight of the vision we want for or children?
Or maybe even that we never had a vision to begin with?
Some parents have been so overwhelmed since the day that tiny precious bundle was placed in their arms that they never really stopped to consider the childhood they want their offspring to have — or the adults they want their children to become.
Whether liberal, conservative or somewhere in between, all decent parents pretty much want the same thing for our kids. I would be willing to bet that there's not one parent reading this column who actually wants his son to grow up to be a lazy bum. There's not one dad who wants his daughter to be known as a "slut"; not one mother is hoping her child will have an unhappy marriage that ends up in painful divorce. None of us want our children to contract sexually transmitted diseases, have abortions, or become addicted to drugs.
But it's not enough for us to be against things, we must be for something too. We must know what we believe, and be purposeful about working to make those things reality.
How to save your family: Know and share your vision
The most successful businesses and organizations have a clearly defined mission and/or vision statement. Do you have one for your family?
Taking the time to picture what childhood should be helps us know how to protect it. And creating a vision for our children's best future reminds us of the prize. Make it a priority to focus on the type of childhood you want your children to enjoy, and the type of adults you want them to become. And then write it down.
Your vision statement for your family and for your children doesn't have to be complicated or deeply profound. Feel free to borrow the words of others, or from your own childhood experiences. What did you value? What made you feel peaceful and safe? Ask yourself what makes you feel happy and fulfilled today.
To help get you started, here's an abbreviated version of what I wrote many years ago:
I believe that childhood should occur within a protected space of innocence. I believe that my children should be able to day-dream and play in their "make believe" world, far from adult concerns and adult issues. I believe that my children should know there is a Creator who loves them, who calls them by name, and who has a unique purpose for their lives. I believe that my children should know that I am here for them — that I am committed to answering their questions, challenging their intellect, and that they can depend on me to guide them. I believe that my children should be confident enough in my gentleness to come to me with their hopes, dreams and fears. That their teenage years should be filled with conversations, laughter, and a warm and secure place called, "home." I want my children to be marked by their character and generosity; to be respected and respectful; to be responsible, honest, healthy and courageous. I want them to pursue and live their own dreams with no encumbrances from serious mistakes made in their youth; to know what it's like to be committed to someone fully — and to understand the value and honor in being loyal, true and just.
You get the idea. Work on the vision you have for your family with your spouse, and when you have a good framework — share it with your children. Keep your vision statement handy, someplace where you will "stumble" over it so that you can always remember exactly what you are fighting for; so that you will gain the strength and courage to wake up each morning with a renewed sense of purpose as you experience this beautiful, thrilling, wonderful life of being a mom or dad.
• Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.