I've been thinking about what I want my children to be like in 25 years. What traits do I want to see? Now, of course, the nature vs. nurture thing has been hashed out a zillion times, and we still don't know exactly how much is inborn and how much is learned. But there are several things that I hope for.
I want my children to be loving. I want them to care about other people as well as themselves. I want them to have goals and purpose, and the internal strength to pursue them despite obstacles. I want them to be confident in who they were created to be, to express themselves and like themselves. I want them to be disciplined and have self-control. I want them to be intellectually curious and to show initiative. I want them to do the right thing because it is right, regardless of the approval of others. I want them to speak out at injustice and stand up for their convictions. I want them to love God with all their hearts, and to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
I don't suppose my list is unique--I think that most Christians would agree. The thing that is easy for us to lose sight of, though, is that while most of us admire these qualities in an adult, most of them are inconvenient, to put it mildly, in children.
Somehow, the lack of a couple of decades causes us to see determination as stubbornness, confidence and the courage to speak up as disrespect. Intellectual curiosity and initiate result in a lot of messes. We try to manipulate them with punishments and rewards, rather than patiently nurturing their internal motivation. When they like themselves, we get uncomfortable, maybe because we don't like ourselves very much. We are embarrassed when they speak out, and try to shame them into caring more about the approval of others than their own conscience. And, sometimes, we cloud their view of God with out own fearfulness and clutching at control.
What difference would it make if we put aside the fear and tried to see things from a long-term perspective? If we chose to nurture the qualities we want them to have as adults, even when it makes parenting difficult? I admit, I am inconsistent sometimes. There are moments when I am impatient and want shortcuts to compliance, regardless of the cost. Yet being mindful of the qualities I desire for them as adults helps me to be more patient, to be more conscious of how I correct them, to be more aware of the amazing seeds that God has planted into their personalities. Parenting isn't a short-term endeavor. We are holding the future. What do we want it to be?